posted on Jul, 2 2008 @ 09:07 AM
Question: Among Western democratic countries, the United States has a much higher homicide rate than Canada. What are the reasons for these
Canada is the only nation in the world with a policeman as its national symbol (Margaret Atwood, 1972). Atwood may have plucked a cultural string when
she cited this observation. Arguably Canada is one of many western democratic nations that have far lower homicide rates than that of the United
States, the country that is also the self proclaimed western ideal. But I digress. There is no doubt that this is due to many different civil, social,
historic, demographic and political issues that have developed the United States much differently than the rest of the West. The three most important
reasons for America’s sharply increased homicide rate, compared to Canada, are its overly liberal gun laws, lack of adequate social services and the
division of wealth within the country.
One of the most recognizable and accepted cause for America’s high homicide rate are the gun laws that form the backbone “of 68% of the 14,860
homicides in the United States during 2005 (Cook, 2000, pg. 26).” The American Bar Association, in 2003 stated that recent studies have revealed the
United States to have a murder rate six times higher than other similarly developed, democratic nations. Murder rates by guns are astonishingly 12
times higher than the average of its peer nations. The U.S. rate of 7.07 per 100,000 people is significantly higher than the 0.58 average rates of its
peer nations (Ryan, 2003). This difference is largely due to the amount of guns in circulation in each country. In the United States the percentage of
households with any type of gun (about 36 percent) is two to three times greater than for our peer nations (Gottesman, 1999).
Pro-gun activists in the United States claim that it is their patriotic symbol and right under the Second Amendment of the American Constitution to
keep and bear arms. Citing that their independence was secured under this amendment, one can be somewhat sympathetic. However, different
interpretations have led many scholars to believe that this meant arms of the era, such as sabers, swords and muskets. It is important to note that
America no longer needs to fight for security of the state, and many believe this to be an outdated right. It is also important to note that the high
rate of homicide is also due to the power that firearms have to inflict harm and kill others.
Gun lobbying has become a big business in the United States as big companies like Smith & Wesson, and North American Arms, Inc. try to maintain a
positive public image. Maybe the fact that over 100 gun manufacturing companies has set up shop in North America (Fjestad, 2007) can show the wealth
that the industry has to date. The possibility of a significantly less violent America, then, can start in the hands of their lawmakers.
The lack of social programs, in comparison to other Western democratic nations is also a prominent influencing factor into the high homicide rate of
the United States. Social programs in most countries are used as a primary tool for family, financial and educational support. The percentage of
America’s GDP that is spent towards the welfare of its people is 14.8%, just 3% lower than Canada’s 17.8% and 3% higher than Mexico’s 11.8%
(Ryan, 2003). America regards a welfare state negatively even though countries like Denmark and Sweden which spend close to 30% of their GDP on
welfare are regarded by the UN as the best places in the world to live. When an individual is unable to provide for themselves, a welfare state
provides them with social services that help to reestablish their independence and their ability to provide for themselves.
The lack of social programs in the United States can be seen as a direct link to higher crime rates like robbery and homicide. The fact that there are
many more guns in circulation also add to the problem. An example would be the increased amounts of burglaries in Canada compared to the United
States. Had Canada more guns in circulation, the society would see an increase in robberies as opposed to burglaries because “burglars armed with
guns may become both robbers and murderers (Hogan, 2000, pg. 44).”
If the United States matched Canada’s welfare expenditure by just increasing their own by 3%, they would see a dramatic benefit that would greatly
outweigh the cost. “An expenditure of $10,038 over grades one to nine for each of these several hundred thousand additional children in the programs
produces benefits from a low of $89,522 to a high of $129,465 per participant. A simple calculation of benefits minus cost shows that the net benefit
of each participant is between $79,484 and $119,427. In other words, each dollar invested in an at-risk child brings a return of $8.92 to $12.90
(Cook, 2000, pg. 14).” This reference predates the After School Education and Safety Program Act of 2002, which came into effect after much more
studies were conducted. The United States still has not met the standard of this Act and is currently in the process of attempting such a feat. It is
important to note that this passage only reflects crimes in general and not specifically homicides, but, due to the violent nature of American crimes
as opposed to other Western nations, a reduction in overall crime would see a visible reduction in the homicide rate. Implementation of more social
programs, therefore, would ultimately relate to a decline in the American homicide rate.