Sociological Notes: Neighbourhood murders in Maine

ANOTHER SCHOOL massacre. And once again America agonises over the place to lay blame: violence in movies and television shows, violence in video games, the godlessness of popular music, dangerous information on the Internet. Given the fact that the United States boasts 12 times more handgun deaths than all other industrial nations combined, I think it's reasonable to suggest that we Americans are simply a violent people. And we have too many guns.

Maine, where I live, is a big state, slightly larger than Scotland, yet with only a fifth of its population and about five times the rate of firearm murders: 5.8 per million to Scotland's 1.2. Which makes Maine an extremely safe place to live, by American standards - 10 times safer than the rest of the US, which averages around 60 firearm murders per million citizens.

Firearms account for more than half of Maine's homicides. Handguns, America's murder weapon of choice, are responsible for 32 per cent. Such statistics, insists the National Rifle Association, have little to do with the prevalence of guns in our hands and more to do with social and psychological causes. "Guns don't kill people, people kill people," goes the NRA's well-worn battle-cry.

Indeed, Mainers armed with knives commit 16 per cent of the state's annual murders. Fists and feet are responsible for 8.5 per cent, slightly ahead of strangling. Lagging behind, at about 5 per cent each, are murder by blunt instrument and murder by fire. Murder by motor vehicle and drowning, taken together, total just under 2 per cent.

Despite Maine's relatively peaceful nature, in the 25 years I have lived in the Pine Tree State, four of my neighbours have murdered. In each case friends or family members were their victims; firearms were their weapons.

Last winter, two 21-year-old men in my town got in a scuffle over a .22 hunting rifle after bingeing on alcohol and drugs all day and night. One of them began taking target practice inside the trailer, and the other grabbed the rifle from him. When he tried to reclaim it, he found himself staring into its small black muzzle. His rather undiplomatic response: "You don't have the balls to shoot me."

He was mistaken. In fact, his buddy proved his testicular worth 13 times. Eight shots to the head, one in the neck, and one more in the back, exhausting the 10-round clip. After reloading, the young man proceeded to fire three more slugs into his friend's chest. "To make sure he was dead," he explained to police detectives.

Two miles up the coast from my home lies the small, quaint, calendar- perfect town of Ogunquit. A few years ago, one of the restaurateurs walked into her bathroom and emptied the family pistol into her philandering husband while he was taking a shower. Then she shoved another clip in the gun and shot him some more. After being acquitted on the grounds that she had been the victim of domestic abuse, the woman returned to running her restaurant. Last month townspeople elected her to the highest office in town, the Board of Selectmen.

In the 21 years I lived in Whitefield, a rural community 100 miles to the north, the town saw two shotgun murders. In one instance, a 14-year- old boy became frustrated with his younger sister one morning because it was his responsibility to get her ready for school, and she refused to get out of bed. Even after he'd aimed the family shotgun at her, she wouldn't get up. So he shot her.

Murder in Maine, like murder elsewhere in the US, seldom results from the sort of diabolical scheming that visited the Colorado high school. Most often, murder serves as a means to end an argument between family or friends. Maybe, as the NRA maintains, these neighbours of mine as well as those Colorado boys would have killed whether they had guns or not. But it doesn't take a genius to know that the NRA is wrong.

Michael Kimball is the author of `Mouth to Mouth' (Headline, pounds 9.99)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Hardy stars with Cillian Murphy in Peaky Blinders II

TV
Arts and Entertainment

art
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week