In the aftermath of the events in Aurora, Colorado the old arguments about gun control are starting to bubble to the surface again. How this is even an argument baffles me. I work under the assumption that everyone, extremists from both sides of the spectrum, agree that people getting killed is a bad thing. The anti-gun control arguments seem to follow two themes:
- Guns make people safer
- The 2nd Amendment says individuals can have guns
Let’s quickly examine each. Gun control opponents are proud of the fact that the United States has some of the least restrictive gun control laws and the highest gun ownership in the developed world. Sadly, the United States also has a nearly 15 times higher gun death rate too. According to research done by Politifact Virginia (Rep. Jim Moran says U.S. gun homicide rate 20 times higher than other western nations), comparing the United States to 23 other developed countries with median incomes over $12,276, the United States gun deaths were 3 per 100,000 people. The other 22 combined? 0.2 per 100,000 people. How this can show anything other than less guns equals less gun deaths is beyond me.
If we look at a striking example, let’s investigate Japan, a country with arguably the most restrictive gun control laws (for the tech geeks out there, the US could be said to be default-allow, Japan is default-deny). Using data from 2008 (A Land Without Guns), we, in the United States, had more gun deaths in the last 8 hours than Japan had in the whole year. The whole year!
A followup argument is usually: “If someone wants to kill you, they will find a way.” I don’t buy that. Frankly, killing someone with a gun is comparatively easy than using any other easily accessible weapon (knife, bat, tire iron, etc.) And killing a lot of people with those other weapons is very hard to do. Don’t even bring up bombs and other methods to kill people. Making an effective bomb is hard. Much harder than buying a gun. And just go and try to but bomb-making supplies and see how fast the FBI is knocking on your door.
But if we accept the premise that “people will find a way to kill?” What does the data tell us (UN data linked from: Global homicide: murder rates around the world). Using the same countries from the gun stats above, how does the US stack up in overall homicide rates? We win again! 5.9 homicides per 100,000 people. Next highest? Finland with 2.8 per 100,000. Average among the other 22? 1.5 per 100,000.
Guns don’t make people safer. The facts don’t support this. Anecdotes, sure; facts, no.
How about the Constitutional argument? Let’s start with the text:
A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
A bit more murky. The Supreme Court has upheld the individual right to gun ownership (District of Columbia v. Heller) but also held that the right is not unlimited and can be restricted. Justice Scalia states “We therefore read Miller to say only that the Second Amendment does not protect those weapons not typically possessed by law-abiding citizens for lawful purposes…” The Court has left open the possibility that regulation of “non-typical” weapons is reasonable.
I hope that the various groups will finally start coming together and developing common sense restrictions that might help bring the United States more in line with the rest of the developed world. I don’t want to spend my time in movies as I did this past Sunday tracking everyone who walked into or out of the theater.
Related Articles worth reading:
- Jason Alexander’s essay on the Aurora massacre