A common slogan used by gun grabbers is that “guns are designed to kill people”. There are several variations on this theme; the only purpose of guns is to kill; guns are designed for one thing only…to take a life; assault weapons have only one purpose – to kill as many people as quickly as possible. All of these are false and it’s easy to demonstrate how . . .
First, what are guns designed to do? They’re designed to project force at a distance. They do this by propelling a projectile out of the end of a barrel at a velocity sufficient for the task at hand. The higher the velocity, the more force can be projected at further distances. The heavier the projectile, the more force that can be projected at a given velocity. Guns are machines that allow us to effectively project force at a distance.
To clarify, consider the purpose of a Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile tipped with a nuclear warhead. What is its purpose? Much like that of a pistol, it’s to project force at a (great) distance. But the Minuteman III wasn’t designed to kill people. It was designed to provide deterrence; that is, to stop other people from killing us. No Minuteman III has ever killed a single person, but it was and is used every day to deter attacks on the United States.
This principle is as old as humanity. The most famous adage associated with it is: Si vis pacem, para bellum (if you wish peace, prepare for war).
People who buy guns in the United States buy them for three primary reasons; hunting, defense, and target shooting.
A majority of guns in the United States are designed to kill things, but they are not designed to kill people. All hunting guns are designed to project force to kill the game that they are used to hunt. That is a clear and obvious truth. Single shot shotguns are seldom used to shoot targets; though they can do so. They can also be used for effective self defense. Their primary design purpose is to project force at a distance to kill small game, birds, pests, and even big game, with the proper ammunition.
This semi-automatic hunting shotgun holds two shots, just like a double barrel gun. It was designed for hunting. People who push for more restrictions on the ownership of guns claim that they have no desire to restrict people from having hunting guns. Guns that are specifically designed to be used to kill animals. Guns that can be used to kill animals can be used to kill humans, but that is not their design function.
Some guns aren’t designed to kill at all. Guns made for target shooting aren’t designed to kill anything. They’re specifically designed to place shots accurately and/or quickly on targets for score. Numerous gun designs are specifically marketed for target shooting.
Some guns are designed to prevent killing. Guns that are designed for self-defense or defense of others fall into this category. Most guns used for self defense are never used to kill anyone at all. Most police officers carry a gun their whole careers without shooting anyone. The guns are there to project force to prevent extreme harm or death, much like the Minuteman III. While many are used for defense, few are used to actually kill a human.
Most guns used defensively are used to defend against people armed with knives, clubs, or just their hands and feet. Many are defenses against animal attacks. Deterrence alone is largely sufficient for humans. About one human is killed for roughly every thousand defensive uses.
Defensive uses of guns occur, depending on the estimates, between 50,000 to 3 million times a year. Justified homicides occur about 750 to 1500 times a year. The FBI under-reports justified homicides (pdf) because of the way they are defined in the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR).
How about military guns? Military guns are also used to project force, and provide deterrence. The vast majority of military guns are never used to kill anyone; they’re used to project force and deter killing.
The Barrett .50 caliber rifle was developed for the U.S. Military and has been legal for ordinary citizens to own since its invention. It has never been used in an illegal homicide, though it is commonly used in long range target shooting.
Other semi-automatic rifles deserve a mention. While the AR 15 is commonly described as a “military gun” it’s been altered specifically for the civilian market. It’s included in all the political lists of “assault weapons” though it’s not an assault rifle. It is correctly described as a sport and utility rifle. The AR platform is readily adapted for hunting, target shooting, and self defense. It is the most popular rifle in the United States, precisely because of its adaptability and utility. It is seldom used in crime.
A great many guns are like the AR 15; they have multiple purposes and can be used effectively for hunting, target shooting and defense, even though one or two of those purposes may not have been the primary purpose for which they were designed.
A shotgun designed for skeet or sporting clays can also be used for hunting or home defense. A target pistol can be used to shoot grouse for the camp pot, or defend against a rabid fox; a self defense handgun can be used for target shooting or hunting; even if they’re not the optimum tool for that purpose.
Let’s face it – all guns can be used to kill people. But so can hammers, screw drivers and cars. That doesn’t mean that they were designed for that purpose. There are more than 300 million firearms in the United States. There are about 9,000 murders and 500 accidents committed with those firearms in a given year. Roughly one gun out of 42,000 is used to kill someone. Add in suicides and the ratio becomes 1 in 12,500. If guns were actually designed to kill people, their designers are doing a lousy job.
The next time you read or hear that “guns are designed to kill people”, you’ll know that the writer or speaker hasn’t really thought about what they are writing or saying. They’re spouting a propaganda talking point designed to have you forget about the common uses of firearms, and concentrate on the rare and uncommon.
Guns are designed to project force at a distance. The intention behind that force is up to the operator of the gun.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.