Every time there’s a mass shooting in America, we hear the same tired arguments brought forth against individual gun rights. We’re told that other, more civilized countries have lower rates of civilian firearms ownership and stricter gun control laws, and that this must be the reason there are fewer mass shootings outside the United States.
This way of thinking is an often-used logical fallacy, known as cum hoc ergo propter hoc (or, ‘with this, therefore because of this’). It’s more well known by a phrase that serves at its antidote: correlation does not imply causation.
There are many ways that correlation and causality don’t align. The most common flaw happens when the correlation is merely coincidental, and one thing has no relationship whatsoever with the other.
Almost as common are situations in which a third factor is the driving force behind the two data points that correlate, such as the correlation between shark attacks and ice cream sales (ice cream and swimming, or going where the sharks are, are both more popular when it’s hot out).
On the gun issue, appeals to correlation are like claiming that ice cream sales cause shark attacks. If we could just ban or heavily regulate the sale of ice cream, we’d be doing something to reduce deadly shark attacks, right?
But merely pointing out that your opponents don’t have proof that one thing causes another isn’t good enough on its own. If we rely solely on the absurdity of their argument, we’re just inviting them to fabricate data or use other fallacies against us in the debate. In other words, they’ll try to build a false linkage between gun ownership and mass shootings.
Fortunately, recent history gives us a fairly solid case against any causal relationship between gun availability and mass shootings, and we don’t even have to point to Mexico as an example of gun control not working (the gun control industry usually uses bad data to blame us for that, too, but that’s another story).
3D Printing Already Made Gun Availability Universal
While many European and Asian countries have strict gun control laws, it has been at least two years since they’ve been worth anything more than the paper they’re written on. Why? Because the FGC-9, a gun that anyone can build at home with unregulated parts — even in Europe — was released.
The FGC-9 was, in fact, designed and built by a European and it has been extensively test-fired (with ammunition which can also be built at home from readily available components).
Police in the Netherlands say they've seized as many as 14 FGC-9 3D printed guns in the country this year alone. https://t.co/ngYaDwbUva
— Jake Hanrahan (@Jake_Hanrahan) May 24, 2022
If gun availability was the cause of mass shootings, then we should expect to have seen a rise in shootings in Europe, right? But, after extensive searching, I couldn’t find any data, even anecdotal, to show any increase in firearms deaths in Europe over this period, let alone mass shootings.
I know one counterargument is going to be that while guns are technically available now in Europe, they’re still a lot easier to obtain in the United States. True enough. If you want a semi-auto 9mm carbine in most European countries, and you don’t want it to be securely stored at a gun range, you’ll either have to turn to the black market or build your own. Neither of those options are nearly as easy as going to your local gun shop just about anywhere in America.
However, looking at the history of mass shootings show that most of them aren’t impulsive. Far from it. The mass shooters radicalize over years, and then spend months or years planning their terror attacks. The Buffalo shooter wrote a 180-page manifesto, and that’s short compared to other shooters like Anders Breivik (a European), who put together a 1,500 page “compendium.” These killers who wrote manifestos, and many others who didn’t, took a lot of time preparing, learning skills, and obtaining equipment.
In other words, these kinds of highly-prepared shooters should be popping up more in every country now, even if the more impulsive mass shooters are still kept from obtaining firearms. But, it’s been years, now, that homemade guns are available to just about anyone and we just aren’t seeing that globally.
We know that it isn’t because people aren’t building FGC-9 weapons, as we’ve seen them pop up in the news in Netherlands, Burma, Northern Ireland, among many other places you can find with a quick Google search. Imagine how many more of them haven’t been made public.
The reality is that people can get guns almost anywhere now, but they’re building them and not using them for mass shootings…just like nearly all American gun owners.
I know this won’t make American exceptionalists and others like them happy, but it’s time we admit that there are other factors that causing these mass shootings to occur in the United States with higher frequencies than in other countries. Availability of firearms clearly isn’t the big factor the anti-gun crowd claims and wants it to be. Something else is the cause, or a whole lot of something elses.
Whatever the root causes may be (I have my hypotheses, as you probably do, too), they’re likely not something that government can fix by passing more laws. We’re probably going to have to roll up our sleeves, stow our egos, and embrace the suck to fix the root causes of these horrific actions.