Will Rogers said “It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble; it’s what we know that ain’t so.” For example, we don’t know for sure what would happen if American gun rights were fully restored. But we do know that studies “proving” that “more guns equals more crime” t’ain’t so. American gun ownership has increased dramatically even as violent crime has fallen to historic lows. Which means that “studies” by RKBA opponents are little more than thinly veiled attempts to validate their chosen conclusion . . .
Most studies of “gun violence” by civilian disarmament advocates fail to examine firearms-related homicides in relation to total homicides. If firearms-related homicides are reduced, but all other forms of homicides increase, society has lost, not gained.
Any study that tries to answer the central question of whether or not gun control is a net positive or net negative to society must also examine evidence that guns have beneficial effects. Guns can be used to save lives as well as take them. If the cost-to-benefit ratio is not included in a study, it is worthless.
In examining this question, I won’t consider the long-term consequences of citizen disarmament on governmentally caused deaths, and whether democidal governments are deterred by armed citizens. Nor will I attempt to answer whether disarming a society would have malignant or beneficial results several generations in the future. I will not dwell on the grammatical error of granting volition to inanimate objects.
A number of criminologists and economists have attempted to answer the question of whether guns have a net benefit or cost in contemporary America. Gary Kleck is the best known criminologist; his book, Point Blank, has become the classic among criminologists. His studies make it clear that in American society, guns are used to protect and save lives more often than they are used to take them.
John Lott is the foremost economist who has studied the issue of gun control’s efficacy or lack thereof. His studies use the most detailed data that I’ve seen, down to the county level. In More Guns, Less Crime he concludes that an increase in the legal carry of guns decreases violent crime.
Nearly all other economic studies have either agreed with Lott or found that increased gun ownership did not have a measurable effect. The only studies that point to an increase in certain crimes corresponding to an increase in the availability of guns show it in very limited areas and time frames, for very specific crimes. Also of note: the authors were gun control advocates.
The echo chamber of elite media reinforces the discredited idea that guns kill people. Michael Bloomberg funded a workshop for journalists about how to report on gun issues in Phoenix in 2015. It was run by the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. The director at Dart, Bruce Shapiro, was interviewed by Ray Stern, a reporter for the Phoenix New Times. Ray asked why no academics who showed beneficial effects of gun ownership were included.
But why doesn’t the lineup include any scholar who’s researched the idea that guns, or at least the defense display of guns, may often save lives?
Shapiro guffawed: “Look, guns kill people, right?” he said.
Um, okay, professor. Sorry we asked.
Stern goes on to reveal more indications of a world view antagonistic to anything positive about guns or gun ownership:
Reporters at the seminar will receive an education in how guns work, too, Shapiro confirmed. So which of the many gunsmiths or firearms dealers in Arizona did the Dart Center invite to go over that material? Maybe someone from the Ruger manufacturing plant in Prescott?
Nope — serving as the seminar’s gun-hardware expert, Shapiro said, will be journalist Marc Cooper, who wrote in 2013 that he’d subscribe to Guns & Ammo magazine after one its columnists (now fired) advocated for gun-control measures.
There are a number of gun control studies from health care journals. They typically don’t acknowledge the criminological or economic studies. I have yet to encounter one that attempts to measure the benefits of gun ownership; the omission eliminates them as serious contenders to answer the question “do guns kill people?”
Would these health care professionals test a drug for cancer and only look at the people who have side effects of lack of appetite, or hair loss in a few patients, while ignoring the cancer cures that occur? That would be ethically wrong, and scientifically invalid. That’s exactly the approach that health care journals apply to gun ownership.
To believe the health care journals you have to believe that a high level of gun ownership causes a moderate level of suicide in old white men, but has nothing to do with their low-level of homicide; while simultaneously believing that a low-level of gun ownership causes a high level of homicide in young black men, while having nothing to do with a relatively low-level of suicide for them.
The evidence is clear: the number of guns in society has little effect on the number of homicides, suicides and firearms-related accidents. There’s no credible study that shows that “guns kill people” and there are some credible studies that indicate that more guns in America reduce crime by a statistically significant amount.
The “guns kill people” meme is a convenient shortcut to avoid serious thought on the subject. But some people do not care if “Guns kill people” or not. They simply want the common people disarmed. Writing of anti-gun professor and sociologist, Laurence Ross, Don Kates provides insight into this view. From guncite.com . . .
Ross does not deny (though neither does he dwell on) the fact that handguns save far more innocent lives than criminals misusing them take each year. However, Ross asserts that “despite the masses of data and the cleverness of his analysis and argument, Kleck has missed the point.” According to Ross, Kleck[E]mbrace[s] a society based on an internal as well as an external balance of terror. The social order is seen to rest adequately on masses of potential victims using the threat of gun violence to deter masses of potential armed criminals. [This] spectacle is one that ought to disgust rather than cheer the civilized observer.Advocates like Ross commonly assert that gun control is “worth it” if it saves even one life. But Ross’ remarks show that this argument means less than otherwise appears. For, when it turns out that it is defensive gun ownership that saves lives, it also turns out that saving lives is not “worth it”–at least not to Ross who is very candid about this observation. Ross approvingly notes that the tragic “fate of James Brady” provided the “impetus for attempts at broader gun control.” He actually welcomes “more [such shooting] incidents, more heinous ones with more tragic or more important victims, [as the impetus for us] to develop the necessary determination” to move beyond “narrow controls” to the desired goal of banning and confiscating all guns.
Ross’ attitude demonstrates why so many who push for more and more infringements on Second Amendment rights are not swayed by logic or facts. Logic and facts are irrelevant to their desire to rid society of guns in the hands of those who are not in the government or elite. But they cannot reach that goal by stating it clearly. They have to obfuscate. “Ban guns because they’re icky” does not have moral punch. The vast majority of people will recoil from the idea of gun control, if it costs lives, just to satisfy the desires of an elite few.
Australia is an outlier. When strict controls were imposed, the homicide rate momentarily went up, then continued down at the same rate that it was declining before the controls were put into effect. In New Zealand, which did not implement the Australian level of controls, the homicide rate continued to fall at a greater rate than Australia. The controls, overall, had no measurable effect. They did not even measurably affect the rate of decline of gun homicides.
“Guns Kill People” is not a phrase used by serious academics, because there is no serious evidence to support it. It is an emotional slogan to support a desired political end.
©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.