Does Gun Control Work?

Today on Ask Cahlen I’ll be answering the question, “Does gun control work?”

As politicians and the media push for more gun control, let’s evaluate the facts about whether gun control actually works in reducing homicide.

WHAT IS GUN CONTROL?

Gun control is a situation where a government comes in and tells its citizens that they can’t use guns in a certain way, that they can’t have certain types of guns, or that they can’t have any guns at all. They enforce these laws with the use of guns. If you don’t follow the rules they’re going to send people to your house with guns to take away your guns.

WHY IS GUN CONTROL CONSIDERED?

The reason why people are open to giving up their guns, or forcing other people to give up theirs, is because they have the impression that the world is a dangerous place, and that violence is going up (even though it’s actually going down). They believe the way to solve this is to take away the tool that people are using to commit these crimes, and the tool that most comes to people’s minds is generally guns.

This is based on an assumption that reducing the number of guns in a society is going to make murder or homicide rates go down. So let’s actually look at some data and see if that’s true.

SUICIDE & GUN RELATED DEATHS

Gun Related Deaths – United States – 2012

When you’re listening to someone who believes that we should have gun control they’re often going to use the term ‘gun related deaths’ when they’re citing studies and statistics. This is misleading because suicide makes up 62% of gun related deaths. When people are talking about gun control they’re generally trying to reduce homicides, so using a statistic which includes suicide is deceptive.

Suicide Methods – United States vs. United Kingdom – 2012

We don’t want suicides to be happening, so it can appear to be a good thing that gun control seems to reduce them, but that’s not actually true either. When people talk about this, they’re generally referring specifically to a drop in gun related suicides, not suicides in general. People who want to kill themselves are always going to find a way to do it. When guns are present, they’re used frequently because they’re convenient and quick, but when they aren’t people resort to things like hanging or drinking pesticides. Removing the tool doesn’t solve the problem, because there are endless ways to get that job done.

CRIMINALS DON’T OBEY THE LAW

Criminal Firearm Purchase – Survey of Inmates

Gun control is enacted through laws and there’s the assumption that because you’re making a law people are going to follow it. That’s true for a majority of the people, but people who commit murders with guns are not people who follow the law. The people who commit crimes with firearms only obtain them through legal means 11% of the time. So what gun control is really doing is taking guns away from the people who follow the law and leaving all the guns in the hands of people who don’t. Isn’t that the opposite of the situation you would want?

THE AUSTRALIAN EXAMPLE

The strongest piece of evidence pro-gun control folks seem to have for it reducing homicide is the case of Australia. However, if you look closely at the data you’ll find it doesn’t paint the picture they’re saying it does.

Homicide Weapons – Australia

Several years ago there was a big mass shooting in Australia after which they passed extreme gun control measures. People claim that the statistics show there was a reduction in homicides in the years which followed, but what really happened was that gun related homicides went down while knife related homicides went up. Overall homicides did gradually decrease, but that was part of worldwide trend which was already occurring before the gun control measures went into place.

GUN OWNERSHIP vs. HOMICIDE RATES

Murder Rate & Gun Ownership by State – Correlation of -0.05

If you’re someone who believes that gun control should reduce homicides then the statistics should show that having fewer guns in a population results in fewer murders. However, if we compare the 50 states in the United States, which all have different amounts of guns per person, there’s absolutely no correlation between number of guns and total homicides. Some states have high gun ownership and low homicides, others have low gun ownership and high homicides, and everything in between. So reducing the number of guns in an area is not going to reduce murder rates.

GUN CONTROL ADVOCATES

At the bottom of this article you can find a playlist with a bunch of videos which give you both sides of these arguments. My interpretation of things is that the people who are pro gun control are misrepresenting data and then being manipulative on the emotional level to get you to agree with them.

In the second video, one of the most popular on YouTube, you can that they’re misrepresenting data from the Australian situation I mentioned. They have this low level barely noticeable music which is highly anxious, and they speak about things in an emotionally manipulative way, basically pressuring you into agreeing with their conclusions.

Another common way this happens is through comedy. I used to be someone who would watch The Daily Show to get my news and information through comedy. I felt like it was a good thing because it was getting young people to watch and stay informed. Unfortunately, when you’re using comedy to express an opinion you’re not being fair to the other side of the argument. For example, there’s a video of Jim Jefferies, a comedian, in the playlist below talking about gun control. One of his statements is that you’d never be able to defend yourself even if you had a gun for various reasons. This might seem true when you’re laughing along to the joke, but it’s completely inaccurate, as hundreds of thousands of Americans use a gun to defend themselves every year.

SHOULD WE BE CONCERNED?

Let’s talk a little bit about why we should probably be concerned that people are pushing for gun control. There’s a group called Jews for the Preservation of Firearms which formed after World War II in recognition of the fact that the Holocaust occurred only after the Jews were disarmed. They created the chart below listing all instances of a government slaughtering their own people after having limited the population’s ability to defend themselves with firearms in the last 100 years:

THE SELF-DEFENSE PRINCIPLE

Something that seems to be largely forgotten by gun control advocates is that it is a fundamental human right for people to be able to defend themselves. When I say fundamental right I don’t mean rights that are given to us by a government, I mean rights that are fundamental to being a living being existing in this universe. You own yourself, and you have the right to protect yourself, which means that you have the right to forcefully end any threat against you without anyone else’s permission. If we have the right to defend ourselves, then we have the right to own any tool or technology needed to counter those who might wish to do us harm.

So in summary, I do not believe that the facts support the idea that gun control is going to reduce homicide. However, even if they did, I still do not believe it would give anyone the right to forcefully remove the ability for peaceful people to defend themselves. The innocent should not be punished for the deeds of a malicious few.

Cahlen Lee
Cahlen Lee

P.S. Check out some other perspectives on gun control in this playlist:


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