Debunking the Five Most Important Myths About Gun Control


1. More Guns, Less Crime

In response to John R. Lott’s book “More Guns, Less Crime,” a sixteen-member panel of the United States Research Council convened in 2004 to address the relationship between right-to-carry laws and crime rates.  They concluded that the existing evidence did not support the more guns, less crime hypothesis. A reexamination of the panel’s findings published in 2010 found that, at best, gun availability has a negligible effect on crime rates and, at worse, causes an increase in aggravated assault rates.  Two Yale professors, Ayres and Donohue, further reviewed Lott’s findings, and discovered that his data contained numerous coding and econometric errors that, when corrected, led to the opposite conclusion—RTC laws only increase crime.  This was the second time Lott presented findings with coding errors, and the embarrassment after Ayres and Donohue’s devastating response led Lott to remove his name from the final paper.

One of the most recent and largest studies to date on gun violence in America concludes that widespread gun ownership is the driving force behind gun violence in the United States.   The study compiled data from 50 states between 1981-2010 to examine the relationship between gun ownership and homicide.   Because no good data exists on national rates of gun ownership, the study used the best available proxy for gun ownership, the percentage of suicides involving a firearm.  After accounting for national trends in violent crime as well as 18 control variables, the study concluded the following: “for each percentage point increase in gun ownership the firearm homicide rate increased by 0.9%”

2. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people

Lawnmowers don’t mow lawns, people do, but if want to be exceedingly efficient about it with very little effort or time, you will need a lawnmower.  The obvious problem with the “guns don’t kill people” argument is that it confuses proximate and root causes.  We can acknowledge that the root cause of maladaptive behavior is human decision-making, but that says nothing about how proximate causes, such as firearms, exacerbates the effect of bad decisions.

To this end, guns may not kill people, but people with guns do, and they do so more frequently and more efficiently than people without guns.  In five areas: suicides, accidental deaths, domestic violence, domestic homicide, and international homicide, the relationship between guns and death is consistent and robust across time and location.

Compared to other high-income countries, for example, the United States has a firearm homicide rate that is 6.9 times higher than other high-income countries, a firearm suicide rate that is 5.8 times higher than other high-income countries, and an unintentional firearm death rate that is 5.2 times higher than other countries.  In fact, 80% of all firearm deaths in the developed world occur in the United States.

In response to this overwhelming evidence, gun advocates argue that the problem can be solved simply with even more guns. 

3. Criminals don’t follow laws

Criminals, definitionally, do not follow laws; this is an uninteresting tautology, not a meaningful statement about social realities.  Serial rapists, murderers, and thieves rarely follow laws prohibiting rape, murder, and theft, but that clearly doesn’t mean we should abandon laws that ban such activity.  Just because a criminal doesn’t obey one law does not mean they don’t obey any laws.

Law enforcement, rather obviously, can prevent law-abiding citizens from becoming criminals by forcing people to internalize the cost of breaking laws.   One survey asked prison inmates who did not use a gun to carry out their crime why they chose not to: 79 percent chose “get a stiffer sentence” and 59 percent chose “Against the Law.”

In the case of gun control, dozens of empirical studies show that stricter gun control laws in the United States lower the rate of gun deaths.  International evidence also confirms this point:  Gun buy-back programs in Australia, Firearm Certificates in the United Kingdom,  and rigorous background checks and licensing procedures in Japan, have all been shown to decrease gun violence.

Contrary to the gun lobby’s claim that “when guns are outlawed, only the outlaws have guns,” the experience in both Great Britain and Japan has instead been “When guns are outlawed, very few outlaws will have guns.”  Indeed, gun crime in Japan and England is virtually nonexistent compared to American standards.  In fact, 60% of the time when a ‘”firearm” is used in England, the firearm is a dummy replica or a bluff.

4. Armed populations prevent tyranny

Even a cursory reading of history finds that militias, especially unregulated ones, are overwhelmingly inimical to the functioning of a free society.   In Vietnam, Afghanistan, Cuba, Somalia, Iraq, and southern Lebanon, even while fighting against foreign rule, these countries’ militias actively worked against the establishment of a free state.   Finding developed country analogs for these examples is impossible, as there are simply no wealthy countries, with the exception of Costa Rica, that use militias for self-defense.   For examples closer to home, we can look to how miserably the Ku Klux Klan, the Black Panthers, and Neo-Nazi factions (all examples of real militias) failed to promote a free society.

It is also demonstrably false, as gun advocates argue, that armed populations are never given the opportunity to stop tyranny because they are disarmed first.   Yemen, for example, is the second most heavily armed country in the world (per capita), and is currently embroiled in a civil war between a Western dictatorship and Jihadist groups.   Saddam Hussein, by any definition a tyrant, invigilated over a brutal regime despite the fact that Iraqi people were heavily armed.

The most common form of “armed populations prevent tyranny” is “Hitler took the guns.”  First, the idea that a small group of heavily armed Jews could have succeeded where the Polish and French armies failed is laughable.  Second, the argument fails to recognize that most strict gun control implemented in the Wiemar Republic was implemented to prevent armed coups from materializing by the Nazis or the Communists.  It failed.  When Hitler seized power, he implemented policy in 1938 that actually loosened restrictions on gun ownership.

5. A gun in the home makes you safer

A 2011 study published in the American Journal of Lifestyle Medicine finds that owning a gun in the home increases the risk of accidents, suicides, assaults and homicides, and intimidation occurring in the home.   It made the following conclusions:

Intimidation:  A study of battered women in California found that, if a gun was in the home, it was used to threaten and harm women in 66% of cases.   Fewer than 7% of these women had used the gun in self-defense.   A national random survey found that hostile uses of guns for intimidation, such as brandishing the firearm during argument, or going outside to shoot the gun during an altercation, occurred more frequently than self-defense uses.

Accidents:  Death certificate data from 2003 to 2007 finds that 680 Americans per year were killed through accidental firearm use.   Data from the National Violent Death Reporting System finds that half of these deaths occurred in the home, half of the victims were under 25, and half of all deaths were inflicted by someone other than the owner of the gun (e.g. friend, family member).

Suicides:  More Americans kill themselves with guns than all other methods combined.   Over ten case-controlled studies find that guns increase the risk of suicide occurring at the home for all members of the household.  It is also not the case that gun owners are inherently more suicidal—this has been tested by numerous studies, and the relationship between gun ownership and suicide appears causal.  Because most suicide attempts occur during transient risk periods of impulsivity, lasting less than five minutes, reducing the availability of firearms is one of the most effective methods of suicide reduction.

Homicides:  From 2003 to 2007, 33 Americans per day were murdered with guns.   A very small minority of these homicides were planned, with a large proportion of them occurring during hostile arguments over domestic problems.  These arguments escalate and, in the presence of a gun, often lead to fatal consequences.  One of the most cited studies examining homicide in the home compares 400 homicide victims killed in their home throughout 3 metropolitan areas.  After controlling for multiple variables, the study found that the presence of a gun was a strong risk factor for homicide in the home.  This association was driven almost exclusively by homicide committed at the hands of a family member of intimate acquaintance.

The data are clear: a gun in the home does not make you any safer.


*correction: Previously the article mentioned that the NRC panel met in 2004 and 2010. They only met in 2004, and it was a separate study reexamining the NRC’s findings that was issued in 2010.

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  • Andrew Goddard

    This must be a “day”

    “Homicides: From 2003 to 2007, 33 Americans per year were murdered with guns.”

  • We welcome all coherent, respectful comments. Since it is impossible to provide thoughtful commentary on something you haven’t bothered reading in full, comments where this is readily apparent will not be posted. We review all comments before they appear, so there will be a delay even if it meets the preceding criteria. Although we do not typically respond to comments and have no time to engage in prolonged debates, we will attempt to answer questions about our data or research.

    • AJ

      Regarding: “criminals don’t follow laws” Yes, is important to have laws against rape, murder, etc. so that we may prosecute people for such crimes. But that’s a far cry from punishing law abiding citizens simply because they want to own a gun to shoot at a target range. Guns are not evil. a person that wishes to shoot at paper targets is not harming anyone. the world is full of extreme sports. we don’t restrict law abiding citizens from owning automobiles because drunk drivers mis-use them. nobody needs a car that will drive at 150 miles per hour, yet they are sold.

      • aardvarked

        Are you honestly trying to say that the safety of everybody in a country should be compromised just so people can easily join a firing range to shoot at pieces of paper? There are quite a few other hobbies one could pick up that don’t involve having easy access to deadly weapons.

        Cars are designed for transportation, guns are designed for killing or seriously injuring people. That’s the difference.

        • But everyone in the country is not compromised bye the exercise of gun rights, and such rights involve a lot more than merely shooting at paper targets. Guns are designed to fire a projectile along a trajectory defined by physical forces. Why the human being operating the gun wants to send that projectile downrange is another question. Sometimes, it’s to test the accuracy of the gun or the operator. Sometimes, it’s to smash a bottle. Somestimes, it’s used in hunting game animals. And yes, sometimes, it’s to hit another human being–possibly with criminal intent or possibly in an act of self-defense. Or possibly in defense of one’s nation. And some people collect guns for their artistic or monetary value and never fire them.

          All of these are reasons for owning and using firearms. Of those, only harming another human being with criminal intent is wrong.

        • Cerin

          >Are you honestly trying to say that the safety of everybody in a country should be compromised just so people can easily join a firing range to shoot at pieces of paper?

          Only if that strawman were true. Despite guns being only “designed for killing”, which is false, cars still kill far more people. You can’t hand-wave that way away just because they have different uses. If you’re only concern is safety, then we should ban all cars and replace them with planes, trains, and buses, which are statistically much safer.

          Also, swimming pools kill more kids than guns (source: Why aren’t you railing against swimming pools in order to “improve the safety of the country”? Do people need swimming pools in order to get to work in the morning?

          • Cars kill less people than firearms in 14 states. Coincidentally, those states have lax gun control. If trend lines stay in tact, firearm deaths will surpass auto deaths nationally. Regulations on cars have cut deaths by 40% the last 30 years. Gun deaths remain flat. why is that?

        • Nathan

          Do you have a right to say what my hobby should or should not be?

          • George Costanza

            Actually if someone’s hobby is compromising to national well being (let’s say gun holding as a hobby really is harmful for the sake of this premise), then don’t you think it’s rather arrogant and unethical to say that your needs for enjoyment (which surely are not limited to that one hobby) are more important than national wellbeing. I certainly don’t think so.

        • Ryan Scott

          You know, I see some problems with your argument, you only look at gun deaths as the problem, yet you fail to see the bigger picture, it crime and assault and social problems in general that are the real issue, rape, murder, and theft are all illegal, but they still happen, now why would I need a gun, to stop a violent act being commuted in front of me, or to protect myself, and what’s the point in having less gun deaths when deaths from knifes and other weapons become more common, and you can’t stop it, if guns are so dangerous, why do police carry them, and don’t give me that, “They’re trained” bullshit, they are human like you or I, and I don’t think how you’re saying we should find a new hobby, you’re just pushing you’re beliefs on others at that point, and I got news for you, over 3 million people own guns here, including myself, and only about 1% of us legal gun owners commit crimes with our guns; if your gun control is so great, then why is Chicago, the city with the most gun control here, the most dangerous city in the U.S., you might say because they bring guns from another state, so what does that say, it says gun control has failed and left it’s citizens defensless, did you consider the U.S. population compared to Europe, Japan, and especially Australia, that has to play a factor, more people = more potential deaths, and why shouldn’t I be able to go to the range, I didn’t do anything wrong, why not the government do something about the gangs tairing up our streets, why don’t they legalize weed to get all the pot heads out of prizon so we can keep the dangerous assholes in, why do you think it’s a good idea to take guns away from people that didn’t do anything wrong and make them rely on soly the police, what is wrong with you, even the Detroit police chief said the police won’t always be their to protect you, and there needs to be an incentive to commit a crime, just because you have a gun doesn’t mean you use it in a violent way, in fact, concealed carriers are incoraged to use common sense, which most of them do, and did you consider that most gun deaths occur in low income areas, did you separate justifiable homicides from murder, (probably not) why are suicides in the mix, suicide is suicide, does it really matter how its done, does it matter how theft, rape, and murder is done, no, because it’s all the same, a wise man once said, if there’s retaliation for what someone does, they won’t do it, maybe the reason people didn’t try to rob houses when people had guns was because they would have been shot, and it unfortunate that guns where used for intimidation, but guess what, so are knives, yet we don’t bad those, oh know, that doesn’t make any sense, nether does gun control, with a narrow view, it can sound logical, but when you look at the big picture, it doesn’t make sense, guns can be used for self defense and fun at the range, it can teach people responsibility, and when it comes to self defense, I want a gun, and until I do something wrong with it, you have no right to tell me otherwise

      • Jake

        How are you being punished? Nobody is trying to take guns away from law abiding citizens..that is NRA propaganda. If your going to use the car analogy remember that cars must be titled and registered and drivers must have a licence . You never hear anyone saying that drivers are being punished and nobody want to ban cars either!

        • Cerin

          >How are you being punished? Nobody is trying to take guns away from law abiding citizens..that is NRA propaganda.

          Sure they are, but they can’t because the 2nd amendment makes that impossible. So gun-control advocates are trying to make guns so legally encumbered that it’s not practical to own one. It’s the same tactic the pro-life crowd uses. They can’t ban abortion outright, so they make abortion providers jump through so many hoops that they can’t stay in business.

          Don’t believe me? Why else do you think some legislatures pass nonsense laws like magazine limits, which courts have ruled are both arbitrary and unconstitutional ( Adam Lanza and other would-be murderous nuts don’t care about a magazine limits, nor will such limits stop them. The only purpose of such laws are to criminalize an otherwise harmless and law abiding citizen.

          Here are some other examples of harmless citizens being “punished” for owning a gun:

          1. A hard-working mother of two is currently facing 3 years in jail for leaving her legally purchased gun in her car when she drove to New Jersey, and was pulled over by a state trooper for a traffic violation. The only reason the issue even came to light was because she volunteered the information, thinking she was supposed to inform the officer that she had a gun. She didn’t hurt anyone, but if convicted, she’ll lose her job, her kids, and have a felony record for the rest of her life. (source:
          2. A woman visiting the 9/11 memorial in New York was arrested and faced 3 years in jail after she tried to voluntarily hand over her gun to police in response to a “no guns allowed” sign she saw. (source:
          3. A Florida woman is facing up to 60 years in jail for firing her gun into the air in order to scare off her abusive husband. (source:

        • “Nobody is trying to take guns away from law abiding citizens” You are very naive as this is exactly what the end game is. In fact it has already happened. The NRA is not the creator of propaganda, this is the anti-gun community. Please do not stoop to the NRA scape-goat level as it exposes your ignorance of this issue. You do not need a license to operate a car and junker with no registration or title can be driven, it’s done on private property everyday.
          Jake, you are too young to engage this conversation. This is about the safety of a Nation and the Rights we already have. And remember, it’s the criminals who misuse guns, the good people are your friends and are safe firearm owners all day, everyday.

      • Australia and Great Britain have very restrictive gun laws but they have provisions for hunting and recreational shooting. They simply treat a firearm like a controlled substance. Weapons are either kept at local shooting clubs under supervised storage or at home, under approval and inspection of the local constabulary.

        The “all or nothing” attitude in regards to firearms use and possession is no more than a rhetorical tool used by the NRA, among others, to black any efforts towards responsible firearms ownership. It also promotes a “spoiled child” attitude in regards to ownership among many.

        The gun lobby in the US is little better than a drug-cartel, seeking profits over the cost to society. Ironically enough, it is the easy availability of firearms in the US that fuels drug-related violence south of the border. Regulated control of both drugs and firearms will improve the quality of life for both the US and its southern neighbors.

  • Nick B

    This article has really caused me to rethink my position on the gun control debate. Well written, sir.

    • Wow! Glad to hear it. Thanks for reading.

      • dave

        I understand the arguments on both sides,and I see the validity of some of each. But perhaps someone from the pro gun side can enlighten me on something.
        I am asking,not to be confrontational,but because I simply do not understand the argument.

        I am correct when I say that nobody wants to see guns in the hands of nuts or criminals,yes? And I am also correct,I think,that no laws will keep guns out of the hands of EVERYONE who should not have them,because they can get them on the black market,steal them,or buy them from a private owner,etc.

        My question is this. If expanded background checks can keep even SOME from getting a gun,who should not have one,shouldn’t we at least TRY?Is that not better than turning the country into a gigantic armed camp,as some extremists seem to want? Finally,how does background checks infringe on the gun rights of honest people? I really don’t understand

        Let me finish with this. I do not own a gun,but I have no issues with those that do,as long as they are responsible people. That is simply my choice and does not reflect anything but that.

        • Dave,

          The single biggest reason gun owners are opposed to background checks has been in the proposed implementation of them, something anti-gun rights folks have been pretty unwavering on, only furthering the distrust amongst gun owners.

          The means that has been proposed has been requiring sales to go through an FFL (Federal Firearms License) dealer. These are the people that sell new guns. The FFL would require you to fill out the same 4473 form and do a check through the Federal NICS system before approving the same. Gun owners have several problems with this.

          1. The Federal government has no authority under the Interstate Commerce Clause to regulate intrastate sales. The FFL’s exist because they can sell across state lines. Period. That is the end of Federal authority on that.

          2. The 4473 form must be kept in a bound book by the FFL. It is a de facto registration, something which is illegal under the 1986 Firearm Owner’s Protection Act. And no, despite its name, FOPA was not particularly friendly to firearm owners.

          3. There is no limitation on the fee that can be charged. FFLs do not want to waste time doing checks on firearms they are not profiting from such as private sales. They will need to charge a large sum of money to turn the background checks into a profit center or to just discourage people from doing them at their shop. In either case it amounts to a poll tax and disproportionately affects the poor and minorities.

          4. Since you have to use an FFL you are subject to their business location and hours. In a major metropolitan it isn’t such a big deal because you can often find an FFL open from say 9 am to 9 pm M-F with some Saturday hours as well, but it’s not so easy once you get into a rural environment.

          5. Most of the proposals would have or do require that a background check be completed before even loaning a firearm to a friend. I have a friend that comes from Las Vegas to deer hunt with me. Rather than go through the hassle of sending a firearm in the mail to an FFL and picking it up (having to complete a background check to get his own rifle back, mind you) or risking it getting damaged by the baggage handlers in flight, he just borrows mine. However, that practice would now be illegal. We would have to go find an FFL willing to do the transfer in rural northern Minnesota at odd hours when his flight comes in. We would have to pay the fee and establish that registration form. At the conclusion of our hunt we would have to go back to the FFL and complete the same process in reverse, again paying a fee so that I can take my own rifle back. If there is a delay in the process (happens frequently for people with common names) then we are screwed because I can’t take my rifle back and my buddy isn’t going to take it on the plane with him.

          I could go on and on and on with the list, but I hope you’re starting to see that it is the execution, not the concept, that gun owners find so reprehensible. The two biggest negative points that there has been no bending on by the gun control proponents is that there must be a 4473 form completed, thus establishing a registration on privately traded firearms, and that everything must go through an FFL because that will create the largest hindrance to selling firearms privately as possible.

          A simple 1-800 number that a gun owner could call and give the buyer’s name, DOB, maybe SSN to…tell them long gun or pistol (18 versus 21 for ownership), and then get either a quick yes or now would be welcomed by gun owners. If gives a quick, easy, free system to use to check someone, will have every bit as much compliance as the 4473 system would, and without any specific information as to whether or not the sale was made or specifics of the firearm beyond type, there is no de facto registration created.

        • 1. I have serious doubts that background checks will keep any significant number of bad people from being armed. Since we have finite resources–money, time, attention–why put a lot of effort into something that isn’t going to achieve much good?

          2. A background check is permission to exercise a right. I disagree with that in principle.

          3. The checks too often include a record of who has bought what gun. That’s too much like a registry, and that makes confiscation much easier.

        • Ryan Scott

          Well, the problem is, background check laws can get fucked up, the newest one literally makes you go through a background check every time you hand a gun to someone because it’s so poorly written, I can see where you’re coming from and I like your live and let live mentality, but the thing is the government needs to stop focusing so much on guns, and start focusing on the real issues, like the gang violence in Chicago, the ms 13, the boarder crisis, cause the government clearly doesn’t know what they’re doing when it comes to guns, they’re better off doing something else before they screw something else up

          • Ryan, I591 was not “Poorly Written” it was INTENTIONALLY written as to make gun ownership in Washington State ILLEGAL, all while allowing anti-rights activists and “Progressives” to claim they simply want online sales, and gun show sales to go through an FFL.

            Need any further proof of this blatant dishonesty, look no further than this site.

            The authors have an obvious confirmation bias, constantly get caught pointing to papers as “proof” of something it never claims, and blatantly ignore things like the dropping violent crime rate in this country over the last several years (or more interesting, but less conclusive, that this crime rate dropped DURING a massive recession which has NEVER happened before)

            These guys aren’t political hacks who point to science they don’t understand to make themselves seem smarter than they are. They’re smart guys with background in the social sciences, and have both read and understood all studies cited….yet then choose to go in the WRONG direction because of their political feelings about guns and armed citizens.

    • Caryn

      Ditto. I’d never heard any of these argued before.

  • Kent Vashaw

    “we can look to how miserably the … Black Panthers… failed to promote a free society.”

    Resisting and fighting back against the extreme police/FBI/white supremacist brutality and harassment leveled against the African American populations was somehow a failure to promote a free society? You say this like it’s obvious/undisputed, whereas I’m not so sure about that. And it seems like you’re drawing (at least on the surface) an equivalence between the Panthers and Neo-Nazis and the KKK. But there really isn’t any kind of equivalence- two are groups seeking to oppress, whereas the Panthers sought to defend the rights of the oppressed.

    That’s kind of a nit-picky point, since it doesn’t affect most of your argument here; but I think the best argument FOR guns is exemplified by the Black Panthers- that guns are needed by oppressed people (whether people oppressed because of race, class, gender, sexual orientation, et cetera) to defend themselves when they are marginalized by society at large. Maybe a future blog post could address this issue?

  • Eunice Burns

    The often quoted second amendment of our Constitution begins “a well regulated militia”. Where is the “militia”? Shouldn’t you have to take an oath or sign up to join? And, most definitely, where is the “well regulated” part of it today in the United States? Instead of learning to work things out, it’s shoot first and then make up an excuse for doing so.

    • Jeremiah

      10 U.S. Code § 311 – Militia:
      (a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age…

      • Keith

        You forgot part, here’s the whole thing: “(a) The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard.
        (b) The classes of the militia are—
        (1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and
        (2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia.” taken from
        And the 2nd amendment does specify “A well regulated Militia”.

        • Charles Thomas

          “Well regulated” means trained or well-practiced, not “heavily regulated.” Remember, it was 1791 when they wrote that, not 1996.

          • Steve in Texas

            Thank you, Charles. People seem to forget that the language of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights is not how we speak and write nowadays.

          • AJ

            Yes. Well said. James Madison, author: the 2nd amendment, stated that regular citizens are to be more armed than the government. America was founded by people with guns that allowed us to break free from tyrannical control. that is our history whether people like it or not

        • Steve in Texas

          See my reply to the OP about your red herring.

        • Homeless Australian Dude

          Keith: very good points, which are not a red herring.

          Charles and Steve: yes, people do seem to forget that the language of the Constitution and Bill of Rights are not how we speak and write nowadays. especially gun nuts. you are quite correct that well-regulated in those time meant trained or well-organized (which incidentally changes nothing about Keith’s critique btw).

          however, you forget to apply your historical lesson to the rest of the 2a, specifically “the right to keep and bear arms” portion. the right to bear arms refers to serving in a military capacity (and the right to keep and bear arms is a singular right, otherwise the founders would’ve wrote “the right to keep and to bear arms,” a distinction that is evident in other portions of the founding documents). an illustration of this point comes from Aymette v. Tennessee: “A man in pursuit of deer, elk, and buffaloes might carry his rifle every day for forty years, and yet it would never be said of him that he had borne arms.” so, in modern lingo, the 2a would read something like: “A well-organized Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to serve in a military capacity, shall not be infringed.” now it is patently obvious that the entire thing revolves around the militia.

          nor is the initial clause “merely” an introductory phrase as Steve wrongly asserts. even if it would be treated as such today in grammar school, that’s not how scholars back then read texts. as Joseph Story (who served on SCOTUS) and William Blackstone (and influential commentator on English law) both explain, the introductory phrase is crucial for understanding the purpose of such writings. applying such logic to the 2a demonstrates that it is about the militia, not an individual right to carry guns.

          and so on.

          • Steve in Texas

            A scholarly paper by a Doctor of Jurisprudence vehemently disagrees with you, Australian Dude (as do I). See

          • Homeless Australian Dude

            and i can find dozens of scholarly papers and law review articles that highlight your paper’s rather naive historical conclusions. the fact is the idea that the second amendment right to keep and bear arms is separate from the maintenance of a well-regulated militia didn’t even exist until the 1980s. to demonstrate this fact, try to find a single law review article before 1980 that supports the individual right to bear arms. just 1. shouldn’t be that hard if your position isn’t a recent phenomena.

            as chief justice Warren Burger (no liberal) stated of your position: the 2a “has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud,’ on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

          • Homeless Australian Dude

            unfortunately i can’t seem to edit my comment as i meant 1960 rather than 1980 (it was in the 1980s that the 2a as an individual right movement actually coalesced). so finding a law review article supporting your view before 1980 should actually be relatively easy, but best of luck finding one before 1960 (by comparison there are 11 supporting the militia interpretation before 1960).

          • AJ

            People like to use the term “gun nuts” but that includes our police and military. The NRA is made up of those groups too, as well as teachers, doctors, nurses; paramedics, etc. Gun supporters want to save lives as much as anyone. But the gun owners are the real experts. Police surveyed state that more gun laws aren’t the answer. Armed citizens do save lives. Removing or restricting self defense favors criminals. Shootings keep happening in gun control zones. In the 1950’s anyone could buy machine guns by mail. (High gun availability)Yet we rarely had issues. Now we have heavy laws and worse issues. We have lost respect for human life. Access to guns is not it. Violence originates INSIDE of a person. A drunk driver is affected by a drug INSIDE. Not because of a car. We dont restrict SOBER drivers because drunk drivers kill. That’s how pointless it is to restrict the LAW ABIDING gun owners because of criminals. Weldon blame e matches for arson either. Fire set by an evil person could kill more in a locked school than guns.

          • Ken Levy

            Excuse me, AJ, but we certainly do restrict SOBER drivers. They are required to pass competency tests both written and practical, eye tests, to purchase insurance, abide by speed limits, and follow courteous and defensive driving techniques. The laws regulating motor vehicle operation are numerous and specific. The vehicles themselves must be legally registered and undergo annual impartial safety inspections in order to be operated.

            BTW: The article to which these comments are an attachment is one awesome piece of research and writing. Thank you.

          • At the same time, cars are not an enumerated right. And you may own and drive all the unregistered and uninsured cars you want without a license on private land.

    • Steve in Texas

      You Liberals love to use the militia as a red herring. If you refer back to your elementary school grammar lessons, the bit about the militia is merely an introductory phrase. It is not in any way saying that one must belong to a militia in order to have a protected right to keep and bear arms.

    • John

      If you are going to quote the 2nd amendment then you need to quote the whole thing. It says “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”. Where does it say that you have to belong to a militia. It says a militia is necessary. It then says the right to keep and bear arm shall not be infringed. You can read it in different ways. For instance it says because a militia is necessary and a militia is made up of normal people than normal people are allowed to own guns. I repeat no where does it say you have to belong to a militia.

  • Marsha Schreiber

    The article is written well but I am not in 100 % agreement. I am not oppressed. I do have a right to bear arms and I do it responsibly. The careless irresponsibility of others is not a reason to take away the law. My car can kill when I drive it irresponsibly. Rational, responsible ownership is required with any machine or tool.

    • AJ

      Exactly. we don’t restrict and punish the law abiding for the actions of criminals. gun control favors criminals because it restricts the ability of good people to defend themselves.. all the mass shootings keep happening in gun control zones. we are creating perfect environment for crime to happen by removing guns from good people. and who do we call to solve these problems? we call someone with a gun

  • jim in texas

    I live in conservative, guns-are-everywhere Texas, and am most alarmed by the views of many of my fellow Texans, who get their attitudes about guns and liberty from John Wayne movies and their view that the archaically worded second amendment gives them unchecked liberty to purchase fully automatic rifles and 50 caliber sniper rifles. And they won’t change. No statistics or studies will ever serve to change the love affair with the gun in this country. I think the biggest puzzle is why there is so much fear in this thinking. Fear of everything, from Obama to federal intervention, to immigrant crime to lawless drug dealers. We are besotted with firearms, and as with alcohol, I don’t think any federal prohibition will make a difference. Most of the guys I know like this already own illegal firearms (Kalashnikovs, sniper rifles, etc.), and brag about it. Laws restricting the purchase and use will only serve to make them more determined to own and use.

    • Steve in Texas

      “Jim in Texas,” I believe your alarm stems from ignorance. If I had to guess, I would say you probably don’t know the difference between fully automatic rifles and semi-automatic rifles. You probably don’t truly understand the wording of the Second Amendment. You have probably never read any of the writings of our Founding Fathers in, for example, the Federalist Papers. You are clearly (based on your own statement) ignorant about which firearms are currently legal and illegal. For example, “sniper rifles” are not inherently illegal because, SURPRISE, there is no clear-cut definition of what a sniper rifle is. I can take a Ruger 10/22, put a fancy stock on it and a nice scope, and call it a sniper rifle. Does that make it one? Does that make it illegal?

      The Founding Fathers wanted us to be fearful of our government because they risked their lives to throw off a tyrannical government and didn’t want their descendants to ever have to repeat such a bloody revolution. It is human nature for power to corrupt, as evidenced by our current administration and the several that preceded it. We, the people, need both the means and the motive to keep our government in check. It’s easy to say “just use the power of the ballot box.” What happens when a corrupt, lawless administration cancels elections or refuses to recognize the validity of an election that removes them from office? If you think that can’t happen in this country then you are a fool. Look around. Read the news.

      My final suggestion for you goes back to my first observation: educate yourself. Learn about guns, how they work, and how to use them safely. Learn about the so-called, although misnamed, “gun culture.” I used to be a gun-hating Liberal like yourself. Once I started meeting “gun people” and learning about their attitudes about safety, freedom, liberty, and personal responsibility, I ended up joining them because their attitudes make so much sense. I still believe in such “traditionally liberal” ideas as gay rights but now my ideas about guns and gun people are based on knowledge instead of ignorance. As with any group, there are, always have been, and always will be bad apples. No group of people is free of them. But the overwhelming majority of gun owners (based on what I read and also on my own experiences with them) are honest, upstanding people who abhor actual violence and believe in personal responsibility. They take extraordinary pains to be safe with their guns and to teach new gun owners about safety. The Texas concealed handgun class spends a significant amount of time teaching one to AVOID conflict so that a gun never even gets involved. This is illustrative because that course was written by Texas gun owners. Your buddies may boast about a lot of things but you have to discern what is truth from what is a braggadocios “fish story” embellishment or fantasy.

      • Simon

        The hallmark of all tyrannical regimes is that they use all all available state apparatus to enforce policy, including the military.

        With that in mind, if the US government turn tyrannical tomorrow, how are you and your guns going to stop them?

        • Steve in Texas

          Simon, a valid point and a fair question. Members of the military are sworn to uphold the Constitution and are expected to refuse unlawful orders. I am not worried about a large number of servicemen following orders to assist a tyrannical takeover of the United States government. Honor and integrity are deeply-held and valued qualities amongst our military.

  • Steve

    I respect your point of view Kent, however one may argue that African Americans are being marginalized by lax gun laws as they are disproportionately the victims of gun violence in most of our major cities. Granted there may be socioeconomic factors that play into this as well, but if less time and money were spent on the literal interpretation of an amendment written a couple of hundred years ago, then perhaps that time and money could be spent solving these issues.

  • Paul Dunay

    Thanks for providing this article and research findings. You can’t argue with the horror of the numbers inherent in the problem. We can never give up hope that, piece by piece, with the help of legislators who have seen increased gun violence firsthand in their states, laws surrounding gun access can change.

    As Gabby Giffords stated in her op-ed in the NY Times last week, we need to work “step by step to enhance enforcement, by passing a law making gun trafficking a serious crime with stiff penalties. Make it illegal for all stalkers and all domestic abusers to buy guns. Extend mental health resources into schools and communities, so the dangerously mentally ill find it easier to receive treatment than to buy firearms. And even as we lay the groundwork for expanding background checks, pass strong incentives for states to ensure the background-check system contains the records of the most dangerous and violent among us.”

    She is so right. And I’d like to add that the truly hidden factor is the COST to society of all this gun violence. Over a billion dollars a year in health care costs alone attributed to gun violence. Not to mention the long-term care, therapy, depression, and collective sense of loss that the country will suffer as long as the gun lobby holds sway. It’s time to step up and change our laws to protect people, and not to allow further enabling of an outdated amendment that meant something completely different in it’s day. It’s up to all of us.

    • Steve in Texas

      Please explain what you mean when you say “further enabling of an outdated amendment that meant something completely different in it’s [sic] day.” Just how is the second amendment outdated? How has its meaning allegedly changed? Is the second amendment the only one that you contend “meant something completely different in it’s [sic] day?” Without rational answers to these questions, your comment is nothing more than bombastic propaganda.

  • Alison

    As much as I would like to see all the guns removed from the hands of those who use them criminally, it will never happen, no matter how many laws are passed. I firmly believe that gun laws will only succeed in removing guns from the law abiding citizens who wouldn’t have harmed an innocent person with them to begin with. The criminals will always get and have guns and if all the good peoples guns are taken away, ONLY the criminals will have guns, and they will know it. How safe will any of us be if the violent criminals are free to do whatever they choose to because they are secure in the knowledge that their victims have no means of defense. And do you know just how many previously law abiding citizens will then be forced into becoming ‘criminals’ themselves by attaining guns illegally to protect themselves and their families from violent criminals if legal gun ownership if denied to them? Yes, guns do make criminals braver than they would be without them, but guns also make responsible, law abiding citizens SAFER than they will be without them. In most criminal cases, the gun charge is dropped in the plea bargaining process. Why not start there instead and enforce the laws that already exist? If someone is acquitted of a charge on some technicality, but there was an illegal gun in their possession, they should be charged with that separately and the penalties should be harsh, no exceptions, period.

  • steve

    One Thing that I have. noticed is that most pro gun people will have a link to show the reader where the facts and figures came from. John Lott and Emily Miller books are perfect examples. That way the reader can decide can themselves.

  • Jim White

    Steve, I am a Texan and a Right to Carry licensee and i concur with your comments. Just what I would have written but couldn’t. Thank you, Jim in Ft. Worth.

  • Russ

    Seems that “mass shootings” are what everyone is so terrified of and eager to prevent. It is a certainty that if all guns are outlawed and confiscated, mass shootings would be exceedingly rare. But since they are already pretty darn rare it seems a bit rash to rewrite the Bill of Rights and take the swagger out of being “American” for little gain. But I’m obviously biased

    • Simon

      Avoiding having classrooms full of slaughtered Kindergarteners might be perceived by some to be more than ‘little gain’

      • Steve in Texas

        Ever notice how all the mass shootings happen in gun-free zones? And you really think that banning guns is going to stop them? Pull your head out of the sand.

      • John

        If you do a little research on mass shooting you will find that there were 30 from 1999 to 2012 for a total of 231 people dead. Not all of them, students of any kind. That is an average of about 19 people per year. Now lets compare that to the average number of drowning per year was 3533 from 2000 to 2007. If you want to compare doing the most good in saving lives I think you would want to outlaw swimming pools it might save more lives then mass shootings.

        • garypudup

          interesting statistic regarding drownings.

        • Really? Your comparing water to a gun?!! It’s no wonder people don’t comprehend proposed gun regulations

          • What killed more people?

          • gary pududp

            thank you, thank you , thank you….I am so tired of people who believe that Heller somehow gave everyone the “right” to own any firearm under any circumstances. when they are challenged they inevitably can do only one of two things, admit they haven’t or lie. Equally as nutty are those who believe the Second Amendment was created to “hold the government” accountable”. One only needs to read the constitutional convention debates to realize how truly silly that argument is.

        • gary

          John, that’s an facially corrupt analogy. First, swimming pools were not designed to kill people, if someone dies in a swimming pool it is contrary to it’s intended use. If someone is shot and killed the shooter is using the product as intended. Second not all drownings take place in swimming pools, third if that is the case it doers nothing to preclude taking action to reduce both and fourth, in fact swimming pools are regulated.

  • Andrea Murphy

    A couple of people seem to be implying that gun control advocates don’t cite their research, calling their information into question. This would certainly be an issue, except it’s not an accurate assessment. I have never been to this website before but a cursory glace at the choices on the top, right side of the page clearly show something called, ‘Gun Study Database’ . When I clicked on it an extensive list shows all sorts of links to the research the author is using. I would judge that it would be quite easy to decide for yourselves when the relevant research information is obviously provided. Heck, it has it’s very own page!

  • Gary

    It’s hard to debunk a “myth” when there’s no actual evidence or data to support the debunking. The weakest link in this argument and article is this statement: “Because no good data exists on national rates of gun ownership, the study used the best available proxy for gun ownership”. If there’s no good data on gun ownership, then the statement that “One of the most recent and largest studies to date on gun violence in America concludes that widespread gun ownership is the driving force behind gun violence in the United States” is nothing more than conjecture and guesses.

    I find it interesting that all anti-gun advocates fail to disclose that gun related violence has steadily declined and in 2011, firearm homicides are 49% LOWER than they were in 1993.(study conducted by Pew Research Center)

    The Pew Research Center study also found that firearm-related violence involving assaults, robberies and sex crimes, was 75% lower in 2011 than in 1993.

    James Alan Fox, author and criminology professor at Northeastern University concluded a study that found most mass shootings are done by a handgun and not “assault weapons”, but banning “assault weapons” is still the battle cry of anti-gun advocates.

    There’s certainly room for improvement in gun laws, but passing laws, that arbitrarily limit magazine capacity or arbitrarily ban “assault weapons” – without any ACTUAL evidence to support these laws will produce desired results, isn’t an answer.

    Even though gun violence decreased in Australia and England when all guns were banned, violent assaults, home invasions, and sex assaults dramatically increased.

    • Hey Gary,

      Thanks for your comment. Two quick points:

      There ARE surveys that attempt to quantify the gun ownership rate. See this overview from the Pew Center to see a breakdown of the various surveys and their methods: The issue, however, is that surveys can be inaccurate estimates of true gun ownership– people may lie, they may non-respond, they may give inaccurate responses, and so on. The GSS, for example, has an error rate of plus or minus 2 percent. This doesn’t include the additional error from non-response problems and accuracy problems.

      The reason that researchers use a proxy is to remove the possibility of reverse causation. Let’s say we are interested in the relationship between gun ownership and crime, and we performed a regression analysis using gun ownership rates from the GSS as an independent variable. Let’s say that there is a statistically significant relationship between crime and the independent variable, GSS ownership rate. We would be unable to make a conclusion about the DIRECTION OF CAUSATION between gun ownership and crime from this analysis. It could be the case that high levels of gun ownership cause crime because of theft of guns and so on. Or it could be the case that places with high levels of crime have high levels of gun ownership because residents feel the need to protect themselves.

      Enter: Proxies. Proxies resolve the issue of reverse causation by finding a variable that is highly correlated with the independent variable of interest, and not correlated with the error term. In this case, the proportion of suicides done by a firearm has a very, very high correlation with the GSS survey rate, but is not related to the crime rate at all. We can then include this as a substitute to the GSS ownership rate in the regression analysis. The researchers did this and found that there is still a statistically significant relationship between the fraction of firearm suicides and gun ownership, meaning that the direction of causation likely flows from ownership —> violence

  • bossmanham

    Of course we’ve got a heavily moderated thread here. Anti gunners typically don’t like their narrative disrupted.

    If this does get through, the silliness about armed militias destabilizing “free” societies is misleading and dishonest. First off, in many of those cases, if not all, the general populations already live under gun bans. It is paramilitary forces that are funneled weapons from other nations. Or you have military coups in third world banana republics that can hardly be called free societies.

    We also recognize that non western cultures that lack stability to begin with can devolve into constant civil wars. But this isn’t because of guns simply, but because of corruption and influential cults of personality.

    I have a wonderful counterexample, and that’s our own founding. Armed militias took up and for the cause of liberty. They pursued a Lockean ideal and followed a Christian ethic. Attempting to disarm such a people is insulting and unjust, and we’re not going to allow it.

    When Pew and Harvard both dispute your numbers regarding the numbers of guns and crime, you may want to reexamine your argument.

    • There is exactly zero evidence of this thread, or any other thread, being heavily moderated. We have never removed a comment because it is incongruent with the opinion of this blog. If you look at the comments section of literally any page on this blog, you would find that the preponderance of comments are pro-gun, not anti-gun.

      > Or you have military coups in third world banana republics that can hardly be called free societies.

      This comment is pre-empted in the article. The reason that there are so many examples of ‘third world banana republics’ de-stabilizing in the presence of militias is because there are simply no examples of developed countries that have a constitutional right to bear arms other than Costa Rica. This is not an example of cherry picking– every other country in the world figured out that having an armed militia isn’t productive to the functioning of a free society.

      > I have a wonderful counterexample, and that’s our own founding. Armed militias took up and for the cause of liberty. They pursued a Lockean ideal and followed a Christian ethic.

      See here:

      The Revolutionary War was not won by Militias, but rather the Continental Army with considerable help from the French. While it is probably an exaggeration to suggest that the Militia was completely worthless during the War, that is far closer to reality than the myth promulgated by some pro-gun advocates. And the Militias that did significantly contribute to the cause were organized by the states and represented a well-disciplined, cohesive fighting force that mirrored the Continental Army, not the minutemen of lore.

      > When Pew and Harvard both dispute your numbers regarding the numbers of guns and crime

      What are you referencing? Pew confirms GSS data, and our argument: Harvard certainly confirms our point– David Hemenway is cited throughout this article.

      • Nathan from MO

        “every other country in the world figured out that having an armed militia isn’t productive to the functioning of a free society.” That would probably be because they are scared shitless that if they mess up enough, like the US government would be to ban firearms, that there will be chaos. But not necessarily bad chaos; hopefully, productive chaos.

  • Ben Kibbey

    Before I start, I want to make clear that only a couple years ago I was anti-gun. By that I mean, I was not simply pro-control, but actually of the view that anyone having a gun for self-defense or even hunting was ridiculous and demonstrated profound ignorance. I actually had a confrontation with someone I knew because he – as a police officer in training – had a handgun that he brought into my house.

    Finally, I got so frustrated with the ignorance of pro-gun people, I set out to create a well-documented and unassailable case that even the most block-headed pro-gun person could understand.

    As someone who takes no pleasure in ever admitting I am wrong, months of research and digging – of reading studies and the critiques of critiques of studies – brought my view almost a full 180 degrees.

    To be honest, it started to look bad the first time I picked up something from the American Pediatrics Association, and it only got worse from there. You see, I was brought up to believe that the earth could be no more than a million years old and that evolution was a fairy tale. I even had “scientific” data and reams of studies by biologists and chemists and physicists to back up that view. And, when I began looking at the pro-control and anti-gun studies – carried out most commonly by medical doctors rather than criminologists or even statisticians – I began to have that “been here before” feeling, and realized that their methodology and level of inquiry too-closely resembled my old friends the young-earth creationists.

    As to the article above:

    “Gun buy-back programs in Australia, Firearm Certificates in the United Kingdom, and rigorous background checks and licensing procedures in Japan, have all been shown to decrease gun violence.”

    In order for that to be true, there would have to be a change. In truth, Japan and England have never had significant gun violence, and the implementation of legislation did not correlate to any significant change. That statement, then, stands with “the earth is 4,000 years old,” and “the earth isn’t warming” in regard to scientific validity. The only country in that list that had a significant change in gun deaths following their implementation of the 1996 gun ban was Australia. However, problem is, gun homicides as a percentage of all homicides had been decreasing since 1968, when they reached a high of 43%. The rate of that trend increased in the mid 80s, and continued unchanged until the mid-2000s, at which point gun homicide actually began to increase again slightly as a percentage of all homicide. It has held reasonably steady for the past several years.

    In other words, during the time when states such as Tasmania had significantly more lax gun laws than any state in the U.S. currently has, gun homicide was decreasing at the same rate as it did following the buy-back and ban. Simply, what happened after the band was exactly what had already been happening for decades.

    The rest of it, like that 2011 nonsense they cite, is just more recycling of the same purposeful misuse of data that has been repeatedly debunked. To redraw the comparison, I can find you dozens of “studies” by high-sounding “institutions” signed off on by people with valid-sounding credentials that “prove” dinosaurs and humans lived together in the same time periods. It’s a bit like those rocket scientists from NASA who signed the letter claiming global warming was a lie. Much like them, you can find loads of pediatricians and economists and the like doing studies that make gun control appear successful; you will have to work a lot harder to find actual criminologists who agree.

    Another for instance, the phrase, “One of the most cited studies examining homicide in the home compares 400 homicide victims killed in their home throughout 3 metropolitan areas,” is referring to the infamous Arthur Kellermann study where he refused to release any of his data for 3 years, and then left out information on the ownership of guns used in homicides. When it all came out in the wash, it was discovered that he counted a death as related to a gun being owned by a family member even if the person was killed by someone outside the home with a different gun. He also tabulated members of rival gangs as “family and intimate acquaintances.”

    When only the question of whether a gun actually originated from within the household was corrected for, it was found his estimation that a gun in the home was more likely to be used on a family member than in defense was off by huge margins, with only around 6% of his claimed numbers actually involving a gun belonging to the household.

    Most of all, though, I would like to address the question of suicide. Too often suicide by gun is brought into the debate, especially in recent years as gun homicides in the U.S. have fallen dramatically without any significant change in gun laws.

    There are a lot of “agree to disagree” and “OK, it’s open for debate” points in the gun control discussion (though it rarely is a “discussion” because, to be honest, the majority of gun advocates who are correct are only so by happy accident and as ignorant as any). The suicide issue is, frankly, one that sickens me. Simply, claims such as “most suicide attempts occur during transient risk periods of impulsivity” show an absolutely inexcusable misunderstanding of what the term “impulsivity” even means in regard to mental health.

    I have looked through studies and gotten more familiar with the issue than my desire to sleep at night would prefer. And, simply, outside of putting people in straight jackets in padded rooms, there is no level of removing opportunity that has any kind of traceable impact on suicide risk.

    “Impulsivity” is a common trait in people who commit suicide, but it does not refer to people who do things without thinking about them. It refers to a lower threshold for risk-orriented behavior and a history of things such as substance abuse. In fact, as a group that forms the vast majority of suicides, almost all people exhibiting that trait also demonstrate clear and specific planning going back weeks, months or even years. Essentially, these people are just much more likely to actually follow through with their plan.

    However, due to the casual familiarity and gleaning of information that is all-too-typical of those in the pro-control camp, this misinformation has been spread regarding the phenomenon of suicide. Unlike so many other arguments, this one actually makes me physically ill, because it threatens to do harm by spreading superstitions to replace real scientific information that could actually help people.

    And, it demonstrates the religious fervor that characterizes the majority of both sides of the argument, as people examine the situation only until they find something that seems to agree with their view, rather than following the data to where it leads and accepting whatever answer it gives.

    • To respond to your comments on the Australian Case, see here:

      – Most studies find the the Australia Gun Buyback did a lot to reduce suicides, even if it had a modest effect on homicides.

      – The Leigh and Neill study (considered to be the best) compared the rate of decline in Tasmania with the Australian Capital Territory. It found that there were sharper rates of decline where in Tasmania (fast gun-buy back) than in the Australian Capital Territory (slower gun-buy back). The difference in the rate of decline cannot be explained by exogeneous variables relating to the crime rate BEFORE the implementation of the policy

      – Both a Hemenway study and the Leigh and Neill study perform regression analysis that CONTROLS for fixed-effects (the trends that you speak about) and find that, even after controlling for the decline in gun homicides that were happening, there is still a statistically significant effect of gun buybacks in Australia

      – Studies implemented over the course of several years with lots of explanatory variables are unlikely to have structural ‘breaks’ in the homicide rate.

      To respond to your criticism of the 2011 study

      -What? Seriously. Your top argument against gun control is that there are unaccredited correspondence college professors who say dinosaurs lived at the same time as humans THEREFORE all studies are bad? Read a book, dude. We’re talking about Harvard and Yale, not community colleges.

      To respond to suicides:

      You’re simply wrong about your criticisms related to risk impulsivity. Study after study has found this to be the case. When I initially did the research on the suicidality risk, I actually couldn’t recent find any evidence that disputed impulsivity. To see a blistering array of research, click here:

      • John

        In regard to the suicides. In the first place if somebody wants to commit suicide that is their business and nobody elses. In the second place If it is an impulse or not not does not matter. If it is an impulse there does not need to be a gun around to get the job done. In the average home there are plenty of knives and a variety of pills and many other ways to kill yourself if you want to.

  • Ben Kibbey

    Also, while I do not see the prevention of tyranny as a genuine reason for allowing general ownership of most weapons, regarding the capabilities of armed militias, as an Iraq veteran, I can say first-hand, you’d be surprised what a bunch of inbred hicks with a handful of rusty guns and some homemade bombs can do to mess up the plans of the most powerful and technologically sophisticated military in the world. And I don’t even want to talk about Afghanistan.

  • To respond to your comments on the Australian Case, see here:

    – Most studies find the the Australia Gun Buyback did a lot to reduce suicides, even if it had a modest effect on homicides.

    – The Leigh and Neill study (considered to be the best) compared the rate of decline in Tasmania with the Australian Capital Territory. It found that there were sharper rates of decline where in Tasmania (fast gun-buy back) than in the Australian Capital Territory (slower gun-buy back). The difference in the rate of decline cannot be explained by exogeneous variables relating to the crime rate BEFORE the implementation of the policy

    – Both a Hemenway study and the Leigh and Neill study perform regression analysis that CONTROLS for fixed-effects (the trends that you speak about) and find that, even after controlling for the decline in gun homicides that were happening, there is still a statistically significant effect of gun buybacks in Australia

    – Studies implemented over the course of several years with lots of explanatory variables are unlikely to have structural ‘breaks’ in the homicide rate.

    To respond to your criticism of the 2011 study

    -What? Seriously. Your top argument against gun control is that there are unaccredited correspondence college professors who say dinosaurs lived at the same time as humans THEREFORE all studies are bad? Read a book, dude. We’re talking about Harvard and Yale, not community colleges.

    To respond to suicides:

    You’re simply wrong about your criticisms related to risk impulsivity. Study after study has found this to be the case. When I initially did the research on the suicidality risk, I actually couldn’t recent find any evidence that disputed impulsivity. To see a blistering array of research, click here:

  • Ben Cushwa

    This article is well written and seems, for the most part, factually accurate, but it is seriously lacking in proper context.

    1. Gun suicide rates are not an accurate indicator for gun ownership rates. Many factors, including culture, economy, climate, etc. impact suicide rates. What you’re measuring is the fraction of the gun-owning population who committed suicide with a gun, not gun ownership rates.

    2. By all reliable measures of gun ownership (number of NICS checks, number of CCW permits issued, opinion polls, etc.) gun ownership is on the rise. And crime has been dropping hand in hand with it. So while guns may make the commission of a crime easier, they clearly do not cause crime.

    3. Even ignoring gun ownership rates (which are prone to error), the number of guns owned in the US is irrefutably increasing while crime is dropping. The notion that more guns = more crime is demonstrably false.

    4. You overlook the fact that while the gun homicide rate in the US is higher than many of it’s counterparts, it is also dropping and nearing levels not seen since the early 1900s. That’s right, the gun murder rate in the US is approaching levels not seen since the first semi-automatic weapons were introduced.

    5. You also overlook the fact that in many of the countries what have lower gun homicide rates than the US, those rates are increasing, not decreasing, and that violent crime tends to be more common in some of those countries than the US as well.

    6. Don’t forget about the “law of small numbers”. Seemingly large multiplicative differences can often translate into small absolute differences on the scales we’re discussing. Discussing this issue in terms of “6x greater than” can be misleading.

    7. If gun control really reduces crime, why is the crime rate in Maryland, with some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation, so high, and increasing? Or, why has gun crime in Australia been so rampant after non-criminals were largely disarmed? Or why did the gun homicide rate in the UK spike after they largely outlawed handguns? Many factors impact crime rate, and gun control has no proven guarantee of lowering crime.

    8. Why are you only looking in the home for determining safety? Per FBI stats, guns are used in self defense at least 68k times annually and with the rise of CCW many of these instances will be happening outside the home. You must balance the global rate of lives saved with the risk of accidents, assaults, etc. at home to get the whole picture.

    9. It’s also worth noting that self-defense with a gun rarely involves pulling the trigger, so the notion that “a gun’s only purpose is to kill” clearly ignores it’s value as a deterrent.

    Comments, questions, and feedback are welcome.

    • 1. FSS (The fraction of suicides committed with a firearm) is considered to be the best available proxy by nearly every single gun scholar pro or con. It is highly correlated to the “gold standard” GSS survey measures.

      2. The gold standard in gun ownership rates is the GSS. The GSS, independent Pew Research, surveys conducted by the CDC in 2001 and 2003, and numerous proxies, all show that gun ownership is on the decline.

      3. Number of guns simply does not matter. What matters in the ownership rate. We know from surveys and instruments that lots of guns are being purchased by fewer people. In terms of crime analysis, owning three guns isn’t going to help in the commission or refutation of a crime; at best, people can only wield two weapons at a time. So we should be concerned about ownership rates, not the absolute number of guns.

      4. Perhaps it’s dropping more than any of it’s counterparts because it’s so much higher than all of it’s counterparts? I’m interested in maximizing the rate of downward change… simply pointing to an exogenous effect says nothing about the meaningfulness of gun control.

      5. Violent crime comparisons across countries is nearly impossible because of differences in crime classification. The best attempts at making international comparison show that, while other countries may have higher violent crime rates, U.S. has far more DEATHS as a byproduct of violent crime, owing to guns being used at higher frequencies in the commission of a crime.

      6. OK. I think human lives are valuable, we should do our best to minimize the number of innocent lives that are extinguished as a consequence of bad policy. Basic gun control procedures can do this– licensing regimes, waiting periods, and so on.

      7. [Citation Needed]

      -Maryland crime is down (literally the lowest ever reported in nearly every category):

      -The firearm homicide rate in UK is also at a all-time low (

      -So is the violent crime in Australia

      8 + 9. Take a look at this post, which comprehensively debunks the self-defense argument:

      • Douglas

        “so is violent crime”

        Actually violent crime in Australia continued increasing after the gun buyback, it is only now declining.

        Furthermore you bring up Maryland, but neighboring states had faster declines despite having looser gun laws. You also do not bring up Massachusetts which saw homicide rates substantially increase after implementing licensing.

        You are picking and choosing.

      • John

        The problem with your answer to 8 9 is that there is no way of knowing how many people own how many guns or what type they are. I don’t know how many if any state requires full registration not to mention you can buy from a private party. So any estimate on how many people own guns or how many people own many guns is what engineers used to cal the SWAG method. ie scientific wild ass guess. The last link was long on jaw and short of facts.

        • garypudup

          Because a mountain seems insurmountable doesn’t mean we don’t climb it. Thank God in New York State we now have a enlightened gun law that requires background checks on secondary sales of guns that have the potential to stop the slaughter that we saw in Missouri.

          • John

            Exactly how do you think that a background check would have stopped the Missouri shooting? Nothing I have read on the shooting even suggests he would not have been able to legally buy the guns at a store with a background check. For that matter nothing that I have seen has said where he got the weapons. Legally or illegally it is easy to get guns. Just because you can pass a background check this year does not mean you will not shoot somebody next year. The only way you can ensure that nobody ever gets shot is to ban guns completely and figure out how to enforce the ban. After that you can do what england is doing now and try to ban knives. Of course after you ban knives then you have to decide what to ban next.

          • garypudup

            in the two years since implementation of the SAFE Act many secondary sales have been interrupted by BG checks, we know this the data is clear. (FYI NYS has risen to the third safest state in terms of gun violence since the passgae of SAFE, and there are other metrics that also point to the effectiveness of BG checks on the secondary market) The shooter in Missouri had a criminal record, yet he was able to obtain a gun on the secondary market, something not possible in NYS.

          • John

            According to the new york news last april gun violence was trending down by about 1% At the same time gun violence was trending down all over the country. The article also pointed out the gun violence over the last 4 weeks hat gone up 12% and the 4 weeks before that had gone up 30%. Sounds real safe to me

          • Lt. Pudup,

            I have read your four recent comments – along with almost all of the posts and comments – on this website.

            I have also read your and Mr. Paul McQillen’s “SAFE Act provides reasonable set of gun restrictions” Guest Viewpoint in the 03/03/2014 edition of the Elmira, New York STAR-GAZETTE (the First Gannett Company) Newspaper.
            (To the best of my knowledge, that Guest Viewpoint article has not yet been posted on the STAR-GAZETTE’s website.)

            Additionally, I have read Mr. Paul McQillen’s “Not all upstaters oppose SAFE Act” Web Essay in the 11/03/2014 edition of the Rochester, New York DEMOCRATE & CHRONICLE (another Gannett Company) Newspaper. SEE:

            And finally, I am quite familiar with the New Yorkers Against Gun Violence (NYAGV) legislative advocacy organization. For those people who are not familiar with the New Yorkers Against Gun Violence (NYAGV) legislative advocacy organization, SEE:

            I was born and raised in Buffalo, New York. I first learned to safely and responsibly use and handle firearms as a member of Boy Scout Troop #23 in Buffalo, New York. I was an active member of the North Hill Rifle And Pistol Club (which is no longer in existence) in the greater Buffalo, New York area from age sixteen through age twenty-one.

            I graduated from Public School #68 (which is now known as the Westminster Community School) in Buffalo, New York. I graduated from Bennett High School (which is now known as Public School #200 Bennett High School) in Buffalo, New York. And I also graduated from SUCB – The State University Of New York College At Buffalo (which is now known as SUNY Buffalo State College) in Buffalo, New York – I earned both a Bachelor Of Science Degree In Industrial Arts Education and, approximately six years later, a Bachelor Of Science Degree In Industrial Arts Education. I have held a Permanent New York State Teaching Certificate for Kindergarten through Twelfth Grade since 1976.

            I have lived and worked my entire life in “upstate” New York State, except for the three years I served in The United States Army – I received my Basic Training at Fort Dix, New Jersey; I received my Advance Individual Training as a Small Arms Repairman at Aberdeen Proving Ground in Aberdeen, Maryland; I then spent approximately thirty-two months of my remaining Active duty as a Military Policeman in The Federal Republic Of Germany (which, at that time, was also known as “West” Germany). I taught boys and girls – almost exclusively seventh grade students – as a Shop teacher – in the same school district, the same school building, and the same classroom – for thirty-one years.

            I have been a Life Member of The National Rifle Association Of America since 1966 (I am now actually an Endowment Member). I was also a member of the New York State Rifle & Pistol Association for many years.

            I have possessed a New York State Pistol License (now known as a Firearms License) since 1969.

            I have never been accused of or charged with any misdemeanor crime or any felony crime. Obviously, I have also never been convicted of any misdemeanor crime or any felony crime.

            I very strongly support The Constitution Of The United States Of America – in its ENTIRETY, even though I do disagree with just a very few minor provisions of that Constitution.

            I prefer to use the fairly precise noun firearm – which generally refers to a pistol, a rifle, or a shotgun – instead of the very imprecise noun “gun” – which generally refers to any device which discharges a projectile. (There are many devices that discharge projectiles besides pistols, rifles, and shotguns.)

            I very strongly believe that the way to reduce crime in The United States Of America is through CRIMINAL CONTROL – not FIREARMS (“GUN”) CONTROL.

            I feel that it is noteworthy to point out that one serious disadvantage of choosing an intentionally misleading acronym as the title of a proposed law is that any acronym can have various meanings. For example, when some California Lawmakers chose the acronym “LIFE” as the intentionally misleading title of their “LIFE” Act of 2013 – only parts of which were signed into law on 10/11/2013, they apparently failed to realize that the “LIFE” Act can quite logically be interpreted to mean the Life-threatening Illogical Firearms Enforcement Act. SEE:

            I very strongly oppose the New York State Second Amendment Freedom Encroachment Act of 2013 (the “SAFE” Act) – which was signed into law on 01/15/2013 – primarily because, even though I do agree with a very few of its sections, several of its most important sections obviously and intentionally INFRINGE upon the Second Amendment – and some articles and/or some other amendments – of The Constitution Of The United States Of America. I liken the very poorly written and too hastily passed New York State Second Amendment Freedom Encroachment Act of 2013 (the “SAFE” Act) to a very poorly designed and too hastily produced firearm – both that Act and that firearm need to be completely and permanently done away with, after which they can then be totally redone. Therefore, as a resident of Schuyler County for more than the past forty years, I fully support our Schuyler County Legislator’s recent unanimous vote to repeal the New York State Second Amendment Freedom Encroachment Act of 2013 (the “SAFE” Act).

            It is important to note that, not long after the New York State Second Amendment Freedom Encroachment Act of 2013 (the “SAFE” Act) was passed, our Schuyler County Legislature was just one of fifty-two (out of sixty-two) County Legislatures in New York State who passed resolutions opposing that Act. SEE:

            If you are not familiar with “The Long Road to the SAFE Act: How Did Cuomo Do It So Fast?” (©2014, 2nd Amendment Coalition.), you may want to read:

            Realistically, neither I nor anyone else will ever be able to get you and/or others like you who desire FIREARMS (“GUN”) CONTROL to change your opinion of the New York State Second Amendment Freedom Encroachment Act of 2013 (the “SAFE” Act), the California Life-threatening Illogical Firearms Enforcement Act (the “LIFE” Act), or any other similar legislation – so I won’t even attempt to do so. And just as realistically, neither you nor anyone else will ever be able to get me and/or others like me who desire CRIMINAL CONTROL to change our opinion of the New York State Second Amendment Freedom Encroachment Act of 2013 (the “SAFE” Act), the California Life-threatening Illogical Firearms Enforcement Act (the “LIFE” Act), or any other similar legislation.

            I will only make four more closely-related and short comments. When a criminal uses a knife (or another kind of sharp edged weapon) during the commission of a crime, I can’t ever remember the criminal’s action being incorrectly referred to as “knife violence” [or “knife crime”]. When a criminal uses a club (or another kind of blunt edged weapon) during the commission of a crime, I can’t ever remember the criminal’s action being incorrectly referred to as “club violence” [or “club crime”]. When a criminal uses a firebomb (or another kind of incendiary weapon) during the commission of a crime, I can’t ever remember the criminal’s action being incorrectly referred to as “firebomb violence” [or “firebomb crime”]. When a criminal uses a poison (or another kind of chemical weapon) during the commission of a crime, I can’t ever remember the criminal’s action being incorrectly referred to as “poison violence” [or “poison crime”].

            I will end this post by asking Evan or Devin or Lt. Pudup or anyone else to answer either or both of these two closely-related questions:
            Question #1: When a criminal uses a firearm (“gun”) during the commission of a crime, why is the criminal’s action far too often incorrectly referred to as “gun violence” [or “gun crime”]?
            Question #2: When a criminal uses a firearm (“gun”) during the commission of a crime, why is the criminal’s action far too seldom correctly referred to as “a criminal’s unlawful use of a firearm (‘gun’)” [or “a criminal’s illegal use of a firearm (‘gun’)”]?

            RALPH VAN BUREN

  • Jeff

    Does anyone really think in this day and age that an armed militia is going to protect us from a tyrannical government? Some faith in the US and our democracy, patriot. The 2nd amendment is an out dated piece of history that really has no relevance in a modern society.

  • Ben Cushwa

    1. By your own admission, it’s a proxy. Proxies and poll data, while acceptable in the lack of empirical data, are still limited in their utility.

    2. Look at more recent CDC/Pew/Gallup data, namely 2010+.

    3. I actually agree with you that it’s number of gun owners that does count. However, the myth you were trying to debunk was “more guns = less crime”, not “more gun owners = less crime”. Words matter.

    4. You may find this article interesting. Not sure I agree with it, but it’s an interesting hypothesis: Regardless of the theory in the link, you can see that gun violence rates in the US is trending towards near 100 year lows. We’re about at the level of gun violence prior to when semiautomatics were commonly available to the civilian market (circa 1905). Why more gun control now when violence is so low?

    5. Agreed here. Criminals in the US are more inclined to kill than elsewhere. It’s almost as if we as a society don’t value life. Could that be part of the root cause of violence in the first place?

    6. You didn’t respond to my point. Using multipliers in this instance instead of raw numbers can be misleading. Also, prove it. There are many states with lax gun control laws with very low crime and homicide, and also states (like MD) with tight laws and high crime. I too value all lives, but I want the measures implemented to save them based on a complete picture, not half-truths and out-of-context data.

    7. Look at 2013 for Maryland, the trend reversed and we had a very bad year. Also, look at the overall trend for Maryland. It’s had strict gun control laws for decades, and even though it generally followed national trends in terms if how it changes, it is consistently one of the most violent states in the union.

    8-9. Quoting yourself? Okay then. I’m out of time, so I’ll come back to these two after the weekend. Looking forward to your replies.

  • Ben Cushwa

    Also, re: suicide, why are so many people keen to lump gun suicides and gun homicides together as a rallying cry for gun control? Murder and suicide are entirely different phenomenon with different causes and solutions, all they have in common in the comparison is the tool used.

    Look at Japan. Virtually no guns, yet very high suicide rates, much higher than US. There are many studies that show that suicide rates in countries where guns were restricted didn’t drop overall because guns were simply replaced with other methods.

    Again, you have to look at the whole picture, not just an arbitrary slice of it. Context matters.

  • This is a great summary of the science on this subject. We need so much more detail, but the NRA and its friends in Congress have prevented effective research. They wouldn’t be doing that if they thought the results of more research would support guns.

    But common sense also applies here. If you live in a sea of guns, people will get shot.

  • Gary

    Thanks for allowing and answering my comment above. I’ll have to put some more thought into the direction of causation before I can make a meaningful response.

    However, I am still interested in hearing your opinion on the significant reduction of gun related violence in the last 20 years. A 40% reduction in the rate of gun homicides and 75% reduction is firearm related violence is significant – it’s not perfect, but still significant. It’s definitely the opposite of claims being made that gun violence is on the rise.

    Have you ever found any meaningful statistics regarding the violent, non firearm related, crime rate in countries that banned firearms, both before and after the ban. I would be interested in knowing the source. I’ve seen quite a few statistics thrown around that show completely opposite conclusions.

    And one more thing I’m curious about, have you ever owned a firearm?

    I do have to agree that the pro-gun politicians have made it difficult for the government to collect any meaningful statistics. Even though I am pro-gun, I would like to see accurate statistics collected and analyzed. That might allow both sides to have meaningful conversations.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful and respectful replies.

      Evan may have a direct response himself, but I would like to ask/mention a couple of things.

      First, on the significant reduction in gun violence in the last 20 years, most of this reduction came from urban areas recovering from the “crack epidemic.” Cities such as DC and Chicago used to be far more violent than they are now. During the height of the epidemic, they implemented a number of measures (improving and expanding the police force, community programs, stricter gun laws) to combat the rising tide of violence. Unfortunately from a statistical standpoint, these measures were clustered around the height of the epidemic, and so it is extremely difficult to determine what specific laws (if any) contributed to the reduction in violence. What we can say with a high degree of confidence is that this reduction was not caused by concealed-carry laws or an increase in the number of guns (as the percent of gun owners actually fell by a substantial margin during the biggest decrease). In recent years though, gun violence has been creeping back up, and mass shootings have exploded in number.

      As for the violent, non-firearm crime would you be willing to provide the sources of the statistics you have seen? In terms of England, the 80% or so increase in violence meme that has circulated is not accurate. The agency they cite the numbers from changed how they account for crimes in that year, hence the substantial increase. A different agency that also reports these numbers and did not change their standards reported a small decrease and a continuation of the downward trend in crime (the law did not appear to have a statistically significant impact in either direction). As for Australia, all of the respectable studies either showed a statistically significant decrease in overall crime, or a decrease that wasn’t statistically significant but merely a continuation of a downward trend. If you could supply the source that says otherwise that would be helpful so we can find a definitive answer to your specific question.

      I personally have never owned a firearm, nor after my extensive research on firearms have any interest in doing so. A firearm is far more likely (statistically speaking) to hurt me or a loved one than protect us. That being said, I don’t see how owning a firearm is a necessary condition in forming an educated and articulate opinion on firearm violence. I personally don’t need to own one to see the effect they have on our communities and the toll they reap on our society (or the positive impact common sense gun reform could yield).

  • William Ashbless

    To build his case for the Nazi myth on Gun Control, Alex Seitz-Wald in his Salon article linked ‘Gun Control and the Holocaust'(12-18-12) by Michael Moynihan to build a case for Nazi Loosening of gun restrictions.

    Paragraph 7, sentence 3 of the aforementioned article refutes Seitz-Wald’s claim: “Still, it indeed is true that in 1938, the Nazis expanded upon Germany’s already restrictive gun laws, most of which were established during the Weimar Republic.” Am I missing something here?

  • Douglas

    >and international homicide

    This study includes homcide rates when Northern Ireland was in a civil war, Israel which is marred by civil war, and Kuwait which is not a first world country.

    It also includes incorrect homicide figures for the UK.

    In 1992, the homicide rate for England and Wales was 1.14, not 0.52

    Page 32.

    Furthermore the study looks at single years and not trends.

    Lastly, all the studies by Hemenway were funded by anti-gun special interests group such as the Joyce Foundation. It’s equivalent to the tobacco industry granting funding for tobacco studies. How Hemenway gets a free pass is beyond me.

    Here is a study that looked at trends, and used survey’s for gun ownership.

    “No significant correlations with total suicide or homicide rates were found, leaving open the issue of possible substitution effects.”

    Lastly, the NAS reviewed all gun laws in 2004 and found that none of them had any significant effect. And citing the Kellermann study after it was proven that the vast majority of homicides in his study involved guns brought from outside of the home is very detrimental to your cause.


    I rest my case.

  • Ben Cushwa

    Tom: regarding the NRA blocking research funding, all they did was limit what the CDC or other federal agencies can spend on research. Private institutions still get plenty of funding to do applicable research. There’s a reason why Johns Hopkins University has a school of public health named after Michael Bloomberg. We don’t need the government to do all of our research for us.

    I’m not sure I agree with that move by the NRA, but it’s hardly as crippling as the gun control crowd would have folks believe.

  • 1. We have some 300,000,000 guns in this country, owned by 47% of the households. And yet, our rates of violent crime, including homicide, are at a decades-long low. I think the conclusion of the Freakonomics authors is an interesting explanation for the drop in violence–namely, abortion on demand removing unwanted children from the population–but it is true to say that while gun laws have loosened, violence has not increased.

    And let’s consider that in Japan, about as many people kill themselves in a given year as die in America from gunshot. Those suicides are done largely without firearms.

    2. Our rates are many times higher than the U.K.’s and other similar nations because all our rates are so low. But the United States is close to other developed nations in terms of our homicide rate. The difference can be accounted for by cultural differences, since America is made up largely of people who left traditional societies to try something new, among other factors.

    In the case of accidental gun deaths, those amount to some 600 per annum, and thus in absolute terms, once again the numbers are so low that any difference is many times some other number.

    3. Why should we punish good people for the actions of criminals? Owning and carrying guns are not fundamentally harms. There are good reasons for outlawing murder and robbery. Those are harms. But laws against owning or carrying a firearm are a punishment in advance.

    4. Look up the Battle of Athens for an example of resisting bad government. Or consider that while cultural factors once again lead to different results in what type and degree of government a people will tolerate, the people of Afghanistan have demonstrated an ability to fight the two most powerful armies in recent history–to be sure, with assistance, but the point remains that asymmetrical warfare does work.

    Also consider the fact that the Warsaw Ghetto uprising detained German units in the interior that could have been used fighting the Russians. Had the people in that city been better armed, they could have mounted a more effective resistance.

    5. The 2013 report of the National Academies of Science says that somewhere between 108,000 and 2.5 million Americans defend themselves every year with a firearm. That has to be considered against studies of the risks of gun ownership. And what I’ve seen in at the infamous Kellermann study is that there is no effort to take into account the skill of the gun’s owner and little recognition of the effects of criminal history or substance abuse in increasing the risk. Kellermann looked at one community a piece in two large cities.

    The question of suicide is a complex one, since I believe it’s a person’s choice to live or not, and as I mentioned, Japan has a suicide rate that is much higher than ours, despite onerous gun control. That is a cultural difference. But Canada and Ireland have suicide rates much like ours, while their gun control is strict, and their cultures are similar to our own with respect to suicide.

  • Buzz

    Could you fix the last link for part 3? It’s not working.

  • Chris Cormier

    Children and Guns

    Myth: 13 children are killed each day by guns

    Fact: Adults included — This “statistic” includes “children” up to age 19 or 24, depending on the source. Most violent crime is committed by males ages 16-24, these numbers end up including adult gang members dying during criminal activity. The proper definition of ‘child’ is a person between birth and puberty (typically 13-14 years old).

    Fact: 301 children (age 14 and under) died from gunfire in all of 2010 or less than one per day. This includes homicides, accidents, and suicides combined.

    Fact: Criminals are included — According to the CDC, over half of all homicides of victims aged 15-19 are gang-related. The same study found that gang-related homicides are more likely to involve firearms than those that are not (95% versus 69%).

    Fact: Suicides are included — 27% of child firearm deaths are suicides. — These numbers include suicides.

    Fact: The federal government lists the total firearm related deaths for children at 301, or less than one per day, in 2010. 81 were suicides.

    Fact: Four children die every day in automobiles.

    Fact: Four children die each day in the U.S. from parental neglect and abuse.

    Fact: For contrast: 1,917 children die each day from malaria around the world and 15 men, women, and children per day are murdered by a convicted felon in government supervised parole/probation programs in the U.S.

    Myth: More Guns in U.S. Homes, More Kids Getting Shot

    Fact: This study, published by a medical student, used a non-standard database (not official CDC records), did not analyze other variables (multi-variant analysis) and did not specify regional covariance in gun ownership. In short, shabby science.

    Myth: School yard shootings are an epidemic

    Fact: “Compared to other types of violence and crime children face, both in and outside of school, school-based attacks are rare. While the Department of Education reports 60 million children attend the nation’s 119,000 schools, available statistics indicate that few of these students will fall prey to violent situations in school settings”.

    Fact: Over an eight year period, in states without “right to carry” laws, there were 15 school shootings; however, in states that allow citizens to carry guns, there was only one.

    Fact: The five school shootings that occurred during the ’97-98 school year took place after the 1995 Gun-Free School Zones law was enacted, which banned guns within 1,000 feet of a school.

    Fact: Schoolyard shooting deaths are not rising, rather, they have been falling through most of the 1990s:

    Fact: Only 10% of public schools reported one or more serious violent crimes during the 1996-97 school year.

    Fact: In Pearl, Mississippi, the assistant principal carried a firearm to the school until the 1995 “Gun-Free School Zones” law passed. Afterwards he began locking his firearm in his car and parking at least a quarter-mile away from the school. In 1997, when a student began a shooting rampage, the assistant principal ran to his car, got his gun, ran back, disarmed the shooter and held him on the ground until the police arrived. Had the law not been passed, the assistant principal might have prevented the two deaths and seven shooting-related injuries.

    Fact: Similar preventions occurred at a school dance in Edinboro, Pennsylvania, the Appalachian School of Law and during classes in Santee, California.

    Myth: Trigger locks will keep children from accidentally shooting themselves

    Fact: 31 of 32 models of gun locks tested by the government’s Consumer Product Safety Commission could be opened without the key. According to their spokesperson, “We found you could open locks with paper clips, a pair of scissors or tweezers, or you could whack them on the table and they would open.”

    Fact: 85% of all communities in America recorded no juvenile homicides in 1995, and 93.4% of communities recorded one or no juvenile arrests (not convictions) for murder.

    Fact: In 1996, before laws requiring trigger locks and when there were around 80 million people who owned a firearm, there were only 44 accidental gun deaths for children under age 10, or about 0.0001%.

    Fact: California has a trigger lock law and saw a 12% increase in fatal firearm accidents in 1994. Texas doesn’t have one and experienced a 28% decrease in the same year. Also: trigger-locks render a firearm inaccessible for timely self-defense.

    Fact: Children as young as seven (7) years old have demonstrated that they can pick or break a trigger lock; or that they can operate a gun with a trigger lock in place. Over half of non-criminal firearm deaths for children over age seven are suicides, so trigger locks are unlikely to reduce these deaths.

    Fact: If criminals are deterred from attacking victims because of the fear that people might be able to defend themselves, gunlocks may in turn reduce the danger to criminals committing crime, and thus increase crime. This problem is exacerbated because many mechanical locks (such as barrel or trigger locks) also require that the gun be stored unloaded.

    Myth: Guns in America spark youth violence

    Fact: Non-firearm juvenile violent crime rate in the U.S. is twice that of 25 other industrialized western nations. The non-firearm infant-homicide rate in the U.S. is 3.5 times higher. Thus we have a violence problem — not a “gun” problem.

    Fact: Non-firearm related homicides of children out-rank firearm related homicides by children almost 5-to-1

    Myth: More than 1,300 children commit suicide with guns

    Fact: This statistic includes “children” ages 18-19. As established previously, a child is defined as a person between birth and the age of 13 or 14 (puberty).

    Fact: Worldwide, the per capita suicide rate is fairly static (the suicide rate of the U.S. is lower than many industrial countries, including many where private gun ownership is banned). A certain fraction of the population will commit suicide regardless of the available tools.

    Fact: The overall rate of suicide (firearm and non-firearm) among children age 15 and under was virtually unchanged in states that passed and maintained “safe storage” laws for four or more years.

    Fact: Among young girls, 71% of all suicides are by hanging or suffocation.

    Fact: People, including children, who are determined to commit suicide will find a way. There is a documented case of a man who killed himself by drilling a hole in his skull by using a power drill.

    Fact: Banning country music might be more effective — one study shows 51% of the music-influenced suicide differential can be traced to country music.

    Myth: Stricter gun control laws could have prevented the Columbine massacre

    Fact: Harris and Klebold violated close to 20 firearms laws in obtaining weapons. Would 21 laws really have made a difference? The two shotguns and one rifle used by Harris and Klebold were purchased by a girlfriend who passed a background check, and the TEC-9 handgun used was already banned.

    Myth: Children should be kept away from guns for their own safety

    Fact: 0% of children that get guns from their parents commit gun-related crimes while 21% of those that get them illegally do.

    Fact: Children that acquire firearms illegally are twice as likely to commit street crimes (24%) than are those given a firearm by their parents (14%).

    Fact: Almost three times as many children (41%) consume illegal drugs if they also obtain firearms illegally, as compared to children given a firearm by their parents (13%).

    Fact: In the 1950’s, children routinely played cops and robbers, had toy guns, were given BB rifles and small caliber hunting rifles before puberty. Yet the homicide rate in the 1950’s was almost half of that in the 1980’s.

    Myth: More children are shot and killed in the U.S. than anywhere else

    Fact: 380 children 14 or under were killed with firearms in the last reporting year, or 0.0005% of the children in America and barely more than one child per day. 58% of those were homicides, likely innocent bystanders in drive-by scenarios.

    Myth: More children are hurt with guns than by any other means

    Fact: Barely more than 1% of all unintentional deaths for children in the U.S. between ages 0-14 are from firearms.

    Fact: The Center for Disease Control, a federal agency, disagrees. According to them, in 1998, children 0-14 years died from the following causes in the U.S.

    Fact: Children are 12 times more likely to die in an automobile accident than from gun-related homicides or legal interventions (being shot by a police officer, for example) if they are age 0-14. For the group 0-24 years old (which bends the definition of “child” quite a bit), the rate is still 8.6 times higher for cars.

    Fact: In 2001, there were only 72 accidental firearm deaths for children under age 15, as opposed to over 2,100 children who drowned (29 times as many drowning deaths as firearm deaths).

    Fact: Accidental firearm injuries for children and adolescents dropped 37% from 1993 to 1997, with the fastest drop — a 64% reduction — being for children.

    Fact: Boys who own legal firearms have much lower rates of delinquency and drug use than non-owners of guns.

    Fact: The non-gun homicide rate of children in the U.S. is more than twice as high as in other western countries. And eight times as many children die from non-gun violent acts than from gun crimes. This indicates that the problem is violence, not guns.

    Fact: Fatal gun accidents for children ages 0-14 declined by almost 83% from 1981 to 2002 — all while the number of handguns per capita increased over 41%.

    Fact: 82% of homicides of children age 13 and under were committed without a gun.

    Myth: If it saves the life of one child, it is worth it

    Fact: Firearms in private hands are used an estimated 2.5 million times (or 6,849 times each day) each year to prevent crime; this includes rapes, aggravated assaults, and kidnapping. The number of innocent children protected by firearm owning parents far outweighs the number of children harmed.

    Fact: Most Americans (firearm owners or not) believe that the way parents raise kids is what causes gun violence (or just violence in general). Among non-firearm owners, 38% said it was parental neglect that causes youth violence, while only 28% thought it was due to the availability of guns. They may be right, given that most homicides of children under age five are by their own parents. Of homicides among children ages 5 and younger: 31% were killed by their own mothers and another 31% were killed by their own fathers.

  • Kyle

    Ayres and Donohue did not refute John Lott. John Lott’s “More Guns, Less Crime” has been one of the most thoroughly-reviewed and critiqued studies of all time, including by Lott himself, as he continually has re-run the numbers. There have been at least twenty-nine peer-reviewed studies on Lott’s work regarding concealed-carry laws, of which eighteen have confirmed his results, that more guns reduces crime. Ten showed no increase or decrease in crime. Only one study thus far has shown an increase in gun crime from concealed carry laws (Ayers and Donohue).

    Donohue has also thus far backed out twice from scheduled debates with Lott, who was willing to debate him in person on the subject. Ayers was caught being a plagiarist:

  • Cerin

    This misinformation is shameful. “From 2003 to 2007, 33 Americans per day were murdered with guns.” No citation behind that nonsense or even any common-sense comparisons? How about his fact: reports that, from 2003 to 2007, 116 Americans per day died in a car-related accidents. Since cars are over 3 times more deadly than guns, and this entire site advocates banning guns, I guess we better ban cars…

    • First, if you would have bothered to do a 1 second Google search, instead of crying, you would have found the citation here: (Which is also linked in the article itself). Second, nobody is in favor of bans. Nowhere on this site has gun prohibition even been advocated. We should, however, adopt basic regulations to minimize the risk of death for both car and gun users. For cars, you have to have a license and registration, there are numerous safety designs that prevent the risk of self-injury (seatbelts, airbags), and there is outside locks and engine locks to prevent theft. We think this sort of technology should apply to guns as well.

      • Cerin

        First, it’s not my fault that you fail to cite your sources. How hard is it to link to where you found the data? Second, I actually have Googled. If guns are such a huge problem, then why does the US have a relatively low gun-related homicide rate compared to other countries, while countries with some of the lowest gun-ownership rates (like Honduras, El Salvador and Jamaica) currently have the highest gun-related homicide rate? And why did the homicide rate in Soviet Russia surpass the US homicide rate, despite it having some of the most stringent gun control laws in the world?

      • Cerin

        Also, cars are still as deadly as they are *despite* all the safety features and regulation. I’m not sure how you’d compare the regulation between the two (do guns have more/less regulation than cars? it probably varies by state/city), but no matter how you slice it, there’s a disproportionate controversy over guns in comparison to their actual harm to society.

  • tom

    We can look at what happened to england once they confiscated handguns from licensed citizens in 1997

    notice how the rates remained pretty much the same?

    what would the anti gun response be?

    • Boat


      If homicides decrease then the gun ban caused it.

      If homicides increase or remain the same, then “correlation isn’t causation.”

      The same song over and over again. I personally do not care if more guns means more gun deaths. Just look at how much violence is facilitated by alcohol each year. Countless suicides, homicides, diseases, etc. I mean alcohol correlates all the time to homicides:

      Yet the majority of people are opposed to minimum alcohol pricing even though it’s very likely it would curb down on deaths greatly.

      That’s the problem with utilitarianism, absolute safety is never a good thing if it’s at the cost of many freedoms. I believe in a balance between safety and freedoms, and I would rather live in a country like Canada that allows citizens to own guns with reasonable balances, rather than a nation like Japan. Even if it meant far less gun deaths and a safer society. Similarly I would rather live in a nation that doesn’t have minimum pricing on alcohol than one that does. Even if the latter country was much safer due to having far less alcohol violence as a result. There has to be a balance between negative liberties and positive liberties.

      The authors of this blog refuse to understand a concept like this.

  • dwb

    Using suicide data as a proxy for gun ownership to prove gun ownership causes suicide and homicide? #CircularReasonMuch The large “study” effectively assumes the conclusion.

    Do they think we are that stupid?

    “Criminals don’t follow laws” means that drug dealers have a strong monetary incentive to buy and distribute guns (and drugs!) illegally to maintain their revenue flow (which often ends upon getting shot by a rival). Dealers don’t buy guns legally (duh). Drug dealers already adept at not following laws won’t follow more laws.

    But thanks for all the straw men.

    Prevention of tyranny is like a vaccine; when it works, the only way to prove it works is not to give the vaccine. I don’t want to get the measles to prove the measles vaccine works, and I do not want to repeal the 2A and get tyranny to prove that the 2A is a prophylactic. One thing is for sure, if every college campus wanna be cop is running around with an M4 in an armored vehicle thanks to the Federal Govt, I want one too. Government employees are not special, the constitution does not allow one class of citizens to be more or less armed than others.

  • Marcus

    “and international homicide, the relationship between guns and death is consistent and robust across time and location.”

    Yet in this study if the US is used and the far superior proxy is used, the association quickly ceases to be significant.

    “Because no good data exists on national rates of gun ownership, the study used the best available proxy for gun ownership, the percentage of suicides involving a firearm. ”

    This study actually shows the greatest predictor of firearm homicides being percentage of black residents, not gun ownership. Gun ownership wasn’t even second.

    It is less of a blow to gun supporters than to egalitarians everywhere.

    In fact if this study was about anything else than guns it would be dismissed as “racist.”

    • Marcus

      if the US is excluded*

  • Nathan from MO

    “when corrected, led to the opposite conclusion—RTC laws only increase crime.”
    Post had much?

  • just another guy

    You reference people who sit in offices and play with numbers and models and studies and come up with a number based on that alone. But all I have to do is point at Detroit, who has intense gun laws, and then point at Texas, who has few gun laws, and note that Detroit alone has more murders per year than Texas altogether to render your entire article as flawed.

  • JFK

    And all I have to do is point at the UK which has among the strictest gun controls in the world with around 40 gun deaths a year in a bad year and a total murder rate lower than Texas with more than twice the population which renders your argument as flawed.

    I’m someone from the UK who has been living in the US for the past 2 and half years or so and before that spent my entire life in a society more or less gun free where even the police don’t routinely carry guns and where I felt infinitely safer than I do anywhere in the US.

    An outsider quickly sees this gun obsession as exactly what it is and as I just stated that is what it is. A bizarre obsession that exists nowhere else in the advanced Western world.

    An obsession which results in nothing but enormous murder rates the nation should be ashamed of.

  • Jon

    I realize that this thread has been cold for nearly a month but I wish to comment anyway. The fundamental issue I am finding with much of what is being said here (on both sides) is that it confuses the difference between correlation and causation. I’ll give an example: During the summer ice cream sales increase. So do the number of children who drown, therefore one could make the conclusion that ice cream consumption leads to drowning. You could have all of the convincing statistical analysis of this claim you want, but it doesn’t change the fact that ice cream nothing to do with the number of children who drown during the summer. I would encourage all of you to apply that sort of thinking to the claims made by both sides. Both sides are also running into issues with the limitations inherently involved with data involving the human sciences. Polls are inherently inaccurate (responses are subject to connotation of words chosen by the pollsters, little incentive to answer honestly) and no matter what proxy is applied, it is difficult to eliminate all of the variables. That does little to change any of the above argumentation, however, it does mean that conclusions drawn from the data can be fairly disputed.

  • Lt. Gary Pudup, retired

    Evan, thank you for this posting. regarding the oft heard argument that crime rates in the US are not higher than other nations, a study by Cook and Ludwig “Gun Violence” states this is not the point as those who are anti-regulation like to say. The critical point is that the lethality of crime in the US is much higher because of the proliferation of firearms. that is an important distinction “gun rights” advocates don’t mention. They also like to avoid the agrument that lethality of any weapon is measured in three related ways, not simply ballistic effectiveness.

  • Well lets beat this one out of the park. First of all, only showing one side of the issues is BullSh*t. NONE of these thing debunk anything. I can debunk everything they have here. Lets begin shall we:
    1: “More Guns Less Crime”
    That ones Easy. I can debunk that one with two words. “Kennesaw Georgia”. They require every head of house hold to own a gun before you can move into the city limits. The NIJ (National Institute of Justice) A Group the hippies and anti gun idiots seem to love to quote States has the LOWEST crime rate in the country. And two words to disprove number one. Chicago Illinois. Highest number of gun restrictions in the COUNTRY. And the highest murder rates for the country. Gee, I wonder who saw that coming. Put a “Gun Free Zone” Sign on one house in a bad neighborhood. And a “This House Protected By Smith And Wesson” On another in the same neighborhood. Bet you I know the one that gets broken into first.
    2: “Guns Don’t Kill People, People Do”
    This ones a gimme. For those of you who still debate this. I disprove your argument with two sentences.
    Place a loaded gun with the safety off on the ground. It wont hurt anyone so long as nothing bothers it. There you have it. Disproved with two sentences. Guns aren’t the problem, people are. Deal with the people first then the tool later. Briton got rid of guns and now they have this big problem with people getting stabbed left and right. Don’t believe? Look up “Save Lives. Turn In Your Knives.” Getting rid of guns wont stop violence. Dealing with violent people FIRST will. Next
    3: “Criminals Don’t Follow Laws”
    We can file this one under “No Sh*t A** Hole”. (Just because a criminal doesn’t obey one law does not mean they don’t obey any laws.) What Kind of crap statement is this? They rob banks but don’t Jay walk? Is that what your trying to say? Stiffer sentences don’t scare people. Law does not scare criminals, punishment does. You ever look at a criminal in court. They usually look really smug all through the trial. But when they get sentenced is when they get scared. Criminals aren’t afraid of you calling the police. The average response time of 911 in the US is 23 minutes. A Lot can happen in 23 minutes. How many times can someone hit you in the head with a baseball bat in 23 minutes? How many times can you get stabbed with a knife in 23 minutes? How many times can someone rape your wife or children in 23 Minutes? Average response time of .357, 1,155 feet per second. And to use your Briton and Japan quote there. Your right, outlaws in Briton weren’t the only ones to have guns. But now they have knives against the unarmed populace. Something I should point out to you idiots out there on the key difference between Briton and Japan and the United States. Unlike Briton and Japan, the United States isn’t an island. They don’t have one of the worlds LEADING drug run countries on their borders constantly digging tunnels into and under the borders supplying the criminal element with what they need to do what they want. The US kind of has the problem moron. Next
    4: “Armed Populace Prevents Tyranny”
    Well that’s a fact. You might want to ask the Jewish people how they felt after the Nazis outlawed private ownership of guns. Bet they would have an interesting conversation for you. Fact is there is no guarantee that gun will prevent anything. But an armed populace is a good deterrent so far. The founding fathers came up with the idea, and I see no reason to go against it. Because if your going to try and dictate my rights for a gun because you don’t like guns, then I should be able to dictate your free speech because I don’t like what you have to say. Next
    5: “A Gun In The Home Makes You Safer”
    All those accident statistics are bull sh*t simply because that is operator error or just stupidity and Ill prove that right now. There are 40,000,000 registered gun owners in America right now. I didn’t read about 40,000,000 gun related deaths yesterday in the news. And a criminal is less likely to go into a house where there is a gun over a house that doesn’t have a gun simply out of self-preservation. They don’t want to get shot and killed over someone else’s stuff. What else you got?

    • stainlesssteel

      @ Taylor on January 29, 2015 at 7:41 pm

      Congratulations–you fit the archetype of the NRA member–blustery, handwaving, citing fast and loose, out-of-context and almost random anecdotes. Apparently hasn’t even read the article, as many of his points are refuted in it. Clueless about death rates from guns besides break ins, i.e. crimes of passion, accidents, suicides. Over and over it’s the algorithm: “What would you expect, yeah dat’s right, I win.”

  • Yet, no correlation based on individual city statistics vs regional gun prohibitions could ever possibly prove, especially without hard ownership numbers, that anti gun laws leave dc, Chicago and new York with more deaths per year than Dallas, las Vegas or Sante fe due to gin crimes.

  • God of Clorox

    Charles Mitchell
    where does your information come from?

  • God of Clorox

    you cannot use the KKK, Black Panthers, or Neo-Nazis as examples of a militia in the way the constitution states because they are racial radicals

  • God of Clorox

    where do you get your statistics from?

  • When guns are outlawed only RICH OUTLAWS will have guns…because basic economic principles – Supply and Demand.

  • Pingback: The Causes of Gun Violence | Minister Is A Verb()

  • tvanderm

    THANK you for this well-written, well researched article, but can I say just one thing about this…

    “For examples closer to home, we can look to how miserably the Ku Klux Klan, the Black Panthers, and Neo-Nazi factions (all examples of real militias) failed to promote a free society.”

    I take exception to The Black Panthers being lumped in with the KKK and Neo-Nazis. The Black Panthers existed to fight oppression and protect black people from the state. And I would say where they “failed” is that they’re actions of protecting blacks against the state provoked BACKLASH.

    For example: the NRA was pro-gun control when the Black Panthers were openly carrying arms!

  • Might I refer you to Scalias dissent

    On pp. 54 and 55, the majority opinion, written by conservative bastion Justice Antonin Scalia, states: “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited…”. It is “…not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose.”

    “Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”

    “We also recognize another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms. Miller (an earlier case) said, as we have explained, that the sorts of weapons protected were those “in common use at the time”. We think that limitation is fairly supported by the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of ‘dangerous and unusual weapons.’ ”

    The court even recognizes a long-standing judicial precedent “…to consider… prohibitions on carrying concealed weapons.””