Debunking the “Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People” Myth

Posted On October 8, 2013
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October 08, 2013

Guns don’t kill people, children do.  Cassie Culpepper, age 11, was riding in the back of a pickup when her 12-year-old brother pointed his father’s pistol at her.  He believed he had removed the bullets, and so jokingly pulled the trigger. He was wrong.

Since January 1st, 2013 there have been 11 reported gun fatalities involving preschool children as the shooter. Ten more toddlers have accidentally shot themselves or somebody else this year.  And this statistic represents only data for which a toddler is the shooter in a death (MotherJones reports that 71 children have been killed by guns since Newtown).

The BBC originally reported on this phenomenon in 2009 when, in the span of 24 hours, two children were shot by their toddler siblings.   In both cases, the deaths were a result of improperly secured weapons.   A New York Times’ piece added to the controversy showing that, due to idiosyncrasies over what constitutes a ‘homicide’ or an ‘accident’, child firearm accidental killings happen roughly twice as much as they are reported in national databases.

These deaths, quite obviously, could have been avoided had any adult, at any point in time, exercised even a modicum of discretion concerning the availability of their firearm.  Our outrage towards these deaths should be proportional to how senseless they are, how utterly avoidable they were.  We put child-locks on our medicine cabinets, secure our pools with gates, put on helmets during bike rides, and we give our 12-year-old boys a rifle to play with in the backseat of a truck.  Wouldn’t want him to get bored.   After all, the only way to stop a bad child with a gun is a good child with a gun.

Lawn Darts and Firearms

 

In April 1987 seven-year-old Michelle Snow was killed in Riverside, California by a stray lawn dart that was thrown by her brother’s playmate.   These darts were part of a children’s game in the 70′s and 80′s involving large, weighted darts with sharp metal tips, designed to pierce a horizontal target on the ground.

Michelle’s father immediately began a campaign to ban the darts, arguing that anything less than a full-scale ban would be insufficient—after all, even if you were to ban lawn darts in your own home, nothing can stop a neighbor’s child from throwing one over the fence.  The campaign led to an all-out ban in the US and Canada.  To this day, it is illegal to assemble a lawn dart in either of the two countries. The problem wasn’t just that lawn darts were dangerous, it was that they were dangerous AND they were being marketed to children as a game, despite being responsible for 6,100 emergency room visits over a span of eight years.  So when parents observed that these unnecessarily dangerous toys were injuring and killing their children, they did what any sensible parent would do: they complained until the government listened.

Now examine how differently our society treats guns in a similar context: On April 20th, 2013, a five-year-old Kentucky boy shot and killed his two-year-old sister with a gun that had been specifically manufactured for child use.  The gun was called “My First Rifle”, a .22 caliber gun which marketed itself as “especially for youth shooters.”  Instead of massive public backlash, the National Rifle Association (NRA) instead, days after the event, held its Annual Meeting where it explicitly marketed firearms and firearm paraphernalia to kids, including NRA bibs for children, ‘Youth Model’ firearms, and NRA publications focused on ‘Youth Shooters.’

Where was the outcry over the blatant militarization of children by one of the most powerful political lobbies in the United States?  Where was the parental campaigns demanding that children not be subject to the propagandization of firearms? Where are the restrictions, the regulations, the bans?  The NRA’s response, instead, sent a different message:  “You’ll have to take my gun from my child’s cold, dead hands.”

Guns may not kill people, but gun culture does.

6 Academic Responses to “Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People”

Lawnmowers don’t mow lawns, people do.  But if you want to mow a lot of grass in a very short period of time with very little effort or coordination, you’re going to need a lawnmower.   And if you want to be brutally efficient about it, why not get a John Deere semi-automatic riding lawnmower? The X758 is a popular model that can literally mow down entire fields at the push of a button, and can be picked up without any hassle at your local Walmart.

I’m belaboring the analogy, but the point should be clear:  Guns may not kill people, but people with guns do, and they do so more often and more efficiently than people without guns.  People do not behave in a vacuum. They are influenced by their environment, and when that environment is occupied by guns, people behave aggressively and impulsively.  Even the NRA is unable to follow its own strict logic behind “guns don’t kill people.” In searching for a scapegoat, Wayne LaPierre often accuses media, video games, Obama’s budget, and anything else he can find that isn’t a gun. The point being these fruitless attempts to shift blame are an implicit acknowledgement that we are influenced by our surrounding environment, an environment that includes guns.

So here are six reasons, supported in the academic literature, for why guns do, in fact, kill people.

1. Suicides

One area over which there is very little controversy involves the relationship between gun ownership and suicide rates.   When firearms are available, people commit suicide more regularly and more successfully than people without access to firearms.

A 2009 meta-analysis on lethal means reduction as a strategy for decreasing suicide rates found that policies that influenced the firearm ownership rate had the most prominent effect on suicide rates.

A 2007 paper investigated suicide rates as it related to the implementation of Austrian firearm regulations.  The legislation mandated safe storage practices, a 3-day waiting period for firearms, background and psychological testing prior to purchase, and that all purchasers be at least 21 years of age.  The study found a statistically significant decline in suicides for women age 20 to 64, and among men in all age brackets above 20.

A 2006 paper published by Dr. Miller and colleagues at the Harvard School of Public Health explored changes in household firearm ownership in the United States over the period 1981-2002 as it related to a decline in the suicide rate, controlling for age, unemployment, per capita alcohol consumption, and socioeconomic status.  The study found that, for every 10% decline in the household firearm ownership rate, firearm suicides decreased by 4.2%, and total suicides dropped by 2.5%.  The decline in suicide rates was highest among children, and there was no statistically significant increase in the fraction of suicides committed with other weapons.

From Inj Prev. 2006 June; 12(3): 178–182.
doi: 10.1136/ip.2005.010850

A 2000 paper by Ludwig and Cook estimated whether declines in suicides over the period 1985-1997 were associated with the passage of the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act.   The study found that the legislation produced a significant reduction in suicide rates among persons aged 55 or older, suggesting that suicidal impulses in older individuals were attenuated by the imposition of the five day waiting period.

Note also that the largest study done to assess mental health trends in the United States found that there was no significant changes in suicidal tendencies between 1990 and 2000.  The number of suicides occurring during that period, however, did increase.  The only explanation for this incongruity is that suicide attempts became increasingly more ‘successful’ as the years progressed, and the most accepted explanation for why this is the case is due to increase access to firearms.

Furthermore, the best empirical evidence on suicides suggests that most attempts occur during temporary bouts of mental illness.  One in four teens who survive a suicide attempt say that they thought of suicide just five minutes before the attempt.  The presence of a gun increases the likelihood that a suicide will be ‘successful’, which is why gun regulation consistently decreases suicide rates.  The imposition of waiting periods or barriers to the acquisition of a gun allows for the resolution of transient suicidal impulses, decreasing the overall suicide rate. This is further validated by a 2012 study, which shows that the majority of suicide attempts were impulsive and that restricting access to highly lethal methods of suicides (like guns) saves lives.

In the case of suicides, then, the evidence is clear that guns do kill people.

2. Accidental Deaths and Injuries

A key observation noted by Hedeboe and his colleagues is that injuries are inflicted by whatever object is most near.  However, when a gun is available, impromptu arguments escalate quickly, leading to a lethal injury.  FBI data from 1981, for example, found that 2/3rds of deaths involving arguments were a result of guns.  These deaths would have been replaced by non-fatal injuries had the guns not been present.

This is the reason that the United States leads other developed countries when it comes to fatal injury rates:

Image from New Zealand Injury Prevention Strategy Secretariat

In another study, David Hemenway found that unintentional firearm deaths in the U.S. are five times higher than any other high-income country.   Among the 23 countries compared, 87% of all firearm deaths of children under the age of 15 occurred in America.   In 1995, 5285 U.S. children were killed by a firearm, compared with 57 in Germany and 0 in Japan.

The risk of accidental firearm deaths is also not shared equally among the population: in low-income areas, the likelihood of unintentional injury is 10 times higher than in high-income areas.  Rates are particularly high among Native Americans, White teenagers, and African Americans age 15-34.

Remember, these are accidental firearm deaths, and they happen far more often than accidental deaths from any other weapon.  According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in 2010, 606 people were killed by unintentional firearm injuries.  By contrast, the next highest category for unintentional deaths by weapon was knives (or other sharp objects) which killed 105 people in 2010.  Despite the fact that there are many more knives in the United States than guns, guns are responsible for five times as many accidents.  The reason being, of course, that accidents caused by guns are more lethal than accidents by any other weapon.

In the case of unintentional injury, then, the evidence is clear that guns do kill people.

3.  Homicide Outside the Home

A number of ecological studies in the United States demonstrate the strong association between gun availability and higher rates of homicide and suicide.  A famous study entitled a “Tale of Two Cities” showed that Vancouver and Seattle, two cities with similar demographic characteristics, and near identical rates of robbery and burglary, differed in their approach to handgun restriction.  Seattle, which had far less restrictive gun control laws, had a homicide rate that was 60% higher than that of Vancouver, and virtually all of the difference in homicide rates could be explained by differences in the firearm ownership rate.  Furthermore, despite the fact that assault rates in both cities was very similar, the lethality of the assaults occurring in Seattle were substantially higher due to the fact that firearms were used seven-times more often.

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4. Homicide in the Home

A 1986 study found that, for every time a gun was used in self-defense in a home, there were 1.3 accidental deaths, 4.6 criminal homicides, and 37 suicides involving a firearm.  Therefore, a gun kept in the home is 43 times more likely to kill a member of the household, or a friend, than an actual intruder.

A 1993 study compared various risk factors for homicide in three U.S. counties.   They found that the presence of a firearm in the house makes it three times more likely that someone will be murdered by an intimate partner or a family member (usually during arguments).   A follow-up study conducted in 2004, came to the same conclusions: if you have a gun in your home, you’re more likely to die from homicide in your home than people without guns.   Guns don’t kill people, but it turns out that if you have one near you when an argument escalates, the likelihood that you’ll be killed by that gun is higher than if the weapon had been anything else.   Oh, and if you’re wondering why many  of these studies occur before 1996, you can thank the NRA.

In the case of homicides, then, the evidence is clear that guns do kill people.

5. The Weapons Effect

‘Priming’ is a well-known, rigorously evaluated concept in cognitive science by which exposure to an unconscious stimulus influences response to a later stimulus.   A textbook example by Bargh, Chen, and Burrows (1996) involves an experiment in which subjects were primed with words related to elderly people (slow, forgetful, wrinkle), and found that subjects in the treatment group walked more slowly out of the room than subjects in a control group.   These priming effects have been shown to be long-lasting as well.  One study found that people primed with certain words are more likely to use those same words to complete a ‘word-fragment completion test’ long after those words had been consciously forgotten.

Why is this relevant to guns?  Because a group of social psychologists decided to test whether weapons could function as primes, and the extent to which such primes influenced behavior.  They published their findings in a famous paper entitled “Does the Gun Pull the Trigger?” where they found that the mere presence of a weapon primes aggressive behavior.  Guns in particular, due to their semantic association with violent behavior, which is reinforced through common experiences in movies, television, and front-page stories, are linked closely with aggression-related concepts.  Several studies have confirmed this point.  One found people exposed to weapon-related words such as “gun” or “firearm” are more likely to express hostility in subsequent time intervals than those exposed to neutral words.

A great article in the Atlantic brings this conception to bear, arguing that the network of conceptual and symbolic associations triggered when one wields a firearm can, and do, influence behavior.  Just as wearing a white lab coat can make an individual behave more intelligently, wielding a gun can make an individual behave more aggressively.  The environment we put ourselves in influences our behavior, so we should be cautious about what sort of cultural and social norms we are reinforcing when we advocate for firearms.  To modify a Steven Weinberg quote, “With or without guns, you’ll have good people doing good things, and evil people doing evil things, but if you want good people to do evil things, give them a gun.”

In the case of human psychology, then, the evidence is clear that guns do kill people.

6.  International Violent Crime Rates

Let’s examine two graphs, adapted from the most recent available survey of international crime statistics.  We see here that, compared to other OECD countries, the United States has a fairly modest violent crime rate (ignoring, for a moment, the differences in how countries report crimes).

However, when we compare the same countries on homicide rates, we get a completely different picture:

Why is it that, despite having a relatively modest violent crime rate, the United States has the highest homicide rate, by far, out of OECD countries?   Which substantive difference between the United States and other countries explains why the violence our criminals commit is more lethal than the violence of other countries’ criminals?   I suspect that the difference might have something to do with this:

Indeed, a study done by David Hemenway and a colleague at Harvard University found that, compared with 23 OECD countries, the United States had a homicide rate that was 6.9 higher than other high-income countries, a difference driven almost exclusively by firearm homicide rates that are 19.5 times higher. A 2013 study also showed that among high income countries “there was a significant positive correlation between guns per capita per country and the rate of firearm-related deaths.”

In the case of violent crime, then, the evidence is clear that guns do kill people.

The Illogic of “Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People”

In the final analysis, I’m reminded of another argument made by gun advocates to succinctly challenge all gun legislation: “Gun control doesn’t work because criminals don’t follow laws.’   I pointed out in an earlier post, that the problem with this argument is that, when iterated out to its logical extreme, it necessitates having no laws at all.   We would be forced to live in anarchy if the only laws on the books were ones that everybody always followed.

The same is true for the “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” argument.  Yes, the ultimate cause of any crime is the underlying biochemistry that regulates human decision-making.  But this says nothing about how proximate causes, such as firearms, influence said decision-making, or whether or not we should regulate such proximate causes.

To provide an admittedly extreme example, humans are responsible for making the decision about whether or not to use a WMD—this is a situation in which one group of human beings wants to kill another group of human beings, and their WMD has no say in the decision making process.   This clearly doesn’t mean, however, that Weapons of Mass Destruction should be unregulated.  I can’t imagine anybody sanguinely justifying the sale of nuclear weapons to a terrorist group under the pretense that “Nukes don’t kill people, people do.”

Let us not split hairs: the purpose of a firearm is to kill—to kill at a distance, to kill with speed, to kill with maximum lethality.  This is a weapon that has been optimized to extinguish life with the minimum amount of effort possible.  And, for whatever reason, America has embraced a social norm that explicitly legitimizes these deaths by providing an unending laundry list of excuses whenever one happens: it was the irresponsible parents, the inadequate firearm training, the bad public policy, and so on.  But it’s never the gun.  And yet, somehow, the U.S. is responsible for 80% of all firearm deaths, 86% of all female firearm deaths, and 87% of all child firearm deaths in the developed world.  It’s just a coincidence that we have the highest per capita gun ownership rate in the world.   That’s a lot of irresponsible parents.

57 Comments

  1. Devin Hughes   October 8, 2013 3:44 pm / Reply

    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.

  2. McAllister Bryant   October 8, 2013 5:33 pm / Reply

    Very good article.

    I slowed down on blogging about this a few months ago to take on a more national role…stacks of new, near real time gun violence statistics coming soon.

    • Evan DeFilippis   October 8, 2013 5:40 pm / Reply

      Thanks for the comment. I just took a look at your website, and the content seems quite good. I’ll be subscribing.

  3. Debbie Duggan   October 8, 2013 5:58 pm / Reply

    What an excellent article. It is unfortunate that most of the people who will make it all the way through are not the ones who most need this information.

    • Devin Hughes   October 8, 2013 11:02 pm / Reply

      Thank you for your comment.

    • Evan DeFilippis   October 9, 2013 5:01 pm / Reply

      Thank you for the comment. You don’t happen to be the wife of Mark Duggan, do you?

  4. Phil N. DeBlanc   October 8, 2013 7:43 pm / Reply

    Well written and well researched. I’ll be sharing this right away. (BTW, I really miss Jarts)

  5. C. Jeffrey Smith   October 8, 2013 8:33 pm / Reply

    Excellent work; thank you. Crucially, though, your “International Violent Crime Rates” figures are seriously misleading because violent crime is defined very differently by different countries. For example, US violent crime figures from the FBI include only crimes against persons, and not against property; whereas consolidated UK figures generally include crimes involving force even against unattended property (e. g., forceful entry into an unoccupied locked home). Furthermore, definitions of violent crimes against persons suffer from definitional, cultural, and reporting differences, e. g., involving sexual violence. Homicide statistics are more likely to be consistent.

    • Devin Hughes   October 8, 2013 8:41 pm / Reply

      Agreed. We only briefly mentioned this “(ignoring, for a moment, the differences in how countries report crimes),” but possibly should have made a more thorough explanation. We plan on writing an entire post on this later to hopefully make up for our lack of commentary here. Thank you for reading and for your commentary. Both are appreciated.

  6. Joey   October 9, 2013 3:40 am / Reply

    I have never heard a single person say that we should make murder legal. If it were legal then you couldn’t punish anyone for doing it. That’s my problem with gun control. You want to punish me for doing nothing more than owning a gun. One argument I see quite often is people saying “there are drunk drivers even though it’s illegal, so should we legalize that too?” But the better analogy would be people drive drunk so let’s ban alcohol. We all know how well that went.

  7. Karen   October 9, 2013 9:19 pm / Reply

    Excellent article. As an aside, I wonder why the Washington Post’s data didn’t include Canada (unless I missed it.)

  8. JVu   October 9, 2013 10:58 pm / Reply

    Sources cited at the bottom

    1. Suicides
    Agreed. Waiting periods are effective at dealing with the impulses of people bent on destroying themselves and/or others. It’s also important to note that the suicide rate has been going up since 2002 (beyond the scope of the Harvard Study you cite) as well as private firearm ownership. But people most often attempt suicide due intense depression resulting from problems from relationships, health issues, job, financial etc.. Would it be more accurate then to say “depression kills”? A study by the CDC (1) states that firearms are used in 56% of male suicides, while poisoning is used in a majority of female suicides at 37%. If the objective is ultimately to save people from suicide, would it be more effective to address depression itself, as well as provide education on prevention and coping, rather than just mandate waiting times on firearms purchases?

    2. Accidental Injury and Death:
    The fact that accidental injury with a firearm is 10 times more likely to happen in low-income areas than high-income areas does not surprise me at all. As you wrote at the very end of this study (sarcastically, I assume), bad parenting does play a large part. Keeping a loaded gun outside of a locked container (ie nightstand drawer) or brandishing a loaded gun in a theatrical manner in front of a documentary crew ala “Hoodlife” (now on its third installment) are reflections of irresponsible attitudes that result in senseless injury and death. Many, including myself, are in favor of teaching safe sex to budding adults in school. But it seems the common attitude towards teaching safe firearms handling is like an abstinence-only approach. Of course, sex-ed addresses natural developments faced by nearly all teenagers, unlike safety training to firearms handling. However, there’s no denying that safety education and responsibility have played important roles in the falling damage rates of both areas.

    3. Homicide Outside the Home.
    Excuse me for eyeballing the bar graph as I do not have access to your source in full via provided link. But if the ratio of firearms related homicide between Vancouver and Seattle is about 1:4.5 respectively per 100,000, taking a step back leaves me with the conclusion that the homicide rates for both cities are very low. Seattle has usually been one of the safest cities, and ranked 7th in least murder/non-negligible manslaughter for a metropolitan area at 3.2 per 100,000 according to the FBI 2011 Uniform Crime Report (2). The effects of firearms in Seattle, with or without, would be considered negligible unless we ride on the “If it saves one life” objective.

    4. Homicide in the Home
    In tables 1 and 5 of the 1993 study, firearms were used in half the homicides. It raises the question of how many of those homicides would have still happened even if firearms were not involved. The ratios and probabilities you attribute to mere presence/ownership of a gun is as shallow and narrow as me taking this same study and concluding “Blacks kill people” after looking at Table 1. But no, we have to consider socioeconomic status, cultural acceptability of violence, mental health, influence of drugs etc.

    5. Weapons Effect
    Increased aggression is not necessarily correlated with carrying out violence. We also get increased aggression with videogames, with best sellers often being violence simulators in their core with varying levels of graphic content. If increased aggression leads to a greater chance of violent behavior, we would see more violence due to the increasing popularity of violent videogames. Yet violent crime in virtually all categories is still falling according to FBI stats through he past decade. Granted, an action shooter game does not have the lethal capacity a firearm has. But it’s a stretch to suggest stimulated aggression should make us wary of tragic violent behavior.

    Though, I am not denying that a person changes once they get ahold of a gun, especially when they are mentally prepared to use it. But is this change necessarily increased aggression or inclination towards violence? Is it acceptable to conclude “but if you want good people to do evil things, give them a gun”? No and No. For instance, it’s not uncommon for people who exercise their licensed right to carry a concealed firearm to be even more cautious, including avoiding escalating confrontation and avoiding alcohol consumption.Besides, if either of your two conclusions here were true, we’d see an increase in gun violence across the entire spectrum of gun owners. Yet, in spite of increased number of gun owners and number of guns owned per household, the statistics don’t hold up, save for suicide.

    6. International Violent Crime Rates
    Like the Tale of Two Cities study, taking a step back and seeing how the bars compare to the overall rates shows that reducing gun ownership, if deemed an achievable goal, will do little to increase public safety. And yet, in spite of such high rates of ownership and growing, the violent crime rate SHOULD climb as well as your previous points claim.

    ———

    Lawn Darts: I’m sure both of us can appreciate the obstacles political, logistical, and cultural in nature, that makes regulation/reduction of firearm ownership much more difficult as opposed to that of Lawn Darts.

    “Criminals Don’t Follow Laws” argument: Yes, if taken to the extreme, written laws are in of themselves ineffective. What gives them teeth is enforcement. Hate speech, driving over the speed limit, drinking under age and other illegal activities are avoided for many reasons, including enforcement. Until we find an affordable way to stop criminals from obtaining guns, the argument holds water.

    Nukes and Terrorists: Yes, it is an extreme example. Though, the people who would allow a to-be-killer to be armed because of rights are the same people that would shoot a violent perp on the spot, and all buildings will still be standing.

    Firearms are designed to kill: This is what makes the gun so important to some people. few things stop others in their tracks like the presentation of lethal capacity. A person with moderate training can have an expert resorting to cover. If a portable tool were ever to be invented that can reliably stop multiple people without killing them, or if the state devised a system that guaranteed everyone protection from violent criminals, this would be a great breakthrough in ethics. In the meantime, guns fill a niche.

    (1) http://www.cdc.gov/ViolencePrevention/pdf/Suicide_DataSheet-a.pdf
    (2) http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/preliminary-annual-ucr-jan-dec-2011/data-tables/table-4/table-4/view

  9. JVu   October 9, 2013 11:21 pm / Reply

    Sorry, forgot a few things:

    Thanks for presenting a case thoroughly backed by reason and allowing discussion. It’s hard to find both qualities on either side of this issue.

    I’m sure I’m of a more modest background as compared to you in debating these matters, judging by your credentials listed on this site. I linked a site of mine to help you give an idea of where I come from, should you be interested.

    Thanks for allowing dialogue. I have already benefited from the challenge of critiquing this essay/post. In such a heated issue, I hope we can find some civility.

    Thanks

  10. Ryley Hayes   October 10, 2013 4:57 pm / Reply

    “A 1986 study found that, for every time a gun was used in self-defense in a home, there were 1.3 accidental deaths, 4.6 criminal homicides, and 37 suicides involving a firearm. Therefore, a gun kept in the home is 43 times more likely to kill a member of the household, or a friend, than an actual intruder.”

    Are you SERIOUSLY using this nonsense again? SERIOUSLY? How intellectually dishonest are you that you try to pass this baloney off?

    The study only considers justifiable homicides as “self-defense”, completely ignoring that almost every defensive use of a gun does not end with anyone being killed – many don’t even see a shot fired.

    So when you say ” every time a gun was used in self-defense in a home, there were 1.3 accidental deaths, 4.6 criminal homicides, and 37 suicides involving a firearm” you are telling a bald-faced lie. Par for the course for the anti-gun zealots though.

    • Evan DeFilippis   October 10, 2013 6:15 pm / Reply

      Thank you for your commentary, Ryley. The idea that guns are used regularly in self-defense is a commonly held belief that isn’t supported in the data. I wrote a post demonstrating this point:

      Contrary to the gun lobby’s claim that, between 2007 and 2011, guns were used 12.5 million times in self-defense, the most reliable data on this question clearly show that firearms were used only 338,700 times in self-defense, and this includes off-duty police. Clearly, then, despite living in a country with 300 million guns, the use of firearms in self-defense appears to be an exceedingly rare phenomenon…

      The 338,700 DGUs is primarily composed of self-defense uses in which the victim would not have died in the absence of a gun. We know this to be true because the majority of firearm violence in which the victim is unarmed does not result in the death of the victim… Again, guns were used in self-defense 338,700 times between 2007-2011. In that same five year period, there were 2,277,000 crimes committed with a firearm. Let’s be clear about this: every time a gun was used in self-defense, a criminal committed fatal or non-fatal firearm violence ~7 times.Either way you look at it, offensive gun use far outweighs defensive gun uses, and there is very little evidence validate the claim that guns reliably de-escalate a criminal encounter once it happens.

      • tom   June 12, 2014 4:56 pm / Reply

        There is a reason that all self defense use of guns aren’t supported by the data. There isn’t data that exsists. If I use a gun for self defence to stop an armed robber resulting in them running away with no shots fired why would I report that? Even if I did report that how would it be reported? Have you found raw data of gun carrying good guys stopping bad guys with no shots fired? Let me know. The absence of data isn’t an argument in your favor. It is an absence of data.

  11. Kamisaki   October 10, 2013 5:28 pm / Reply

    Thank you for an excellent article. I live in the very heart of gun culture in eastern Utah (also big oil country out here). There is literally daily rhetoric against gun control of any kind, in the town, on the radio, in the newspaper, even on the business marquees around town. It gets very frustrating. Thank you for being a voice of knowledge and reason on this issue. I appreciate your efforts.

    • Evan DeFilippis   October 10, 2013 6:15 pm / Reply

      I appreciate the comment! Comments like this keep me going. Thanks for reading!

  12. Ethan   October 10, 2013 5:36 pm / Reply

    When you do write about international crime statistics, if you want to move beyond the homicide rate – which is the most internationally comparable crime simply because most countries generally agree on what constitutes homicide – then make sure to take a look at the ICVS (International Crime Victimization Survey) and the GSS (General Social Surveys). I haven’t really found anything else that’s truly internationally comparable over time, and you can look directly at the original data from both.

    • Evan DeFilippis   October 10, 2013 6:16 pm / Reply

      This is very useful, and we will do this in the future. We, too, found that finding comparable international violent crime statistics was nearly impossible.

  13. Deb Rudnick   October 10, 2013 6:28 pm / Reply

    Absolutely excellent and spot-on article. This is the kind of thing every major news media should be publishing, rather than the BS claim-counterclaim we get regarding gun violence where the conversation is constantly driven by the NRA. Thank you so much, this type of journalism is a true service to our communities and our country.

    • Devon   March 24, 2014 6:07 am / Reply

      There is alot of BS on both sides of Gun Control, spewed at times by both the NRA and groups like Moms Demand.

  14. Larry   October 10, 2013 6:57 pm / Reply

    I will be the first to admit that I do not know every statistic about gun-control, nor do I really care to look into the statistics since they can be so incredibly skewed for either side. In short, a statistic will tell you whatever the writer wants you to see. Sounds a lot like our politicians, doesn’t it!?!? And I am not going to get into a debate about gun-control since my opinions will not influence anyone other than me. I am, however, going to suggest a different way to look at gun-control. I hope you will read my comment in its entirety, just as I have read your whole story, with an open mind.

    I have a blog of my own and in that blog I talk about my son who is an Aspie. If you would like to check it out, the link is http://ponderingdad.blogspot.com/ Just before your article was written, I wrote on the gun-control topic as well. Again, I took a different approach. Below is a direct copy/paste from my blog…

    “I do, wholeheartedly, believe our politicians (and many citizens) would rather put a Band-Aid on a splintered femur just to say they did something to help the problem. Yeah, you wasted time, money, and resources and guess what, that broken femur is still broken and hurts like hell when you move it. Why not address the problem at its root? If you don’t, the problem keeps coming back.

    Here’s one, one day I was driving down the highway with my son. We were on our way to school, the traffic was bad, but I was still traveling at or around the speed limit. I suddenly heard what appeared to be a massive “clank” followed by a “bang” then a rhythmic “clop…clop…clop…clop.” I looked in my rear-view mirror and noticed some type of automotive part flopping around the asphalt, bouncing forward trying desperately to catch up to no avail. When it realized the attempt to reunite with its other family members was futile, it lay slumped in despair, hugging the yellow line for comfort, only to be squashed by an 18-wheeler going 70 mph.

    The “clop…clop…clop…clop” carried on and would not go away. There must be a serious problem, I thought. The noise is not going away, the part clearly came from my car, but I am still moving forward so it can’t be that bad. The constant noise then became irritating. I need to fix this problem, I thought, and quickly. At this time, I discovered the solution…I turned up the radio loud enough where I no longer heard that dreadful “clop…clop…clop…clop.” Problem solved!

    Pretty silly, isn’t it. I solved the problem by pretending the clopping sound wasn’t there and replaced it with the radio. I put a Band-Aid on the problem. Guess what, it didn’t fix a damn thing.”

    We, as American’s, tend to address the immediate and ignore the root. People in America will always have guns. If guns are banned, then the only people with guns will be criminals. These criminals may or may not use them in a malicious way; however, by logical deduction, they will be criminals if guns are illegal. Hence, gun violence will remain, and chances are other types of crimes will rise, but the only thing that will remain constant is the criminals will be the only ones with guns.

    In most cases, the person committing the violent act with a gun is either suffering from mental health issues (Sandy Hook shooter was an Aspie, Navy Yard shooter suffered from mental health problems, Batman theater shooter…mental health issues), are uneducated (either poor or no formal education), or are ignorant to safe gun use (I own two handguns and have a 12 year old boy who is very interested in everything military – including guns…he has no idea I have these guns because I keep them locked in a case with trigger locks on them as well AND I know that he is not mentally ready to learn how to shoot a gun responsibly). So, instead of trying to eliminate guns altogether (a seemingly impossible task, unless you can get the whole world to eliminate every gun, too), why not try to fix this problem we are having at its root? Focus on the mental health of individuals. Why are we so afraid of pumping money, time, and effort into working with mental health issues but we have no problems jumping on a bandwagon with limited and skewed information? Where have our critical thinking skills gone?

    Yes, I am against gun-control, but I am also appalled by the senseless violence and greed (which is a much bigger problem, and is actually related in the big picture, but is for another time) in our nation. The problem is not the guns – guns are inanimate objects by definition. The problem is the people using the guns. Fix the problem, not the symptom. Focus on the three things I mentioned (mental health, education, and responsibility) and the rest will fall into place.

    Thanks for letting me state my opinion.

    • JFK   March 4, 2014 2:46 am / Reply

      “If guns are banned, then the only people with guns will be criminals. These criminals may or may not use them in a malicious way; however, by logical deduction, they will be criminals if guns are illegal. Hence, gun violence will remain, and chances are other types of crimes will rise, but the only thing that will remain constant is the criminals will be the only ones with guns”

      Are you missing or perhaps simply ignoring the fact that all leading industrialised countries have criminals but they don’t all have the mass slaugher by guns taking place in the US? In fact none of them do and in the case of my own country, the UK, firearm deaths amount to an average 40 a year while the US has more than that in a single day.

      You imagine the UK has no criminals? Let me assure you that they do but when the penalty for being found in possession of a single round of ammunition without even a gun to fire it in is an automatic minimum 5 years in prison even criminals think twice.

      Observing Americans like you making such comments makes ,me think that you’re saying hey it’s just a Mad Max society and there is nothing we can do about it even though other leading nations have solved the very same problem by banning guns.

      And another thing that gets me about Americans and their insane gun culture. One I have heard as often as the guns don’t kill people nonsense is a gun is our defence against tyrannical government. Really??? You see the rest of the civilised world deals with an unpopular government using a ballot box not a gun and that’s working out very nicely indeed for us. That’s what we call democracy

      And who decides what’s “tyrannical” government? Some yahoo with a gun? You people need to drag yourselves out of this primitive wild west mentality and into the modern civilised world.

      • Devon   March 24, 2014 6:45 am / Reply

        You dishonor the initials of John F. Kennedy with your words. For starters your whole aggressive mentality against someone who made a calm, well centered argument, mentioning nothing of tyrannical governments. The UK is the is one of the best examples of a society without guns that has high crime rates(refer here: http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2013/jun/24/blog-posting/social-media-post-says-uk-has-far-higher-violent-c/) . You may want to look into more then just gun crimes in your great nation. I know several people in the UK that wish they had the 2nd Amendment rights Americas have. Second yes Ballot Boxes and protest worked when Ukraine police slaughtered 100 unarmed protesters, That’s failed Democracy. Also your knowledge of UK’s gun laws is laughable as it is legal to own a firearm, though difficult to obtain (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_politics_in_the_United_Kingdom#Gun_licensing_and_legislation) So your statement about 5 years in prison for a single bullet is completely wrong Maybe you should educate yourself properly on a subject you clearly know nothing about. You Stereotype Americans and gun-owners alike by talking about our “insane gun culture” making a asinine assumption that not only are all Americans “gun nuts” but that all gun owners are locked and loaded to take on the government. You only make an ass out of yourself when you assume things. And I think the moderators need to review your post better.

  15. First Last   October 10, 2013 7:25 pm / Reply

    I wonder how many of these homicides are actually justified by people saving lives such as police officers in the line of duty, FBI, and women preventing rape?

  16. Janet M. Simons   October 11, 2013 12:07 am / Reply

    This statement is incorrect: “In 2005, 5285 U.S. children were killed by a firearm, compared with 57 in Germany and 0 in Japan.” In 2005, 3006 U.S. children and teens were killed by a firearm. The figure cited, 5285, is for 1995. The U.S. data are all from the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

    • Devin Hughes   October 11, 2013 12:26 am / Reply

      You are right. We apologize for the error and have corrected it.

  17. Brandon   October 11, 2013 1:07 am / Reply

    I agree with everything JVU said.

    I still appreciate this article though. It’s good to see a non-fanatical and logical argument for gun control even if I ultimately disagree with it.

  18. May Drake   October 11, 2013 11:59 am / Reply

    I do not live in the US nor do I have an Aspie child but I do have family members who suffer from depression who would not be alive today if a gun had been available to them in the past. Furthermore I have been working with kids and young people with high needs in a child protection setting for over 20 years. Many of those adolescents have been the perpetrators or victims of assaults. If guns had been available to them there is no doubt that many of them would now be dead or permanently incarcerated for murder or manslaughter. While fixing the society or human nature might be the permanent answer, or young people do not have the luxury of time to wait around while we get that sorted. The young people I work with have already been abused and neglected by the adults in their lives who should have been posting them and have a long way to go to realize that anywhere is a safe place. Some of them could be forgiven for killing someone if woken unexpectedly if you knew their history. They are the pointy end of the children notified to child protection service. One in four girls & one in five boys sexually assaulted before 18; one in five families living with domestic violence at some point. Unless the statistics are changed the underlying belief that one is LIKELY to be victimized which underpins gun ownership WLP not be changing except by legislation.

  19. Jeremy Smith   October 11, 2013 11:39 pm / Reply

    In studies showing gun ownerships correlation to firearms homicide rates they never seem to answer how it is that rural areas that always have higher gun ownership, have drastically lower firearms murder rates, then cities that have drastically lower gun ownership with higher firearm murders. If gun ownership rates have a direct correlation then won’t we have more murders in rural areas, then cities?
    I would think your international firearm ownership to firearm related homicide shows this too. Even though the US is highest on homicide, and ownership, Switzerland is 2nd in ownership but the lowest when it comes to homicide. Also Harvard did a study showing the opposite of your findings http://www.law.harvard.edu/students/orgs/jlpp/Vol30_No2_KatesMauseronline.pdf
    Another point on Private guns in america o.ooo1% of privately owned guns get used in crimes, compared to the 1% of privately owned guns in the UK. I couldn’t find the article that I found these stats on but once i do i will be happy to share with you.
    2. Self defense uses. The firearm without a doubt is a lethal weapon, I do not argue that, however often times the mere presences has also been known to deter people from committing violent act out of fear of being harmed, instead of riling them up to act more aggressively. These instances occur and their are many who have shared personal experience of just brandishing or letting a possible assailant that they are armed, have deterred their assailants from acting. Such situations however do not get report to law enforcement, and even if cases that they are do not get report (Paperwork, no one likes it). I Think Ryley was trying to bring this to your attention earlier. I believe the CDC even has claimed in their findings that self defense uses outnumber the violent crimes uses.
    3. The weapon effect. Wouldn’t the effect of this study be more of a cultural depiction of violence that surrounds guns due to our media, which you even mention in article be the cause of why we associate violence with guns?
    Your Articles was well done and I applaud your efforts in bringing reason to an argument that often is plaqued by emotion.

  20. freeballer   October 12, 2013 9:33 pm / Reply

    I hope the owners of this blog will address your comments directly, but that “harvard” study isn’t from harvard.
    They are pretty clear where they stand on gun policy if you go to their site. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/hicrc/firearms-research/

    This study was conducted by two pro-gun advocates, who had previously written books and articles opposing gun control (In America and Canada). The study itself was funded by a conservative think tank called”Pacific Research Institute” and published in the “Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy” a self-described “Tri-annual student law review for conservative and libertarian legal scholarship”. In other words, its NOT peer-reviewed and its findings haven’t been proven one way or another. I’m don’t have a phd, I’m not a criminologist, political science major or a statistician but even I found glaring errors in their math. It uses research by lott, kleck and gertz largely; which this blog has previously addressed in “Less Guns, Less Crime- Debunking the Self-Defense Myth”. It tries to compare “apples to apples” comparison between countries gun laws; something no credible criminologist would try to do. Why do I bring up the origins of the study? Well, I’m tired of gun advocates throwing out well intentioned research because, in their mind, its “bias” or has an agenda but cite this (NOT) “Harvard” study as if its the holy grail. It should not only be taken with a grain of salt, but the entire shaker.

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  22. Steven   November 28, 2013 4:55 am / Reply

    I am a supporter of gun control, but not a total prohibition of guns. Thought this was a very thoughtful and well written article, however the section comparing WMD’s to guns bothered me a bit in that while it is true that guns were designed for the sole purpose of killing, there are a great many people who own guns without the intent of killing another human (unlike WMD’s). I personally own a 12 gauge shotgun which i use for target practice and occasionally for hunting. I keep it in a safe whenever I am not using it and have no intent of ever using it for any type of violence, even home defense. Most of the gun owners I know are like me in that regard. What one must remember when discussing the NRA is that the only reason the NRA can boast such large membership numbers is because many gun ranges make NRA membership mandatory for all range members in order to receive special benefits. So while most of the NRA’s most vocal members are what many would accurately call “Gun Nuts”, they do not necessarily represent the viewpoints of the majority of NRA members. Another interesting point which was recently brought to my attention was that it seems that lately one of the hottest topics in the gun debate is automatic weapons and assault rifles. However most violent gun crime is in fact committed with handguns. If a man decides on impulse that he wishes to kill his wife, or if his home is broken into, he will most likely not go into the basement gun safe to get his AR-15 but will instead use the pistol in his night table drawer. Food for thought.

  23. Dave Renninge   December 1, 2013 1:27 am / Reply

    I am of the firm believe that fewer guns are better guns… or something like that. I was very heartened after reading your well-written and well-researched article, since all of the information I have come up with thus far seems contradictory to itself. You have laid out a heap of relevant numbers and statistics that really paint a picture of what is wrong with the overwhelming presence of guns in the United States. Thank you for posting this!

  24. Cameron   December 5, 2013 4:50 am / Reply

    This is coming from a parent who was not careful enough and was wounded by my toddler who got a hold of my firearm. I have reflected on that day so many times and I have completely changed the way I store and handle my firearms. To this day, I still play that scenario over and over in my head of what happened and what should have been done differently. Also, to this day, I will NEVER give up my guns. Since I got shot, my son has gone shooting with me and I have been working with him on proper gun control, not the kind the government wants to enforce. In my opinion, if a citizen wants to own a gun, more power to them, however, I agree with background and mental stability checks, but to take it one step further. There should be additional training for someone that wants to own one, or be able to show ability to properly handle a firearm. Licensing to own a firearm is just another form of control, unless you are specifically talking about a license to be able to own a firearm, and not having to license every firearm with the government. The government doesn’t need to know how many or what guns I have, just that I am able to own them and know how to use them.

    I also agree with everything JVu stated, and I’m very curious why you didn’t reply to what he said? He brought up some very good and important rebuttals to your post here. A gun in the home does not mean your going to get killed, and the chances of being shot in your own home are MUCH less than you make them out to be. My situation was my own fault, but I am the only person that I know that has been shot with their own gun, and to go a step further, ever shot in their own home, another step further, EVER been shot at all (short of some military personnel).

  25. Cameron   December 5, 2013 5:13 am / Reply

    I forgot to add a video that is very relevant to this. It’s over all violent crimes, but still relevant.

  26. Will Smith   December 19, 2013 1:00 pm / Reply

    Apropos of other countries like the UK being “more Violent” That is not true. You need to further examine what is Classed as a “violent crime” and you will see that the UK classes a whole host of offence as violent that the USA does not. Therefore a higher rate of recorded and classified crimes per capita may seem to exist but its simply because a wider classification is used. For example a violent crime could constitute threatening behaviour in the UK. You need to becareful because teh gun nuts point to that and say “see” THATS why we need guns! They took their guns away and LOOK violent crime is worse. They are of course idiots and wrong but like for like comparrason on teh stats just does not cut it.
    :o)

  27. Michael Murphree   March 23, 2014 6:57 pm / Reply

    Thank you for a civil and well reasoned approach to making your point. I hope that you will apply a thoughtful response to my retort.
    I assume from the tone of this article that your intended point is that private gun ownership should be reduced or abolished in the greater interest of security and public hygiene.
    While I can appreciate the perspective that reducing the number of weapons in the world would make it a more civilized place, I am disappointed that this article fails to account for the very basic reasons that the US adopted the 2nd amendment in the first place.
    “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.”
    The entire point of the Constitution was to set up checks and balances that prevent excessive consolidation of power. Constitutional framers were adamant about a government being by consent of the governed. When all power is concentrated in the government, it becomes impossible to dissent. That is the essence of tyranny. And that is why it is, and will continue to be, essential to put naked power in the hands of individuals so that they have the tools to dissent if necessary. Without the tools to dissent, there is little incentive to respect the will of the people.
    It is tempting to argue that the Army is our “militia” and we have plenty of that. But a study of the historical record and explicit statements of the constitutional framers tells that a militia, as stated, is an “army of the people” and that the 2nd amendment is an individual right, and not a collective one. (i.e. applying only to a State Reserve, or National Guard)
    At its core, the right to bear arms relates to the right of individual citizens to deter and protect themselves from oppression and tyranny. From the American perspective, individual arms are the tools to defend our other constitutional rights, such as freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, freedom from cruel and unusual punishment, and freedom from unreasonable search ans seizure.
    I am of the opinion that these rights form the core of human dignity and are therefore, worth dying for. Before I, as a free man, would willingly consent to relinquish my right to bear arms, I must first be convinced by very compelling evidence that neither I, nor my future progeny, will ever be in danger of having our other rights taken from us.
    Can you reasonably justify that this is the case?

    Also, I was intrigued by JVu’s post, and I was wondering why you did not respond to it.

    I look forward to your reasoned and measured response.
    Respectfully,
    MWM

    • Devin Hughes   March 23, 2014 7:58 pm / Reply

      Michael,

      Thank you for your respectful and thoughtful reply. You may want to explore our blog a bit further, as we directly address the constitutional arguments in a series of 4 posts (2 of which have a title of Constitutional Fallacies, 1 of Militia Myths, and the other “How Gun Advocates’ Blind Focus on “Freedom To” is Destroying Lives by Ignoring Our Right to “Freedom From””). You will find our position articulated in those articles (more thoroughly than I could lay out in a comment).

      As for why we don’t respond to some comments, it is mostly a question of time. I am a college senior and my coauthor currently works full time in Kenya. We typically only respond to comments that (aside from being respectful and coherent and that make claims that aren’t easily debunked by a quick Google search) a) ask for more info/research b) can be answered quickly or c) mention something we hadn’t planned on addressing in the future.

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  30. Josh Mangan   May 20, 2014 8:10 pm / Reply

    Well written article, but I am curious to how many “average” gun owners you know or talk to. I frequently carry a concealed weapon when I’m in public. All throughout my training process to be certified to carry a weapon it was drilled by instructors that when you carry a weapon you can never be an instigator. When carrying a gun it is my responsibility to attempt to deescalate or avoid conflict. When it comes to keeping oneself safe the most important tool is situation awareness. The same goes for literally every other concealed weapon licencee I have ever met, which is many. I realize this is anecdotal, but there it is regardless.

    There are a lot of members of the “gun culture” in America and some are going to be irresponsible, and accidents happen. The crux is, as calloused as it may be, how much those accidents matter.

    I once read an intriguing comment from a Chinese blogger. This person remarked that it was amazing that the US could allow average citizens to have guns and that the US has the highest guns per capita in the world and yet “the number of American that die under the barrel of a gun are only a trivial 30,000 per year.” I thought that was very interesting; what’s shocking in the UK may just be trivial in China.

    Anyway, the gun issue is big and complicated. Do guns make people more violent, assault weapons bans, high capacity mags, guns on college campuses, NFA items, concealed carry/open carry. There’s a lot to talk about. More than one blog or one comments section can ever hope to resolve.

    tl;dr: good article, American guns are a complicated issue.

    • Devin Hughes   May 21, 2014 8:24 pm / Reply

      Josh,

      Thank you for your thoughtful and respectful comment.

      As for how many average gun owners I know/talk to (I will exclude all internet communications), I am very good friends with about half a dozen, am friends with at least a dozen more, and know a couple dozen more (and those are just the people I know have guns, not the ones I strongly suspect). A majority of these owners are avid hunters and not the “storm-Chipotle-by-force-because-I-can” type of owners (although I would add that almost all of them are either libertarians or staunch conservatives). I grew up on a farm in a small town outside OKC, the heart of gun country. While living there, we would often hear gunfire by the nearby creek, many times fully automatic (not just semi, but full auto).

      I fully recognize that a large majority of gun owners are very responsible and take every necessary precaution with their firearms. These responsible owners are not the people we fight against (although we do often have differing opinions on this subject). The “gun advocates” that we frequently mention (in more recent articles we have made the further distinction of “extreme gun advocates”) are the “storm-Chipotle” crowd, the modern NRA, and those who argue against even universal background checks.

      I am all for firearms training, and in fact I think it should be required for anybody owning a gun (and by firearms training I mean much more than the scant 10 hours many states have for concealed licenses (in Texas it is now down to 4 hours)). The current amount of instruction though, from everything I have seen/heard is woefully inadequate though. And I agree that personal responsibility is of the utmost importance when it comes to carrying a firearm. Part of the problem though is it takes months if not years of training to develop proper situational awareness and the ability to properly use a firearm. Even with this training and responsibility though, the presence of firearms often escalates situations rather than reliably deescalates. There are a couple of studies in our database that examine this specific psychological phenomenon.

      As with almost any matter, the gun issue comes down to a cost benefit analysis. And in the status quo, our current gun situation has far greater costs than benefits.

      I hope you explore our blog further, even if you disagree with our points. Understanding where the other side comes from on any issue is critical, and is why my coauthor and I spent nearly a year researching both side of this issue before writing a single post (and even in the time since writing our first posts we have learned much more (although our thoughts on what type of gun control is needed have not been altered much)). If you have any further questions, feel free to comment further (although neither my coauthor or I have the necessary time to engage in a lengthy debate; our posts are already few and far between even with our relatively few comments).

      • Josh Mangan   May 24, 2014 4:27 pm / Reply

        Glad to hear you’re getting your information from both sides of the debate. I try to do the same and seek to understand the strengths and weaknesses of all arguments surrounding the debate (the NRA is as bad at bending statistics as the Brady Campaign).

        I’m glad to be able to add your site to my list of articles and court cases I read through as I seek to always better verse myself in the debate.

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  32. Anthony   May 22, 2014 5:54 am / Reply

    The ‘weapons effect’ has been criticized numerous times by researchers, have some fun: http://psycnet.apa.org/psycinfo/1975-11570-001

    http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2579469?uid=3739448&uid=2&uid=3737720&uid=4&sid=21103494549597

    http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/20/3/304/

    You don’t need a study, just look at conviction rates for licensed conceal-carriers. These are people who carry a gun with them in public all day, yet they are far less likely to be arrested for any sort of violent crime compared to the general populace.

    http://concealedguns.procon.org/sourcefiles/arrest-rate-texas.pdf

    Assuming the weapons effect is true, we should see a higher rate of violent crime or at least somewhat comparable to the general populace. We do not. Canada is another example, where firearm licenses per 100,000 are the greatest, firearm homicide rates are the lowest.

    Thus as one of the study mentions, outside of the laboratory setting the effect on violent crime is hardly substantive.

  33. Anthony   May 22, 2014 6:05 am / Reply

    Also here: http://www.psychology.iastate.edu/faculty/caa/abstracts/2005-2009/05BACB.pdf

    The weapons effect was not observed amongst hunters.

  34. Thomas   June 1, 2014 3:07 pm / Reply

    Okay, but all this happens when you have IRRESPONSIBLE parents, for the children part you posted anyways. We own lots of guns in my house and they stay kept away from the children, even though the children do know about them and were educated about them, and taught not to joke with them. For the whole piece about children, all that can be simply avoided if the parents would be more responsible and teach their kids guns aren’t to joke with, they’re fun to hunt and go to the range, but you never joke or point one at somebody, unless in self defense obviously. And the whole crime rates and all that, guess what? If you ban guns, or whatever you’re trying to do, criminals will still have guns, the black market isn’t going to say, “well shit, they banned guns now, guess we gotta stop supplying them to anyone who comes to me.” Then all the criminals have guns and no law abiding citizens do. And the part about suicide, people are going to kill themselves anyways if they really want to, and if they do, that’s their decision. Why are you worried about it?

    • Evan DeFilippis   June 1, 2014 4:22 pm / Reply

      Thank you for your thoughtful post.

      The problem is that gun advocates and gun control proponents view the world from different perspectives. Unless we can reconcile those perspectives, I am convinced no progress will be made in this discussion. Advocates tend to view the world from their own perspective– they evaluate how a policy will affect them and they get understandably upset when they are “treated like a criminal” and therefore inconvenienced by procedure. Gun control proponents tend to view the world from a public health perspective– they think: how can we best minimize suicide, homicide, crime, and accidents IN THE AGGREGATE? They acknowledge that policies may be an inconvenience to citizens, but a necessary one to protect communities as a whole.

      You may have no intention of hijacking an airplane, but you should go through a metal detector at the airports anyway. Similarly, you may have no intention of committing crime or letting your gun slip into the hands of your child, but we should take the precautionary principle and design policies to minimize that risk anyway. We should hold firearm manufacturers criminally liable for poor gun design, for example (thereby boosting the push towards smart guns, and so on).

      I am confident that the vast majority of gun owners (probably more than 90%) believe that they are responsible adults for whom gun control is nothing more than an inconvenience. But we also know that many of these people are just wrong. It’s sort of like the phenomenon of most people thinking they are above average–and, as it turns out, we are just really poor predictors of our own future behavior. At least some of those 90% of “responsible good guys with guns” will turn out to be domestic batterers who use guns to abuse their spouses, or irresponsible parents who let their guns slip into the hands of their children or suicidal youth, or the paranoid homeowners who loses their guns in criminal theft because of irresponsible storage practices, or the hunter who accidentally shoots his partner, ad infinitum. It is clear to me that there are many more ways to go wrong with a gun than there ever will be ways to go right.

  35. Malachi Coleman   June 2, 2014 5:42 pm / Reply

    So What You Are Saying That People Aren’t Responsible ? So Why Do They Get Charged With Murder , And Not The Gun ? Your Article Is Just Illogical Shit , Guns Don’t Get Up And Pull Their Triggers ! People Pick Up The Fucking Gun , Load It , Aim , And Pull The Trigger . Therefore , That Person Is Responsible For That Death , Not The Gun . That’s Why They Prosecute People For it , And Not Th Guns You Idiot . Please Use Logic And Common Sense Next Time You Decide to Write An Article Like This . People Kill People , Not Guns , That’s A Fact , Not An Opinion .

    • Evan DeFilippis   June 2, 2014 5:53 pm / Reply

      Thank You For The Devastating Reply!!! You Are Right About The Facts. Thank You For The Brave Response!!

  36. marky2112   June 5, 2014 11:08 pm / Reply

    In Canada they make anyone who wants a gun have a background check to see if you have a history of mental illness and if you have a criminal record. This also works as a cooling off period. They also make that person take a gun safety course, and lastly they interview them to check and make sure they aren’t a few sandwiches short a picnic or might be planning on a killing spree. They have millions of guns but only a fraction of the gun murders we have per capita because of these things. And most of the gun murders there are with guns that have been smuggled from the US where gun laws are so lax. Gun laws save lives period(as long as you have a reasonably secure border)

  37. Max   June 13, 2014 7:27 am / Reply

    To give you an idea of how junk these “priming” studies are, I present you the “alcohol priming” effect: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2650722/Talking-alcohol-make-aggressive-drinking-Words-beer-wine-cause-people-hostile.html

    Would anyone here argue that alcohol causes people to get killed?

    These priming studies lack any practical usage and are not really generalizable outside a laboratory. One can just look at arrest and conviction rates regarding conceal-carriers and find that they are much less likely to be arrested for any crime.

  38. broncfanor   June 19, 2014 9:22 pm / Reply

    While you provide some interesting information it seems to me you manipulated some things to fit your argument as well as making conclusions based on nothing more than circumstantial and coincidental information.

    A quick search showed that there are several nations with STRICT gun control that have MUCH higher suicide rates but yet you claim it’s the guns.

    I don’t disagree we need to be safer with firearms but as with any argument it’s easy to manipulate information to fit your agenda.

    With all that I find your conclusions to still be mostly opinions especially in the case of suicide.

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