Restricting private gun ownership will not reduce violent crime.
Despite the myriad of social, economic, and political issues facing our society, the intensity and passion generated by the gun control debate is unmatched.
The mainstream media would have the American people believe that gun violence is spiraling out of control, and getting worse every year. In fact, this notion can easily be dispelled through readily available homicide data over the course of the past 20 years or so.
[pullquote align=”right” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Read a counterpoint by Michael Droogan ’16[/pullquote]
America has the highest gun proliferation rate in the world, with an estimated 310 million firearms in the country in 2009, according to the most recent available data provided by a Congressional Research Service (CRS) report in 2012. With updated information provided by the ATF, a 2015 Washington Post article reports the current number of firearms at over 357 million.
With more guns in the country than people, and headlines across the nation capturing moments of horrific violence, the issue of gun control is debated at every level of state and federal government.
First, let’s examine gun ownership data from the time period of 1993 through 2013. According to the CRS report and more recent findings by the Washington Post, private gun ownership in the US rose from about 185 million in 1993 to about 357 million in 2013. Adjusted for population changes, that’s an increase from 0.93 guns per person to 1.45 guns per person, a 56% increase.
According to popular thought processes, the gun crime rate should have increased by a proportionate amount. Right?
Wrong. Over the same time span, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has the firearm-related homicide rate falling from 7 deaths per 100,000 people in 1993 to 3.6 deaths per 100,000 people in 2013, summed up in a blog for the American Enterprise Institute. This is nearly a 50% decrease in firearm-related homicides.
This data dispels the myth that increased guns equals increased violence on a general scale. It may even suggest a trend in the opposite direction. The bottom line is that horrific mass shootings such as the ones in Newtown, Connecticut and Aurora Colorado bring guns to headlines in spectacular fashion, and cause the issue to be grossly overstated.
Keeping with the statistics, let’s make some observations about the most prominent example of supposed gun control success, the United Kingdom.
The UK enacted a handgun ban in 1996, and gun control proponents have pointed to the drop in gun violence as a champion of gun control legislation. The truth however is far from clear-cut.
According to the UK’s Home Office, the homicide rate for the six years before the ban varied between 10.9 and 13 homicides per million. Immediately after the ban, homicides trended up to an all-time high of 18 per million in 2003, and have since fallen back to pre-ban levels.
Essentially, the UK’s gun control endeavor has yielded no clear successes, and appears to have even caused a short term spike in violent crime.
The popular narrative that more guns equals more violent crime simply isn’t true.
Our government ought to be focusing on the reasons people commit acts of violence and not the methods they use. Unfortunately, we live in an imperfect world with imperfect people, and there are those who will always cause violence.
The notion that restricting gun ownership will lead to less crime and fewer deaths is incorrect, and will only hinder the millions of legal gun owners in this country who enjoy their firearms for leisure, recreation, and self-defense.
While it remains true that only about 3% of all homicides in the US are “justifiable” – meaning committed in self-defense – this number completely fails to reflect several important points. It fails to account for the vast number of incidents where the citizen only injured the criminal or stopped them without firing a shot. It also fails to account for criminals who abandoned their crimes because they believed an armed person was waiting to fight back. According to a 1986 study cited in a Just Facts article on gun control, a study of imprisoned criminals had found that nearly 40% had decided to not commit one or more crimes for fear of an armed victim.
Perhaps most damning to the myth that guns are rarely used in self-defense is a finding in a CDC study published in 2013. The report found that defensive gun use by victims is at least as common if not more common than as their offensive use by criminals. This means that for every instance of a criminal using a firearm while committing a crime, there was at least one other instance of a victim using a firearm to defend themselves, their property, or another victim.
Giving up our firearms means ultimately giving up the power to secure our own lives.
We would relinquish the very idea that we as American citizens have the right to decide whether we live or die without outside help or intervention, and hand that right to the criminals who fail to uphold our shared values and laws.