Friday, December 28, 2012

Does Gun Control Really Save Lives?

We have entered another round of debate over gun control.  Gun control advocates say, fewer legally owned guns, equals fewer crimes - especially murder.  Gun rights advocates argue that gun control has never reduced homicide rates and that some of the safest nations in the world have high rates of firearms ownership, while some of the most dangerous countries in the world virtually ban the legal ownership of firearms.

Who is right?  Consider this chart:

Gun Ownership "Common" = More than 30 legally owned private firearms per 100 population
Gun Ownership "Difficult" = Severe restrictions, but average law abiding person can own a firearm
Gun Ownership "Extremely Difficult" = People with significant wealth or connections may be able to own a firearm
Gun Ownership Virtually Banned = Effectively impossible for citizens to own firearms

Since we are focused on so called "assault weapons", it is worth noting that Switzerland has a homicide rate six times lower than the US, even though these kind of weapons are the primary rifle owned in Switzerland.  Russia's homicide rate is over twice as high as the US, even though they virtually ban private firearms ownership.

Even more instructive is Jamaica.  This country, located on an island, has spent the last 40 years attempting to get rid of all guns.  They have been banned all firearms since the 1970's and even have special "firearms courts" to deal with offenders.  Guess what?  They now have a homicide rate thirteen times higher than the U.S.

Still think gun laws are the answer?  OK, a few questions:

In what democratic nation has implementing gun control reduce homicides or other crimes? 

What was the effect of the last "assault weapons" ban on crime and mass shootings?  
Answer: None

What cities have had handguns bans since the 1970s?
Answer: Chicago and Washington DC

What two cities have the highest murder rates in the US?
Answer: Chicago and Washington DC

Gun control is not the answer.  It has never been  been the answer.  The answer is a lot harder than banning inanimate objects.  The answer lies inside human beings.  If we focus there, we may actually be able to make things better.


  1. A poor article. Correlation is not causation. Look at the UK: low murder rate, guns virtually banned.

    1. Actually, you got the point: Correlation does not always equal causation. However the other side in this debate is constantly saying that this or that country has gun control and "see, they have a lower murder rate. This article proves that two can play that game.

      I do think that it is possible to prove that high gun ownership rates are not a cause of high crime rates - if it was, than the nations above with high levels of gun ownership would always have high crime rates - especially murder rates. They don't. So while it may be that increasing gun ownership in a high crime rate country will not bring the rate down, it probably will not cause it to go up either.

      Furthermore, Jamaica provides the only example of which I am aware in which a democracy instituted very stringent gun control (a near total ban, in this case). What were the results? What effect did the total handgun bans in DC and Chicago have? This is strong evidence that gun control does not reduce crime.

      Finally, we cannot study this problem like we do diseases and medications. There are just too many variables. It's really hard to put a city, state or nation into a test tube and just change one thing. So, to a lessor or greater extent, all studies suffer from the "correlation is not causation" problem.

      In this regard, I believe that numbers make the case. For instance, after 39 states have adopted "shall issue" CCW licensing without experiencing blood baths, it is highly unlikely that the next state will be different.