Tighter Gun Control for Fewer Gun Deaths: Just a Myth?

What is the relationship between gun control measures and shooting deaths (or reduced shooting deaths)? Those who support stiffer gun restrictions argue that it’s obvious that the result will be a reduction in the number of deaths by firearm.  Those who support gun rights (particularly those who equate “gun control” with “taking away our guns”) don’t acknowledge a relationship, and continue to insist that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”

Though there is not an abundance of research (the National Rifle Association sponsored a law in 1996 that bars federal agencies from conducting firearms research), the evidence that does exist says that U.S. states that have stricter gun control laws have fewer firearm deaths than states whose regulations are not as strict.

For example, Louisiana, Alabama, and Alaska have loose gun control policies. The average rate of firearm deaths in these states per 100,000 people is over four times greater than in the four states with the strictest gun control laws: Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Hawaii.

Though these numbers suggest a logical correlation between tighter gun regulation and fewer deaths by firearm, research does not widely support a cause-and-effect relationship. In other words, though the relationship seems obvious, existing research does not show positively that stricter gun control has been the reason for fewer gun deaths in areas where guns are more regulated.

In rural areas, for example, where the rate of gun-related suicides is higher than in urban areas, other factors besides guns may be at play, such as mental health issues, inability to get adequate or timely medical care, or some other undetermined factor.

But though proponents of less-stringent gun control cling to the lack of a cause-and-effect relationship, evidence shows that the more guns per person in a state, the more firearm homicides there are in that state. For example, a Boston University School of Public Health study found a roughly 0.9 percent increase in the gun homicide rate for every one percent increase in gun ownership.

According to Vox, in a study of the impact of firearm buybacks on gun deaths, Andrew Leigh of Australian National University and Christine Neill of Wilfrid Laurier University found that “the largest falls in firearm deaths occurred in states where more firearms were bought back.”

David Hemenway and Mary Vriniotis, both of Harvard University, reached similar conclusions from their examination of multiple studies. “First, the drop in firearm deaths was largest among the type of firearms most affected by the buyback. Second, firearm deaths in states with higher buyback rates per capita fell proportionately more than in states with lower buyback rates.”

With respect to gun control, how do we compare with the rest of the world? The United States has more guns, overall, than any other country (88.8 civilian-owned guns per 100 people). The country in second place, though significantly behind the U.S., is Yemen, with 54.8 guns per 100 people. The United States has significantly more deaths by firearm than any other developed nation, and considerably more civilian-owned guns per person than any other nation.

According to BBC News, the number of guns per 100 people in Great Britain is six. (Remember the above figure of 88.8 guns per 100 people in the U.S.?) In 2016, the number of deaths by firearms in England and Wales together was 26. In the U.S. in 2016, it was 15,079.

Though it’s true that other factors besides a lack of gun control measures, such as alcohol consumption, drug abuse, or poverty, can contribute to homicide and suicide rates by gun, stricter control of access to guns could help keep these numbers down. Can we really, with a straight face, continue to insist that there is no correlation between gun control and reduced gun fatalities?

Gun Crime in America in Numbers | BBC News [2017-10-03]

Would stricter gun laws have prevented tragedy in Texas? | Fox News [2018-05-20]


The March for Our Lives: Where Its Power Lies

A headline from this past weekend reads “NRA Takes Aim at ‘March for Our Lives Rally, Mocks Gun Violence Survivors.” Did we expect otherwise? Mockery and deflection, along with alarmist tactics, are always available as easy tools for trying to ruffle an opponent or sway popular opinion. The March for Our Lives, however, could, despite the NRA’s attempts to belittle it, prove to be very powerful, and the sentiments it inspired are likely to continue to gain momentum.

The March for Our Lives, a nationwide protest against gun violence, organized by survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School mass shooting, took place last Saturday, March 24, in Washington, D.C., with numerous “sister” marches taking place around the world.

“Not one more,” reads the March for Our Lives mission statement. “We cannot allow one more child to be shot at school. We cannot allow one more teacher to make a choice to jump in front of a firing assault rifle to save the lives of students. We cannot allow one more family to wait for a call or text that never comes. Our schools are unsafe. Our children and teachers are dying. We must make it our top priority to save these lives.”

Yes, the March for Our Lives received a large amount of funding and social media support from well-known names such as the Clooneys and others in Hollywood. It does take money to pull off such a large-scale event. Are we as upset about the funding that some of our representatives in Congress get for supporting the NRA?

Yes, the March for Our Lives was well-organized. This, along with the fact that it was funded by some celebrities, has inspired the narrative that the organizers, who were all witnesses to horrific gun violence, were puppets of the “liberal anti-gun lobby.” This idea seems weak, unless one is a conspiracy theorist who also believes that the Parkland shootings were staged by the “anti-gun left” so that people would hold international gun violence demonstrations because they want to “take away all of our guns.”

The NRA and its supporters, in the aftermath of every school shooting and every other mass shooting in the U.S., panic about the possibility of losing their right to possess assault-type weapons, while dismissing or ridiculing those who point out the horror and devastation such weapons have caused, and almost certainly will cause again. That way of prioritization doesn’t seem at all strange to them.

The March for Our Lives took place at a time when Congress had already finished passing legislation for the year. Some will see that as waste. The organization states that “ The mission and focus of March For Our Lives is to demand that a comprehensive and effective bill be immediately brought before Congress to address these gun issues.”

A great deal of the power of the March for Our Lives, however, will come from the fact that it included a large drive to register voters. Many of those newly registered voters are impassioned young people who have been watching their peers work to effect change around gun control laws while the adults appear to have done nothing. All of them will be able to vote in the 2018 mid-term elections. Indeed, the March for Our Lives could have an even larger impact than simply introducing immediate legislation – it could, through votes, replace the climate of the current Congress with one that is no longer controlled by the gun lobby.

Millions Join #MarchForOurLives For Gun Control | The View  [2018-03-26]



Gutfeld on Saturday’s Gun Control March | Fox News [2018-03-26]