I doubt anything I say here hasn’t been said before, but I’m always completely mystified when people who otherwise seem at least vaguely competent at rational thought repeat the NRA slogan – now all together kids, “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” – as if they actually believe it.
Because it is obvious to any sentient being with a capacity for reason greater than that of a retarded chihuahua that this is utter, utter nonsense. Here are four very simple reasons why:
- It is easier to kill someone deliberately with a gun. Easier than stabbing them, poisoning them, pushing them in front of a bus or beating them to death with a computer keyboard. No planning required, instant gratification – bang, dead, before you have time to think about it or regret it.
- It is easier to kill someone accidentally with a gun. In countries with lots of guns, there’s no shortage of manslaughter cases where people were shot through mistaken identity, fooling around, accidents, losing your cool in the heat of the moment, etc. It’s a lot easier than killing someone accidentally with a computer keyboard.
- It is easier to kill yourself deliberately with a gun. Without guns, some would-be suicides would instead slit their writsts, poison themselves or jump off a tall building. Some wouldn’t. We lack sufficient knowledge of the afterlife to say for sure what proportion of people who shot themselves regretted it afterwards or might have been put off if they hadn’t had a gun handy, but we can only assume it was at least some of them.
- It is easier to kill yourself accidentally with a gun. See #2, particularly fooling around and accidents. Guns are dangerous!
These all add up to one very big meta-reason against gun ownership: fewer guns means fewer dead people. Japan has probably the strictest gun ownership laws in the world, which goes a long way to explaining this statistical difference:
in the last year
|United States||300 million||Around 30,000|
Admittedly, Japan has had a fairly quiet year gun-wise, but this is a pretty big disparity that is hard to explain away by other factors. So in order to justify private gun ownership, it would be necessary to demonstrate the social good of allowing people to own guns. These benefits must outweigh the deaths of 29,947 people each year, so they’d better be bloody good. But almost none of them stand up to basic scrutiny.
Argument: People must have guns to defend their homes. Guns are a good way to defend your property against burglars and vandals and to defend yourself against rapists and people who wish you other forms of harm. This presumes you think it’s OK to kill someone for breaking into your house. As a society, in most cases, we do.
Why it’s wrong. At such close quarters, a knife, baseball bat or aggressive dog might be just as effective and less likely to kill the intruder or someone you didn’t intend to, such as someone else who lives in the house, or yourself.
Argument: People must have guns to defend themselves away from home. Guns are a good deterrent against would-be muggers, rapists and murderers. Presidential wannabe Newt Gingrich had the chutzpah to suggest that if more Virginia Tech students had been armed, someone would have shot Cho Seung-Hui and he wouldn’t have killed so many people.
Why it’s wrong. People who carry guns and still get killed by other people with guns. Think about gunfights and ambushes and all the other crap you see on American television.
As for Gingrich’s suggestion, is this a university campus or the set of Deadwood? Let’s see, there are a lot of oddly dressed people, many of them seriously unwashed, drinking to excess, taking drugs, smoking, swearing, gambling and trading sexual favours for money. It must be . . . a university!
But seriously, if Cho, with his history of mental problems and antisocial behaviour, hadn’t been able to walk into a supermarket and buy a gun over the counter, he probably wouldn’t have killed anyone. Or at least a lot fewer people.
Argument: Even if we take away citizens’ rights to own guns, criminals will still have guns. This will put the non-gun-owning public at a disadvantage and crime will be rampant. Gingrich claimed this is why gun violence increased in Australia and Great Britain after those countries banned guns.
Why it’s wrong. You can prove anything you like with selective use of statistics, but the experience in Australia is that restricting private gun ownership makes it harder for criminals to get guns and reduces the number of shooting deaths and other crimes with guns. The Australian Bureau of Statistics reports:
|Crime||1995 (without gun control)||2004 (after eight years of gun control)|
|Murder with a gun||58||33|
|Attempted murder with a gun||80||70|
|Kidnapping with a gun||13||18|
|Robbery with a gun||1,460||903|
Gingrich is correct that in 1997 and 1998 there was an increase in gun crimes. However, there is an obvious trend since 1999-2000 of decreasing gun crime (with the exception of kidnapping). And how many gun deaths have there been in Japan in the past year? Fifty-three? Surely that couldn’t have anything to do with gun control laws!
Argument: People must take responsibility for their actions. If people behaved responsibly with guns and respected each other, there would be fewer gun deaths.
Why it’s wrong. It isn’t. There are fewer gun deaths in Canada than in the United States, even though gun ownership rates are similar. There are definite cultural drivers and societal problems that, if addressed, would reduce gun deaths significantly. But the US gun lobby tries to convince people that bad parents or video games are the reasons for gun violence because they know these things are a lot more difficult to change than gun ownership laws. This is an unconscionable argument because gun restrictions would keep more people alive than fixing all the parenting problems (which is impossible) and banning all the violent movies and TV shows (which is extremely unlikely).
Argument: Gun ownership is a right that the government should not take away. The US constitution says the government should not infringe the right to bear arms.
Why it’s wrong. Most non-braindead people (including the US Supreme Court) realise the constitution actually says that the states must be allowed to maintain militias and that the federal government must not infringe their rights to arm these militias with guns. Even if this were not the case, any right must be balanced with the extent to which it interferes with people’s other rights, eg, not being shot.
Argument: Gun death statistics are skewed because the US population is so large. If you look at the gun deaths per capita, the US isn’t the violent.
Why it’s wrong. Places with wars on like Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan may be ahead, but even per capita, the US has one of the highest rates of gun deaths in the world, and the highest of any developed country. Or to put it another way, USA: 30,000, Japan: 53. That means the gun death rate per capita is 234 times higher in the US than it is in Japan. This is due to a number of factors, but the number of guns in the US has to be one of them.
I admit it’s unlikely that any gun-loving nutballs will read this and say “Holy shit, I’ve been wrong all this time!” But just in case there are any who haven’t had their capacity for reasoning entirely removed by lack of oxygen to the brain . . . perhaps there are at least a few things to think about.