Newsflash: guns kill people

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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:

Country Population Gun-related deaths
in the last year
United States 300 million Around 30,000
Japan 128 million 53

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.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Josh says:

    The gun deaths in Japan issue is complicated, the sources don’t always agree. Today I heard reported on ABC radio that there have been 53 shootings in Japan in the last year, but only two fatal ones. Others say 53 gun deaths. Either way, the point remains the same.

  2. Peter F. Foley says:

    Bullshit in several instances. A. There wasn’t 30000 gun murders last it was less then 11,000 in 2005 with suicides included. B. Why shouldn’t one be able to Kill oneself– is not that the ultimate act of freewill–stupid but a necessary part of a free society. If cops/government need guns why shouldn’t individuals have them. Natural law has self preservation as the first human right–Just because your country has pimped its citizen’s basic rights away doesn’t mean I have to listen to your slave based morality. By the way did you know Hitler, Stalin&Lenin, Mao, and Castro all enforced Gun control before they Gulag ed and killed millions. F. Crime stats. in the USA decreased nearly as much as they did in Aus. over the same period and gun restrictions were lowered.(FBI website) Guns are necessary so free peoples can rebel at will against their own Government. Sadly the commonwealths are going down the road to tyranny. I’m more afraid of some cop then my armed neighbor. C. The different laws in various states the show the effectiveness of gun ownership. The freer the right to carry arms the lower the crime rate. D. SCourt has ruled to restore gun rights several times recently. The appellate court has ruled to restore some freedom to carry even in D.C. Japan is a monoculture with very little personal freedom whose economy is morbid due to crony capitalism. Ask a Korean who lives in Japan how it is?. If gun ownership is so evil how is it the USA has prospered? Hm-mm? Wealth without self based security won’t last long in the cold cruel world. If I lived in Australia I’d repeal my silly gun control laws and hand out Machine guns & bullets to every sane adult. 1.3 billion China men to what 40 million? They’ll probably invade Taiwan first so you’ll a year or two regret your disarmament. I seem to remember the U.K. begging the USA for spare firearms to arm civilians with to slow SEA LION, the possible invasion of Britain by the Nazis. Ask a Jew how they feel about disarming. Imagine Two million Jews with shotguns or rifles in Nazi Germany. The War in Europe would have ended by 1942. E. More people die in the disarmed countries waiting for free health care and USA designed drugs than die in the USA from guns. G. How many Japanese civilians died fighting WWII because they couldn’t rebel against the war parties? The loss of lives due to gun ownership is horrible, but to give up the freedom of 300 million forever just for a few thousand is moronic. Is it crazy to want to protect my family and self from real threats such as criminals, and tyrannical governments. The XX century has show modern man needs to fear its own government more than the tribe on the other side of the valley. Without individual freedoms there is no free society. I hope you can free your mind from your faulty memes. Then maybe you can free your body. Enslaving other cultures won’t free you.

  3. thepigs says:

    still, gun ownership hasn’t helped iraqis….

  4. Marc says:

    I agree… Bullshit to the entire article.

Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s