Thursday, 8 October 2015

The Truth About Guns and Gun Control

If you have been paying attention to recent events, then you will know that there has been yet another mass shooting, this time at a college campus in Oregon. President Barrack Obama has used this tragedy to once again push for increased gun control, and apparently plans on enacting increased gun control via executive order (so much for "representational democracy" and due process, I guess.) Meanwhile, anti-gun nuts are demanding guns to be banned, and claim that such measures were successfully undertaken in Australia, etc. The problem is that gun control does NOTHING to deter gun crime, and there is no link between high gun ownership and high murder rates. Let's look at guns per 100 citizens, and compare them to intentional homicides per 100,000.

The US tops the guns per 100 citizens list at 88.8 guns per 100 citizens. If the anti-gun nuts are right, then the US presumably must have the highest murder rate, right? Well, the US has an intentional homicide rate of 4.5 per 100,000 citizens. The country with the highest murder rate is Honduras, at a staggering 90.2 per 100,000 citizens, but only 6.2 guns per 100 citizens. Now, some anti-gun nuts will at this point claim that they are only referring to "developed nations." The problem, of course, is that the term "developed nation" is not a well-defined term at all. Secondly, the majority of developed nations have substantially higher gun ownership figures than Australia and the UK (two of the most oft-appealed to nations.) 

Switzerland has 45.7 guns per 100 citizens, which is almost 7 times the gun figures of the UK and just over three times the gun figures of Australia. Switzerland has a murder rate of 0.6 per 100,000 citizens... which is lower than both the UK and Australia. Other nations are as follows:
Finland: 45.3 guns per 100 citizen, 1.6 intentional homicides per 100,000
Sweden: 31.6 guns per 100 citizens, 0.7 intentional homicides per 100,000
Norway: 31.3 guns per 100 citizens, 2.2 intentional homicides per 100,000*
France: 31.2 guns per 100 citizens, 1 intentional homicide per 100,000
Canada: 30.8 guns per 100 citizens, 1.6 intentional homicides per 100,000
Austria: 30.4 guns per 100 citizens, 0.9 intentional homicides per 100,000
Iceland: 30.3 guns per 100 citizens, 0.3 intentional homicides per 100,000
Germany: 30.3 guns per 100 citizens, 0.8 intentional homicides per 100,000

(*Norway seems unusually higher than others, but this is most likely due to the recent mass shooting a few years ago.)

Consider now the countries which anti-gun activists want the US to emulate:
Australia: 15 guns per 100 citizens, 1.1 intentional homicides per 100,000
United Kingdom: 6.5 guns per 100 citizens, 1 intentional homicide per 100,000**
Japan: 0.6 guns per 100 citizens, 0.3 intentional homicides per 100,000

(**The Small Arms Survey lists the gun ownership rates and figures for England & Wales as a single entry, with Scotland and Northern Ireland as separate entries. I added together the number of guns and the population for each to arrive at 6.5 for the whole UK).

Japan has an equal murder rate to Iceland, despite having roughly 2% of the guns Iceland has. Both Australia and the UK have higher murder rates than five of the countries in the prior list. There simply is no correlation between high gun ownership and high murder rates. Whilst some try to appeal to 'developed nations' there are nations that such individuals would not classify as "developed" but nevertheless have higher gun ownership and low murder rates. Consider Serbia, which has 37.8 guns per 100 citizens. Serbia has a murder rate of 1.2 intentional homicides per 100,000 citizens. So, less guns does not magically make murder disappear. (You can find the stats for international murder rates here, and the stats for international gun ownership here.) Moreover, there is no evidence that gun control has done anything to stop incidences of mass shootings. A paper published in the Justice Policy Journal specifically examining the question of whether or not gun control reduced mass shootings in Australia states the following:
The current paper examines the incidence of mass shootings in Australia and New Zealand (a country that is socioeconomically similar to Australia, but with a different approach to firearms regulation) over a 30 year period. It does not find support for the hypothesis that Australia’s prohibition of certain types of firearms has prevented mass shootings, with New Zealand not experiencing a mass shooting since 1997 despite the availability in that country of firearms banned in Australia.

For those interested, New Zealand has a gun ownership rate of 22.6 guns per 100 citizens, and a murder rate of 0.9 intentional homicides per 100,000 citizens.

Moreover, it seems as if banning guns in the UK has actually led to an increase in crime:

The anomalies referred to in the first image are the murders of Harold Shipman, which were all added to the data together in the year 2003 (he didn't use guns, by the way.) 

Going back to the US, gun murders are down 49% since 1993. Whereas, 92% of all mass shootings in the US since 2009 have occurred in either "gun-free zones", such as schools, or in areas where it is prohibitively difficult for law-abiding citizens to legally own guns, such as L.A. County. Indeed, this recent mass shooting took place on a campus college in a school. Because criminals prefer victims who are unarmed and unable to in any way defend themselves. Meanwhile, in pro-gun states and areas where it is not difficult for law-abiding to obtain firearms for defensive purposes, guns are used to stop would be crimes and would be mass shootings before they even happen, sometimes without even having to fire a shot. Lastly, research shows that criminals in the US by and large buy guns, not from firearms stores, but friends and family and their preferred firearm type was pistols, not "assault weapons." For the love of God, stop making it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to defend themselves. There are plenty of ways to prevent further incidents of mass shootings: heavily penalise those who allow their firearms, whether willingly or through negligence, fall into the hands of criminals or the mentally ill, make concealed carry licenses easier to obtain in states where they are prohibitively difficult to obtain, promote gun safety, better mental health care and, by extension, better healthcare in general (this means getting the government out of healthcare and instituting a genuinely free-market healthcare system.)