Guns in America

There are between 270,000,000 and 310,000,000 guns in America.  That’s roughly a 1:1 ratio with the populace.  Yet despite the hundreds of millions of guns held by American citizens, regulations are lax.  What are the costs of minimal gun regulations?  30,000+ Americans a year.

We need to change American attitudes towards guns.  However, there is a large impediment to such actions: ignorance.  Powerful gun lobbies, like the NRA and the politicians they support, spew out insane notions about guns lowering crime rates and actually making society safer and far too many Americans believe these claims without fact-checking them or consulting independent research.

That’s why we’re here.  This continuously-updated section is devoted to dispelling conservative myths about guns.  We will sift through political speeches, quotes, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, and blogs to collect arguments against gun regulation and we will dispel them here.  Keep checking back for more!

Myth 1: The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.

Conservatives love to argue that increasing the number of guns in society makes everyone safer.  It rests on solid theoretical ground: if I’m an assailant and I think my victim is carrying a gun, I’ll be less inclined to attack him or her.  This argument is often used for the case of home invasion.  Everyone should have a gun at home to defend thieves!  You’ll hear many anecdotal stories about the brave homeowner who, by brandishing his weapon, managed to scare off potential robbers.  However, theory rarely translates to practice and anecdotal evidence is worthless.  More guns does not make society safer.

Reality is chilling.

A 2009 study by Charles Branas and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania investigated the relationship between gun possession and gun assault.  They found that in the case of an assault, victims carrying a gun were 4.46 times more likely to be shot than unarmed victims and 4.23 times more likely to be shot fatally.  Should the armed victim try to resist the assaulter, his or her odds of being shot increase to 5.45 times that of a victim without a gun.  Carrying a gun does not disincentivize assailants; rather, it greatly increases the likelihood that those in possession of a firearm will be shot and shot fatally.

It’s a common argument that women should carry guns to fight potential rapists and to equalize their inherent physical disadvantage.  This argument is bogus and quite dangerous.  A study conducted by Garen Wintemute, et al, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that “homicide risks were…50% higher for female handgun purchasers in California compared with licensed drivers matched by sex, race, and age group.”  Guns don’t make women safer, they put them even more at risk.

Guns at home are equally as dangerous.  Women living in homes with at least 1 gun are more than 3 times more likely to be killed in their homes than women in homes without firearms.  In an abusive home, women whose intimate partner owned a firearm experienced a 5-fold increased risk of murder.  Another national study concluded that “those persons with guns in the home, regardless of the type of gun, number of guns, or storage practice, were at significantly greater risk of dying from a firearm homicide and firearm suicide than those without guns in the home.”

Access-to-guns-and-risk-of-suicide-chartSuicide is the greatest firearm danger and prove that even good guys with guns to do irrevocable harm.  In 2011 alone, there were 19,766 gun suicides.  That’s more than 54 a day.  The presence and availability of a gun increases the likelihood of suicide because using a firearm is a highly effective and successful way of committing suicide.  It would follow that households with guns would experience higher rates of suicide than those without.  This turns out to be true.  Matthew Miller and David Hemenway found rates of suicide in states with the highest rate of gun ownership to be 3.7 times higher for men and 7.9 times higher for women than in states with the lowest gun ownership despite rates of non-firearm suicide being more or less the same.

Just how dangerous are guns?  Wintemute, et al, deduced that “in the first week after the purchase of a handgun, the rate of suicide by means of firearms among purchasers was 57 times as high as the adjusted rate in the general population.”  Again, this is caused by the almost-certain finality of suicide by firearm and also by the spontaneity of suicidal acts.  The increased risk of suicide remained over the course of the study – 6 years.

Good guys with guns do not stop bad guys with guns.  Good guys with guns make it more likely that good guys will be killed and that good guys will kill themselves.  The solution is not more guns.  The solution is fewer guns in the hands of fewer people. 

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