The issue of gun laws has—yet again—been the focus of US media following the Parkland shooting. The ‘March For Our Lives’ protests have gathered hundreds of thousands of people all across the United States, even abroad. The organizers’ goals? To succeed in passing into law a nationwide ban on ‘Assault Weapons’ and high-capacity magazines.
To a significant portion of people, more restrictive gun laws are the ‘logical’ solution to prevent gun crime. If the government bans assault weapons, there won’t be any more mass shooting with rifles, right? Those who propose such legislation either do not know a whole lot on the Second Amendment or just don’t like guns. Campus Reform interviewed people at the Washington DC ‘March For Our Lives’ protest. Most did not know what an Assault Weapon is, yet they march to have them banned.
“NO, I GUESS… BUT ‘ASSAULT WEAPONS’… DOES THAT SOUND SAFE TO YOU?”
Gun ownership is one of the most divisive issues in the United States. According to a New York Times article, if the 2016 election was divided in two categories—households who own at least one firearm and households who don’t—gun-owning households would have turned 49 out of 50 states red, in favor of then-presidential candidate Donald Trump. Interestingly, the only state whose gun-owning households chose Hillary Clinton is Bernie Sanders’ home state, Vermont, one of the safest states despite having the weakest gun control legislation in place. The state guarantees a right to conceal carry without a permit since the 1903 Supreme Court case State v. Rosenthal.
One could ask themselves if people who have never bought a firearm are in a suitable position to talk about gun control. Would it not be fairer if gun legislation was left up to the people who actually went through the process of purchasing a firearm from the background check to gun training, and who had to study their Second Amendment rights prior to owning a gun for reasons such as self-protection? It is important to note that the ‘March For Our Lives’ protests were held by teenagers, many of whom are not old enough to purchase a firearm.
As a reminder, each year, using data compiled from the Crime and Disease Center, a total of around 33,000 people die due to firearms, including suicides. If suicides are not counted, the number is actually closer to 13,000, as 62% of firearm deaths are suicides. Black men are at least 10 times more likely than White men to kill or be killed with firearms.
None of the ideas that proponents of tougher gun laws advocate for would work to prevent shootings or even to decline rates of gun crime. This is my take based on plenty of empirical evidence and decades of statistics on gun violence.
An Assault Weapons ban was tried before, and it was ineffective
‘March For Our Lives’ protesters suggest an Assault Weapons ban, in fact, they want to bring back the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban. Let alone the fact that the term Assault Weapons is a controversial and vague term to begin with, the ban itself had very little outcome on gun crime. For the ten years that assault weapons ban was in effect, a dozen mass shooting incidents took place.
The National Research Council noted that the ban “did not reveal any clear impacts on gun violence outcomes,” whereas the CPSTF found “insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws for preventing violence.”
The reason the ban was ineffective is simple. Rifles account for only a small percentage of all gun crime, as the NRC noted. According to the official 2016 FBI statistics, knives kill around five times more people than rifles (1,607 compared to 374). Rifles only account for around 3% of homicide deaths, while handguns account for 65%.
It is also worth noting that several mass shootings also happened at the time, including the infamous Columbine shooting of 1999, which happened while the ban was in effect, but did not stop the shooter from obtaining guns banned by it. At the time, even CBS reported that the ban had not been effective, interviewing a gun dealer who called the law a joke. So now, how would restoring a ban on Assault Weapons work if the first one was already ineffective?
Almost all mass shootings happen in gun-free zones
According to extensive research by the Crime Prevention Research Center, which gathered information from all mass shootings between 1950 to July 10, 1016, it concluded that over 98% of mass shootings took place in gun-free zones where civilians are not allowed to carry even if they have a permit.
One may think that outlawing conceal carry in an area would prevent gun crime, but the opposite is true for a simple reason. If a person wanted to shoot innocent people, where would they go to do it? A place where people are allowed to carry and can fire back, or a place where people are not allowed to carry, and are thus defenseless in such a scenario? Gun-free zones are an easy target for would-be killers, as evidenced over the years.
In Texas, many schools allow teachers to carry firearms as last resort against a potential attacker. The school districts choose a guardian, who goes through a mental health check and gun training. As a result, there has never been a single mass shooting in any of the participating schools. Signs like these can be found in those schools.
Obviously, nobody is saying all teachers should be forced to carry firearms to protect their students in case a mass shooting happens. Only teachers willing to participate in this program should ever be approached to bear this responsibility. But, as evidenced by schools in Texas, it works. Less gun control may actually reduce mass shootings, and allow trained personnel to defend themselves.
Gun ownership rates don’t correlate with gun crime
From 1993 to 2013, despite gun ownership doubling from 185 million to 357 million, gun homicide rates actually decreased by half, from 7 firearm homicide deaths per 100,000 citizens to a rate of 3.6 annually. One would think that through more gun control, the less firearms there are across the nation, the less gun crime there would be, but in reality, the correlation is weak.
More gun control doesn’t even mean less gun crime
We’ve just seen that more guns does not equal more gun homicides, but more gun control doesn’t immediately mean less gun crime either. As mentioned previously, while Vermont has very little gun control legislation in place, its crime and gun crime rates are the lowest in the entire country.
Other examples include cities like Chicago with very restrictive gun laws and yet high murder rates. An argument made by leftists to counter the high murder rate in Chicago is that “people can just purchase firearms in neighboring states with less restrictive gun laws.” But then, question: why don’t those states also have high murder rates?
The same could be said of cities like Detroit. Violent crime—such as armed robberies—is more likely to happen in areas with more gun control because the residents aren’t able to defend themselves, making them a better prey for criminals who, by definition, don’t follow the law. Tougher gun laws discourage the overwhelming majority of law-abiding citizens to enjoy their Second Amendment rights.
Concealed carry license holders are the most law-abiding group
A study by the Crime Prevention Research Center found that individuals who have a concealed carry license are more law-abiding than police, meaning they are the most law-abiding group in the United States. The rate of misdemeanors and felonies committed by full-time police officers is about 0.1%, while in Texas, concealed carry holders were only at 0.01%, ten times less than the national average for police officers. Note that the vast majority of the crimes committed by license holders are not even related to firearms.
No, Australia’s gun buyback was not effective to reduce crime
While Australia’s gun buyback program did decrease gun homicide rates, the weapons of choice shifted from firearms to knives and other weapons, leaving the homicide rates almost unaffected by the program. The statistics provided by the Australian Institute of Criminology show little impact.
The United States had a similar decrease at around the same time, meaning that the decrease in homicide rates in Australia should not be attributed to the buyback. The firearm homicide rates in Australia were already declining before the buyback. As mentioned previously, the gun ownership rate doubled in over nearly three decades while the gun homicide rate decreased by around half. In the hypothetical scenario that a buyback would occur in the United States, is stripping away the self-preservation rights of over 300 million Americans for such a small decline worth it?
Far more lives are saved thanks to the defensive use of firearms
According to a 2013 report by the Center for Disease Control that was ordered and funded by President Obama, the number of defensive uses of firearms is somewhere between 500,000 to over 3 million each year. The study concludes that the use of firearms as self-defense is an important crime deterrent. Researchers found that merely pulling out a firearm is enough in most cases to deter a potential criminal from acting. The CDC notes that using a firearm was more effective to deter an offender from continuing a crime and led to less injuries than other methods statistically.
Several mass shootings were prevented thanks to armed individuals. In 2007, as thousands of churchgoers left the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado, a shooter opened fire but was quickly killed by a retired police officer, saving countless lives. Two gunmen opened fire outside of a Prophet Mohammed cartoon drawing contest in 2015 in Garland, Texas. An off duty police officer owner at the event quickly shot back at the men and prevented any innocent from being killed. More recently, in November 2017, the Sutherland Springs church shooting was prevented by a man who was living right next to the church. He heard the shots being fired and when he saw the man exiting the church, he shot him with an AR-15.
No, mass shootings aren’t less frequent in other developed countries
A lot of gun control advocates will claim that mass shootings are a phenomenon unique to the United States, and that they are not an issue in any other developed country or European country. It is quick to assume mass shootings happen more often in the US but population size is a big factor that is omitted; the United States has a population of well over 300 million, and it is disingenuous to compare the raw amount of mass shootings with European countries with lower population. More crime will be committed in heavily populated countries compared to smaller countries.
According to the Crime Prevention Research Center, the United States is not even in the Top 10 in frequency or fatalities in mass shootings between 2009 to late 2015, ranking 11th in annual mass shootings death rates (0.08), just above Canada with 0.6, and behind Norway with 1.8, Serbia (0.4), France (0.35) or Switzerland (1.14). The United States ranks 12th in frequency of mass shootings from in that same period; the frequency of mass shootings is far higher in countries like Switzerland (0.25 per million people), Norway (0.2), Finland (0.18), Austria (0.1) and France (0.09).
Note that the study does not include third world countries, but only European countries and the United States. Very few European countries recognize a right similar to the Second Amendment in the United States, and gun ownership in those countries is much smaller.
These higher rates of mass shootings in European countries are a result of open borders that facilitate illegal gun trade. In France, this is a real problem, and despite our very restrictive gun laws making it virtually impossible for any person to possess a firearm for self-defense, there is a strong illegal black market. The methods of mass killings vary depending on the region as well, as evidenced by truck attacks in France like the one in Nice which took the lives of 80 people.
If people want to solve the issue of mass shootings and gun violence in America, the answer is not to pass tougher gun laws. More research needs to be done by people advocating for reform before any debate can take place on this issue.