• entries
  • comments
  • views

Gun control does not work.

Spooky Brony 42


Gun control advocates believe that restricting the types of guns available will have an effect on crimes committed with guns. This idea is untrue. The type of gun used has very little effect on the outcome of the crime. To understand this, we first have to understand the different types of crime that might involve a gun, and we have to understand the different types of guns that exist. Foot notes are provided for some interesting data, but for now we shall look at the argument from a theoretical point of view.


The types of crimes we consider are: robberies, aggravated assaults, breaking-and-entering, pre meditated murder, and mass murder. Other gun related incidents are suicide and accidents. For the sake of completeness, we will first consider these topics before addressing the crimes.


Suicide is a tragic issue, obviously. Gun control advocates claim that guns make suicide too easy and too lethal. The claim is that a person is more likely to survive suicide attempts if they use other methods. This may be true, but what does it have to do with gun owners? How can you take away an item from many people just because a few might use it to hurt themselves? Is any consideration given to the basic right of gun ownership? Not by gun banners. If we are to be concerned with suicide, then cars, medicines, rope, knives, bathtubs, and other common items should also be banned or highly restricted. The same can be said with regard to gun accidents. Nobody wants an accident to happen, but no law can make a dumb person behave in a smart way. Most gun owners understand the dangers inherent in handling guns. If someone is irresponsible enough to leave a loaded gun in a place where a child can get it, then no law will change that person’s behavior.


Underlying the gun haters’ claims is the idea that a gun can do no good, and can only do harm. It is like having an open spike pit in your front lawn. From this point of view, then of course it makes sense to take it away. But the truth is a gun is like any other object: its danger lies with the person who uses it. We will leave this part of the discussion for now.


It is important to understand the types of guns that exist. Guns come in many different types and modes of operation. Books have been written on single models of guns. For purposes of this discussion, it is important to know only some broad categories. Two broad categories are handgun and long gun. These are actually legal definitions with specific qualifications. Rather than sticking with the legal definition, we will instead define a handgun as something small and easily concealable. A long gun would be a rifle or shotgun, something with a long barrel and stock. According to legal definition, there are large handguns and small long guns, but regardless, we will simply distinguish between small and large sized guns.


Guns have different types of actions, or modes of operation. Most gun haters don’t even know enough about guns to distinguish amongst the many types. For this discussion, we will make broad categories, rather than dwell on the details of how each type of gun works.


The first type is fully automatic. This gun fires at a high rate, typically 10 rounds per second. Again, a machine gun has a legal definition. Essentially, it is a gun that fires more than one shot with one pull of the trigger. Legally, a gun that fires two shots per trigger pull is a machine gun. But most commonly, a machine gun is thought of as a gun that will fire continually as long as the trigger is held. There exist machine pistols, which are fully automatic pistols. There are shoulder held fully automatic rifles. There are also tripod or truck mounted machine guns. However, due to federal laws (National Firearms Act of 1934, et al) machine guns are very expensive and difficult to buy. They are heavily regulated federally and illegal in some states.


The next type of gun to consider is semi automatic. These guns fire one shot with one trigger pull. The cartridge, or bullet, is loaded automatically. Therefore, this gun will fire as fast as you can pull, release, and pull the trigger. Typically a person could shoot 3 times per second. Both hand guns and long guns can be semi automatic.


Another type of gun to be considered is the slower firing bolt action or revolver. A person could fire at a rate of 1 shot per second. A revolver can hold up to 7 shots, and a bolt action typically holds 5 but in some cases could use a detachable magazine that could hold 30 or more. Finally, the slowest type of gun is a single shot. For this gun, the cartridge must be manually loaded each time. A person could do this in about 5 seconds. The difference in the rate of fire between these guns seems great. But we will see that it makes little difference in a crime situation.


Turning to the types of crime, we consider the first: robbery. This can be mugging a person on the street or robbing a store. It makes no difference to the robber what gun he has. A single shot .22 lr is just as deadly as a fully automatic M16. What robbery victim would scoff at a revolver or hunting rifle? Would banning “assault rifles” make any difference? No. When a robber points a gun in the face of a store clerk, that clerk is not going see that it is merely a revolver, and then laugh and tell the robber to leave.


The same can be said for aggravated assaults, rapes, and breaking-and-entering. These are all crimes where one or a small group of criminals attack one or a few victims. In fact, many rapists don’t even use a gun at all. A large man with a knife can easily have his way with a small, unarmed woman.


Consider now a mass killing. Gun banners like to think that banning semi automatic guns and so called “high capacity” magazines will make a difference. But let’s consider the truth. Most semi automatics have removable magazines that can be switched in about two seconds. The difference between one 30 round magazine and three 10 round magazines is about the two seconds it takes to drop out one magazine and load another. Now, someone could say that a few seconds can make a difference. Perhaps it can, but how significant?


In a combat situation, every little advantage can mean the difference between life and death. If you are a soldier on a battlefield then people are shooting back at you. One second is very significant. The type of gun you use is very important. You might need a fully automatic, or a certain type of pistol, or a certain type of long range sniper rifle, or certain type of bullet. There is a reason why we give our troops the most advanced weapons.


However, in a civilian, crime situation, the criminal has every advantage. When nobody is shooting back at him, he has the luxury of taking his time. Since victims do not wear body armor, it does not matter what type of bullet the criminal uses. A .22 lr is just as deadly as a 7.62 x 51 mm armor piercing. Some would debate the lethality of various calibres, but as was said before, nobody is going to scoff at a mere .22 lr, something that is typically used to hunt rabbits. It may be true that your chances of survival are higher if you were shot with this round, but nobody would hear gunshots and say “oh, that’s just a .22, don’t worry about it.”


The rate of fire of the gun also has little effect. A fully automatic M16 with a 100 round magazine would not kill 100 people. Perhaps if the shooter were to stand in a dense crowd and rotate slowly, he might be able to get a high percentage of hits. But realistically, victims run away from the shooter. Therefore, a high rate of fire doesn't make much difference for the killer. Fully automatic weapons are normally used to lay suppression fire at a target. Spraying 10 shots into the back of a running victim perhaps has a higher likelihood of hitting, but not significantly more than taking a second to aim. A killer with the M16 and 100 rounds might take 10 bullets to hit one victim because it is difficult to fire fewer than 10 shots in one second. On the other hand, a killer with a bolt action deer rifle can kill a person with 1 shot. Thus he can kill 5 people with his 5 round rifle.


The other factor is time. Sure, a killer with 100 rounds in an automatic does not have to reload for a while. But he could reload a 5 round rifle in 5 seconds, and he does not have to worry about being attacked. Some would claim that a victim could rush the shooter. But how likely is that to work? The shooter does not have to fire his last shot before he reloads. He could easily fire 4 shots from his hunting rifle and then reload. If someone were to try to rush him, he merely has to raise the gun, cycle the bolt, and fire. This can be done in a second. Are we to expect victims to be hiding, counting shots, waiting for an opportunity to rush an armed madman? No, most people run away from a gunman.


Let us imagine that all semi automatic guns were unavailable. Do we really believe that there will be no more mass killings? A gunman with a bolt action hunting rifle could walk slowly through a crowded place and shoot 20 or more people at his leisure. Would anyone declare that gun control has worked in that situation? Would we then say that gun laws work because the killer was not using a semi automatic?


The FBI has a plethora of crime data. We can look at murder data per state for 2011 [1] . California, the most populous state, also has the highest number of murders due to firearms. But California has the strictest gun laws. How can there be so many gun murders if they have such strong gun laws? This data table is interesting because it breaks down murders due to hand guns, long guns, and other weapons. Handguns are, not surprisingly, the preferred murder weapon. But does anyone really believe that a ban on handguns would mean that these murders would go away? We don’t know the specifics on all of these murders, but it should be safe to say that, for the vast majority of these murders, the killer would have chosen a rifle if a hand gun were not available; and if a gun were not available he would have used something else. The table shows that in California there were 261 knife murders, compared to 1,220 firearm murders. How many of the firearm murders would become knife murders, if guns didn't exist? There were 101 murders with no weapon used. We can’t be sure whether or not a murder would have happened if the given weapon were not available, but it is clear that at least some people decide to kill regardless of the weapon available to them.


Look at Vermont, which has very lax gun laws [2]. There were very few gun crimes (again one must consider total population). But in Vermont you can carry a gun openly or concealed without a license. But if more gun laws mean less crime, and easier access to guns mean more crime, then wouldn't Vermont, and other states with lax gun laws, be awash with blood and dead bodies? Cross referencing murders with gun laws shows that places with the toughest gun laws have the highest crime, especially when looking at cities versus rural areas, not just state by state.


Chicago and Washington DC had (court rulings have changed this in recent years) total bans on hand guns, yet these are very dangerous cities. Wouldn't cities like Chicago and DC have the lowest crime rate? If you want to argue that criminals get the guns from other states, then doesn't that prove that the gun laws are still ineffective? And why do rural areas have lower gun crimes than cities? A lot of people in rural communities own guns, yet it is the city, where guns are restricted, that show more crime.


A quick search on Switzerland and their gun laws [3] shows that their citizens are required to keep guns in their homes, yet they have very low gun crime. The facts bear out [4] [5] that countries with restrictive gun laws have higher, or at best, no different rates of gun crime. Unfortunately, time does not permit me to show detailed analysis on the topic. But hopefully I have shown some interesting data. Keep in mind, too, that policy is not just about statistics but also about the nature of our relationship with government.


In a study done by Cato [6] reports 5,000 incidents in an 8 year period where a gun was used in self defense or to stop a crime. Some would argue that they have no problem with self defense, but that we don’t need certain types of guns for that purpose. The problem with this logic is that gun banners, both inside and outside government, are not interested in self defense. The goal of gun haters is to ban all guns for everyone, and they do it by small steps. It is easier to first ban large magazines, then semi automatic hand guns, then revolvers, then semi automatic rifles, then all rifles.


We can compare the issue of gun death to automobile accidents. Data can be obtained from the US Census Bureau [7]. The data is available up to 2009. The numbers seem fairly constant, and we might assume that the numbers are comparable today. Document 1111 shows that there were more than 33,000 traffic deaths in 2009. More than 10,000 deaths were due to someone with a blood alcohol level of over 0.08. One could then say that if we ban alcohol we would save 10,000 lives every year, due to car accidents alone! Maybe a ban on alcohol is something America should think about. I can’t imagine anything going wrong with such a policy.


Driving is one of the most dangerous things you can do. Of course, a ban on cars is impractical. However, what we need is reasonable car control and car safety laws. For starters, there is no need for military style assault vehicles, such as Hummers. These are trucks used by the military and belong on the battle field, not on our streets. These dangerous vehicles can be modified to be armored. Remember that the Bill of Rights was written in a time when horse drawn carts were the fastest mode of transportation. The Founders never envisioned V8 engines with fully automatic transmissions in cars that could go 180 miles per hour.


Clearly there is no need for dangerous sports cars. Why does anyone need a car that goes faster than 80 mph? There are virtually no restrictions on who can buy one of these cars. A teenager could buy a used car without a background check. True, you need a license to drive a car, but not to buy a car. Someone with a criminal driving record and a suspended license can still buy a car. There is nothing to prevent him from getting on the road. Furthermore, when you get a license, you drive slowly in a modest car. There is no required training on operating large SUVs or dangerous sports cars. Again, why does anyone need a car that goes that fast? Even in an emergency you wouldn't need to go more than about 80 mph. People buy fast sports cars because they want to go fast. Nobody buys a new sports car and intends to keep it below 70 mph.


Further, a restriction on when and who can drive is needed. Perhaps a limit should be placed on the number of miles you are allowed to drive each week. You could be allowed to drive to work, the store, and maybe some discretionary miles for whatever incidental things you might need to do. But there is no reason to allow anyone to drive their car at any time for any reason. It creates unnecessary traffic which makes the roads dangerous. It also contributes to pollution.


To a progressive, these ideas about car control would actually seem reasonable. The issue is not safety. The issue is freedom versus control. Let us also compare the second amendment to the first. Recently we have learned that the federal government has been collecting phone and internet data an every American. Why would anyone have a problem with this? When the Bill Of Rights was written, the only forms of communication were posting flyers on posts, yelling on a street corner, or making a few dozen pages per hour on a manually operated press. The Founders never envisioned radios, telephones, Internet, and smart phones. Radio was first used by the military. There is no reason for civilians to have military style assault radios. The Internet was also developed by the military. Why would we allow untrained civilians access to a military weapon? Clearly the Bill Of Rights does not protect modern, high capacity, military style forms of communication.


Speaking of military applications, video games are used by the military to train soldiers to shoot and to operate equipment. The military even endorses some video games. Further, studies [4] show that violent video games affect children’s perspective on reality.


Getting back to guns, if they are so dangerous then why do we let police have them? The greatest threat to humanity has always been and always will be government. One man can kill perhaps 50 people, but it takes a government to kill millions. If free citizens cannot be trusted with guns, then why do we trust government with them? Ultimately it is some person, a police officer or soldier, who is holding the gun. Are we to believe that police are infallible and can be trusted 100% of the time? Do police never become corrupt? Some make the argument that police have special training. But what is the nature of this training? A police officer’s job is to put himself in harm’s way. He chases after dangerous criminals and runs toward the scene of the crime, not away. But does this physical training mean that the officer can be trusted? It is not hard to find stories of police corruption at every level, including up to the Department of Defense, search Fast and Furious. Considering police-states throughout history, it was the police, the armed thugs of the government, that enjoyed the greatest privilege.


The very idea of the founding of the United States was that people in government are no better than average citizens. The rights of the citizenry are supreme, while the powers of government are limited and specifically defined. A police officer was merely a person whom we hire to do things that we ourselves don’t have time or ability to do. The government, and therefore the police, does not have the authority to do that which an average citizen does not have the authority to do.


Most people would probably say that our cities would be safer if there were an armed police officer on every corner. But why not an armed citizen on every corner, in every store, at every school? Why can I not be trusted with a gun as a civilian, but I can put on a badge and uniform and then I can be trusted? You live, work, and interact with hundreds of people in your community. You walk past people on the street and don’t expect them to attack you. What difference does it make if those people have guns? Does the gun turn a calm person into a madman? We trust our children with teachers. The teachers have access to sharp scissors. Why would we no longer be able to trust that teacher if she had a gun? Why would you not want to station an armed police officer at the school? Some schools already allow teachers to carry their guns.


It is a matter of “might makes right” when it comes to government. If you are 100% confident that government can never, will never become corrupt, then you can safely give up your guns. But a view at history will show that the level of government corruption is directly related to government power.


If the problem is that we want certain people to not have guns, then this can be done constitutionally. The constitution forbids the government from stripping rights away from entire groups of people. It is unconstitutional to make blanket laws that debar people of their rights. This is contrasted with the idea of debarring rights from a person through due process. For example, it may be reasonable to take guns away from a person who has been declared dangerous, but only after that person has his day in court. But it is unreasonable to broadly declare that anyone who has been prescribed a drug, for example, is forbidden from owning a gun.

It is a matter of philosophy. Are we free human beings, or are we subjects of a government? Where does the government get its authority? If you believe that the government’s power should be limited, then how do you ensure that limitation?


[1] FBI crime data: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/tables/table-20

[2] US gun laws by state: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_laws_in_the_United_States_(by_state)

[3] Switzerland’s gun laws: http://www.snopes.com/politics/guns/switzerland.asp

[4] Control: Exposing The Truth About Guns, Glenn Beck, ISBN-10: 1476739870

[5] More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws, John R. Lott Jr., N-10: 0226493660

[6] Cato study: http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/crime/item/7589-guns-used-in-self-defense

[7] Automobile accidents: http://www.census.gov/compendia/statab/cats/transportation/motor_vehicle_accidents_and_fatalities.html

  • Brohoof 1


Recommended Comments

Although I remain unconvinced either way on this issue, I believe you made some strong points. Nicely done. I laughed at "military style assault radios." And as has been mentioned before, criminals do not follow the law anyway. It's what makes them criminals.


That said, I've been waiting for something a little stronger than "good guys can have guns too" and "but Europe..." I think that you did a fine job of avoiding the usual tomfoolery that comes with these debates.


My only qualms are these:

  • Spelling error in paragraph 19
  • I'm a bit suspicious of Glenn Beck as a source
  • You did not address the issue of mental illness, which may be a key component in the case of gun-related crimes
  • I'm not fully convinced of any stance. I'm no expert, but it just seems that no possible answer to this problem is as obvious as it may seem.
  • I'm sure there's something else. Always is. But nice sharing of views nonetheless.

Share this comment

Link to comment
  • Spelling error in paragraph 19
  • I'm a bit suspicious of Glenn Beck as a source
  • You did not address the issue of mental illness, which may be a key component in the case of gun-related crimes
  • I'm not fully convinced of any stance. I'm no expert, but it just seems that no possible answer to this problem is as obvious as it may seem.
  • I'm sure there's something else. Always is. But nice sharing of views nonetheless.

Thank you for the reasoned response and pointing out spelling errors. Bad grammar is a big pet peeve of mine. As for your points:


I find that people who criticize Glenn Beck don't listen to his show. To be fair, I don't listen to shows I don't like. But I am a fan of Beck and I can say he is an honest man who loves freedom, loves his country, and tells you what he believes. But this isn't about him. I cited his book, which cites a lot of material. So I'm not quoting him as such, but he does collect some good data. Besides that, I don't think the argument will win or fail based on statistics. Instead, it needs to be based on morality and the fundamental understanding of the nature of people versus government. As Homer Simpson said, you can prove anything with facts. However, when you do look at the facts, they show that crime is more a function of culture and economic situations than it is about accessibility of weapons.


Mental illness is an interesting issue. I'm not an expert, but it seems to me that more and more people are diagnosed with problems. My personal opinion on this is that schools are over prescribing drugs to kids, which makes them dependent on the drugs and totally messes them up.


My response went long, so I decided to make it another blog entry instead. You may read it here.  http://mlpforums.com/blog/1004/entry-11365-gun-rights-post-2/

Share this comment

Link to comment

Join the conversation

You are posting as a guest. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Add a comment...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.