The gun control debate has intensified in recent years from the wake of yet another mass shooting.
The post-shooting debate has gone in two directions: conservatives have largely pushed for more guns, liberals have largely pushed for less; and, thus, there has been zero progress in either direction.
I personally fall into the latter group, but my policy recommendations are more pragmatic than ideological–we in America have a diverse range of ideology, and ultimately we need to do what works.
In America, frankly, our gun prevalence does not work.
The statistical argument against gun prevalence is simple–the US, as a nation, overwhelmingly has the highest gun death rate for all three of the major gun death categories: homicides, suicides, and accidents.
We in the US have a homicide rate of 3 deaths per 100,000 people. Compare this to other nations: the UK has a rate of .07 Canada has a rate of .5, Japan has an astoundingly low rate of .01. Japan has very harsh gun control laws–civilians can’t have any sort of firearm period without an incredibly exhaustive application and education period. Even touching a firearm without a license can result in jail time. Even domestically, the more guns equals fewer deaths argument doesn’t hold up.
Concealed carry advocates may point to Vermont and DC as proof of the point that more guns equals fewer deaths. Their data is correct: Vermont has high gun ownership and and low homicide rate, whereas DC has the opposite.
However, this certainly does not prove their claim–gun control advocates (such as myself) can point to Hawaii and Louisiana as states where more guns equal more deaths.
A domestic examination of gun ownership offers an unsatisfying conclusion: there is no correlation that shows more guns will prevent homicides.
However, given that we have such a high gun homicide rate compared to other developed nations, it’s quite clear that America is doing something wrong.
Homicides only represent a portion of gun deaths. Upon my declaration that there is no correlation between homicides and gun ownership, it may be a reasonable step to question what sort of influence gun control laws would have on gun deaths as a whole.
Ignoring my argument two paragraphs ago, there is another devastating impact that guns have on society–suicide rates.
Here, there is a clear correlation that states with high levels of gun ownership have high rates of gun suicides–and similar rates of non-gun suicides.
An absence of guns would dramatically reduce our suicide rate because people wouldn’t be able to commit suicide. But perhaps this is not convincing- indeed, it is often questioned whether or not people would simply find an alternative method should guns disappear.
Studies have shown that this is not the case, and the reason is simple: suicide is an impulse decision.
People who fail a suicide attempt rarely try again because their outlook has changed. Suicides are preventable.
Gun suicides, though, are almost always successful and they are directly tied to gun ownership.
The statistics here paint an uncomplicated picture of America’s gun problems, and while it is certainly true that gun homicides have slowly fallen over the past three decades, this is also associated with a general decrease in the national crime rate.
While it’s true that people kill people, guns make it significantly easier, as they are uniquely portable and able to cause damage from a distance.
Criminologists largely agree that gun proliferation has not impacted the drop in crime, and it’s clear both statistically and rhetorically that our gun death rate is a major public health crisis where we, somehow, continue to embrace our culture of gun glorification while thousands of people die to them every year.