By Marc Connuck, Managing Partner and Pennsylvania Analyst (op-ed)
Whenever I debate people about gun control, I always ask them why they want gun control. The answer is usually the same “to protect the people” or “to reduce the homicide rate.” They are well intended, they want to protect people from harm. But, if the entire purpose of such regulation is to protect the people, regulation should not be limited to just guns. 32,000 people die in automotive accidents each year compared to 12,000 deaths due to gun violence and in the Summer of 2012, 137,000 people drowned while swimming (or rather not swimming). More people die from automotive accidents and swimming accidents than gun deaths, so if the concern is protecting the people, why should those activities be legal and guns vilified? If we are trying to protect the people, driving a car and swimming should be illegal since they cause harm. The argument then takes a bit of a twist, the response is normally something like this: “but we need cars, and swimming benefits society, guns do neither.” Now, the argument has turned from whether or not the activity protects the people to whether or not the activity benefits the people. Firearms do benefit the people and should not be regulated.
Contrary to what many people believe, gun owners do not own firearms to commit crimes. In fact, of the 310 million firearms in the United States, about .003% of them have been used in a homicide and the remaining 99.997% of guns are owned by law abiding citizens who own firearms for various reasons. The remaining 309,990,770 firearms which are not used in any crime have saved 400,000 lives. That is correct, according to a study conducted by Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, defensive firearm use almost certainly saved 400,000 lives. Even if this study is off by a factor of 10, more lives have been saved due to gun usage then lost. Overall, the same study found that guns were used 2.2 to 2.5 million times in self defense. When evaluating the decision of whether or not to regulate firearms, keep in mind that disarming the population will condemn those 400,000 people and allow 2.5 million crimes to take place. Even if this entire study is off by a factor of 10, there is still a net benefit. Even studies published by the government itself show that well over 100,000 crimes are prevented each year, the methodology of the governmental studies are flawed which caused the data to be skewed. Even if just 30,000 people were saved through defensive gun usage, then guns have a positive effect on society.
Let’s say that we ignore all of the evidence showing that more guns means less crime meaning that guns help society, and not hurt it, and decide to ban all firearms. The ban would be unenforceable. There are currently 310 million firearms and the population of the United States is 313,914,040 meaning there is well over 9 firearms for every 10 people. It would be impossible for the United States government to confiscate so many weapons and have a mass-gun buyback. There is quite simply to many weapons. The government cannot even enforce current laws! In the words of Vice President Joe Biden “we simply don’t have the time or manpower to prosecute everyone who lies on a form, that checks a wrong box, that answers a question incorrectly.” If the government cannot even enforce the current laws, then why should we exactly should we expect them to enforce stricter laws? Quite simply, we should not. In fact, evidence points towards more guns meaning less crime.
Now, let’s say that somehow a gun ban went into effect and law abiding citizens all turned in their weaponry. The assumption that this will somehow eliminate crime is false. Cesare Beccaria once wrote that “Laws that forbid the carrying of arms… disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes. …Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.” This seems like common sense, a criminal will not attack the people if they believe doing so could get them killed. Yet, the government has decided to disarm the citizenry. If, in our hypothetical system, the government had instead gone the other way and adopted a universal right-to-carry law, then 1,570 murders and 4,177 rapes could have been avoided, in the states without a right-to-carry law, according to a study published by John R Lott and David B. Mustard. Disarming the citizenry is not the way to reduce crime, if anything, it will increase it.
Ignoring all evidence to the contrary, the government decides to move forward and ban the ability of anybody to own a firearm. As a result, violent crime spikes drastically and more people are hurt or killed. Laws which control firearms assume that gun owners are generally violent and that their actions hurt people. Yet, the majority of gun owners are law abiding citizens who have not committed a crime and never will. Plato once said that “good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.” A good, law-abiding, person would never think of killing or using their weapon for anything but self-defense and sport. A bad, criminally-minded, person breaks the law and regardless of the law will find a way around it. The criminal does not care about gun control, they get their weapons through illegal activity. Gun control will not work, criminals find their way around laws. They will not follow them.