The Basic Case Against Gun Control – Part II: General Gun Ownership

With the subject of public opinion trends already discussed in a previous post, we now turn our attention to gun control laws that generally fall under three categories (concealed carry, types firearms or accessories, and restrictions on how one may acquire a gun or possess one). Let’s begin with the effects of gun ownership in general for this post. We will be looking at international comparisons, concealed carry effects, and Kellerman’s fallacy.

Crime Rates and Concealed Carry

This is the most overarching topic in the debate over gun control, and one that the pro-gun side has luckily managed to make amazingly high legal progress in! This comes in the form of both a supreme court case (DC vs. Heller) as well as the state-by-state spread of concealed carry laws in the US over the past couple decades. Here is an excellent GIF that shows the progress year by year of that latter trend:


right to carry

Who said things are in a trend for the worse?


So what have the effects of gun ownership and concealed carry been on crime rates? Given that both are already widespread, what should we make of critics who say banning such things would put fewer lives at risk? We now turn to international data and data on crime within the United States. Take a look at this image from NoProhibition:


International Gun Deaths

While I would probably word it differently, this picture kind of sums up the discussion of international deaths.


I actually made a post a while back on the DefCad forums in which I mentioned more or less the same things. When using international laws and respective crime rates to make a point about what legislation we ought to pass, it’s pretty typical for people to just quote the raw death rates by firearms alone. Michael Moore did this in “Bowling for Columbine” and Piers Morgan did the same on national TV on more than one occasion. But as the graphic above makes clear, this completely sweeps all sorts of factors that are behind those death counts under the rug.


1. We begin here by adjusting for population differences – the most trivial step of them all. Many official sources like to use per capita rates by using the number of deaths per 100,000 people; fine by me.


2. Next make sure you’re using total homicides by any cause, not just firearms. Someone’s life doesn’t become meaningless just because they were murdered in a manner that didn’t involve the use of a gun.


3. In fact, make sure you really are citing total homicides in a given country. Murders aren’t reported until after they’re solved in the UK – which can be hard to come by. US homicides would also appear to be far lower by that same standard.


4. One important point that I was unaware of until I saw this video is the fact that US crime is centered in mostly large metro cities. With so many more such places in the US, crime rates have far less to do with firearms as a result.


5. Finally, stop using cross-sectional analysis in statistical comparisons. Compare crime rates before and after a given law is passed. Right to carry laws seem to be correlated with reduced crime as they’ve been adopted (see above GIF image).



This last point brings us to the question of data about the US itself. It’s one thing to show that international crime rates do not support the thesis that more gun control means less violent crime. Let me drive that point home even further with this link to Australian crime rates before and after a sweeping gun ban, and this picture:


Globally More Guns Means Less Crime

Looks beyond developed countries, and uses *UN* data. Click for better resolution.


Now comes a final question regarding what a gun in the home is likely to be used for. You likely have heard a statistic that originated from a man named Arthur Kellermann that says something to the effect of, “A gun in the home is 43 times more likely to be used against yourself or a loved one than to be used in self-defense.” Okay, so he later revised that number to 22 times because he admittedly screwed up, but you get the point.


Variants of this argument still circulate to this day. While the kinds of measurement used in such studies is often flawed to begin with (assuming the only way a gun can be used defensively is to actually kill someone for instance), there is an even bigger flaw. Let the point of this image below sink in for a moment:


Kellermann's Fallacy

Whether will use this is yet to be seen. They’ve been inactive for a while.


The point of this meme is that you could apply Kellermann’s logic to just about anything. Recently people have twisted the logic to say gun ownership puts women at risk because they are more likely to be victimized with a firearm than to use one defensively. Yes, a lawmaker (Democrat) said this to a rape victim. Yet these refer to cases in which someone else (other than the victim) is using the gun. If someone argued that physical force was more likely to be used against women than by women defensively, should we ban all women’s self-defense classes by that logic? In fact, you could argue for banning martial arts classes altogether using the logic of Kellermann’s study.


Any way you look at it, gun ownership can’t be causally tied to an increased personal risk of death. And yes, this is even the case for suicide rates – as we can see in this image of multiple countries of differing gun laws:


suicide rates by country

Strict gun laws don’t necessarily mean fewer suicides.


As I made clear in the first post of this series, public opinion is increasingly in favor of allowing people to carry concealed firearms. In my next post, I will drill it down to the debate over specific types of firearms and accessories – namely so-called “assault weapons,” magazines that hold “too many” rounds, and even things like suppressors. This is where the general public becomes more divided over various proposals, and it’s important that gun rights activists learn how to put these issues to rest.


The Basic Case Against Gun Control – Part I: Trends in Public Opinion

In this post and the one that follows, I want to put up a draft of some stuff I will have in “State Exempt.” Rather than argue over Second Amendment matters (which are totally irrelevant in other countries), I want to focus entirely on why gun control is a bad idea from a law and economics perspective. Three categories of legal issues will be discussed: The effects of concealed carry, bans on particular firearms and accessories (e.g. assault weapons and magazine capacity limits), along with more general restrictions on firearm acquisition and possession (background checks, “liability” insurance, and registration). Each of those will have their own section in a subsequent post, but for now I want to devote a section to trends in public opinion for this one.



Public Opinion on the Matter


About two years ago, I shared a pessimistic state of mind with millions of others about legislation that was under consideration. One of the worst school shootings in US history had taken place weeks prior and it seemed like every other major news story was thinly disguised advocacy for banning things that have little effect on overall crime rates.


Little did I know, public opinion and grassroots activism had a different say on the matter…


More Americans Say Guns Make Home Safer

Recent Pew studies and Gallup polls have shown that this awesome trend has continued!


This trend of public opinion looks pretty unstoppable at this point, and yet most Americans have no idea that gun homicide rates have actually dropped over the last two decades. If they did, the more recent surveys showing six in ten being supportive would likely show even more prominent results.


But obviously this isn’t the case. Despite becoming more anti-gun control in a broad sense over the past couple decades (I’m sure internet access helped out there), the public tends to be lightly supportive of some specifics. These tend to have less to do with whether or not various firearms should be legal (the first two categories I listed at the top of this post), and more to do with how you may acquire them. Sure, the public has mixed feelings on so-called “assault weapons” – something I blogged about before here. But even this is turning out to be a fading opposition; to the point where even a staunchly left of center writer in the New York Times wrote that such a ban was pointless.


The focus thus far has now turned towards the question of how background checks are conducted, as well as the possibility of things such as “smart guns” or “liability insurance.” Oh, did I mention 3D-printed guns and magazines? In the next post I want to go over three main categories of gun control, and make the case for scrapping all such laws. Here they are again described in greater detail:



1. The Effects of Concealed Carry: What can we infer from international data as well as longitudinal data in the US about the effects of allowing civilians to carry firearms for personal defense? Has gun control worked in other countries? Are you more likely to use a gun to kill yourself or a loved one than to use it to stop a crime?


2. Bans on Weapon Types and Accessories: Do “assault weapons” bans make any sense? Does limiting magazine capacity (how much ammunition a gun may hold before you must add fresh rounds) boost public safety? What about things like suppressors or other “unnecessary” accessories? Should those be regulated?


3. Firearm Acquisition and Possession: How effective are background checks at stopping criminals? Do we need to expand them for any reason? What about forcing gun owners to have liability insurance of some kind for the weapons they own? Last but not least, should we ban people from using new technologies (3D printing) to make firearms?


The post won’t be exhaustive; the best comprehensive (as opposed to concise) guide to the debate over gun control can be found at GunFacts.Info.