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In our second article on the Second Amendment, we will be looking at the efficacy (or lack thereof) of gun control. If you read our first article on the history behind our Second Amendment right to bare arms, you’ll know that it was formed by compromise between a means for defending the country against invasion, and also as a check against tyranny of our own government. The debate over the right to bare arms has continued since the writing of the Second Amendment in the form of regulation through gun control. Is gun control really effective? And how has gun control made us safer? The answer may surprise you.
Gun Violence By Country
Let’s first look at gun violence in the United States as a whole, and how it compares globally. According to Wikipedia.org, the overall homicide rate in the United States in 2010 was 4.75 per 100,000 people (of the countries listed, United States was #15). 67.5% of homicides were committed with firearms. The most dangerous country listed was Guatemala, with 41.42 per 100,000 homicide rate and 84% committed with firearms. Columbia in second place had similar statistic: 33.19, 81%. All of the mentioned have some type of right to bear arms.
Now this might be tempting to assume there is a perfect correlation between the right to bear arms, and overall violence; after all if guns are legal, then there must be more murders right? Not necessarily. 5th on the list, Costa Rica does not have a right to bear arms, yet their murder rate is almost double ours (8.01) and more than half (57.3%) involved a firearm. In fact, if you look at the top 15 murder rates by country (including the US), seven outlaw the ownership of firearms. If we look at the percentage of murders committed with firearms, the US ranks number 4th. Yet the next three, Zimbabwe (66%), Macedonia (62.5%), and Costa Rica all outlaw the ownership of firearms. It seems that there is little correlation between legal ownership of firearms and the actual amount of firearms used to commit homicide.
One could argue that this may be an anomaly, unique to these countries. Thankfully, we can compare different states with different laws to get an idea of the efficacy of gun laws within our own country.
Gun Violence by State
If we look at murder rates, as in the number of murders per 100,000 inhabitants, then the District of Columbia is the most dangerous (21.8). It also has the highest rate of murder with guns (16.5). It would be logical to assume that it must have the most lax gun laws and high degree of gun ownership. Yet we would be wrong. District of Columbia have some of the strictest gun control, and the lowest gun ownership rate of the country (3%). In truth, this seems to be a bit of an outlier, but there seems to be no correlation between violence, gun violence, gun ownership and gun laws when you compare the states. For example, Texas and California have very similar statistics, yet California has some of the strictest gun laws in the country while Texas has the most relaxed. Yet, California has a higher murder rate using a firearm.
The story the DATA tells
So what exactly does this tell us? Increased or stricter gun control does not necessarily reduce the rate of murder, or the use of firearms to commit murder. Yet the inverse is also true; less gun control doesn’t necessarily lead to less homicide rates. It seems murder rates, and to some degree murder committed with firearms, is affected marginally by gun control. And this makes sense.
If we consider that all laws are to some degree voluntary – as in must be voluntarily followed – then it stands to reason someone willing to break the law by committing murder would likely be willing to break the law to acquire a firearm. The consequences are no greater for being found guilty of murder than murder committed with a firearm. Therefor, if someone is willing to risk the greater consequence (penalty of murder), then they would be willing to risk lesser consequences – such as illegally acquire a firearm – to commit the crime. In fact, it’s logical that a criminal would prefer to commit a crime using an illegal acquired, unregistered firearm, since it would be harder for law enforcement to track.
The First Step
What we need to realize is that laws don’t control behavior – they simply influence it, and some (if not most) things can’t be controlled by legislation alone. It would be naive to assume that gun laws have zero effect, but they might have less effect than we would like to believe when it comes to certain mindsets. If someone is at a point of considering a much harsher violent crime, there is probably little that gun laws can do to deter them. If someone is thinking of using a firearm for a less violent crime, it may have some affect.
To truly attack the issue of gun violence, we need to stop thinking of it simply as a GUN problem and more of a VIOLENCE problem. And that requires more than just more laws.
What do you think we can do to deter gun violence in America? Leave a comment below.