From time to time, there is an incredibly tragic accident where people are killed with guns and this always tends to lead to a gun control debate. I understand and agree with the sentiment. If we could save one life, wouldn’t giving up guns be worth it? Do we really need guns? So let’s legislate away gun violence! Thinking you can control deaths by gun control is as unrealistic as saying you can legislate away depression. Or legislate away violence. Or legislate away stupidity. I think when you consider gun deaths by segment, understanding the flaw in gun control becomes more clear.
The biggest category of gun related deaths are currently suicide. 60% of gun related deaths are suicide related according to Wikipedia. In this Freakonomics podcast on suicide, they mention guns are the primary method of suicide among men. More than 50% is what I think they suggested. I think even if you could magically remove every gun from the planet overnight, you would not also eliminate suicide. Or even significantly reduce suicide. Those suicide victims would likely just use another method.
It is heartbreaking that anyone would lose their life from a gun accidentally. Worse still is that the victims are usually children. Statistically, it is a small number to the point of being statistically insignificant. A more significant cause of accidental deaths is from automobiles. The solution was seat belts and car seats. Steven Levitt (the economist behind the Freakonomics book) gave a TED talk suggesting car seats are practically useless. Further, he suggested car seat manufacturers were lobbying to push for legislation for car seats, not unbiased research. Fatalities from automobiles and guns are roughly similar, unless you adjust for suicide. The difference is we have made an incredibly amount of legislation in an effort to curb accidental automobile related fatalities. If you have ever wondered why cars aren’t as cool as they were back in the day, automobile safety related regulations are the culprit. Rearview mirrors, blinking lights, break lights, break light placement, frame manufacturing and design, tire manufacturing and design, air bags, seat belts, audible indicators to indicate you should use a seat belt, breaks, and I am sure anyone in the car industry would be happy to add to this list ad nausea. They would also probably say in a hushed voice that they don’t do shit, either. Or at least, not enough to matter. I am sure these safety features lower auto related death rates, but I think there are many other factors that have a much, much greater impact. Drunk driving, texting while driving, distraction from other passengers, and weather conditions are a few obvious culprits.
I think when people hear “gun fatalities”, they immediately think of murder. And who doesn’t want to end murder. Problem #1: a lot of gun violence is being done by criminals who didn’t get guns through a legal channel anyway. Problem #2: killing people is easy. Just ask the ants. Ants can kill other ants! For that matter, ants can kill people! If an insect can kill without guns, people can probably figure it out as well. Problem #3: making guns is easy. I am pretty sure I could make a gun in an afternoon with a visit to Home Depot. I have never made gun powder from fertilizer, but there is probably a 5 minute YouTube video that shows you how to do it. A gun is basically a pipe with one end capped, a combustive agent, and some projectile.
Trying to lower deaths is noble. It is something I can get behind. And if guns were just used for hunting, I would be the first to get behind gun control. But that is not why it is #2 in the constitution. It is also telling how many police and military people think guns are a good thing. It is counter-intuitive for sure. Gun control is not going to stop suicide. And adjusted for suicide, gun fatalities are not nearly as significant as auto related deaths. If we really want to lower deaths, our time is better spent by building high speed rails. Or taking cell phones away from drivers. You may prevent some deaths with gun control, but it would be offset by an increase in violent crime. In the last few weeks I have heard of a young man getting accidentally shot by his father. But far more common is an intruder getting shot by a gun owning home owner. And I know in today’s world, the idea of revolting against our government sounds crazy. But think how crazy some of our nations leaders have sounded (or sound). Those that forget history are doomed to repeat it. Because if you give up one right, you might end up all of them. And here is my post-Independence-day-thought: I love the idea that this country was founded by farmers that stood up to the greatest military might of the time. They couldn’t have done that without guns.