For the past few weeks, the airwaves have been dominated by the issue of gun control. And unfortunately, logical fallacies and emotional arguments are rampant on all sides. However, rational, clear answers do exist despite the cloud of emotions that seem necessarily to surround such an issue.
It must be said that the rush to do something after a tragic event is entirely understandable. The idea that someone ought to have stopped this tragedy, that together, we all collectively dropped the ball and should do better in the future is normal, even commendable.
What is not commendable is then to use this tragedy as a springboard into a variety of gun-control legislation that is related to Sandy Hook only by emotions.
Because regardless of how one feels about firearms regulations, such laws generally have nothing to do with the tragedies that prompt their passage.
For instance, as “The Chattanoogan” and others have pointed out, Connecticut already had an assault weapons ban in place at the time of the shooting. In fact, the shooter, Lanza, did not even acquire the guns he used legally; he stole them from his mother. And no law being proposed currently would have had any effect on his mother’s ability to purchase her weapons.
Similar to the calls for more gun-free zones after shootings happen in already gun-“free” zones, these arguments are simply illogical.
There is valid reason to suggest that gun ownership is correlated with lower crime, not higher crime. For instance, one need only look at cities such as Washington, DC, or Chicago, cities in which firearms are notoriously difficult to own and purchase but where firearm violence is quite high.
One can also consider what Thomas Sowell points out, that for the country as a whole, handgun ownership doubled in the late 20th century while the murder rate went down.
But of course, such arguments are tenuous at best because of other factors, something gun-rights advocates ought to recognize regardless of the other side’s approach.
The difference between correlation and causality is extraordinarily important and summarily misunderstood in this debate. Both sides seem to forget or be ignorant of basic statistical standards. Any argument on this issue requires delicate and careful consideration of outliers, existing trends, confounding variables, etc. – statistical “noise” that makes the true trends hard to discern, if they exist at all.
However, the nation’s commentators and politicians do not even attempt to note, much less adjust for, this noise but rather blur it all together into a deafening cacophony of emotions and bad social science.
Despite some very convincing correlational evidence, one cannot say with statistical certainty that more firearms will lead to less crime. However, one can absolutely say that fewer firearms do not cause fewer crimes.
As Thomas Sowell recently pointed out, the strongest argument in this regard seems to be the case of Great Britain, with its strict gun laws and lower murder rates. However, for more than two centuries, Britain has had a lower murder rate than the United States – and, for most of that time, the British had no more stringent gun control laws than the United States. Such statistical fallacies are blindingly simple upon closer examination, but sadly, closer examination gets crowded out in emotion.
Given the fact that clear correlation, much less causality, cannot be proven easily if at all, this debate ultimately comes down to the question of whether gun ownership is a fundamentally dangerous endeavor over which control will be necessary or helpful.
And despite the difficulty in establishing large-scale trends, it is unquestionable that gunowners are no more a threat to society than any other citizens (and are perhaps less so). One should note the following FBI crime statistics:
99.9 percent of all guns in America are not used in violent crimes
99.8 percent of all guns are not used in crime at all.
Guns are used four times as often in self-defense as in crime and 98 percent of the time, the gun is not even fired.
Only 1 percent of the time when a gun is being used in defense, does the criminal take the gun from the defender.
Only 4 percent of guns used in crimes were obtained legally.
Stripped of the emotion and the poor statistical analysis, it is clear that gun ownership is nothing more than a convenient scapegoat, a target of misplaced emotion and fear, an easy (supposed) answer to a complex problem.
There is no excuse for such scapegoating. Firearms are force equalizers. Firearms are an extension of freedom. They should not be made a scapegoat of emotional arguments and bad laws.