After the tragedy last week in Las Vegas, many politicians and commentators argue that guns are the source of violence and that the number of gun-related deaths is much lower in countries with weapon control measures. However, gun control advocates use circumstantial evidence to support their argument.
Statistical evidence reveals that guns are the source of much fewer deaths than popularly believed, and areas that allowed concealed carrying of guns had faster reductions in crime than places that did not.
Only about one in every three gun-related deaths in the United States is a homicide, the boogie man of gun control advocates. Moreover, murders have dropped dramatically since the 1990s despite little change in gun control policy, and violent crime dropped fastest in U.S. states with implemented concealed carry permits.
These are important considerations as many issues related to gun control were on the California ballot in 2016 and will be in 2018. Approximately two-thirds of gun-related deaths in the U.S. in 2012 were suicides, according to the National Vital Statistics Reports (NVSS).
While the NVSS’s statistic is alarming, there would most likely be a decrease in the number of suicides by firearm if guns were banned. Yet, we must be careful not to assume that this would lead to a reduction in the total number of homicides and in suicides. Japan and South Korea for example, with much stricter gun laws than the U.S., have much higher per capita, made evident by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Additionally, we must note the distinction between the total number of murders, suicides, and deaths and the per capita homicide and suicide rates. Even if the U.S. has five times the annual number of murders than Australia, this would result in America having a homicide rate approximately half that of Australia’s. This is because Australia has a population of about 24 million people compared to about 326 million people living in the U.S. Therefore, using the aggregate number of murders when comparing the two countries is inaccurate.
Furthermore, while it may seem like we frequently hear about a violent crime or a mass shooting, the U.S. and nearly every western country have experienced a dramatic decline in violent crime. In both aggregate and per capita terms, assault, homicide, and sexual assault have experienced dramatic declines since the early to mid 1990s, according to the Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program’s Crime Index.
While Australia experienced a sharp decline in the number of homicides involving firearms following gun control legislation, it was not until this substantial overall crime reduction occurred that the total number of homicides began to decline. The decline was matched by an increase in the use of other weapons in armed robbery and homicide.
In the U.S., the reduction in violent crime was also very dramatic. However, crime statistics from the early 2000s indicate that there was almost no correlation between per capita gun ownership and the incidence of violent crime. In fact, there was a slightly negative correlation of -0.07 which means that areas with a greater number of firearms per capita were less likely to experience violent crime and homicides . The negative correlation is made evident in an article published by the American Academy of Pediatrics. Moreover, the crime reduction of the 1990s and 2000s was more pronounced in areas that had implemented concealed carry legislation which is made clear in an Index of Crime by State 2002 from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Finally, the per capita and aggregate ownership of guns increased substantially over the past two decades, which Dr. Edward W. (Ned) Hill from Cleveland State University highlighted in his scholarly article. The per capita and aggregate ownership coincided with the dramatic reduction in violent crime. Concealed carry allows gun owners to obtain permits – often after a substantial background check and pending approval by the county sheriff’s department – to keep their firearms on their person in public or in car glove compartments.
Following this attack, we ought not to ask what gun control measures must be implemented if we hope to prevent mass shootings. In this situation, Nevada’s loose concealed carry laws unfortunately didn’t change anything.
In many instances, concealed carry permits have saved lives, like in the Winnemucca bar shooting of 2008. The Las Vegas Review-Journal wrote that a valid, concealed carry permit holder shot and fatally wounded a shooter who opened fire on nearly 300 patrons inside. Three were fatally wounded, but this situation could have been much worse.
Instead of asking which firearms the government should ban, we should consider why we are preventing lawful citizens from obtaining firearms and concealed carry permits for self-defense because they could help prevent future tragedies.