Every time that the United States experiences a mass shooting, the mainstream media is quick to push for more gun control. Late night talk host Jimmy Kimmel’s opening monologue on the subject has recently gone viral. In it, he argues that the United States government is quick to act when a Muslim perpetrates a terrorist attack, but slow to act when an American kills other Americans.
He argues that we should take aggressive measures to ban semi-automatic weapons, suggesting that such a ban could have prevented this Las Vegas massacre, which left 59 innocent victims dead. A teary Kimmel charged, “No American citizen needs an M-16…you know, that seems very reasonable to me.”
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Kimmel apparently lives in a state of fear of the national epidemic of “gun violence” that has been sweeping America. How dangerous are guns to the American public? And how likely are Americans to be victims of gun violence?
In Freakonomics, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner make an interesting discovery when they conclude that swimming pools are actually more dangerous than guns. Yes, it is true. The University of Chicago economist and New York Times journalist, who are hardly right-wing idealogues, conclude that swimming pools cause more fatalities per capita than guns.
What do the actual statistics reveal about the “epidemic” of gun violence, apparently gripping our nation?
In a typical year in the US there are around 700,000 deaths due to heart disease, and 500,000 due to cancer. There are also about 30,000 gun-related deaths, but around 20,000 of these are suicides. That leaves us with around 10,000 gun-related homicides annually in a nation of 320 million people. In other words, roughly one in every 32,000 Americans will die each year in a gun-related homicide.
That is not an insignificant figure, but it hardly constitutes a “national epidemic of gun violence.” Nonetheless, it would appear to be reasonable to use public policy to reduce this figure. But is a ban on semi-automatic and automatic weapons the answer?
According to wikipedia‘s article on gun violence of the “2,596,993 total deaths in the US in 2013, 1.3% were related to firearms.” Mind you that 2/3 of those deaths were suicides. So, roughly 0.45% of the deaths in the US in a typical year involve gun murders. Of that 0.45% what percent of these homicides involve drugs, gangs, and criminals?
I am all in favor of measures to keep guns out of the hands of criminals. I am all in favor of having a discussion about banning automatic or even semi-automatic weapons. By and large, I am skeptical, however, than gun control is going to do much good at all.
Criminals are not going to respect the law, regardless. If a person is intent upon committing a violent crime like murder, home invasion, armed robbery, carjacking etc…they are certainly not going to be deterred by the “illegality” of owning or possessing a firearm.
We already have extensive gun laws on the books. It’s time to enforce them.
I am a devout libertarian, who believes in the Second Amendment. That doesn’t mean I would automatically would refuse to listen to arguments for some gun control and restrictions. Case and point: Nevada voters approved a law that would close the private sale loophole, and mandate background checks for private sale gun purchases. The current Nevada attorney general is not enforcing the law, ostensibly due to his ties to the gun lobby.
However, as The Guardian itself points out, “enforcing Nevada’s new background check law might not have made any difference to how easily the perpetrator of Sunday’s attack on a country music concert…was able to stockpile dozens of guns…Law enforcement officials have said Paddock had no serious criminal record, which would probably mean that a background check would not have flagged him as unfit to purchase a gun.”
Perhaps it would give comfort to some knowing that weapons such as AR-15s and AK-47s were banned in the US. It would not give comfort to me. All we could conclude from such a ban, is that law-abiding citizens would be restricted to rifles and pistols, while criminals would be free to use assault weapons in the commission of their crimes.
The same way that people on the left often note the extremely small likelihood of being killed in a (Muslim) terrorist attack…it is only reasonable enough to note that “gun violence” is not the national epidemic that the media, Hollywood celebrities, or the Democratic Party wants to make it out to be.
Yes…10,000 gun homicides a year is tragic. But there are 120 times as many deaths per year due to cancer and heart disease alone. You could make a reasonable case that banning cigarettes, alcohol, Netflix, and McDonalds would do far more to ensure the safety and security of Americans than banning assault weapons.
Fundamentally, if you are not involved in selling drugs, if you are not involved in gangs, and if you are not a criminal, you have little to fear by way of being the victim of gun violence in America.