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Muddying the Waters

By: Ryan Hildebrand - Aug 26, 2013, 11:33 pm

It is a litany proclaimed the world over, “Guns produce violence,” as if those repeating such statements enough times over will make it true. There is a religiosity to it, as if it were a magical mantra.

On the surface, the rationale is tempting. No one can dispute that firearms are lethal weapons, first and foremost. And, as the belief follows, if access to guns is more tightly regulated and restricted from the general public, only to be available to a “trustworthy few,” namely the state, that violence should decrease.

This is at best a superficial hypothesis, and, as we shall see, rife with fallacy.

The first fallacy, and the simplest to deconstruct, is that a tool (namely, a firearm, in this instance) is performing the action attributed to it. In fact, a “tool” is just that — something that assists the individual utilizing it, be it to build a house, light a fire, or defend one’s self. A firearm is an inanimate object made mostly of metal. The firearm does nothing on its own except exist in space.

For the determined potential murderer, any tool will do, even one’s own hands.

The second fallacy in the belief that guns cause violence is to assume that the development of firearms, increased production, and sale to individuals correlates and is causative of an increase in violence through history. In fact, that is patently false. Unsurprisingly, the opposite is true. All types of violence have been decreasing through history. The reality is that violence does not pay in the long run. As people have slowly discovered that it is more profitable when they treat each other in a non-violent fashion, violence has logically decreased.

It is plain to see that the mere existence of firearms is not the cause of violence, so why are some countries more plagued with violence, particularly by persons utilizing firearms, than others? This brings us to our third fallacy, which is that gun control legislation leads to less violence. Let us take a moment to look back at the graphic posted previously and compare it to another:

Focusing on on the Western Hemisphere specifically, we can readily see a contradiction to the claim of correlation between availability of firearms and what the United Nations terms “Intentional Homicides.” The areas with the most firearms per capita in the Western Hemisphere have the lowest murder rates. On the other hand, areas such as Mexico, with some of the most stringent gun control laws on the planet — so few can purchase these tools legally — have the highest murder rates.

What is going on here?

In countries where private individuals can readily acquire firearms without government interference, one can better defend one’s self from potential threats. Couple this with a robust free market economy, and it is simply not profitable to murder an individual. There are other routes, such as litigation, where retaliation can be funneled. The only reason (which is actually not a reason at all) is the anecdotal emotional response of those affected by an individual utilizing a firearm against them, or those wishing to control others. In practice, the state will not always be there for everyone, and deterrence, if not outright self-defense, has helped suppress violence against peaceful individuals.

Ryan Hildebrand Ryan Hildebrand

Dr. Ryan Hildebrand is a college instructor in New Orleans, Louisiana, and co-host of The Neo and Wim Show. You can follow his personal blog, NOLA City Blues, and his Twitter @NOLACityBlues. Read more of his featured PanAm Post column, "Self-Ownership."