Guns do not make us safer. Why is this not obvious?

Summary:  Public policy in America has become a debate about myths, as our broken OODA loops degrade our ability to see and reason — and we become more easily influenced by propaganda. That’s a natural response by our elites; a sensible person doesn’t attempt to reason with sheep.  We see all these factors at work in the debate about gun control. Here we briefly look at two myths, the 5th chapter in this series.

Their mad vision for American society.
Their mad vision for American society: one where each family must worry about defending themselves. Photo by Oleg Volk.



  1. Myth: An armed society is a safe society
  2. Myth: protecting yourself with guns
  3. Other posts about guns and gun control
  4. For more information

The two powerful photos on the right are by Oleg Volk, from his website Volk Studio.

(1)  Myth: An armed society is a safe society

This is widely believed.

It’s daft, and has little factual support.

In fact widespread gun ownership is associated with dangerous, lawless societies — both today and the in past, in the US and around the world. Reductions in the number of people carrying of guns leads to less violence.

One of the amazing things about America is the large numbers who believe astonishing things.  This and disbelief in evolution are high on the lists of things future historians find marvelous about us.  Here are a few snippets from the large body of evidence on this subject. Of course, no matter how large it will change no minds.

(a)  Do more guns reduce crime?

  1. Do Armed Civilians Stop Mass Shooters? Actually, No.“, Mark Follman, Mother Jones, 19 December 2012 — “Five cases commonly cited as a rationale for arming Americans don’t stand up to scrutiny.”
  2. The Impact of Right-To-Carry Laws and the NRC Report: Latest Lessons for the Empirical Evaluation of Law and Policy“, Abhay Aneja et al, National Bureau of Economic Research, August 2012 — “Overall, the most consistent, albeit not uniform, finding to emerge from both the state and county panel data models conducted over the entire 1977-2006 period with and without state trends and using three different specifications is that aggravated assault rises when Right To Carry laws are adopted. For every other crime category, there is little or no indication of any consistent RTC impact on crime

(b)  More guns = more unintentional firearm deaths, studies by the Harvard School of Public Health:


  1. Firearm availability and unintentional firearm deaths“, Matthew Miller et al, The Journal of TRAUMA Injury, Infection, and Critical Care, February 2002
  2. Firearm storage practices and rates of unintentional firearm deaths in the United States“, Matthew Miller et al, Accident Analysis & Prevention, July 2005

(c)  Less guns = less crime:

  1. Did gun control work in Australia?“, Dylan Matthews, Washington Post, 2 August 2012
  2. After a 1996 Mass Shooting, Australia Enacted Strict Gun Laws. It Hasn’t Had a Similar Massacre Since.“, Will Oremus, Slate, 16 December 2012
  3. Even gangsters live in fear of Japan’s gun laws“, Japan Times, 6 January 2012 — A different culture, but we can learn from them.

(d)  Harvard School of Public Health Research

  • Guns are not used millions of times each year in self-defense
  • Most purported self-defense gun uses are gun uses in escalating arguments and are both socially undesirable and illegal
  • Firearms are used far more often to intimidate than in self-defense
Getting ready to shoot your child sneaking in at night
Paranoia; getting ready to shoot his child sneaking back in the house. Photo by Greg Volk.

(1)  Myth two: protecting yourself with guns

Sometimes guns are successfully used in self-defense. Such as this story. These get massive play on the right, creating an exaggerated impression of guns’ utility.

But sometimes defending one’s possessions (ie, the insurance company) yourself killed (as in this story).

Most often guns don’t help because murder victims know their killers (80% per the Dept of Justice’s Murder in Large Urban Counties study (1988; summary here, pdf here).  Guns seldom prevent murder from relatives (18%), friends, or associates (but often get used to kill relatives, friends, and associates).

For the latest chapter in this endless story, from the January 10th New York Times:

CARNESVILLE, Ga. — Keith Ratliff loved guns. He built his own rifles. He kept bullets in his car’s cup holder. And on the rear window he slapped a sticker of the Starbucks Coffee mermaid firing two pistols. “I ♥ Guns and Coffee,” it read.

Mr. Ratliff’s passion for firearms made him something of a celebrity on the Internet, where he helped make scores of videos about high-powered and exotic guns and explosives. His YouTube channel, called FPSRussia, became the site’s ninth largest, with nearly 3.5 million subscribers and more than 500 million views. But last week, the authorities said, Mr. Ratliff, 32, ended up on the wrong end of a gun. The police in northeast Georgia found him dead at his office on Jan. 3, shot once in the head. He was surrounded by several guns, but not the one that killed him. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation is treating it as a homicide.

“We are interviewing people of interest, but we have not named a suspect,” said the Franklin County sheriff, Stevie Thomas. “We are not ruling out any options.”

The news, coming amid a national debate about gun control, rippled across the blogs and social networking sites where his videos were popular. Tributes on Facebook and Twitter came from fans stunned that such a well-armed expert had not been able to defend himself.  “For him not to pull out that gun and try to defend himself, he had to feel comfortable around somebody,” his wife, Amanda, told a television channel in Lexington, Ky., where he used to live. “Either that or he was ambushed.”

(3)  Other posts about guns and gun control

  1. The Founders talk to us about guns for a well-regulated militia,24 July 2012
  2. Yet another mass killing in America. Watch the reactions on the Right, and learn., 17 December 2012
  3. “The right to shoot tyrants, not deer”, 11 January 2013
  4. But Hitler confiscated guns, leaving Germans helpless!, 11 January 2013
  5. Guns do not make us safer. Why is this not obvious?, 14 January 2013
  6. Let’s look at the Second Amendment, cutting through the myths and spin, 15 January 2015
  7. Myth-busting about gun use in the Wild West, 16 January 2013
  8. Second amendment scholarship (using money to reshape America), 19 January 2013
  9. Do guns make us more safe, or less? Let’s look at the research., 23 January 2013
  10. Guns in the wild west: regulated, with no fears about ripping the Constitution, 25 January 2013

(4)  For More Information

(a)  ImportantMass Shootings in the United States Since 2005, Brady Campaign website — It’s 62 pages long.

(b)  Important information about America by Kieran Healy (Assoc Prof Sociology at Duke) about the death rate in the US due to assaults (all causes).

  1. America Is a Violent Country — Source of the graph at the top.
  2. Assault Deaths Within the United States

(c)  Like so many things in America today, the gun culture is a fading love of old white guys:

  1. The Declining Role Of Guns In American Society“, Paul Waldman (Editor, American Prospect), ThinkProgress, 1 March 2012
  2. The Declining Culture of Guns and Violence in the United States“, Patrick Egan (Asst Prof Politics, NYU), the Monkey Cage, 21 July 2012.

(d) The Price of Gun Control“, Dan Baum (author of author of Gun Guys: A Road Trip), Harper’s, 20 July 2012 — The price of gun control is very high, and we might not get much in return.

(e)  The CDC is not known for its advocacy for the 2nd amendment, so this result deserves attention: “Firearms laws and the reduction of violence: A systematic review“, American Journal of Preventive Medicine, February 2005 — By the Centers for Disease Control’s Task Force on Community Preventive Services.



11 thoughts on “Guns do not make us safer. Why is this not obvious?”

  1. Pingback: Right to Bear Arms? Gun grabbing sweeping the nation | New York City Guns

  2. This whole discourse omits the reasons Americans want guns. Americans have a large amount of minorities that are murderous, rob, beat and assault people in large numbers. People want control over their own lives so they don’t want to their fate to be up to the police or government which haven’t shown to be an effective deterrent to the thugs. However ineffective gun ownership has proved to mitigate threats to people lives, you give “one” example which could be countered by a vast amount showing different results, all people at least want a chance to control their destiny.

    We also don’t want to be like the Russians who were taken over by the Bolsheviks,(Jews), who proceeded to massacre the Russians in vast multi-millions numbers. As it is now no army or tyrant could defeat us if we did not wish it so. There’s too many gun owners.

    1. Amen Sam , if that was the only reason it would be reason enough. People do not seem to learn from history. I hope America never gives up those guns. It’s not much but it’s the only thing between us and a tyrannical government or an angry ignorant mob.

      I for one will not allow my life to be hindered or taken without self defense. I’ve learned over and over again that the only one who will protect me is me. I cannot depend on anyone else especially a police force that has no duty to defend me all he does is defend the corporation and generate revenue. They are real highwaymen, I always feel like I am being robbed and infringed upon when ever I see those red and blue lights .. officer friendly died in 1959. Welcome to the police state where the most dangerous position you can be in is pulled over by a guy with a gun and a tazer. One wrong word and you could be dead. I never argue with them or it’s judge jury and executioner right there .. get away and deal in the administrative or just pay. Doesn’t this all make you feel so freakin free. ???

  3. Human beings are visual creatures, meaning we get information most efficiently when we can get a valid picture that corresponds to reality.
    First, look at a map of any City with dots on it representing criminal use of firearms (murder, domestic abuse, negligent discharge). Then look at the same thing over the last 20 years. What you will see is that, year after year, the dots are in the same neighborhoods and are virtually absent in many others. Then explain why the dot free areas should favor strict gun control – ie, disarming themselves.
    Next, look at the trend lines for criminal use of firearms for the nation of Australia and (for example) the State of Texas. They both have almost exactly the same population and are both highly urbanized. And, critically, they both had mass shootings about 25 years ago with ~ 30 killed. One place went far in the direction of removing firearms. The other allowed, for the first time ever, a licensing process for lawfully carrying a concealed handgun, then unlicensed carry in a vehicle, then open carry for concealed carry permit holders. And, by the way, the addition of literally millions of the same type of guns (AR 15s/semi-automatics) that Oz made such expensive efforts to remove.
    You cannot tell them apart. Both are down by about 50%.
    For anybody who looks at data for a living, that is called “no effect.” I mean, considering how extremely different were the directions taken, one should have seen something obvious if there was a meaningful impact.
    Along the same lines, in the 1970s, rural interstates here were posted with 55 mph speed limit signs. In the 1980s it went to 65, then 75. Now it is 85. And you know what, nothing changed regarding any measure-able outcome.
    I do not pretend to know all the causal factors in either case. But I can tell you that ordinary people here (and law enforcement) does not want to back to the old days of 55 mph speed limits and no legal carry. Law enforcement especially does not want to become more hated for no benefit to society.
    To sell Oz level gun confiscation here, this is what you are up against.
    By the way, no one will ever believe that those who would start the low level civil that would be gun confiscation would be doing it to lower the suicide rate. No, it would be seen as one political faction trying to disarm its opposition – full stop.

  4. How is the image a mad vision of American society? My father owning a LEGAL firearm has defended us from an armed home invader, who probably owned his firearm illegally. I sincerely believe you grew up in a sheltered neighborhood.

    1. Larry Kummer, Editor


      “I sincerely believe you grew up in a sheltered neighborhood.”

      Wrong. Guess less. Think more.

      “How is the image a mad vision of American society?”

      The easy assumption is that you want a third world-like America, where “where each family must worry about defending themselves.” Like Mexico, Somalia, and other nations like that. But my guess is that you just didn’t think about what you read. “Vision for America” means what we want for America’s future.

      “My father owning a LEGAL firearm has defended us from an armed home invader, who probably owned his firearm illegally.”

      Assuming that story is true, is that what you what America to be? Where everybody has to worry about armed intruders, clutching their guns in preparation for self-defense. That would be considered quite mad in pretty much every other developed nation on the planet. Each to their own, I guess.

      1. “Assuming that story is true, is that what you what America to be? Where everybody has to worry about armed intruders, clutching their guns in preparation for self-defense.”

        Less assuming, more thinking. This IS what every nation is, the last clause excepted obviously. The only difference between those whom worry about it and those whom don’t? The former has at least some chance at preparedness whereas the latter has no chance at all. Sorry I’m not as confident as you appear to be that the world is somehow going to magically transform into some kind of utopian fantasy land.

        “That would be considered quite mad in pretty much every other developed nation on the planet. Each to their own, I guess.”

        Yes, it’s much less mad to forcibly strip away what is by far the single most effective means of self-defense available and expect people to simply place themselves, their safety, and the safety of their families at the whims of the people who’ve just invaded their homes. Especially since the US Supreme Court has ruled that the police have no duty to protect citizens.

        What would you do if someone broke into your place while you were there? Kindly ask them to leave? Give them ample time to permanently cripple or kill you while you wait for the police to take half an hour getting there? Make coffee for them? Invite them to sleep in your bed, while you take the couch for the night?

  5. Pingback: Possessing a gun makes you less safe not more safe

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