In the aftermath of tragedies such as the recent school massacre in Parkland, Florida, it is oh so tempting to think that tougher gun laws are The Answer. If we just make it harder to get guns, they tell us, fewer people will buy guns and we will reduce the murder rate.
To be sure, America has more guns as well as guns per capita than any other nation on earth. To hear it from the anti-gun crowd, this and this alone is enough to explain America’s murder and overall crime rates. To paraphrase Mark Twain, there are lies, damned lies and gun control statistics, with the third being the most deceptive of all. More guns do not mean more murders and fewer guns do not mean fewer murders.
In 2012, in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook massacre, I did some research that revealed zero correlation whatsoever between gun ownership rates and murder rates in various countries around the world. While America leads the world in gun ownership, we rank ninety-second in homicide rate. El Salvador leads the world in homicide and has a rate of gun ownership similar to that of Great Britain. Moreover, America has more guns than ever and murder rates have dropped dramatically since the early 1990s.
This is also the case when we look at various American states. I am not a professional statistician. However, some very basic research yielded some interesting results about the relationship between strictness of gun laws, gun ownership and murder rates. My sources include the Giffords Law Center’s Annual Gun Law Scorecard ranking states as per the strength of their gun laws, and a summary of the FBI Uniform Crime Reports on gun ownership and murder rates.
- New Hampshire had the nation’s lowest murder rate and one of the lowest rates of gun ownership despite having very weak gun laws. Neighboring Maine and Vermont also had very weak gun laws and some of the lowest murder rates.
- The District of Columbia ranked 39th in gun ownership, but had the nation’s highest murder rate by a very wide margin.
- Alaska ranked first in gun ownership, but had a gun murder rate slightly lower than Delaware, which ranked 51st in gun ownership.
- Louisiana ranked second in gun murder rate, even though it had a rate of gun ownership similar to Hawaii, which ranked 51st in gun murder rate.
- Maryland ranked fourth in murder rate, but 42nd in gun ownership.
- Kansas had the third weakest gun laws, but ranked 25th in murder rate.
- Georgia had four times the gun murder rate as Utah, despite having a slightly lower rate of gun ownership.
- My home state of New Jersey had the fourth lowest gun ownership rate, but the 22nd lowest murder rate.
- Colorado, where I live now, ranked 22nd in gun ownership and 35th in murder rate.
Do you detect any patterns here? If not, don’t feel bad, because neither do I.
The principle applies domestically as well as internationally: there is simply no correlation between gun ownership, gun laws and murder rates.
And also note that the Giffords study only talks about gun murders, and not all murders. Tim McVeigh killed 168 people in Oklahoma City without a gun. The 9/11 hijackers didn’t use any guns. And the largest school massacre in American history was in Bath, Michigan, in 1927, where 44 were killed and 58 were injured. The perp did not use guns, but rather explosives. And this was at a time when you could buy all sorts of guns in the Sears Catalog.
On a personal note, I lost a long-time friend in the 2012 Aurora theater shooting. If you’ll remember, the killer, James Holmes, also rigged his apartment building with explosives. He could have killed 12 people just as dead and injured 60 more people without ever picking up a gun.
Also, Columbine killers Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had planted bombs in the school’s cafeteria which ultimately failed to detonate. Just like James Holmes, they could have wrought massive bloodshed without picking up a gun.
While I was researching this, I read of a study from Cohen Children’s Hospital in New Hyde Park, New York, stating that 3000 teenagers die each year as a result of texting and driving. Contrast this with the 12 or so students who die in an average year from firearms on school campuses.
Where is the outrage about texting and driving? Where are all the marches, walkouts and demands for reform? Are there any “spokespersons” anywhere decrying these deaths from texting as an “epidemic” or “holocaust”? Are these deaths by texting any less tragic than those from firearms? Does God value the souls of those who died from texting any less than He values souls of those who perished from school shootings?
There are over 50 million students in K-12 education in America. In an average year about 12 perish as a result of firearms on campus. The chances of dying from a school shooting are less than 1 in 4 million. Even with the myriad problems facing American schools, they are very safe places.
And just like “gun-free” schools haven’t stopped any of the massacres we have seen in recent decades, “hardening” schools with a stronger police presence will not make them any safer either.
In the 1978-79 academic year, when I was a high school senior somewhere in the swamps of Jersey, there were 3 school shooting deaths all year out of tens of millions of students nationally. Schools were not “gun-free” and you never saw cops on campus.
So why all the uproar about school shootings and the demands to enact stricter gun control? It is because an armed citizenry is the last true line of defense against full frontal tyranny coming to America. And if you don’t think that this is happening as you read this, you need to take a harder look at what has transpired in America over the last few decades.
None of this is to minimize the grief of those who have been affected by these tragedies. By all means mourn the dead and pray for all affected. But don’t succumb to the deluge of media-induced panic and fearmongering.
Ultimately, the problems are cultural and cannot be fixed by laws. It is not a gun problem, but rather a people problem with no quick-fix “solution”. To paraphrase Cassius in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, the fault is not in our guns but in ourselves.