Few conversation topics in this country have the same power to both enrage and isolate opposing participants, like the subject of gun control and gun-related deaths does. While one side argues that a lack of firearm restrictions is directly proportional to an increase in gun-related deaths, another popular stance suggests that not only will restrictions actually increase overall gun crime, but that disarming law-abiding citizens or instituting laws that make it more difficult to purchase guns is an infringement on their constitutional rights.
The Second Amendment clearly represents an argument for the legality of American gun ownership with its declaration of keeping and bearing arms, but the initial reasoning for including this declaration and especially the appropriate way to translate it in modern times has long been a topic of controversy. Within the gun debate itself, there are many different applicable subjects that are also called into question. The legality of concealed carry, its proper method of utilization and intended purpose, ranks high on the list of pro and anti-gun arguments, and this controversy has made its way to American college campuses.
Those in favor of concealed carry reach past the notion that keeping a loaded firearm on their person is just an inherent right bestowed by the Second Amendment, in a claim that proposes more guns (in possession of lawful citizens) equates to safer streets. Regardless of the supposed caveats contained within this position, i.e. mandatory background checks, mental health history screens, weapon proficiency training, etc., the resulting scenario undoubtedly embraces the same philosophy, “more guns/armed citizens means less gun-induced crime.”
The United States historically has, and continues to lead the world in sheer number of registered firearms per person. The Congressional Research Service estimates that there are slightly more than 300 million guns currently in circulation (as of 2009), compared to the total U.S. population of 323 million. Taking into account that only 75 percent of Americans are of legal age to purchase a firearm, this means there are currently more guns in this country than eligible buyers.
The general reaction when confronted with these statistics normally falls somewhere between “what’s your point?” and “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” Both stances, and their apparent connections are worthy of analysis.
What’s Your Point?
Supposing that the gun-per-capita numbers not only fail to contribute to incidents of gun violence, but in fact serve to curtail or even prevent the problem seems like a reasonable assumption on paper, but has yet to affect the data in any measurable way. In a list compiled by the University of Washington in 2017, of 10 similarly prosperous countries and their respective gun-caused mortality rates, the U.S. placed number one at 3.85 deaths per 100,000 people — eight times higher than the next country on the list, Canada.
If the solution to the problem is to allow our citizens to carry firearms for protection, why doesn’t the data reflect this? Some might argue that not enough states allow concealed carry permits, or that not enough people are getting permits in states that do allow it. Currently, Florida has the highest amount of concealed carry permits of any state, but is number 20 in the nation for gun-related deaths, beating out states like California and New York where law enforcement must approve each concealed carry application on a case-by-case basis. In some states, permits aren’t even required to carry concealed firearms in public with the implied purpose of self preservation. Of the top five states with the highest amount of deaths by firearm, three of these states (Alaska, Wyoming, Mississippi) don’t require a license, and the remaining two, Alabama and Louisiana, have more guns than the countries of Spain and Argentina combined.
According to the CDC’s mortality report from 2014, close to 34,000 Americans died from an injury caused by a discharged firearm, resulting in 16.8 percent of all injury-related deaths for that year. While 63.7 percent of that figure were suicide related, 32.8 percent were determined to be homicides.
These regrettable statistics do not suggest a “more is better” correlation regarding total gun numbers or efficacy of concealed carry policies.
Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People
Gun ownership is at an all time high in the U.S., and ironically experienced its greatest rate of growth during the Obama presidency. Regardless of your position on the topic, the staggering amount of guns in circulation and the majority of Americans that vehemently support the right to own one (or several), suggests to me that an attempt to ban them out-right could produce unprecedented and perhaps dangerous backlash. Further, I don’t see why our country would ever consider it. As long as we are looking at examples from our international neighbors, consider the repercussions that devastated Brazil when they implemented a federal ban; a rate of 26.74 per 100,000 people killed in 2015 by gun violence and an overall rating of 14th highest for firearm related deaths compared to the U.S. at 4.88 and a ranking of 94 overall.
The debate surrounding the concealed carry laws and gun laws in general needs desperately to shift away from ideas that deal solely in absolutes. No reasonable politician is seeking to implement a government mandate to round up your firearms and melt them down, and the aftermath of Obama’s lenient gun polices vs. what the opposition preached we should expect is evidence of this. This misconception is perpetuated in an attempt to further polarize an already unbearably divided populace, and originates in dishonesty.
The most dishonest of these mantras has to be the National Rifle Association’s favorite phrase: “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” The mere fact that proponents of this slogan find it necessary to highlight the lack of sentience or moral neutrality of an inanimate object is troubling to say the very least.