A Brief, Civilized Debate on Guns

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Source: The Trace

Hi again Stu,

Sorry for taking so long to reply. Some responses to your arguments:

Lastly, you’ve fallen for politricks! Yes, you have less gun violence when there are fewer guns. This is like saying there’s less people dying of volcanoes in Colorado than Hawaii, or less people dying of avalanches in Hawaii than Colorado!

Well the relevant statistic is obviously not total gun violence, but gun violence adjusted for population. In that department the U.S. is the clear leader, and that’s what matters. Your analogy of volcanoes and avalanches is the wrong way to think about this question.

But the question is this: is there more violent crime overall?

Yes, there is.

The difference between Canada and the U.S. also holds true for violent crime overall, not just with guns. According to the UNODC (the same source you referenced), in 2018 Canada’s murder rate per 100,000 people was 1.68, compared to America’s 5.35.

(In short; do guns cause violence OR are they used simply because they’re handy?) Empirical data is revealing!

Guns don’t cause violence per se; they facilitate violence and make it more severe. That could be interpreted as a form of causation in the sense that two angry guys armed only with their fists will fight, but probably not kill each other. The presence of guns introduces the possibility that one’s brief moment of apoplexy results in a murder.

In other words, you’re absolutely correct that guns are “used simply because they’re handy” — that’s the whole point. If there were fewer guns handy, they would be used less frequently to kill people!

1. The U.S. has the highest per-capita number of guns in circulation than any other country in the world, and by a large margin.
2. If guns, then, cause crime, we would logically lead the world in homicide. FACT: We do not. According to the UNODC, we barely crack the top 100 when it comes to homicide!

Yes you’re correct that the U.S. as a whole is not high on the per capita world homicide list. But that statistic is misleading because it may not control for areas of war and political instability (mainly in Latin America), which skew the statistics. For example, it wouldn’t make sense to compare America’s gun crime rate to that of Syria or Yemen, which are embroiled in war, or to Mexico, which is affected by massive gang violence. (Ironically, gun violence in Mexico is fueled by America’s enormous gun market, not to mention America’s drug addiction.)

Moreover, a number of U.S. cities — where most American gun crime occurs — do rank high on the list of the world’s most gun-violent cities.

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…any comparison to Canada is a bit meaningless. As you know, correlation is not necessarily causation. Populations differ greatly, as do concentrations. Consider Canada’s most violent places; they are big cities where people are concentrated.

Note that no Canadian cities make the above list. Also: any country’s most violent place will be a city, simply because in areas of higher population density, people have more opportunities to commit violent crimes because there are more people available to be harmed.

More than 60% of all annual gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides. Given the prevalence of guns, then, we should lead the world in suicide. FACT: Again, we do not. Tightly gun-controlled France is ahead of us, and the almost gun-sterile Japan outpaces us significantly! Again, one might expect us to be #1. We’re not even close.

True, but again that’s not the whole picture. You’re correct that, say, the suicide rate among men in gun-free Japan is higher than in the U.S. But that’s not the same as saying there’s no correlation between guns and suicides. It could simply be that for cultural reasons Japan is a statistical outlier.

Within the U.S. there’s a clear correlation between gun ownership and suicide rate.

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Source: Media Matters for America

2018 winner of the Dalton Camp Award for essay-writing. M.A. Political Science. I'll go to the mat for the Oxford comma.

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