Saturday, August 25, 2012

Gun Control

As a student at a school of medicine and public health, I felt compelled to write about gun control, especially in light of recent events. The lack of strict gun control in the United States is a public health crisis.

In a recent Time article, Fareed Zakaria eloquently argued for gun control. He reports that the gun homicide rate per capita in the United States is 30 times higher than in Britain and Australia, 10 times higher than in India, and four times higher than in Switzerland! Why is this? Is it possible that the United States has more people that are psychologically debilitated? This seems unlikely. The answer appears to be the number of guns. In the United States there are 88.8 firearms per 100 people compared to 54.8 in Yemen, 45.7 in Switzerland, 45.3 in Finland, and all other countries have fewer than 40. Zakaria also reports that crime in America has significantly decreased in the past few decades with the exception of one category of crime: firearm homicides, whose rate has not changed in the past few decades.

Critics claim that gun control is unconstitutional, namely because it violates the 2nd Amendment’s right to bear firearms. To that, I urge you to consider the initial motivation behind the 2nd Amendment and the ruling by the Supreme Court in United States v. Miller. The actual text of the 2nd Amendment is as follows: “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” Note the word “militia,” which the Supreme Court explained to mean a group of people enrolled for military discipline, and that when they were called for service they would appear bearing arms supplied by themselves. Therefore, the 2nd Amendment refers to bearing arms in the military intended for the protection of the country, not bearing arms for private purposes. The Supreme Court seriously overstepped when they declared in District of Columbia v. Heller that the 2nd Amendment protects an individual’s right to bear a gun.

Critics also claim that gun control will not decrease gun violence or even violence in general. People will still be able to obtain guns on the black market. Also, there will still be just as much crime, but the only difference is that people will use weapons other than guns. However, this argument is not cogent. Having a gun in the home allows you to act on impulse and to complete an act that you might not have otherwise done. An article in the Journal of Epidemiology reported that people with guns in the home were at a greater risk than those without guns of dying from a homicide in the home. Furthermore, according to an article in the American Journal of Psychiatry, most people who commit suicide are ambivalent about doing so. Having a gun makes it so much easier for people to commit suicide if they are ambivalent.

For the health and safety of our country, our leaders would be wise to enact stricter gun control laws. The risks gun control are very minimal, or perhaps nonexistent, because doing so will only decrease gun violence. The only downside of gun control is that our freedom is slightly limited, to which I respond by saying that sometimes we have to make sacrifices for the greater good.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. If you're going to do a comparison of other countries to the US, you should realize that those countries have almost always had lower gun homicides than the US. You're also forgetting that correlation does not imply causation.

    The number of guns has nothing to do with it in fact. If it was the amount of guns, then the US should be at historic highs right now. But instead, over the past 12 years as gun laws have become less strict, gun sales have exploded, and guns are being bought and sold at an all time high, our violent crime, homicide, gun homicide, accidental gun death rates are all nearing ALL TIME LOWS.

    In other words, if guns are the problem, explain this chart.

    Back to those other countries you mentioned. Australia and the UK both have very strict gun laws compared to the US. But let's look at what happened when they implemented those laws. Since australia banned guns, gun homicides are up, violent crime is up, homicides are up, crime is up. Since the UK's ban, violent crime is up, and in the 15 years since their ban, their homicide rate almost doubled, and now has finally come back down to "normal" levels pre-ban.

    In other words, guns aren't the problem.

    As for your claims about the 2nd amendment, the second part of it refers to the PEOPLE not the militia. If they meant for the right of the militia to keep and bear arms to not be infringed, they would have said militia, not people.

    Also Zakaria is incorrect on firearm homicide rate. Per the chart I posted, which is directly from the CDC's death and injury reports, and the FBI's uniform crime statistics reports, the gun homicide rate in this country is also reaching all time lows.

    Your entire article is based on the usual misinformation, and ignoring key facts regarding guns and their relation to crime, homicide, suicide, and death. But, that's to be expected, since there isn't any data that actually shows your point of view about calling for more gun control has any basis in fact.

    It's disgusting you think that gun control will decrease gun violence, when the other countries you mention are living breathing examples that it clearly does not.

  3. "Correlation does not imply causation", then why do you make the argument that more guns = more safety based on your chart? I could probably find a graph that shows that number of Apple products sold has sky rocketed while gun homicide rates have plummeted.

    “A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” - Grammar is hard sometimes, right? Look at it this way: Since a well regulated militia is necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people (who would be in the militia, obviously, or the switch of pronouns in the same sentence would make NO grammatical sense at all) to bear arms shall not be infringed. It is NOT two separate sentences, there is a COMMA, not a PERIOD.

    Your graph shows ten years of data. It also seems to me that it shows no statistically significant (please know what that means) decrease or increase in FIREARM HOMICIDES (yellow line on your graph), which is what Zakaria said stayed the same. Indeed, according to your graph, the gun homicide rate has stayed the same on average. Yet you argue the opposite. Nice logic. Or maybe you are looking at the wrong color of line, in which case you have still made an embarrassing mistake.

    Also, please give me a legitimate argument as to why total homicides would not have a net loss in this theoretical situation: Gun control is so strict and effective that only the police and the military have guns.
    I mean come on, if you're in a room with 10 people, and 3 of them are asshole murderers with guns, those other 7 people will die. If the 3 have bats or machetes or tomatoes instead.. Then I find it likely that the 7 people might be able to overpower them without ANY of the 10 dying. If all ten of the people have guns... at best, 3 people will die (the murderers), at worst.. more (innocent people). Of course, this brings up the philosophy of the death penalty, etc. And obviously my numbers are not perfect, just logical estimations. The point remains.

    As to the UK, Australia, etc. I don't know a whole lot about those situations, however I can guess that (if you are citing real and unbiased and true sources) the gun control policies enacted weren't good policies. A good idea (gun control) can be implemented incorrectly. That does not mean that the idea isn't good, just that the implementation needs reworking. That is just a guess.

    If gun control 'clearly does not' show that gun control will decrease gun violence, then we clearly would not be having this argument, and neither would the public sphere.

    I mean, if you're right.. fuck it, lets just give everyone machine guns and grenades. Obviously criminals won't be able to get these more easily. Obviously?

    More guns = more guns used, unless the population is saturated.
    More guns used = ____________?

    Hope this helps you out Ryan,
    - Jesse R

  4. I appreciate both of your comments. I agree that correlation does not imply causation, and I do not believe that I said anything about causation. Rather, I am just presenting my case with data that support my claim.

    Let’s consider the Australia example that you mentioned. There has been a 27 percent drop in the number of homicides between 1996 and 2010 (Australia passed stricter gun control laws in 1996). Furthermore, a report from this past March ( showed that crime (particularly homicide and violent crime) is decreasing in Australia. For comparison, Australia’s homicide rate is 1.2 per 100,000 versus 5.4 per 100,000 in the United States (

    Consider the alternative, which would be maintaining the status quo. The recent shootings in Oak Creek and Aurora (and the countless others before them) make it very clear that we have a gun problem in the United States. As citizens of this country, it is our responsibility to end this public health crisis.