Do Guns Prevent or Promote Violence — and Does it Matter?

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captureMany gun enthusiasts argue that more people carrying guns would reduce gun violence. Of course, this is an argument that largely has no data to either support it or disprove it — until now. A recent study shows that states with concealed carry laws actually have higher gun homicide rates. The question is does any of this actually matter at the core of the debate?

So here’s the weird thing about the whole gun debate: both sides of the debate support the right to private gun ownership. You would think the two sides could find ways to increase public safety while protecting 2nd amendment rights. You would be wrong.

Strip away all the marketing misdirection and here’s the dynamic:

Side 1 says 30,000 firearm deaths a year is far too many; we need to implement better gun security — background checks, registration, point of sale control to prevent bypassing background checks, and training and licensing requirements.

Side two immediately goes into panic mode. OMG!! THEY ARE TRYING TO TAKE OUR GUNS AWAY!! QUICK!  EVERYONE TO YOUR GUNS!!  It’s like, we don’t care if half the population is killed in gun violence – we want our guns, we NEED our guns like a crack head needs crack – and anytime you mention gun safety we are going to have this irrational reaction.

So here’s another irony: I work with a guy who was a sniper in the military – did tours in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Somalia, among other places.  He still suffers from PTSD, but told me yesterday that he used to have a lot of personal guns, but when he got out of the military he got rid of all his guns and hasn’t touched one since.

It’s odd that when I talk to people who have actually used guns to kill people, they are almost without exception far less inclined to rely on guns for personal safety. It’s the naive folk who have rarely even seen a fist fight who tend to think arming the general public for mass killings is the solution to our public safety problem.

I have never pulled a trigger on anyone either, but I was involved in a vehicle accident — no fault of my own — that resulted in a fatality. I can say I had nightmares for years after.  I saw the blood on the windshield, the body slumped over.  I do know from experience that being involved in the death of another human being is a traumatic experience for normal people.

I don’t think we want people actually killing others before we hand them gun permits. Furthermore, it’s probably not feasible to require everyone to spend 30 days on the front lines in a war zone, but I wonder if we required people to watch graphic videos of gun violence, visually witness actual killings in real life rather than video game and Hollywood cartoon violence, visit crime scenes or mortuaries — I just wonder if there’s a way for people to actually “get” the horror that is gun violence.  Maybe not, but here’s what I do know: If more people having guns was the answer to gun violence, gang neighborhoods would be the safest place to live.