Sick of Arguing With Your Uncle About Guns?

Learn both sides of the argument so that you can have better discourse.

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Tonight, Obama is going to be on CNN talking about his new executive actions to curb gun violence. This issue always sparks some incensed Facebook posts and arguments with friends or family.

To have a real, respectful, and productive debate about this issue (and really, about any issue), you need to try to understand the opinion of those who disagree with your point of view. And that’s exactly what this article is about: Explaining the fundamental roots of the gun rights and gun control arguments.

Gun control supporters argue: “We need to have stricter gun laws to eliminate violence and protect innocent Americans.”

There is a lot of evidence that shows that more guns leads to more violence and more deaths, which refutes the argument that more guns make us safer.

The American Journal of Public Health reported that “states with higher rates of gun ownership had disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides.” Looking at data from all 50 states from 1981 to 2010, the journal determined that gun ownership is connected to homicide rates. Each time gun ownership increases by a percentage point, the firearm homicide rate goes up by 0.9%.

Economist Richard Florida found a strong link between harsh regulations and fewer deaths. He said, “States which have one of three gun control restrictions in place — assault weapons bans, trigger locks or safe storage requirements. Firearm deaths are significantly lower in states with stricter gun control legislation. Though the sample sizes are small, we find substantial negative correlations between firearm deaths and states that ban assault weapons (-.45), require trigger locks (-.42) and mandate safe storage requirements for guns (-.48).”

In cities like LA where there are very restrictive gun-control laws, there has been aremarkable drop in crime.

There was a massacre in Tasmania, Australia in 1996 that left 35 dead. After this, Australia banned semiautomatic and automatic rifles and shotguns. The firearm homicide rate fell 59%, firearm suicide rate fell 65% in the decade after the law was introduced.

16 children and their teacher were murdered in the Scottish town of Dunblane in 1996. They were murdered by Thomas Hamilton, a 43-year-old former Scout leader. After the massacre, the UK passed a ban on the private ownership of all handguns in mainland Britain, giving the country some of the toughest anti-gun legislation in the world. The number of gun crimes have since fallen each year. Crimes involving hand-guns fell 44% from 2002–2011.

Gun rights supporters argue: “Making sure law-abiding citizens have a right to bear arms makes us safer.”

In incidents where there is a mass shooting of innocent, unarmed people, we often wonder what would have happened if there was someone there with a gun they could have taken down the shooter and saved lives.

Today, the number of concealed-carry permits is the highest it’s ever been (8 million) and the homicide rate is the lowest it’s been in four decades. Many gun-rights advocates see a link between an increasingly armed public and a decrease in the crime rate.

According to Adam Winkler, a law professor at UCLA and the author of Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America, permit holders in the U.S. commit crimes ata lower rate than the general population.

“We don’t see much bloodshed from concealed-carry permit holders, because they are law-abiding people. That’s not to say that permit holders don’t commit crimes, but they do so at a lower rate than the general population. People who seek to obtain permits are likely to be people who respect the law.” — Winkler

Economist and gun-rights advocate John Lott agrees with Winkler. He says that gun ownership by law-abiding citizens helps lower crime, and the crime rate among concealed-carry permit holders is lower than the crime rate among police officers.

Gary Kleck, a criminologist at Florida State University, conducted research that shows that in America, only 13% of burglaries in America occur when the homeowners are home. In Britain, 45% of break-ins happen when people are home. That discrepancy is attributed to burglars in the U.S. fearing more that the homeowners might be armed.

Gun control supporters argue: “Stricter gun control DOES keep guns out of criminals’ hands.”

The argument against laws that would make it harder for someone to acquire a gun is often that if someone really wants to inflict harm on people, they’ll find a way to do it regardless of if they can get their hands on a gun or not.

First of all by that logic, we could dismiss the importance of any law because criminals will just disobey them anyway. If we can make it more difficult for someone who wants to kill people to get their hands on a gun, why wouldn’t we want to do that?

The idea that criminals can always find a gun, no matter what we do, is flawed as well. Data from an in-depth study of the underground gun market in Chicago found that only 20% of male arrestees owned a handgun. 60% of those who did own one reported that it had taken them more than a week to search for and obtain.

Right now it’s legal for someone to buy a gun over the internet if the buyer and seller live in a state that doesn’t require background checks for firearms sold by private partners.

18-year-old woman, a friend of the Columbine shooters Harris and Klebold, bought three weapons legally at a gun show where federal background checks are not required.

Opponents of any kind of gun restrictions argue that they are meaningless, since criminals by definition don’t follow the law so stricter laws won’t deter them from getting a gun. That’s true. But gun violence isn’t only committed by classic criminals, as recent gun-related tragedies show.

There are many examples of those who used guns to inflict mass violence on innocent people who would not have been considered criminals before-hand. Like the 12-year-old in New Mexico who took his family’s shotgun. Or the guy in Florida who was a retired police officer with a spotless record who shot and killed someone in a movie he was seeing because the person refused to stop texting.

State laws that prohibit individuals with a history of domestic violence, violent misdemeanors and the severely mentally ill from possessing firearms have been shown to reduce violence. One study found that a number of state laws prohibiting individuals under a domestic violence restraining order from owning guns produced an overall 19% in intimate partner homicides. State universal background checks have also been shown to significantly reduce the number of guns diverted to the illegal market.

Gun rights supporters argue: “Actually, mass gun violence occurs frequently in countries that have much stricter gun laws than the U.S.”

On June 18, 2015, just after the horrific mass shooting in Charleston, S.C., President Obama said “this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency.”

Is this true? Does mass violence happen more often in the U.S. than other developed countries?

The answer is, not really, according to the non-partisan political fact-checking organization PolitiFact. Two researchers, one from the State University of New York in Oswego and one from Texas State University, collected and analyzed extensive data on mass-shooting incidents in 11 countries spanning from 2000–2014. This is what they found:

The chart does show that the United States has more mass shootings than the other ten countries combined. But, if you take into account population size and you look at the number of mass shooting victims per capita, then the U.S. does not rank No. 1. By rate of mass shooting fatalities, the U.S. has a lower rate than Norway, Finland and Switzerland. Now, it’s important to note that these three countries had particularly large attacks and small populations which pushed up their per-capita rates.

It’s unwise to put 100% stock in these numbers, but the data compiled here is enough to at least cast significant doubt about the accuracy of the specific claim Obama made.

The right to bear arms is essential in order for American citizens to protect themselves from a potentially tyrannical government.

The second amendment wasn’t just for the sake of hunting or self-defense, it was to empower the individual with a last line of defense against a potentially tyrannical government.

Ben Shapiro clearly lays out what is the fundamental belief of most gun-rights advocates:

“Fundamentally, the right believes that the fundamental basis for the Second Amendment is not really about self-defense and it’s not about hunting. It’s about resistance to tyranny.”

Deep mistrust of government is something ingrained in American culture since the establishment of the United States.

In 1816, Thomas Jefferson wrote “What has destroyed liberty and the rights of man in every government which has ever existed under the sun? The generalizing and concentrating all cares and powers into one body.”

In 1849 Henry David Thoreau was arrested for refusing to pay a poll tax because of his opposition to the Mexican-American war. He wrote an essay called Civil Disobedience which said that “That government is best which governs least.” In 1981, Ronald Reagan said “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

So while today our government isn’t tyrannical, and it probably won’t be tomorrow, there’s no guarantee that in the future an individual or group won’t use government’s power to assert control over the American people. And if that happens, we need to be able to have weapons to protect ourselves from such a tyrannical government.

Gun control supporters argue: “This is a national issue that the federal government needs to take care of.”

So why not just keep states in charge of making background checks a law? Well because the success of those states’ background checks laws from letting guns fall into the hands of criminals is weakened by gaps in federal laws which facilitate interstate gun trafficking, bringing guns from states with strong gun laws to those with weak gun laws.

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