Does Gun Control Work?

One of the fundamental tenants of the modern liberal left is that the way to reduce crime is to control access to firearms; to institute “gun control.” The logic runs something like this:

If people don’t have access to guns, they won’t be able to commit crimes with guns.

To generalize the argument:

If people don’t have access to the tools required to commit violent crime, they simply won’t commit violent crimes.

The counter argument to this is:

The tool isn’t the problem, the person is; people will always find a way to commit violent crime if they want to.

What surprises me is the number of Christians who buy the gun controller’s arguments without much thought about how it interacts with the Christian worldview. Was the problem the sacrifice of Cain, or Cain? Was the problem the rock that killed Uriah the Hittite, or was the problem the man directing the killing from afar, David? Can you name one instance in the Scriptures where God says that the problem is the tools, rather than the person? Aren’t we a fallen race? It’s almost as if we’ve lost all concept of original sin in the Christian world; we want to believe that people are good so badly that we’re willing to blame inanimate objects for the way people act.

Guns promote a “culture of death?” The ultimate culture of death is one where everyone is assumed to be “good,” like Mao’s China, or Stalin’s Russia. We’ve been so blinded by our desire to fit in and be nice people that we can’t see the damage this “philosophy of good” is doing in the real world around us.

Failing in the philosophical argument, gun control advocates turn to statistical ones. For instance, the Brady Campaign, which would like to ban all ownership of firearms, publishes a list of “good” and “bad” states based on per capita ownership of firearms (tables here are from Pajamas Media).

Brady Grades Versus Gun Ownership Rates
Grade Average Percent Gun Ownership
2001 2002
A 14.0 13.8
B 20.4 23.3
C 39.2 40.4
D 41.7 42.7
F 51.0 53.4

This is a nice little table, but how does it relate, at all, to reality? Let’s look at the same table, this time adding the homicide rate into it.

Gun Ownership vs. Brady, Violent Crime, Murder
Percent GunOwnership 2001 2002
Ave.Grade FBI Rates Ave.Grade FBI Rates
Violence Murder Violence Murder
Under 30% B+ 610.0 7.6 B+ 599.7 8.2
30-40% D+ 424.5 4.9 D+ 422.4 5.0
40-50% D+ 410.7 4.9 D+ 406.5 4.8
Over 50% D- 319.6 4.2 D- 314.8 3.9

Hmmm… There’s a bit of a problem, isn’t there? It seems like increasing gun ownership actually decreases the crime rate, for some reason. But maybe these numbers are “cherry picked,” right? How about an average across all the states?

Right-to-Carry vs. Brady, Pct Gun Ownership, FBI Violent Crime, Murder
2001 2002
Ave.Grade PGO FBI Rates Ave.Grade PGO FBI Rates
Violence Murder Violence Murder
RTC D 43.0% 404.4 5.0 D 44.7% 398.7 4.8
Non-RTC B- 26.8% 509.4 6.1 B- 27.8% 503.5 6.6

This isn’t working out so well, is it? But why would this be surprising, after all? People will commit crimes with whatever tool is at hand. A couple of other factors play into this, of course.

First, guns are small; they are easy to transport and hide. In fact, guns are actually quite easy to make, if you know how to do it. Ammunition components are harder, but ammunition is even easier to hide and transport. Second, if you’re going to commit a crime, you’re going to use the most effective tool available. You’re not going to worry too much about what happens if you get caught, so whether or not the tool is legal isn’t going to matter too much.

Now, let’s look at the other side of the ledger. If you’re acting in self defense, you’re going to get caught. In fact, you want to get caught, because it’s only by being caught in the act of self defense that you have any hope of the police catching the criminal who’s attacking you. If getting caught at self defense means you’re going to be prosecuted for using a specific tool, you’re not likely to use that tool —it destroys your case for self defense.

I think it’s very easy to rely on statistical arguments in the gun control argument. But it’s interesting that the statistics back up what we should already know by working from within the Christian worldview.

Guns don’t kill people. People do.

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