Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People, And They Use Guns To Do It

I think you’d be hard pressed to find an American who isn’t horrified by the recent school shooting in Florida. Seventeen children dead, and the sixth school shooting incident in the United States in 2018 that has either wounded or killed students.  Many Americans are in agreement that something needs to be done to end gun violence, but the debate regarding how to accomplish that has so far been inconclusive.


Guns don’t kill people, people kill people, but there’s no avoiding the fact that it’s a lot easier to kill someone with a gun than without one. For most of my life, I have held the belief that the right to bear arms is an important part of the Constitution, a vital protection for the people from the government. However, recent events have made me question whether the Second Amendment is offering the protection it was intended to provide.


Obviously, the vast majority of gun owners use their firearms responsibly and safely. The question is not what proportion of gun owners are violent; the question is whether private gun ownership is worth what now feels like a preventable loss of life. Even if it is a miniscule minority, there are enough people are choosing to use guns for the purpose of mass murder that we need to consider how Americans are accessing guns, what kinds of guns are most dangerous, and whether it is safer to allow such access or prohibit it.


In this article I am not discussing the importance of law enforcement or security services (in schools, for example) having guns; instead, I am addressing everyday citizens privately owning guns. In theory, the right to bear arms protects citizens in important ways. The supposed protections that I most often hear are 1) protection from the U.S. government, 2) personal liberty, and 3) personal safety.


When it comes to the first, I think it is clear that U.S. citizens no longer have the means to win against the U.S. government in war. The advent of nuclear weapons and other military technology have ended that arms race. Regarding the latter two, I am confident that hunters or recreational shooters would rather give up their sport than see human life lost. But many gun owners believe that owning a gun is a matter of personal safety. Anecdotes of citizens using guns to defend themselves against criminals abound. However, a review of empirical data suggests that the theory that the Second Amendment offers more protection than peril to the average American simply isn’t true.


While some Americans claim that gun ownership saves more lives than it costs, empirical studies do not support such an assertion. Since the 2008 Columbia v. Heller Supreme Court ruling (allowing handguns in the home for self-defense), gun deaths in the U.S. have increased by 17 percent. There are approximately 300 million guns owned in the U.S. (nearly one for every citizen), a third of Americans own a gun, and yet the use of guns in self defense is extremely rare (from 2013 to 2015, guns were used in 1.1 percent of violent crimes, and 0.2 percent of property crimes). According to the FBI, in 2014 there were only 224 justifiable homicides by citizens using guns compared to 7,670 criminal gun homicides (a ratio of 1:34). What’s more, guns are quite frequently stolen, putting guns in the hands of criminals (1.2 million in 2015).  


Guns are not the only issue; certainly, teaching empathy and providing resources for emotional and mental health are incredibly important. However, such efforts are not enough. Psychiatric illness is not a significant causal factor in mass shootings. In 2016, the American Psychiatric Association reported that “although some mass shooters are found to have a history of psychiatric illness, no reliable research has suggested that a majority of perpetrators are primarily influenced by serious mental illness as opposed to, for example, psychological turmoil flowing from other sources.” While it is true that perpetrators may have been experiencing “psychological turmoil”, it is difficult to imagine a feasible government solution that would identify, treat, and completely eliminate psychological turmoil like loneliness, isolation, or anxiety across the American population.


From my vantage point, we must do all we can both in terms of mental illness and gun laws, keeping semiautomatic and automatic firearms away from citizens whose jobs do not require them, and working towards including and assisting fellow Americans who are struggling to manage their mental health. It is important that every American feel her responsibility to invest in her community and call upon lawmakers to promote responsible limitations on gun ownership.


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Rachel Finlayson

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4 thoughts on “Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People, And They Use Guns To Do It

  • April 3, 2018 at 7:08 pm

    I love how there’s so many sources provided to back up these statistics… “While some Americans claim that gun ownership saves more lives than it costs, empirical studies do not support such an assertion…” Please do share this empirical data.

    “The use of guns in self defense is extremely rare…”
    this data would seem to disagree with you that says that defensive use of guns occurs between 500,000 and 3 million times in the U.S. per year and also asserts “Studies that directly assessed the effect of actual defensive uses of guns have found consistently lower injury rates among gun-using crime victims compared with victims who used other self-protective strategies.”
    Also all these statistics you threw out in paragraph 6 do not seem accurate and are very misleading, could you provide a source maybe?

    Also your argument against owning guns as a means of defending ones self from tyrannical government is extremely limited in scope and I think before you conclude our guns are useless in defending against that possible threat you should consider countries in the past that have taken away the guns of citizens and then led to mass genocide such as Germany in 1938, USSR in 1929, Turkey in 1911, China in 1935, Guatemala in 1964, Uganda in 1970, among others.

    Also regarding you assert in your closing statement that all automatic and semi automatic rifles should be taken away. First of all, automatic weapons are already illegal to own in the U.S. secondly semi-automatic literally includes almost all guns availible on the market including most pistols and hunting rifles.

    You should focus your arguement more on keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and unstable, for example the shooter at the school in Parkland Florida was able to legally purchase a gun even though he was red flagged multiple times, the fault is not with guns nor gun owners but rather a system of background checks that has repeatedly failed to keep guns out of dangerous peoples hands.
    It is the fundamental right of man to be able to protect themselves and that cannot be taken away. The moment we start to lose that right, the closer we will be to losing the right to free speech, free practice of religion and others.

  • April 5, 2018 at 3:51 pm

    This argument seems to be structured around a straw-man argument or what gun rights supporters believe. 1) protection from the U.S. government. You seem to believe that those who stockpile weaponry will be fighting a conventional war with our current US government. Their view, however, is more nuanced. Let’s pretend that we had a fiscally irresponsible government with a deeply divided electorate in a delicate democracy. Let’s also pretend that our nation was downgraded from a “full” to a “flawed” democracy for the past two years. Now what would happen if a declining economy destabilized the dollar and tripped hyperinflation? or different sections went through with their threats to split off? Or a demogogue with no respect for human rights gained the presidency? The two views on why citizenry needs to be armed focus on a weakened government and protection from anarchy and their ability to resist a far right or left wing government. An armed citezenry can’t fight a sophisticated military? The Taliban and Vietcong beg to differ. In truth second amendment
    2) personal liberty. As Mao said, “Political power grows out of a barrel of a gun” The state has a monopoly on violence and a well armed citizenry is a check on that power. It isn’t really about your ability to shoot deer.
    3) personal safety. This one is linked to argument 1 with an additional point. The United states government has failed to win the war on drugs because they waged their war on supply without changing demand. The argument that the very entity that can’t keep illicit drugs from flowing over the border will be able to successfully get rid of the 300 million guns is not convincing. We would expect law-abiding citizens to get rid of their guns and those who don’t follow the law would keep their guns. If you would like to convince supporters that they should change their minds you would do better to focus on the integrity of the US government, the superiority of peaceful vs armed resistance to dictators, and that a nation with armed criminals is better than a nation where everyone is armed. There are good arguments to be made but you didn’t make them.

  • April 5, 2018 at 6:29 pm

    There is a lot left to be desired from this article. Namely sources for the empirical claims that the author makes. If one is going to bring facts to the table, there should absolutely be data to back it up sufficiently. Not just a lone source.

    Also, the argument made about the government/military take over are completely short sighted. “I think it is clear that U.S. citizens no longer have the means to win against the U.S. government in war. The advent of nuclear weapons and other military technology have ended that arms race. “… Someone hasn’t thought this through when tacking it on to their argument. Especially since using nuclear weapons on the nations own populace for the sake of tyranny is a complete lose-lose situation. Getting rid of your source of labor and food would not be smart. It would also open up avenues for other countries to jump on a wounded nation.

    Also, There are about 37.2 million people on Iraq. Not even a fraction of that population actually participated in the war, but the US military has definitely had their hands full.

    Anyway, the case for Government Take Over. Let’s break it down…

    2.2 million in all the branches of the military combined. Army, Marines, Navy, Air force, Coast Guard, National Guard, Reserves. That number also includes every single enlisted person from cook to general.
    The number of every law enforcement officer, including CIA, FBI, ATF, NSA, etc., as well as all local law enforcement comes to around 1.5 million. (all of these numbers can easily be found on Wikipedia and other online sources)

    Now, there is about 319 million people in the united states. Let that number sink in.

    For the sake of this argument, lets round up generously and say that there is a total of 6 million military and law enforcement combined. And All 6 million are tasked with taking the populaces guns (providing that not one defects). The government has to abandon ALL satellite installations in outside countries; not a wise move. But lets say they do. 6 million.
    Now, there are 313 million civilians left to defend themselves from this tyrannical government. There are about 101.5 guns per 100 people in the United States. To play devils advocate and throw a bone to the tyrannical government in this scenario, lets say a third of that 313 million actually fights back (excluding most women and children). That is 103 million vs 6 million. If that was the case, then there would be an average of 3.1 guns for every member of the fighting 103 million. The square mileage of the united states is 3.797 million. That huge!

    So, if the game plan of this tyrannical government were to just wipe out populace; then yes, the military would win. Hands down. But, that would be a really dumb thing to do. It would spell their own impending doom.

    Now, if the goal was to disarm the populace, that would be nigh near impossible to accomplish. The 6 million members of the military and law enforcement would have to scour every valley, mountain, hill, forest, desert, nook and cranny. While simultaneously leaving large numbers of their forces to keep strongholds, and to push rebellions. Think of the vastness of Montana, of Texas, the swamps in Louisiana. This list goes on for places the military cannot reach or cover. There is absolutely no way that the government can disarm the people. That is all due to the second amendment.

  • April 21, 2018 at 1:46 am

    This article is garbage.


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