In the early 1980s, Chicago enacted gun laws that basically banned handguns. Unfortunately, while the murder rate in Chicago declined, the percentage of Chicago murders that were committed using handguns rose by 2%, to about 40%. More seriously, while the percentage of murders from 1968-2010 using handguns was 48%, the percentage of murders by handgun during the ban was 59%.
The ban didn’t stop murders. Citizens were still able to use handguns illegally, keep handguns from before the ban, or legally buy them in other cities or states.
Gun control is a very complex issue with strong feelings from both camps—those who want to reduce gun sales and ownership and those who want to promote gun ownership. Let’s review the gun control statistics and gun violence facts that each side uses.
The US has suffered 1,363 mass shootings, in which four or more people were shot or killed, since 2014. Since 2013, the US has suffered 291 school shootings. In mass shootings over the last three decades, shooters purchased 82% of the weapons used legally.
When the Second Amendment was written, people had muskets that could fire one round per minute. Today, people have access to some firearms that can shoot 60–100 rounds per minute. Machine guns can shoot hundreds of rounds per minute (though they’re difficult to get).
There are 89 guns for every 100 people in the US, according to some estimates. But it could be as high as 113 guns per 100, using one of the highest estimates of 357 million firearms in the US.It is believed that less than 1% of all civilian weapons are registered.
In 2013, there were about 10.6 deaths by firearms per 100,000 persons in the US. That breaks down to:
- 11,208 homicides
- 21,175 suicides
- 505 accidental deaths or deaths due to negligence
- 281 deaths because of “undetermined intent”
- 467 deaths in legal intervention or war
There were also 73,505 nonfatal firearm injuries, which is 23.2 injuries per 100,000 persons. In total, about 107,141 Americans are shot every year.
Private sellers at gun shows don’t have to follow federal regulations that commercial sellers follow. There are about 5,000 gun shows every year in the US, and about 1,000 firearms are sold in 2 days at the largest gun shows. So, some of those sales are through unregulated private sellers (although most are through large commercial sellers).
The Second Amendment states, “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.”
The gun violence facts in America are true even with 300 or more gun laws already on the books. So, it doesn’t make sense to create even more laws just to make people feel safe, when the 300 gun laws haven’t worked.
Part of the reason gun laws don’t reduce crime is that criminals will always be able to get guns on the black market.
There are stand-your-ground laws in more than 21 US states, which have been passed by the state officials and the votes of the citizens. These allow citizens to use deadly force with a firearm without attempting to retreat. Citizens can do this in self-defense when threatened.
Many times per year, citizens use firearms to deter criminals or to directly defend themselves. Firearms also prevent crimes just by being present, even when they’re not discharged. Justifiable homicides, when people use firearms to fight a criminal in the act of a felony, rose between 2005 and 2010.
Legal substances kill far, far more people per year than guns do:
- Cigarettes kill about 480,000 Americans per year
- Alcohol leads to about 88,000 American deaths per year
- Firearms caused 33,636 American deaths in 2013
Firearms caused less than half the number of deaths than alcohol caused and far, far less than the number that cigarettes caused. Cigarettes and alcohol are legal but are not particularly useful, whereas Americans can use firearms for self-defense.
Guns in themselves are not the problem. Criminals are the problem. We need more education, more law enforcement, and more people who know how to defend themselves and use guns lawfully in other ways.
A Balanced View on Law
Laws are meant to limit the use of firearms by people who are underage and to prevent criminals from obtaining weapons. However, many criminals buy firearms on the black market. Therefore, laws should not take away from law-abiding citizens their ability to obtain firearms, because they may still need them for self-defense against criminals.
It’s possible that a standard background check is enough to reasonably deter criminals from obtaining weapons legally. At least, it can make us as safe as we can possibly be in this world in which firearms are a reality and are not going away.
At the same time, anti-gun folks have legitimate reasons to want laws and strict enforcement of laws, because firearm deaths can be very tragic and terrifying. Having no laws at all would lead to chaos, and of course both sides agree that less unnecessary violence is the goal of every American.
Concealed Carry Tips
Education may increase the safety of law-abiding citizens. After learning gun violence facts, a good education includes learning to handle a gun safely. If you want to carry a concealed weapon, it’s vital to do it in a lawful way.
Be sure you’re following federal laws and the laws of the state you’re in. In every situation, follow the four cardinal rules of carrying a concealed weapon:
- Always treat your weapon as if it’s loaded.
- Only put your finger on the trigger when you put your sights on a target and decide to fire.
- Be sure of your target, always.
- If you point your firearm at anything, you have to be willing to destroy it.
Second, when you’re in public, don’t take your weapon anywhere it’s not allowed, even if you have a CWP: the Post Office, other government buildings, airport security, and some school campuses (without written permission). Even some places of employment outlaw weapons.
Third, make sure your weapon is truly concealed. Even if you can carry legally, many states outlaw unnecessarily frightening other citizens by displaying a weapon openly. You need a holster that lets you carry comfortably, safely, and invisibly. Plan your clothing and activities around these needs.
We don’t believe you can twist gun control statistics to “say anything you want.” For example, the fact that thousands of Americans commit suicide every year with a gun is just true. We can’t use those numbers to say just anything we want.
Many of those suicide deaths are veterans—our American heroes. So, we need to take better care of our veterans. We need to help them get the benefits they deserve. We need to examine the legal drugs and other substances they’re given. We need to support them. We need to help them get into good groups they can belong to in civilian life.
We live in a reality in which guns exist and some people want to use them, some for criminal acts and others for defense and lawful recreation. Should we pretend we can just make all guns stop existing because they’re frightening?
Of course not. We need to build gun laws on a realistic view of gun violence facts and to strive for what is best for all of our citizens. Learn more about VA loans and other veteran issues on our blog.
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