“If only someone in the crowd had a gun.” “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
I keep seeing and hearing comments along these lines — the idea that we’d all be safer if more people carried more guns in more places. But this idea could not be more wrong. And I can prove it with math and science. There is plenty of research out there and it is conclusive. If the problem is too many people are getting shot and your answer is “more guns,” you need to think again.
Yes, very occasionally it is inevitable that a good guy with a gun will stop a mass shooting earlier than would otherwise happen. But more guns in more homes will certainly mean more accidental shootings, more suicides and more murders — so many more that the death toll would dwarf the number of lives saved by that near-mythical good guy with a gun.
Firearms killed 33,594 Americans in 2016, according to the Center For Disease Control, 461 of those people died in accidental shootings. Triple the number of people carrying, you will likely triple the number of accidental deaths. (Actually it would likely more than triple because those new gun carriers will certainly be less familiar with firearms and less likely to handle and store them safely.) That alone, would also undoubtedly cause more deaths than the remote possibility of one of those people stopping a mass shooting would save.
In 2016, 21,386 people used a gun to commit suicide. Tripling the number of households with guns would likely nearly triple the number of people who die from suicide.
People will say, those people will just find another way to kill themselves. But the research on this is crystal clear. Easy access to a gun makes suicide much more likely. Suicide attempts with a gun are successful 85% of the time, compared to an overall success rate of 15% of attempts. That’s why a teen who lives in a home with a firearm is 400% more likely to die from suicide than a teen in a home without a firearm, according to the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health. Only about 10% of people who survive a suicide attempt go on to later kill themselves, so using a method so much more lethal, like a gun, has a big death toll.
One Harvard study compared suicide rates in the states with the highest gun ownership rate to the states with the lowest gun ownership rate. Both sets had about 40 million people, but the high-gun states had 14,809 suicides and the low-gun states had 8,052. And the difference was suicide by gun: 9,749 in the high gun states to 2,606 in the low gun states. Non-gun suicides were almost identical, 5,060 to 5,446. Suicide is an impulsive act — if three times as many teens upset about their first heartbreak, or adults depressed about a divorce or job loss have a gun handy, about three times as many will kill themselves.
That would cost many thousands of more lives every year.
Occasionally it is inevitable that a “good guy with a gun” will stop a mass shooting. It doesn’t happen often, though. Most mass shootings don’t even make national news, they are family incidents in which a father (usually) shoots his family and often himself.
In those cases, it’s very doubtful that a good guy with a gun would intervene and stop the killing. It happens too fast, in a private setting. And if we triple the number of people carrying guns, undoubtedly hundreds more people would die in such mass shootings — it is often an impulsive act and if the shooter does not have fast, easy access to a gun, the impulse will pass. More people with guns will result in more deaths than it would save.
Do you want to triple the odds of a gun being present at every altercation over a stolen parking spot, a fender-bender, a spilled drink, a guy whistling at somebody’s girlfriend on the street? Research on this is clear. According to the Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, guns are used for intimidation during a conflict thousands of times more often than for self-defense.
We know the death rate from gun violence in the United States is already many times higher than any other industrialized nation in the world.
The idea that adding even more guns to our country would narrow that gap is ridiculous.