With millions mourning yet another of the mass shootings that have become the new normal in the U.S., the familiar pro-gun mantras are again trotted out, the most specious of which is, "guns don't kill people, people kill people."
In order to begin any productive discussion about guns we must first set the record straight: Guns kill people -- they kill people effectively, thoroughly, and at an alarming rate in America, where gun access is much greater than any member country in the OECD. Guns kill people, and the greater the access to guns, the more people killed.
The link between access to guns and gun deaths is supported by overwhelming evidence. Yet, amazingly, the pro-gun contingent offers as counterargument, their profound doubt that restricting guns will actually work, as if the failure of gun restriction were already proven. Their theory implies that in countries where guns are restricted -- Japan, South Korea, Germany, France, the U.K., to name a few -- weary unarmed denizens must suffer the same bloody barrage of gun crime that we do in America. Yet the opposite is true.
According to a study published in the UK's Guardian newspaper, the U.S. has the highest gun ownership rate in the world, at roughly 88 guns per 100 people. The gun homicide rate in America is concomitantly high -- around 10,000 homicides per year. In contrast, in Japan, where guns are strictly regulated, the rate of gun ownership is less than 1 percent, with 11 gun homicides reported. In the UK, where tough gun restriction measures were implemented in the 1990s, gun ownership has fallen to roughly 6 percent, with Britain reporting roughly 45 gun fatalities per year. These figures, even when adjusted for population, are staggering. What these gun-restricting countries demonstrate is that greater regulation of guns is linked to gun violence levels that are minuscule in comparison with the U.S.
In addition to ignoring the link between gun deaths and gun access, those who proffer the "guns don't kill people, people kill people," defense are committing an error in reasoning. Arguing that the human effort involved in firing a gun renders the gun itself harmless denies the causal link between subject and object. This is like saying Paul Warfield Tibbets is bad, but the atomic bomb is innocuous. Attributing the result of harm to the perpetrator but none to the means is a dangerous form of false calculus.
Yet gun supporters who believe this falsehood are also fond of comparing guns to disparate objects -- cars, for example, to exclaim (with palm to head, as if this is exactly what is being proposed) -- cars kill people, so I guess we should just restrict cars! It is not hard to point out this failure of logic. Nobody fires a gun to get to school, to take their grandmother to a doctor's appointment, or to help a neighbor get to their job, and inadvertently ends up blowing somebody's head off. The release of a gun's trigger has no additional function other than causing harm.
The sequence of pro-gunners' arguments follow a typical blueprint: "guns don't kill people, people kill people," followed by, "if you restrict access to guns only the bad guys will get them," followed by (stunning in its bold assertion of both fallacy and dystopia), "if more people were armed, crimes like this wouldn't happen."
Never mind that the statistics from the U.S. and other OECD countries disprove all of these arguments, and ignore for a moment the moral cataclysm of a society where everyone -- including Kindergarden teachers -- is armed to the teeth. All these assertions lose credibility because they issue from a false premise. Any substantive discussion must always begin with the truth. And the truth about guns is this:
Guns kill people.
Repeat this 28 times.
Period. Point blank.