Perhaps surprisingly, there is research on the effectiveness of gun control legislation. An article by Idaho columnist, Richard Larsen, attempts to rise above the current political emotionality to instill some rational thinking and evidence into the gun control debate.
The atrocity committed in Connecticut last week is still to me incomprehensible and ineffable…. As a sentient people, we should be repulsed, angered, saddened, and outraged at such a heinous act. The challenge is to channel the emotions and the feelings that have distressed us, into actionable ways to address such violence. Our feelings and emotions instinctively call for reduction or elimination of the tool of choice for the perpetrator. Yet we must, when reaching for solutions, transcend our feelings, and reason through logically what is viable, what will work, and what won’t.
The immediate call for more gun control is instinctive, yet must be approached logically rather than emotionally, based on empirical data. And there is a lot of it available.
The city of Chicago currently has the most restrictive gun control laws on the books, has been declared a “gun free zone” where handguns are banned, yet it is the most bloody city in the world in terms of gun-related deaths. The city averages 40 deaths per month from guns, and is nearing 500 for the year. Chicago’s murder rate is 19.4 per 100,000, which is by far the highest rate in the nation, at nearly 3 times New York which is at 6, and nearly 2 ½ times Los Angeles’ 7.5. In fact, Chicago ranks as the number one deadliest Alpha city (significant urban center in the global economic system) on the planet. Since it is no longer possible to legally own guns within city limits, the only ones who still have them are criminals. It doesn’t appear gun control works for Chicago. In fact, the city illustrates how correct the aphorism is that if guns are outlawed, only the outlaws have guns. The law-abiding citizens do not.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC), in 2003 thoroughly analyzed fifty-one in-depth studies dealing with gun control. Those studies included everything from the effectiveness of gun bans to laws requiring gun locks. From their objective analysis, they “found no discernible effect on public safety by any of the measures we commonly think of as ‘gun control.’”
- [This is one of the only systematic reviews on gun control and was conducted by the Community Guide Task Force, a resource at the CDC for evidence-based public health recommendations. The Task Force reviewed studies examining the effects of federal and state firearms laws on violence-related public health outcomes and other crime-related outcomes. It concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support any of the federal, state and local firearms laws it examined, including bans on specific firearms or ammunition, restrictions on firearm acquisition, waiting periods, firearm registration and licensing of gun owners, concealed weapons carry laws, child access prevention laws, zero tolerance of firearms in schools and combinations of firearm laws.]
In 2005, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine conducted a similar analysis of extant gun laws across the country. They arrived at a similar conclusion, as the abstract for their research concludes, “that evidence for the effectiveness of a given firearms law on an outcome is insufficient.” After reviewing over fifty different gun control laws, and coming to the conclusion that their effectiveness on an outcome is “insufficient” is euphemism for “they had no discernible effect.”…
- [This was actually also a report with recommendations for violence prevention focused on children and youth from the Community Guide Task Force at the CDC. It was based on its examination of the evidence [summary table here] on bans prohibiting the acquisition and possession of certain categories of firearms (e.g., handguns or assault weapons) or ammunition (e.g., large-capacity magazines). The studies showed inconsistent findings (raising, lowering or having no effect on violent crimes), rather than a clear consensus in support of gun control. It concluded: “We found insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws or law types we examined.”]
Neurosurgeon, Dr. Miquel A. Faria, Jr., MD, Editor emeritus of the Medical Sentinel of the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons, has extensively followed and written about the science and junkscience surrounding gun control. He’s found the portrayal of the evidence in the medical literature to be disingenuous and biased. As he wrote in a 1997 multiple part series:
Despite the purported safeguards of peer-review and the imprimatur of the prestigious, mainstream medical journals, and the alleged claims to objectivity and impartiality by government-funded researchers in public health, particularly at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the truth remains that gun (control) research and portrayal in the medical literature is biased and unreliable because sound scholarship has been abandoned for the allure of government money (grants), political expediency, and the ideology of public health researchers….
As a neurosurgeon who has spent incalculable hours in the middle of the night treating neurological victims of gunshot wounds, I deplore the high level of violence, particularly the rampant crime in our inner cities — but we must have the moral courage to pursue the truth and find viable solutions through the use of unbiased, sound, scholarly research. Public health researchers have an obligation to write their conclusions based on objective data and scientific information rather than on ideology, emotionalism, political expediency, or budgetary considerations…
In a 2002 article, Guns and Violence, in the Medical Sentinel, Dr. Faria wrote that many public health groups and Americans support gun control measures they believe will reduce gun violence, however: “Despite a surfeit of scientific and epidemiologic studies in the sociologic, legal, and criminologic literature that discuss the benefits of firearm possession by law-abiding citizens — physicians and the general public are not being informed about this vital information by the AMA, the CDC and their outlets, the medical journals.”
This was especially concerning to him as a doctor, with the new incursion of gun politics into the medical profession, as doctors are now being mandated in government clinical guidelines to document and report gun ownership when taking a medical history or engaging in preventive health counseling. He thought this constituted a breach in medical ethics, abuse of the patient-doctor relationship and invasion of privacy, as doctors are being compelled to place the good of society and the state above their ethical obligations to their patients.
In an effort to ensure all the evidence in the medical literature was presented to physicians and the public, his article examined the research on gun ownership and healthcare costs; suicides, accidental shootings, children and guns; international perspectives on gun violence, much of which seldom reached medical professionals or the public. He described examples of such evidence, which included:
Prof. John R. Lott, Jr., reviewed the FBI’s massive yearly crime statistics for all 3,054 U.S. counties over 18 years (1977-1994), the largest national survey on gun ownership and state police documentation in illegal gun use. The data show that while neither state waiting periods nor the federal Brady Law is associated with a reduction in crime rates, adopting concealed carry gun laws cut death rates from public, multiple shootings… by an amazing 69 percent. Allowing law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons deters violent crime — without any apparent increase in accidental death….When concealed carry gun laws went into effect in a given county, murders fell by 8 percent, rapes by 5 percent, and aggravated assaults by 7 percent.
Several gun researchers have written about suicides and have linked these fatalities to the availability of guns. Medical critics, however, cite the overwhelming evidence compiled from the psychiatric literature that untreated or poorly managed depression is the real culprit behind the relatively high rates of suicide in the U.S. Moreover, countries such as Japan and Hungary, and in Scandinavia — all of which boast draconian gun control laws and low rates of firearm availability — have much higher rates of suicide (2 and 3 times higher) than the U.S….
In 1996, a criminally insane man shot to death 35 people at a Tasmanian resort. The [Australian] government immediately responded by passing stringent gun control laws, banning most firearms, and ordering their confiscation…. As a result, there has been a sharp and dramatic increase in violent crime against the disarmed law-abiding citizens…, in the state of Victoria, there was a 300 percent increase in homicides committed with firearms. The following year, robberies increased almost 60 percent in South Australia. By 1999, assaults had increased in New South Wales by almost 20 percent. Two years following the gun ban/confiscation, armed robberies rose by 73 percent, unarmed robberies by 28 percent, kidnappings by 38 percent, assaults by 17 percent and manslaughter by 29 percent, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.
Interestingly, the same thing occurred in Great Britain. Following a 1996 massacre of school children by a madman in Dunblane, Scotland, the British government banned and ordered the confiscation of most firearms. Since then a horrific crime wave has taken place in England and Scotland. In 1998, the U.S. Department of Justice declared that the rate of muggings in England had surpassed that in the U.S. by 40 percent, while assault and burglary rates were nearly 100 percent higher in England than in the U.S….
In his conclusion, Dr. Faria wrote:
Many educators and criminologists assert that we must lay the blame for gun violence where it belongs: An increasingly permissive culture that for many years has been mired in political correctness and where public schools no longer teach traditional morality and the discernment between right and wrong, leading to situational ethics and moral relativism. To the detriment of children, building self esteem has been placed ahead of personal morality and teaching them to distinguish between right and wrong. There is also lack of discipline at home and in schools because parents and teachers are afraid of reprimanding the young for fear of being denounced by social workers, charged with child abuse, and prosecuted by the state.
A study by the U.S. Dept. of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention tracked 4000 juveniles aged 6-15 in Denver (CO), Pittsburgh (PA), and Rochester (NY) from 1993-1995. The investigators found that children who use firearms with parental supervision, as far as hunting and target shooting, are less likely to commit acts of violence and street crimes (14 percent) than children who have no guns in their homes (24 percent); whereas children who obtain guns illegally do so at the whopping rate of 74 percent. This study also provides more evidence that in close nuclear families, where children are close to their parents, youngsters can be taught to use guns responsibly…
We can be compassionate and still be honest and have the moral courage to pursue the truth and find viable solutions through the use of sound, scholarly research. The problem of guns and violence should be no different. We have an obligation to reach our conclusions based on objective data and scientific information rather than on ideology, emotionalism or partisan politics.