After the first round of Democratic primary debates, it has become obvious that this will be a competition of radical proposals on a number of fronts. We have already heard calls for tax-payer funded illegal immigrant healthcare, tax-payer funded college debt alleviation, and tax-payer funded universal basic income (seeing a pattern?). Among the Democrats’ most targeted issues is the people’s right to bear arms, or the Second Amendment. One former candidate even called for a mandatory buy-back of personally owned firearms (Rest In Peace, Swalwell 2020).
Stories involving guns in America receive very biased media coverage, leading to a psychological term called the availability heuristic. The idea is essentially says that since mass media distributors have decided to cover shootings more extensively than ever before, we feel as though they happen more often more often than they really do. This can cloud true statistics on gun death, like the fact that you are ten times more likely to die from a stroke (~140,000 deaths per year) than gun violence (~14,000 per year). Here are some of the most common misconceptions about guns in America.
Myth #1: Taking guns out of the hands of legal gun owners will make people safer.
These are the kinds of statements implied when candidates call for guns to be taken away from individuals. If a gun is owned illegally, the government simply has no way of verifying who it is owned by, thus rendering them incapable of taking it. So, if Democratic candidates wish to take guns away from legal gun owners, looking at some statistics on legal gun owners seems like a good place to start. According to a 2016 poll, just 18% of gun crimes are committed by legal gun owners. In addition, Quora reports that zero of the 130 mass shootings committed in the last 50 years were committed by NRA members. Despite what the media’s anti-2A agenda may tell you, legal gun owners don’t kill people; they actively participate in saving others. Studies by the CDC show over one million defensive gun uses (DGUs) in the united states. If 2,500 gun deaths per year are committed by legal gun owners (18% of 1400), only 0.25% (1 in 400) of DGUs would need to actually save a life to equate the number of deaths and lives saved by legal gun owners.
Myth #2: You should feel safer in a gun free zone
There have been many contradicting studies on the number of mass shootings that occur in gun free zones. Much of this controversy comes from the inability to agree on the definitions of “mass shooting” and “gun free zone”. The definitions I find most fair align with those of the FBI. Namely, a mass shooting is one where four or more people are killed in a public space and excludes gang related shootings. A gun free zone is noted as a place in which normal citizens cannot carry a weapon. Using these definitions the Crime Prevention Research Center found that between 1998 and 2015, over 96% of mass shootings occured in gun-free zones. This statistic is a direct result of the statistics described in tackling myth #1. There is overwhelming evidence that suggests mass shooters target populations they are confident will not be able to defend themselves. Forensic psychologist Tony Farrenkopf describes them as feeling “very powerless. The one way they can feel like they’re somebody, that they’re a man, is to get a gun and kill people.” This explains their nature as cowards who will not target individuals they believe can fight back.
Myth #3: There is no reason citizens should have assault rifles.
There are so many things wrong with this common misconception. I first want to make it painstakingly clear that the first part of “AR-15” does not stand for ‘assault rifle’, but rather “ArmaLite Rifle”, appropriately named after the 1950’s manufacturer that invented it. Most people argue that an assault rifle must be one that has automatic firing capability (one pull of the trigger can release all the bullets). Others say it is any weapon designed after military-style assault rifles. The fact of the matter is that the definition of assault rifle is not only ambiguous but also unimportant. Assault rifles, like guns in general, do significantly more good than harm. Out of the total firearm deaths in 2011, just 3.4% were committed by rifles.
Some individuals argue that the 3.4% is unnecessary because nobody really needs one of these rifles anyways. After all, they aren’t often used for hunting and are not an efficient means of self defense. My response to these critiques is that the second amendment does not exist to preserve my right to hunt and, in reality, was not designed for individual self-defense. The second amendment was designed to allow the citizens of the United States to form a well regulated militia. Perhaps it is the libertarian in me coming out when I say this right not only allows us to have assault rifles (regardless of their firing capacity), but should also apply to tanks, SR-71 Blackbirds, and anything else we can afford. The second amendment and the weapons defended by it serves as the last line of defense against a tyrannical government. It is simple to say that there is no way something like this could happen here in the United States. To this point, I’ll leave you with a simple timeline of Venezuela’s downfall. In 2012, the Venezuelan government revoked the right of any normal citizen to own a weapon. That same year the Venezuelan government took control of food prices and threatened to ban companies who did not comply. In 2014, anti-government protesters were slaughtered due to their lack of means to fight back. In 2018, President Maduro won a rigged election, effectively defining himself as a dictator. In the past five years, more than two million people have fled the country, a socialist dictatorship cultivated by an incapacitated public forced to do the bidding of their government.