“America has a gun problem.”
This phrase is repeated on an almost daily basis, with particular fervor in the aftermath of acts of public and publicized gun violence — usually in the form of horrendous “mass shooting” attacks.
In terms of this statement, the reality is that two things are true.
Firstly, all forms of gun violence which impact the innocent — whether it be mass shootings, gang shootings, or individual acts of murder — are deplorable.
Secondly, America does not have a gun problem.
The second fact is viewed as controversial by many, often partnered with the unfounded assumption that arguing “America does not have a gun problem” is synonymous with arguing that all forms of gun violence are somehow acceptable. This, of course, is both absurd and disgusting — since it makes the implicit claim that being “pro-gun” means that you are “pro-murder.”
If this despicable claim fails, the anti-gun activists typically resort to these arguments:
- The United States has a “lot of guns,” which is bad.
- The United States has a “lot of gun violence,” which is bad.
- A “lot of guns” means a “lot of gun violence.”
If we look at the actual data regarding gun violence and firearm ownership in the United States, however, we discover the truth.
The United States has a “lot of guns.”
Yes, the rate of firearm ownership in the United States is very high. According to some estimates, there are more firearms in civilian hands than the total number of American citizens, with 2021 data indicating a 120.5 firearm ownership rate per 100,000 people.
However, this undeniable statistic is just that — a statistic. A number. The emotional conclusion that this is a “bad” statistic relies solely on your opinion of guns, a firearm Rorschach test. Generally, if you think guns are good, then a “lot of guns” is good. If you think guns are bad, then a “lot of guns” is bad. However, neither of these are logical arguments based on anything but raw emotion, and certainly can’t be used to conclude that the comparatively high number of firearms in possession means that America has a “gun problem.”
The United States has a “lot of gun violence.”
Yes, gun violence does occur in the United States, but the United States is far from the worst by any relevant metric. Looking at the firearm-related death rate per 100,000 people in 2021, for example, the United States is ranked 11th, after Honduras, Venezuela, El Salvador, Swaziland, Guatemala, Jamaica, Brazil, Colombia, and Panama. According to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the United States is joint-55th when ranking by the rate of intentional homicides per 100,000 people.
So yes, gun violence does exist in the United States. However, the relevance of the connection between gun ownership and gun deaths — as opposed to the existence of gun violence as a form of violence — is the important part to analyze next.
No, a “lot of guns” does not mean a “lot of gun violence.”
The fact that the presence of guns is a necessary factor in the existence of gun violence is undeniable. After all, how could you commit a firearm-related act of violence without access to a firearm?
However, this fact is used to make the subtle but illogical leap to reach the conclusion that “a lot of guns means a lot of gun violence.” This implies that increasing the number of guns owned by private citizens has the result of increasing the rate of gun violence.
This is not true.
According to Statista, the percentage of households in the United States owning one or more firearms has slightly declined in the past 50 years, while the raw number of guns owned has increased dramatically.
If it were true that “a lot of guns means a lot of gun violence,” then why has the rate of firearm homicides steadily declined?
Moreover, if we look at the countries with the worst rates of violent firearm-related deaths, and the ratio between this rate and gun ownership, the United States has 0.10 deaths per 100,000 people for every gun owned. This is the same as Finland and less than Switzerland.
Yes, there are a lot of guns in America. Yes, there is gun violence, but gun violence is declining as gun ownership is increasing.
No, America does not have a gun problem.
Ian Haworth is an Editor and Writer for The Daily Wire. Follow him on Twitter at @ighaworth.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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