Gun Research Is Clear: Guns Don’t Keep People Safe

Anytime gun violence breaks out in the United States, conservatives give the same reply: the gun is not the problem, not having enough guns is the problem. If there were more guns around, good people with guns could stop the bad people with guns.

Alas, the vast majority of research doesn’t back up this oft-touted argument. Scientific American’s Melinda Wenner Moyer recently reviewed dozens of scientific studies that looked at how the number of guns affected rates of violence. Roughly 30 of these studies showed that having more guns led to more violence, while only a handful indicated the opposite.

By Moyer’s own admission, the best way to test how the rate of gun ownership impacts safety would be to take an American town without any guns and then give everyone in town a gun and look at the before and after statistics. Needless to say, there are several ethical concerns in a study like that, and you’re not likely to find an American community that is without guns – or one that is suddenly willing to take on a lot of guns, for that matter.

Instead, a lot of the real research compares communities with lots of guns and fewer guns. Unsurprisingly, the more guns there are, the more likely that place is to have higher rates of homicides, suicides and accidents. “Good guys with guns” wind up introducing more danger to their neighborhoods than safety.

Care2 has looked at some of these studies, as well. For example, The Harvard Injury Control Research Center has repeatedly found that accidental firearm deaths occur with much greater frequency than mass shootings. People who carry around guns for protection are still more likely to unintentionally kill a friend than encounter a “bad guy” who needs stopping. How is that a worthwhile gamble?

In general, unbiased research rarely comes out in favor of the positions held by the NRA – and that’s precisely why the government refuses to fund it. A lot of Americans probably don’t realize it, but for over 20 years we’ve had a law preventing the government from conducting gun research.

The Dickey Amendment explicitly forbids the CDC from using public funds to study gun issues, or promote anything resembling gun control for that matter. Democrats and public officials made a serious push in 2015 to strip this rule and allow government research on this subject, but conservatives refused to comply. Certainly, it’s easier for politicians to deny a gun violence epidemic when the numbers are right in front of them.

A few years ago, the National Institutes of Health did receive some funding for its own gun research, but Congress did not renew that grant. Given President Donald Trump’s strong support for the NRA, it’s unlikely any more money will go toward this research anytime soon.

That’s a shame. We need more research to influence policy. For now, we’re beholden to private money to research this subject. At this point, high-ranking conservatives and gun advocates know that having more guns doesn’t save lives, but they’ll do whatever it takes to convince that it’s true anyway.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

169 comments

Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bedini4 days ago

If anyone is still reading these comments, check out the following. It will either make you laugh or yell in fury depending on which side of the gun control controversy you are. It comes from Holland.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-o9pwWUzz0

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ANA MARIJA R
ANA MARIJA R6 days ago

Gun Research Is Clear: Guns Don’t Keep People Safe... Really??! It's hard not to be ironic... :(

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bedini6 days ago

Deborah W
Yes I can see that having a pistol in your bedside drawer makes you feel safer.

Following on from your suggestions, surely there should be a federal data base where all gun and ammunition sales are automatically registered. If any one individual goes over an agreed maximum* an alert would be triggered. Paddock would not have been able to stock up with that absurd quantity of arms and ammo. Even one gun can do infinite damage, agreed, but at least there'd be some kind of control.

*Does anyone NEED more than one gun and a few rounds of ammunition, honestly?

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Deborah W
Deborah W7 days ago

DIG DEEPER ... guns don't go off by themselves. Fix the "issues" leading to such consequences while at the same time slapping heavy restrictions on how and why guns and ammunition are obtained, through who, frequently revisiting and upgrading for "patterns", following through with enforcement as needed. Street sales, of course, don't fit into any of this, and a totally different plan of action is called for. Then let's talk

TRY SELLING THAT to someone home alone, experiencing a break-in, whose only choice is the use of a gun on-site. To call for immediate response in such cases often as not leads to one's death, unnecessarily in my opinion.

DIG DEEPER ... guns don't go off by themselves. Fix the "issues" leading to such consequences while at the same time slapping heavy restrictions on how and why guns and ammunition are obtained, through who, frequently revisiting and upgrading for "patterns", following through with enforcement as needed. Street sales, of course, don't fit into any of this, and a totally different plan of action is called for. Then we can talk ...

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bedini8 days ago

Herbert
Thanks for taking the trouble to find the answer to my question. I suppose you can't argue with technology, though I bet the bad ass component is the top priority even if not admitted to. And yes, please stop looking at them. You DON'T NEED IT Herbert!!!!!!

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Herbert C
Herbert C8 days ago

Annabel
A lot of the younger guys at work have AR-15's, and I asked why those rifles were preferred. Well, I'm sure some of it is because they look bad ass, but it has a lot to do with customization. Telescoping stocks can be adjusted to fit anyone, and there are many different grips, stock, optics, setups for anyone's preferences. You can also 'build your own' from available components. Until I started looking into this, I had no idea I'm not up on current gun culture. I need to quit looking at these things, or I will end up buying one.

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Mike R
Mike R9 days ago

Strict gun control must be a priority but it never comes.

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bedini9 days ago

...And I'm still waiting to be told why gun possession means Freedom.....

Ann B
What's wrong with cell phones? So useful to call for help if you are being stalked and asking your spouse to buy milk on the way home from the office.

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Annabel Bedini
Annabel Bedini9 days ago

Herbert C
Thanks for educating me. I now understand that trying to ban semi-automatic weapons would be impossible if most firearms are made that way. I don't suppose you can answer the question why anyone would want to own those military-style guns. Some kind of fantasy not outgrown from childhood?

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Ann B
Ann B9 days ago

guns and cell phones JUST WHAT WE NEEDED!!!!

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