5 Common Myths About Gun Control

Editor’s note: This Care2 favorite was originally posted on October 7, 2015.

After each high-profile mass shooting in the U.S., the national conversation inevitably turns to the topic of gun violence and gun control.

When a horrific shooting took place in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012, many thought that the event might be enough to inspire real reform in our country. But no significant progress has been forthcoming.

If we must repeatedly engage in this conversation, hopefully, with time, the discussion can improve. Here are five myths about gun control that no one should believe any longer.

1. Gun control doesn’t work.

The question of whether gun control can work can get rather complex, depending on what forms of gun control you consider and which signs of improvement you measure. But ample evidence demonstrates that policies can reduce access to firearms.

We know, for example, that when Missouri removed a law requiring permits to purchase guns, gun homicides increased. Non-gun firearm deaths were uncorrelated with the change. Research on the implementation of a Connecticut law requiring permits to purchase guns shows the complementary finding that the law reduced gun homicides. More broadly, the Harvard Injury Control Research Center has consistently found that the more guns an state has, the more gun homicides it has.

We also know that when Australia instituted a large gun buyback program and drastically restricted access to guns, all gun-related deaths plummeted. Most other advanced countries have much stricter guns laws than the United States and many fewer gun-related homicides as well.

2. Suicides are irrelevant to the gun control discussion.

Despite the fact that discussions around guns usually center around homicide cases, gun-related suicides actually outnumber gun-related homicides two-to-one. Some opponents to gun control write off these deaths as completely irrelevant, but they are not.

The research on Australian gun control shows that reducing the availability of guns reduced not just gun-related suicides, but total suicides. This finding is replicated in many other studies, all of which conclude that having fewer guns can save lives.

Some object to gun control on these grounds as “paternalistic.” But many people defend gun rights by arguing that they need them for self-defense. Since you’re in fact twice as likely to try and kill yourself with a gun than to be killed by a gun, this argument doesn’t hold water. And if we can save over 20,000 people a year from gun-related deaths, a little paternalism might be justified.

3. Gun control laws can never pass in the United States.

Now, it’s certainly true that Australia-style laws will not make it through the two chambers of Congress next week. And even if, by some fluke, all the conservative lawmakers took a sick day and liberals somehow enacted restrictive firearm regulations, much of the citizenry would likely violently oppose their implementation.

But the politics of any given issue can change surprisingly rapidly and often in unpredictable ways. Few would have predicted we would have nationwide marriage equality back in the 1990s. And who would have guessed a decade ago that there could be a real bipartisan consensus in favor of prison reform?

Our nation is deeply entrenched in gun culture, and certainly that will have to change if gun ownership is to be sharply curtailed. But changes in the culture can and do happen over time. When we fight and argue for gun control, we should be targeting cultural change just as much as legislative change.

4. Schools shootings are getting more common.

Despite the perception many people get from media reports, there is no indication that school shootings are increasing in frequency. Though some reports claim high frequency of “school shootings,” most of these are non-lethal incidents.

An average of about 45 deaths, not all gun-related, occur each year associated with schools in the United States. That might sound like a lot, but consider this part of a report on school safety from the Bureau of Justice Statistics: “During the 2010–11 school year, 11 of the 1,336 homicides among school-age youth ages 5–18 occurred at school.” Children were much safer being in school than out of school.

5. Mass shootings are a leading cause of gun deaths.

Because of the amount of reporting they received, people tend to overestimate the impact of mass shootings. In fact, the vast majority of firearm homicides occur outside of the context of a mass shooting.

While the number of mass shootings appears to have increased in recent years, the increase in the total number of people killed in mass shooting has been small. And overall, homicides rates have fallen in recent decades.

Recent estimates suggest that about 36 people a day are killed by gun-related violence every day in the United States. These deaths matter whether they are caused by the same shooter, and thus could be called a “mass shooting,” or if they were caused by 36 different shooters.

If we can avoid perpetuating these myths, and focus on the real facts of the matter, maybe then we can start working toward the gun control that we desperately need.

Photo Credit: Fibonacci Blue/Flickr

232 comments

Marie W
Marie W2 months ago

Thanks for posting

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Winn A
Winn A8 months ago

Thanks

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Paula A
Patricia A8 months ago

thanks for posting

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Susanne R
Susanne R8 months ago

David F. - I've provided you with plenty of specifics about Prager U. It's a JOKE! It's a source of propaganda for the far right. It's funded by two billionaires who made their fortune through hydraulic fracturing, so it's not surprising that Prager U denies climate change. Look it up yourself this time. It includes Adam Corolla (resident dope of "The Man Show") as a professor! As I said earlier, I'm tired of doing your homework. Start referencing sources that are legitimate when you post controversial comments. Knowing what you're talking about is a good life lesson for everyone. Misleading people for your own purposes is deplorable.

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Susanne R
Susanne R8 months ago

David F. - As much as I agree with Rhoberta and respect her POV, I don't mimic anyone. I am my own person. I have enough anger left in me from our last exchange -which took up over an hour of MY time, while taking up about TWO minutes of yours- that I'm finding it hard to be gracious tonight. Your sidekick, Brian, has borne the brunt of my anger so far this evening -anger meant more for you- so you might want to apologize to him for that.

And don't criticize Rhoberta. Unlike you, she has genuine and honest reasons for being here and knows what she's talking about. She doesn't suffer fools gladly. You and your three amigos are here to "misinform" concerned citizens (and, more importantly, prospective VOTERS). Fortunately, there are so many knowledgeable and dedicated contributors that you'll never achieve your goal.

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David F
David F8 months ago

Susanne R, you are trying to mimic Roberta all she knows how to do is criticize Prager University with zero specifics. Why don't you take any one of his hundreds of courses delivered by people from every walk of life and explain why they are wrong.
I have not read them all, however every one I've ever read is easily defensible. Read them and give it a try,

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Eric Lees
Eric Lees8 months ago

@silja s

"just reading these statements is upsetting. america have your citizens lost their way. guns are for killing. they are not for pro creating, they are not health care, they are not for beauty, they only thing guns are for is killing. simply put guns are for killing "

Silja, that is the biggest myth. A gun is just a tool that can be used for killing or saving lives it all depends on whom is wielding that weapon. We arm cops because it is an effective weapon against bad guys. Yes there are some non lethal methods but they are less effective.

An armed people is also the best defense of Liberty and the last check against Tyranny. Much like free speech.

And no gun control does not work. It only disarms law abiding citizens and is a violation of basic human rights.

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Tania N
Tania N8 months ago

Thank you

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Tania N
Tania N8 months ago

Thank you

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Susanne R
Susanne R8 months ago

Silja - (I'm attaching what got cut off)

Sadly, his fans pretty much buy into whatever he says and seem utterly convinced he is one of the greatest intellectuals of our time, even though he basically just scares them into thinking that everyone (the media, public schools, universities, Hollywood) is out to turn them and their children into liberal homosexuals which can only be avoided by listening to Prager"s show or buying his books so he may show you what American values really are. Groupthink at its very best."

David, do you really believe this "Archie Bunker" mentality? Actually, the character called Archie Bunker was a better man: he didn't have money-making motives; he kept his political views limited to his family and friends; and he was simply an ignorant byproduct of his upbringing.

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