5 Myths About Gun Control

On the heels of the nation’s most recent high-profile mass shooting, the American conversation has again turned to the topic of gun violence and gun control.

The parries and thrusts of this conversation are usually quite predictable at this point. When a horrific shooting took place in Newtown, Conn., in 2012, many thought that the particularities of that event might be enough to inspire reform in our country. But no significant reforms have been forthcoming.

If we must be forced to have this conversation over and over, hopefully, with time, the conversation can improve. Here are seven myths about gun control that no one should believe any more.

Myth #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 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.

Myth #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.

Myth #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.

Myth #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.

Myth #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: Tom Webster


Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus2 years ago

Thank you for sharing!

Jim Ven
Jim V2 years ago

thanks for the article.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill2 years ago

We live in the country, it would take forever for the cops to get here if we needed them. (if they came at all) We would be dead before they could get here to help us. We really need to look at history and learn from it. Hitler disarmed the people before he seized power.

Darryll Green
Darryll Green2 years ago

Myth#1 - http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-03-04/news/ct-oped-0304-chapman-20100304-column_1_legal-handguns-gun-violence-ban #2, on this they are right, BUT what is being done to prevent suicides #4,This is the number of mass shootings listed by decade -1960s- 17, 1970s- 20, 1980s- 22, 1990s- 41, 2000- 48, 2010s- 115 - #5, http://www.neighborhoodscout.com/top-lists/highest-murder-rate-cities/

Paulinha Russell
Paulinha Russell2 years ago

Thank you

John S.
John S2 years ago

Now that Frank S. has commented, we're up to at least 7 myths about gun control.

Frank S.
Past Member 2 years ago


These signs are an open invitation to the criminal thanks to Obama and the rest of those IDIOTS in Washington

The signs should read.........


How many more shootings in "Gun Free Zones" will it take before those IDIOTS in Washington realize that guns are not the problem!!!!!!

Frank S.
Past Member 2 years ago

This year will go down in history. For the 1st time, a civilized nation has full Gun Control. Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient, and the world will follow our lead into the future

My suggestion to gun grabbers is to get rid of that yellow streak, stop relying on government to protect you and learn how to protect yourself and your family

Eric Lees
Eric Lees2 years ago

And the biggest myth is that we don't need guns to protect ourselves in this "modern" age because the government can protect us from the bad guys. There is no magic law that can be passed to end a crazy person from carrying out an attack and most have planned for months.

At the Oregon shooting: The police took 5 minutes to get to the scene, another 2 minutes before engaging the shooter. Until the men in blue or black show up it is up to the victims of the active shooter to survive. Your only choices are to run, hide, or fight.

"Navy SEAL reveals 10 steps to survive a mass shooting"

Margaret Goodman
Margaret Goodman2 years ago

Adam S. wrote,

" ... And you also forget the one million plus people who are able to successfully defend themselves w/ guns."

Where did you find this amazing statistic? Surely not from any United States federal agency. The NRA has stopped these agencies from collecting any data on the use of guns.