Gun Control — September 19, 2013 at 11:48 am

New study: Guns do not make a country safer


The fact that nations with fewer guns have lower gun-death rates should surprise no one. Except maybe the NRA.

Really, it’s just common sense and the law of averages. But now researchers report that countries with lower gun ownership are safer than those with higher gun ownership. This is sure to tick off the NRA, which has been actively promoting the idea that if only everyone were armed we’d all be safer.

Before anyone gets all huffy, I’m not making an argument against the Second Amendment itself. But I do think it’s important to look at the facts and remember that the words “well-regulated” and “militia” actually mean something. And with Americans dying every single day at the end of a gun, to consider that perhaps we need a little more regulation and a little less militia.

The study, published in The American Journal of Medicine, looked at the possible relationship between gun ownership rates, mental illness and the risk of firearm-related death.

Sripal Bangalore, MD, MHA, of NYU Langone Medical Center, and Franz H. Messerli, MD, of St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital, Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, New York, studied data for 27 developed countries. Dr. Bangalore explains what they found:

The gun ownership rate was a strong and independent predictor of firearm-related death. Private gun ownership was highest in the US. Japan, on the other end, had an extremely low gun ownership rate. Similarly, South Africa (9.4 per 100,000) and the US (10.2 per 100,000) had extremely high firearm-related deaths, whereas the United Kingdom (0.25 per 100,000) had an extremely low rate of firearm-related deaths. There was a significant correlation between guns per head per country and the rate of firearm-related deaths with Japan being on one end of the spectrum and the US being on the other. This argues against the notion of more guns translating into less crime. South Africa was the only outlier in that the observed firearms-related death rate was several times higher than expected from gun ownership.

In looking at the relationship between a country’s mental illness burden and crime rate, the researchers didn’t find a significant correlation between the two. I personally think mental illness needs to be addressed as one of the many issues that feed into our country’s high rate of gun violence, but that’s only because I think we should consider every option for reducing gun deaths while ensuring people’s Constitutional rights.

In their findings, the researchers did mention anxiety, which is considered a mental disorder. They propose that perhaps gun violence contributes to anxiety, which seems notable to me.

Here’s what the researchers concluded:

Although correlation is not the same as causation, it seems conceivable that abundant gun availability facilitates firearm-related deaths. Conversely, high crime rates may instigate widespread anxiety and fear, thereby motivating people to arm themselves and give rise to increased gun ownership, which, in turn, increases availability. The resulting vicious cycle could, bit by bit, lead to the polarized status that is now the case with the US. Regardless of exact cause and effect, the current study debunks the widely quoted hypothesis that countries with higher gun ownership are safer than those with low gun ownership.

Facts are facts, and this study lays them out clearly.

But given that research studies can be dry as dirt to many readers, if you haven’t seen it take a few minutes to watch this heartfelt, emotional appeal from another doctor: Chief Medical Officer Janis Orlowski, MD, of MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where victims of the shooting at Washington, D.C.’s Navy Yard were treated.

Hat-tip to LOLGOP, the first person I saw share the video of Dr. Orlowski.

UPDATE: Right after I posted this, eagle-eye Eclectablog tipped me off to a tragic shooting that took place in Michigan just last night, resulting in the deaths of both shooters. Although they both had permits to carry concealed weapons, it was a relatively innocent a road rage incident that, without guns, might have only escalated into a fist-fight. With guns easily at hand, it turned deadly.

You can read the news and see a video for the full story HERE.

[CC photo of Carl Fredrik Reuterswärd’s “Non-Violence” sculpture: François Polito | Wikimedia Commons]