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Statistics and "Gun Control" *

Compiled by Richard W. Stevens


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The Bill of Rights Sentinel (formerly The Firearms Sentinel) aims to give its readers intellectual ammunition to fight the battle against "gun control." Part of the "gun control" war is fought with statistics. The gun prohibitionists frequently cite statistics in the media. It is often hard to question the figures without having the facts.

The now-famous 1995 Tennessee Law Review article entitled "Guns and Public Health: Epidemic of Violence or Pandemic of Propaganda?", written by Don B. Kates, Henry E. Schaffer, John K. Lattimer, George B. Murray, and Edwin H. Cassem, powerfully discredits the myth that "gun violence" is an epidemic that only "gun control" can cure. This 1995 article shows how much of the statistical evidence the gun prohibitionists use is skewed, falsified, or massaged. When all of the statistics are accounted, however, they tend to show that the public health argument is a sham.

The Bill of Rights Sentinel is pleased to provide some of the important logical points and counter statistics for gun rights advocates to use. This important information follows in the handy table format below. The information comes from the 1995 article by Kates, et. al.


Gun Prohibitionists' Argument The Data Required To Support Their Argument What The Data Actually Show
Widespread firearm ownership has for decades been a major factor in crime. Many scholarly articles and studies in the literature. No studies in the 1960's; Research started in the 1970's.1
Criminologists agree that firearm ownership presents a high risk of violence, and that gun control laws work. Many scholarly studies by criminologists supporting "gun control;" few opposing "gun control." Large number of scholarly studies by criminologist showing firearms ownership does not increase risks of violence, and that "gun control" does not work.2
The Second Amendment does not guarantee a personal right to own firearms. Largely unanimous opinion of legal scholars and judges, reflected in published articles and opinions. Over thirty law review articles and several books argue that "gun control" laws are not constitutional.3
The Supreme Court has held that the Second Amendment guarantees a right to the States, not to individual citizens. Several Supreme Court cases affirming this position, followed by lower court decisions. Several Supreme Court decisions note that the term "the people" mentioned in the Second Amendment refers only to individual citizens; no Supreme Court decision to the contrary.4
It is safer to submit to a felonious attack than to resist with a firearm. Statistics showing that persons who submit are injured less often than those who resist with a firearm. Study data show that a victim with a firearm is 50% less likely to be injured than one who submits.5
It is safer to use weapons other than firearms for self-protection from felonious attack. Statistics showing a lower injury rate for victims who used weapons other than firearms for defense. Study data show that victims who use firearms for self-defense are 67% less likely to be injured than those using other kinds of weapons.6
Screaming and running away are safer than using a firearm to resist a rapist. Statistics showing a lower injury rate for victims who screamed and ran away. Study data shows that screaming and running away is far more dangerous to the victim than using a firearm to resist a rapist.7
Scientists have discredited all studies purporting to show the effectiveness of using firearms for self-defense. Many scholarly articles debunking such studies; the authors receiving no professional recognition for such studies. Gary Kleck's book Point Blank received the American Society of Criminology's highest award in 1993 as the single most important contribution to criminology in several years; even "gun control" advocates praised it; only a few articles criticized the book's studies and conclusions.8
All the "pro-gun" literature comes from firearm manufacturers, the NRA, and "gun nuts." No articles, favorable to the civil right to be armed, authored by anyone outside of the "gun lobby." Gary Kleck is not a firearm owner, and is a political liberal and ACLU member; other scholars who have published study results not favorable to "gun control" are likewise political liberals and non- firearm owners.9
Other countries' severe limits on firearms ownership have reduced murder, suicide, and crime rates. Statistical data showing definite and uniform correlation between restrictive "gun control" laws and lower murder, suicide, and crime rates. Studies by David Kopel and others of foreign "gun control" laws show no consistent correlation between "gun control" laws or gun ownership rates, and the rates of murder, suicide, and crime.10
Other countries' experience shows that more restrictions on firearms ownership decreased homicides and suicides in those countries; the more available firearms are, the higher a country's incidence of violence. Statistical data showing that homicide and suicide rates in Europe dropped when very restrictive "gun control" laws took effect. The incidence of violence in European countries was low long before restrictive "gun control" laws were enacted. European suicide rates are much higher than U.S. suicide rates. If homicide and suicide rates are combined, the U.S. is still below the median of 18 major nations.11
Israel has a policy of encouraging widespread firearm possession also has the lowest homicide + suicide rate.12
Very restrictive licensing requirements in Switzerland result in very low incidence of "handgun deaths." Statistics showing that: the Swiss cannot easily get handguns and thus own few handguns; handguns are not generally available to the Swiss. Swiss law requires licensing of all handguns. Swiss government routinely lends handguns to millions of civilians, however. Swiss law allows widespread carrying of handguns. Handguns are widely available.13
Restrictive handgun licensing laws in Israel result in very low incidence of "handgun deaths." Statistics showing that: Israelis cannot easily get handguns and thus own few handguns; handguns are not generally available to Israelis. Israeli government routinely lends handguns from its armories to civilians; Israeli law promotes the carrying of concealed handguns to maximize the likelihood that citizens in public places will be armed.14
Fully-automatic weapons are so dangerous that enlightened governments entirely ban private possession of them. Statistics showing that no "civilized" nation permits its citizens to possess fully-automatic weapons. Any law-abiding, responsible, and trained Israelis may draw a sub- machine gun out of a government armory.15
When nations enact restrictive "gun control" laws, homicide rates fall to low levels. Statistics showing that in most nations, the stronger are the "gun control" laws, the lower is the homicide rate. Taiwan's murder rate is higher than the U.S. rate -- although possession of a firearm in Taiwan is a capital offense. South Africa has very restrictive "gun control" laws, yet its homicide rate is double the U.S. rate.16
The greater the availability of handguns, the higher will be the rates of fatal "gun accidents." Statistics showing that as the number of handguns increased in the U.S., the higher was the rate of fatal "gun accidents." From 1967 to 1986, the number of handguns owned in the U.S. increased by 173%; the per capita rate of fatal "gun accidents" in this period fell by two-thirds, and the total number of such accidents decreased by 50%, in spite of increased population over the same period.17
The greater the availability of handguns, the higher will be the homicide rates. Statistics showing that as the number of handguns increased in the U.S., the homicide rates also consistently increased. From 1973 to 1992, the number of handguns owned increased by 110%; the per capita rate of homicide was unpatterned and varied erratically over the same period, and was 9.5% lower in 1992. Fewer homicides were committed with firearms in 1988 than in 1973.18
Handguns account for only 20% of the firearms in use today, but are involved in 90% of criminal and unintentional firearm injuries. Published statistics supporting these assertions. These assertions are false and fraudulently reported. There are no data to support them.19
Most murderers were law-abiding citizens before they pulled the trigger. Published statistics supporting these assertions. Studies show that 75% of murderers have adult criminal records before the murder; half of the remaining 25% are juveniles with no "adult" record; murderers tend to be rather extreme aberrants with histories of violence, crime, and substance abuse.20
Most shootings are not committed by felons or mentally ill persons, but are acts of passion involving use of a handgun owned for home protection. Published statistics supporting these assertions. (Same as above).

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END NOTES

* NOTE: The facts set forth in this chart were believed accurate when posted in 1997. The various laws cited may have changed in ensuing years; statistics for different time periods may be different. The data provided in this chart debunked the prevailing myths at that time, and the points remain persuasive. Thus, for example, the myth that widespread possession of firearms necessarily produces high violent crime rates was disproved by the available data from Israel and Switzerland. If crime rates were to increase significantly in those nations in, say, 2005, then it would make sense to look for some cause other than firearms ownership to explain the increase.

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1 Don B. Kates, et al., Guns and Public Health: Epidemic of Violence or Pandemic of Propaganda?, 62 Tenn. L. Rev. 513, 524-25 & n. 37-38 (1995) (referred to in these notes as "Kates Article") (citing Franklin E. Zimring & Gordon Hawkins, The Citizen's Guide to Gun Control xi (1987); Gary Kleck, Address to the National Academy of Sciences / National Research Council Panel on the Understanding and Prevention of Violence (Apr. 3, 1990) (prepared statement, on file with the Tennessee Law Review).

2 Kates Article, 513-14 & n. 2; 526-27 & n. 42-43 (citing Samuel Walker, Sense and Nonsense About Crime and Drugs: A Policy Guide chs. 10 and 13 (1994); Gary Kleck, Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America (1991); Gerald D. Robin, Violent Crime and Gun Control (1991); James D. Wright, et al., Under the Gun: Weapons, Crime, and Violence in America (1983); James D. Wright and Peter H. Rossi, Armed and Considered Dangerous: A Survey of Felons and Their Firearms (1986); Chris W. Eskridge, Zero-Order Inverse Correlations Between Crimes of Violence and Hunting Licenses in the United States, 71 Soc. & Soc. Res. 55 (1986); Hans Toch & Alan J. Lizotte, Research and Policy: The Case of Gun Control, in Psychology and Social Policy (Peter Suedfeld & Philip E. Tetlock eds., 1992); James D. Wright, Second Thoughts About Gun Control, 91 Pub. Interest 23 (1988); David J. Bordua, Firearms Ownership and Violent Crime: A Comparison of Illinois Countries [sic], in The Social Ecology of Crime (James M. Byrne & Robert J. Sampson eds., 1986); Steven B. Duke & Albert C. Gross, America's Longest War: Rethinking Our tragic Crusade Against Drugs 113 (1993); Colin Greenwood, Firearms Control: A Study of Armed Crime and Firearms Control in England and Wales (1972); Don B. Kates, Jr., Handgun Banning in Light of the Prohibition Experience, in Firearms and Violence 139 (Don B. Kates, Jr. ed., 1984); Gary Kleck, Handgun-Only Gun Control: A Policy Disaster in the Making, in Firearms and Violence 167 (Don B. Kates, Jr. ed., 1984); Gary Kleck, The Relationship between Gun Ownership Levels and Rates of Violence in the United States, in Firearms and Violence 167 (Don B. Kates, Jr. ed., 1984); David Kopel, The Samurai, The Mountie, and The Cowboy: Should America Adopt the Gun Control of Other Democracies? (1992); [and 25 other articles in scholarly journals].

3 Kates Article at 533 & n. 69-70 (citing David I. Caplan, The Right of the Individual to Bear Arms: A Recent Judicial trend, 1982 Det. C. L. Rev. 789; Robert Dowlutt & Janet A. Knoop, State Constitutions and the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, 7 Okla. City U. L. Rev. 177 (1982); Leonard W. Levy, Original Intent and the Framers' Constitution 341 (1988); Joyce L. Malcolm, To Keep and Bear Arms: The Origins of an Anglo-American Right (1994); Akhil R. Amar, The Bill of Rights and the Fourteenth Amendment, 101 Yale L.J. 1193, 1205-11, 1261-62 (1992); Robert J. Cottrol, Second Amendment, in The Oxford Companion to the United States Supreme Court 763-64 (Kermit L. Hall et al. eds., 1992); Robert J. Cottrol & Raymond T. Diamond, Public Safety and the Right to Bear Arms, in The Bill of Rights in Modern America: After 200 Years (David J. Bodenhammer & James W. Ely eds., 1993); Robert J. Cottrol & Raymond T. Diamond, The Fifth Auxiliary Right, 104 Yale L.J. 995 (1994); Nicholas J. Johnson, Shots Across No Man's Land: A Response to Handgun Control, Inc.'s Richard Aborn, 22 Fordham Urb. L.J. (forthcoming 1995); Stephanie A. Levin, Grassroots Voices: Local Action and National Military Policy, 40 Buff. L. Rev. 321, 346-47 (1992); Sanford Levinson, The Embarrassing Second Amendment, 99 Yale L.J. 637 (1989); Nelson Lund, The Second Amendment, Political Liberty, and the Right to Self-Preservation, 39 Ala. L. Rev. 103 (1987); Joyce L. Malcolm, The of the People to Keep and Bear Arms: The Common Law tradition, 10 Hastings Const. L.Q. 285 (1983); Glenn H. Reynolds, The Right to Keep and Bear Arms Under the Tennessee Constitution, 61 Tenn. L. Rev. 647 (1994); Robert E. Shalhope, The Armed Citizen in the Early Republic, 49 Law & Contemp. Probs. 125 (1986); William Van Alstyne, The Second Amendment and the Personal Right to Arms, 43 Duke L.J. 1236 (1994); David E. Vandercoy, The History of the Second Amendment, 28 Val. U. L. Rev. 1007 (1994); David C. Williams, Civic Republicanism and the Citizen Militia: The Terrifying Second Amendment, 101 Yale L.J. 551 (1991); John C. Yoo, Our Declaratory Ninth Amendment, 42 Emory L.J. 967 (1993); [and several other articles).

4 Kates Article, at 532 & n. 65-68 (citing United States v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939) (only Supreme Court case on Second Amendment in the 20th Century); United States v. Verdugo-Urquidez, 494 U.S. 259, 265 (1990) (mentioning Second Amendment); Planned Parenthood v. Casey, 112 S.Ct. 2791, 2805 (1992) (mentioning right to bear arms as individual right); Moore v. City of East Cleveland, 431 U.S. 494, 502 (1977) (plurality opinion).

5 Kates Article, at 538 - 39 & n. 93, 101; 540-41 & n. 106; (citing Don B. Kates, The Value of Civilian Handgun Possession as a Deterrent to Crime or A Defense Against Crime, 18 Am. J. Crim. L. 113, 147-50, 166 (1991); Kleck, Point Blank, supra note 2, at 123-26; U.S. Dep't of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Guns and Crime 2 (1994) U.S. Dep't of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, Selected Findings from National Statistical Series: Firearms and Crimes of Violence 8 (1994); James D. Wright & Peter H. Rossi, Weapons, Crime and Violence in America: A Literature Review and Research Agenda ch. 7 (1981); Gary Kleck, Policy Lessons from Recent Gun Control Research, 49 Law & Contemp. Probs. 35, 45 (1986).

6 Kates Article, at 538 - 39 & n. 93, 101; 540-41 & n. 106;

7 Kates Article at 538 & n. 94 (citing Sarah E. Ullman & Raymond A. Knight, Fighting Back: Women's Resistance to Rape, 7 J. Interpersonal Violence 31 (1992).

8 Kates Article at 541-543 [Citations in note 5 above].

9 Kates Article at 544, 546, 551 (Gary Kleck is a liberal Democrat, a member of ACLU and Amnesty International, and not a member of any pro-gun group; James D. Wright and Peter H. Rossi are sociology professors who are liberal Democrats, do not own guns, and do not belong to the NRA.)

10 Kates Article at 554 n. 162 (citing Kopel, The Samurai, The Mountie and The Cowboy, supra note 2, at 43; Colin Greenwood, A Study of Firearms Control: Armed Crime and Firearms Control in England and Wales (1972); David B. Kopel, Gun Control in Great Britain (1992); David B. Kopel, Japanese Gun Control, 2 Asia Pac. L. Rev. 26 (1993); [and others].

11 Kates Article at 562-64 & Table 1 (citing Killias, Gun Ownership and Violent Crime: The Swiss Experience in International Perspective, 1 Security J. 169, 169-174 (1990); U.N. Demographic Yearbook - 1985 (1987); U.N. Demographic Yearbook - 1991 (1992); [and others].

12Kates Article at 565-566.

13 Kates Article at 554-555 & n. 165-170 (citing Abraham Tennenbaum, Israel Has a Successful Gun Control Policy, in Gun Control: Current Controversies 248 (Charles P. Cozic ed., 1992); Arthur L. Kellermann et al., The Epidemiologic Basis for the Prevention of Firearm Injuries, 12 Ann. Rev. Pub. Health 17, 28 (1991).

14 Kates Article at 555 & n. 169-170 [citing Tennenbaum, supra note 13, at 167; Kopel, The Samurai, The Mountie and The Cowboy, supra note 2, at 278..

15 Kates Article at 555 & n. 172 (citing Tennenbaum, supra note 13, at 248).

16 Kates Article at 554 & n. 163, (citing Greenwood, supra note 13, at 7-44; Don B. Kates, Firearms and Violence: Old Premises and Current Evidence, in Violence in America 201 (Hugh D. Graham and Ted R. Gurr eds., 1989).

17 Kates Article at 556-57 & n. 176 - 178, and at 568-569 & n. 221, and at 572 & n. 233-235 (citing Kleck, Point Blank, supra note 2, at 269-319 and Tables 2.1 & 7.1; National Safety Council, Accident Facts 1991 at 5; .National Safety Council, Accident Facts 1992 at 5; National Safety Council, Accident Facts 1993 at 5; National Safety Commission, Accident Facts (1980-1994); Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Dep't of Justice, Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics -- 1993 at 365 Table 3.111 (1993); Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Dep't of Justice, Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics -- 1989 at 365 Table 3.118 (1990) [and others].

18 Kates Article at 556-57 & n. 176 - 178 [see footnote 17 above]..

19 Kates Article at 576-578 & n. 258 - 273 [citing original articles and sources].

20 Kates Article at 579-584 & n. 274 - 3096(citing Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Dep't of Justice, Murder in Families 5 Table 7 (1994); Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Dep't of Justice, Murder in Large Urban Counties, 1988 (1993); Eugene D. Wheeler & S. Anthony Varon, Violence in Our Schools, Hospitals and Public Places: A Prevention and Management Guide 166 (1993); Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Homicides Among 15-19 Year Old Males -- United States 1963-1991, 43 Morbidity & Mortality Wkly. Rep. 725, 726-27 (1994); Andrew L. Dannenberg et al., Intentional and Unintentional Injuries in Women: An Overview, 4 Annals Epidemiology 133, 137 (1994); Sheilagh Hodgins, Mental Disorder, Intellectual Deficiency, and Crime: Evidence From a Birth Cohort, 49 Archives Gen. Psychiatry 476 (1992); Federal Bureau of Investigation, Uniform Crime Rep. 43 (1975); John DiIulio, The Question of Black Crime, 117 Pub. Interest 3, 16 (1994); Ronald M. Holmes & Stephen T. Holmes, Murder in America 8-9 (1994); R. Stephen Smith et al., Recidivism in an Urban trauma Center, 127 Archives Surgery 668, 670 (1992); Deborah W. Sims et al., Urban trauma: A Chronic, Recurrent Disease, 29 J. trauma 940 (1989) [and others].

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