7 Lies We Need to Stop Telling About Gun Control in America

The most recent U.S. mass shooting, in Isla Vista, Calif., is yet again catalyzing a discussion about stricter gun control laws. But gun advocates, including the NRA and gun lobbyists in D.C., are continuing to spread lies about gun use, firearm ownership and firearm homicide rates. Here are seven myths we can thoroughly debunk:

1. More guns mean fewer deaths.

False. There is a strong correlation between high levels of gun ownership and high firearm homicide rates. The American Journal of Public Health reports that despite not finding a causation, they did find that "states with higher rates of gun ownership had disproportionately large numbers of deaths from firearm-related homicides." 

Additionally, after looking at data from all 50 states from 1981 to 2010, the journal determined that gun ownership is a "significant predictor" of firearm homicide rates, so that each time gun ownership increases by a percentage point, the firearm homicide rate goes up by 0.9%. 

Image Credit: Mother Jones Sources: PediatricsCenters for Disease Control and Prevention

2. Nobody supports gun control.

False. Seventy-eight percent of Americans are in favor of stronger firearms controls, including more thorough background checks and psychological screening of potential customers. Unfortunately, gun lobbyists have monumental funds at their disposal for preventing gun regulations from being passed, or from even getting on the agenda.  

3. The Second Amendment prevents us from having strict gun control.

False. The 2008 Supreme Court ruling District of Columbia v. Heller determined that gun ownership bans were unconstitutional, but it also found that the state and federal governments have a lot of flexibility in how they regulate firearm ownership. This means that issues like banning guns in public places, for example, can be part of gun control laws without conflicting with the Second Amendment.

4. There is no link between stricter gun control and less violence.

False. Economist Richard Florida disproved this theory by finding a strong link between harsh regulations and fewer deaths. Florida said, "[The map] highlights states which have one of three gun control restrictions in place — assault weapons bans, trigger locks or safe storage requirements. Firearm deaths are significantly lower in states with stricter gun control legislation. Though the sample sizes are small, we find substantial negative correlations between firearm deaths and states that ban assault weapons (-.45), require trigger locks (-.42) and mandate safe storage requirements for guns (-.48)."


Image Credit: Washington Post 

5. If more people have guns, there will be fewer mass shootings.

False. Gun ownership in the U.S. may be on the rise, but most of the deadliest mass shootings in the U.S. have occurred since 2007. That includes the Virgina Tech incident, which resulted in the deaths of 32 bystanders plus the perpetrator; the Aurora shooting, where 12 people were killed and 70 more were injured; and the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, which ended with 26 adults and children killed. 

6. Carrying a gun makes you safe. 

False. In a study published by the American Journal of Public Health, the researchers found that individuals in possession of a gun are more likely to get shot than individuals who don't possess guns. The study concluded, "[A]lthough successful defensive gun uses occur each year, the probability of success may be low for civilian gun users in urban areas. Such users should reconsider their possession of guns or, at least, understand that regular possession necessitates careful safety countermeasures."

In a Philadelphia study, the odds of an assault victim being shot if he was carrying a gun were 4.5 times greater, and the chances of him getting killed were 4.2 times greater. And in 2011, almost 10 times more people were shot and killed in arguments than by civilians trying to prevent a crime. 

7. Israel and Switzerland have high gun ownership, yet low gun violence. And the U.S. should model themselves after these countries.

False. Gun advocates point to Israel and Switzerland as proof that fewer mass shootings are the result of allowing guns and encouraging armed civilians to intercept shooters. Janet Rosenbaum, an assistant professor of epidemiology at the School of Public Health at the State University of New York Downstate Medical Center School, researched firearm ownership and access in Israel and Switzerland. Rosenbaum's study illustrates that gun ownership in both countries is strictly regulated and is not encouraged. 

Compared with the U.S., Israel and Switzerland have lower gun ownership rates. Israel, where radical reforms for gun ownership were put into place in 2006, saw a decrease of 40% of suicide among soldiers. Consider that alongside the fact that Israel sends almost all of its youth to the army. Rosenbaum said that since gun ownership regulations have gotten more severe, "the lack of guns promotes the lack of firearm violence." Israelis may still be committing acts of violence, but they are certainly not using lethal firearms to do so as frequently.

There is no doubt that the gun debate is being spotlighted in the public arena right now. But with all these data and hard-hitting facts at our disposal, we have to wonder why the government is still sitting on its hands instead of supporting change. 

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Jenna Kagel

Jenna Kagel covers global and national social injustices. She also focuses on political dysfunction, the intersection of money and policy, and the US criminal justice system.

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