If there’s one issue which breaks the gun-violence debate into two aides, it’s how we explain the connection between gun ownership and violence caused by guns. According to public health researchers like David Hemenway, et. al., the United States suffers from an extraordinarily high rate of gun violence because we have so many guns. We are the only country with a per-capita ownership rate of nearly 100 percent, thus we have gun violence that is three to seven times higher than any other advanced nation-state. The other side, led by Gary Kleck and John Lott, argues that because we have so many guns, we have a less-than-average rate of violent crime because citizen-protectors keep us all safe and sound.
I have just posted a detailed paper on the Social Science Research Network, which represents the first time that anyone has attempted to look at gun violence by understanding the behavior of the perpetrators or the suffering of the victims, but by the type of the gun-violence instrument itself, namely, the gun. This research was based on a remarkable collection of documents published by our friends at The Trace, who collected inventories 846,353 guns collected by 1,054 police agencies between 2010 and 2016.
What emerges from this research are several discoveries which, speaking bluntly, turns some of the most cherished notions held by Gun-control Nation on their heads. The first notion is the idea that the existence of any and every civilian-owned gun might be a threat to public security and health. After all, that’s the assumption which underlies the idea that more guns results in more gun violence, right? Wrong.
I did a word search of the entire listing of 846,353 guns using these five words: Remington 700, the Ruger 77, the Winchester 70, the Marlin 1894 and the Savage 11. These five rifles(in their different variations) probably represent 10 percent of the entire American gun stock in circulation today, and altogether the words came up exactly five times. Of course we have to assume that the cops sometimes don’t get the names right or other times simply forget to write down the manufacturer’s name at all. But let’s be honest folks – the bottom line is that there’s simply no way that the 160 million or so hunting guns play any role in gun violence at all.
The research also turned up the fact that at least one-third of all ‘crime’ guns have been in the civilian arsenal since long before any information was developed which would allow the ATF or the local cops to conduct anything remotely considered to be a so-called gun ‘trace.’ This is because guns have a funny way of not wearing out and many of these crime guns have been floating around since long before gun makers were required to keep records covering who bought their guns. Ever hear of a 4-shot derringer called the Brownie and manufactured by Mossberg between 1922 and 1930? Of course you haven’t, but 40 of these little bangers were picked up by the Chicago cops in 2014.
I didn’t publish these findings to contradict or devalue the research on gun violence done by public health. To the contrary, their work needs to be read, shared and fully discussed. But what also needs to be considered is that creating a more effective regulatory system for reducing gun violence is simply not possible without developing and implementing policies that regulate the instruments of this violence – the guns.
What this research points up is that every category of gun violence is primarily a function of access to concealable handguns, and we make no distinction whatsoever in how we regulate access to these weapons as opposed to all other types of guns. The guy who walks into my gun shop and buys a broken, old shotgun because he has an extra Jackson in his billfold jumps through the exact, same legal hoops that someone jumps through who buys a Glock 19 with five extra, hi-cap mags. That’s a regulatory system which is bound to fail.