Is the solution to gun violence more gun control or more guns?

July 3, 2013

A saying bandied about by pro-gun advocates when asked about gun control is that an armed society is a polite society. In short, carrying guns (the more the better) will actually deter crime.

gun control sign

A warning that loaded firearms are present. From

In the wake of yet another round of senseless deaths following a mass shooting at California’s Santa Monica College in June, both pro- and anti-gun advocates polished their spurs and dug in their heels to have another go at the same ideological battle.

The Daily Caller, a news and opinion site with libertarian conservative leanings, gave voice to the argument that the solution to gun violence is more guns. In the article, John Lott, an economist and author of the book More Guns, Less Crime, argues that the gun-free policy of Santa Monica College all but invites gun violence. In a world where universities can choose to allow guns on campuses, “a would-be murderer would be crazy to go on a shooting spree in anything but a gun-free university. In a gun-free university, he would know that no one would be able to defend himself.”

On the opposite side, the answer to gun violence is, of course, the exact opposite, namely gun control.

At the core of this rift is the question of whether more guns means more weapons in the hands of the violently insane and temporarily angry, or more protection by heroic individuals using concealed carry permits.

Gun rights advocates believe in immediate, individualized crime control and the power of fear and possibility — that the possibility of someone in the crowd having a gun will be enough to scare off criminals. And if that doesn’t work, hopefully someone will shoot him dead before more crime occurs.

Gun control advocates hope to change the conditions that allow people to go on a shooting rampage by limiting access to guns and making background checks stricter.

Pro-gun advocates point out that there are more concealed carry permits now than ever, and that homicide rates are the lowest they’ve ever been. It is true that in New York, crime has dropped dramatically over the last 20 years. However, gun control has also tightened. In Oakland, where anyone can easily get their hands on a gun —illegally, but with the same ease as constitutional carry — there are eleven gun crimes a day. Chances are, there’s much more to the drop in crime than the number of concealed carry permits out there.

Yellow police tape across a crime scene.

A line of police tape after two people were shot in Seattle in 2007. (Image from Heather).

Yet, in January 2002, a disgruntled student at the Appalachian School of Law in Grundy, Virginia, had gone so far as to shoot and kill three people before being thwarted by a pair of gun-toting passerby. Another armed man with an automatic rifle opened fire in a church, before he was shot and killed by a person with a gun.

These examples seem to suggest that people can stop massacres by carrying a gun at the right place and time. Perhaps this notion, combined with the correct training and appropriate firearms practice, can limit and thwart crime. And maybe a quick response system for calling these trained marksmen would help, just in case they aren’t already at the location where the carnage is developing.

Oh wait. We already have that. It’s called the police force.

In almost all cases where a gunman was stopped spontaneously, it was by off-duty police officers or trained security personnel. For example, the shooter at Santa Monica was prevented from creating further carnage when he was shot and killed by police.

In a country that already has some 300,000 guns on the street, it is useless to pine for the safety of no guns at all. But perhaps we should leave crime prevention to the police who are trained to do it and held accountable for their actions.

gun control

Illegal guns recovered by the sheriffs office in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Image from CityofStPete).


Category: Guns, Trespassing