Is The Public Crazy Not To Support Gun Control?

A number of opinion writers have taken the occasion of the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado to express disgust with the fact that the American public shows little inclination towards increased gun control. According to Gallup, the percentage of Americans who say they “feel that laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict” dropped from 78% to 44% during the period from 1990 to 2010.

Some of the more hyperbolic has claimed this is because the US is seized by a “death cult” or that it “worships violence”, but I think the actual reason is quite rational.

If we look at the percentage of people supporting stricter gun control in relation to the percentage of people who say they own guns (also from Gallup) and the US homicide rate, we see that the homicide rate dropped by 49% from 1990 to 2010 while gun ownership rates have remained fairly flat.

Since people readily perceive that gun ownership remains common, and yet violent crime has fallen significantly since the height of the ’80s and ’90s crime wave, people seem to implicitly believe that restricting gun ownership is not necessary in order to deal with crime.

We can get a somewhat longer term view of this if we look at an older Gallup question which is available in the same study, the percentage of Americans who say they support a ban on civilian handgun ownership. The question has been asked somewhat sporadically by Gallup, so we have only a few data points from the 50s, 60s and 70s, but the pattern is still very interesting.

Gallup first asked the question in 1959 when the murder rate had just gone up from 4.1 in 1955 to 4.9 in 1959. Support for a ban was quite high as 60%. Support for a ban dropped rapidly while crime increased. In 1979 31% of Americans supported banning handguns and the murder rate was 9.8. Support for a handgun ban then rebounded, reaching a recent high of 43% of American in 1991, which was also one of the worst years for violent crime with a murder rate of 9.8. However, violent crime then fell sharply and has continued a gradual decline, and support for banning hand guns has declined along with it with only 29% of Americans supporting such a ban in 2010.

This suggests to me that Americans actually have a pretty reasonable approach to the question. Despite the occasional headline grabbing catastrophe, the current murder rate is down at the same level as the 1950s, despite the availability of Glock handguns and “assault rifles”.

  1. “A number of opinion writers have taken the occasion of the mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado to express disgust with the fact that the American public shows little inclination towards increased gun control.”

    The attempt by some Leftist pundits to use this tragedy by either a very insane, or very evil, man to promote war on the Second Amendment is as predictible as it is contemptible. Norway has fairly strict gun control laws, and they did absolutely nothing in preventing a far worse massacre a year ago:

    http://world.time.com/2012/07/21/trying-to-forget-breivik-one-year-after-the-norway-massacre/

  2. Far more guilt is to be laid on the people who removed the Fifth Commandment: “Thou shalt not kill” from the public square.

    Guns do not kill people. People kill people.

    The Right to Life fair was a miracle and a blessing. The woman approached the table and stated that “babies of crack mothers ought to be aborted.” Charles said: “My wife and I adopted a crack baby and she is doing fine”. Last year a woman approached the table and said: “Disabled children ought to be aborted.” David, the man born blind who goes to work on the train to teach others with his disability said: “What kind of disability are you talking about?” and the weather held up. Thank God. One Hail Mary

  3. Forks kill!

    Millions are dying horrid deaths from obesity.

    Ban forks.

    Correlation is not causation. Since the 1950′s, liberals have added layer upon payer of gun control laws restricting access of law-abiding people to firearms. And, year after year, we have seen horrid increases in violence.

    Americans outside the welfare states on the fringes/coasts, realize that criminals employ guns and they don’t obey gun laws.

    We understand that banning guns won’t stop violent predatory criminals.

    “So, if the USA follows Australia’s lead in banning guns, it should expect a 42 percent increase in violent crime, a higher percentage of murders committed with a gun, and three times more rape.”

    Plus: “The International Crime Victims Survey, conducted by Leiden University in Holland, found that England and Wales ranked second overall in violent crime among industrialized nations. Twenty-six percent of English citizens — roughly one-quarter of the population — have been victimized by violent crime. Australia led the list with more than 30 percent of its population victimized. The United States didn’t even make the ‘top 10? list of industrialized nations whose citizens were victimized by crime.”

  4. Oddly, by choosing guns, this man avoided the McVeigh route and killed very few people RELATIVE to what his science trained mind could have done with fertilizer etc. Twelve is awful.
    Hundreds would have been worse. If we cannot stop 12 million illegals from entering the country, I suspect prohibition of guns would create a highway from Taurus pistols in Brazil right to our cities. Then only bad guys would have them and our probable cause restrictions would prevent cops from searching houses in the worst neighborhoods….as obtains now.
    We do need to de-glorify violence though. Example: It’s absurd that there are fist fights in professional hockey and none in Olympic hockey. A bar brawler gets time in jail for the very thing that hockey takes pride in while the municipal governments hosting the hockey games look the other way because of the money brought to surrounding culture by hockey.
    Secondly…we are still not as a culture identifying those who are moving into states of true oddity…whether of mental illness or of homicidal evil inclinations which they signal on the internet.
    Thirdly the papal Swiss guard is better equipped than our security guards in large venues to kill a mass murderer wearing body armor because they are given Heckler and Koch PDW’s ( smaller than submachine guns) with armor piercing bullets…the 4.6 mm in MP 7′s which Heckler and Koch probbly donated to Vatican city. So our anti death penalty Vatican is realistic off camera. It’s not impossible that Al Qaeda one day sends someone with body armor into St. Peter’s. The Swiss Guard are actually ready whereas our security in movie theaters are probably unarmed normally.

  5. A little further on what Bill said. We have to consider ourselves lucky that Holmes only used guns and he was not well trained in using them – it could have been much worse.

    Lets face it. If only 1/10 of 1/10% of our population in America is truly insane enough to perpetrate something like this that is still 30,000+ individuals. In most cases we are lucky they choose less massively lethal ways of killing people.

    In this particular case the bomb making skills were in evidence and could easily have been used but weren’t. I won’t go into the many, many ways to make bombs, biological or chemical agents out of the proverbial “household items”. Suffice to say that we can ban everything but wooden spoons and one of those 30,000 will still find a way.

    At least with guns there is a chance for members of the public to actually defend themselves if they can legally carry. It is really hard to defend yourself against an IED.

  6. Here is a curious autobiographical fact. On three occasions, I have been in the near vicinity of a bomb explosion.

    The first time, on Monday 22nd January 1962, aged 16, I was on the embankment of the Seine, in front of the French Foreign Office at Quai d’Orsay, when the OAS plastiqueurs set off a bomb there. Three 5 kg (11 lb) charges of C-4 were used, packed into the mouldings of the facade. Hundreds of windows were blown in. One woman was killed and thirteen people injured.

    The second was on Thursday 8th March 1973, when the IRA set off a bomb () outside the Central Criminal Court in Old Bailey in London. The bomb, about 14 kg or 30 lb of Semtex, was in a car across the street from a public house called the Magpie & Stump. One bar faces the street and the other is behind it, reached from an alleyway called Bishop’s Court. I was in the back bar, when the front of the building was blown in. In the street, one person died and one hundred and forty were injured

    The third was on Saturday 17th December 1983, when the IRA planted another car bomb, similar to the Old Bailey bomb, in Hans Crescent, at the back of Harrods’s, the London department store. I was going there to do some Xmas shopping and had stopped to chat to a friend in Sloan Street. I would have used the Hans Crescent entrance. Six people were killed, including three police officers who had just arrived and were still in their car. One of the dead was an American visitor. Ninety people were injured.

    It is worth noting that, in each case, the bomb was small enough to have been carried with ease in a suitcase or back-pack. From 1973 onwards, the regulations and licensing procedure governing the possession, storage and use of explosives, especially plastic explosives, have been tightened considerably. Terrorists in the UK now tend to use hydrogen peroxide based bombs.

    I have never been shot at.

  7. Michael,
    So in your cases, 1,1 and 6 were killed. In the USA, lapsed Catholic Timothy McVeigh killed 168 of whom 19 were children with one very big bomb in a truck. According to reports, he received the Catholic Extreme Unction/ Anointing of the Sick… prior to execution.

  8. I am not familiar with the current level of gun control, but aren’t there things such as waiting periods and backgrounds checks already in most states, not to mention licenses for concealed carry?

  9. Besides, my understanding of the 2nd Amendment is its purpose is to provide citizens some modicum of defense against a tyrannical government, not self protection from criminals. Even if there is a crime/gun ownership correlation, that would seem to be irrelevant to a 2nd Amd analysis (in other words, the Framers determined the trade off was worth it).

  10. “…aren’t there things such as waiting periods and backgrounds checks already in most states…?”

    In North Carolina I bought my mini-14 rifle and ammunition by just walking into the gun store and picking and choosing what I wanted.

    But there are mandatory training courses and background checks for conceal and carry handguns which a close friend of mine has. He let me see his handgun one day and by goodness, it’s ammunition would do worse damage than what my mini-14 uses! ;-)

    Again, what terrorists like James Holmes and dictators like Barack Hussein Obama fear more than anything else is a well-armed citizenry able to defend its right to life, liberty and the private ownership of property.

  11. “…my understanding of the 2nd Amendment is its purpose is to provide citizens some modicum of defense against a tyrannical government, not self protection from criminals.”

    Doesn’t matter, C Matt. Everyone has the moral right to defend his life and that of his loved ones against aggression. The Maccabean brothers knew that.

  12. “Besides, my understanding of the 2nd Amendment is its purpose is to provide citizens some modicum of defense against a tyrannical government, not self protection from criminals.”
    Is there a difference?

  13. “The Swiss Guard are actually ready whereas our security in movie theaters are probably unarmed normally.”

    Like the body guards of Ronald Reagan, the Swiss Guards are to throw their bodies down on the Pope as shields against the Pope’s harm. There were several men, real men, who saved their beloved ones.

    Our culture needs to return to the love of man for the love of God.

    While walking home from the fifth grade, my son was shot at with a bb gun. I picked the bbs out of his hood. He could have lost an eye. It is a law of physics: For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Let the punishment equal the crime. Bring the power of God into the public square.

  14. Technical point of order for Mr. Primavera (whose points are right on):
    The .223 in your Mini-14 can do a lot more damage at the equivalent range than your friend’s handgun, can, unless he’s got one heck of a handgun. It’s the energy that determines stopping power. Remember that E=1/2mv^2. The .223 has low mass, but – coming out of a rifle barrel with a pretty good charge behind it – has a lot higher velocity. Your rifle will yield about 1100-1200 ft-lbs muzzle energy, depending on the round; a .45 handgun delivers way less than half of that.

    I would reccommend, however, trying to avoid being hit with either :-)

    Rules for a gunfight (traditional):
    1) Bring a gun
    2) Bring more guns
    3) Bring all your friends with guns

  15. Because I’m a stodgy and un-fun kind of guy (and I authored the post) I’m just going to stick my nose back into the threat briefly and say that I don’t think it’s remotely accurate to describe the current president as a dictator or a criminal. I most certainly want to defeat the guy in November, but we’ve been blessed to have real criminals or dictators among our presidents, and I think it’s worth keeping that in mind. Otherwise I’d feel like I was following in the path of so many of my liberal acquaintances who spent eight years suffering from Bush Derangement Syndrome.

  16. I suspect that one reason support for gun control has dropped so dramatically over the past 20-30 years is the spread of concealed carry laws to the majority of states. The doomsayers who predicted that concealed carry would lead to constant Wild West-like shootouts have, for the most part, been proven wrong. As gun ownership and carry permits become more common– every state except, you guessed it, Illinois has some provisions for civilians to carry concealed weapons, though some states make the rules so strict that they might as well be no-carry states — more people learn how to use guns properly, and more people successfully use guns to defend themselves or their families, they lose their fear of them.

  17. Donald R McClary

    There is a street market for second0hand books in Farringdon Street in the City of London, where second-hand books are sold, usually for coppers. I once saw a copy of “Mr Buchanan’s Administration on the Eve of the Rebellion” there, rather handsomely bound and gilded. It had one of those engraved heraldic book plates on the inside front cover, of the kind rather pretentious Victorians used to put in their books. The man wanted £5 for it, but accepted £3.

    Of course, I checked the arms in Papworth and it turned out it had belonged to Sir Edward Gray, who was British Foreign Secretary from 1905-1916. He obviously acquired it before being created a Viscount in 1916, as there was no coronet or supporters on the arms. It is now in my old college library.

  18. What a coincidence MPS! I have a copy of one of the volumes in the Cambridge Ancient hstory that had once been in Grey’s library! He lived until 1933 and I assume his lbirary, or portions of it, must have been sold off after his death.

  19. I most certainly want to defeat the guy in November, but we’ve been blessed to have real criminals or dictators among our presidents, and I think it’s worth keeping that in mind.

    I think you can make a case for the criminality of some (I would be cautious with that – there’s a whole ‘investigative reporter’ subculture which has for forty years or more been manufacturing literature contending each and all were) and Jackson, Lincoln, Wilson, and Roosevelt were certainly severely and unjustly abusive to swaths of the domestic opposition and to people who just happened to be in the way. However, I do not think there has ever been a time where public policy could be made on the President’s whim.

  20. Elaine,
    New Jersey allows concealed carry but to the absolutely rare person as per your remark. NJ is the most densely populated state per square mile so it makes sense vis a vis the probability of a distant bystander being hit by an errant self defense shot. P.A. is actually an open carry state except for large cities, Federal buildings and state parks; and concealed carry seems very possible there to almost anyone normal since many towns probably prefer that people don’t open carry for tourism reasons. Visiting my brother in Shippensburg PA, I never saw a person open carrying because not crime but bad teenage driving seems to be the greater danger in some rural areas. What should be allowed and is not in big NE cities is the .410 pistol that shoots a shotgun shell that quickly dissipates in power past the criminal’s space. So far though these pistols also shoot the .45. Where’s the creativity? Make a .410 only pistol which would stop criminals but dissipate as to far away bystanders in populous states.

  21. Police don’t stop killers. People with guns stop killers.

    NY Daily News: “The evidence is clear: Massacres are stopped by legally armed citizens.”