Gun control

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An example of a well regulated firearm.
You betrayed the
Icon law.svg
To patronize
and annoy
Guns don't kill people. I kill people...with guns.
—Jon Lajoie[1]

Gun control is a phrase with several meanings.

Controlling your weapon[edit]

Gun control, in enthusiast and hunting terms, refers to making sure you hit only your intended target when discharging a firearm and preventing unintended discharges. Some people seem incapable of this, but "oops, sorry, I thought you were a quail" seems to get most of them off the hook.[2] Some people are just not good enough and disciplined enough to use guns,[3] while others clearly are.[4]

Controlling other people's weapons[edit]

Gun control, in legal terms, refers to limiting access, "carrying rights," or use of firearms by the general public.

Access limitations consist of completely banning the sale or possession of some types of firearms (like sawn-off shotguns, bazookas, and .50's on the foredeck of your yacht), and also regulating who is permitted to obtain firearms in general — for instance, preventing convicted felons from owning firearms, but oddly enough, not suspected terrorists.[5] It is easier to get on the "no fly list" than to be banned from owning a gun.

"Carrying rights," when regulated, limit how and where firearms may be carried on the person (or even in a vehicle) — whether in full view or "concealed." In some jurisdictions there may be restrictions requiring that firearms carried in vehicles not be in the passenger compartment.

Regulating the use of firearms often consists of preventing their discharge in densely populated regions, such as in cities and towns.

Political football[edit]

It shouldn’t be really a surprise to people.
—David Hemenway on the US having "more gun deaths than any other developed country in the world."[6]

Gun control is a highly politicized issue in the United States, for many cultural and historical reasons that no one completely understands. It is often a moot topic in other civilized nations.[7]

The first attempts at federal gun control legislation occurred during the 1930s. During that time unscrupulous weapons salesmen sold military-grade machine guns intended for use in World War I (especially the Thompson Submachine Gun[8]) to criminals; the result was that gangsters and bank robbers were often better armed than many police forces (who may have only had side arms, or a rifle or shotgun at best) and could pretty much rob banks with impunity. Tommy Guns were also marketed to police[9] during the 1920s.

Indeed, every major shooting in the US is usually followed by a round of both gun control advocates and gun nuts wailing that said incident would never have happened if only we had strict gun control laws or everyone packed heat Wild West-style, respectively. A 2004 meta-analysis on gun control research conducted by the National Research Council (NRC) found efficacy for certain types of police intervention in reducing gun crime but also found that the literature was mixed and ambiguous on whether right-to-carry (RTC) laws increased or decreased crime either way.[10] In addition, gun nuts will inevitably cite the "research" of serial cherry-picker, data fabricator, and sock puppeteer John Lott.[11] Some may also use the equally fraudulent arguments of Lott's source, the criminologist Gary Kleck.[12]

A 2014 Stanford University study reviewed and expanded on the NRC study with additional data. The Stanford study was sympathetic to the NRC's view that it was difficult to determine whether right-to-carry laws increased or decreased crime, but criticized their statistical methodology for not using cluster adjustments. The Stanford study found that RTC laws may have increased aggravated assault by 33% (p<.1), and also increased rape and robbery during 1970-2010 (p<.1), and murder during 1999-2010 (p<0.05).[13] A five-year study of US violent crime found that, of all non-fatal crime victims, 99.2% failed to defend or to threaten the criminal with a gun.[14] Guns are just not very threatening to criminals, but they make an attractive item for theft. In 2012 alone, 190,342 firearms were reported lost or stolen in the US, with Texas leading at 10% of all incidents.[15] More guns do not mean more safety but more guns for criminals.[16]

Since both the creation of new gun control laws, and opposition to gun control laws, can be used to garner votes for politicians, the gun laws in the U.S. are a morass of often-contradictory rules, with either gaping loopholes or severe penalties for a misstep. The 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban, for example, created an entirely new legal category of firearms — "assault weapons" — identified not by their lethality but by a list of scary-looking cosmetic features.[17] Suppressors are even more strictly controlled than the guns they can be attached to. Guns that have had their firing mechanism removed are legal, but "imitation guns" are completely forbidden. Firearms dealers must be licensed, and all sales through such a dealer are subject to a criminal background check. Private person-to-person transactions are exempt from the federal background check requirement, but some states require background checks for all sales, including private sales. Online sales by private individuals are also allowed, but the seller must send the gun to a licensed dealer, who will complete the transfer to the buyer (including the required background check). If both the buyer and seller are residents of the same state, they can complete the sale in person like any other private sale, but interstate sales must be completed via a licensed dealer with a background check, and are subject to a complex set of rules as to the states of residency for the seller and buyer. Individual states often supplement the federal laws with their own maze of legal dos-and-don'ts.

Research findings[edit]

Studies on firearms and ammunition bans have been inconsistent: certain studies indicated decreases in violence associated with bans, and others indicated increases. Several studies found that the number of banned guns retrieved after a crime declined when bans were enacted, but these studies did not assess violent consequences. Studies of the 1976 Washington, D.C. handgun ban yielded inconsistent results. Bans often include "grandfather" provisions, allowing ownership of an item if it is acquired before the ban, complicating an assessment of causality. A 2003 study indicated that sales of firearms to be banned might increase in the period before implementation of the bans (e.g., the AWB).[18]

The research behind the "self-defense" aspect of owning a gun is not convincing. A 2015 study by David Hemenay of Harvard University researched NCVS data, about 14,000 people, and has shown that legitimate self-defense cases is statistically rare, less than 1% of the population surveyed.[19]

There is an association between US states with less restrictive gun laws and higher homicide rates.[20] In 1996 Australia enacted strict gun laws and a nationwide buy back program following a mass shooting; following these actions, mass shootings in Australia have essentially ended.[20] Any major effect of the Australian gun law reform has also been refuted: "The results of these tests suggest that the NFA did not have any large effects on reducing firearm homicide [rates] or suicide rates."[21]

There is a convincing link between gun availability and gun suicide.[20][19] A 2016 meta-analysis found that stronger gun laws did reduce homicide rates, and that the strongest evidence was for laws that required background checks and permits to purchase firearms.[22]

A 2013 study noticed a correlation (not causation) that suggested that white racists are more likely to own guns and oppose gun control laws, which is not to suggest that white gun owners tend to be more racist.[23] The FBI has also identified a dangerous spike in "Active Shooter Events" — even as overall gun violence has managed to level off during the same time period.[24]

Unsurprisingly, the National Rifle Association does not like research findings.[20][19] They called it "junk science" and encouraged in American Rifleman to protest against the CDC for funding such research. They have effectively lobbied against funding of aspects of the CDC since mid-1990s. For instance, in 1996, Congress has cut $2.6 million of the CDC's budget, the exact amount that had been allocated for firearm research the previous year.

3D printing[edit]

See the main article on this topic: 3D printing
A zip gun: the old-fashioned homemade gun.

The spread of consumer-level additive manufacturing (a.k.a. "3D printing") in recent years has fed into the debate. As soon as knowledge of the technology became known, people pondered its use in gunmaking. One or two groups have made guns this way. For "research purposes", of course. Early models were fragile and primitive — even the creators did not bill them as effective firearms.[25] A great deal of press coverage ranging in tone from blasé to terrified ensued, the result of a combination of desperation for headlines, devoting excessive attention to "new" technology that doesn't come close to the hype and ignorance of how easy it already is to make any given item (zip gunsWikipedia's W.svg for instance) the "old fashioned" way.

In fact, some of the first examples of "3D printed" guns were actually just 3D printed lower receivers (the part of a rifle legally regarded as the "gun," since it bears the weapon's serial number) which were then completed with off-the-shelf parts. This is rather like 3D printing an engine block intake manifold and claiming you've built an entire car.

Designers and makers of 3D printed guns have released a variety of new designs since the appearance of the first one (described above), expanding greatly on the functionality of the original, and 3D printed guns represented, for a period of a few months, a political football unto themselves.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. I Kill People (And statistically proven.)
  2. See the Wikipedia article on Dick Cheney hunting incident.
  3. YouTube - Shotgun Kicks Nuts
  4. YouTube - Fastest reloader
  5. Bloomberg 'Terror Gap' Argument Shot Down By Pro-Gun GOP Senators, Huffington Post
  6. U.S. Has More Guns – And Gun Deaths – Than Any Other Country, Study Finds, ABC News
  7. The Economist sums it up quite well.
  8. More commonly, the "Tommy Gun"
  9. Ad for Thompson "Anti-Bandit" gun
  10. Gun Rhetoric vs. Gun Facts, FactCheck
  11. Tim Lambert of Deltoid has been following the adventures of John Lott for years: See his debunking of More Guns, Less Crime and blog category for Lott.
  12. The Contradictions of the Kleck Study
  13. The Impact of Right to Carry Laws and the NRC Report: The Latest Lessons for the Empirical Evaluation of Law and Policy by Abhay Aneja, John J. Donohue III & Alexandria Zhang (September 4, 2014) Stanford Law and Economics Olin Working Paper No. 461.
  14. Firearm Violence, 1993-2011 by Michael Planty & Jennifer L. Truman (May 2013) Bureau of Justice Statistics. This statistic refers to all non-fatal crime victims, armed and unarmed combined.
  15. 2012 Summary: Firearms Reported Lost and Stolen Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
  16. Is widespread gun ownership worth the price of more violence? by John J. Donohue (Updated: July 3, 2015 2:20pm) San Francisco Chronicle.
  17. Indeed, it only covered certain semi-automatic firearms and didn't ban a single fully-automatic weapon; laws regulating "machine guns" were already in effect at the time, and were stricter than the new assault weapon law.
  18. First Reports Evaluating the Effectiveness of Strategies for Preventing Violence: Firearms Laws by Robert A. Hahn et al. (October 3, 2003 / 52(RR14);11-20) MMWR.
  19. 19.0 19.1 19.2 Moyer, M. (October 2017). More Guns Do Not Stop More Crimes, Evidence Shows. The Scientific American. Retrieved October 7, 2017.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 Gun research faces roadblocks and a dearth of data: Setting evidence-based policy isn’t easy when research is underfunded and data are locked up by Meghan Rosen (3:00pm, May 3, 2016) Science News.
  21. The Australian Firearms Buyback and Its Effect on Gun Deaths by Wang-Sheng Lee and Sandy Suardi. (August, 2008.
  22. Firearm Laws and Firearm Homicides: A Systematic Review by Lois K. Lee et al. (November 14, 2016) JAMA Internal Medicine.
  23. Racism, Gun Ownership and Gun Control: Biased Attitudes in US Whites May Influence Policy Decisions by Kerry O'Brien et al. (October 31, 2013. DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0077552) PLOS ONE.
  24. Active Shooter Events from 2000 to 2012, FBI
  25. What happened to the mythical undetectable plastic gun? and Unimpressive 3D Printed Zip Gun Drives Internet Insane
  26. The Democracy Index, Israel and this dude would like to have a word with you.