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Gun control

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An example of a well-regulated firearm.
Time to dodge some bullets
Icon gun.svg
Come and take them!
Shooting stars
A not-so-well-regulated militia
Guns don't kill people. I kill people...with guns.
—Jon Lajoie[1]

In legal terms, gun control 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 (such as sawn-off shotguns, bazookas, nuclear bazookas,Wikipedia machine guns mounted on the back of your truck,Wikipedia and .50's 18-inch naval gunsWikipedia 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.[2] It's easier to get on the "no fly listWikipedia" than to be banned from owning a gun.

"Carrying rights", when regulated, limit how and where firearms may be carried on a 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.

American political football[edit]

It shouldn’t be really a surprise to people.
—David Hemenway on America having more gun deaths than any other developed country in the world[3]

Gun control has become 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 countries.

The first attempts at federal gun control legislation in the U.S. occurred during the 1930s. At that time, unscrupulous weapons salesmen sold military-grade machine guns manufactured for use in World War I (especially the Thompson Submachine Gun)[note 1] to criminals. As a result, 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[4] during the 1920s.

Indeed, any major shooting in the US is usually followed by a round of both gun control advocates and gun nuts arguing that said incident would not have happened if there had been strict gun control laws, or if everyone packed heat Wild West-style, respectively. A 2004 meta-analysis on gun control research 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,[5] though a 2019 meta-analysis found that RTC laws increased violent crime by 13–15% after 10 years of adoption.[6] In addition, gun nuts will inevitably cite the "research" of serial cherry-picker, data fabricator, and sock puppeteer John Lott.[note 2][7] Some may also use the equally fraudulent arguments of Lott's source, the criminologist Gary Kleck.[8][9]

A 2014 Stanford University study reviewed and expanded on the NRC study with additional data. Though sympathetic to the NRC's view that it was difficult to determine whether right-to-carry laws increased or decreased crime, it nevertheless 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 between 1970 and 2010 (p<.1), and murder between 1999 and 2010 (p<0.05).[10] A five-year study of violent crime in the U.S. found that of all non-fatal crime victims, 99.2% failed to defend or to threaten the criminal with a gun.[11] In 2012 alone, 190,342 firearms were reported lost or stolen in the US, with Texas leading at 10% of all incidents.[12] More guns do not mean more safety, but more guns for criminals.[13]

Because both the proposing of new gun control laws and opposition to gun control laws can garner votes for politicians, gun laws in the U.S. have become a morass of often contradictory rules, with either gaping loopholes or severe penalties for a misstep. The 1994 Federal Assault Weapons Ban,[14] for example, invented an entirely new legal category of firearms — "assault weapons" — identified not by their lethality, but by a list of scary-looking cosmetic features.[note 3] 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 obtain licenses, and all sales through such dealers 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 doing the required background check). If the buyer and seller are both 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 do's and don'ts.

Jody Hice, Baptist reverend and the 2014 winner of the Republican nomination for Congress in Georgia's 10th Congressional District, has proposed essentially removing all gun laws and allowing private ownership of bazookas, and "any, any, any, any weapon that our government and law enforcement possesses".[15] Nuclear bombs for billionaires, anyone?

Research findings[edit]

Studies on firearm and ammunition bans have been inconsistent; certain studies indicated decreases in violence associated with bans, while others indicated increases. One meta-analysis from 2015 argued that "It must be tentatively concluded that higher gun ownership rates do not cause higher crime rates, including homicide rates".[16] Another one from the same year, however, concluded that "the weaknesses in US federal firearm policies are well documented and result in many high-risk individuals having access to and using firearms to commit violent crimes",[17] and another one from 2017 claimed that "evidence from 130 studies in 10 countries suggests that in certain nations the simultaneous implementation of laws targeting multiple firearms restrictions is associated with reductions in firearm deaths. Laws restricting the purchase of (e.g., background checks) and access to (e.g., safer storage) firearms are also associated with lower rates of intimate partner homicides and firearm unintentional deaths in children, respectively".[18]

Several studies also 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 Federal Assault Weapons Ban).[19]

The research behind the "self-defense" aspect of owning a gun is not convincing. A 2015 study by David Hemenay of Harvard University researched National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) data on about 14,000 people, showing that legitimate self-defense cases occur statistically rarely, in less than 1% of the population surveyed.[20] Even officers from big cities, despite being exposed to far more criminals, report rarely having to use a gun; a Pew Research Center survey conducted by the National Police Research Platform reported that, out of 7,917 officers from 54 departments with 100 or more officers, only 27% have fired a weapon on duty.[21]

There is an association between U.S. states with less restrictive gun laws and higher homicide rates.[22] In 1996, Australia enacted strict gun laws and a nationwide buy-back program following a mass shooting;[23] since then, mass shootings in Australia have essentially ended.[22] This is further confirmed by a follow-up meta-analysis,[24] demonstrating an overall reduction in homicide and suicide rates.

There is a convincing link between gun availability and gun suicides.[22][20][24] 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.[25]

A 2013 study found a correlation (not causation) that suggested that white racists are more likely to own guns and to oppose gun control laws, which is not to suggest that white gun owners tend to be more racist,[26] and might not apply to Haiti. The FBI also identified a dangerous spike in "Active Shooter Events" — even as overall gun violence has managed to level off during the same time period.[27]

Unsurprisingly, the National Rifle Association does not like research findings.[22][20] They called it "junk science" and encouraged readers of American RiflemanWikipedia to protest against the CDC for funding such research. They have effectively lobbied against funding of aspects of the CDC since the mid-1990s. For instance, in 1996, Congress cut $2.6 million of the CDC's budget, the exact amount that had been allocated for firearm research the previous year. In 2019, however, legislation introduced a spending bill that included $25 million for research of firearm violence,[28] thus overturning the ban on research that was effective since 1996.

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") since about 2010 has fed into gun control debates. As soon as knowledge of the technology became known, people pondered its use in gun-making, and one or two groups 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.[29] A great deal of press coverage ensued, ranging in tone from blasé to terrified, a 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 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. It's essentially the same thing as 3D printing an engine block intake manifold then saying 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. In 2018, the US Justice Department ruled that 3D-printed gun blueprints (as part of unregistered weapons) are legal per the Second Amendment.[30]

Common arguments against gun control[edit]

Pro-gun argument Rebuttal
Stricter gun control violates the Second Amendment. The Bill of RightsWikipedia gives Americans the right to bear arms:

A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

The Second Amendment is really about the right for a regulated militia to have arms, which pro-gun advocates rarely focus on. The "militia" does not refer to the general populace (as so many pro-gun nuts love to believe), but in fact, a literal militia. When the Constitution was passed, the federal army was very, very small, so the United States relied heavily on the militias maintained by its individual states for national defense.[31] In fact, at that time, only 14.7% of male property owners (read: anyone who could own a gun in the first place) had guns.[32] Today, a militia is unneeded, since, you know, there's a large federal army. While unrelated to the main argument, given their right-wing political leanings, gun supporters are also likely to support military spending. If gun supporters were truly for defending against governmental tyranny, they would sensibly oppose strengthening the military and the police. But as we should all know by now, right-wingers don't care for hypocrisy.

You can't change the meaning of the Second Amendment like that. It's really about giving citizens the right to guns! It says "the right of the People". It's not specifically about guns, it's about armaments,Wikipedia which is a fancy word for weapons. Therefore, the Second Amendment theoretically gives the rights to:
  1. Nuclear weapons
  2. Mustard gas

However, despite the ban of these weapons in the U.S., people aren't complaining about rights violations. Why? Because allowing citizens the rights to these weapons is insane; both sides of the political spectrum agree on this. But unfortunately, people can't be bothered to actually read the Bill of Rights even though it's literally a sentence to digest.

When people say they want stricter gun laws, they really want to repeal the Second Amendment. This is an argument by assertion and a whiff of the slippery slope fallacy. Not to mention it has technically no legal bearing on owning guns in the first place, so this argument is a non sequitur. Just because certain guns are banned doesn't mean all guns will be. People just want certain guns that pose extreme danger, such as automatic firearms,Wikipedia to be banned. And even if the Second Amendment is repealed, this doesn't necessarily mean that owning a gun is banned, but that it's not considered a right to bear arms, just as how owning a car is not a right guaranteed by the Constitution, yet cars are not banned. Moreso, even with the Second Amendment, it's reasonable that this right carries limitations, as even rights people agree on, such as free speech and freedom of religious expression, also carry limitations. The problem with the Second Amendment, then, is that it's used as a quick and cheap means of dismissing critique of gun ownership while also propagating gun ownership with the fewest restrictions as possible (as restrictions "impede" on this apparent right).

Guns can be used in self-defense; therefore more citizens and teachers should be armed. 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 dataWikipedia on about 14,000 people, showing that genuine self-defense cases are statistically rare, with less than 1% of the population surveyed.[20] On the other hand, guns have proven to be a terrible investment in self-defense, as gun ownership increases the chances of being killed. This includes deaths from family conflicts,[6] suicide, thieves stealing the gun, children mishandling the gun, ricocheting bullets, misfiring, and police confrontations.[33] This is further exacerbated by racial profiling, as black Americans with guns are far more likely to be killed by police, regardless of their intent. A gun additionally gives its owner a false sense of security, as well as an exaggerated sensitivity to threats, letting the owner take risks that they otherwise would not take. For instance, during a physical confrontation over parking in Florida, the man who was knocked down overreacted to the threat and fatally shot the man who shoved him.[34] If he didn't have a gun, he would resort to more responsible measures, such as calling the police or security. Finally, given that guns increase crime, this can be a burden on the police and can impair the police's ability to reduce crime.[note 4]

Controlling your weapon[edit]

Gun control has another meaning in enthusiast and hunting terms. It 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.[note 5] Some people are just not good enough and disciplined enough to use guns,[35] while others clearly are.[36]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. More commonly, the "Tommy Gun"
  2. Tim Lambert of Deltoid has followed the adventures of Lott for years: see his debunking of More Guns, Less Crime and blog category for Lott.
  3. 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.
  4. Granted, there are some people who want the police to be destroyed
  5. See the Wikipedia article on Dick Cheney hunting incident.
  6. The Democracy Index, Israel and this dude would like to have a word with you.


  1. I Kill People (And statistically proven.)
  2. Bloomberg 'Terror Gap' Argument Shot Down By Pro-Gun GOP Senators, Huffington Post
  3. U.S. Has More Guns – And Gun Deaths – Than Any Other Country, Study Finds, ABC News
  4. Ad for Thompson "Anti-Bandit" gun
  5. Gun Rhetoric vs. Gun Facts, FactCheck
  6. 6.0 6.1 Donohue, J. J., Aneja, A. and Weber, K. D. (2019), Right‐to‐Carry Laws and Violent Crime: A Comprehensive Assessment Using Panel Data and a State‐Level Synthetic Control Analysis. Journal of Empirical Legal Studies, 16: 198-247. doi:10.1111/jels.12219
  7. See the Wikipedia article on John Lott.
  8. The Contradictions of the Kleck Study
  9. See the Wikipedia article on Gary Kleck.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 2012 Summary: Firearms Reported Lost and Stolen Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives
  13. Is widespread gun ownership worth the price of more violence? by John J. Donohue (Updated: July 3, 2015 2:20pm) San Francisco Chronicle.
  14. See the Wikipedia article on Federal Assault Weapons Ban.
  15. Jody Hice: Citizens need 'cannons, bazookas, missiles'
  16. Kleck, Gary (2015-01-01). "The Impact of Gun Ownership Rates on Crime Rates: A Methodological Review of the Evidence" (in en). Journal of Criminal Justice 43 (1): 40–48. doiWikipedia:10.1016/j.jcrimjus.2014.12.002. ISSN 0047-2352. 
  17. Webster, Daniel W.; Wintemute, Garen J. (2015-03-18). "Effects of Policies Designed to Keep Firearms from High-Risk Individuals". Annual Review of Public Health 36 (1): 21–37. doiWikipedia:10.1146/annurev-publhealth-031914-122516. ISSN 0163-7525. 
  18. Webster, Daniel W.; Wintemute, Garen J. (2015-03-18). "Effects of Policies Designed to Keep Firearms from High-Risk Individuals". Annual Review of Public Health 36 (1): 21–37. doiWikipedia:10.1146/annurev-publhealth-031914-122516. ISSN 0163-7525. 
  19. 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.
  20. 20.0 20.1 20.2 20.3 Moyer, M. (October 2017). More Guns Do Not Stop More Crimes, Evidence Shows. The Scientific American. Retrieved October 7, 2017.
  21. Morin, R; Mercer, A. (February 8, 2017). A closer look at police officers who have fired their weapon on duty. Pew Research Center. Retrieved May 29, 2019.
  22. 22.0 22.1 22.2 22.3 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.
  23. See the Wikipedia article on Port Arthur massacre (Australia).
  24. 24.0 24.1 Julian Santaella-Tenorio, Magdalena Cerdá, Andrés Villaveces, Sandro Galea; What Do We Know About the Association Between Firearm Legislation and Firearm-Related Injuries?, Epidemiologic Reviews, Volume 38, Issue 1, 1 January 2016, Pages 140–157,
  25. Firearm Laws and Firearm Homicides: A Systematic Review by Lois K. Lee et al. (November 14, 2016) JAMA Internal Medicine.
  26. 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.
  27. Active Shooter Events from 2000 to 2012, FBI
  28. Subbaraman, N. (December 17, 2019). "United States to fund gun-violence research after 20-year freeze". Retrieved December 16, 2019.
  29. What happened to the mythical undetectable plastic gun? and Unimpressive 3D Printed Zip Gun Drives Internet Insane
  30. BBC. (July 18, 2018) 3D-printed gun blueprints given go-ahead by US government. Retrieved July 21, 2018.
  31. A Moderate's Guide to Gun Control
  32. Fact #9
  33. 'They basically saw a black man with a gun': Police kill armed guard while responding to call by Mark Guarino, Alex Horton and Michael Brice-Saddler (November 12, 2018 at 9:31 PM) The Washington Post. A quote from the article: "At least 181 of those shot and killed by police this year — 22 percent — were black. The U.S. population is about 13 percent black. More than half of those killed — 459 people, including Roberson — were said to have a gun when police killed them."
  34. Zhao, C. (July 21, 2018). ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law Protects Shooter In Fatal Fight Over Handicapped Parking Space. Newsweek. Retrieved July 21, 2018.
  35. YouTube - Shotgun Kicks Nuts
  36. YouTube - Fastest reloader