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Gun Control Logical Fallacy: Ignoring Lives Saved

Sunday, April 15, 2018 12:57
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A person who dies because they did not have a gun is just as dead as a person who is murdered with a gun. In practice, overall unjustified homicides tend to rise a bit when gun are banned or restricted.

Those who push for disarmed populations use a logical fallacy when arguing for gun restrictions and gun bans. They only count people who are killed with guns, and ignore people who are killed because they were unarmed or disarmed.

This logical fallacy is called an irrelevancy argument. Whenever you see a chart or graph or statistic that uses the terms “gun homicide”, “gun deaths”, “gun suicides” or “gun violence”. The people using it are promoting a logical fallacy.

Used in research, these terms are a blatant case of confirmation bias in data selection. When people only look at negatives involving guns, they eliminate cases where guns are used to save lives.

What counts are not “gun homicides”, but all unjustified homicides.  If the unjustified homicide level rises when gun restrictions are put in place, the stated purpose of the gun restrictions has not been achieved. The gun restriction cost lives instead of saving them. If the homicide level remains the same, all the expense, disruption of individual lives, industry, personal hardship, and loss of freedom has been inflicted for no gain. The restrictions have resulted in a net loss.

In practice, gun bans and gun restrictions have only small effects on homicide rates. In the United States, John Lott and others have shown small, but measurable reductions in murder and violent crimes when more people carry guns legally. Historically, strict gun control made little difference to murder rates in Europe. Joyce Lee Malcomb has shown that murder rates in England and Wales were lower before strict gun control was put in place. In much of the rest of Europe, the homicide rates are pretty flat over the period when gun restrictions were instituted.

In Jamaica, the murder rate soared when a firearms ban was instituted in the 1960s.

Brazil has one of the highest murder rates in the world while having some of the strictest gun restrictions, and a very low number of guns per capita. Most of the murders in Brazil are committed with illegally possessed and often, illegally manufactured guns. The American Virgin Islands have some of the highest murder rates in the world, and some of the heaviest restrictions on gun ownership.  Only a small number of illegal guns are needed for murderers to create a high murder rate with firearms. This is one of the principal weaknesses of attempting to ban firearms. The demand for firearms to be used in crimes is easily met with firearms made at home, in small shops, diverted from the police and military, or smuggled in.

In the United States, where there are about 420 million guns for 330 million people, guns are commonly used to save lives, defend people from attack, and to stop crimes. In a study commissioned by President Obama, done through the Center for Disease Control, it was recognized that guns are used for defensive purposes more often than criminally.

Defensive Use of Guns

Defensive use of guns by crime victims is a common occurrence, although the exact number remains disputed (Cook and Ludwig, 1996; Kleck, 2001a). Almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals, with estimates of annual uses ranging from about 500,000 to more than 3 million (Kleck, 2001a), in the context of about 300,000 violent crimes involving firearms in 2008 (BJS, 2010). On the other hand, some scholars point to a radically lower estimate of only 108,000 annual defensive uses based on the National Crime Victimization Survey (Cook et al., 1997). The variation in these numbers remains a controversy in the field. The estimate of 3 million defensive uses per year is based on an extrapolation from a small number of responses taken from more than 19 national surveys. The former estimate of 108,000 is difficult to interpret because respondents were not asked specifically about defensive gun use.

Unsurprisingly, justifiable homicides were found to increase in states with “stand your ground” laws, while overall homicide rates dropped. From John Lott:

My research looked at all states that have enacted Stand Your Ground between 1977 and 2012, either through legislation or through court decisions. I consistently found subsequent drops in murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault rates. On average, murder rates fell by about 1.5 percent annually during the first 10 years that the law was in effect.

This is precisely what is predicted when more people use guns to save lives.

Guns are tools. They can be used to save lives as well as be used to take them. Most people who defend themselves with a gun never have to fire a shot. The mere presence of the gun is enough to stop their attacker. Those incidents are seldom recorded by police, reported in the media, or counted in official statistics.  This shows a basic asymmetry about guns. Guns are more easily used to defend against  attack than to murder. Most murderers do not wish to endanger their own lives. Defenders lives are already in danger. Firearms level the playing field.

Those who use the logical fallacy of an irrelevancy argument do not want you to consider the lives lost because people do not have guns. That is why they push the propaganda memes of “gun violence”, “gun homicide”, “gun crime”, and never mention the lives lost because people did not have guns, or because they were disarmed.

But the single mother who faces attackers that are stronger and larger, the 82-year-old who who faces a home invader, the homeowner who faces a criminal gang, could all have been killed if they were not armed.  The examples above were the lucky and prudent ones who were armed. The unarmed victims who would be alive if they had a gun are not mentioned in news reports. Mass murders stopped by armed citizens are downplayed by the media.

The media does not keep a list of instances that “Should have been a defensive gun use”.  Lives lost because the victim did not have a gun are just as important as murders committed with a gun.

©2018 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.

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  • desertspeaks

    oddly, the anti gun lobby isn’t screaming for cops to be disarmed! even though the police murder over 1k men women and children every year… now why do you think the anti gunners aren’t screaming to disarm a GANG that has proven itself to be mass murderers? sure not all cops kill people, but they support those who do, so they’re just as guilty or more so than those that pull the trigger!

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