This Thursday, news headlines were flooded with something that is becoming all too familiar to the American people: gun violence.  The tragic scenario we saw this last week was one that we as well see a great deal of in modern day USA: a theater shooting.  Movie theater shootings tend to be increasingly popular among those who commit such heinous crimes, as was proved by John Russell “Rusty” Houser a few days ago, as he methodically shot 11 people in a theater in Lafayette, Louisiana.  The deplorable situation was not only covered by media outlets, as politicians were quick to treat the tragedy as an opportunity to increase awareness for their political agendas to control guns.

This hasn’t always been the case.  As an in-depth article from NYMag explains, politicians like President Obama have only recently acquired the skill of “politicizing” these mass shootings.  His once-reserved responses to these shootings could be seen in a statement directly after a shooting in 2009, 3 months after Obama was sworn in.  In the statement, he explains his sorrow:

Michelle and I were shocked and deeply saddened to learn about the act of senseless violence in Binghamton, NY today.  Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, their families and the people of Binghamton.

As made clear in the statement, sadness was the only feeling being conveyed in this statement.  No politics, no agendas, and no apparent affiliation between the tears of victims’ families to the necessity of taking guns away from American citizens.  The avoidance of this connection continued, as the following shootings occurred, whether it be in Texas, Alabama, or Colorado, President Obama steered clear of pushing his anti-gun agenda in times of extreme tragedy.

However, as gun-related violence changed for the worse, President Obama’s subsequent statements evolved as well.  This was first shown following the unforgettable tragedy in which 26 people–20 of which students–were killed in a shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

As America mourned, the White House mimicked their sorrow, with a tinge of disappointment in American gun policies, saying:

As a country, we have been through this too many times.  Whether it’s an elementary school in Newtown, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago — these neighborhoods are our neighborhoods, and these children are our children.  And we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this, regardless of the politics.

Later that week, during a well-delivered, somewhat uplifting speech at the Sandy Hook Interfaith Prayer Vigil, the President rhetorically asked the following:

…can we truly say, as a nation, that we are meeting our obligations?  Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children — all of them — safe from harm?  Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know that they are loved, and teaching them to love in return?  Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?

Of course, he answered his own question by saying, “…the answer is no.  We’re not doing enough.  And we will have to change.”  He also answered this question politically, working with Congress to pass new reforms, and restricting the ability to get guns in America.

President Obama using the tragedy of Sandy Hook as a justification for increased gun control thus allows us to ask ourselves some important questions:

Are guns worth the lives of citizens such as the ones taken in places such as Newtown?  Should we still uphold what the Founding Fathers said about guns even with numerous tragedies taking place every year?  And can we have a nation in which we both value human lives and respect the individual freedom to own guns–that have the power to take lives?

At face value, it seems incredibly difficult to have a heart and answer these questions with a “yes.”  However, delving deeper into numerous areas of thought, I find it not only possible but also morally exemplary to answer all of these questions with an affirming “yes.”

First, let’s look to one of the most convincing arguments as to why I believe the left’s attempts to restrict gun access in America is unnecessary, unethical, and counterproductive.  This being, its effectiveness in various places around the United States.  To analyze this empirically, we first look to a graph of Washington, D.C. between 1960 and 2008.

DC Murder Rates

During the years in which the D.C. handgun ban and trigger lock law was in effect, the Washington, D.C. murder rate averaged 73% higher than it was at the outset of the law, while the U.S. murder rate averaged 11% lower.

This graph makes the ineffectiveness of gun control laws in Washington, D.C. abundantly clear.  As it explains and clearly shows, the ban on handguns in D.C. increased murder rates exponentially, even while the national average consistently decreased.  Now, of course, Washington is not a model that the entire United States can co-align with.  However, it’s important to recognize the large difference between gun control laws in D.C. in comparison to the rest of the U.S., and consequently their major divide in murders between 1976 and 2006.

Not-so-shockingly enough, the exact same scenario can be seen in Chicago, Illinois.

Chicago Murder Rates

Since the handgun ban took effect, the number of murders in Chicago committed using handguns has been 40% higher than before the ban, and has spiked even higher in recent years.

A law’s effectiveness can be seen through its results, and nothing better represents the ineffectiveness of gun control legislation in the U.S. than actual laws in United States’ cities.

Secondarily, nationwide examples of gun control show ineffective in many cases. Joyce Malcolm, professor of law at George Mason University, observes that after the U.K. banned handguns in 1998, the rate of handgun crime doubled in the following 10 years.  Directly following the Sandy Hook incident, she concluded:

Strict gun laws in Great Britain and Australia haven’t made their people noticeably safer, nor have they prevented massacres. The two major countries held up as models for the U.S. don’t provide much evidence that strict gun laws will solve our problems.

If other countries can’t protect their citizens by passing gun control reforms, how can the United States expect to be an aberration?  Occurrences like Sandy Hook make us despondent, but they shouldn’t force us see hope in ineffective gun control policies as our panaceas.

In fact, studies have shown there’s no correlation between increased guns and increased crime in the United States. Evidence from the Department of Justice represents a trend in the exact opposite direction.

 Crime Vs. Guns

As gun ownership increases, crime nationwide decreases.  Of course, this graph doesn’t account for numerous factors and shows more of a correlation than it does causation.  But regardless, when cities in the U.S. and other countries directly show this causation, it would be logical to assume there’s a relationship between cause and effect in this scenario.

The reason for this correlation between increased guns and decreased crime could be quite simple.  In 1993, Gary Kleck conducted a survey and found that guns are used 2.5 million times a year in self-defense against criminals, in comparison to guns killing people 33,636 times in 2013.  Doing the math, this means that firearms are utilized to protect innocent lives in 80 times more cases than they are used to end lives.

As previously shown, guns are not inherently evil, and statistics show they are often used to save lives, rather than take them.  Although this is true, it’s common for politicians on the left to vilify not criminals, but rather society, for allowing guns to be put in the hands of criminals.  This can be most recently seen directly following the Lafayette shooting I discussed earlier.  Following the shooting, Martin O’Malley, 2016 Democratic Presidential candidate both tweeted and emailed his supporters, saying he’s “pissed” about the lack of gun control in America.

Although he may not possess the most presidential vocabulary, politicians on the left seem to unanimously agree that the issue is not criminals themselves, but rather, the lack of gun control in America.  Although it’s great to direct the crime away from the uh-criminals… I adopt an approach similar to Ronald Reagan’s, as he said:

We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.

On the issue of past leaders, I believe it’s more than clear that our Founding Fathers’ intent was to maintain the freedom to own guns.  But if politicians like O’Malley want to ignore the statistics shown previously, and would like to say that the Founding Fathers would not like a society with guns as it is now, more clarification can be found here.

Lastly, one of the primary issues with the concept of gun control, and one of the explanations for why it may be ineffective is the fact that, usually, lawbreakers don’t follow laws.  There’s no better way to explain this concept than with a political cartoon:

Terrorists and Gun Control

Whether it be terrorists or domestic criminals, the logic holds true: Criminals won’t follow laws.  If the United States passes comprehensive gun control legislation, the effects will simply be taking guns away from law-abiding citizens.  This could very well be an explanation for why crime surged in the U.K., Chicago, and D.C. directly after passing gun control laws.

One of the most practical ways to stop criminals with guns is to have a gun to stop them with.  In fact, there are numerous examples of times when armed citizens have stopped criminals from committing massacres.  If the government restricts gun ownership among citizens such as these, we’re only likely to increase the amount of gun-related tragedies.

Statistics show that taking guns away from citizens is only likely to increase gun violence in those respective countries.  And although politicians would like to politicize tragedies around the United States in order to push their anti-gun agendas, it’s important that United States citizens refuse to buy into this rhetoric, and side with the liberty we’ve been guaranteed since our nation’s founding.

Connor Rothschild

Hi! My name is Connor Rothschild. I’m an 18-year-old currently studying Economics and Social Policy Analysis at Rice University in Houston, Texas. I’m passionate about impacting people through policy change, usually via the human-centered design process. You can catch me drinking 6 cups of coffee in a given day, reading The Economist between those cups, and playing with my dog Lucy.

Thanks for visiting!

Connor Rothschild


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