Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People

This bumper sticker statement implies two closely related ideas. First it implies that all gun deaths are intentional, and second, if there were no gun the killer would simply find another weapon.
Let me start with the first point. If guns don’t kill people, people kill people, that means that every time a gun is used to kill someone it is intentional. Let’s address the idea that every gun death is intentional.

Here are a couple recent news stories to help flesh out this idea:

“Toddler shoots 5-year-old” A three year old in South Carolina shot and killed his five year old cousin with a gun.

The tables were turned in Kentucky when a “5-year-old shoots toddler sister to death.” On May 1, 2013, a five year old boy playing with a “Crickett” riffle, shot his little sister.

These are tragic incidents, and I don’t want to make light of them, but in my view the GDKP – PKP statement trivializes these deaths. The statement implies that the three year old in South Carolina would have toddled out into the garage and grabbed a crowbar to beat his cousin to death, if the gun hadn’t been available. Clearly that’s absurd. Clearly there are cases of accidental gun deaths.
According to the CDC, approximately 600 people die from accidental gun use every year. [See:,] These are people cleaning guns, dropping guns, inadvertently hitting the trigger, as well as small children who use the gun not realizing that it is a real weapon and not a toy.

This blithe bumper sticker statement ignores hundreds of unintentional or accidental gun deaths a year. Those deaths, those people, don’t seem to count for many advocates of gun rights.

The GDKP – PKP statement also implies that there is a level of murderousness that we simply can’t control. It implies that in every case where a gun is used to kill someone, the murdered would have simply used a different weapon, a knife, a golf club, a hammer, a rope, his bare hands.

It is true that people kill, and they do everywhere. They kill with guns, they kill with knives, the kill with bombs, they kill with their bare hands. For the GDKP – PKP statement to be true the murder rate should be roughly the same everywhere in the world. But it’s not. It varies dramatically by country.

Here’s a chart from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)
[Murder Rates by country: ]

According to the UN Office On Drugs and Crime the worldwide average murder rate is 6.9 per 100,000 people. [, citing UNODC statistics, which were verified]

This rate varies dramatically be region. It’s 17 per in Africa, 3.1 per in Asia, 3.5 per in Europe, 20 per in South America, and 3.9 per in North America. The U.S. has a pretty high murder rate for a developed country, at 4.7 per 100,000. In fact it has the highest murder rate of any of the G20 countries, except for Russia.

Clearly murder is inherent in the human condition. Some people are enraged, others are depraved or unconstrained by the normal bonds of human behavior, and they kill. But the fact that murder rates vary dramatically by country indicates that social conditions affect the likelihood of killing.

One point to note is that the murder rate does not correlated directly to the rate of gun ownership, though there is some relation. Europe has a very low murder rated and a low gun ownership rate. But South American has a very high murder rate but a low gun ownership rate. [See] and]

The main controlling factor for the murder rate appears to be level of economic development: the higher the level of economic development, the lower the murder rate. The main exception is the United States.

There is one other point to note: The US a very high gun death rate, at 10.0 per 100,000. This is much higher than the murder rate because most gun deaths are suicides.

I find the GDKP – PKP argument silly and disrespectful of the intelligence of the American people. I find that it is unhelpful in the public debate.

That being said, there are valid arguments in favor of gun ownership, and it is for these reasons that I support the rights of Americans to own firearms.

Guns are important for self-defense. There may be an argument about actual numbers, but there is absolutely no doubt that there are many cases where homeowners have protected themselves and their families with a gun. It is well known that thieves tend to target houses where no one is home for fear of being shot by a homeowner. So guns are absolutely used for self-defense.

Guns have been safely used for hunting and sporting uses by millions of Americans for hundreds of years. In fact the vast majority of gun owners are sensible and safe.

Guns are part of American culture and American history. This is a true statement, and part of a valid argument in favor of Second Amendment rights. Although the history argument brings up issues of gun ownership related to free blacks before the civil war and freed slaves after the war. And discussion of culture raise issues of the negative impact as well as the positive impact on American culture.

The reality is that millions of Americans safely own and safely use guns every day. The reality is also that only a tiny tiny fraction of the public misuses firearms. We should not let the irresponsible behavior of a small hand full of people impact the rights of the majority.

I’m sure that some people will suggest that I oppose gun rights, or support restrictions on Second Amendment rights, but this is untrue. I have no interest or intention in changing gun laws. Despite some recent high profile cases the rates of gun deaths in this country are largely static. Crime rates have been coming down in the nation over the last twenty years of so, and rates have inched down for murders.

My argument here is for a sane, sensible, and reasonable discussion of these rights, and not to advocate for restrictions on these rights.