Guns Don't Kill People, Guns Kill Productive Debate About Complex Societal Issues

It’s a sad state of affairs when we can say the US has had “yet another” mass shooting. It’s also a sad state of affairs when the obligatory resulting debate about gun control — yet again — achieves absolutely nothing besides a short-term media frenzy filled with vitriol. Every time, it’s hot air about whether we should keep guns out of people’s hands, with no mention of whether we can, nor the underlying social conditions that actually cause mass murder. Enough already.

For those unfamiliar with what happened, a psychologically disturbed man dressed in tactical gear walked into a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, armed with tear gas grenades and multiple firearms. He shot 70 people at random, killing 12 of them. The tactical gear didn’t raise eyebrows at first because it was the opening night of The Dark Knight Rises, and everyone thought he was wearing a costume. This is, unfortunately, not a particularly strange thing to happen in the United States.

“Enough already” seems to be everyone’s rallying cry this time around. It was after last year’s big shooting when the headline “Mass shootings are a fact of American life” appeared. So the anti-gun crowd says, enough already, let’s pass a bunch of gun bans and put an end to these tragedies. The pro-gun crowd says, enough already, stop politicizing tragedies, and oh by the way if everyone had a gun then people could defend themselves against trigger-happy madmen.

Meanwhile, my brain overdoses on epic fail and I nearly fall into a coma.

The Right of the People to Blow Holes In Stuff for Recreational Purposes

I used to be one of the stereotypical anti-gun people, ignorantly calling for a repeal of the Second Amendment and decrying anyone who’d want a gun as a backwards barbarian. Then two things happened. First, I started dating a national champion competition target shooter. Second, I read the part of Makers where people started building AK-47s with 3D printers. These things made me realize that even though I don’t particularly want a gun, I still ought to stand up for people’s freedom to have them.

Why is the right to bear arms important? “Guns are used for hunting, for self-defense, and as a last line of defense against tyranny,” says the upper middle class white male who just drove from his well-paying job to his nice, safe neighborhood (which is located hundreds of miles from any hunting ground) in the gas-guzzling, heavy-duty pickup truck that he bought in case he ever needs to tow the boat he’ll never own.

See, most gun owners I’ve met will never, ever use their guns to go hunting, to shoot an intruder, or to violently revolt against an oppressive government. The vast majority of people have guns for the same reason many people have ridiculous trucks: because they’re fun. And believe me, having shot an absurd four-barrel magnum which produces a muzzle flash longer than the gun itself (and it can fire underwater!), I know how fun it is to make these things go bang. There is nothing wrong with fun. But because the terrified anti-gun crowd won’t accept the legitimacy of fun, law-abiding gun owners have to come up with ridiculous, flimsy justifications for why they should be allowed to have their toys.

But no, I don’t stand for the right to bear arms because of the sanctity of human fun. I stand for the right to bear arms because taking it away would be like putting a band-aid on a brain tumor.

You Wouldn’t Download an Assault Weapon

In this NPR interview about the Aurora shooting, Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne had this to say:

There are some very simple things that we know through common sense would make a difference if a shooter did not have a magazine with 100 rounds in it. He’d have to reload. If assault weapons were illegal, you would at least take an event like this and make it less lethal and we ought to at least try to do that.

Yes, it’s true that the illegality of assault weapons might make it less likely for a lone disturbed gunman to acquire them. Not so much for organized criminals (which is why Mexico’s famously strict gun control doesn’t do much of anything to curb its gun violence problem), but a ban on — for example — high-capacity magazines could have saved a few lives in Aurora.

This benefit would last only so long as it’s impossible to make high-capacity magazines on your Makerbot. Any kind of weapons ban would be effective for maybe 10 or 15 years before 3D printing becomes advanced, inexpensive, and widespread enough to render it completely moot.

In the near future, it will be even easier for a lone mentally ill person to get their hands on a dangerous assault weapon. We ought to be rehearsing for that reality, not pretending that it’s never going to happen.

So How Do We Get People To Stop Shooting Each Other?

Here’s the challenge we face: how do we stop gun violence if we can’t stop people from getting guns? Our only choice is to focus on why a person might want to commit senseless mass murder.

Obviously, you’d have to be seriously mentally ill to go through with a mass shooting. Therefore, it’s no surprise that a country as mass shooting-plagued as the US also leads the developed world in untreated mental illness. If we deal with our mental illness problem, we deal with our murder problem. If we eradicate mental instability, we no longer have to worry about whom we can trust with firearms. Plain and simple.

Well, it’s simple to identify that the problem is mental illness. Actually helping mentally ill people is a much more difficult topic. It’s not as simple as throwing money at the problem in a vague attempt to “improve our healthcare system”. You have to consider which treatment options are effective. You have to consider whether treatment even is the option, as some mental illnesses may be a symptom of another societal problem; as Bruce Levine said, “just how unjust does a society have to become before helping people adjust to it with behavior modification and medication is immoral?”

And let’s not forget that those same societal injustices cause poverty, which creates fertile ground for smaller-scale, non-mass murder gun violence. Countries that ban handguns see their poverty-generated gun violence replaced by similar levels of knife violence.

Perhaps the Christopher Nolan film which best complements this mass shooting problem isn’t The Dark Knight Rises. It’s Inception: these mass shootings are caused by problems within problems within problems; gun violence caused by mental illness caused by poor healthcare caused by income inequality and political corruption and so on and so on and so on.


I wish that horrible mass shootings like these could give us an opportunity to discuss the complex problems that cause them. A nuanced discussion about mental illness, and how it can be not only treated but also prevented, is what we ought to be getting out of this tragedy. It’s not that the American people are too stupid to hear about complex problems, it’s that nobody with a microphone ever brings them up. We’re all tired of this same old, dead end debate about whether we should ban all guns or arm every man, woman and child. But the media, for whatever reason, seems to believe that the same old idiocy gets more readers and viewers, which generates more profits.

Humor us, pundits. Just try something smarter, deeper, less cynical. Give nuance a shot. Give intelligence a chance. I think you’d be surprised at how little of your audience you lose. Maybe, just maybe, a little bit of intelligence and sensibility will prepare us to prevent the next mass murder. And perhaps fix a few other things too.


  1. wicing

    Zacquary – many thanks for this article. It puts into words many things that I’ve been thinking. Good to know there are others with similar thoughts!

    1. Gene Poole

      Agreed, this is phenomenal, like a lightbulb just went off. Thanks, Zacqary.

    2. 4ndy

      This was awesome as Zacqary hit the nail on the head all the way through, and then… it seemed a bit cut short.
      The conclusion would be a great time to dive into those great writings on the causes and prevention of violence by veteran prison psychiatrist James Gilligan. 🙂

  2. Stoffe

    This is all well and good, but there’s still a lot to be said for having say a Swedish style of gun laws when it comes to other issues. Having guns in the homes for “self defense” mostly leads to family members and friends getting hurt and killed, not burglars – and it “forces” the burglars to also get weapons, which only creates danger, not the opposite. In Sweden, burglars generally are not armed. We can stand to lose things if it means saving lives, also (in the rare case this would actually apply) the lives of the burglars.

    To shoot for fun – which I agree on, it is a lot of fun – in Sweden, you have ready access to shooting ranges. After about a year of weapons training and tests, where you show that you can handle it, you are allowed to get your own real gun. It’s not allowed to use in self defense (usually) and needs to be kept dismantled and under lock.

    For hunting you also need to do an exam, then you can get your hunting rifles, also to be kept locked etc. We have a LOT of hunters.

    The result is that we have very few problems with guns at all. Yes, organised criminals and bank robbers etc. do have them. This is hardly something that can be done much about without stopping actual crime, because they get them in whatever way they can. The thing is, they only use them against each other (gangs) and not that much, or wave them around without hurting others (usually) when robbing the banks.

    It’s a completely different attitude which makes for a much more peaceful society.

    Crazy people still go bananas and obtain weapons and do bad stuff. Like you say, we need to handle that in a different way. But it is oh so very possible to have guns for fun and for hunting without having a lot of problems.

    This may seem tangential to your point, but I think it’s important to point out that just because the problem with mental illness is treatment does not mean it’s a bad idea to call for gun control. It works.

    1. Zacqary Adam Green

      It’s not allowed to use in self defense (usually) and needs to be kept dismantled and under lock.

      So in Sweden you have to reassemble your gun every time you want to use it?

      That would explain a few things about your furniture.


      1. Erik

        You dare to make light of swedish gun laws and Ikea?!

        Prepare to be dealt with, swedish style (…I’ll clench my fist in my pocket for a while, then forget about the whole thing)

      2. Caleb Lanik

        I literally LOL’d at that. That said, I think that Stoffe has a pretty good point. In the abstract, I’m not against the second amendment, I’ve been thinking about getting a permit and getting some practice in at a shooting range myself. That said, I think that their are reasonable measures that can be put in place to stop accidental gun deaths, of which there are many, and weed out many of the mentally ill.

        It doesn’t seem terribly onerous to me to require a background check, a several week, even several month safety and usage class, and interview before getting a gun license, without which one cannot purchase a gun. Requiring the owner to buy/own a safe to keep it in would be a reasonable step as well, though actual enforcement of keeping it in the safe would be difficult, and probably best avoided. A face to face interview, and calling/visiting a couple of references seems reasonably sane, and screens for the obviously mentally unstable.

        Also, though, yes, we’ll probably get their eventually, I think that fifteen years is optimistic for 3d printers. Rifling is hard, and requires a preciseness several orders of magnitude better than anything available today, or expected in the next few years. Plus, a printer that can do metal at all costs at least half a million dollars. You’re much better off machining parts the old fashioned way, lathes are awesome. It is a problem to be considered in the future though.

        Lastly, only briefly mentioned in the article, the argument that had more people in the crowd been armed, a hero would have gunned down this clearly disturbed person is, frankly, bullshit. It was a dark theatre, with tear gas in the air, against a man wearing head to toe body armor. Plus, if, say five more people had pulled guns out, how many of them, assuming a clear shot could have been made, that actually took out the original killer, without harming the innocent bystanders, how would each person with a gun know that the other four were shooting at the initial aggressor?

        I don’t pretend to have all the answers, and I have a hard time coming to a conclusion on what I would do if you made me dictator for the day, but the answer to gun violence isn’t to arm everyone, since we have a lot of accidental gun violence, and of course, a lot of murders of opportunity, that happen because the person who got angry happened to have a gun with them. At the same time, the GOP has made a point that if guns are outlawed, only outlaws with have guns, and that crimes involving other weapons will increase if guns aren’t as easily available.

        1. Scary Devil Monastery

          Actually, in Switzerland it’s the norm that any male person from the age of 18 and up possesses a fully automatic rifle and a personal-issue handgun. There is more firepower per capita in that nation than there is in any other western country. Including the US.

          And yet the Swiss firearm-related crime rate is extremely low. The preferred weapon of choice in murder and assault is and remains bladed weapons – knives – by orders of magnitude.

          Despite the fact that everyone has a military assault rifle on hand.

          I think I’m with Zaqary here. a society where mental stability is actively pursued is a safer society, irrespective of the fact that there is a plethora of tools available which can be used to kill.

        2. Kiwano

          Rifling a barrel, or even drilling a straight barrel is indeed hard, and requires specialized tools (a gun drill is actually a specific type of heavy shop tool, and if a smaller tool is used to try and drill any long, narrow hole like the bore of a gun barrel, flex in the bit, or the shaft supporting it will produce a hole that is bent, tapered, or flared).

          That said, under Canada’s gun control laws, the barrel is not the portion of the gun that’s regulated; the receiver/frame is. Those parts have considerably looser tolerances in many varieties of gun, and can be made much more easily by a hobbyist with a small mill, or even a 3D printer in the forseeable future.

          Moreover, the original post being responded to was raising the point about 3D printers in light of bans on high-capacity magazines. Tolerances on magazines are huge, and requirements for durability are fairly minor (apparently most modern militaries make the magazines for their assault rifles to be crushed under the soldier’s boot once empty, instead of recovered for reloading). In this respect, I’m actually a touch surprised that 3D printed high-capacity magazines aren’t already a thing, and have little doubt as to their feasibility in the near future.

    2. Scary Devil Monastery

      Just about every swiss male in the 18-30 age range has a fully automatic weapon and a handgun at home. Despite that they have one of the lowest rates of gun crime as compared to assault with blades.

      I believe Zaqary has the right of it. Weapons are harmless in a stable society where mental illness and fear are adressed as valid concerns.

      Hence it would probably not work too well in Sweden today as – to be honest – our health care system concerning mental illness is, to be blunt, finely diced since a long time ago…

      1. Evpok

        Switzerland is still the 21st country for firearm-related deaths, so YMMV for “extremely low”.

        1. Zacqary Adam Green

          About 86% of those deaths are suicides, though, versus about 64% in the US.

    3. Patrik

      Let me just toss a quick fact from Swedish police into the fray here:

      AT LEAST 82% (and maybe as many as 97%) of all guns seized by the police have been OBTAINED ILLEGALLY.

      How is any kind of control over LEGALLY OBTAINED guns going to have any impact on criminality, when the facts clearly show that criminals use illegally obtained guns in almost every case?

      It’s like the saying: if owning guns were illegal, only criminals would own guns.

  3. AeliusBlythe

    Thank you for saying this.

    It’s extremely difficult to get a clear look the root causes of violent behavior because attempts to understand and heal it are often seen as legitimizing the heinous crimes. But of course standing by shaking our heads at each tragedy is only allowing them to continue.

    I like your distinction between the American people and the American media. There is something broken about the media that largely ignores any chance for clear discourse, instead falling back on the same old, same old rhetoric.

  4. Justus Römeth (@DarthSquig)

    Well, this is quite an American article (which is fine of course, I just would not call its premise universal). The main problem Mexico has with enforcing its strict gun laws are basically America’s loose gun laws, most of the weapons that are there illegally come from the US. European countries tent to have similar strict gun laws, and I am quite sure the number of organized crime people with assault gun tends to be smaller in Europe. For the time being, where 3D-printers are not widely available yet, and given the fact that most European countries are populated to densely that if you were to go to the ‘wild’ and start shooting a gun chances are ou would shoot passing people (since there is no ‘wild’) we should not take the 2nd amendment and turn it into European law.
    For those Europeans who want to shoot guns there are shooting ranges where they can have that kind of fun if they fancy (which makes gun control easier). The underlying premise obviously is right, we won’t get rid of people going on killing sprees, and if you go with an axe or chainsaw into a school you can do almost as much damage as with a gun. I don’t think the societal forces at play are the same everywhere though, so there won’t be a one-approach-fits-all solution. Countries like Canada and Switzerland, where they do have quite a number of (assault) guns, still have vastly lower mass killing rates than the US, so of course there are other factors than just the availability of guns at play. Hence I am relaxed when it comes to 3D printing guns (even though I could see some European countries trying to outlaw 3D printing for private persons altogether because of this).

    (So I am not calling Americans to do anything, you folks have to figure that out by yourselves. But while this is a problem most western societies face, it is by far the most problematic in the US).

  5. Staffan

    As for the 100-round drum magazine, the shooter using that probably saved lives. Reloading a semi-automatic weapon takes very little time if you’ve practiced, so having the shooter spend a second or so every 10 or 30 shots on reloading wouldn’t have helped. However, drum magazines are notoriously finicky, and in this case lead to the shooter’s gun jamming – something which is a far greater problem than just reloading.

    So please, any future shooter madmen, continue using drum magazines which will mess up your guns, rather than using manufacturer-approved box magazines.

  6. Gustav Wetter

    Rick – let us not, as we say in Sweden, discuss apples and pears as if they were the same. I am so tired of the gun lobby, and the drug liberals for that matter, always comparing countries like Sweden to countries like Mexico to make a point, please don’t do that – THAT kills constructive debate.

    I am not saying that Sweden is a better country in any way, I’m just saying that you just can’t compare the Swedish socio-economic situation to Mexicos. Just because there are guns and drugs in Mexico despite their restrictive laws, you can’t disqualify the Swedish implementation of drug- and gun restrictions. Mexico for example would probably benifit in the short term from legalizing and institutionalizing the drug trade, thus cutting off the cash flow from the criminals, but thats just because Mexico is in so deep trouble already – doing the same here in Sweden would create a drug problem that, by comparison, does not exist here. The cost/benefit from legalizing drugs would not be the same here as in Mexico. It is the same with gun control – If I went to Somalia I would want to carry a gun for safety, it would probably be safer for me to do so – carrying a gun here in Sweden would make Sweden less safer both for me and every other swede. Sweden is not unsafe enough to motivate our people carrying automatic rifles.

    Gun control saves lives, just as a restrictive drug policy saves lives. Of course we will never have a society free from people dying from drugs or gunfire, but letting individuals legally drug and arm themselves any way they want takes our society back towards the middle ages, not forward to enlightenment. Of course people might print their own weapons in a 3d-printer in the future, effectively making gun control ineffective, but lets begin with handling todays situation.

    100 mentally ill and violent people = dangerous and bad
    100 mentally ill and violent people armed with sticks = even more dangerous and bad
    100 mentally ill and violent people with easy access to assault rifles and unlimited amounts of ammunition = 100 times worse

  7. Azrael

    Interesting article, but doesn’t really go in any depth into why it should be a ‘right’ for citizens to own guns.

    Clearly in the USA it is a constitutional right, but I’d prefer to see analysis of why it should be.

    If we switch things around a bit, and imagine that the ‘right to bear arms’ was NOT in the US constitution (having a gun could be legal or illegal in this pretend world). What arguments would you give to add (here and now in a 2012 context) the ‘right to bear arms’ into the US constitution?

    I don’t think “people can make their own” would be sufficient justification to add a totally new right to bear arms. Nor would “people will own them anyway”.

    Where it is not already, what is it about owning a gun that should be a ‘right’?

    My own position:

    I personally do not think owning a gun should be a right. Nor should owning a missile. Nor should owning a big bomb. However I do think laws should allow people to have access to guns for particular purposes (hunting, sport, fun, etc. with a bunch of legal safeguards). But a ‘right’? No.

    1. Scary Devil Monastery

      If you can make a gun cheaply and easily (and you can, even more so in the future), then a paradigm where guns are banned leads to a paradigm where every criminal owns a gun and very few law-abiding citizens do.

      Ideally speaking no one should feel the need for self-defense of such a kind but we aren’t living in a utopian ideal.

      Looking at Switzerland where every citizen over the age of 20 can be assumed to possess a fully automatic assault rifle as well as a handgun, we can see that a paradigm where guns are easily accessible does not necessarily mean a paradigm with more shootings. Gun violence there is very very low.

      Which brings us back to zaqary’s hypothesis that a stable society is one which does not need to fear random shootings.

  8. Vanish


    I don’t agree.

    Shooting might be recreational and fun, but it’s an extremely dangerous pastime, so the fun argument doesn’t do it for me. A lot of dangerous things are fun, but that doesn’t make them any less dangerous. Doing drugs is fun. Blowing shit up with C4 is probably more fun than shooting a Magnum. I don’t know, the fun meter might be peaked out on both counts. But there’s no human right to have fun. There IS a human right to life.

    You seem to be choice-picking your examples. Mexico might have strict gun-control laws. So do european countries, and writing from one, I can tell you that mass-shootings here are extremely rare.

    I don’t think that’s just because we treat mental illnesses better. It may account for some, but certainly not for all. I think it’s a combination of restricting access and growing a culture of non-violence, a culture where shooting guns is not on the top of your fun-list.

    I don’t kid myself into thinking the US might ever get rid of its guns, but it’ll pay the price for it in mass-killings and homicides.

  9. Travis McCrea

    I read your article, and as always it’s insightful and well thought out.

    However, as the above commenters say — it definately has an American feel and when you step out a little bit you will realize that the only time gun control laws fail, is when neighbour countries / states fail.

    A common example used by pro-gun people (in the United States) is that Washington DC has one of the highest crime rates in the United States and they don’t allow handguns. Well yeah, but you can drive 10 minutes to a place where handguns are legal, and easily drive back.

    Handgun ownership in Canada is very rare, because they make it difficult to obtain them. Really, the only reason they have gun violence as high as they do, is because the United States has weak gun laws. If the United States cracked down on gun ownership, it would protect the US, Canada, AND Mexico.

    I am not against all guns being banned, but certainly against handguns being banned… and I don’t see room for debate on the issue. Ban handguns, if you want to protect your family in your home, buy a long gun.

    1. Kiwano

      Handguns are a necessary workplace safety tool for forest surveyors, prospectors, and pretty much anyone who does a job in relative isolation in the wilderness, where the nature of the work would prevent them being able to bring a long gun to bear on an attacking wild animal in a timely manner.

      If you want to examine the role that erosion of labour standards (such as workplace safety) plays in motivating increases in violent crime (such as mass shootings), you may find that there’s plenty of room for debate here. You just didn’t see it because you weren’t looking.

      1. Evpok

        No one that that handguns as worktools should be banned, no one said anything against having a handgun for professional purpose. But this is not related to the private ownership of handguns, or any gun at all.

  10. Mike Linksvayer

    Thought-ful and -provoking article, thanks.

    Soon, when it is possible for anyone to make a powerful weapon anytime, anywhere. But it’ll still be possible to outlaw making, owning, and using such weapons. On net these will change the parameters of debate a bit from where there are now, but I wonder just how much? It is evident from comments on this article that many people believe anti-gun laws do currently impact criminal access to guns (eg blaming gun violence in Mexico on inadequate gun bans in the US). This argument will become irrelevant, but ones about the most casual and opportunistic access (eg by children) won’t. And figure that much of the current debate is being driven by fear and disgust of various sorts (on both sides), and those feelings won’t go away.

    I don’t think people who care about intellectual freedom (which I imagine to be roughly the readers of this site) are going to universally agree on the extent to which weapons should or should not be banned. I’d hope what we can mostly agree on is that general purpose information and making technology should not be restricted because someone might share designs for or make something bad — to the extent bad things are to be banned, ban those things, not our ability to communicate and make stuff. And even moreso, that we need to tackle root causes of violence on all scales (and that includes continuous scrutiny of what the root causes actually are; eg see Robert Pape on terrorism), which I think was Zachary’s main point.

  11. Steven

    While I don’t think dealing with our mental illness problem would “solve” our murder problem here in the U.S., it would definitely be a much bigger step in the right direction than any gun control laws that have been proposed or passed in my lifetime.

    I totally agree with you that target shooting is fun. When I was younger I used to love going to the firing range with my dad, learning how to safely handle and use his 9mm and my grandpa’s old .22 rifle and watching the holes appear in the paper targets when I hit them (not so much hearing the noise, since it was an indoor firing range and hearing protection was required). I think teaching people, from a young age, how to safely and responsibly handle a firearm in a country where adults can legally own them would also be a bigger step in the right direction than most of the gun control laws that have been proposed in my lifetime.

    I also don’t think it’s even debatable that more guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens makes gun violence less likely and less common. Where I live now (So Cal desert, unincorporated) it’s perfectly legal to openly carry a holstered weapon, everyone here grew up around guns, there has been 1 shooting here in the past 5 years. In the nearest city, where it’s not legal to carry and guns aren’t as common, there are more shootings than that every month. In Los Angeles, where it’s also not legal to carry and guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens are even less common there are more shootings than that every day. The same can be said about states that have passed “shall issue” concealed carry laws, almost without fail (and FBI statistics have proven this since Florida passed their “shall issue” law) there are less violent crimes in those states than there were before the law was passed.

    As far as self-protection goes, I’ll say that I do own a gun (the same 9mm I used to fire with my dad at the firing range), and I _have_ used it for self-protection twice.. once because ther was an intruder in my home (and I didn’t need to fire a single shot, the sound of a round being chambered and “Stop or I’ll shoot!” works a lot better than a 911 call in a town where the typical police response time is 3 hours) and once to fend off a wild animal by firing a warning shot into some soft sand (making enough noise to scare the animal away).

    Final thought.. I don’t know much about 3D printing (although it is interesting), but I _really_ doubt that I’d ever trust a 3D-printed firearm. I’ve seen what a Glock looks like after it explodes in someone’s hand, so I steer clear of plastic guns.

    1. Scary Devil Monastery

      See my comments regarding switzerland above. It fits your own experience nicely.

      regarding 3D-printing it’s a given that right now you will have a hard time creating the high-stress-tolerant parts of an automatic rifle. What 3D-printing will do already, is to give you a 30-clip magazine instead of a 5-round one.
      And a 22. caliber single-shot isn’t too far off either.

      And 3d-printing today is in it’s infancy. Some modern resins already have a higher tensile strength than carbon steel. 50 years from now you should be able to print anything from a sushi knife to a ready-to-assemble 9 mm SMG. Undetectable by most airport scanners to boot.

  12. Søren Løvborg

    One thing is certain: Basing gun policy on a rare incident like this is idiotic. As the 2011 Norway attacks showed, gun control laws can’t prevent terrorism (Breivik got his guns legally).

    Instead, gun policy should be based on the fact that (in the US) 12 people are killed by gunfire *every nine hours* ( That’s the equivalent of almost 1000 Aurora shootings a year, yet this fact receives little news coverage. As Bruce Schneier says, if an incident is in the news, we shouldn’t worry about it. It’s when something is so common that its no longer news that we should worry.

  13. Dnla

    In my opinion, gun ownership should always be an option for the regular people, especially when they want to protect themselves from thieves, criminals or a corrupt government. Most of the shooting that happens with their ownership is generally because of poor and mentally ill people (usually immigrants), who can’t find a way to progress in life. US is a corrupt government and they’re trying to outlaw the gun ownership, while granting more and more powers to the elite and empoverishing the middle class. Gun control laws aren’t going to work, because the criminals aren’t going to turn in their guns, while their victims will become defenseless, making the massacres that they do even worse than if the potential victims had a method to defend themselves. In fact, gun control laws are counter-productive. Crime is going to be lowered when everyone can have access to them, making everyone able to stop an attack. It helps when people are civilized and understand that they should only be used for hunting, self-defence, etc.
    It’s when armed gangs (again, mostly from countries of the second and third world, though there are exceptions, of course) reign in a city when things start to go dirty. In that case, police should double its efforts and arrest everyone involved in the crimes. Unfortunately, due to the political correctness that plagues our world, the minorities (who often evolve into the majority) are pitied for their “lack of opportunities”, and are left alone, so the problem persists.

    As you can see from my comment, this issue also overlaps with the immigrants’ presence, who are the main responsible for such crimes. Many here probably have no idea on how their crimes are often overlooked or their race is not mentioned, while europeans’ and european descendents’ raids of sort are blown off and exposed to the entire world. I notice how the media are eager to protect the “poor mexicans and africans”, which actually evolves into a double standard that makes people think that everyone has the same chance of doing the crime. It’s simply not true. You don’t see much of this problem in areas where immigrants from Central and South America, Africa or Middle East are few or don’t exist.

    Even here I tried to not just speak my mind off completely, or otherwise I could anger some people with my comment (as if what I wrote didn’t already). I tried to be honest and as less offensive as possible, however.

    1. Anonymous

      Sure, the government is corrupt but you’re mistaken if you think that the main cause of such shootings is immigration. It’s, like the blog post says, complex social issues linked to poverty mental illnesses in many cases. Neither James Eagan Holmes nor Anders Behring Breivik were immigrants. Being hell bent on an ideology is a bad thing if it comes to the point where it makes you forget the reality.

      1. Dnla

        OK, now I’ll drop what’s left of me trying to sugar-coat things.

        Political correctness aside (it hampers freedom of speech and prevents seeing the reality), you’re listing a few of the examples of whites doing such crimes, while forgetting that the mainstream media doesn’t list a whole lot of the crimes committed by africans, south and central americans and arabs (well, maybe the ones committed by arabs are quite exposed), like when an entire portuguese family was murdered in SA, a Pretoria woman was slashed in the face by a black male in SA as well, another black male robbed a restaurant in US, etc. Keep in mind that I did not deny that those with European ancestry don’t do it. Of course they do, that’s why I said that it’s because of them being poor and mentally ill, which can happen with everyone. But it’s been proven that the immigrants from second-world and third-world countries are more prone to that, since they have either lived in countries where moral values are lower, quality of life isn’t as good, work discipline isn’t as instilled, so they turn on to drugs, thievery, crime, etc, and the European and North American societies are more alien to them; even if they didn’t, they either spent most of their lives or all of the life in such societies where they’re helped financially as much as possible and invited to the jobs simply by them being immigrants (making them complacent and spoiled), and if they were born in those continents and acquired the countries’ citizenship, they still retain the weaker genes inherited by their parents. It IS a fact that they are the usual suspects, you probably just haven’t been exposed to the alternate media, that tells more of the entire story.
        Of course, since even the values of europeans have been destroyed for decades, it’s more likely that they’d abuse such powers today than in the past. But keep in mind that most (or many of them) still don’t turn to such “activities” when faced with such difficulties, since they’re taught to keep its cool when struggling with life, and just work harder to get another job or study further to have a shot at a qualified job. You won’t find this mentality as often with immigrants coming from the areas I referred. You only need to look at how safe Toronto (Canada), Malmo (Sweden), Paris (France), Berlin (Germany), etc, and Europe-North America in general were until about half-a-century ago the immigrants came flooding in, and how safe those places are today comparatively. People that have lived in those cities for decades have noticed that suddenly they aren’t as safe, since gun shooting has risen, and it coincided with the mass arrival of immigrants. Look at the arabs in France and Sweden, hasn’t violent crime risen lately in there? You can’t simply fight facts. Facts are facts, and you can spin them as you like, but they don’t stop being a reality. Facts can’t be xenophobic or racist.

        I’m not generalizing things, everyone is prone to crime with gun shooting, of course, but you just need to look at things the way they really are, no matter the one-sidedness of the facts, and what you hear in news. Guns should be available to everyone, but not at just any corner, and special care should be used with immigrants (while not forgetting to apply it to everyone), since they have been PROVEN to be the main reasons for the chaos that arises in the countries that sheltered them. Don’t forget that the mainstream media is far from reporting the entire picture. Search the alternate media as well (which includes local news), and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

        1. Caleb Lanik

          Be that as it may, correlation does not prove causation. In America, thirteen percent of the country is black, but nearly half of gun crimes are committed by black people. However, it is also true that black people make up a much larger percentage of the very poor, especially per capita, leading to, among other barriers the simple fact that if they have a mental illness, they are much less likely to have the resources necessary to have it treated. Additionally, crime also seems to be a function of population density, where, again there are far more black people than white per capita. Large cities have always had more crime, and always will, the more crowded in people are, the more opportunities to commit a crime there will be.

          In America, statistically, Mexican immigrants, legal or not are less likely than native born Americans to commit crimes. This has generally been explained either A) by sociologists who say that it is because when one is willing to make the effort to cross the border they likely have done so in order to seek a better paying job and a better life than they would otherwise have, and thus keep their collective heads low; or B) by xenophobes who claim that they commit many more crimes than the average American, but don’t get caught.

          Crimes aren’t committed because people are black, Muslim, or Mexican; crimes are committed by people who feel disenfranchised by their community, and the system they live in, and if you’re born poor, and your best hope in life is that if you might potentially move up to lower middle class, fuck the system.

        2. Kiwano

          As a Torontonian, I’ll have to call bullshit on the argument that crime is caused by immigrants and non-white people. If you’re going to hold Toronto up as an example of a peaceful large city, you’ll have to accept that half the people in this city are immigrants, and even more than that are non-white. I’ve made my website link on this post the municipal government’s racial diversity page, which has more detailed statistics on just how wrong you are.

  14. Pedro
  15. Thomas

    Sorry for spoiling the party, but this discussion is stupid and ignorant!
    More than 30 000 people are killed in the US, every year, in deaths related to firearms. 20 000 are suicides, twice as many as are murdered.
    Just to put the numbers in perspective, this is as if one Boeing 747 would crash every week. Or to have a 9/11 terrorist attacks once a month. I doubt that this would be acceptable?
    But apparently the American society accepts this death toll. The ideas of freedom and fun seems to be more important than human lives. Until the Americans get their act together and agrees on that this is not acceptable, there will not be any change. Every week a full Boeing 747 will crash…….

    1. Sten

      Well put, I also find the idea of us all being forced to accept people having guns just because they can make them themselves utterly silly.
      There are loads of things not acceptable to create, handle or commit in the privacy of your home like bombs, poison, open fire…

    2. Scary Devil Monastery

      Switzerland has more fully automatic handguns and personal firearms than the US per capita. And yet it has some of the lowest gun-related crime rates per capita also.

      Stupid and ignorant? That would be you, quoting facts which have not only already been adressed, but which also do not back up your own supposition.

      Zaqary has made a very smart correlation. You coming up with a one-liner, an insult, and a lot of nonsense doesn’t alter that.

      1. Evpok

        Again, this argument that Switzerland is safe is false: Switzerland has the 21th firearm-related deaths per capita rate in the world per and these figure come from a study founded by the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs. Hardly “some of the lowest gun-related crime rates per capita also”

        1. foonly

          The vast majority of which are suicides. Given the convenience of a gun as a suicide tool, it’s going to be used instead of other ways of killing yourself whenever possible. And don’t kid yourself – a person who already decided to take his life IS going to find a way anyway. It’s not like anybody thinks “Oh, there’s a gun. Let’s kill myself” on a whim.

          The point here is, while suicidal people in Switzerland tend to use guns instead of e.g. jumping under a train (as alike people in other countries are forced to do), the VIOLENCE using guns is pretty low. The violence TOTAL (with guns/knives/fists/whatever…) is even lower, due to the deterrent effect of the guns.

  16. 5ec4um

    It’s obvious that mental illness is not the only cause of death in shootings. Suicides have been mentioned in the comments… these could be said to be mental illness, but not necessarily. And how about people under the influence of drugs / alcohol? Or the guy who loses his temper in a road rage incident or a domestic argument.

    To suggest the solution to gun crime is to fix society’s underlying ills is unrealistic. It’s only for historic reasons that guns are so freely available in the U.S. Guns hold a certain fascination for many people, in a similar way as a computer geek drools over the latest video adapter or a bike enthusiast lusts for a new set of wheels.

    Broadening this further, one of the reasons behind climate change denial is people’s refusal to accept changes in lifestyle, such as down-sizing their car or getting out and walking / cycling to the local store instead of driving.

    People need to take a more responsible attitude to what their lifestyle means for other people. Yes, other people they don’t know. A humanist approach to life.

  17. Gun Culture and Climate Change Denial « 5ecular4umanist

    […] I commented recently on an article discussing the shooting dead of 12 people in a cinema in Aurora, Colorado, U.S.  The article, “Guns Don’t Kill People, Guns Kill Productive Debate About Complex Societal Issues“, can be read at the Falkvinge blog. […]

  18. Arjen Kamphuis

    Soon after the Colorado shooting this picture started doing the rounds:

    It shows lots of supposed legal automatic firearms on one sode and illegal soft cheeses on the other. My comment:

    I would point out that France (where the situation is reversed) has not won a war on its own in over a century. The US has been fighting wars pretty much non-stop since 1941 and has had a war every 20 orso years since their founding.

    The Swiss allow both automatic weapons and soft cheese in the homes of private citizens and they have not had to fight a war for over 350 years.

    The solution seems obvious 😉

    1. Evpok

      Well, the U.S. have not won any war on their own either.

  19. Brechett

    The 2nd Amendment: “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.” —Notice that its most strident supporters omit the language preceding “…the right of the people,” and sometimes even omit the ellipsis (which many of them would probably call “dots”).

    The purpose of the 2nd Amendment, as I understand it, was to obviate a standing army, the corollary problems of which should be more than apparent in the USA today.

    Moreover, those who cherry-pick the Constitution and misquote the “founding fathers” often do the same thing to the Bible to support positions contradictory to the sum of the contents. It’s a disease of intellectual dishonesty that might rival mental illness or poverty in its deleterious effects.

    1. Matt Caron

      The way my linguistic parser parses that statement is to say that:

      A well regulated militia, = item the first

      being necessary to the security of a free state, = the why

      the right of the people to keep and bear arms, = item the second

      shall not be infringed. = What shall not happen to the preceding items.

      For what it’s worth, the supreme court felt the same way. Heller vs. DC.

  20. Kiwano

    Sadly, I don’t think there’s much hope for a sane discussion of the underlying causes of violence in the mainstream media. As a simple example, the question was raised here about when it becomes immoral to insist that people be drugged and put through behaviour modification programs in order to be able to tolerate their society. As good a question as it may be, and as much as the viewers of the evening news might be interested in hearing a discussion on it, stop for a second and look at how many of the commercials (the sale of which finances the production of the evening news) are for psychopharmaceuticals.

    It might also be interesting to look at the coincidence between the erosion of labour standards, the villification of trade unions, and the increase in workplace mass shootings. Interesting as it may be, how many of those commercials were bought by companies with a history of union-busting?

    There was a meta-analysis of gun crime statistics performed a year or two ago (maybe longer, my memory’s a bit fuzzy on the timing) where a large number of times and places were selected (all 20th century non-war-zones if memory serves correctly), and the correlation measured between rates of gun crime, and an assortment of social metrics. There was no statistically significant correlation between any measure of strictness of gun control and rates of gun crime. Of course, this study is seldom cited in mainstream pro-gun screeds, probably because the metric found to be most strongly correlated to rates of gun crime was the Gini coefficient of income inequality.

    It’s nice to see other people calling for a more sensible debate, but as long as people rely on the mainstream media to get their news, we’re just not going to get it.

  21. waypasthadenough

    We own weapons because of those who want to take them and for use on them.

    End of discussion.

    We will tolerate no more gun ‘laws’ here.

    It’s way past time to repeal all of the ‘gun laws’ including GCA ’68 and the NFA; Shut down the evil BATF Nazis and try them for treason, and murder where appropriate and distribute their retirement funds among their victims; Repeal the rest of the ‘gun laws,’ beginning with Illinois licensing requirements and New Yawk City’s Sullivan Law which only disarms the victims, then commiefornia’s ban on certain magazine and weapon types; Bring the troops home and have them restore Liberty here and remove Amerika’s natural born traitors in the process.

    We need to focus on taking our country and governments back so we can figure out who to hang.

    No amerikan alive today has known Liberty.

    Understand this if you understand nothing else: They consider us to be livestock.

    “There is no safety for honest men except by believing all possible evil of evil men.” – Edmund Burke

    Millions will dig the ditch they are told to dig then wet their pants when the machine gun bolts slam home and die stupidly wondering “How did this happen to me?” The tiny minority will have to do what will be required.

    It’s time to stop arguing over the culture war. It’s time to stop hunkering down for the apocalypse. It’s time to stop waiting to get beamed up. It’s time to start thinking Normandy.

    If you sit home waiting your turn you deserve to have your gun taken from your cold dead hands.

    The Founders didn’t wait for the Brits to knock down their doors. They gathered at the green and stood up like men and they killed government employees all the way back to Boston.

    What will you do when it’s time to hunt NWO hacks, republicrats and commies(“Liberals” and ‘progressives’)?

    Don’t understand? Start here:

    Then read my column ‘Prepping for Slavery’:

  22. Merle

    On reflection, I have to take issue with one line of this article:
    “Obviously, you’d have to be seriously mentally ill to go through with a mass shooting.”

    The sad fact is that that just plain isn’t true. Some people are just plain evil. They may be rational, they may know precisely how other people will think of what they do, and they may just not care.

    More worryingly, there seems to be a danger of linking “mental illness” to “dangerous” that could discourage really mentally ill people from seeking needed treatment – people with conditions like schizophrenia that, in fiction, always seem to lead to violent behavior but in reality are far more varied.

    1. Zacqary Adam Green

      I actually take issue with it too (remember, I wrote this a few months ago), but more for the reason in your last paragraph than the second. “Mental illness” has proven itself to be a very difficult concept for a lot of people, including — to some degree — the people responsible for “treating” it. It’s hard to draw the line between neurodiversity and illness. Maybe referring to things as “illnesses” at all isn’t a good way to go about it.

      But in the end, it’s all about the physical configuration of a person’s neurons/brain chemistry/whatever. The same way that this comment is caused by the physical configuration of microscopic magnetic charges on a platter somewhere in Rick Falkvinge’s apartment. So it’s definitely problematic to start talking about “evil.” What is rationality if not a certain configuration of gray matter? Or knowing what people will think? Or caring? If there is such a thing as a “mental illness,” then how is being a psychopath not an illness?

  23. Dr ojo

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  24. […] to pop up every year in America. This year we’ve had at least two. Zacquary Adam Green wrote an excellent article about this on Rick Falkvinge’s blog which bypasses the FUD and gets straight to the […]

  25. […] to pop up every year in America. This year we’ve had at least two. Zacquary Adam Green wrote an excellent article about this on Rick Falkvinge’s blog which bypasses the FUD and gets straight to the […]

  26. […] Hopefully, Congressman Israel is now prepared to take this crap with a grain of salt, when it inevitably comes up. Assuming the congressman and his staffers are on the same wavelength, we now have an ally in the US House of Representatives who’ll fight against crippling DRM on 3D printers. And maybe someone with a more realistic approach to gun control too; the staffer seemed receptive to the idea that gun control won’t be possible in a decade or two. […]

  27. Gosh

    No one in the history of firearms was ever shot with a firearm, without a firearm being present..this is so basic, that I really can see why it´s so hard to understand for you Ameriguns…

    “I know how fun it is to make these things go bang. There is nothing wrong with fun” if I enjoy myself bashing your rubbish argument there is nothing wrong with that either?
    Just as shooting animated objects or living beings, if it so pleases me, wouldn´t be all that wrong if I just had enough fun doing it..WTF!! Are you serious??What a good way to start an article

    “Countries that ban handguns see their poverty-generated gun violence replaced by similar levels of knife violence” Tell me, how many people, do you think, could you shoot to death in a row? And how many of those very same people could you kill with a knife, in a row..totally no difference, you´re right, of course banning guns will have no effect whatsoever, because the would-be mass-murderer will resort to killing all those people with his swiss army knife..again I ask:
    WTF!! Are you serious??

    “I used to be one of the stereotypical anti-gun people, ignorantly calling for a repeal of the Second Amendment and decrying anyone who’d want a gun as a backwards barbarian. Then two things happened. First, I started dating a national champion competition target shooter. Second,” I became a backwards barbarian myself..or got bought by the NRA or something similarly gross for somebody daring to wag his moral-no-no-finger, but since you`re entiteled to write whatever you think, I just hope nobody figures he might as well shoot you next..for the fun of it

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