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The bread and butter argument for gun advocates is the notion that by encouraging more “law-abiding citizens” to carry guns, it makes our communities safer. Because many people tend to view the world in black and white, this idea can seem to make sense: If safety is an epic battle of good versus evil, then surely, we would want more firepower in the hands of the “good.”

There’s but one fatal flaw with such an argument: We don’t live in a black and white world, but one with a whole lot of gray. Most criminals aren’t inherently dangerous, and most crimes aren’t violent. On the flip side, anyone capable of getting angry (i.e., all of us) who happens to have a gun has the potential to be dangerous. Therefore saying that more guns will protect the public from violent crime is a bit like saying that releasing millions of hungry Grizzly bears to wander around New York City will result in fewer bear attacks. It’s an absurd notion, and one that can be easily discredited.

What happens when more people have guns

Let’s test this premise by comparing violent crime statistics in different countries with different rates of gun ownership:


Guns Per 100 People

Gun Homicide Rate

(per 100,00 people)

United States


2.97 to 3.2










United Kingdom






(Sources: Small Arms Survey, 2007; United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime; Gray, 2013)

As you can see from these statistics, rates of murder go up or down almost in direct proportion to the number of guns in the community. The United States has a gun murder rate about 20-times the average of other developed nations, and the proliferation of firearms is the primary reason why. (Pels, 2016) More guns equal more murder; fewer guns result in fewer killings.

This pattern holds year after year. Rates of gun homicides per 1 million people in 2012 were …

  • United States: 29.7
  • Canada: 5.1
  • Sweden: 4.1
  • Germany: 1.9
  • Australia: 1.4

(USA Today, 11-7-2017)

A look at the more guns = less crime hypothesis

Another thing gun advocates insinuate is that when more citizens own guns, crime rates go down because criminals are so afraid of encountering a citizen with a gun that they stop committing crime in the first place. There are several problems with this argument. First, non-violent criminals are looking to avoid people in general. To a burglar, a person confronting them is a serious problem regardless of whether they are holding a gun or a bouquet of flowers. An unarmed person is just as much of a deterrent as an armed one is.

The second issue is that this suggests it’s okay to injure someone who isn’t threatening you. That gun owners are trigger happy psychopaths itching to murder anyone who steps on their property. This might be true in many cases, but it’s not something to advocate. We should not be encouraging private citizens to execute people for property crimes. Finally, when it comes to criminals who might be armed and dangerous, confronting them with a gun does not improve your odds of survival.

On top of these issues, this myth can also be easily disproven. The U.S. has the highest gun ownership rate of all industrialized nations by far. It also leads in another statistical category: the highest crime rate of all industrialized nations. (Thompson & Hickey, 2006) If having more guns really did deter crime, we’d have the lowest crime rate as opposed to the highest. If anything, this suggests that more guns = more crime.

This correlation shows up in every data set you look at. A 2015 study by researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard University examined data from both the FBI and the CDC. It was found that firearm assaults are 6.8 times more common in states with the most guns as compared to states with the least. (Wenner-Moyer, 2017) So if you live in a state with a high rate of gun ownership, you’re nearly 7-times more likely to die a violent death via gun violence than those living in states where there are less guns.

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