By Aaron Moyer
And we’re back with Part 2 of our three-part series on anti-gun debate. In Part 1 , we discussed the goals of this series and the misnomers of “gun violence” and “assault weapons.” For Part 2, we’ll be focusing on gun and magazine bans, both abroad and at home, and their effectiveness, both actual and perceived. Let’s dive right in with every anti-gunner’s favorite gun control case studies: the UK and Australia!
Argument 4: “Gun bans were successful in the UK and Australia.”
I take issue with the narrative that Australia’s gun-ban was a success. Perhaps at eliminating or stymying civilian gun ownership, but not at reducing violence in Australian society. If you look at their murder rate, the gun ban didn’t have an effect for many years and the rate took a while to drop (over 1.7 homicides per 100k people from before the gun ban in 1995 to after in 2003). Even then, the year-over-year drop in the murder rate after 2003 was almost exactly the same as it was before the gun ban, mirroring the US’s year-over-year drop even as gun laws were loosened here at the same time. It really didn’t do anything that wasn’t already happening both in Australia and everywhere else.
The UK’s gun-control “success” was even worse, where it took 15 years to see any “success” (over 1.15 homicides per 100k people from before the gun ban in 1996 to after in 2011, and only 0.9 and above since), and even that success was no better than the drop in murder rate that the US was also experiencing. I would argue that the UK’s gun ban didn’t actually do anything. In fact, I’d argue the gun bans didn’t do squat in either country. Their murder rates trended exactly as ours did or worse over the same period of time.
A few more things worth noting on the UK, Australia, and other countries:
- While the UK and Australia tightened their gun laws, the US was loosening them and experiencing a historical decrease in murders and violent crime.
- When comparing apples to apples, the UK is likely much more violent as a whole than the US.
- Australia has had mass shootings since their gun ban, contrary to popular claims, and also has a possible substitute crime of mass arsons.
- While the UK and Australia currently have a lower murder rate than the US, it’s likely not due to their gun bans. Even before their gun bans, and for the century prior, the US always had a higher murder rate than them. The US has, for some reason, always been more violent, even with gun laws equalized across the countries.
- Also, if we’re talking about other countries, don’t forget Switzerland. It has the 3rd-highest civilian gun ownership rate in the world, and one of the lowest murder rates in the world.
Argument 5: “No one needs an AR-15. Why are you opposed to banning them?”
Most gun owners are opposed to bans of such things because we find lots of value in them. They’re great rifles for hunting as caliber changes are easy to perform to tailor the gun for specific game, and they’re very low-maintenance while also providing the capacity needed for things like farm protection from animals such as prairie dogs, coyotes, and feral hogs. They’re used in one of the most popular athletic shooting sports in the US right now (3-gun competition, shot with semi-automatic pistols, shotguns, and rifles). They’re also really great for home defense, which I know anti-gun people think is a joke, but it’s not; they have low recoil, shoot self-defense rounds that are less likely than shotguns or pistols to overpenetrate barriers or bodies (meaning you don’t shoot your kids or neighbors by accident), are easy to customize for perfect ergonomics, are able to accept flashlight attachments to ensure positive target identification in the dark, and carry enough rounds in a small package that if someone or multiple people surprise you in the middle of the night, you’re not scrambling for a reload with sleep-dust still in your eyes.
Speaking as a gun owner, it’s really frustrating when celebrities who are protected by private security or people who have simply never shot a gun say “I can’t imagine why anyone would need/use an AR-15.” Well, of course you can’t; you’ve never shot or even touched one. BUT, gun owners can and do need/use them every day, and being dismissed like we’re unreasonable is poor form. AR-15s have lots of practical value to those who own them, and someone else’s inexperience with them isn’t a reason to discount that. That’s why we’re opposed to bans as a starting point, because these are valuable tools we use all the time.
P.S.: no one needs alcohol either despite its use resulting in 9,967 people killed via drunk driving in 2014 (more than those murdered with guns that year), and yet we’re not talking about banning that. Why? Because many of us still find value in alcohol, and because we tried banning it before and it didn’t work…just like semi-automatic rifles. Of course, one could say that drunk driving is illegal and guns should be as well, but just as we keep alcohol legal and make actions that harm others (drunk driving) illegal, so too should we keep guns legal but make actions that harm others (murder) illegal.
Argument 6: “We need magazine capacity restrictions to make mass murders harder to commit.”
I see this argument a lot, and anyone who’s handled any box-magazine-fed firearm for more than 10 minutes can tell you it’s not an effective one. When targeting densely-packed, defenseless people in gun-free zones, it doesn’t matter how much ammo the murderer’s magazines individually carry: 5, 10, or 30+ rounds. The murderer will simply carry more magazines, and when they can be reloaded in 2 seconds or less with minimal practice or effort, magazine capacity (or lack thereof) won’t stop them. As evidence, the 2nd-worst shooting in recent times (Virginia Tech) was committed with two handguns with 15 and 10-round magazine capacities (the magazine limits in Colorado and other gun-control states, respectively). Less magazine capacity did nothing to reduce the lethality of the attack.
When police response times are measured in minutes, and reload speed is measured in single seconds, mass murderers have all the time in the world to wreak havoc against defenseless people who can’t fight back, and they won’t be stopped by magazine size.
Argument 7: “Well, we need lower magazine capacities to give victims the chance to counter-attack during a reload.”
It can’t be restated enough that reloads can be easily performed in under 2 seconds with very little practice. By the time someone has even recognized that a shooter is reloading and attempts to react, the gun has already been topped off. Even if a person were somehow physically able to recognize the shooter was reloading, react, close the distance, and attack in 2 seconds or less, he or she likely wouldn’t. This theoretical super person, along with everyone else, would likely be running away or hiding before looking to attack, just as the FBI advises. The proof is in the pudding — only one mass murder has been stopped by people charging the murderer during a “reload”: the Tucson shooting involving Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, and only because the gun had malfunctioned, not because of the reload itself.
Argument 8: “30,000 people are killed by guns every year, and that’s why we need to ban guns.”
This is true in a literal sense (per CDC, 33,636 people in 2013), but not true in the sense of a discussion on society-wide violence. In fact, citing this number in a debate about firearms is incredibly dishonest. Why? That number includes police shootings and suicides. Last I checked, even the most ardent anti-gunners don’t want to take guns away from the police, and suicide is likely a cultural issue as even the gun-happy United States lags far behind in suicide rate (rank #50) compared to developed countries with heavy gun control or practical bans on civilian gun ownership like South Korea (#2), Russia (#14), and Japan (#17) .
Thus, we’re left with the real numbers that matter: murders, and murders committed with guns. When looking at that, 2013 actually saw 12,253 total murders, and of that, 8,454 murders committed with guns. Pretty deceptive that people and organizations like the Brady Campaign imply there are more people murdered with guns every year than total murders, right?
That brings us to the conclusion of Part 2. Coming up in Part 3 , the final portion of our three-part series on anti-gun debate, we’ll discuss common anti-gun arguments about concealed carry, other popular proposals outside of gun bans, and whether or not “they’re coming for our guns” (pro-tip: they are).
Aaron Moyer is a civil engineer from Pennsylvania who enjoys firearms and is not a professional researcher, journalist, or LEO/Mil. He has enjoyed a small stint in local public office, has won past awards for his political activism, and currently works as a government consultant. He also owns a kick-ass, award-winning tattoo. While he isn’t a badass door kicker, he hopes to contribute to the wide body of firearms knowledge in the best ways he can: policy and politics.