Thursday, February 12, 2015

The Kates-Mauser investigation

An article from the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy has had a tremendous effect on my thinking about gun control. Don Kates and Gary Mauser examine the degree to which and in what manner complete firearm prohibition would affect murder and suicide rates. It reminded me a lot of some of the realizations that occurred after doing a basic amount of research on gun prohibitions and gun violence across the United States.  Then I concluded that most of the United States was no more violent than Switzerland, where all citizens have a firearm, and that gun violence is primarily a problem in urban areas.  Moreover, I also learned that gun related violence was by and far the result of handgun shootings and not assault weapons or rifles.

Personally, this has been fairly disturbing, as it has convinced me that many of my basic intuitions are incorrect, if not bordering on fanatical.  

Kates and Mauser provide a public service in examining the seeming prima facie truism that less guns result in less violence, and more guns result in more violence. They find no such correlation when examining a series of European nations (what most people might accept as a reasonable control group for comparison with the United States). In fact, they found that where gun prohibition was most strict, violence was very high.  

[B]oth sides of the gun prohibition debate are likely wrong in viewing the availability of guns as a major factor in the incidence of murder in any particular society. ... Rather, if firearms availability does matter, the data consistently show the way that it matters is more guns equal less crime.

This is a shocking revelation, at least for me.  For gun rights activists, a point of celebration. 

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