I have noticed that many anti-gun people equate the presence of guns with violence, as if the number of violent acts that will occur is somehow a function of the number of guns in the area. This is patently untrue. I think a few examples of areas with high and low amounts of guns might shed some light on this misconception:
Areas with many guns and no gun related crime:
- The gun stores and ranges I frequent in the Chicagoland area
Both Maxon and Midwest Guns are two places jam packed with guns. There literally are hundreds if not thousands of guns on the premises, and the employees wear loaded pistols on their hips. Customers bring in their guns for use on the range. Ammunition is plentiful, and knives are also for sale. Yet there are no shootings or stabbings. Indeed I have seen employees have to tell customers that no rapid fire is allowed (for safety reasons) and yet the displeased customer who is holding a shotgun never opens fire on the employee. The employee likewise refrains from shooting the customer. Even on the rare occasion when a customer becomes dissatisfied enough to complain to the manager or leave the establishment, no gunfights erupt.
- My Home
I lawfully possess several guns, which are readily accessibly when we are at home and are kept locked in a large safe while we are gone. I also have ammunition for these guns on hand. Like most every couple, my girlfriend and I disagree from time to time, yet we have never opened fire on each other, even when guns are just a few feet away. The same is true for any disagreements we have had with friends in our home.
- The homes of the overwhelming majority of people who lawfully own guns
About 1/3 of Illinois residents own guns, and we can expect that they have interpersonal disagreements just as everyone does. Yet you don’t hear about 1/3 of the population shooting their significant other or friends just because there is a gun around and a heated argument occurred.
Areas with gun bans yet significant amounts of gun related crime:
- Chicago, particularly the South and West sides
Chicago has a handgun ban, yet on average there is about one person shot each day by a criminal using a handgun. Most of this crime occurs on the south and west sides of the city, which are the lowest income areas.
- Drug houses or other areas where drugs are stores/sold
As a criminal law professor of mine once succinctly stated, “When there are large amounts of drugs and drug money, the drug owners will want to protect their drugs and money from theft. Since they can’t call the police for protection, they protect it themselves with guns.” Keep in mind that these are mainly convicted felons who cannot lawfully posses guns, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise that someone who is willing to possess large quantities of illegal drugs won’t be deterred by the risk of a gun possession charge.
- So-called Gun Free zones
All of the recent school shootings and other mass shootings have taken place in so-called “gun free zones“.
It should be clear that the mere presence of guns, even in close proximity to people who disagree with each other, does not lead to violence.
Equally clear is the fact that violence and poverty are correlated, and that if we want to solve the problem violence in our society we need to address the problems of poverty, lack of opportunity, and poor quality of education. Taking guns away from law abiding citizens only makes them more vulnerable to the criminals, but doesn’t solve the problem of violent crime.
Note: I am not suggesting that violent criminals are only violent because of their economic situation, or that poverty absolves criminals of culpability for their crime. Each person, whether rich or poor, is responsible for his or her actions.