Those who are fixated on “gun violence” are squandering resources that could be expended in a way that actually saves lives.
The purpose of this article is not to discuss how gun control is ineffective, or how the solution to violence is to arm the would-be victims. There are hundreds of articles on this website that go over both of those points in detail. Indeed, entire books have been written on the subject, and we have decades of empirical evidence to suppose those points. Instead, the purpose here is to explore how dumping resources into combating “gun crime” is wasteful and costs lives, even if we leave those facts aside.
Even using the sort of flawed or downright dishonest statistics that anti-gun groups love to trot out, gun-related murders are dwarfed by a great many other causes of death, such as car crashes caused by drunk driving, infections acquired in hospitals, and radon gas. Moreover, guns do not cause violence, as humans have been killing each other since long before recorded history or even the invention of agriculture. That means that even if every gun were to vanish, people who wished to do violence would just use another tool.
But, let’s leave that last point aside for a moment, and assume (ridiculously) that if guns vanished then every murder currently committed using a gun in the USA would not have happened. Even if that were true, it would still be a waste of resources to focus on “gun violence” instead of other threats to our lives. I’ll use radon as an example here.
Briefly, radon is a radioactive gas that occurs naturally. It is emitted from the ground when thorium and uranium decay. The ground beneath just about every building has many pounds of uranium (and thorium too) that are decaying and giving off radon gas, which then seeps in to our homes, offices, etc. Radon tends to build up inside buildings, such that the concentration inside many buildings will be 10 (or many more) times higher than exists outside. Radon and its decay products are radioactive, and cause a variety of cancers – mainly lung cancer, but it may also cause leukemia and stomach cancer in much smaller numbers. The Federal government estimates that 15,000 to 22,000 people die in the United States each year from radon-caused lung cancer. According to FBI data, that exceeds the approximately 14,000 murders (gun related or not) in the United States each year.
Preventing a person who is bent on committing a murder from doing so is hard. That should come as no surprise, since most humans are roughly as intelligent as each other, and so a person planning a murder generally has the same level of intelligence at their disposal as a person who would wish to stop the murder (e.g. the victim or the police). The person who plans a murder often has all the time they wish to conduct that planning, while the police or the victim will generally not have advanced notice. Murders can be committed in a matter of seconds, which means that police response time (often minutes or much longer) is just too long to be of any help to the victim. Since a person who is bent on killing their victim (such as in the case of a violent ex) is willing to spend more time and resources on plotting and carrying out the killing, it is hard to envision a situation where the police can spend a similar amount of time trying to investigate and prevent the murder.
Preventing a lung cancer death from radon, on the other hand, is rather easy and cheap. Radon does not have an intelligent mind that will try to circumvent efforts to stop its destructive effects. Radon does not evade attempts at detecting it. Rather, radon just builds up in a predictable and measurable way. Mitigating radon in a building often costs under $1,000. Indeed, a radon mitigation system for my house recently cost $850 including tax, took only a couple of hours for the company to install, and managed to reduce the radon levels to barely above the outdoor level. Indeed, crunching the numbers as far as risk of death goes, my risk of dying from radon before the mitigation system was installed was so much higher than the risk of being murdered by a person with a gun – and that is in a home whose previous radon level was below the government-recommended action level.
If the goal is to save lives, gun control efforts are about the worst place to spend resources. Trying to prevent a human who is bent on murder from succeeding in a free society is difficult. It is difficult even in a police state, like China, where citizens are subjected to a lack of rights and abuses that we as Americans would never tolerate. The best line of defense is an armed citizen who can defend themselves, while the absolute worst is a gun ban. But more importantly, we should be spending our resources on other causes of death that can be more readily mitigated, such as radon.
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