Thursday, May 30, 2013

The good guys with guns myth Part I

A common refrain heard from representatives of the National Rifle Association is ‘the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.’ At first glance, this may make a bit of sense. After all, there will always be some ‘bad guys’ out there with guns. Don’t we good guys need our own guns to protect ourselves? And more importantly, don't our guns serve as a deterrent to the bad guys?

If you think so, consider this 2009 study from the American Journal of Public Health.

Researchers found that in a pool of about 1400 people, those who had a weapon were four and a half times more likely to be shot during an assault than those who were unarmed. Assault victims who had a gun were four times more likely to be killed.

Let that sink in for a moment. The people who were carrying a gun for ‘protection’ got shot far more often than the people who didn’t have a gun. According to this data, even in the scenario where you’re actively being attacked, you’re much better off if you don’t have a gun.

There are lots of statistics being thrown around about whether gun control helps or hinders attempts to curb gun violence. The truth is that there are always confounding variables. For example, Chicago has a very high gun homicide rate despite having strict gun laws. However, Chicago is not an island, and most of the weaponry used in those murders comes from outside the city limits where there are no such restrictions. This makes it very difficult to gauge the effectiveness of Chicago's gun laws.

That’s why I find this particular study so interesting. The researchers compared matched groups of people from the same community in Philadelphia that either did or did not have their own guns. That’s about as tightly controlled as a gun study can be, and the results are devastating for the ‘good guy’ hypothesis. Being armed neither deters 'bad guys' nor does it protect against their actions. 

By the way, in case you're wondering about the 'Part I' in the title, I have plenty more to say about guns. So just stay tuned.

Click here for Part II.


  1. you are right, good guy also needs guns to protect themselves from bad guy.

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