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As a naive European, I thought that the self-defense argument for guns in the US was mostly based on the high number of guns already in the country. In other words, I thought that the argument takes into account the fact that many people have guns already, so in this context it's safer to have a gun.

However I now understand that some (most?) gun advocates argue that guns make people safer in general. As far as I understand, the self-defense argument is "more guns less crime", because law-abiding citizens can use their gun to prevent the crime from happening in the first place. For example this article says that "guns save more lives than they take; prevent more injuries than they inflict".

This argument implies that a society in which many citizens have guns is safer than one in which few citizens have guns, therefore should have less crime overall. Statistics seem to contradict this argument: for example the homicide rate in the EU is about one third of the rate in the US. If the argument were valid, one would expect a much higher crime rate in the EU than in the US, given the very low rate of gun ownership in the EU.

Questions:

  • Is my understanding of the "more guns less crime" argument correct?
  • Is the argument considered valid by most mainstream gun advocates?
  • If yes, how do gun advocates explain the case of the EU, which looks like a counter-example to this theory?

Remark: the comparison against the EU seems legitimate given the roughly similar size, population, economic, democratic and education levels. In case this comparison is considered biased, I'd like to know which EU/US differences could explain why the "more guns less crime" argument is somehow not applicable to the EU.

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    This has too many distinct questions in it. – Stormblessed Aug 11 at 15:57
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    @Stormblessed the first and second questions are only to make sure that I don't misrepresent the idea or the people who defend it. I think the main question is clearly stated in the title. – Erwan Aug 11 at 16:17
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    @msouth Reading through that article though... While an excellent piece of oration with several well-made arguments (e.g. "gun-free zones" in a gun-full country would only work with metal detectors at the doors), unfortunately his main point (that guns would mean a potential shooter is killed or scared off before they can do serious damage) runs contrary to the recent mass shooting in El Paso. (And I'm not sure what point he was trying to make with "people who think controls are needed agree I am the sort of person appropriate to license to own a gun"... While calling them "hypocrites") – Chronocidal Aug 12 at 8:11
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    The question should include Canada too! – d-b Aug 12 at 14:16
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    Does Europe in fact have less crime? Are we comparing apples to oranges, because of different statistics? For instance, petty theft seemed to be a national sport in Britain when friends of mine lived there; so much so that most was never reported to police. Similarly, arson - especially of cars - seems to have become an accepted means of political protest in France. – jamesqf Aug 12 at 17:56

11 Answers 11

22

All gun advocates who claim this have not done their research. A recent study done by the CDC (2013) found that there was no significant correlation between gun ownership and violent crimes, which suggests that anyone who makes any claims regarding gun ownership and crime, are wrong. Though they did conclude that guns are probably used to prevent crime far more often then they are to commit crime.

There is however a strong correlation between:

What can we take away from this? That poverty and drug use can be found as the root cause for most crime (both violent and non-violent) in the USA. and that if we want to reduce violence in the USA, than these two major social problems should be at the top of the list.

More over we can conclude that (based on the current research) gun ownership does not cause violence. Therefore pushing for gun control is not about making people safer.

We can also conclude that (based on the current research) gun ownership does not reduce violence. Therefore pushing for more guns will not make people safer... Caveat, Conceal Carry permit holders are less likely to commit a crime than police officers.

There haven't been any real studies between illegal gun ownership and violent crime, however 80%+ gun related crimes were done with an illegal weapon.

Also it was determined in Virginia that stop & frisks for illegal gun possession reduces the amount of gun crime. The law has since been repealed as it was determined racist (more blacks than whites were caught and sentenced for possession of an illegal weapon).

We can safely conclude that increasing gun control (at least in the USA) will have no effect on violent crime, so please let us move on to talking about things that will make a difference rather than things that are not only extremely dividing, but also inconsequential.

So why does Europe differ from the USA?

Europe doesn't have the same drug problem that the USA has. It doesn't have gangs who get into fights over controlling drug distribution, the USA does.

Europe has better mental health care than the USA, and does a better job at keeping mentally unstable people off of the street.

Beyond that, there have not been any significant studies that explore why this is so.

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    I didn't downvote this but perhaps it should be written in a more neutral way. For example "All gun advocates who claim this are being stupid." does not sound very professional. OTOH I like the fact that there are links to sources. – user31389 Aug 12 at 15:14
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    "Europe doesn't have gangs who get into fights over controlling drug distribution." Hu ? We do, alas. Ever heard about the Mafia ? Maybe the problem is less acute in Europe than in the US, but then this would require a specific source and some figures. – Evargalo Aug 12 at 15:18
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    You have the Mafia, but they aren't as volatile and prone to violence as American Gangs. I thinks its better than 70% of homicides in the USA are gang related, Europe's way lower, around 10%. I will get you the figures once I find the studies again, but if you remove organized crime (gangs/mafia) from the scene than America's violent crime rate is comparable, to Europe. – Garret Gang Aug 12 at 15:29
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    It is more than possible that European gangs are less violent than US ones because of gun laws. Even criminals understand that if carrying a gun will get you locked up (even if you don't use it) then they don't carry a gun unless they have to. – DJClayworth Aug 12 at 16:16
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    @DJClayworth A large percentage of the gang-related gun crime in the U.S. also occurs with weapons that are carried illegally and/or in areas where carrying a weapon isn't legal at all. – reirab Aug 12 at 18:08
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They don't.

While there are a lot of half-assed arguments (on both sides, to be fair), any serious statistical analysis that actually controls for variables comes down on the side of gun control. A good example of this is a recent meta-analysis of 130 studies from 10 countries which found:

Evidence from 130 studies in 10 countries suggests that in certain nations the simultaneous implementation of laws targeting multiple firearms restrictions is associated with reductions in firearm deaths.

("What Do We Know About the Association Between Firearm Legislation and Firearm-Related Injuries?" - link in the article above)

There are two big factors that skew the statistics, and any discussion of the subject that doesn't mention them is dishonest, IMHO. That means most of them, from both sides ot the issue.

First, gun ownership and gun legislation differs vastly between rural and city regions. Crime is higher in cities - that is true everywhere in the world. And gun ownership is lower, because you don't need a gun to protect your cows from coyotes if you live in a flat on the 20th floor. As a result, if you don't consider this fact, you can find statistics that show higher gun ownership rates equal lower crime rates.

Second, a large percentage of gun-related crime in the cities is amongst gangs. This is even more so when you look at homicides. Some police officer once said that the unspoken truth about gun violence is that it's mostly young black men killing other young black men. If you don't consider this fact, you can find statistics that show gun-related death rates rivalling some war zones in American cities.

So, as with most political arguments, you can twist facts to serve your purpose. But most of the anti-gun-control rhetorics doesn't go so far. It works along a different path: by repeating things again and again, you can make them appear true. That's a simple exploitation of human psychology. Our brain is hardwired to accept things that we hear many times as true.

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    @Tom Thanks for including the link. However, I'm more interested in sources quantifying gun ownership rates in cities vs rural areas, as well as sources citing what percentage of gun crimes are gang related. Yes, I could google it myself, but good answers are self-contained. – Beofett Aug 12 at 17:33
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    The linked article itself mentions flaws in the meta-study (e.g. conflicts of interests, uncontrolled variables) that this answer does not. – BalinKingOfMoria Aug 12 at 17:58
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    This answer feels like it’s mostly uncited rhetoric, which is a bit concerning seeing how it’s currently the most highly-upvoted answer. – BalinKingOfMoria Aug 12 at 17:59
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    And what percentage of those gun-related deaths were suicides? – forest Aug 14 at 0:23
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    Please note that the study shows that gun control reduces firearm deaths, not violent crime or murders. If gun control eliminates firearm deaths completely, but the total murders increase, this is not necessarily a positive development. – sds Aug 14 at 16:36
77

The real problem with questions like this is in assuming that gun ownership is a cause rather than a symptom.

I answered a similar question a year or two ago, but comparing Canada and USA, and mass killings rather than crime in general. But I think the same explanation applies.


Why does the USA have mass killings in a seemingly scheduled basis, and Canada has only had a few in the past fifty years? Both countries have gun ownership.

Imagine a large city of about 3 million people, located at the top end of one of the Great Lakes. It is closely surrounded by other large population centres. More than a century ago, its downtown suffered a “great fire”. It is a major centre for communications, television, and film production. It is a hub for air, rail, truck, and laker transportation. It has major league baseball, football, soccer, and basketball teams, and an “original-6” hockey team. It has a building that at one time was the tallest in the world. It is too hot in summer, and too cold in winter. It has a beautiful waterfront on the lake.

That city is Toronto:

Toronto waterfront

It is also Chicago:

Chicago waterfront

They are very similar cities in many ways.

But in one way they are very different.

In 2016, there were 74 homicides in one, and 781 in the other. That’s more than ten times the rate, and hardly insignificant.

Guess which one is in Canada, and which one in the US?

The obvious answer is that it has to do with gun control, but that really isn’t it. Any Canadian can obtain a gun if they really want one, whether legally or not. Yes, it would be more difficult to do in Canada, and yes, it would take longer, but really there is nothing preventing it.

For the most part, I think it has a lot to do with people’s attitude and relationship with government and authority.

Canadians have faith that in general the system will do the right thing, will be fair, and will protect them. Yes, we all hate politicians, and yes our governments make some really stupid decisions, and yes corruption, brutality, racism, sexism, etc. do exist; but overall things work well, we trust the system, and the system tries to be worthy of that trust. We see the government as something that holds us all together.

Americans are more individualistic. They value freedom above safety. They are mistrustful of authority. The famous Second Amendment was created so that individual states could have their own militias (armies), not in order to war against each other, but to protect them from the Federal government’s army. The Federal government spies on its citizens, and the citizens see the government as a burden on their lives. They see government as corrupt and self-serving. This attitude extends to everyday life too, and people feel they must protect themselves, either individually or as part of some group of similarly minded people. Many small communities trust their local gang more than they trust the police from the larger area they live in.

So at the lowest level, Canadians welcome government authority and protection, and see criminals as an unusual and undesirable thing. But Americans resent government authority and prefer to protect themselves. They isolate themselves into small groups for protection rather than relying on a much larger society. And those groups are distrustful of not only the government, but of each other. They overgeneralize and use stereotypes, turning situations and relationships into “us” versus “them” at all levels. Criminal gangs aren’t all that different from other groups in society, they are simply willing to go to further extremes.

In the American environment it seems far more natural to take power into one’s own hands, whether to defend oneself or to attack someone else for what they did or what they represent.

It is far more likely that someone will become so paranoid, or so distrustful, or so full of hatred and frustration that they would turn to mass killing as a way of venting their anger.

The availability of guns might make it slightly easier, but that is hardly the cause of the problem, only another symptom of it.


These different views of society aren’t recent; they are embedded in the constitutions, and it accurately portrays the different societies. The US Declaration of Independence promises “Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness". Almost all other former British colonies have a constitution that promises “Peace, Order, and Good Government”.

Especially recently, missing out on “good government” seems to be apparent in the US.

EDIT:

Perhaps it's not clear above, but one of my main points is that "gun control" and "gun advocates" are not problems, they are symptoms.

It's not that Canadians wouldn't buy guns if they could, it's that they don't buy guns even though they can.

If we ignore things like machine guns and rocket launchers, Canadians have just as much access to guns as do Americans. The significant difference is that most Canadians simply don't want to own a gun and don't want to have one in their house. (Farmers, hunters, target shooters, etc. are exceptions, but they regularly use their guns, and for a specific purpose, they don't simply "keep them for protection".)

If I applied today, it might take another three months for me to obtain a Firearms Licence, but after that, I can buy a semi-automatic handgun and ammunition with no problem. There are restrictions on where I can leave it and how I can transport it, but I'm free to ignore those laws if I want to take the chance.

But I choose not to buy a gun. Or rather, it never even occurs to me that I might want to buy one.

For instance, here's an ad from a local gun shop:

Remington semi-automatic handguns

Remington Handguns – Shooter's Choice Pro Shop

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Philipp Aug 14 at 11:31
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    "It is far more likely that someone will become so paranoid, or so distrustful, or so full of hatred and frustration that they would turn to mass killing as a way of venting their anger." Okay no. The rest of your post, while I don't agree, is reasonable. This, however, is a gross misrepresentation of why and how mass shooters become mass shooters. It portrays them as just overly pro-gun or fearful-of-government people. This is simply not it at all, so far off. – Andrew Aug 14 at 20:50
  • To be completely honest, I think this is a poor answer. Your reasoning is frequently vague, not cited, or plain false. Your answer itself uses generalizations and stereotypes as its key evidence, so I find it ironic (and somewhat rude) when you insinuate that Americans are more likely to "overgeneralize and use stereotypes, turning situations and relationships into 'us' versus 'them' at all levels." I'm not really sure if your response is more of an answer or a rant in disguise. – Daniel Aug 17 at 2:01
  • @Daniel, I mostly agree with you. This was originally in Quora, which is a lot less formal and a lot more opinionated, and I reposted it here simply because I thought it relevant and of possible interest, even though it doesn't directly answer the question. I didn't expect it to get so many upvotes; in only a few days it's already become my number one answer. But I will stick by the claim, which is evident to most outside observers, that American society is very polarized: most things seem to have only two choices: black or white, left or right, Democrat or Republican, right or wrong, … . – Ray Butterworth Aug 17 at 3:34
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If you compare the European Union to the United States, the EU has less crime, including crimes that have nothing to do with guns. For example, there are fewer domestic knife assaults. These are crimes that are unlikely to be prevented by guns (unless one spouse would be walking around the house with a gun just in case the other spouse pulls a knife). This suggests that the US and EU are not comparable and that trying to make comparisons between them on crime is not helpful.

More importantly, if you compare areas within the US, places with more guns have less crime and places with fewer guns have more crime. Crime is mostly located in the cities while guns are mostly located in rural areas.

You can see something similar if you compare crime rates to gun ownership within Europe. The countries with high rates of gun ownership (e.g. Switzerland and Norway) have lower crime rates than those with lower rates of gun ownership (e.g. the UK).

It is perhaps noteworthy that in the Scandinavian countries, legal immigrants commit more crimes per capita than do the native born. In the US, the reverse is true. For whatever reason, the US is much more crime-ridden than the average developed country.

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    -1 you have no sources for any of these bold claims. – Stormblessed Aug 11 at 16:19
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    First you make a completely valid statement: you can't compare US and EU by crime+gun ownership alone. There are many other factors. But then you say: "more importantly... places with fewer guns have more crime. Crime is mostly located in the cities...", as if in this case all other factors can be ignored. – IMil Aug 11 at 23:51
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    xkcd.com/1138, re: "crime is mostly located in cities" -- anything that scales with population density is mostly located in cities. :) – Charles Duffy Aug 12 at 0:17
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    @CharlesDuffy It's not just that incidences of crime is higher in the large cities, but the actual crime rates per population are higher, particularly in regards to things like murder. Compare the metro vs. non-metro areas in the FBI Uniform Crime Report for example. Also, the "Metropolitan Statistical Areas" listed there are quite large and include the suburbs. The difference from metro to non-metro would be even more stark if suburbs were counted separately. – reirab Aug 12 at 16:10
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    Third paragraph can not be supported by data. The UK has much lower gun related death rate than either US, Switzerland or Norway. Gun related death rate might be different from overall crime rate, but do you really care more about petty theft than homicide? Total firearm-related death rate per 100,000 population per year (includes homicide, suicide, unintentional) - UK: 0.23, Norway: 1.75, Switzerland: 3.01, US: 12.21; Guns per 100 inhabitants - UK: 2.8, Norway: 31.3, Switzerland: 24.45, US: 120.5; Source en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… – Georg Patscheider Aug 13 at 13:59
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Is my understanding of the "more guns less crime" argument correct?

Yes. This can be split into 2 subarguments:

  1. In areas with high gun ownership, criminals will think twice before victimizing people because they will be afraid of being shot.
  2. When an armed person is assaulted, they can defend themselves so the crime attempt is not successful.

Is the argument considered valid by most mainstream guns advocates?

They seem to consider this argument valid but they also seem to admit that it's only one of many factors affecting the crime rate.

If yes, how do guns advocates explain the case of the EU, which looks like a counter-example to this theory?

They usually explain it by saying that other factors affected the crime rate much more. Something along the lines of "EU has low crime rate because of various reasons but if it had more legal guns, the crime rate would be even lower".

Answers to questions no one asked

In general, even if this is a factor, it's a minor one. Gun ownership is not very relevant here. It's the amount of guns being actually employed for the purpose of self defense that's relevant. For example let's consider how much people carry self defense guns everyday in the US: 3 million. That's about 1.2% of US adult population. I don't think that's enough to make criminals think twice or to thwart a significant number of crime attempts.

The fact that it's not an important factor is also visible in the homicide rate charts from places that did change their firearm legislation. For example for a few centuries before 1920 England had no effective gun laws at all - everyone could buy guns, just like scissors or candles. Since then gun regulations have been tightened multiple times and yet England homicide rates have stayed about the same - around 1 per 100000 people. (Image from ourworldindata.org) US vs England homicide rates

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    Any idea what caused that massive drop in U.S. homicide rate from 1940 to 1965? – Brilliand Aug 12 at 23:18
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    @Brilliand - Or, according to historians.org, >60% of those arrested for homicide in the 1940's were males aged 18-35. That's also the demographic targeted by the draft. – bta Aug 13 at 0:03
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    Conclusion: to reduce crime rates in the USA, let's wage some wars ? – Evargalo Aug 14 at 6:28
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    @MT0 The graph may be misleading, but note that the question is not about deaths from guns, but about crimes generally (which don't have to involve guns, only have the potential to be prevented by guns). Homicide rate is one way of approximating crime rate, and has relatively good quality historical data. – James_pic Aug 14 at 11:38
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    It is also not true that England had no gun laws before 1920s. The Vagrancy Act 1824 allowed police to arrest people with a gun (or other offensive weapon) and intent to commit a felonious act. The Gun Licence Act 1870 required people to obtain a license to carry a gun outside their own property. The Pistols Act 1903 placed restrictions on the sale of firearms requiring the public to obtain a license before purchasing a pistol. The Firearms Act 1920 strengthened that to require anyone wanting to purchase or possess a firearm or ammunition to obtain a firearm certificate. – MT0 Aug 14 at 15:29
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Some have heard it said "when seconds count, the police are minutes away." Well, perhaps. But that's not what makes the argument.

What we have here is kind of a division; in the cities, people would (most likely) be safer if guns were not generally available because the police time is reasonably fast. I called them down on a 5v1 fistfight and they got there in two minutes.

My CEO lives twenty minutes out of the city. She had to face an armed intruder. The police response time was ... twenty minutes. That's more than enough time to bring down the front door with an ax, and interior doors are little better than cardboard. And some people live where the response time is two hours. The argument for having guns in houses to deter crime is clear.

Get your political maps out by precinct. Almost everything is a sea of red.

Now consider the arguments; in the cities it would appear that gun control would radically reduce crime. Well, maybe it will. But the ones you need to convince to overcome the constitutional issues are in the deep red states in the midwest (need 3/4th of the states). In the country the reverse is true; guns deter crime. The criminals know they might as well assume every single house has an armed occupant and breaking in is dangerous, and they don't. The gangs don't run rampant as they don't have critical mass.

Those who oppose the gun control the hardest know the argument that gun control reduces crime is bogus because it is bogus where they live.

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    This answer doesn't really respond to the question given. It asks about the difference between european and american crime rates. However this answer doesn't say anything about europe. – Q the Platypus Aug 12 at 6:24
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    @QthePlatypus Well, it kind of does (not that I necessarily agree, mind) - in Europe, the overall population density is much higher than in the US; there's very few places where you're far from a city. There's essentially no suburbs. The main problem with the answer is that it only skirts the scope of the question - most gun violence in the US is in gangs, which operate in cities (population density and all that). Gangs aren't very common in Europe. – Luaan Aug 12 at 7:03
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    @Paul Smith: US law behaves similarly, and most thieves aren't murderers. – Joshua Aug 12 at 14:07
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    @Luaan "essentially no suburbs" is a bizarre claim, most major European cities have them? I'm not really convinced by the crime in rural areas argument, even thinking of the Scottish highlands where police are hours away, but I will note that gun control is not the same as gun ban and the Highlands are full of licensed game hunters. Equating "any gun licensing" with "immediate confiscation of all guns" is the most annoying thing about the gun control argument. – pjc50 Aug 12 at 14:38
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    @PaulSmith "In most European jurisdictions, posession of a weapon (even if not used) makes any crime much more serious." The same is true in most (all?) parts of the U.S. – reirab Aug 12 at 16:18
8

Some like this one try to avoid a direct US-vs-EU comparison and instead focus either on

  • a total worldwide comparison ("the US is less lethal than Honduras, yeah!") or

  • an intra-EU comparison ("the UK is more lethal than other EU members, guess why!").

Of course there is some validity to the latter approach, since otherwise crime statistics would have to be controlled for many other variables.

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    Afaik the US and the EU are much more comparable than the US and any of the countries mentioned in the link. And this doesn't answer the question. – Erwan Aug 11 at 16:11
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    @Erwan, it is a site by US pro-gun activists which tries to answer the questions raised by international comparisons. Note that I didn't try to defend their use of the first bullet point. – o.m. Aug 11 at 16:15
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    @erwan This answer does directly address the question: advocates' argument that the wrong basis of comparison is being used (i.e., "compare with this set of countries rather than that set because _____), is indeed an implicit explanation of the EU having less crime despite having stricter control of firearms. – Curt J. Sampson Aug 12 at 0:55
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    "the UK is more lethal than other EU members, guess why!" Well, those of Gaelic descent are angry at those of Roman descent for kicking them out of their homes. And those of Roman descent are angry at those of Saxon descent for the same. Then came the Vikings, the Normans... Everyone kept getting squashed up into Ireland and Scotland, and push back at those to their south-east. A Scouser'll hate a Geordie - until the Scots get involved, then "we're English! And we hate Scots!". The French get involved, and "We're British! And we hate French!". Then the Russians turn up: "We're European!" – Chronocidal Aug 12 at 12:02
  • @Chronocidal, as I understand it this question is about arguments, not about facts. While the two have some relationship, in many political debates people pick facts to match their gut feelings, not the other way around. – o.m. Aug 12 at 15:25
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Another key consideration is that what crimes occur and what subsets of crimes occur. For example, there is no real common factor between the U.S. and U.K. in terms of home burglary rates. Both crimes are thought of as not needing guns commit the offense, and both countries use similar legal definitions of the crime (the U.S. legal system is based on the British system and because of this, you can find quite a few states with no codified law about murder... because murder was outlawed when the states were still colonies of Britain and they did have a law making murder illegal, and both legal systems allow for case law or "Precedence" to be counted as law for new cases.). Anyway, that note aside, Home Burglary in the United States and U.K. is the unlawful entry into a residence for theft of property within. I don't have the rates, but for both countries, they are typical for the rate of theft related crimes within that country.

However, if we narrow down the crime to how the perpetrator operates, we find that the U.K. has a higher rate of "Hot Burglaries" than the United States. A Burglary is said to be "Hot" if the perpetrator entered the residence while a legal occupant was present in the residence (the owner or someone who the owner allows to live in the residence). I don't recall the exact rates on hand, but 80% of all U.K. Burglaries are considered "Hot" while in the United States, about 10-15% are "Hot". While there could be a number of reasons, one of the theories for this is that in the United States, killing an intruder in one's own home in self-defense is not a crime (usually called "Castle Doctrine" and should not be confused with "Stand Your Ground" which is about Self-Defense while in a public area, not a private one.). The U.K. law would prefer the occupants to flee and only permits self-defense if they cannot flee.

Note this doesn't just mean guns... a baseball bat (cricket bat in the U.K nearest sporting equivelent) is as much a weapon as a gun in when used against an intruder. The fact that in the United States, self-defense actions are more permitted, coupled with the availability of legal firearms for self-defense, and the fact that most burglars do not desire to be killed while plying their illicit craft, means that even in the case of U.S. "Hot Burglaries" in the United States, the burglar more than likely entered the residence when he thought it was emptied and didn't think there was a problem. You don't need to be a statistical expert either, you just have to recall the Christmas Classic "Home Alone" where the antagonists spend most of the film trying to figure out if the protaganist's home is really unoccupied. Even when they find out that it is, one of the duo even protests that it's way more trouble than it's worth to rob a house where the sole occupant is a six year old boy... his partner only convinces him that the robbery is going to happen because the kid's house is the whole reason they started working the street in the first place. And as we all know, the film's climax is predicated on why this was a dumb idea on the antagonists part (although they survived for the sequel, it's not hard to find an article by a medical doctor suggesting that the robbers would have some serious life threatening injuries prior before they even got into the house, and would be dead long before the sequence concluded. For the curious, Marv would likely be dead from the burns of the flame thrower from when he entered the house, and already pretty close from the doornob branding. Harry would likely be dead from the fall down the icy stairs followed by the impact of the crowbar he was carrying and lost grip of in the fall, though he definitely wouldn't have lived after getting hit in the head by a Iron falling two stories and hitting him on the head.).

This is often the difficulty in comparing two countries with crime statistics as not all crimes are seen the same way in different countries. For example, while the United States does have a higher rate of gun crime than European Countries with strong gun crimes, of the three countries in the world that have a constitutional right to bear arms the United States has the lowest gun crime rate despite it's version of the right being the most permissive (Mexico and Guatemala are the other two, btw, and both explicitly state that they can't use guns against the government legally. The United States exists because they took up arms against the Government.). Additionally, while the United States has a high rate of deaths by gun, it's not the highest and the only figure related where the United States leads is it is the nation with the highest Gun Death Rate in which Suicide use of guns is greater than Homicide use of guns (about 2 out of every three Gun deaths in the united states are suicide). And the United States is fairly middle of the road in Suicide rate. Japan, a country with very strict gun laws, has a much higher suicide rate than the United States. In fact, when controlled for availability of guns, the Japanese will commit suicide by gun at the same rate as the United States commits suicide and homicide by gun combined.

However, Guns can be a bit contentious in this, so we can examine some other crime stats that are not inherently gun related.

These facts are all true as I have stated them:

In the United States, Youth Crime sees a spike that directly corresponds with the sale of Ice Cream.

Australia does see a spike in Youth Crime that corresponds with Ice Cream sales, but not nearly as high as the United States.

The first conclusion one might make is that Ice Cream causes kids to commit crime as both countries are seeing a spike and that the difference in the gap is the United States' larger crime rate than the Australia's. But this is wrong.

The first problem is that Ice Cream sells better at different times of the year because "summer" in the United States is "winter" in Austrailia and vice-versa. Ice Cream typically sells more in Summer than in Winter anywhere in the world, though, so Austrailia would have a season where Ice Cream sells, but not in the same part of the year. So why is the rate still less than the United States, if we control for the hemispheric differences?

Well, it has more to do with the differences in the education systems. In the United States, the school year runs from August/September to May/June depending on State. In Australia, the School year runs from January/February to Late November, again depending on state. Already a U.S. Summer Break is about 3 months, while the Australian school year is an extended Christmas holiday (with several smaller one two two week breaks built in the calendar through out the session. The U.S. typically does not have as many breaks during the school year for as long.). The wave of youth crime in the U.S. peaks during summer break, as do the sales of Ice Cream. But the wave is thought to more likely be caused by the longer break period that doesn't correspond with an extended holiday period (an Aussie kid is more likely to have an adult family at home during their longest break because it's also Christmas, where as a U.S. kid will not because their adult family members are still working during this period.).

This results in Youth Crime being a bigger problem in the U.S. in it's peak than Australia, even though both have the biggest wave in largest school break period, and the peak period of ice cream sales, and can account for both the appearance of more Ice Cream = More Crime and the rates of the correspondence being disproportional.

Removing Crime all together, its a known fact that Russia recieves more meteor impacts than any other nation in the world. This isn't because some deity hates Russian is smiting them with space rocks at them, but because there's more Russia than any other nation on the surface of the earth. If we control for total area, Russia has no more chance of meteor strikes than Vatican city. And naturally, of all the nations of the earth, none of them claim the middle of any ocean as territory. There's more ocean than Russia which would mean that a meteor impact into planet earth will more than likely hit in the ocean, which is a problem for the fish, but not for humans, who are few and far between away from dry land.

This can affect crime statistic as the United States is the third most populous nation in the world. Asking who has more gun homicides per nation depends on if your answer wants a statistic or a total number. India, has a close, but lower gun homiced rate per capita than the United States, but since India has about 4 times as many people as the United States, simple math shows us that more people will die by a gun homicide in India than in the United States. In fact, India has some of the strictest gun laws in the world will mean that more likely those killed by guns used in self-defense will still be charged with a gun crime because it's more difficult to own a gun legally in India than it is in the United States in the first place (these figures eliminates legal self defense, but the legal self-defense is defined by the country in question). It will also mean that these nations will be less safe around guns as their only exposure is to movie depictions of fire arms, which are often not the best source. Some films do go out of their way to handle it right, but most will make safe gun owners likely to cry as much as a paleontologist cries during Jurassic Park. And in the United States, legal gun owners tend to commit crime of any kind at a very low rate, let alone gun crimes. Most gun crimes are committed with illegally owned guns of one manner or another.

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    It's a nice essay full of twists and fun anecdotes, I enjoyed reading it, thanks! I agree that questions like this are maybe a bit complex for the concise SE Q&A format, but that's the rule here. Btw your essay doesn't really answer the question, but I wouldn't be surprised if you forgot it by the time you reached the end ;) – Erwan Aug 13 at 0:30
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I think that trying to explain this does not really make sense insofar as guns are not the issue at all. The pro/contra guns (knives, whatever) discussion is only about conflicting ideologies (not about facts) which are equally nonsensical. There's the "outlaw everything, regulate all" ideology on one side, and the "total freedom for everybody, don't regulate anything" ideology on the other side. And sadly, there is very little reason in between the two. Neither one is a good approach, and neither one addresses the problem.
Education and culture leads to the problems, not the availability of weapons, nor penalties.

The USA have death penalty which the EU does not have. Prison in the USA is, well not precisely "hell" like it is in Turkey, or Morocco, or Pakistan, but compared to Europe where prison is much like a stay 3-star hotel, you can very much consider it "hell". Penalties for which you get 5-10 years in Europe (or parole if you are lucky) get you 30+ years in the USA, and if they say "life", they really mean life, unless you get pardoned, but that only works for one sentence.
If you kill two or three people (or twenty) in Europe, you get a discount on the kills. You get life exactly once, but life_ usually doesn't mean life at all. For example in Germany it's 15 years, and you hardly ever get to serve these, which is just a joke in relation the the crime (also, socialists are still discussing whether 15 years is maybe still too harsh).

So, since penalties for mass killings get a discount, does EU have much more mass killings? No. Is the possibility to be sentenced to death in the USA a deterrant? Obviously not.

All in all, USA have a much more severe system of penalties in place. Do they have less crime overall? No.

Consider Asia. Maybe Indonesia or Singapore, or any such place (China if you will). Look the wrong way, say a wrong word, or do something seemingly "harmless" such as litter and they possibly beat you half-dead with a pole, or if you are really unlucky, hang you. Does that make people any better, do they have less crime? Well, no, not really.

Guns are not the issue, but they are not the solution either. Guns don't kill people, nor do they prevent crimes. It is, and has always been people and their culture who are the problem.

In the USA you have a bit more of a "cowboy" and "villain" culture. Think Wyatt Earp, or think Bonny and Clyde. In Europe, nobody would have the idea to idolize people like that, they'd be considered crazy killers. Think Thomas Edison. In Europe, you would call him a fraud, in the USA you'd call him an ingenious businessman. It all depends on your point of view, and on culture.

So well, it isn't really suprising that there are more people advocating guns, and also more shootings in the USA. That, however, doesn't mean that guns are the problem, nor that they could solve a problem.

A large range of "harmless" knives which are basically tools is illegal in Europe as well as some very much "not harmless" knives that serve no purpose other than causing harm.
Can you get one of these? Sure, no problem, they're openly sold everywhere. Do people carry them? Sure. Do people use them? Well yes, an increasing number does, and often without hesitation, which is quite scary. But it's not the knife (which already is illegal) that is the problem. It's the person carrying it.

  • Comments deleted. Please remember that comments on this website are not an appropriate platform for political debates. – Philipp Aug 14 at 11:28
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    This is an inspired pamphlet, with lots of debatable claims, but it doesn't exactly adress the question. Also, I don't know how 3-stars hotels look like where you go for holidays, but I will rather avoid them: lemonde.fr/societe/article/2013/04/26/… – Evargalo Aug 20 at 9:22
  • @Evargalo: You're of course joking, right? I've stayed in hotels which were worse than [this](www.rbb-online.de/kontraste/ueber_den_tag_hinaus/terrorismus sicherungsverwahrung.html). Heck, this felon almost has bigger computer screens than I do... – Damon Aug 20 at 10:25
  • @Damon : no, I am not joking, but I don't want to drift even further off-topic than this answer already is. If you want, there are good questions to be asked about the quality of European prisons or about the effect of prisons on criminality levels. – Evargalo Aug 20 at 11:55
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To commit Mass killing is actually super easy, barely an inconvenience.

Anyone who wants to do it, can probably pull it off.

The Japanese man who recently mass murdered 33 people used nothing but a bit of gasoline.

Cars are arguably even easier. Vehicle ramming attacks

So even if we take guns out of the debate, and consider mass shooting as just another form of mass indiscriminate murder, the US is still #1 by miles for the sheer number of mass murders.

The real question is why are people so violent, so self centered, so self indulgent, so impulsive, so full of rage in the US of A?

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    So, I take it, you're saying that the culture of the United States is inherently more violent than other similar countries and that's the cause of the increased murder and mass killing rates? I still think you need to support your desire to take guns out of the debate, though: while there are certainly many ways to kill people, if guns didn't make it much easier to kill, then why are used so much more often for killing (when they're available) than other methods? – divibisan Aug 13 at 18:24
  • @divibisan: that depends on your point of view and what set of statistics you are looking at. In terms of absolute killing, maiming, assault, rape, arson, etc. the US is actually relatively safe (especially compared to South American and Central American nations). But in terms of pointless, aimless, indiscriminate acts of mass murders, the US is definitely the undisputed world leader. And I do not know why. But it is a question that we probably should look into. And guns? They definitely make killing more fun for some people (even though cars and gasoline are probably deadlier). – dolphin_of_france Aug 13 at 19:07
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    @JJJ: This is neither a pro nor an anti gun argument. This is just a factual observation. The United States of America with all material wealth, technology and comfort, somehow has the highest random mass murder rate anywhere. Why? Is it the culture? The people? The religions? The video games? what is it? And no one really wants to find out, because everyone wants to talk about guns (yes guns, no guns). Sure have that debate, but at the same time I think we need to find out why there are so many mentally ill, angry, selfcentered, selfish people here. – dolphin_of_france Aug 13 at 19:45
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    But the question asks how gun advocates explain that the EU has less crime. This could be a part of such an argument, but you should show how the argument is used. Without that, it's more of a comment. – JJJ Aug 13 at 19:47
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    @dolphin_of_france en.wikipedia.org/wiki/More_Guns,_Less_Crime – JJJ Aug 13 at 20:09
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Any comparison of one issue in one society against the same issue in another society is bound to be a 1-variable fallacy. Societies are shaped by many, many factors. The factors which can be quantified are usually many in number. Making such heterogeneous comparisons and claiming that only 1 variable is responsible for something is akin to arguing that the main difference in taste of fried eggs and sushi is that sushi has more salt.

If you want to evaluate how good a sushi is, you compare it to another sushi roll of the same kind. If you want to evaluate how well a policy functions, you evaluate it against a different implementation of the same policy in the same society. So rather than comparing more guns in the US vs less guns in Europe, you can compare more guns in Australia vs less guns in Australia.

You can't do that with the UK (pre-gun-ban vs post-gun-ban), either. UK has (or at least has the reputation of having) curtailed civil liberties since making guns illegal (so it's not a comparison of 2 like societies).

protected by Philipp Aug 13 at 11:06

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