Back in 1992 and 1993, Fred Rivara and Art Kellerman published two articles which found a clear link between suicides and homicides when a gun was present in someone’s home. These two articles inaugurated a thirty-year argument about gun risk which is still going on.

              The respondents to Rivara and Kellerman were Gary Kleck in 1995 and John Lott in 1998, the former finding that several million Americans prevented serious crimes by dint of carrying a gun, the latter finding a link between the issuance of concealed-carry permits and a decline in violent crime.

              I refer to this debate as an argument about the social utility of guns. Do we need guns for self-protection, or should they only be used for hunting and sport? The United States happens to be the only country which regulates gun ownership but also allows law-abiding individuals to purchase and own guns for both purposes; in the other countries which have gun-control laws, owning a gun designed for self-defense is either a no-no or very tightly controlled.

              This issue of social utility happens to be the most important argument between the two sides when it comes to talking about guns. But there’s only one, little problem with how the debate plays out, namely, neither side is saying anything which is at all realistic when it comes to understanding how and why 120,000+ Americans are fatally or non-fatally injured each year with guns.

              We have all the data about who winds up being treated for a gun injury. We also have plenty of data on who gets arrested and charged for injuring someone else with a gun. But what we do not have, nor can I find a single bit of research on this issue from either side, is an attempt to figure out how many guns are out there in the hands of individuals who have no legal right to own or have access to a gun.

              The only research I have seen which skirts around this issue is an article published by Gary Kleck the year before he published his national survey of guns being used for self-protection, which is an article that seeks to tie the rate of gun violence to what he refers to as the ‘prevalence’ of guns. But this article makes no attempt to differentiate between legal versus illegal guns, which happens to be typical of the research by David Hemenway that ties our high rate of gun violence to the civilian ownership of some 300 million or more guns.

              Until and unless someone sits down and tries to figure out how many guns are owned by individuals who cannot under current law own a gun, then the whole debate about the social utility of guns means nothing at all. Someone who can pass a background check before buying a gun isn’t then going to turn around and stick up the local bank or the minimart.

If we know one thing about criminality, thanks to Marvin Wolfgang’s work published fifty years ago, we know that violent criminals show serious and continuous misbehavior in their early teens. Occasionally, domestic violence breaks out in a relationship which ends in serious injury or death, but that behavior rarely occurs in families which haven’t been engaged in some degree of physical brutality up to that point in time.

There has also never been a serious study on the number of gun crimes which occur with someone using a legally acquired gun versus an illegal gun. Given the lack of that information, how anyone thinks they can make any valid assumptions about whether gun-control laws make a difference to rates of gun violence (an assumption which is made in virtually every piece of research conducted by the gun-control crowd) is beyond me. 

For that matter, for all the talk by the pro-gun crowd about how giving out concealed-carry licenses reduces violent crime, the fact that someone can legally carry a gun doesn’t mean that someone who is illegally carrying a gun will necessarily worry about whether the guy who just yanked some bills out of an ATM machine will defend himself with armed force instead of handing over the cash.

Both of these arguments are carried out by scholars and advocates who actually believe that regression analysis can explain causation, when in fact saying that an ‘association’ exists between two trends, which is what the gun researchers say all the time, is saying nothing at all.

When the country was being ravaged by Covid-19 and gun violence rates shot upward, everyone in the cottage industry known as ‘good guys with guns versus bad guys with guns’ knew for a fact that the Pandemic was causing a level of stress and street-level anxiety which caused more injuries and deaths from guns.

So now we are reporting a level of Covid-19 infections which just makes this virus another quasi-normal pathogen floating around, meanwhile gun violence appears to be at an all-time high.

So much for that evidence-based theory, right?