You should not have a gun

I heard about the shoot­ing in New­town, Con­necti­cut, hours after it hap­pened. I was fly­ing East that day, and hadn’t checked in with the news. I don’t know any­one involved, but I have two boys in ele­men­tary school, one a six-year-old first grad­er. I have been sad, con­fused, and angry in turns, some­times all at once.

It has been sev­er­al days, and I think I’ve come to some… con­clu­sions about what I think. Buck­le up.

First off, men­tal ill­ness is a ter­ri­ble prob­lem. Unlike with guns, it is an almost unfath­omably com­pli­cat­ed top­ic, of enor­mous impor­tance, that I am com­plete­ly unqual­i­fied to speak to. I do think that, as a coun­try, we should be able to tack­le both guns and men­tal ill­ness. Both clear­ly need the atten­tion.

But, on guns, I think this:

  • I believe that peo­ple should only have access to guns if their pro­fes­sion requires it. Yeah, I’m a lit­tle left of Lib­er­al on this. But there is no rea­son, in a civ­i­lized soci­ety, for indi­vid­u­als to own guns for any sort of recre­ation­al pur­pose. None. Try your best to give me a rea­son. I like them doesn’t count. I grew up with guns doesn’t count. I need to defend myself (from oth­er peo­ple with guns) doesn’t count. I’m part of a well-reg­u­lat­ed mili­tia and I need them to defend myself from a future totalitarian/socialist gov­ern­ment. Real­ly? Guns kill, and you can’t tell me that killing is an accept­able end goal. Pun­to final.

  • If you own a gun for recre­ation­al pur­pos­es, I will be civ­il to you (lest you, you know, shoot me), but I will not be your friend. My chil­dren will not play at your house. You had bet­ter tell me now, and get it over with. You can unfriend me and we can go our sep­a­rate ways. My chil­dren and I will be safer.

Sure, a full-on firearms ban will nev­er fly in this coun­try. I under­stand the prac­ti­cal prob­lems with my stance. A ban on assault weapons, or on high-capac­i­ty mag­a­zines, or on bul­lets, is like­ly to be much more suc­cess­ful. But I remain con­vinced that you do not need a gun. You should not have a gun. You are not safer with a gun. I am not safer if you have a gun.

Gun-relat­ed deaths in 2010 in the Unit­ed States, from the CDC:

  • unin­ten­tion­al firearm deaths: 606
  • homi­cide firearm deaths: 11,078
  • sui­cide firearm deaths: 19,392
  • total firearm deaths: 31,672

Gun relat­ed non-sui­cide deaths per 100,000 peo­ple:

  • Unit­ed States, 2008–2010: 3.97
  • France, 2009: 0.68 (17.1% of US total)
  • Italy, 2009: 0.47 (11.8%)
  • Aus­tralia, 2008: 0.26 (6.5%)
  • Ger­many, 2010: 0.16 (4%)
  • Unit­ed King­dom, 2011: 0.07 (1.7%)
  • Nor­way, 2010: 0.06 (1.5%)

Yes, in the US, you are 56 times more like­ly to die from a gun than in the UK. That does not include sui­cides.

Once they come out of hid­ing, the NRA will trot out all their usu­al tropes: guns don’t kill peo­ple, gun safe­ty train­ing is very impor­tant, every­one should have gun locks, or gun safes, or unloaded guns, or some­thing that makes your gun safer.

You know what is more effec­tive than gun safe­ty train­ing? Not hav­ing a gun. You know what is more effec­tive than gun locks? Not hav­ing a gun. You know what is more effec­tive than gun safes? Not hav­ing a gun.

You know what is safer than hav­ing a gun? Not hav­ing a gun.