Sniper: Shoot To Kill
2019-02-08 23:24:54 UTC
American soil. Something only gun owners accomplish with regularity!
Guns don't offer protection whatever the National Rifle Association says
The insistence that guns protect people from rape and violence is not
rooted in scientific reality
"The one thing a violent rapist deserves is to face is a good woman with a
gun!" That was Wayne LaPierre, executive director of the National Rifle
Association, the standard bearers for America's gun lobby, making the case
that personal firearms prevent rape.
The assertion that guns offer protection is a mantra the NRA has repeated
often. In the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, LaPierre opined: "The
only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun",
insisting that schools should have armed guards.
Academics such as John Lott and Gary Kleck have long claimed that more
firearms reduce crime. But is this really the case? Stripped of machismo
bluster, this is at heart a testable claim that merely requires sturdy
epidemiological analysis. And this was precisely what Prof Charles Branas
and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania examined in their 2009
paper investigating the link between gun possession and gun assault. They
compared 677 cases in which people were injured in a shooting incident with
684 people living in the same area that had not suffered a gun injury. The
researchers matched these "controls" for age, race and gender. They found
that those with firearms were about 4.5 times more likely to be shot than
those who did not carry, utterly belying this oft repeated mantra.
Which issue do you want US election candidates to discuss?
The reasons for this, the authors suggest, are manifold. "A gun may falsely
empower its possessor to overreact, instigating and losing otherwise
tractable conflicts with similarly armed persons. Along the same lines,
individuals who are in possession of a gun may increase their risk of gun
assault by entering dangerous environments that they would have normally
avoided. Alternatively, an individual may bring a gun to an otherwise gun-
free conflict only to have that gun wrested away and turned on them."
This result is not particularly unexpected. Prof David Hemenway of Harvard
school of public health has published numerous academic investigations in
this area and found that such claims are rooted far more in myth than fact.
While defensive gun use may occasionally occur successfully, it is rare and
very much the exception it doesn't change the fact that actually owning
and using a firearm hugely increases the risk of being shot. This is a
finding supported by numerous other studies in health policy, including
several articles in the New England Journal of Medicine. Arguments to the
contrary are not rooted in reality; the Branas study also found that for
individuals who had time to resist and counter in a gun assault, the odds
of actually being shot actually increased to 5.45 fold relative to an
individual not carrying.
The problem goes deeper than this, however. There's good evidence that the
very act of being in possession of a weapon has an unfortunate effect of
making us suspect others have one too. This was shown in a 2012 paper by
psychologists Prof Jessica Witt and Dr James Brockmole, where subjects were
given either a replica gun or a neutral object and asked to identify the
objects other people were holding.
Subjects in possession of a replica firearm were much more likely to
identify a neutral object as a firearm. The erroneous assumption that
someone else is armed can and does often end in tragedy.
Indeed, the evidence suggests the very act of being armed changes one's
perception of others to a decidedly more paranoid one. Other studies have
shown an element of racial priming too, where a black subject is more
likely to be assumed to be carrying a weapon. Guns have a curious
psychological effect beyond this: a 2006 study by Dr Jennifer Klinesmith
and colleagues showed men exposed to firearms before an experiment had much
higher testosterone levels and were three times more likely to engage in
aggressive behaviour relative to the subjects not primed with a weapon.
LaPierre's proclamation bears the hallmarks of a litany of misconceptions.
Gun aficionados often frame the debate in terms of protection, but it is
vital to realise that the vast majority of rape and murder victims are not
harmed by nefarious strangers, but by people they know, and often love
friends, family members, lovers. Far from protecting people and keeping
families safe, the sad truth is that firearms are often used in episodes of
domestic violence. The John Hopkins centre for gun policy research has some
sobering facts on this; women living in a home with one or more guns were
three times more likely to be murdered; for women who had been abused by
their partner, their risk of being murdered rose fivefold if the partner
owned a gun.
Nor did guns make the women safer; women who purchased guns were 50% more
likely to be killed by an intimate partner. So LaPierre's "good woman with
a gun" is actually, it seems, putting herself in danger.
Viewed in this light, the NRA's insistence that rapes can be prevented with
firearms or that teachers should be armed appear even more stupid than they
already seemed. It is worth remembering that just as America leads the
world in gun ownership, so too does it lead the world in gun homicide, with
11,000 to 12,000 murders committed by firearms each year. The tired old
rationalisation that guns protect people is frankly contradicted by the
evidence. The inescapable conclusion is that gun ownership makes everyone
less safe. The logic the NRA espouses is perverse and transparently self-
serving the solution to gun crimes is not more guns, and no amount of
rhetorical dexterity can surmount this fact. If the US is to have a truly
honest discussion about its gun culture, it needs to be rooted in fact
rather than fantasy, and the sound and fury from the NRA should be
dismissed with the contempt it deserves.