Saturday, February 18, 2017

Why liberals should own guns

I wrote a Twitter thread about this a while back, but it got deleted in a periodic wipe, so I thought I'd reprise it here for posterity, and expand a little on the earlier point.

For decades now, liberals - a term I'm using loosely to mean anyone on the American left - have mostly shunned gun ownership and gun culture. Around half of Republicans own guns, and 41% of those who call themselves "conservatives," compared to only 22% of Democrats and 23% of those who call themselves "liberals".

Why? One reason is that liberals are more likely to live in big cities, where there is an assumption that violence will be stopped by the police (and by numerous witnesses), rather than by one's own defensive actions. But I think part of it is cultural - liberals, by and large, want to live in a society without widespread gun ownership, and many have decided to "be the change they want to see in the world."

But leading by example hasn't worked. Gun control has been mostly a political non-starter except for a very brief period at the beginning of the Clinton administration. Conservatives continue to use the issue of gun rights as a rallying cry and cultural wedge issue, constantly invoking the fear that liberal politicians will come storming into Americans' houses and take away their means of self-defense.

Now things may be changing. A recent BBC report found that since the election of Trump, liberal interest in gun ownership has spiked. The Liberal Gun Club, run by Lara Smith (no relation) has reported a 10% increase in membership and a "huge" increase in interest.

I think this is a good trend. More liberals need to own guns. Why? Here are two reasons:

1. It would make any calls for gun control more credible.

Right now, many conservatives see gun control as a plot to disarm them. But if liberals are also armed, calls for things like assault weapons bans, or background checks, or stricter licensing requirements sound more like an arms limitation treaty than a call for unilateral disarmament. In other words, instead of liberals saying "Hey, give up your guns," they'll be saying "Hey, let's all give up some of our guns." That's a more credible, more powerful message.

There's a precedent for this. Half a century ago, the Black Panthers, ardent gun nuts, staged an armed protest at the California state capitol. The state responded with the Mulford Act, which forbid open carry - a very big, rapid success for prudent gun control policy. Now, I'm not suggesting liberals stage armed takeovers of government buildings - the 60s were a very different time, and people like Cliven Bundy aren't going about things in the right way. But the larger point is that when liberals have guns, even conservative politicians are willing to embrace sensible gun control measures.

A more metaphorical example is the successful history of U.S.-Soviet and U.S.-Russian arms limitation treaties. The Russians love nukes like Ted Nugent loves guns, but because we had nukes of our own, we managed to make them see how sensible it would be to limit the total amount.

2. It's insurance against the breakdown of public order.

The total breakdown of public order is highly, highly unlikely. It would take a nuclear war, a civil war or coup, or a major natural disaster like a Yellowstone super-eruption to produce a situation in which America reverted to anarchy.

But just because it's unlikely doesn't mean it's pointless to insure against it. This is a tail risk, but the consequences would be huge and disastrous. So it might make a lot of people sleep better in their beds at night knowing that if it came time to grab our guns and get to safety, they'd have guns to grab.

And the erratic nature of Trump's leadership probably increases the tail risk just a little bit - an accidental tweet or a falling-out with Putin might set off a nuclear war.

Also, it's important to remember that small, localized breakdowns of public order do also happen in cities from time to time, and that it can help to have a gun in those extreme cases - especially if you're a minority, and less likely to get immediate help from the cops.

There's actually sort of a historical precedent for this as well. In the episode known as "Bleeding Kansas" in 1854-1861, the U.S. government decreed that slavery's legality in Kansas would be decided by popular vote. Naturally, this made pro- and anti-slavery people both rush to settle in the state, and it also sparked a guerilla war. The government, paralyzed by the fear of a larger civil war (which soon happened anyway), did little to quell the violence, so the state became a zone of anarchy. The anti-slavery forces, known as Jayhawkers, were well-armed, and eventually won the conflict.

So these are the two main reasons that liberals should own guns. The main argument against owning guns is the risk of accident - over a hundred American kids die from gun accidents every year. Why take the risk? Well, it's certainly possible to minimize the risk of gun accidents - keep the gun in a safe. If you take proper precautions, the risk is far lower than the aggregate statistics might suggest.

But if that risk is just too high, consider simply learning how to use guns. Knowing how to shoot, maintain guns, etc. is probably more important than physically having the guns in your home. Who might find out it's fun!

Anyway, remember, always safety first. And if you do have mental illness, I'd say don't buy a gun, even if the law allows you to.


  1. I think more liberal gun ownership may also help alleviate the negative connotation of firearms which is seemingly pervasive on the left, especially the urban left. It seems that those completely unfamiliar with firearms and those that have never seen them used responsibly tend to link them strongly with violence and crime which is understandable. But millions of Americans, who like me grew up in areas where gun ownership was almost universal, associate guns not with violence but with hunting, target shooting, skeet shooting, etc. This association is highly positive as it reminds us of times spent with family and friends, with feelings of love and friendship rather than violence or hate.

    I suppose someone who grew up eating with their hands and watching movies and news stories of people being killed with steak knives might come to associate those knives with violence, rather than a good meal with family or friends.

    Perhaps learning how to operate firearms safely, and experiencing the responsible aspects of firearm ownership, will help the left view firearms how they view other items which require even a modicum of care in use and operation. We accept vehicle ownership universally because vehicles are a great tool that when used properly bring many benefits to society despite the dangers. We allow alcohol production and consumption because once again we realize that the risks of responsible consumption are extremely low, just like the risks of responsible gun ownership and use. We don't overly regulate them based on hyped up stories and statistics which responsible owners know aren't relevant to common usage or ownership.

    1. I agree with this post. I don't object to gun ownership and I've done my share of bird hunting over the years. I used to enjoy skeet and trap shooting but there are very few public ranges around these days where one can do that. Some of the best fall days were out in the field pheasant hunting.

      That being said, I think reasonable gun laws can and should be enacted: assault weapons, limitations on number of rounds that can be fired before reloading, and perhaps a limitation on the number of firearms an individual may own (the latter would be controversial).

    2. I think there is a larger problem, obviously, with semiautomatic handguns. Limiting them at whatever stage possible, manufacturing, selling, owning, is probably the quickest way to reduce violent crime. Not that assault weapons should be owned by the public, but that is a moot point with all of them that are currently owned. A registry might help get some to rid themselves of the burden of having the government know they own it, or the shame of admitting they have one. Other guidelines, like having a steady job for one year, or maintaining a specific amount of income in order to own a semiautomatic weapon, might also help reduce violent crime as lower classes tend to commit most violent crimes.

    3. Is this really a liberal writing this? You want to limit rights based on socioeconomic status? You think it might limit violent crime too by preventing urban Blacks from owning guns based on crime stats? Jeesh..

    4. I don't think I've ever heard anyone express concern about they types of guns used for hunting, target shooting and skeet shooting.

    5. You haven't Adam? Well read the comments below! Apparently we need to regulate for the risk of suicide, which covers all guns and we need to ban all semi-autos which are used for all of the above too. Also, what you all thing of as "assault rifles" are regularly used for hunting and target shooting. I used a dreaded AR type rifle while hunting just a couple of weeks ago.

      And I never said that these types of rifles are the only ones we "need." Self defense was and always will be the reason the 2nd Amendment was enacted.

  2. Anonymous10:52 AM

    Eh, no thanks. As a former city-dweller my experience has been that owning a gun just increases your risk of getting killed. And now that I live outside a large urban area, I just don't have the history with guns to make a purchase. If the volcanos erupt all around me at the same time, well, hell...


  3. The latter argument is specious unless you are WAY down the apocalypse curve. Basically if you are fighting against any organized military force you will not do well. That leaves us to use guns against other civilians, something that, if it happens, is in "god help us" territory.

    This is the same reason that "militias" formed by folks on the right don't really make much sense.

    1. Spoken like a man who has lived in first world, peaceful communities his entire life. I assure you that civil society breaks some MUCH faster than you would ever dare to imagine.

  4. I'm reminded of my father, who served in WW2 and who was concerned that Barry Goldwater was a closet liberal. He had zero interest in having any weapons in the house--no guns, no bows-and-arrows, no hunting knives. I think he'd seen enough of that in the nearly 3 years he spent in the Pacific theater. For myself, I have only once even thought about the possibility of owning a gun--when I was considering trying to write private eye novels, and I thought it would be important to know enough to write credibly about them. I have obviously never hunted (although many of my friends in high school did); to the best of knowledge, few of my current friends hunt to this day.

    And, while I am in favor of more stringent controls over the ownership, and I am strongly not in favor of "open carry" laws, I can understand the hunting motive. And to a lesser extent the self defense motive (although if you store your gun in a gun safe, how much help it'd be is questionable).

    The data strongly suggest that the greatest risk of death from firearms is from suicide--roughly 2/3 of deaths by shooting in recent years have been suicides (roughly, 20,000), followed by homicides (around 10,000), and then accidents (about 2,000). How much that matters I don't know.

    1. The suicide statistic is the one that drives me the most nuts because gun control advocates constantly throw it in with their "gun violence" statistics. The fact is that if you can avoid committing suicide and can avoid drug use and abuse or other violent criminal behavior you cut your chance of "gun violence" down to a ridiculously low level.

    2. "greatest risk of death from firearms is from suicide"

      This is really a "risk"? After all, people who use their guns to kill themselves and doing what they intended to do, their death it is not a thing that happen by bad luck (like is, I think, implied by the word "risk").

    3. It's a "risk" because it's 1. an unusually convenient and effective means of suicide compared to many other options, and 2. the urge to actually attempt suicide is often transient, meaning that people typically don't continue to attempt suicide if their first attempt fails. People who survive bridge jumps often report changing their mind about wanting to die while *still in the air*. There's a ton of evidence that suicide rates are higher where there's more gun ownership, and we also have good evidence from bridge barriers that reducing access to effective and convenient means of suicide causes an drop in the *overall* suicide rate, not just the rate of bridge jumping. (Bridge jumping is about the only means of suicide more effective than a gun -- 98% vs 95%. Poisoning is a mere 6%.)

      So yeah, if you have a suicidal impulse (and they do not only strike people with pre-existing, diagnosed mental illness), having easy access to a gun (or the Golden Gate Bridge as it is right now) really is a stroke of "bad luck."

  5. 100% agree. Liberals need our own militias too!

    1. Bill Ellis6:26 PM

      If liberals started their own Militias...I bet you'd start to see some sympathy for gun control from the right...

      It was the Black Panthers that scared white people into gun control in the first place...

      How about a Black Lives Matter "Auxiliary Militia"
      or a LGBT Protection Brigade (LGBTPB).
      The LGBTPB could get non standard gendered people to embrace conceal carry... Maybe if Queer people became known for using deadly force... homophobic morons with ill intent might think twice before messing with a gay person ...

      These things sound strange.. Funny even ? ... But why ? Maybe it's cuz we know that in the laws is practiced...White, "Christian" people have special privileges when it comes to using deadly force...

    2. Bill Ellis6:56 PM

      So... I'd like to trot out a gun control policy that I believe would a not be significantly detrimental to hunting or self defense, or even inhibit the treasured American myth of an ability to use "2nd amendment solutions" to restore democracy...
      But it would make playing with guns significantly less fun...

      What it would do is make mass shootings in confined spaces much harder...

      Take Action on Actions... Outlaw ALL semi autos... Only bolt action, Revolver, brake, lever or pumps.. ( no weird workarounds allowed )
      ANd limit the size of Magazines...

      Any proposal by liberals to outlaw "assault rifles" is a madding exercise in self delusion... All Assault rifle bans do is out law scary LOOKING guns...

      Any Semi auto hunting rifle with a big magazine will be just as effective at killing people massed together as an AK or AR...

      Left wing Politicos keep talking about "assault rifle" bans because it sounds good... But when they do they misseducate makes people who are for gun control look like freaking idiots in the eyes of people who know guns...

      And it's the Truth..if you are for an "assault rifle "ban... you are an idiot about guns...
      How can we expect pro gun people to listen to anything we have to say when we pro gun control people are mostly very ignorant about guns ?

    3. How can you possibly suggest banning all semi-autos would not limit self defense?

    4. Bill Ellis7:28 PM

      In what situation are you not taking careful aim and squeezing off one shot at a time...??? Seriously ! Do you have such disregard for the people in your surroundings to where you will just unload your magazine ? Most people will never be good enuff with a gun to shoot as fast as a semi auto allows and do it with accuracy...


      In real Life you don't need a semi auto for home defence or conceal carry..

      Are you often involved in combat against large groups of opponents in a small space ?...because that's the only time a semi auto ( with a large magazine )would be much of an upgrade over a revolver or a shotgun...

      For home defence most people would be best off with 38 revolver. You really don't want panicked moms and dads shooting off a semi auto in the house...

      Anything bigger and you'll blind yourself if you shoot in the dark... Also most people have more trouble firing anything bigger as accurately... And the bigger the bullet the better it travels thru walls (and people) still lethal, potentially killing innocents..... Something smaller is ok if that is all one can safely handle... but you do give up some stopping power the lower you go...

      A shot gun recommends itself as good home defence choice if can't miss is important... and the shot loses lethality going through most things and quickly at a distance... A big plus...

      but They are hard for some to use... An more cumbersome than a pistol...

      So I guess I'm just ignorant....How is having semi auto a big advantage in self defence ?

    5. Bill, your post is so full of just plain wrong that it's stunning. First, no matter how hard you try, semi-autos will only allow you to "squeeze off one round at a time." So your comment made no sense. Secondly, it's not a matter of being able to just "unload your magazine," it's a question of what you need to do in between shots in order to be able to execute a follow-up shot if needed. You do know that nearly every police force in the country utilizes semi-autos correct? It's not because they have no concern for the people around them. What most people will ever be allowed to do with a semi auto, or anything else for that matter, has little to do with anything. Most people cannot use most of the tools in the world today to the limit of the tool's capability. That's irrelevant. But I assure you that a huge number of people out there are better able to protect themselves with a semi-auto than a firearm with a manually operated action. I promise I've had A LOT of gun safety courses and I've spent YEARS of my life carry firearms safely both in the US and abroad. I fully agree that revolvers are an acceptable choice for home defense, but I totally disagree that they or shotguns should be the only choice. I'm not sure why home defense is the critical question here...I belief self defense is the issue at hand, which covers far more places than the home. I'm not sure why you went off on a tangent with regard to bullet diameter and over penetration when those issues have little to do with the distinction between a semi-auto and revolver. I will say that generally speaking, revolvers are capable of firing larger caliber bullets at faster speeds than semi-autos which makes your over penetration claims moot to this discussion. I'll note however that if larger diameter bullets and firearms generating significant muzzle flash or recoil are your issue, does that me you recommend an AR for home defense? They fire a small .223 caliber bullet with minimal muzzle flash a recoil. Of course your over penetration rant left muzzle velocity out of the equation but I digress. Your shotgun claim about "can't miss" shows your complete ignorance on the issue. Clearly your knowledge in that regard comes from Hollywood myth. I'd go into a discussion of shotgun patterning and choke selection but that would be lost on you.

    6. The argument of gun ownership being a way to prevent tyranny is a valid argument. It forces an authoritarian government to use resources that it could use in other areas such as genocide for example. True individual citizens and even militias could not stand up to most government forces in a conventional battle but we are not talking about conventional warfare, I would suggest reading Chi Guevara "Gorilla Warfare" and anything involving insurgents fighting a powerful nation including, Vietnam,many South American and Central American conflicts, the Middle east, the resistance during WW2 and even our own American Revolution.

    7. Bill Ellis9:57 AM

      Sure a guerilla war could be fought... We could end up like the middle east... that's a long way from restoring democracy... And a very poor outcome.
      Once we descend into that...even if the guerrillas could eventually win... it's not likely democracy would be restored...

    8. Bill Ellis10:50 AM

      @ the Donk... LOL..The .223... Small caliber? yes... huge cartridge ? YES! Huge cartige = huge muzzle flash...

      You are a pretender... I hate to think that some as ignorant about guns as you actually owns them...

      And you said..." semi-autos will only allow you to "squeeze off one round at a time." So your comment made no sense."
      Seriously ?... You can shoot as fast as you can pull the trigger.. A single action revolver you can't...even a double action requires a strong trigger pull and the action itself is slow.. They are not conducive to people just firing off a bunch of shots... And that what people in panic do..even trained ones...

      Do you know why modern military rifles have a three round burst setting... ? It's mostly psychological...
      In WW2 the germans had the first assault rifle.. StG 44... While our guys were mostly using the wonderful old bolt action M1...
      And what they found out was that in most combat situations...The M1 was far deadlier..
      What happened was that the when the germans with their StG 44s got into combat... They would panic and start ineffectively spraying bullets in the air... while our guys were forced to take careful aim every time they fired...

      Militaries wrestled with this..tying at first to correct the problem with training...To teach the guys to stay in semi auto or only fire in small bursts but when you're in a battle...
      you're gonna switch to full auto ...gonna hold that trigger down...

      so training did not work so they looked to psychology...

      How about we give them a setting where it fires in a burst ? Will that make them comfortable enough to keep them from switching to full auto ?

      They tried 2 shot burst... Not good enough to keep them for switching...
      (But more effective kills than a single shot ! it's tHe most effective way to shoot an assault rifle in most combat situations ... A lot of the time both bullets would hit the target...)

      They tried a 3 shot burst... Bingo ! Now soldiers can stop themselves from switching to full auto... ( but they found in combat situations...the two shot burst was actually deadlier than the three shot a smig.. Because, for one thing, the third bullet almost always misses...the shot being thrown off by the first two...making that a wash.. But the small difference in the time it takes to effectively aim at a new target between the bursts is what kept the 3 shot burst from being as deadly..

    9. So you ignored pretty much all of my points and focused your argument on a discussion of the 3 round burst? Got it.

      Anyone who would call the .223 cartridge size "huge" literally has no clue. Apparently you also have no clue that military and defense rounds are often loaded with powders which reduce muzzle flash. But since your knowledge comes from a Google search and mine comes from years of handloading and firing cartridges and from over a decade of military experience, including multiple combat deployments I guess that's to be expected.

    10. @Bill Ellis, so you think we should just lay down and submit in the face of violent criminals, terrorists, and authoritarian governments. Is a guerilla war or any war desirable? I would say no, but it is good for anyone to have the option to resist "by any means necessary". This is why the second amendment as an individual right is something that I will not give up.

  6. Anonymous10:01 AM

    What about the increased risk of suicide? Isn't that the main safety problem with gun ownership for the large majority of people who own them? (i.e. they're much more likely to kill themselves with a gun than anyone else).

    1. Ask Noah about Japan, where gun ownership is practically non-existent and yet rates of suicide are higher than in the US. Over there the big suicide risk is "train violence."

    2. Oh, Donk, you really are an obnoxious idiot like so many other worthless gun nuts. This is a cultural matter. In Japan it is honorable to commit suicide, hara-kiri or seppuku, in case you did not know. Of course, if you knew that then you are just a loud-mouthed propagandist attempting to mislead people with silly drivel.

      In the US it is viewed negatively, with the Catholic Church viewing it as a sin and many insurance companies refusing to pay to family members for life insurance if death is by suicide.

      That is why it is useful to compare US states, where the cultural differences on this issue are miniscule. And the evidence is overwhelming. Of the five states with the most guns per capita, four of them are in the top five for suicide rates, and of the bottom five for guns per capita, four of them are among the bottom five in suicide rates, overall suicide rates, not just by guns. We are back to the fact that guns are really effective for killing yourself.

    3. Well at least we're not name calling. Is suicide also honorable in France and Belgium which have higher rates than the US?

      No other factors in the states with high rates to adjust for? Desolation or isolation from others perhaps? Alcohol use? Unemployment? Socioeconomic status? You're quick to adjust for culture but not all the other things that correlate.

      But again...suicide "risk" is not a reason to regulate firearms and if it was, it would essentially require an all out ban.

    4. There are hundreds of ways to kill yourself; a gun does make it more convenient. However everyone I have known that has killed themselves with a gun or other method drugs, alcohol, mental illness, emotional trauma, PTSD, or any combination of the above plus lack of treatment. Treatment and support from family, friends and people who can understand what they are going through is needed to prevent suicides not restrictions on gun ownership.

    5. Donk, the association between guns and suicide in the USA has been studied extensively and is robust to all of the factors you mention. See

  7. Quite aside from accidents and somebody in the house murdering somebody else, the really big reason not to own a gun is risk of suicide. Suicide deaths by guns are twice as high as homicides by guns, and the correlation between gun ownership and suicide rates by state in the US is overwhelming and strong. This is causal. People owning guns sharply increases the chance they will kill themselves with one of them.

    Guns simply do not make people safe on any front. They do not even reduce danger of dying during a robbery, where we not infrequently see robbers grabbing guns from their owners and using them on the owners. Owning guns is basically stupid unless you like to hunt or just target shoot or just collect them to look at them and keep no bullets in the house. Otherwise, just plain dumb.

    Barkley Rosser

    1. Just plain ridiculous. Another urban man with statistics with no context. Suicide is tragic, but it is absolutely not justification to limit others' basic rights or criticize them for being "dumb" based on pure naïveté.

    2. The Donk,

      These people are ignorant. Most of them not know the stats. They think owning guns makes them safer when it does not. Lots of people attempt suicide during temporary depreion fits, but other methods regularly fail. People recover and lead reasonably happy lives. But guns work. The people die and that is that. No second chance.

      As it is, I have no use for gun nuts. No other nation has such stupid laws and policies about guns.

    3. "Gun nuts" has a different meaning depending on which side of the political spectrum you are on.

      And again, banning firearms based upon suicide "risk" is ridiculous.

      I also fully disagree with the notion that just because something increases risk, it needs to be banned. Responsible gun ownership and basic gun safety just about completely eliminate risks of having a gun in the home. Did you know that people with swimming pools have a dramatically greater risk of drowning than people without them? Couldn't we save a lot of lives by banning swimming pools at personal residences?

      There are costs to freedoms.

    4. @rosserjb, your mentality is why so many of the so called gun nuts that I know vote republican. They live in rural areas, use firearms to hunt, protect their pets, livestock and sometimes their families. Yet people like you refer to them as gun nuts and hillbillies. You referenced culture in a post related to suicide; maybe you should reply with some cultural relativism in respect to gun owners as well.

  8. Two issues with the argument. 1.) I don't own gun for the simple reason that I have no interest in doing so. While they may be appealing to some sector of society, many liberals are like me, we aren't making a statement, we just don't want one. 2.) There are a lot of liberals that don't live in big cities. By way of example, the population of MA is nearly 7 million, the population of Boston is under 700K. There are a lot of liberals living in suburban and rural locals in MA, and their needs/interests may be quite different than those in Boston, or Springfield (pop, approx 150K).

    1. Boston itself is 700k but what about the Boston metro area? I'd guess it's at least 4 million and I'd guess that area contains the vast majority of the MA liberals.

  9. I repeat what I wrote above - suicide is not a "risk"; suicide is a deliberate action, not something that happens to you by random luck.

    Saying that suicide is a "risk" is like saying that a women who is trying to get a baby has the "risk" of getting pregnant.

    1. Exactly. Smashing your thumb is a risk when using a hammer, purposefully smashing your face with said hammer is not a risk of owning or using a hammer.

  10. I've owned a shotgun for years, it's done nothing in my efforts to dissuade my conservative friends that mentally ill psychopaths shouldn't be able to purchase an AK47. Unfortunately, I see zero compromise from the right on even the most logical of measures. These are the same people who argued Sandy Hook would have been prevented if the kindergarten kids had been armed

    1. No hyperbole there at all right? Conservatives want psychopaths with guns? They wanted the children armed? It's statements like these that make any conversation about firearm regulations pointless.

    2. Well, Donk, the US Congress has been moving to make it easier for mentally disturbed people to have guns. So indeed, it looks like the gun nuts of this country are just fine with psychopaths running around with guns. They do not even want to keep terrorists from having guns. The gun nuttery in this nation is just shocking and disgusting. You people are a public disgrace and part of what makes the rest of the world think we are all nuts.

    3. The disgrace is the liberals who look at a few statistics, about which they have no personal context, and then choose to try to use them to regulate the fundamental rights of others. And just because you are on a no-fly list, doesn't mean you are a terrorist and should be immediately deprived of due process and your other constitutional rights. I disagreed with the SSI decision but even that was bad legislation that showed no signs of being effective at doing anything.

    4. Psychopaths/sociopaths? These types of personality disorders are a reason to have guns. The terms are not really used professionally anymore having been replaced with cluster B personality disorder. They make up the people who are rapists, murders, serial killers and the like, career criminals who have no regard for rules including gun laws. People with other mental problems are often okay with treatment; and in many cases the mental state is temporary.

      As for the terrorist, most terrorists are recruited of a socioeconomic climate. If people feel that they have opportunities they are less likely to risk themselves by taking up arms against society. Unless they are of the cluster B group who are often the leaders of terrorist organizations.

      The point of this is that restricting the rights of lawful citizens does not help curb gun violence or make you anymore secure. In fact it makes you less secure.

  11. Liberals live a more fearless life. No need for guns unless a gun is needed.

  12. Bill Ellis5:56 PM

    @ The Donk @ Miguel Madeira11...
    Attempted suicides are almost always fatal the on the first try when you use a gun... Thing about people who try to commit suicide and survive...It usually cures them of trying to kill themselves...

    "Many rare survivors of Golden Gate Bridge suicide attempts recall regretting their impulsive decisions instantly — even as they were falling. A couple survivors who jumped from the Golden Gate Bridge told their stories to The New Yorker back in 2003, like then-18-year-old Kevin Hines who jumped in 2000 after pacing on the bridge for a half hour while passersby ignored him.

    He finally jumped based on the thought that "nobody cares."

    "My first thought was, 'What the hell did I just do? I don't want to die,'" Hines told The New Yorker.

    Then-28-year-old Ken Baldwin, like Hines, chose to hurdle over the bridge's railing rather than stand on it first because he didn't want to lose his courage to jump. Although he was severely depressed on that day in 1985, he changed his mind the moment after his leap. "I instantly realized that everything in my life that I'd thought was unfixable was totally fixable — except for having just jumped," he said."...

    Some folks take a lot of time to plan out killing themselfs...Gun or no guns it would not affect them much...

    BUT most people that try to kill so in a moment of extreme desperation or passion... And they turn to the first thing they can... In america that's often a gun...

    "...Anywhere from one-third to 80% of all suicide attempts are impulsive acts, according to The New England Journal of Medicine. 24% of those who made near-lethal suicide attempts decided to kill themselves less than five minutes before the attempt, and 70% made the decision within an hour of the attempt.

    Suicidal urges are sometimes caused by immediate stressors, such as a break-up or job loss, that go away with the passage of time. 90% of people who survive suicide attempts, including the most lethal types like shooting one's self in the head, don't end up killing themselves later. That statistic reflects the "temporary nature and fleeting sway of many suicidal crises," reports The New England Journal of Medicine...."

    If you can keep guns out of the hands of people trying to impulsively kill drastically lower the mortality rate of Suicide attempts...

    If you look at the data from Australia you will see the born out....

    1. A failed attempt "usually cures them" huh? Where's that stat?

      Suicide rates and "risk" is a red herring. There are plenty of countries with higher rates of suicide than the US, despite US gun ownership being much higher. Once again, suicide is tragic, but not good reason to ban firearms. Even if you wanted to regulate firearms because of suicide risk, an effective ban would need to cover just about every single type of firearm there is. A single shot break action pistol, poses about the least risk to society of any imaginable firearm, and yet this gun would need to be banned as it would be effective for suicide.

    2. Bill Ellis6:38 PM

      Ummm.. it was right there in my post...
      "...90% of people who survive suicide attempts, including the most lethal types like shooting one's self in the head, don't end up killing themselves later. That statistic reflects the "temporary nature and fleeting sway of many suicidal crises," reports The New England Journal of Medicine...."

      There is a practical way to reduce gun access people who impulsively want to kill themselfs... without "taking away" guns ... Guns can be made to only fire with when the shooter has a special magnetic ring that works like a key...
      we have the technology to make guns that would only work based on a fingerprint or eye scan...

      We can demand that guns be stored responsibly and have severe penalties for lax gun responsibility...

      But we can't do any of that...Not if the NRA has anything to say about....and they do..

    3. Not sure how RFID chips do much to quell suicide risk. And that technology, along with biometric ID, has a long way to go. How many people kill themselves with their own gun? That makes the rfid identification pointless. If someone has access to someone else's firearm, don't they probably have access to their rfid tag or ring as well? Aren't there already severe penalties for lax gun responsibility, i.e. death or severe injury? Are we making sure to throw all those people with failed suicide attempts in jail for their lax gun safety? At what point do you think that responsible storage and the ability to protect oneself in the home intersect? Do we really need to regulate how people store an item in their home? There is a cost-benefit question to all regulations and it appears to me that gun control "nuts" have no use for trying to determine the effectiveness of any gun control they put forth. For example, everytime there is a notable shooting in the news, someone calls for an "assault weapon" ban when the firearms they are referring to are in fact used in a tiny fraction of's just "feel good" legislation which makes liberals feel like they are doing something about the problem when in fact they are doing almost nothing to reduce the US murder rate, while at the same time depriving millions of Americans the right to own certain firearms which they clearly want to own. Amazing how I didn't see any widespread calls for restrictions on large capacity trucks after the recent massacre. Since this is sometimes an Econ blog, liberals would do well to study the issue of substitution.

    4. And people who have a lot of opinions about public health would do well to acquaint themselves with the field of epidemiology...

  13. Bill Ellis5:59 PM

    Noah says..." if you do have mental illness, I'd say don't buy a gun, even if the law allows you to."

    I agree... can you imagine someone like Trump with a GUN ?

  14. "... it might make a lot of people sleep better in their beds at night knowing that if it came time to grab our guns and get to safety, they'd have guns to grab." Why not compare quality of sleep in places where everyone/no-one has a gun?

    As a non-American the general tone of this whole conversation scares me. In most countries it's taken for granted that people don't own guns.

  15. Noah, statistical evidence shows that guns kill people that own them or those close to them. They do not provide any marginal safety benefit. At all. Pesky science.

    If you want to live longer, have a lower rate of depression and be able to affect political change/gun control. Exercise daily and eat more vegetables.

    Great Blog.

    1. Several commentors have brought up this notion that people with firearms are more likely to injure themselves or someone in their home with them and then they cite the statistics. Of course this is true, just as I said earlier that those people owning swimming pools are far more likely to drown than those that don't own them. If I'm not mistaken, having a swimming pool is actually MORE dangerous than having a firearm in the home based on statistics but I'm not sure and that is beside my point. My point is that even if statistics show that people are more likely to injure themselves, that doesn't mean that firearms provide no self defense benefit TO ME. For example, people who drink alcohol are far more likely to die while driving intoxicated but even if I drink alcohol, I have a huge amount of control over that risk, and even if I completely eliminate that risk personally, even while continuing to consume alcohol personally and responsibly, the overall statistics will not change. Secondly, there is a vast difference between injuring myself because of risks I have chosen to take on and being injured by what someone else has done to me. This is fundamental and applies inside and outside the home. For example, I choose to carry a concealed firearm when out in public with my family. Does this mean I'm more at risk of injuring myself or family with a firearm? The statistics say yes, and I've done and do my best to mitigate that risk. But it also means that there will never be a headline that The Donk and his family were killed by some gun-knife-bat-whatever wielding maniac while cowering in a bathroom stall or under a table while hiding for our lives. It also means that no other family will ever read a headline about their family members being killed in a scenario where a maniacal gunman was afforded the ability to walk around shooting innocent people at will while encountering no resistance. The ability to resist is precious to me regardless of what the statistics say about my probability of injuring myself versus ever encountering a self-defense situation in which I need to use a firearm.

    2. One point about defending yourself. It requires that you train and getting a handgun and leaving it in your nightstand until you think you need it is asking for trouble. Get something that you will take out and shoot, have fun with it, try hunting. There are reasons why the police and soldiers spend time on the range, one some actually do enjoy shooting and two you need to be ready if something ever happens. A criminal is already in the mindset to do whatever they need to do to get what they want; not let them get near you.

    3. Also, everyone thinks they are particularly careful and that they have more control than they actually do. That's why most drivers think they're better than the average driver, and why most people feel safer driving than flying (where they give up control). These biases are precisely why population-level statistics are important.

  16. I've thought about getting a gun for reason #2, but then realized that it likely would do me little good in that scenario, especially discounting for it's improbability and weighing against the risk of accident or other bad outcomes. The numbers do not work.

    But I need to take issue the assertion that gun ownership is driven by self defense. I'm sure many gun owners think it is, but it shouldn't be. Again, the numbers don't work, in that you're far more likely to experience a tragedy with your defensive gun than actually protect yourself. Especially if you count unnecessarily brandishing your gun at someone among the tragedies.

    Get a gun to hunt with or even shoot recreationally, but don't kid yourself about defense.

    I'd also argue that city dwellers spend a lot more time thinking about defending themselves from others, whom they actually encounter during their day, than non-city dwellers. And yet we still are relatively unarmed.

  17. As a Jew, I've been considering buying some kind of assault weapon. Having listened to survivors of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in my youth, I realize that this is not going to stop a military enemy, but there is some satisfaction in selling one's life dearly. Of course, arguing that one must plan one's life based on an assumption of societal breakdown is rather sad. Maybe it comes from growing up in a tradition where when things fall apart, people do what they can to help each other. That was something else I learned listening to concentration camp survivors.

    The thing is, that when societies fall apart, it is usually extremely easy to get guns and guns are surprisingly easy to learn how to use. Two year olds can figure it out. Our world has a capital glut, and this is part of it. How many Iraqis had guns before the US invasion destroyed civil authority? How many Syrians had guns before the current civil war? Even the damned Warsaw ghetto got guns, and this despite a rather well armed occupation force doing all it could to prevent this.

    I have no problem with people owning guns for hunting. I live in an area where a lot of people hunt to keep food on the table. If there were a safe way for them to shoot a few of deer out in my garden at this very moment, I'd invite them over, guns and all. Still, I don't think my neighbors would approve and the deer even less so.

    I do have problems with people keeping guns for shooting other people. That's why we have so many people shooting so many other people. I've heard the "Canadians are our moral superiors" argument enough times to have paid close attention to Canadians and Canadian news, and Canadians are no better than we are. They just have fewer guns for shooting people.

  18. Matt Molewski8:47 PM

    I'm fairly certain you would place yourself on the political left, so I'm not taking your assumptions about liberals as a swipe, but a couple of points I'd make: First of all, it seems you're statistically more likely to die at the hands of gun violence if you own a gun than if you don't, which calls into question if it really does make you as an individual safer under ordinary circumstances; and secondly, a lot of liberals just simply have no desire to own a gun-- myself included. For conservatives, in fact, guns are usually a pretty big part of their culture and are often loosely associated with one's manhood-- consequently, they tend to own enough guns for everyone else. With liberals, there really is no corresponding tradition, nor is there a particularly strong pull to actively demonstrate how much of a man one is: Maybe we're just more secure like that(which is probably also why gay people and trans individuals don't normally scare us like they do some of our friends on the right). It isn't necessarily that we are totally revolted by guns or that we're against individuals owning them, but we do think they should be amenable to thoughtful regulation like everything else: I'm a Heller Democrat, and I think anyone seriously contemplating policy today tends to think in the same framework, which protects the individual right to own a gun, while permitting sensible policies directed at public safety.

    So the assumption that liberals are trying to teach by example is probably not correct, but certainly it is true that, being city dwellers, we don't rely on guns for self-defense like people in a more rural setting: You got me. I guess if I find myself in the world of The Walking Dead, I'll have to admit I made a mistake by not investing in some guns and ammo-- otherwise, I don't see myself subscribing to right-wing paranoia anytime soon. As for being more credible on proposed regulation, I'm sorry to say that I don't think you're fully considering the actual forces at work that have successfully hindered that: The most basic things like universal background checks can garner widespread public support, as we saw, while remaining politically impossible.

    Love your blog, by the way!

  19. More liberals owning guns "would make any calls for gun control more credible"? Not to conservative 'gun-rights' supporters, it wouldn't. Just as President Obama's deporting more undocumented people than any recent administration didn't induce conservatives to support comprehensive immigration reform. Because conservatives just know that liberals want open borders, and they just know that liberals want to take all their guns away.