Do Guns Kill People?

From: L. Michael Hall
2021 Neurons #65
October 1, 2021
How Self-Actualization
Can Save Politics #15


Here is an idea that gets lots and lots of publicity every time there is a shooting and yet it is an idea that is based on a fundamental confusion between agent and instrument. Here the instrument that a person uses is confused with the person who uses the instrument. What makes the idea fallacious, and even stupid, is that if we applied the same logic to other instruments, we would have to ban just about everything.

“Cars kill people.” Yes, that’s true from one perspective. There are thousands of car accidents every year killing thousands of people— thousands! Yet we also know that the car is not the problem, the problem is almost always the driver of the car. If the driver is intoxicated, texting, sleep deprived, not paying attention, etc. then the driver mis-uses the car or mis-handles his use of the car with the result that someone gets killed.

“Knives kill people.” Here’s another one and one that is dominant in countries where guns are limited. So without easy access to guns, people turn to knives. In some countries it is the primary way that violence against another person is expressed. But again, the problem is not the knife or the machete, it is the person wielding the instrument.

If an instrument is just that— an instrument, then it cannot be the problem. That’s why nearly all of the gun laws are powerless to reduce the amount of violence perpetuated by guns. The guns do not have a mind of their own and do not go out on a rampage firing at people! It is the humans who are mis-using the guns that’s causing the problems. And who is doing that? Mostly criminals.

Ah, now we’re getting closer to the real problem. Certain people who should not have guns in the first place, persons who “solve” problems by banishing a gun, threatening to shoot, or seeking revenge by planning to shoot— they are the ones with the problem. They create the problem by the way they think, make decisions, and act. In Chicago where there are dozens upon dozens of shootings every single week, and death by guns every single week— it’s primarily the gangs of young men who are engaged in this criminal activity. And they obtained their guns, not legally, but illegally. So even though Chicago has some of the strictest guns laws in the nation, such laws are totally inadequate to stop the criminal gang members from getting them and using them.

The real problem? The low moral thinking and deciding of those who are mis-using the guns. If they didn’t do it with guns, they’d use some other instrument— cars, bombs, knives, and so on.

“Swimming kills people.” Yes, hundreds of people die every single year by going into a swimming pool or into the ocean. People also die every year from many other things— sometimes from what they are doing and sometimes from what they are not doing. People die of obesity because they eat too much. People die of heart attacks and strokes from eating too much fast food, red meat, and things deep fried. People die from the lack of exercise, from not taking care of themselves. In a hundred ways, people die from all sorts of things and yet we do not pass laws against swimming, fast food, KFC, etc.

Should we have gun laws that govern their use? Yes, of course. Should there be background checks on who is licensed to have and use a gun? Sure! Just as we have a licensed procedure for driving a car, it makes sense that anything that can be easily mis-used ought to have certain constraints. But taking guns away from responsible people only means that the only persons with guns will be the criminals— an exceedingly bad idea.

Certainly while we can tighten up the laws about gun use, that will never address the real problem. At best, the gun laws will help to keep guns out of the hands of those who are mentally incompetent to handle them. But that will not address the gun violence in Chicago or Wash. D.C. and other urban cities.

The problem lies in the way some people think, feel, and decide. We have to influence their thinking, values (and valuing), respect for human life, consideration of consequences, etc. That’s an education solution, not one of passing more laws.

Houston and Chicago are comparable as large cities.
In Jan 2020 Chicago’s unemployment rate was 3.8% and there were 13,000 police. There are no gun stores and the murder rate there is: 24.1% per 100,000.
At the same time, Houston’s unemployment rate was higher, at 4.1% with nearly 1/3 the number of police were 5,000. By contrast there were to no gun stores, Houston had hundreds of gun stores. And the murder rate? Less than half of Chicago’s at 11.5%.