‘It's the guns': Is Hillary Clinton right to correlate US' high gun violence with high gun ownership?

Hillary Clinton’s Twitter

Fact Box

  • In response to a Vox chart headline “The US has more guns than its peers. It also has more gun violence,” Hillary Clinton asserted, “It’s the guns.” 
  • World Population Review found that the United States has the highest gun ownership as of 2022 with 120.5 guns owned per 100 people. The Falkland Islands, Yemen, New Caledonia, and Serbia rank below the US. 
  • According to Statista, forty-two percent of American adults owned at least one gun in 2021, which has remained steady since 1972.
  • Thirty-two percent of Republicans, 59% of independents, and 91% of Democrats are in favor of stricter gun laws in America.
  • Gun Violence Archive reported a 25% increase in gun violence from 2019 to 2020, totaling 19,223 deaths. From January to April 8, 2021, there were 11,428 deaths by gun, and 4,960 from homicide, murder, or unintentional gun death. 
  • The 2021 National Firearms Survey found that in 2021, “guns [were] used defensively by firearms owners in approximately 1.67 million incidents per year” with handguns being “the most common firearm employed for self-defense (used in 65.9% of defensive incidents),” and in 81.9% of defensive incidents, no shots were fired.

Elisa (No)

Recently, President Biden has boldly proclaimed that 'the Second amendment is not absolute,' inadvertently demonstrating why the Second Amendment is necessary—it protects us from an oppressive government

While many want quick answers after the Uvalde tragedy, blaming school shootings solely on gun violence is a reductive view of events, entirely dismissing a multitude of factors that are involved. In other words, blaming guns is a mass simplification of the violence issue we face in America, which can largely be blamed on a morally bankrupt society

People also forget there are thousands of stabbing incidents a year in schools. In fact, the first and deadliest school massacre took place in Bath, Michigan, and did not involve guns but explosives instead. Even more astounding is that countries like Switzerland have a high level of gun ownership but no mass shootings, showing that we should be examining their policies and culture for change within America—not advocating the wholesale eradication of guns. We have always had guns in our country, yet the rise of incidents can be linked to cultural causes, like the degradation of the family. Plus, gun ownership has remained relatively steady since 1972, protecting people when the police can't. 

It is important to look at all contributions when it comes to gun violence, including bullying in schools, mental health issues, absent fathers, etc. Moreover, the SSRI antidepressants said to treat mental health issues correlate to increased violent crime, with many mass shootings linked to their usage. In the end, America does not have a gun problem—it has a heart problem, and if China is any indication, tragedies like mass stabbings will still happen, even with total gun control (if that is even possible). 

Amanda (Yes)

As the satirical site The Onion, recently headlined, 'No Way to Prevent This, Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens,' points to the starkly dark reality America faces after a mass shooting. The fact that the site has reused the same headline over and over again since its first publication in 2014 is both a sad indictment of the state of gun control in the US and precisely why Hillary Clinton got it right: it's the guns.

Compare this to other countries who, when confronted with their own mass shootings, enacted stricter gun control, leading to lower rates of shootings specifically and overall lower homicide rates. This can even be seen on a state-by-state basis. Despite the perception of gun violence as an urban problem, rural red states actually tend to have higher gun death rates than blue urban cities with stricter controls. And simply residing in a home with a gun massively inflates your chances of dying via gun violence.

The higher availability of guns is also correlated with higher suicide rates. In 2020, 54% of all US gun deaths came from self-inflicted gunshot wounds, while over 52% of all suicides were committed with firearms.

Finally, guns simply make it easier to escalate to murderous intent. Though other countries have spree attacks, a perpetrator relying on a knife makes it much less likely that an attack will be fatal. On the same day of the Sandy Hook murders, a man in China also attacked elementary school children in a stabbing spree. The difference? All his victims lived.

Simply put, increased gun circulation leads to increased gun violence. There's no reason the opposite can't also be true.

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