Japan’s amazingly low rate of gun deaths (guess why)

January 7, 2017 • 10:45 am

The BBC has a new piece on “How Japan has almost eradicated gun crime“, which seems relevant to the problem of gun violence in the U.S., but of course many will dissent.

Let’s first look at the statistics given on gun deaths per capita. Note how the US leads the listed countries by a long shot, with over 10 deaths per 100,000 people. In 2014, Japan had six gun deaths, which, if my calculations are correct, amounts to 0.004 deaths per 100,000 people (Japan has 127 million people). That means that the US has a gun homicide rate about 2800 times that of Japan


Now one can argue about the reasons: a different culture, stricter gun control in Japan, and so on, but I’d to at least float the idea that gun control has something to do with it. Canada, which arguably has a culture similar to that of the U.S., has a much lower homicide rate, and of course stricter gun control laws.  And Canada lacks the U.S.’s Second Amendment to the Constitution permitting citizens to “keep and bear arms.” While I argue strenuously that that Amendment deals with its specified intent of permitting a “well regulated militia,” the Supreme Court has interpreted that to mean that private citizens can own guns for their personal use, including handguns. A  2012 Congressional report estimated that Americans owned 300 million firearms, which exceeded the entire population of the US at that time.  And that doesn’t include illegal firearms. In Japan, there were only 0.6 guns per 100 people in 2007, compared to 89 in the US in the same year.

Gun ownership in America has increased, and gun manufacture is rising steadily; here are two plots from the Washington Post article reporting the data above:



I haven’t looked for a correlation between severity of gun-control laws and homicide deaths, but readers can inform me if there is one (and I realize that correlation isn’t necessarily causation).

Nevertheless, here are some facts about Japan from the BBC piece:

  • Buying a gun in Japan requires an all-day class, a written exam, a shooting-range test, and a check of your mental health record, drug usage, criminal background, and even checks of your relatives and your colleagues at work.
  • Handguns are banned outright. The only guns a Japanese can own are shotguns and air rifles.
  • The number of gun shops per prefecture is restricted (no more than three in each of the country’s 40 prefectures).
  • You can buy fresh ammo (cartridges) only by returning the cartridges you bought the last time.
  • You have to tell the police where your guns and ammo are stored, and they have to be stored separately under lock and key. The police inspect your guns yearly.
  • A gun license is good for only three years, and then you have to take the course again and pass all the tests.

As for the Japanese police, they fired only six shots–total!–in 2015. The cops can’t take their guns with them when they’re off duty, and they’re all trained in judo to the black-belt level. One police officer who committed suicide with his gun was in fact posthumously charged with a crime, probably to set an example.  Yes, there is a problem with Japanese gangs having guns, but even gang-related gun crimes have fallen sharply.

I know the arguments against gun control in the U.S.: the Second Amendment, the fact that good guys need guns to defend themselves against the bad guys with illegal guns. Against that we have the high number of gun deaths that are accidents (exceeding “justifiable homicides by a long shot”), the dubious interpretation of the Second Amendment, the fact that many illegally owned guns were stolen from rightful owners, and the fact that everyone with a gun, including cops, has become far more trigger-happy than they were a few decades ago. If you doubt that the toll of private gun ownership exceeds its defensive utility, read this report by the Violence Policy Center, which concludes (my emphasis):

Guns are rarely used to kill criminals or stop crimes. In 2012, across the nation there were only 259 justifiable homicides1 involving a private citizen using a firearm reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program as detailed in its Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR).2 That same year, there were 8,342 criminal gun homicides tallied in the SHR. In 2012, for every justifiable homicide in the United States involving a gun, guns were used in 32 criminal homicides. 3 And this ratio, of course, does not take into account the tens of thousands of lives ended in gun suicides or unintentional shootings that year

Even as we speak, the Florida legislature is considering a bill to allow guns to be carried in government buildings, college campuses, and airports—places where they were previously forbidden. That’s ironic given the shootings on Friday in the Fort Lauderdale Airport.

How can we stop the madness? That surely won’t happen during a Trump administration, or even if Republicans control the Congress, as they will for some time. But there must be a way to go back. The issue is of course that legislators, indebted to and pressured by the National Rifle Association, won’t let it happen. Talks of bans are out: right now we’re just arguing about whether people can own assault rifles!

This is one problem with no easy solution, which is to ratchet back legal guns at the same time that people have them illegally. Readers are welcome to offer their solution. All I know is that it can’t be “more of the same.”


Here is a related article in The Atlantic from 2012, and you can read some counterarguments about Why America Can’t be Like Japan here. I find this sentence grimly amusing:

In short, while many persons may admire Japan’s near prohibition of gun ownership, it is not necessarily true that other nations, such as the United States, could easily replicate the Japanese model. Japan’s gun laws grow out of a culture premised on voluntary submission to authority, a cultural norm that is not necessarily replicated in Western democracies.

h/t: Michael

166 thoughts on “Japan’s amazingly low rate of gun deaths (guess why)

  1. I’m all for reasonable, likely to be effective legislation controlling firearms in the U.S.–after all, how can it be that it requires far more training and licensing for me to own a car than a gun? That said, I offer these comments to provoke clarifications: 1) I own firearms NOT for self-defense but to hunt deer and feral pigs–and I do that primarily to be more part of natural processes and to avoid eating industrial meat. 2) What fraction of gun deaths in the US are, rather than homicides, suicides? 3) How do suicide rates compare for the US and Japan? 4) How do death rates from knives/swords compare for the two countries, and are there restrictions in either country about owning knives?

    1. I can’t give you all of the required figures but in 2014 there were 33,599 deaths in the United States from firearms, of which 10,945 were gun homicides (there were 15,809 homicides in total). Suicides accounted for 21,334 gun deaths (total suicides 42,773). The number of unintentional gun deaths was 586.

      All figures taken from


      1. The Japanese seem to be doing just fine without them.

        Really, to my mind, the two best proponents on either side of this issue are Sam Harris (for guns)* and Jim Jefferies (against).

        I think the strongest argument against (effectively) repealing the 2nd Amendment is a pragmatic one: even if we all agreed that eliminating guns would be a good thing, in that it would massively reduce the rates of homicides and suicide, it is an impossible dream to achieve. The U.S. has far more porous borders, and is much larger within them, than either Australia (to address Jefferies’ point) or Japan. The trope that “when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns” would actually become a worrisome reality. This is as much a problem of geography as culture. And for those who take the correlation between gun ownership and homicide at face value: Switzerland.

        *Note: Harris is all for stricter gun control, as am I.

        1. Errm, you have porous borders with, if my geography is accurate, just two countries – Canada and Mexico. I would have thought the worries over gun leakage across the Canadian border were more on Canada’s side than the US.
          As for Mexico, the Donald’s going to build a wall… okay, that’s frivolous.

          I think the big difficulty in reducing gun ownership would be the sheer number of handguns currently in circulation and the widespread love of guns. And the people who think they need a gun because so many other people have guns. If guns were generally regarded with the same suspicion as they are in, say, Britain, then I don’t think the ‘border problem’ would be any more than a moderate and manageable nuisance.


        2. The porous borders really aren’t that relevant when there are already 300 million guns in the U.S. – a multi-generational supply.

    2. According to Wikipedia, suicide rates for Japan are 18.5, and US 12 (per 100k per year).


      And about 2/3 of the gun deaths in the chard above are suicides, 1/3 murder:


      And while you’re there, notice that Louisiana has ten times the murder rate of New Hampshire — averaging over the country could thus be pretty misleading:


      I have no idea about knife controls. But I can confirm that Japan has Ikea stores!

  2. As noted, culture is a huge barrier. But as much as some folks like to create barriers, others like to eradicate them.

    I wonder if the effort has to start at the state level? Just like legalized cannabis, if states start banning firearms, maybe the feds will become infected with the idea (presuming, of course, that legalized cannabis will catch on – eventually, maybe).

    1. There are very real limits to what individual states can do in the way of gun control. California has some of the most restrictive laws, I believe, but what that has done is to ban large capacity magazines, and easily changed magazines in rifles. Many urban counties have severe restrictions on concealed carry permits, and open carry is illegal anyway.
      But as for actually preventing or severely restricting gun ownership, you run straight into the Second Amendment and Federal preemption.

  3. Between all the gun violence and Trump becoming our president, I find myself thinking “What exactly is it these days that makes America so great in comparison to other countries?”

  4. Is there a constitutional guarantee of a military? What in the constitution bears upon the 2nd amendment, and what is the Talmudic interpretation of it?

    1. Article I, section 8, clause 12 of the US Constitution gives congress the authority to “raise and support Armies[.]” Part of the Constitution’s genius for checks-and-balances is that Article II, section 2 then makes the president the “Commander in Chief” of the military. The Constitution’s framers were notoriously leery of keeping a “standing army” — i.e., an army maintained even during times of peace — with one Massachusetts wag at the Constitutional Convention comparing it to having a “standing penis.”

      The Second Amendment relates to the military in that the purpose of the right “to keep and bear Arms” (whether in whole or part, is a much-disputed issue) was to permit the states to raise “militias,” quasi-armies that may be nationalized by congress, and commanded by the president, under certain specified circumstances.

      I’m unsure what you mean by a “Talmudic interpretation” of the Second Amendment — but if Leo Rosten were still with us, I’m sure he could turn that into the premise for a hilarious parody. 🙂

      1. Thanks a lot.

        I say “Talmudic” because that’s the level of interpretation that the 2nd amendment gets, in my view.

        Also : if it is ok to have guns for self-defense, as someone here said, what regulation is supposed to be in place?

        I am for Sam Harris’ idea of gun use being on par with airplane use with the same high level of training etc.

        1. Both the case that discovered an individual right to gun possession for non-militia purposes, District of Columbia v. Heller, and the case that applied that right to state and local governments, McDonald v. City of Chicago, said that “reasonable restrictions” may be imposed on gun ownership and use.

          The exegesis in the case law thus far has focused on the history and intent of the Second Amendment itself. The courts have only just begun the Talmudic study of which restrictions on modern firearms might be deemed “reasonable.” 🙂

  5. It’s odd that the American president is considered the most powerful person in the world, yet he can’t enact meaningful gun control. Trump of course won’t touch it, but why isn’t Obama doing anything?

    Also, interpreting “well-regulated militia” to mean “everybody at home” in earnest is a special brand of American-Republican thinking unique to the world.

    1. When the supreme court itself gets the history wrong, well, not much hope is there? And they did get it wrong last time around and the republicans have been running with it since. Anyway, as written at the time, a popular phrase was – a need for a well-regulated militia. Why was that so politically good…because the anti-federalists feared the idea of a “standing Army”. So militia, which does not really exist today was the thing. Remember the time the place and the thought. All of those things are important to understand history properly. Otherwise, you are just looking at words and adding your own opinion.

      So, here was James Madison in the first Congress with the task of whipping out something called a bill of rights…to make the opposition happy. Nothing makes the anti’s happy like NO STANDING ARMY. So this is the second amendment. Madison did not give a rat’s you know what about arming the population down to the last boy. He and others were trying to fulfill an obligation to get some stuff added to the already ratified Constitution.

      The second amendment is so out of touch today in every way, even in the way Madison saw it, it is a joke. I am pretty confident that if Madison were here today, he would thing the country gone mad.

      Remember these facts – At the Constitutional Convention in Philly, they voted down the idea of a bill of rights. The majority said it was not needed, forget it. It was done later as a kind of promise after going through the ratification process in each state. However, to hear the noise today, you would think that George Washington skipped off to Philly just to create the second Amendment.

      1. The recent S.C. got it wrong?

        Perhaps you could supply us with *any* S.C. ruling that got it “right”, ie, any S.C. ruling that, in the entire history of the United States, said that individuals do not have the right to own firearms?

        1. You seem to have only two conlusions – to have or not. I think you will find there are and were many other alternatives. So thinking this is all there is would be wrong. I should not need to go back though legal history for you. I am attempting to provide some of the actual history. Consider more than simply S.C.

        2. U.S. v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939), held that the Second Amendment’s right to keep and bear arms applied only to military-style firearms appropriate for use in an organized militia.

          SCOTUS never held that the Second Amendment encompassed an individual right to gun ownership unrelated to militia service until 220 years after the Constitution’s ratification, in the 2008 decision District of Columbia v. Heller.

          1. I think you will find that is not the case. The S.C. has never countenanced the idea that individuals were not allowed to own firearms – as this has never been the subject of a S.C. challenge.

            The history of S.C. rulings has been about whether the rights of individuals to own guns has been protected per se, or as a benefit of the state’s rights to have a militia. On this, the S.C. has been of about equally mixed opinion until this past decade, when it explicitly ruled that the 2nd protects individual owners rights per se. These last three decisions are well within past precedents, because the past precedents have been mixed.

            1. The only Supreme Court case to address the scope of the Second Amendment’s right to bear arms before Heller was the case I cited, U.S. v. Miller. (The only other SCOTUS cases to address the Second Amendment at all were two post-Civil War cases, U.S. v. Cruikshank and Presser v. Illinois, and both addressed only issues regarding state versus federal control over militias.)

              The holding of Miller is as I stated it — the right to bear arms is limited to firearms appropriate for service in a well-regulated militia. Here, you can read it and see for yourself.

          2. U.S. v. Miller was about the interstate shipment of a sawed-off shotgun used in a robbery. Both gun control advocates and opponents claim it supports their positions. It was discussed in the footnotes of the Heller S.C. decision:

            “”Miller stands only for the proposition that the Second Amendment right, whatever its nature, extends only to certain types of weapons. It is particularly wrongheaded to read Miller for more than what it said, because the case did not even purport to be a thorough examination of the Second Amendment.””

            1. You miss the point: No case decided by the United States Supreme Court prior to Heller had ever held, or even suggested, that the Second Amendment encompasses an individual right to keep and bear arms that is unconnected to service in a state militia.

              That is to say, SCOTUS did not discover an individual right to bear arms for self-defense (or for any other non-militia purpose) until 217 years after the Second Amendment was ratified.

              1. Based on this, I would suggest, that the only way guns will come under reasonable control is through a decision by SCOTUS that reverses the individual right aspect. They could rule that for practical purposes only militias may own guns. This would lead to a gradual elimination of private ownership as uncle Joe’s Uzi finally succumbs to rust under the floorboards of his Montana cabin. Don’t hold your breath though.

              2. Heller, which was based on a specious historical analysis, was decided in 2008 by a bare 5-4 majority. Accordingly, it might well be subject to revisiting by new SCOTUS justices (or would’ve been, anyway, had Trump not been elected).

                Of course, if Heller were overruled, and the Second Amendment were held not to guarantee a right to bear arms for non-militia-related purposes, it doesn’t mean that gun enthusiasts would be denied their firearms. It would mean merely that their right would be subject to our democratic processes. Congress and the state legislatures would still be highly unlikely to enact stringent gun-control laws, even if the Constitution were held to permit them.

                After all, there were plenty of guns around before Heller was decided.

              3. …Congress and the state legislatures would still be highly unlikely to enact stringent gun-control laws, even if the Constitution were held to permit them.

                After all, there were plenty of guns around before Heller was decided.”

                Also worth noting is that we call a certain group of people criminals because they don’t obey laws. Not to mention shooting people outside defense of self and others is already illegal.

      2. There are two 2nd Amendments. The first one was designed to stop the federal government from helping themselves to the state militias and their weapons. But it doesn’t give the individuals, as opposed to The People, any right to own a gun.

        After the ACW, Amendments 13 and 14 were passed. Amendment 13 banned slavery. The ex-slaves were given guns from the Union arsenals and the 14th said that the Amendment 1 through 10 are personal, to stop (southern) states taking guns off (ex-slave) people.

        The new interpretation of the 2nd Amendment is the one that is currently valid.

        It is worth noting three things:

        1. The early state militias were mustered annually, and the members and their guns were registered

        2. In the context of the 2nd/14th amendments it was legal for Wild West towns to prohibit guns in town

        3. All FFL dealers are licensed

        1. Something that crossed my mind. If Dodge City could ban guns in town in the Wild West days, howcome towns and cities can’t do it now?


          1. Something that crossed my mind. If Dodge City could ban guns in town in the Wild West days, how come towns and cities can’t do it now?

            The same reason abortion, gay sex, and contraceptives have been held illegal in the past – the right was not properly recognized, until it was.

            In the United States rights are not granted, they have always been held by “the People” – which means individuals. That hasn’t stopped rights from being illegally stepped on, but better late than never.

  6. Much as I’d like stricter gun control, I must point out two pet peeves here:

    First, it seems a little dishonest to lump suicides with murder, which is I think what “gun deaths” does here. Plenty of Japanese people kill themselves (about 20/100k, twice the US rate) they just have to find other ways. No doubt some Americans would be dissuaded (or would wake up in hospital not the morgue). But this really isn’t what many people are thinking about when they worry about guns.

    Second, while the nicest parts of the US and the nicest parts of Canada are indeed very similar, most of the murders happen elsewhere. Parts of the US certainly have a lot in common with Mexico, also Jamaica, Brazil, etc. These places aren’t known for their recreational AR-15 enthusiasts, but they do have pretty high murder rates.

    1. I concur. When it comes to suicides, there are so many other factors involved. I don’t think the available of firearms necessarily is the crucial or determining factor.

      Japan in the 1990 had a suicide rate of around 10 to 11 per 100 000 (if my memory does not fail me), which, after the dramatic economic downturn after 1991, rose dramatically to around 25 / 100 000.

      And it has been high ever since, even if it has gone down somewhat after 2010.

      The increase was predominantly in older people, and people in financial distress, who didn’t want to become a burden. Suicide is still, in this, for many, culturally viewed (as far as I understand) an honorable way out.

      But, across the Sea in China, (which is, overall, much poorer), the suicide rate is 8 per 100 000.

      And, if you look to for example Brazil, the suicide rate is 6 per / 100 000, and in Greece 4.

      If you start to investigate the numbers, a lot of strange aspects will emerge. I don’t think availability of firearm is the most important factor here.

  7. It’s not that this is wrong, necessarily, but they got there by having the worlds first totalist military dictatorship, using soldiers to seize all the weapons, and crucifying people who broke the law. For hundreds of years.

    If you moved Japan’s gun laws here, you wouldn’t get as good low results because it’s the guns per person that’s doing all the work, and we can’t seize guns as easily as the Tokugawa Shogunate.

  8. Disband the union. Individual states (the liberal ones), or perhaps a new coalition of the more liberal states, might be freer to regulate and prohibit guns. Then the more gun-loving states are left to deal with their own problem and no longer be defining themselves against what they perceive as an overlording different culture.

    1. The majority of citizens who are registered Democrats support gun ownership. Handgun ownership (which is less popular than the right to own hunting rifles) has the support of 72% of Americans nationwide. Perhaps “liberal states” could prohibit guns, but it would be against the will of their citizens.

      Remember: When seconds count, the police will be there in minutes.

      1. It is not and should not be a matter of supporting gun ownership. Have title to all the guns you can afford, within some laws. Not just NO laws. Does anyone not think it madness to say on one hand, have and own guns. Then on the other, no restrictions no laws no nothing?

        In Chicago last year there were more killing from guns than in LA and NYC combined. There should be no reason, in gangland happy Chicago, why they cannot ban the hand gun. Remember folks, when the so called and misinterpreted second amendment was created – there was no Chicago. There was no hand gun, other than a ball and powder affair that most people would not recognize today. This current discussion is like the religious folks going back to first century AD to get their reference material.

        1. I think you put your finger on the problem when you used the term “Chicago gangland”.

          The prohibition of alcohol resulted in Al Capone’s men shooting up Chicago with automatic weapons. The prohibition of drugs has resulted in the same bad behavior – are not most gun violence incidents related to gangs and drugs?

          1. You are good at changing the subject or at least trying to turn it to something other than what is relevant. I only say gangland because that is always a big part of the hand gun problem in America. But HAND GUN is the problem, not gang and not prohibition. Al Capone went to jail much faster because of the killing with guns than he likely would have otherwise.

            Gangs would have a much more difficult times existing if they had no hand guns. You do not eliminate them overnight. But it does not mean you do not try. And the second amendment should have nothing to do with getting the guns out of the city. The stupid thing is not getting them out of the city. As I said before, I do not care what the supreme court said. They were wrong…so lets move on.

            1. You can’t eliminate handguns overnight?

              That’s certainly true – because you can not eliminate handguns at all. They are explicitly protected by the last three S.C. rulings, which were not inconsistent with past rulings. This idea that recent S.C. rulings were “wrong” does not bear closer scrutiny.

              The only way to eliminate handguns at this point is by Constitutional amendment, which is simply not going to happen in our lifetimes.

              And I would also question your assertion that the problem is not gangs, but handguns. There are tens if not hundreds of millions of handguns in the U.S., and almost none of them are used in violent crimes. Gun violence in the U.S. is AFAICT, with the suboptimal statistical information we have (thanks for nothing, Republicans!), highly correlated with drugs and gangs.

              You may not “care what the S.C. said”, but I do, because it can inform us on how to minimize gun violence. It seems to me our efforts would be best directed toward getting criminals out of the drug business, rather than spinning our wheels trying to promote unconstitutional handgun bans.

          2. I have to be Maru on this one. When talking about Chicago it’s important to understand a few things. Handguns were de facto banned from 1982 to 2010. This period included many years with higher homicide rates that 2016 (http://heyjackass.com/) This ban is the reason Chicago was always said to have the most restrictive gun control in the country. What this does is highlights the problems inherent in not having the same gun laws from state to state. The vast majority of Chicago crime guns don’t come from Illinois – they come from much laxer states like neighboring Indiana. Also keep in mind that Chicago is not the site of Trumpian carnage – the homicides are concentrated in a few areas. The rest of my fair city, is, well, pretty fair.

        2. If the will of the people is to change or eliminate the 2nd Amendment, then so be it. Get her done. But currently, the will of the people is to maintain gun ownership rights.

          Personally, I support reasonable gun legislation. Closing the gun show and online loopholes, private sales, etc. would be a good start. A thorough background check for everyone obtaining a gun should be required. For example, I don’t know how some guy who walks into an FBI field office in November and says that ISIS is invading his mind and making him watch their videos, is then allowed to check a handgun on a plane in January. It boggles the mind.

          1. I don’t know why it would boggle the mind. In Alaska there are probably more hand guns per person than anywhere. They love guns. They allow people to simple check them in the check on baggage at the air port. That is surely what James Madison was talking about, right. You must be able to travel on airplanes with your gun. So that is what this idiot did. The FBI or law inforcement, when this idiot walked in to see them, turned the guy over for evaluation by the medical people. So they looked him over and on it goes. I am not boggled.

        3. But those laws need to be just and enforceable. After each widely reported gun crime, the cries for harsher gun control measurement rises and politicians are happy to oblige and get into the partisan bickering over 2nd amendment.

          I believe the right way to deal with this problem is a criminal justice reform so the resources of law enforcement is freed to deal with really dangerous cases. American security apparatus already doing a great job considering the population and the number of threats. Combining this with a judicial reform will do more to solve the problem rather than punishing more people for not following ambiguous and sweeping laws.

        4. Chicago has long had very high rates of gun murder, despite the fact until quite recently hand guns were illegal.

        1. Good one. I sometimes joke that we should’ve let the South secede when it wanted to, as well. But I like country ham and biscuits and red-eye gravy much too much to ever let ’em go that easy. Plus, whatever country New Orleans is in — I wanna be part of that country, too.

    2. Like religion it won’t work. Even very liberal states are going to maintain Christianity at least for a few more decades.

  9. The problem that I see here is the same problem that we have with a number of major issues, including, but not exclusive to, guns, climate change, GMO’s, “alternative” medicine, and evolution. There is one side on each of these arguments that denies facts, and it’s not even the same side in each argument as polarized as this country has become.

    This is an extremely serious problem, and I do not see a solution.

  10. I’ve tried once to play with the numbers and the result was no, they are not related – something like -0.17 correlation between homicide and gun ownership rate. If you look at it from the other angle Russia’s crime rate is going through the roof, Switzerland has huge gun ownership and no crime while in US there’s a huge difference between south & north with Puerto Rico, DC, Louisiana, New Mexico, Mississippi as toppers. I think homicide rather correlates with the economy. And it makes sense… once you have something to loose you don’t want to get involved into risky businesses.

  11. The two-fold problem we are left with in this crazy culture is that gun sales to eligible private citizens are legal and will remain legal for decades at least, and the number of guns now in private hands is just staggering. No American legislative body in the near future will ever vote to confiscate (or even to register) all firearms in private hands, so that’s out. Keeping military-style weapons out of the hands of ordinary people is as far as we have managed to go.

    What’s more, like it or not, the Second Amendment is no longer subject to much contentious debate. In June 2008, the Supreme Court, in DC vs. Heller, recognized the Second Amendment “right of the people to keep and bear arms” for personal defense. The Court has affirmed that firearms ownership is an existing right in this country that “shall not be infringed.” That’s a done deal–and, arguably, the Court was correct in its interpretation of the Amendment’s syntax as written.

    The language of the amendment plainly refers to a pre-existing right, a right that the amendment pledges to protect. The reference to a “well-regulated militia” refers only to the framers’ view of the most prominent reason to preserve the right. But the right to keep and bear arms is not conditioned on the need to maintain a militia.

    That is, the people’s right to bear arms is expressly acknowledged in the latter portion of the amendment itself. The amendment explicitly recognizes an existing right. That’s what we have to contend with today. It’s almost as if a curse had been imposed on us by the framers. The reference to militias is simply a justification, not a condition.

    In Heller, the Court also recognized the rights of certain jurisdictions to circumscribe those 2nd A rights as may be deemed reasonable, just as other rights (like free speech and freedom of the press) are circumscribed. That’s the only avenue left for those who would seek greater regulation and control. One place to start is to require those who buy and sell at gun shows to abide by the same rules as those buy and sell in licensed stores. As it is now, anyone may sell a handgun privately in a face-to-face exchange without any kind of check at all and without incurring any liability.

    We have a long, long way to go to curb gun violence in this country. But because this deeply serious problem cannot be effectively addressed through strict regulation of gun sales (even in my home state of Vermont, our two very liberal senators, Leahy and Sanders, fully support 2nd A rights), for now the viable solutions lie in alleviating the social conditions that too often lead to violent crime. Most gun violence stems more from enduring cultural troubles (poverty, drug addiction, lack of access to health care, and so on) than purely from the easy availability of firearms. If drugs were legalized and treatment provided, and if the sums of money we have thrown away in Iraq (for example) were invested instead in public education and in our social infrastructure, in time the incidence of violent crime in America would plummet.

    1. This last paragraph basically summarises the major difference between Canada and the US as it relates to gun crime.

    2. You seem to throw your hands up because of a supreme court decision in 2008. Why is it beyond comprehension that in a number of years in the further, this decision would not be overturned? And instead you think it more likely that societies problems will be solved instead. We can somehow, continue to have unrestricted access and ownership of HAND GUNS, those are the ones killing the most and doing the damage and yet find someway to solve this problem. I would say you are the dreamer.

      1. Last 20 years in the US: gun ownership up, homicide rate down. Did I just dream that? That’s the sort of data stacked up against you…

        1. You’re conflating policy with history. The data you cite would be relevant to what type of gun-regulation state legislatures and congress might want to enact. It is irrelevant to the historical question of what the Second Amendment intended.

    3. No American legislative body in the near future will ever vote to confiscate (or even to register) all firearms in private hands …

      That’s certainly true, but you’d never know it from reading what’s published by the far right and the gun-manufacturers’ lobby. In their perfervid imaginations, jack-booted federales are forever just a hair’s breadth away from beating down your doors and confiscating your guns.

  12. The most recent data for homicide rates in the US I have seen is about 5 per 100,000. This would imply a little over half are accidental or perhaps suicides?

  13. “Japan’s gun laws grow out of a culture premised on voluntary submission to authority, a cultural norm that is not necessarily replicated in Western democracies”

    Obviously, if people consent to their guns being taken or monitored, there will be no problem at all. However, think about how much resentment already exists because of the way law is enforced in the US. Allowing the police to inspect people’s homes and private property just to make sure their guns are “safe”, is a recipe for disaster in the current law enforcement and judicial atmosphere.

    I believe the case to limit access of certain people to guns is a reasonable one. But first, a law enforcement and judicial reform has to happen to orient the system more towards correction than punishment. Then, we can talk about guns as a public health and not a partisan issue.

    The reason for NRA and other gun advocates’ vicious resistance against seemingly humble gun control proposals is that they simply see this as a trick by the other party to score political points.

    1. That last sentence is just wrong. The NRA a very powerful lobby makes their money from Gun Manufacturers and all the suckers who join up to support their ways. They are a one trick pony and that is to be against anything and any law that has anything to do with guns. They don’t give a crap for someone scoring points. They will do anything to ruin a politician that goes against them. Oh, they do not care how many people are killed with guns. It means nothing to them. The only meaning is money.

      1. All lobbyists are motivated by money from their respective sector they are lobbying for. I do not see a big difference between the NRA and say the agriculture lobby in this regard.

        The difference is that the NRA outright rejects every proposal (even the seemingly modest ones) and is very militant and uncompromising about it. This ideological commitment is because they simply do not believe the other side’s story that they don’t want to take guns away. Moreover, they even lobby against “smart guns” fearing someday a law could be passed so everyone could only own smart guns (http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertszczerba/2016/01/11/the-nras-next-battleground-smart-guns/#1026ab30340b)

        Instead of making this about passing stricter laws and thought games about the second amendment, America needs to reduce the number of its criminals (beginning with those who have not committed violent crimes) so the resources of law enforcement is freed to control, monitor, and prevent really dangerous people from accessing guns. Cracking down on gangs and devoting more resources to monitoring and treating people with a mental illness history will do more than passing new laws banning this or that kind of weapon (interestingly, switchblades are also banned in Illinois.)

      2. The NRA is also a gun safety and education group. My first experience with them was a hunter’s safety course when I was 10 years old. I recently gave an extended “hand guns for women taught by women” course as a gift. The recipient was extremely pleased.

        1. Yes, they started out as a gun safety outfit. Funny how things change. That comment from foxer comparing them to the agriculture lobby.
          That is funny too. Lots of death and destruction left behind from those ag lobbyist.

            1. I’m just funnin’ ya, Carl.

              I’m so old myself, this Christmas my insurance company only sent me half a calendar.

  14. Dilbert cartoonist and blogger Scott Adams explained that gun violence in the U.S. consists overwhelmingly of Democrats shooting other Democrats. Therefore, Democrats strongly demand strict gun control.

    However, Republicans insist on access to guns to protect themselves and their families from getting shot by a Democrat. Therefore, Republicans overwhelmingly demand access to guns. Since the GOP currently controls the federal government, strict gun control legislation is for the foreseeable future impossible.

    1. That is possibly the craziest thing said among all the crazy comments here. Just look at all those republicans walking down the street with those side arms at the ready protecting their families. Democrats – stop shooting each other. And, if the democrats are shooting each other, why the hell do the republicans need guns.

  15. I have approximately zero hope that saner gun laws will someday prevail in the US.

    But make no mistake: despite all the tortured arguments people try to make about correlations of gun ownership/regulation and violence internationally, or at the state level, or at the county level – one fact remains the same: you cannot have gun violence without guns. People cannot shoot themselves or each other without guns. The weapon is an explicit causal agent.

    And yes, there is still violence without guns. But the severity of that violence is reduced (on average) by orders of magnitude.

    1. Thanks for that Ed. First good thing I have heard on this matter here. Hand guns are the real killer Nationwide. Either shooting each other or committing all the suicides. The hand gun is the tool to get it done. And the more bullets you allow them to stick in that gun the better the NRA likes it. Most regular hunters who go out into the country and hunt are not doing it with pistols. Hunting with handguns makes no sense. Killing people and robbing banks, now you’re talking. Just get rid of the hand guns first and see what happens.

      1. Yes, I agree. Removing the handguns (and semiautomatic or military grade weapons) would go a long way toward solving these problems in the US.

  16. @Ed Kroc: That without guns “the severity of that violence is reduced (on average) by orders of magnitude” is arguable. Till now the data is against what you’re saying.

    Put it otherwise:
    Middle ages or antiquity were by far (orders of magnitude) more violent than the present. There were no fire arms back then.
    Russia is by far (orders of magnitude) more violent than US. There are few guns but mafia has its own ways to procure them while the innocents are defenseless.
    Historically most of the crimes (orders of magnitude) were committed by armed governments against helpless people.

    1. I am afraid you are comparing that apple and orange here. The killing volume of humans is not directly related to their killing equipment is it. There are lots of reasons for the killing to go up and down the graph. Oh look, in the U.S. between 1861 and 1865 the death rate really took off. Then it went way down.

      The simple question is – why are so many people killed today in America compared to damn near every other civilized country. If you do not think it is guns, then you are blinded by something I do not know.

      1. “compared to damn near every other civilized country”

        … provided your definition of “civilised” is drawn just right. Compared (say) to the rest of north america, it’s one place from the top! And for instance New Hampshire has a lower murder rate than Canada.

        As an outsider I find the gun culture of the US pretty odd. And certainly it were different then far fewer dads would be shot by their toddlers, etc.

        But the overall level of violence seems like a separate problem, and I find it odd how readily people conflate the two. You can wish that the NRA were weaker, and wish that Chicago could celebrate new year’s without shooting 40 people, without fooling yourself that these will be produced by the same policies.

        “The killing volume of humans is not directly related to their killing equipment”


    2. That the Middle Ages or Antiquity were more violent is not relevant in this discussion – on the whole there seems to be a trend towards less violence (see Steven Pinker’s book “The Better Angles of our Nature”).

      The question is how to reduce involuntary deaths now. Statistics shows that stricter gun laws are a good idea. More guns simply mean more violence (surprise).

      See here: http://www.vox.com/2015/8/24/9183525/gun-violence-statistics

      1. Then I’m doing something wrong. Again here’s the data (https://goo.gl/6U2Ccj) and there’s no correlation between homicides or gun deaths and gun ownership. Vox pretends the opposite (see their chart 5). I’m using data from Wikipedia.

        1. There is no reliable data on gun ownership in the US. The NRA has worked very hard to ensure that this is so. No national database exists. Gun registration is entirely dependent on the state. Moreover, it makes little sense to look for correlations at the state level as there is nothing to prevent a citizen of, say, Illinois from buying guns in Wisconsin or Indiana, and there is no way to track these transactions short of a national registry, which does not exist. The same problem exists when trying to compare the effect of gun laws from one state to the next: there are no closed borders. Furthermore, most violence (of any kind) happens in poor, urban areas. The most telling thing about the graphic you link to is the single outlier: DC, an entirely urban area. Comparing statistics at the state level obscures all these differences, and as a result, any analysis you produce will be hopelessly confounded with these other factors.

          The question is still a simple causal one: do guns cause violence? The answer to that is an unequivocal “yes” – I repeat, you cannot have gun violence without guns.

          1. “you cannot have gun violence without guns.”

            You can’t have 25,000 car deaths per year without cars.

            You can’t have 100,000 deaths per year from doctors not washing their hands without doctors.

            You can’t have 5 million smoking deaths per year without cigarettes.

            And yes, you can’t have 10,000 gun murders every year without guns.

            1. You are right about items 1 and 3, those are causal agents. Item 2 is perhaps technically correct, but it is extremely contrived.

              What is your point though? Simply that we can identify these other causal agents?

              Or are you trying to use the old argument that “no one wants to ban cars even though they cause so many deaths, so why should we listen to people who want to ban guns”? The big difference here is that guns serve only one purpose: to maim and kill. Cars provide vital transport, knives allow us to cook and open boxes, doctors do things like treat cancer and administer antibiotics to treat infection. What purpose do guns have other than to maim and kill?

              Cigarettes are an interesting case in their own right. One could make a good argument for banning cigarettes altogether by the same means. They are a massive drain on public health, and to non-smokers, serve little purpose. Of course, they do serve the purpose that they are enjoyable to smoke (to cigarette smokers), but does that benefit outweigh the public health costs, and the secondary effects of smoke on non-smokers? I think not, and I would support a complete ban on cigarettes.

              1. The point of these examples is to show the quoted statement does nothing. Lot’s of things cause death, but shouldn’t be banned.

                For me the main purpose of a gun is defense. I also greatly enjoy competition and target shooting. Others enjoy hunting.

                In the U.S., we fortunately have guarantees that protect basic rights, whether to own a gun or smoke a cigarette, despite what some majority or minority wants or thinks is in our best interest – that’s what puts the “liberal” in “liberal democracy.”

              2. Cars and cigarettes are subject to some pretty stiff regulation, Carl. Are you cool with similarly stringent regulation of firearms designed to keep them out of the hands of the dangerous and unqualified?

              3. Cars and cigarettes are subject to some pretty stiff regulation, Carl. Are you cool with similarly stringent regulation of firearms designed to keep them out of the hands of the dangerous and unqualified?

                Most certainly. I wouldn’t want the restrictions to be emotion based or written by someone who doesn’t really understand guns or the problem.

                Bans on machine guns, rocket launchers, hand grenades – truly military grade weapons, are fine. Effective background checks paired with denying guns to violent criminals, terrorists, and the mentally unstable is law in many places already and should be federalized.

                Things like mandating trigger locks, outlawing certain guns that are functionally equivalent to legal hunting rifles, or banning hollow point bullets are the sort of thing I consider emotion based or designed by someone with little knowledge of firearms.

              4. The fact that lots of things that cause death shouldn’t be banned is irrelevant. I dealt with that in my third paragraph.

                You say the main purpose of gun ownership for you is defence. But defence against what? Other people with guns? What if other people didn’t have guns? Would you still want a gun for defence?

                This is the reason most often given for why people want a gun, for their own private safety or defence. And I have always found it to be a very weak and hypocritical reason. What about *my* safety and defence? I do not feel safe around guns, nor do I feel safe in a culture where anyone could be packing at any moment. I go to an acquaintance’s house for drinks. What if a heated political discussion ensues? Perhaps this person will pull a gun on me. There have been about 50 shootings on the *expressways* of Chicago in the past year alone. I don’t feel safe driving from O’Hare to my friend’s house at UIC. Why does the gun advocate’s claim to safety trump mine? I don’t buy it.

                Hunting and target shooting do not require private gun ownership. Several countries require either guns or ammunition to be stored under lock and key at shooting ranges, out of personal hands.

                I grew up in the States, and I know the culture well. Every time I return I feel more uneasy. Your “right” to feel safe does not trump mine.

              5. No one can have a “right” to feel safe, and no government can possibly grant one.

                And sorry, but in America, my right to own and carry a gun, does in fact trump any of your concerns.

              6. “You can’t have 25,000 car deaths per year without cars.”

                Let me see now – cars: have to be individually licensed, by their owners, and carry a distinctive number to identify them. Car drivers have to pass a test before they’re allowed to drive, and carry identification. The police can stop a car for any one of a plethora of reasons and demand to see the driver’s authority. Cars also have to undergo periodic checks of their safety.

                (This is quite aside from the obvious utility of cars).

                Now if guns were subject to exactly the same rules as cars, wouldn’t that be a vast improvement? Or am I missing something…


              7. Carl — I don’t doubt that there are sound policy arguments to be made against the trigger-locks and weapons bans you mention. But, it seems to me, these are precisely the types of arguments that legislatures are well-adapted to consider, by holding hearings, eliciting testimony, commissioning expert studies, etc. Accordingly, these matters shouldn’t be deemed foreclosed by the Second Amendment.

                Do you agree?

              8. infiniteimprobabilit:

                I don’t think you missed anything. I think the world is spinning out of control. It’s like trying to play darts on a roller coaster.

              9. Carl, unfortunately you are quite right that in the US your right to own and carry a gun trumps any of my concerns. And that is exactly the problem.

              10. There is a constitutional ‘right’ to have a gun for self defence.
                It is irrelevant that there is a price.
                What price can you put on freedom.
                Look at all those hell holes without guns. People a walking around without guns constantly petrified that they are about to be shot by a criminal. ( Who they would blast good and proper if they did have a gun)
                And you claim that guns have no other legitimate purpose than killing. Other than target shooting which is not killing, there is hunting(killing) defence(killing) yes, but you have forgotten love.
                People can love their gun, kiss their gun, stroke their gun, bond with their gun, caress their gun, look at and admire their gun.
                Who are you to deny that love, for the sake of a few tens of thousands of tragic deaths.
                Shame on you, hurray for the constitution.

              11. People can love their gun, kiss their gun, stroke their gun, bond with their gun, caress their gun, look at and admire their gun.

                All that foreplay and no consummation? What a gun-teaser!

            1. I admit, the wording sounds a bit odd, but I stand by it. Guns cause gun violence just as much as cigarettes cause lung cancer. True, it requires a person to pull the trigger as much as it requires a person to light and smoke the cigarette, but this is just semantics. Remove the gun or the cigarette, and you remove the violence or the cancer. That’s a causal agent.

            2. My guns seem to be broken. The only violence they do is punch holes in paper targets.

              Ed Kroc must be thinking of self-shooting AI guns. The latest innovation by Elon Musk.

        2. “there’s no correlation between homicides or gun deaths and gun ownership”.

          Wyoming and Alaska have the highest rates of gun ownership and the highest rates of gun deaths. Most of these deaths are suicides.

          I’t’s ridiculous to suggest that Wyoming, largest city 59,000, can be compared with New York or New Jersey. A meaningful analysis would compare states with similar demographics.

  17. I favor gun rights – self defense rights – and own several hand guns, a shotgun, and an Israeli semi-automatic carbine (much better than an AR-15). I’m licensed to carry a concealed weapon and always do.

    I’m not worried my guns will be taken away by the government. NRA representatives frequently call with outlandish warnings of how my rights are about to vanish – I lecture them on their chicken little mentality, then hang up.

    People truly interested in limiting the damage done by guns should concentrate on public safety and education. Hinting at bans, confiscation, or heavy handed legislation reliably produces a spike in the sale of guns and ammunition. And everyone can draw their own conclusions on how the gun issue may have contributed to Trump’s victory.

      1. On the off chance you seriously want to learn: Different calibers are required in various competitions. In certain backwoods situations, where I might need to stop a bear or moose, I carry a 10 mm. Different seasons with lighter clothes I want a smaller, more easily concealable gun than I would carry in winter. Several were bought in search of what suited me best and now remain in the safe. Some are old and newer models are just better all around.

        1. Sir, learning is not why I ask the question. I am familiar with guns and, as much I do not care to admit, I long ago did some hunting. Was even in a flying/hunting club. Hunting as a group, we were always worrying about the safety. Therefore, in a group we would never allow rifles or hand guns. They were not very useful and they were far more dangerous. Maybe you hunt alone, I do not know, but I would not be going with you.

          1. I gave up hunting 50 years ago. I’m not sure I grasp your point. I’m not trying to teach you anything except why I personally own multiple handguns – just a straight answer, in case you seriously wanted to know.

            1. I assumed from your earlier comments and offering that you had several hand guns and an assault rifle and you talk of bear and moose, that there may be hunting going on. You also said “you seriously want to learn”. So, no hunting and no leaning – stupid me.

              My point (and you did say, not sure you grasp my point) is only this. Rifles and hand guns are without any doubt much more dangerous than shot guns. Anyone who know much about guns should know this. The projectiles go much further and therefore can hit and kill things at much greater distances than a shot gun. Some states do not allow hunting of deer, for instance, with rifles for this very reason. I won’t go into all of that. Additionally, most people would agree that hand guns are much more dangerous for a variety of reasons. First, many who have them cannot hit anything with them. So more likely to hit innocent things and people. They also have very short barrels and are often pointed at things they should not be pointed at. It is nothing more than hunting 101.

              1. I agree with everything you say here – except that at short range, under 10 or 15 yards, shotguns are quite deadly. I’m not sure what the connection to me having multiple handguns is. Maybe the confusion about bear and moose – which I encounter in the back country skiing, dog sledding, hiking, or climbing, not hunting.

              2. My question after you had stated having several hand guns was simply what you used them for. My intent was providing some others info who might be listening in as well as myself. I am always curious about hand gun owning and using because of the millions and millions of them sold in this country.

                I would say the deadly range of the shotgun is a bit further depending on the shell. As you know, the 3 in. heavy loads, up to BB size shot can kill out to 80 or 100 feet. We also would never allow any buckshot size loads for the same reason. Double OO buck, used by police departments can be deadly at much greater distance.

    1. I’d have a lot more respect for pro-gun politicians having the strength of their convictions if they’d pull the metal detectors out of the Supreme Court building and the White House and off of Capitol Hill.

      I noticed that at last summer’s Republican convention, where the strongest Second Amendment advocates convened and the NRA’s candidate was nominated for president, not only did they have metal detectors; they had a quarter-mile gun-free cordon sanitaire surrounding the arena.

      1. I disagree with you there. I’m also fine with the airline prohibitions on passengers carrying firearms. Gun free areas are fine as long as there is some reasonably effective protocol to ensure no one (excepting security personnel) is armed.

        1. Shouldn’t the good-guys-with-guns rationale apply in those places — same as the Florida Legislature recently proposed it be applied by allowing open carry in elementary and secondary schools, airport passenger terminals, and college campuses?

          1. No, in the situations I previously mentioned, assuring no one is armed is the wiser policy.

            Incidentally, “open carry” is dumb. It disturbs people unnecessarily and tells the bad guys who to shoot first.

      2. I’d have more respect for gun grabbing politicians having the strength of their conviction by banning own their security detail from carrying guns. These bodyguars can serve their tasks by singing kumbaya against armed attackers. That ought to work cause we’re all liberal pollyannas.

        Then they can ban guns from police officers because, according to some commenters here, “you can’t have gun violence without guns”. If gun violence are caused by guns, then by jove we should disarm our police officers. It’s only logical!

        1. Can you cite any current political officeholders who are trying to grab any law-abiding citizens’ guns (as opposed to trying to enact regulations to keep guns away from would-be lawbreakers)?

          Anyway, maybe you haven’t heard, Dan, but the long arc of the history of modern society bends away from private citizens resorting to violent self-help as a means of resolving their interpersonal disputes. The salubrious trend is toward relying upon, and reserving the use of force to, professionally trained law enforcement bureaus working within the strictures of our system of justice.

          Even at that, it’s worth noting that the majority of bobbies across the pond in Limey-land seem to get by ok without running around strapped. Which seems at least to cut back on their killing suspects who’re holding their hands above their heads, or who are walking away, or who’re sitting in their cars trying to comply with an officer’s instructions.

          Crazy, huh?

          1. Even at that, it’s worth noting that the majority of bobbies across the pond in Limey-land seem to get by ok without running around strapped.

            “strapped” meaning “carrying a gun”?
            Not only do most police officers never touch a gun, but the police management regularly make complaints about their problems getting officers to volunteer for assessment of suitability for firearms training.

              1. Probably, it’s a usage I’d never heard of, not even reading Damon Runyon.


              2. Well, it’s certainly not a piece of slang that would have a use anywhere else in the world that I know of. Its almost as if (some) Americans treat getting equipped for killing people as a day-to-day activity.

          2. Anyway, maybe you haven’t heard, Dan, but the long arc of the history of modern society bends away from private citizens resorting to violent self-help as a means of resolving their interpersonal disputes. The salubrious trend is toward relying upon, and reserving the use of force to, professionally trained law enforcement bureaus working within the strictures of our system of justice

            Yes, the “better angels of our nature” are clearly winning out as time goes on. There is less murder and less violence in America, despite all the guns in the country.

            This idea of relying solely on professionally trained law enforcement is worthy of sheep, not free people. It’s a liberty issue (leaving aside police likely won’t be there when needed). As a thought experiment, try imagining your prescription in the context of freedom of speech or freedom of the press. Imagine only those licensed by the government with advanced degrees in political science having the right to speak or write on the politics. Or morality, or religion, or science.

            As an aside, I wonder what percentage of law enforcement is “professionally” trained – say to half the level of a private citizen like Sam Harris.

            1. Free expression, and a free press, are essential to ordered liberty; resort to violence to resolve private disputes is not.

              1. Free expression, and a free press, are essential to ordered liberty; resort to violence to resolve private disputes is not.

                Not barring someone from the best means of self defense is also essential to ordered liberty. Rather than thinking about two young studs shooting it out over some petty dispute, try thinking about the woman in a parking garage late at night attacked by a rapist or a family facing a home invasion.

              2. What you’re essentially arguing is to return to the world of Tombstone Arizona in the 19th century. The 6 shooter was the great leveler. Yes, we remember. If you were a gun fighter you would be buried with your boots on in Boothill cemetery. What a tradition! Very masculine. What’s undeniable is the cowboys married the prostitutes and settled down to have kids who needed a schoolhouse. So they got themselves a really strong sheriff and we moved on. There was a social agreement that if we gave up our guns(except for the sheriff), we could have a few minutes of peace and quiet to mow the lawn and fence the goats. Kind of feminine. Every once in a while a drunk cowboy would shoot off his pistol and kill somebody, but it’s better than it was before the ban. There should be a state (Texas?) where you can go and relive the old west and take your chances on pre-civilization, so people who romanticize that lifestyle can go and get their fill.

              3. Carl —

                You have a right to self-defense, and I don’t begrudge it to you.

                I exercise my right to free speech, and enjoy the products of a free press, every day of my life. But I’ve reached my three score and three without ever once encountering a circumstance where I thought “gee, I wish I was packing heat right now.”

                When it comes to self-defense I’ve never encountered an exigency that involved more than throwing a few fists (and even those have been few and far between). And that’s true also for all my close friends, none of whom carry, and none of whom have ever needed or wanted to. And true, as well, for my wife and sister. And for my two adult sons, too, neither of whom owns a gun (and about whom I would worry more knowing they were armed, than that they would encounter a situation where they’d need to be).

                And I don’t think my friends and my family and I have simply lived charmed lives; I think our experience holds true for the vast majority of other citizens in free, modern societies: the circumstances in which self-defense by firearm is needed are exceedingly rare (and the circumstances in which is it effectively accomplished, rarer still).

                Sure, if we set our minds to it, we can conjure circumstance in which we might wish we could defend ourselves with a firearm. But unless one is routinely making bank deposits in the worst neighborhoods of “Chiraq,” there’s little need to be armed at all times. To base policy on those outliers is to imagine ourselves in a Hobbesian world that does not exist.

              4. Ken, argument from personal experience isn’t any more compelling here than in religion. Given the number of assaults, robberies, rapes, and murders is still far from negligible, I expect you will concede your experience isn’t universal.

              5. Well then, here are some statistics, courtesy of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program:

                In 2012, in our nation of 314 million people and approximately 300 million privately-owned firearms, there were 259 justifiable homicides by private citizens using firearms. In that same year, private citizens committed 8,342 criminal homicides using firearms.

                Pretty hard to make the case in light of those numbers that all our firearms on balance make us safer.

              6. In 2012, in our nation of 314 million people and approximately 300 million privately-owned firearms, there were 259 justifiable homicides by private citizens using firearms. In that same year, private citizens committed 8,342 criminal homicides using firearms.

                Pretty hard to make the case in light of those numbers that all our firearms on balance make us safer.

                It’s not necessary to kill an attacker, or even fire your weapon for it to prevent a violent crime. Successful, non-lethal firearm defense occurs around 50,000 time a year, or in slightly less than 1% of attacks. You could make an argument that more people should arm themselves or sharpen their firearms skills. But I’m making a liberty argument – we should not begrudge citizens the right to defend themselves with a gun, which I thought you had agreed to previously.

              7. Carl –

                I’m not questioning the constitutional right; I’m questioning the wisdom.

                You didn’t cite a source for your stat, but I hope it didn’t come from the notorious John Lott, since his statistics have been discredited.

                Anyway, assuming the statistic’s veracity, it would appear that much the same result in violent-crime prevention could be achieved through the use of non-lethal force, perhaps with a concomitant reduction in the 8,000 to 12,000 firearm homicides committed each year.

              8. My stats were from Violence Policy Centerand my guess is they are low in counting successful gun defenses. The NRA stats are 50 fold higher (yes multiply what I used by 50).

                I see guns like seat belts – they are almost never needed, and when needed they don’t always produce a good outcome, but sometimes they do, so I always buckle up and always wear a Glock.

              9. Carl “Successful, non-lethal firearm defense occurs around 50,000 time a year, or in slightly less than 1% of attacks.”

                “According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, 467,321 persons were victims of a crime committed with a firearm in 2011”

                The cost/benefit analysis seems to be heavily skewed towards cost.

              10. Yeah, a lot like seatbelts — if you were 50 times more likely to be strangled by a seatbelt as you were to be kept from being thrown through your windshield by one.

                Even Ralph Nader couldn’t’ve gotten seatbelts approved with those odds. 🙂

  18. This reinforces my feeling of safety when in Japan (about annually) versus my feeling of impending doom when visiting the USA. And this takes into account the likelihood of earthquakes. I now do not plan to travel to the USA for at least the next four years for perhaps obvious reasons.

  19. Japan’s gun laws grow out of a culture premised on voluntary submission to authority, a cultural norm that is not necessarily replicated in Western democracies.

    Except that the UK is close to Japan (both in gun-control laws and a low gun-death rate).

  20. One factor to remember in comparing Japanese and U.S. gun violence rates is that the Japanese never had a hunting culture in its past. Hunting animals was seen as barbaric. The people that did hunt such as the ethnic minority, such as the Ainu were deemed to be savages by most of the Japanese. (And the Burakumin peoples, the leatherworkers who became the untouchable outcaste in Japan was due to their trade of butchering animals). The Japanese Buddhist culture had an influence on this prohibition regarding the hunting of animals.
    The gun culture especially as it relates to patterns of hunting in the U.S. helps explain the devotion to the 2nd amendment and the reluctance of rural peoples to support gun control.

    1. The culture you might be using as justification is long past. The vast majority live in cities today and never hunted and never will. But they still want and have all kinds of guns, especially guns that were never designed for built for hunting. If they are devoted to the 2nd amendment, where is the militia?

    1. As an aside – just what *was* that building? Quite high, blank walls except for windows on the ground floor – has me baffled.


  21. That reminds me of this recent discovery:

    Gun viiolence can spread like a disease:

    “Gun violence can ripple through social networks and communities just like an infectious germ, Harvard and Yale researchers reported Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine. This may not seem surprising, because earlier work has found that gun violence often clusters in certain areas and groups, particularly those steeped in gangs and drugs. But this study is the first to show that gun violence spreads directly from person to person after shootings—it’s not just about growing up in the same rough neighborhood or having the same risk factors.”

    Now, what do you do with co-factors affecting disease progression… Removal seems like the simplest solution here. I find it ironic that Japan did what Australia recently did, fixed the disease with a buyback program – already 1685!

    But this BBC article claim seems wrong:

    “You can buy fresh ammo (cartridges) only by returning the cartridges you bought the last time.”

    That seems fraught with problems. I found two description by hunters in Japan earlier today, both of which supported the rest of the claims but neither of which mentioned that particular detail. [Sorry, no references at hand.]

    1. Specifically, descriptions how to hunt, not of particular hunting. You would think such a detail would be listed, to avoid surprises for visiting hunters.

  22. “I’m licensed to carry a concealed weapon and always do.” That to me is a sign of a country gone off the rails.

    1. Yes, I agree with you. “Off the rails” is exactly where they are. Proven by this statement: “…my right to own and carry a gun, does in fact trump any of your concerns.” Wow.

  23. The inter-country comparison of violence linked to firearms helps me to understand why I feel perfectly safe during my annual trips to Japan. When visiting the USA, I do not feel safe. The last time I was in the US, there were at least three mass shooting during a 10-day period.
    That together with the results of the recent election has led me to decide to avoid trips to the USA for at least the next four years.

  24. The major reason Canadian gun-killing rates are even as high as they are is that so many guns are smuggled in from the US and end up in the hands of gangs trying to emulate their US counterparts. It’s very difficult to acquire a handgun legally. Long guns are another matter.

    1. It is not difficult to acquire a handgun legally in Canada. It’s basically 2 courses (one for non-restricted firearms and one for restricted) that take you 1 to 2 days each depending on where you take them. Then you take a test which most people should pass on their first attempt. Then you apply for your permits which takes around a month to process. As long as your record is clean you are good to go and we have access to pretty much the same firearms as the US with some obvious differences like fully automatic firearms, etc.

      You’re spot on though regarding where most handguns in criminal hands come from.

  25. I just returned from Florida and whenever I drive in the states I find it kind of creepy.
    I’m aware of the gun factor – that merely making a wrong move while driving can escalate to being shot, in a populace packing guns. I never have this fear when driving in Canada, thankfully. (And I don’t require the fear of other drivers packing guns to be a good driver in Canada).

    My son now goes to school in the southern states, and with the gun culture added to the incoming Trump era, I can’t say I’m feeling terribly comfortable.

  26. I don’t have figures to hand, but I believe the majority of US gun deaths are handgun deaths, whilst the guns that are most often threatened with bans are assault rifles (ie a self-loading semi-automatic). A pump action gun or a slick bolt action (remember in 1914 the Germans thought each British platoon had a machine gun when they were simply armed with Lee Enfield bolt action rifles)can be very nearly as fast as a semi-automatic, and the term ‘assault rifle’ itself is a rather emotional one used in this context by people who don’t know much about the subject. I’d say that the best bang for your buck (forgive me!) would be to restrict or ban handguns. They are of limited utility for anything except shooting large targets at close quarters, which generally means people in small engagements, and the spirit of the second amendment would be far better honoured by long arms that might actually be more useful in the scenarios envisaged by those that worded the second amendment. A part of the constitution, by the way, that has become completely irrelevant to the defense of the nation in the 21st century. I often wonder why it is held to be sacred and unchangeable when it is, itself, an amendment, thus confirming that the original constitution has been recognised (many times now) as being imperfect and requiring alteration. Sadly, there is no political mileage to be gained in even hinting at this in the US.
    I’ve owned firearms in the UK and in Canada, and I’m quite happy with the legislation in both countries as being a very reasonable compromise between the need to provide public safety and the desire (I don’t say ‘right’) of the individual to enjoy safe shooting sports. 99% of the shots I have fired have been at targets, with the rest going to pest control. I have never hunted purely for sport, but I do recognise that ethical, responsible hunters make for the best conservation of game (pure self-interest, of course, but that has always made for the happiest of meta-ethics), adopting the same role as the lion that culls the weakest members from the herd of prey animals.

    1. I do agree with you. In particular that, while the automatic weapons beloved by school massacre enthusiasts attract the most publicity, it’s handguns that cause most deaths.


      1. P.S. I use the term ‘assault rifle’ not because it’s emotive, but because I think it’s more technically correct usage than any other for that class of gun. But if there’s a better term I’d like to hear it.

        (Here in New Zealand they’re called, rather clunkily, MSSA’s – military style semi-automatics – which immediately raises the question of what exactly ‘military style’ means.)


        1. People can disagree about terms. In my mind a true assault rifle, is select fire (can switch between full and semi-automatic). These are illegal everywhere in the U.S. except via a very restrictive license. For most people, what constitutes an assault rifle is cosmetic. I don’t think there have been any killings, let alone mass killings with a rifle capable of fully automatic fire, at any rate the number is very small. Even murders using any rifle at all are a very small percentage (4%?). Hand guns are used for the vast majority.

          1. As I understand it, a rifle is the full-length, full-power article and an assault rifle is a somewhat shorter, handier gun often firing a reduced-power cartridge and usually capable of full-auto fire. Which raises the question of what to call the non-auto versions. But my terminology could well be out of date.


  27. Of course the other argument for the 2nd amendment is protection against a tyrannical government.

    The next tyrannical government (if we don’t already have it) won’t use guns but misinformation.

    And the revolution won’t use guns but information.

  28. The gun output doubled due to the “Obama’s gonna take all our guns away!” trope.

    I’ve had several well-educated, otherwise sensible coworkers trot out exactly that trope, and at work no less.

    As I noted on 9-Nov-2016: Never under estimate the power of human stupidity.

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