warning Hi, we've moved to USCANNENBERGMEDIA.COM. Visit us there!

Neon Tommy - Annenberg digital news

American Guns: Lies, Half-Truths And Facts, Part 1

Dan Morgan-Russell |
January 20, 2013 | 11:14 a.m. PST


Debunking the myth that guns don't kill people, people kill people. (Michael Saechang, Creative Commons)
Debunking the myth that guns don't kill people, people kill people. (Michael Saechang, Creative Commons)
In the wake of recent tragedies in places such as Aurora, Colorado, and Newton, Connecticut, both political parties and numerous special interest groups have become increasingly vocal about their stances toward tackling the growing problem of gun ownership in the United States.

While I applaud the efforts of both sides to win political points in the wake of tragedy rather than address obvious problems before they make national headlines, both sides have already made fallacious and outright untrue statements about the facts of the issue. I am here to correct those lies.

In the following short series, I will examine myths about American guns and respond with hard facts.

MYTH: Guns don't kill people, people kill people.

Look, I understand what you're saying. Guns don’t act on their own. A person must aim a gun at someone else and pull the trigger. In that sense, yes, people kill people with guns, and guns themselves do not kill people.

However, where these arguments go awry is in assuming that these “madmen” can be readily identified and classified, and then firearms can be kept out of their hands. The problem is that predicting when someone is going to snap, or exactly why he or she is going to snap, is impossible. Thus, since we cannot actually control the American population in this way (and the amount of research necessary to do so would likely be unethical and illegal). That is the reason that most background checks fail in this country to prevent people who have the possibility to have murderous intentions or go on a rampage from buying guns.


The only legal and effective way to prevent these kinds of problems is to restrict the firearms themselves. The American Journal of Epidemiology reported that having a gun in your home makes you three times more likely to be the victim of a homicide and five times more likely to kill yourself. This study conclusively shows that gun owners are in far more danger than non-gun owners. First, a 300 percent increase in the risk of death by homicide illustrates the likelihood that someone in the house will “snap” and kill you. Whether it be a father, a mother or a child, if you own a gun, you are more likely to be the victim of a homicide in your own home.

Similarly, if you own a gun, you are more likely to take your own life than if you do not own a gun. Again, the background checks are not comprehensive enough to find that you aren’t the type of person to kill yourself. Even owning a gun increases your risk of just thinking about killing yourself. If background checks were comprehensive enough, then perhaps your risk of dying at your own hand wouldn’t be five times as likely as someone who does not own a gun.

The huge increase in the risk of death from just owning a gun is the reason that the U.S. government should take a stronger stance against gun ownership. Restricting the number of guns in the United States and the ready access to these weapons is the only way to keep the American people safe. Furthermore, enforcement of gun laws needs to increase as well to make sure that the laws designed to protect the American public are followed and tragedies do not occur.

Do people kill people with guns? Yes. Is human interaction the only way for a gun to kill a person? Yes. But gun ownership dramatically increases the risk of death by homicide and suicide, and rampant American gun ownership creates tragedy. We need to fix this.


Reach Contributor Dan Morgan-Russell here.



Craig Gillespie directed this true story about "the most daring rescue mission in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard.”

Watch USC Annenberg Media's live State of the Union recap and analysis here.