The Gun Delusion

The Gun DelusionYes, The Gun Delusion is an intentional play on Richard Dawkins’ best selling title, The God Delusion. I don’t mean to suggest the writing here is even a tenth as eloquent or compelling as that of the professor. But I do mean to suggest that the arguments presented by gun advocates are often as delusional as those dissected by Dawkins.

Friday morning, I made an (admittedly sardonic) social media post to a gun law story that appeared in what now passes as our local “paper”:

It didn’t take long to be taken to task in the comments on Facebook:

I personally am fed up with the attitude that anyone who chooses to carry a gun is some sort of criminal, or a nut case, or some such!!! Law abiding citizens choosing to be armed while in public are simply taking the responsibility of protecting themselves from the violent thugs and scumbags that are a part of modern day life in any city in the world. It is NOT paranoya, it IS a recognition that we live in a violent world and that the police are not able, nor are they responsible to protect any individule citizen. Yipsilanti has made the intellegent decision of allowing law abiding citizens to use their God given right to be armed in order to protect themselves as guarunteed by both the 2nd amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Michigan State Constitution, both of which guaruntee all citizens the right to be armed!!! [sic.]

I’m not sure who claimed, “anyone who chooses to carry a gun is some sort of criminal, or a nut case, or some such.” I did not and would not. I personally am tired of straw men.

There are, no doubt, many reasons why someone would want to carry a gun in public, not all of which are based in paranoia. (Although, I suspect some might qualify as paranoia.) But there is also a huge range of personality types on the spectrum from “law abiding citizens” to “violet thugs and scumbags”, any of whom may elect to carry a gun. (Where would you put Darryl Jouett, for example? Or George Zimmerman?) Being armed may provide some level of protection, but it also provides some level of risk. I personally think it is safer to be unarmed in public interacting with others who are also unarmed.

But that does not in any way imply that it is therefore good and wise to be armed in public places as a matter of common practice.

I agree that we (not God), through our federal and state constitutions, grant ourselves the right to be armed; and I don’t want to change that. But that does not in any way imply that it is therefore good and wise to be armed in public places as a matter of common practice. We also have the right to own and use motor vehicles, but not everywhere.

Personally, I would prefer to have local ordinances against firearms in places like the Ypsilanti (and Ann Arbor) city parks. Yes, I realize that such ordinances might increase the odds of falling victim to “violent thugs or scumbags”. But I’ll happily trade that for the actual reduced risk of being accidentally shot by a random, law abiding person (because they won’t have a gun).

The very idea that having a gun makes you safer, in most situations, is not supported by evidence. What does the evidence actually show? Does having a gun make you safer in your home? No. Does carrying a gun make you safer in public? No.

But gun advocates–not all, surely, but many–continue to argue based on false beliefs, held despite strong evidence to the contrary. This is the very definition of delusional. This is what I call “The Gun Delusion.”

Stop acting like a tool is a danger! Are you threatened by a hammer? Maybe you shopuld be, more people are killed by bludgeoning than shootings every year!!! A firearm is nothing but a tool, and no more or less dangerous than any other tool. [sic.]


As commenter Christian Laurin quickly responded, that is factually untrue. Based on the FBI’s 2011 Uniform Crime Report, here are the number of murders attributable to firearms vs. blunt objects (clubs, hammers, etc.):

  • Firearms: 8,583
  • Blunt objects: 496

So, based on actual evidence, 17 times as many people are killed using firearms than all bludgeoning tools combined.

But express any sympathy for even mild gun restrictions or gun regulations, and brace yourself for the hot take reactions. These are the ardent and emotional (but not evidence-based) counter arguments. These are the symptoms of The Gun Delusion.

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