Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Civilians Around the World Become Better Armed

Will widespread private arms rebalance power between individuals and the state? It looks like we’re going to find out.

Uli Deck/dpa/picture-alliance/NewscomUli Deck/dpa/picture-alliance/NewscomA note to the folks obsessed with somehow disarming all civilians: You may want to find a new hobby. This particular horse isn't just out of the barn, it's in the field shooting skeet.

Worldwide, there are about 857 million firearms in civilian hands—up 32 percent from the last Small Arms Survey estimates in 2006. For comparison, there are about 133 million firearms controlled by the world's militaries and 22.7 million in the hands of law enforcement across the planet.

That means a growing numbers of civilians around the world are in a position to push back against police and militaries that serve often-abusive governments, and that are already outmatched in terms of raw weaponry. In the wake of the murderous, state-sponsored horrors of the 20th century, this latest report from the respected, Geneva-based Small Arms Survey represents good news to many people (albeit not the usual suspects you'll see quoted on the news).

The disparity in arms between government forces and civilians is common in much of the world, but particularly dramatic in the United States, which accounts for a huge share (about 46 percent) of the world's privately held arms.

In the U.S., which has seen a sharp decline in violent crime over the past quarter-century (from 747.1 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 1993 to 386.3 violent crimes per 100,000 residents in 2016), law enforcement officers wield an estimated 1,016,000 firearms and police a civilian population that owns 393,300,000 firearms. Even the U.S. military adds only another 4,500,000 firearms to the equation (not counting heavy weapons).

Civilians in the U.S., as elsewhere, aren't getting any less well-armed relative to their political masters, either.

"Civilian ownership appears to be growing globally," notes the Small Arms Survey. "In the United States alone civilians acquired at least 122 million new or imported firearms during the period 2006–17."

As the U.S. data shows, well-armed civilians aren't necessarily dangerous civilians.

"[T]he countries with the highest level of firearm violence—they don't rank high in terms of ownership per person," said Anna Alvazzi del Frate, the Small Arms Survey's program director. "So what we see is that there is no direct correlation at the global level between firearm ownership and violence."

But which civilians own guns? Is ownership widespread? Or is it a shrinking pool of fetishists withering away until two guys in Idaho end up sitting on massive personal armories?

"Three-in-ten American adults say they currently own a gun," Pew Research reported in 2017, and another 11 percent "say they don't personally own a gun but live with someone who does."

Forty-seven percent of households reported owning a gun in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey released last March.

Those figures are both somewhat at odds with the 2016 survey finding guns in 36 percent of households, leading to The Washington Post headline: "American gun ownership drops to lowest in nearly 40 years."

The problem, said the author of the Small Arms Survey report, Old Dominion University's Aaron Karp, is that "The lowest estimates of civilian ownership are often from surveys. If expert estimates can appear to exaggerate figures, surveys are sometimes suspected of underreporting... In the United States, for example, there is a growing trend among gun owners to refuse to answer surveys on firearm possession."

It turns out that if you vilify an activity and target it with official efforts at suppression, people engaged in that activity become reticent to discuss the matter. Who could have guessed?

No doubt with such concerns in mind, the Small Arms Survey carefully distances itself from policy recommendations based on its data. "We don't advocate disarmament. We are not against guns," Small Arms Survey director Eric Berman emphasized.

Which is just as well, considering what an uphill slog disarmament would be anywhere on the planet. That's especially true given that civilians acquire firearms not just from commercial sources that might be subject to regulation, but also from their own efforts. "Craft guns represent a major source of uncertainty in estimating global civilian firearms possession," the report notes.

By "craft guns," the report refers to anything from crudely made muzzle-loaders to AR-15s finished from 80 percent receivers. How many weapons fall into that category is unknown, but India alone estimates "annual production of roughly 2.5 million craft guns." A separate Small Arms Survey report examines Nigeria's vibrant craft gun culture, which also ranges in sophistication from muzzle-loaders to assault rifles.

And none of this takes into account technological revolutions in machinery and 3D printing—developments which recently led the authors of a RAND Corporation report to conclude that governments are losing the ability to control "risky goods such as firearms and drones." They predict that the pervasiveness of such technology "will further relax this control, giving private citizens greater access to lethal weapons and other tools of violence."

Despite the high-decibel shouting over the rights and wrongs of private gun ownership, civilians are pretty well armed around the world and becoming increasingly so as time goes on. Will that rebalance power between individuals and the state? It looks like we're going to find out.

Photo Credit: Uli Deck/dpa/picture-alliance/Newscom

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Yellow Tony||

    "craft guns,"


    If this is anything like craft beer, then I'm done with this dimension. You losers can't do anything right.

  • Rat on a train||

    Hello Kitty isn't for everyone. Perhaps you prefer something stronger.

  • a tandem||

    In addition to the huge number of AR bought complete, there may be up to 30 million assembled from 80% lowers and up to another 25 million unassembled needing a couple hours work to be fully assembled and functional.

    And if you have seen a p320 fire control group, which is the only regulated part, and profoundly easier for an amateur to take to 100% you know understand how luddite the long term strategy of the gun control nuts is. In fact you can make a p320 FCG from scratch so even if 80% was taken to 10% it would not matter.

    As far as the total number of firearms the UN group, for its Us numbers worked closely with some US gun control advocates, They have an interest in lowering estimated of firearms in the US as well as firearms ownership.

    there is solid evidence US firearms owner numbers have been increasing the past 20 years and is likely up to 60% now ( http://assets.pewresearch.org/.....60x367.png ) and there is solid evidence the number of firearms in the US maybe over 450 million -- a huge and growing proportion semi auto.

    Lastly this is the UN. It represents national governments. Any surprise that it should argue only national government should be armed? Or downplay the fact that national governments have done >95% of the violent killing the past 100 years?

  • KevinP||

    In fact you can make a p320 FCG from scratch

    Interesting, do you have a link?

  • a tandem||

    Out here on the dark web, there are full 3d scans and it is all bends and holes

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Nearly all gun owners never commit a gun crime. Probably close to 99.9%

    Yet these armed citizens have guns to protect themselves and families from criminals and government.

    This scares the shit out of lefty politicians.

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    Are you ready making the case that only people who don't commit crimes with guns are gun owners?

  • a tandem||

    Way more violent crimes are committed without guns than with guns. Many of the most heinous violent crimes, almost all usually done without guns, are also known to be the most undercounted (rape, sexual assault, child molestation are up to 90% not reported).

    For crimes committed with guns, the OP probably means legal gun owners. I

    Essentially we know from a dozen jurisdictions, that in most cases over 90% of murder perpetration (93% in Baltimore) is by prior criminals, and over 80% by prior felons or persons with 10 or more arrests ("super-predator/catch and release career criminals) which are virtually all prohibited persons.

    so you have a tiny portion of of the population and the very opposite of legal gun owners -- illegal gun owners -- causing the huge majority of violence and gun violence. That clearly indicates the problem is not guns, but repeat criminals on the streets.

    It is also a corollary to understanding that the falsehood in the claim that gun owning homes are more dangerous to household members. In fact if you've got a gun but don't have a criminal domiciled in your home your home is safer than the average home, including gun free homes.

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    illegal gun owners

    The OP that you're answering for believes strictly in the Constitution and I'm hard pressed to believe he would say that illegal gun ownership is even possible. So if you could, please reframe your reply as if you believe that everyone has a right to own a gun under any circumstances.

  • a tandem||

    sorry I don't answer questions that are simply red herrings. When it comes to the bill of rights most of Americans believe "strictly in the constitution" are you saying you don't support the constitution?

    so could you reframe your reply to me by naming a gun control organization that did not support DC in Heller, banning even revolvers for totally law abiding.

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    sorry I don't answer questions that are simply red herrings.

    But you do make a habit of offering answers to questions that were directed at someone else.

  • a tandem||

    But you do make a habit of offering answers to questions that were directed at someone else.

    Your questions were specious. I pointed that out.

  • $park¥ The Misanthrope||

    Your questions were specious. I pointed that out.

    No, what you pointed out was that you understood neither my question nor the person you decided to respond for.

  • a tandem||

    Oh I understood it. Your statement that: The OP that you're answering for believes strictly in the Constitution >, as if that is pejorative, tells me what I need to know.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    These is no such thing as illegal gun ownership in the USA, according to the Constitution.

  • perlchpr||

    Honestly, I'm a moderate on the whole 2A issue. I'm willing to accept that it's reasonable to prohibit people who are actually in prison, from having firearms.

  • AlmightyJB||

    2000 men enter. One man leaves.

  • a tandem||

    In the common defintion of militia as all able bodied adult citizens, who are not felons and obviously not currently in jail, this is not an inconsistancy

  • Tom Bombadil||

    It would be cool to see a statistical breakdown of gun murders and what proportion of murderers are NRA members vs. not. I'm going to go out on a limb and predict NRA members will not be near the top of the murderer list.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    You can safely go as far out on that limb as you want.

  • ||

    Making some assumptions about independence: ~4.8:100,000 in 2017 and 4.3M NRA members means ~200 homicides because of NRA members and ~15,000-16,000 total meaning NRA members account for ~1-1.25% of homicides.

    Admittedly inferring a lot from not a lot of data:
    Assuming the media does what it thinks is it's job, these facts are out there for them to dig up and discover and that they likely have tried. The fact that they likely have tried, probably multiple times, and we haven't heard about it likely means something bad with regard to their narrative and/or a bolstering of their opposition's (The NRA's claims). Like an inverse correlation between participation in an NRA-certified gun safety program and using a gun to commit a crime or a significantly lower rate of gun crime among (more affluent) law-abiding firearms owners.

    It's already known that licensed CCWs and generally licensed firearm owners are less likely to be involved in gun and violent crimes than even police officers, so the fraction of them that are or were once NRA members probably constitutes too small a fish with too terrible a flavor to even begin to bother frying. I'd say it's unknowable but safe to assume well less than 1%.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    I'm sure it happens [given enough numbers probability dictates that] but is so rare that it would run counter to their narrative. Just imagine Don Lemon or Samantha Bee declaring "1 tenth of 1 percent of NRA members responsible for gun crime." Not gonna happen.

  • a tandem||

    Even more to the point, 58% of Americans approval of the NRA in huge national polls by Gallup. It is a slam dunk they commit less than 58% of murder, but probably commit less than 5%. Study after study shows 90% of murder is committed by prior criminals, over 80% by persons with 10 or more arrests. Since they are virtually all prohibited persons, in prohibition schemes the NRA fully supports, I doubt they are the NRA members or supporters at all.
    usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/ nation/2007-08-30-baltvictims_N.htm (remove spaces)

  • Leslie the Bard||

    Clarification: At last (public) report, the NRA had over 6 million members, and Gun Owners of America had another 1 million. There are no public reports on the membership of the 2nd Amendment Foundation or Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership. Soros' Everytown doesn't have numbers anything like that, and money overrides live bodies only to a certain point.

  • apedad||

    I'll take a military unit with vastly superior training, command & control, formal hierarchy, intelligence, communications, transportation, logistics, and medical support systems over a bunch of yahoos everyday.

    Such a military unit could easily take on yahoos, 10 to 1. EASILY.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    Vietnam, Afghanistan, Middle East ... for that matter, the US militia in the Revolution bottled the Brits up in cities to the point that virtually everything but water had to be supplied from Britain, even cattle.

  • loveconstitution1789||

    Additionally, Afghanistan defeated the British and the Russians. Actually, Afghanistan has a great track record of repelling superpowers.

  • Citizen X||

    Even Alexander the Great barely got out of Afghanistan with his life.

  • John||

    Yeah. An armed and angry populace has no chance against an army. That is why the wars you mentioned were so quick and casualty free.

  • Citizen X||

    Yeah, that's what Scarecrow Repair is saying, John. It's apedad who thinks Vietnam and Afghanistan are the 51st and 52nd states already.

  • John||

    I know. I was agreeing with him. Sorry that was not clear.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    In a stand-up fight, certainly. What if the "bunch of yahoos" are smart enough to deny you your set-piece battle?

  • loveconstitution1789||

    In another American civil war, the government cannot just bomb every town and kill every dissenter.

    Future tax payers are needed.

    You defeat a superior force by chipping away at their forces while they cannot just wipe out you and your family.

  • ||

    In another American civil war, the government cannot just bomb every town and kill every dissenter.

    Future tax payers are needed.

    You defeat a superior force by chipping away at their forces while they cannot just wipe out you and your family.

    They can kill all the white or white and "urban" dissenters and open the borders to a new tax base. It's kinda-sorta, a little bit, the slow motion plan in action at the moment.

  • ||

    It's kinda-sorta, a little bit, the slow motion plan in action at the moment.

    I guess not this, particular "Trump Moment" as much as I mean what Welch and Gillespie have been proudly proclaiming as the libertarian moment.

  • Don't look at me.||

    "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead

  • a tandem||

    Uhm the US military are the yahoos who own guns and are the most fervent supporters of the Second amendment.

    And the idea that the second Amendment has not deterred tyranny or tyrannical actions is absurd -- since it has.

    I have to laugh at your assertion that the first amendment needs to be chucked since it obviously does not deter tyranny since you can't throw your NY times at a nuke to effect.

  • a tandem||

    see "Deacons of Defense." Of hundreds of civil rights protests in the south, about 50%, were attacked by police dogs, gas, water hoses, truncheons, local government aligned thugs, mass arrests or outright killings. Not one of the protest gatherings or marches that included armed civil rights workers was attacked by tyrannical local government.

    and the Nazis and Japanese totalitarians had "(many military unit(s) with vastly superior training, command & control, formal hierarchy, intelligence," etc., yet in every place they attacked and occupied the first thing on the notices to civilians they posted was an order, usually on pain of death for non compliance, that all firearms, including rusty bolt actions and shotguns, be turned in. The did not do so to discourage petty crime, but because they known even a lightly armed civilian cadre was unamicable to the imposition of tyranny.

    Plenty of countries with rights similar to our Bill of Rights but with no Second Amendment have experienced tyranny or experienced tyrannical acts.

    the could be no more specious canard than to claim that he Second Amendment is not function if it does not easily prevent all possible tyrannical outcomes. You can't make that claim about ANY single aspect of the constitution or bill of rights. Shall we chuck the checks and balances, habeas, warrant protection, or even voting. since none of them individually can absolutely stop all "military units"?

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    Your biggest mistake in your assumption "apeshit" is that the bunch of "yahoos" would be opposed by the military in the first place.

    Lefty fools always want to assume big government will be their dog, don't they?

  • KevinP||

    Such a military unit could easily take on yahoos, 10 to 1. EASILY.

    If the UK is about to go full tyrant, there is NOTHING the disarmed citizenry can do to prevent it.

    I agree completely! This is why the Soviet Union won in Afghanistan, and the US won decisively in Vietnam, Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Oh, wait.

    The US currently has 350 million guns distributed among 100 million owners, and nearly all of these are unregistered. This is more than sufficient to start a rebellion. If even 3% of the owners decide to rebel, they outnumber the US military, many of whom will be sympathetic or refuse to attack their own citizens.

    Rifles are no match for a tank or F16, but they are a match for the fuel tankers, crews and other infrastructure necessary to operate tanks and F16s. There will be no Tiananmen Square dramatic standoffs. No rebels will stand in an open field to be run over by a tank or strafed by an F16. They will attack at another weak point and make the tanks and F16s inoperable.

    Civil wars are very nasty things, and as a patriotic American, I never want to see my country go through this. But as the Founders intended, this is is what keeps the government honest. It is ironic that the same crowd that calls Trump a Nazi dictator also wants to disarm the public so that the dictator can have his way.

  • markm23||

    Small arms can be pretty effective at fighting a tyrannical government, if you can fight a guerrilla war in that government's support area. In Iraq and Afghanistan, we used aircraft, drones, and armored vehicles. This required the supply of huge amounts of fuel, ammo, and spare parts. It required many mechanics to keep the machines working, as well as the men to operate them. It also required troops to guard those men so they could get their jobs done (and sleep now and then). All of those men required food, ammo, transportation, and hundreds of other items. All that stuff was made back here where there was no war to disrupt production.

    Try running a factory when rebels can cut your power lines, hijack the trucks bringing parts, and scare off your employees – those that didn't quit anyway when they found out which side they were making stuff for. Try refining some jet fuel with snipers anywhere within 2 miles. And try to take a convoy deep into farm territory, find where the farmers stashed their grain, fill up your trucks, and make it back with the food. You may also find your drone pilots distracted when they find they can't step out of the building without drawing sniper fire.

  • markm23||

    Continued:
    Not that it's easy to fight a guerrilla war even when your source of supply is secure - ask any of our guys who fought in Vietnam, Iraq, or Afghanistan. But with a secure supply base, a conventional military can beat guerrillas, if it's willing to endure the losses. And to do whatever is required to defeat the hostile civilian population - which may include war crimes or even genocide. Across thousands of miles and many different conquered cultures, Genghis Khan had no trouble with guerrillas - not once it was known that the response was to kill _everyone_ in the vicinity, and make sure they were dead by building a pyramid of severed heads. Cromwell faced guerrilla war in Ireland for a little while, but it ended when it became clear that he considered exterminating the Irish and repopulating with Scots to be an acceptable solution. The "troubles" started up again once civilization reached the English and they would only hang hundreds, rather than slaughtering whole towns. But note that neither the Mongol hordes nor Cromwell's troops relied upon the conquered population for supplies.

    The only way to carry on with a war when your own supply sources are rebelling against you is to get weapons, food, uniforms, etc., from foreign sources, and you'd better hope they like you enough to either give you the materiel or extend credit.

  • ||

    I'll take a military unit with vastly superior training, command & control, formal hierarchy, intelligence, communications, transportation, logistics, and medical support systems over a bunch of yahoos everyday.

    What I think you meant to say (and that I agree with) is that simply loading the cattle down with rifles doesn't make the pasture secure and pretty much just guarantees that your opposition will be better armed by the time they get to you. That the components of a well regulated militia are as much about social cognizance, situational awareness, personal discipline, and moral diligence as they are about the guns they carry.

    Assuming some manner of economic collapse doesn't coincide with a civilian uprising, a protracted war of attrition against an economically superior (if only popularly or virtually) power like the Cold War or even the Civil War could happen again.

  • ||

    If they met on an open field of battle, then yes.

    But how does the military get supplied? If the soldiers live off base, how do they get to their assigned posts?? By traveling along roads that can be quickly bottled-up by a couple of guys (or gals) with rifles.

  • Echospinner||

    "The guerrilla must move amongst the people as a fish swims in the sea."

    Mao Zedong

  • Longtobefree||

    So a navy?

  • Live Free Or Diet||

    Such a military unit could easily take on yahoos, 10 to 1. EASILY.

    1,200,000 servicemen, plus 800,000 reservists, makes about 2 million under arms. The American Revolution was fought with no more than 3% of the population in the field at one time, which at this point would be about 10,000,000 militiamen. So the "stand-up fight" version would likely hinge on how many servicemen would fight against their countrymen. And how long before they have resupply and new personnel problems?
    Except, of course, that would be the stupid way to do it. You go after the political and intellectual leaders, and announcers.

  • Harvard||

    I can easily imagine 10,000 militiamen in Michigan alone. Most of them capable, nearly all more than willing.

  • Longtobefree||

    Of course you also have to factor in the number of the military who would side with the rebels.
    Then the number of the military who would not side with the rebels, but refuse to violate the law by operating within the US.
    Those remaining, and willing to fight against their own citizens, would be a much smaller number.

  • gaoxiaen||

    Could, maybe. Would is another question.

  • AlmightyJB||

    And to what end?

  • as08112||

    Why would anyone want to fight the military? Many would be on the side of the Constitution.
    You fight the Politicians, Judges, Bureaucrats, Media. The people that can return us to the Constitution.
    Plan, Execute, STFU repeat as needed.
    Only stupid people would fight the military or police, unless they had to.

  • Leslie the Bard||

    What makes you think that none of those "yahoos" aren't current or ex-military?

  • a tandem||

    The Washington Post headline: "American gun ownership drops to lowest in nearly 40 years."

    The Post used for that claim the exact same method (face to face direct question interviews where an surveyor fills out a form with our name on it) that their own wonkblog says have huge, about 50% undercounts on confidential issues. For example in who is gay.

    The claimed the face-to face General Social Survey method is the "gold standard" when all the per reviewed science shows it is the worst method for gauging high privacy sensitive answers.

    The peer reviewed science shows direct questions are useless, and indirect questions show the real trends and most valid approximations totals. Here is the salient direct question that gives you an idea of gun ownership numbers and trends:

    http://assets.pewresearch.org/.....60x367.png

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    The vast majority of "social science research" is junk due to sampling errors, surveyor bias, and inability to replicate, much less predict.

  • a tandem||

    you mean surveying like GSS is junk on this issue. The science on surveying error especially deep undercounts on high privacy related matters is very clear and hardly "junk.".

    for a huge number of people. a kid with a paper badge, banging on the door asking them if there is a gun in the home is no different than the same stranger asking if they keep large amounts of cash at home. that number saying "no" eve though they own a gun has obviously been growing since all modern firearm training says never tell anyone. There is also a pretty good understanding that the demos are also deeply flawed. A 60 year old guy in Montana or Kentucky, who engages in non private social firearms activities like hunting and sport shooting likely has less of a problem saying they have a gun. while younger and wider geographic eg urban and suburban demos, who know more about database hacking, and/or don't have guns for any social activity, but are part of the owing number who own guns strictly for home self defense are going to say "no" in larger numbers

  • SRoach||

    It's a bit of a tangent, but I think most of the objection to guns is from our modern tendency to live on tiny plots within easy reach of virtual strangers. It's easier to trust someone you've known since kindergarten. It's harder to trust the guy you only see in passing, as you both unlock the doors to your neighboring units.
    If people got to know their neighbors more, I think the fear of guns in society, or any other weapons, would decrease.
    (continued)

  • SRoach||

    Of course, then you add the media to that. When a statistically insignificant event occurs in Nowhereville, USA, the whole country hears about it like it happened just down the street. By the end of the news cycle, we've been introduced to the victims and their families, and given intimate looks into their hopes and fears, that we feel we know them. Suddenly, they are not strangers any longer. It's terrible when some deranged individual manages to get his hands on a weapon, and shoots up a school, church, or hospital, but you really need to consider how many schools, churches, and hospitals, weren't shot up today, and realize that these places are still full of strangers, just like the latest tragedy was, until the newscasters gave us the inside scoop on their volunteerism and plans for after high school.
    Consequently, it FEELS like violence is all over the place, but in reality, it's a tiny fraction of a percent, blown out of proportion by a news media that seeks to give us the news, where it happens, when it happens, but is ill-equipped to give us any sense of scale, should they even be inclined to.

  • Quo Usque Tandem||

    Statistics [FBI Uniform Crime Report, CDC] actually show that the country is far less dangerous now than it was 20-30 years ago. In fact homicides are at an all time low not seen in many decades. This in spite of the proliferation of guns including several million ARs and such, and the ability of law abiding citizens to legally carry.

    But then when you point this out it's really obvious that you must hate children.

  • a tandem||

    Indeed. And if you were to point out that the vast majority of murder and violence against children is by prior criminals, mostly with may arrests, and especially prior criminals domiciled within the home you would get blank stares.

    Australia is instructive. We are lectured on how Australia reduced its homicide rate 42% since its 1990's peak because mass gun confiscation. yet the US reduced is homicide rate even to a larger degree (over 50%) from our 1990's peak while vastly increasing firearms (add increasing civilian gun carriers by an order of magnitude)

    Opposite policy on guns, yet both saw hug reductions (Us saw a lager reduction) in violent crime and murder. so one thing we know for sure is Australia's gun control cannot be portrayed as successful whatsoever.

    What did both do that was the same? Both US and Aus. greatly increased incarceration and real prison terms of violent criminals. And that effect on crime is not a correlation with dubious causality, it is documented causative since most murder perps are serious criminals before they commit the murder In fact since US incarceration rates 5 years ago began to slightly drop we saw our first increases in murder in two decades -- exactly in the places that reduced incarceration of violent criminals.

  • ||

    Consequently, it FEELS like violence is all over the place, but in reality, it's a tiny fraction of a percent, blown out of proportion by a news media that seeks to give us the news, where it happens, when it happens, but is ill-equipped to give us any sense of scale, should they even be inclined to.

    If Twitter has taught us anything, it's that the media bears little responsibility doesn't shoulder the entire burden in this regard. They certainly haven't helped things any, but this is more fundamentally socializing. People who lose friends and family want to share their grief with you and want you to empathize. And the people who think/thought that telepathy would unify humanity and bring harmony to mankind didn't imagine the psychic storms we would unleash on each other.

  • a tandem||

    The more media you consume the more likely you are to think US gun murder has risen the past generation, which is an inversion of the central objective metric.

    US gun prevalence does create a lot of criminals killing criminals (well over 90% of US murder), but with millions of crimes prevented by civilian gun owners each year. But if you are not a criminal you are safer from murder victimization risk in the US than Canadians, Austrians and virtually all Europeans.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    US gun prevalence does create a lot of criminals killing criminals (well over 90% of US murder)

    Source? Not because I doubt you, but because I'd like a citation for myself and all the other commenters' purposes.

  • a tandem||

    Baltimorestudies as citied in USA today
    https://tinyurl.com/ycye6eu6

    97% of murder perps there have criminal history 91% of victims do.

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Thank you. If you happen to come back here again, do you also have a source for the "80% have 10 or more arrests or a felony in their background" bit you mentioned higher up the threads? I didn't see that in this link, and if true then that's arguably more relevant to the pro-gun argument, since 1 arrest might just be a marijuana possession charge or something similarly minor, but 10 arrests is a little more illustrative.

  • DaveSs||

    I don't know as I would say 90%, but likely between 50 and 75%.

  • a tandem||

    Another from the USA today series
    https://tinyurl.com/y7cmlqu

    In Milwaukee, local leaders created the homicide commission after a spike in violence led to a 39% increase in murders in 2005. The group compiled statistics on victims' criminal histories for the first time and found that 77% of homicide victims in the past two years had an average of nearly 12 arrests.

    I'll try and scare up more. John Jay school of criminology used to have a trove of this data but it is increasing politically incorrect. The 80% with many arrests or a felony was Louisiana data,

    I want to be careful myself with self precipitation on the 90%. A person with one arrest maybe someone who has committed dozens of crimes and arrested for one or maybe someone who was at the wrong place at the wrong time. But a person who has 12 arrests is very likely engaged in regular criminal activity -- like as a job.

  • a tandem||

    I don't know as I would say 90%, but likely between 50 and 75%.

    I am just going with the numbers that are available. It is one of the ironies of the CDC whining, they for years had the ability to look at it, including today and will not. They probly could even look at juvenile records of juvenile victims but you can be certain they will never do that.

    In fact there is a lot of blowback now about police departments publishing or even collecting this data. people are using the analogy of "victim blaming" and sexual assault.

    This is not the same thing. Dressing or acting in a sexual provocative way is not a crime. Rape victims don't as a rule cause their victimization. But dealing drugs, being in a gang, robbing places, assaulting people, engaging in turf wars, stealing from drug suppliers, are crimes. Even more correct analogies would be considering smoking history in lung cancer victims, or proior moving violations among drivers who die in accidents. That is entirely valid.

    1) the largest data set is some criminal record ~90%
    2) many many arrests or a felony ~75% to 80%? (not paying your drug supplier, being a member of a gang)
    3) the third set would be the 25% of murder victims, established peer reivwed study, who initiate physical assault on their killers -- ie assaulting the perpetrator and doing so first. (Wagner 1958 and 1967)
    4) actual justifiable homide found at trial or determed as likely justified by prosecutors : 0.5% -3%??

  • Telcontar the Wanderer||

    Thanks again. A single gun rights advocate who relies on statistics and logic is worth more than a hundred mall-ninjas yelling "libturd".

  • Echospinner||

    You are right on both accounts. I think it is because the human fear response is not rational. It is adrenal, pituitary, and other places in the brain and body but not much to do with higher reasoning.

    People may fear guns but with just a few experiences the brain soon learns that although powerful this is something I can actually control. Like learning anything that you are afraid of at first, swimming, riding a bicycle, or driving a car.

    The second point is the reaction when you hear about these mass shootings. I think it is a different fear. Even if you are not at all afraid of a gun you fear a maniac killer. They are not doing something anyone rational can comprehend. More important internally it could have been you or yours killed.

    People try to rationalize. It is a normal defense mechanism to keep from going batshit. You try to find a way to understand and protect even if it makes no sense on a statistical basis.

    The media is not the cause. The problem is more existential.

    Where is my inner libertarian in all that? I really do not know.

  • Peacedog||

    Armed populations do a good job of frustrating attempts to control them with an exception.

    The exception being when a group wants to kill everyone versus control them. Then it comes down to who has the most power.

    I saw that play out in Colombia when the FARC slaughter pro-government villagers hundreds at a time. ISIS in Iraq is a recent example. The non-Sunni groups were armed. ISIS wiped them out.

    If the lef gets the civil insurrection they've been looking for since at least the 1930s, expect it to be a conflict of annihilation. But the DoD sits it out PLA style as in the Cultural Revolution. The ironic part is that the urban dwellers pushing this crap will be the first to get killed off. Historically, the armed folk in the countryside win, if the army sits it out, if they are fighting urban dwellers. At least we'll never have to deal with Brooklyn hipsters again.

    I sincerely hope it doesn't come to it. But Reagan made a huge mistake when he blinked and refused to clear the universities out in the 1980s. A couple of generations of college students have been radicalized. They took the urban centers, the universities and the media. And media is agitating hard for this to happen.

    Societies don't function without common belief systems. Without that, it all devolves into a competition for power and that means violence.

    Having seen this cycle of stupidity play before the third world, it concerns me and any number of my friends who are in the conflict prevention business.

  • a tandem||

    Historically, the armed folk in the countryside win,

    GSS survey raw data shows Washington DC has a 0.3% gun ownership rate at end 2016. Actual legal gun ownership is was at end 2016 about .8% . The British Medical Journal's peer reviewed "Injury prevention" journal published study shows DC has an 25.9% individual gun ownership rate (translated to about 44% of households in DC having guns ).
    injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/ early/2015/06/09/injuryprev-2015-041586 (remove the spaces)

    Gun possession arrest rates show this comes to 47% of Washington DC male residents owning firearms -- (virtually all illegally).

    so it depends on whether local urban governments care about imprisoning illegal gun owners caught committing gun crimes at rates sufficient to cause nay deterrence (which DC own numbers show they do not nearly)

  • Peacedog||

    A tandem,

    Those are some good numbers. I would argue that a significant percentage of those gun owners would probably self segregate before things went hot.

    I truly hope none of this transpires. That said, the pieces are on the board just like they were in the 1960s/early 70s. Hopefully society will figure it out.

    Also consider that inner city urban dwellers largely don't serve in the military without a draft. The balance of how to fight people is most definitely in rural areas.

  • vek||

    Honestly I hardly even care at this point. The leftists have become too insane, and unless they get slapped down HARD to the point where they dare not even speak their leftist drivel in public, this country is screwed. We need that hard of a cultural shift if we're going to pull America out. The only other option is collapse. So if we can't peacefully make them terrified of opening their mouths and pushing for insane leftist crap, then violence beats the alternative... Especially since the left is guaranteed to lose given how the deck is stacked against them in every single way in the USA.

    In short I don't WANT a civil war, but I'd take a civil war before ceding the country to the left, or letting it just completely collapse in on itself from lack of being able to institute the changes needed due to the left fighting them. Letting the British shit all over them would have been a less violent and less costly option too back in 1776, but I'm sure as hell glad the Founders decided to take the hard road that had better long term potential.

  • Jima||

    Seems like the trick for government is to limit ammo access. Guns without ammo are just unwieldy clubs. My advice is to make sure you have a good supply of ammo in your possession at all times. That's your duty as an American. Then your weapons matter. I am 100% pro gun ownership, but have always wondered why the fascists on the left haven't attacked ammo instead of guns? My opinion is if you don't have a few thousand rounds on hand, you're ill equipped to deal with the necessary defense of your second amendment rights. And ill equipped to keep the government at heel.

  • Longtobefree||

    Look around. Review the massive federal ammo purchases lately, and calculate if they were for 'legitimate' uses, or to reduce the civilian inventory.

  • vek||

    They're tried a couple times, but all the proposed laws are so ridiculous they've never been able to pass, even in Democratic states. But I'd still be looking to see California or NY pass one any time now! IIRC Cali was talking about needing to pass a background check TO BUY AMMO, and also limiting the number of rounds you could buy at one time to something insanely low.

  • kcuch||

    your weapons and ammo come from your freshly killed enemy lying around you, used expeditiously, and then dropped.

  • Longtobefree||

    Even the U.S. military adds only another 4,5000,000 firearms to the equation (not counting heavy weapons).

    But you always have to count heavy weapons.
    During the last numbered war, 85% of all casualties were inflicted by crew-served weapons.

  • Peacedog||

    True, but also keep in mind that the majority of US casualties in Afghanistan are currently the result of IEDs.

    I couldn't imagine the nightmare of running a convoy thru Oklahoma surrounded by pissed off farmers whose families have been in every US war going back to WWI.

    Between the fuel oil bombs, bronze plate devices and sniper fire no one would make back in one piece.

  • as08112||

    Who they going to aim them at?

  • LEAPGuyAZ||

    I live in a very rural area where it can take 45 minutes to an hour for police or EMS to arrive. Think about what could happen in 45 minutes? That's why I have a gun....

  • vek||

    Good!

    It's unfortunate ownership rates are so low in most other countries, but Europe and the Anglosphere are not quite as disarmed as people in the USA think they are. I would imagine they hopefully used "good numbers" and the totals they quote are about right, but I have seem some crazy figures for the number of illegally owned guns in places like Germany and the UK.

  • tlapp||

    This article is the happy thought of the day.

    Molon Labe

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online