Rather than re-hash all the general arguments for and against gun control, I am interested in people's personal experiences/views about whether gun control laws would make them feel more or less safe.

Here are a couple of studies on the topic that I found interesting:

1) Would banning firearms reduce murder and suicide?

Two example findings:

Murder rates in Russia (where firearms are banned) are higher than the US.
Murder rates in Norway (32% home gun ownership) are much lower than the US.

These findings lead to the hypothesis that other factors (e.g. culture) have an important part to play alongside gun control (seems to make sense).

2) Firearm Legislation and Firearm-Related Fatalities in the United St...

Indicates that the strictness of firearm legislation in US states is negatively correlated with firearm fatalities, both for homicides and suicides.

This study is interesting because it is more of a like-for-like comparison. I understand that the states in America have their own "sub-culture" but it seems likely that they are more similar to each other
than America is to, say, Norway or Russia.

The issue is of course not straightforward but, as I say, I am interested in people's personal views of their own safety.

I live in the UK and I am personally in favour of gun control laws. I understand the argument that people who don't obey laws won't obey gun control laws either. Obviously whatever you do there will still be
people who get hold of guns. However I would not feel safer having more guns around generally. I have heard people say that once someone has trespassed on your land they are "fair game" but I wholeheartedly do not agree with this. They have certainly broken the law but I do not automatically consider them to then be a valid target for gunfire. If someone breaks into my house to steal my TV I will try my best to stop them but I absolutely do not want to shoot them for this. Without training I am highly likely to maim or kill them by hot-headedly firing off a gun. The thief may be just some 19 year old kid who's gone off the rails a bit rather than a hardened criminal.

I concede that I have always lived in an environment where crime is low and this may bias my view which is why I am interested in other's experiences. Maybe someone's story will affect my views on it.

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Hi Simon,
I grew up where there's a huge gun/murder/violence/crime problem. The ability to get a firearm is shockingly easy. The problem was always the culture, and the people who carry them.

There are legitimate reasons for owning a firearm. I can tell you of two anecdotal stories, (which are obviously not based in science)...

Some people I know got licensed to carry a firearm because their son got into drugs, started owing people money, and one day the gang showed up at their house with a gun to his mother's face asking of his whereabouts. This is an elderly couple both in delicate health. So they went to classes and learned how to use a gun.

A girl I know feared for her life because in a swift change in the law in our state recently allowed the man who stalked and raped her and beat her, and who WANTED to kill her...they let him out of prison early. He is 6'4 over 200 lbs. She is under 5'0 and 100 pounds soaking wet. She carries a pistol.

If I did not have a child, I too would own a gun. The one thing that I know is clear is that guns are dangerous to the kids who find them. I have reason to carry a gun as well, but I have chosen instead to carry mace and a security whistle at ALL times. It is something anyway...
Hi Belle. I can sympathise with the two examples you've given. I'm not against gun ownership per se, my concern is guns in the hands of untrained people. Perhaps in cases where there is a specific threat, such as your examples, there is a case for special dispensation for the vulnerable person to own (and be trained in the use of) a gun.

In the last year I've read about gun ownership in many countries and I've seen many statistics (such as the ones you've given) though in most cases I've noticed that it is rather difficult to compare the rate of gun ownership and death or serious injury without taking into account the prevalence of gun ownership, the kinds of guns owned, prevalence of strict training and safe storage, frequency of use of weapons by law enforcement as well as the consequences of gun ownership other than murder.There are also violent shootings without death (involving life long crippling injuries), gun misfire, menacing intimidation (I clearly have a gun next to me and you have nothing), fatalities and injuries due to children playing with weapons, police over zealously shooting suspect who even appears to have a gun (due to easy and open access in some states) etc.

Statistics about gun ownership in different countries are also difficult to compare because in some countries concealed handguns by the average citizen is totally illegal. This is in contrast to those in some states in the US where one can keep a concealed weapon with them at most times in public or have quick and easy access to a handgun in their home.

Some countries place rather strict limits on ownership while some States in the US place next to no limits. In most western countries it is rather difficult to obtain a gun. Semi automatic and automatic weapons are completely banned in most of Europe. In several European countries one has to submit a good reason to want to own a handgun to an authority or judge, pass psychological profiling, take a gun ownership and safety course, have a safe to store the gun, pass a test at a firing range every year, reapply for the licence every year as well as pass unannounced inspections from the government once a year. This contrasts markedly with some states in the US where anyone can virtually walk into a store, buy a gun and walk around with it openly holstered on their hip.

These statistics don't take into account illegal gun ownership and how seriously law enforcement attempt to curb such ownership, gun smuggling and gun confiscation.

These statistics also don't take into account the prevalence of use of guns by law enforcement. Police in Iceland have fired guns at suspects a handful of times in modern history and only one person has died due to police firing a gun at a suspect. Both the police and citizens were shocked and were deeply disturbed that someone died by gunshot by a figure of authority. It is a small country with the population about half that of the District of Columbia -(where someone is fatally shot by the police every month and where a police officer dies in the line of duty once a week). The police in some states in the U.S. show a propensity to use guns with far less restraint than in other states (influenced perhaps by the fact that many suspects may carry concealed weapons).

These statistics also don't take into account (or it cannot be easily compared with the statistics from other countries) of how many firearms are hunting riffles. The extent of gun ownership in most Nordic countries (Canada, Scandinavia and even Russia) is mostly limited to hunting riffles, isolated to and stored in rural and country homes and cottages and not carried (concealed or openly) in urban settings.

These statistics also don't take into account the prevalence of gun ownership by those who have been in law-enforcement or the armed forces and have had rigorous training in the use of and safe storage of guns. In Switzerland gun ownership is high and most gun owners have fulfilled military duty in their young adulthood having learnt strict use, maintenance and storage of firearms.

I've searched the internet and academic journals for a metaanalysis of gun ownership and gun deaths in various countries taking into account these various factors. If anyone knows of one please give me a link or the name of the publication.

@Davis: that's why the culture has everything to do with gun related deaths and violence. Places like this you need a gun to protect yourself.

The issue is very complex and you're right to raise all the factors you mention. I was particularly interested in the point about young people having done military service and therefore being competent with firearms. I hadn't considered that. I too searched for a meta-analysis and came up empty handed which I was surprised about.

Ideally no one should ever have to fear for their safety. But that will never ever happen. So I believe that people should be able to own a weapon to defend themselves. In America, the state regulates production, transactions, ownership, and use. More uniformity and clarity in these laws would be nice. I think there can be a logical method for determining the needs of an individual and the dangers of a gun. Clip size, barrel length, rate of fire etc. All the various factors, some seemingly extraneous and none of the consistent, should be compiled by people who are experts in guns and gun crime to establish guidelines on what a "personal defense weapon" is and what an "assault weapon" It's not always clear and some of the dichotomies that non-gun owners make are ridiculous, but if guns are going to be legal at all (which I think they should be) it's a line that needs to be drawn right through that gray area. The important thing is to be educated about guns themselves not just the crime. Gun activists mock gun control advocate's ignorance of a weapon's actual performance and their apparent focus on a "scary looking military-style assault rifle" when the physical appearance of a gun is rarely indicative of fire power

On the issue of the legality of guns in the first place, I'll say this: I own a gun. I own a gun to defend myself but more importantly I own it to defend the person I love. Hell, I even owned a gun in Japan where guns are essentially illegal. Technically you could acquire one for sport shooting after going through a long licensing process but everyone knows that if you need a piece in a hurry, you find a Yakuza. Now admittedly they've fallen on some hard times of late but if you can find a guy he can hook you up. I've never had to shoot anyone but there were a couple nights that I was glad I had it with me. And yes Japan has very low gun ownership and very low crime rates but I'd wager that the numbers aren't 100% accurate. Suicide is so high that when someone goes missing, it's assumed that they killed themselves. But all and all Japan is an example of a place where gun control works pretty well. But that's actually one of the few reasons I don't like the country. At the end of the day it comes down to differing principles. Then again, I'll just get whatever guns I feel like getting, regardless of the law, so I guess it doesn't matter much to me

"more importantly I own it to defend the person I love"

This is a noble reason to wish to own a gun. I actually understand the need for a gun in an environment where it is very likely you will encounter someone who is going to do you serious harm. I'm thinking of places like Johannesburg. In the UK, for example, most of the time it is unlikely you will be in this situation. Would you still keep a gun in this environment, and if everyone did do you think that would make things safer? You can probably tell that I do not. This is because you've suddenly got everyone within arms reach of a weapon that can do serious damage (whether you mean it to or not). If everyone behaved responsibly with this weapon then there would be no problem, but people will not. They will be scared, full of bravado, etc.

I would still want a gun on me in the UK. Do I think everyone would be safer if everyone had a gun? Well...no, probably not actually. That might make me selfish but I guess I never outgrew the fighter mentality. If you had asked me 10 years ago if I'd carry a gun for protection I would have said no, but 10 years ago my life was peaches and roses. My gun makes me feel like I have a little more control of a situation than if I didn't. I'm not a person who feels "naked" without my gun (but I do feel naked without my knife) I just feel a bit safer knowing its there. I've lived around dangerous people and I handled it by making sure I was more dangerous. Now that may not be the most ethical way to live so I would never suggest basing a state policy on it.

Thank-you for the honesty of your reply. I hope you never have need of your gun.

The National Rifle Association presents itself as advocating for the little guy and protecting the 2nd Amendment rights of average citizens.  In actuality, their real purpose is to represent gun manufacturers and increase gun sales.  Every time there is a school shooting or some psychopath shoots up a movie theater, the NRA is out front saying Obama is coming to take your guns away, and gun/ammunition sales skyrocket. 

That being said, I live in a fairly rural area with my wife and young son, and older parents next door.  The cops don't show up to prevent crimes or catch criminals in the act.  They show up to fill out a report after the fact, and if you're lucky, gather evidence for an investigation.  We sometimes have bold home invasions, robberies, and burglaries in the area.  We have meth labs in the area, and you never know who may come knocking on your door, or kick it in.  How do you know if it's some 19 y.o. kid who's gone off the rails a bit or some 19 y.o. who is psychotic from being up on meth for a week or some 19 y.o. wannabe hardened criminal who would just as soon not leave any witnesses? 

I'm not "into guns" like some who live near me, but I have a handgun and a shotgun.  I guess I think it's better to have one and not need it than to need one and not have it.

I agree with you about the NRA. They always seem to have something a bit nefarious about them even when purporting to represent people's rights.

I can relate to the idea of protecting your family. I have two young children and I'm sure my feelings about gun ownership would change if I lived somewhere where they were likely to be in danger. However, like with many things, I'm not sure these personal feelings should be transferred to policy (the point Cato made above). It's similar for me to capital punishment. If someone were to kill a member of my family I would probably feel like killing them in return. However, when considering this from a position of detachment I am not in favour of sanctioning capital punishment as government policy.

"I'm not "into guns" like some who live near me, but I have a handgun and a shotgun"

I think this statement sums up the difference between America and the UK. In the UK it is unthinkable that a civilian would own a handgun and a shotgun apart from two situations:

1) They are a hardened criminal (as opposed to a petty criminal).

2) They shoot pheasant and other rural wildlife and their family has done for about 500 years.

(apologies if you do not live in America - I made an assumption).

Reminds me of the gun-toter's mantra:  When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.

Folks around here target practice on a regular basis.  More days than not, you can hear gunshots from my house.  My nearest neighbor is about 200 yards away and they shoot every weekend, which ticks me off regularly.  But folks around here hunt year-round for whatever is in season.  They are into guns.  I don't hunt.  The shotgun was a gift from my father-in-law who is also not a hunter or into guns.  He inherited it from his father who hunted.  My guns stay in a closet and I don't even think about them except to periodically check they are where and how I left them.  Please don't think all gun owners are tobacco-spitting rednecks, gang thugs, or militia/survivalists.  Right now guns are everywhere; I don't think we are going to get that genie back in the bottle.  But if our society decides guns are no longer permitted, I will give mine up.  Until then, I won't be the only one without one.


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