If there were no guns

It’s common for ignorant people to claim society would be better off if there were no guns in the hands of private citizens and some go so far as to say no guns at all. We then frequently explain young, large, thugs would run roughshod over the small, old, and docile. But I think a stronger case may be made by regressing only as far as the iron or bronze age rather than an age before tools.

One of the more recent genocides was largely committed by people with machetes, clubs, blunt objects and other weapons. It is easily demonstrated no guns are needed for mass murder.

It is said one man with a gun can control a hundred without one. But the odds are probably not much different for one well trained man with a bronze sword and shield.

If the next mass murdering nut job really wanted to get notoriety they would use a sword and shield. I wouldn’t be surprised if they couldn’t get an even higher body count because they would be much quieter than those who would use a gun. And never forget that you never need to reload your sword. Swords, for all practical purposes, have an infinite capacity compared to any firearm.

Taking this even further we realize that one, fit, and well trained swordsman is probably the equal of a half dozen or more weak, poorly trained swordsman. Strength, endurance, and training matter more with primitive weapons than with firearms. Firearms are a great equalizer. One elderly, frail, person with minimal firearms training has a decent chance against a couple of thugs, even with guns, as they attempt to invade a home.

Because of this great equalization power it dramatically reduces the need for thuggish “protectors” for the less strong. Dealing with others of near equal power then becomes a process of reason rather than an exhibition of force. The more equal the power the more important the ability to convince and reason with others. It is my belief that those that would have us disarmed do so because of their frustration at being unable to reason well. They long to be in a position to force us to their will. It is in their nature.

Because of this change from a society of force to a society of reason one could, and should, go so far as to say the gun is civilization. Those who claim “civilized countries” are disarmed have it exactly backward.


27 thoughts on “If there were no guns

  1. I wonder if the overall homicide rates of culturally and economically similar nations like Australia, England and Canada offer any evidence about the effect of gun availability compared to America.

    • All three of the countries mentioned are quite different culturally than America is. America is much more diverse.

      • If we plotted the world’s nations on a chart with dimensions for culture and economy, the three I listed would be among the closest to America if not the closest.

        • No sir. Neither have fraction of the diversity in their population that we do. The black and hispanic communities are both under 5% in both Canada and the UK. In most cases considerably under. Blacks here are over 13% and hispanics are at least 16%.

          Both of those populations make up a huge percentage of the murders and crime committed in this country. Those numbers reflect the types of numbers we see in the parts of the world that they come from.

          Those numbers may sound racist to you, but they are not intended to be. They are simply factual. There are huge numbers of other issues such as fatherless households and amount and density of urban areas that fall into play as well. We take in more immigrants than the rest of the world combined. That has both advantages and disadvantages. Unfortunately sometimes it makes us more comparable to third world countries than those that you picked.

          • Economics are objective but culture can be quibbled, I guess. In simple terms, I would think those countries where my day-to-day life would be most similar to what it is here are most culturally similar.

            Perhaps you can just say which nations you do think are most culturally similar to ours.

    • In England and Australia, gun bans a decade or so ago caused crime to go up significantly.

      • There was a brief increase in Australian violent crime after 1996. It was temporary and never more than a fraction (about 25%) of the American rate so perhaps “up significantly” exaggerates things a bit.

        In any case, I think the real question is whether those with homicidal intent are deterred by weapons restrictions. It’s a good question. What do the data say? A plot of Australian homicide and suicide rates from 1968 to 2006 both with and without gun use is instructive.* Take a look.
        * American Law and Economics Review, “Do Gun Buybacks Save Lives?” (fig 1.): http://andrewleigh.org/pdf/GunBuyback_Panel.pdf

        • I’m not sure what that is telling me. The fact that the title is a blatant lie makes me suspicious of the whole article.

    • Interesting question. I think in many ways America is indeed unique. There are other culturally diverse countries and some are more successful than others, but no other countries that I can think of have anything similar to the same mix we do.

      I believe that you are looking for a place to make statistical comparisons. Everyone loves to do so but the problem of most societal comparisons is that the data has to be rubbed in order to make it fit. I’m distrustful of data manipulation regardless of the motivations for doing so. I will say that as much as possible, I tend to compare raw data and when I look at our standing in the world, I do not restrict the data set. I compare to all countries, and I look at the total of suicides and of homicides rather than just looking at those done with or without guns. We are in the top 50 for suicides and number around 110 in rank for homicides.

  2. I am reminded of the History of Okinawin Martial Arts, where the Japanese had Disarmed their Subjects to thepoint that there was only ONE Meat Cleaver allowed per Village, and that was Chained up to a Chopping Block in the Village Center.

    The Native Okinawans, however, developed other Tools into Weapons, i.e., Rice Grinder Handles into Tonfas, Fishing Tridents into Sais, and Rice Flails into Nunchuckus. Plus there was a Strong Emphasis of learning Clandestine Hand-to-Hand Combat Techniques designed to go after the Samurais.

    Free People ALWAYS find a way.

  3. You still can’t outlaw chemistry.
    I can take urine and combine it with straw to make sodium nitrate and potassium nitrate. I then take the resulting slurry and combine it with sulfuric acid, which can be bought at any automotive store, in the form of battery acid. (Alternatively, drain the acid out of a few car batteries.) Distill the mixture to get nitric acid.
    Combine with ammonia, and you get ammonium nitrate. (Steps omitted because I am not giving a course in bomb making here)
    Combine that with fuel oil, and you have the same explosive as McVeigh used to blow up the OKC Fed building, and no one can trace or prevent it.

    There is no way to stop serial killers who are determined to kill. Outlawing guns won’t do it, and the powers that be know it. They are manipulating the sheep.

    • See also http://thehomegunsmith.com — a British website whose author was persecuted by the authorities for publishing what he did. (Always remember that most western countries do not have free speech, in spite of what you may be told. Nor do they have limited governments. There’s a connection…)

  4. I’m reminded of a poster, might have been by Oleg Volk, with a caption along the lines of “I remember a movie about a country where only the government had guns. The title? Schindler’s List.”

  5. Heck, you don’t even need weapons. The Soviets and the Chinese communists did a great job of denying food harvesting or transportation and thus starving millions. On a personal level an SOB could easily do damage with a fire accelerant like gasoline. So, the whole “control the gun availability to average citizens” theme to reduce crime and murders is flawed from the outset.

    What does work? Letting people be armed and it discourages bad behavior from the criminals and the government (but I repeat myself).

  6. What’s all this about guns, chemistry, gasoline, swords, knives, and farm implements? One does not need even those hard-to-make things to murder. How many did the Green River Killer kill? If I remember correctly, whatever the number, he murdered every one of them with a piece of cord, sometimes as puny as a shoelace.

    • I don’t think there’s any question about the possibility of murder by a wide range of mechanisms. The blog post seems to touch on the more nuanced issue of whether homicide rates are unrelated to weapon effectiveness.

      Some mechanisms are harder to employ than others. If the easiest are restricted, does the homicide rate decline? The post suggests “no” as if killers always have sufficient time and motivation to employ harder means as necessary. Is that what the data say?

  7. People who post such things need to explain why the Assyrians, Romans, Mongols and similar societies weren’t peaceful. I’m pretty sure none of them had guns, but they conquered other societies anyway.

    Funny how that worked.

  8. Pingback: Four of the best comments on the Oregon campus shooting | The Zelman Partisans

  9. The three worst mass murders (as opposed to mass shootings) in recent U.S. history are the Happy Land Night Club arson (three times the death toll of the worst mass shooting, Virginia Tech), the aforementioned Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, and 9-11.
    Nary a gun in sight.

    • That is a good point. After we outlaw arson, hijacking and fertilizer bombs, we should turn our attention to whatever is the next most common mechanism of mass murder.

      • One of my concerns is that if we were to be able somehow to restrict firearms to avert these tragedies that we would find people using more lethal means. My guess is that the number of instances would be lower, but the total could well be more deadly.

  10. To all the firearms hoplophobes look to human history and think on this. “Those who do possess swords can still die upon them” Eowyn daughter Eomund of Rohan. The killing will continue, it is not the tool that kills it is the person.

  11. Firearms are fundamentally different — and, unless access is sharply limited, fundamentally more democratic — than weapons that rely on purely human strength and require extensive training. A good swordsman requires years of training — and a pikeman (the “low skill” level of a human-powered army) is next to useless solo; you need lots of them.

    Even a little reduction in level of strength and training (and cost of the weapons system) makes a huge difference — it is no real surprise that modern democracy emerges in the shadow of the longbow and crossbow in Britain and Switzerland.

    Those who want to get rid of private arms long, at some unconscious level, for a return to feudalism, with themselves in the castle, eating well and handing out enlightened orders to the lower classes.

    The critical question is not “how many persons can be controlled by someone armed with X” but “how will any one person control people who are themselves armed with powerful, (relatively) easily-learned weapons?” The answer is “they can’t.”

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