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Respond to gun myths

Dangerous myths are promoted by gun rights advocates and gun manufacturers to promote guns as a means to protecting ourselves and our communities from criminals. In fact the growing presence of guns in our homes, our schools, our places of business and our public places is endangering public safety.
How the gun industry and gun rights proponents create a "Firehose of Falsehood."
"The gun lobby has effectively used a disinformation strategy called a Firehose of Falsehood, a term coined by The RAND Corporation, to achieve substantial success in the judicial system, legislative system, and in shifting public opinion on guns and gun laws. With substantial resources and a multitude of media channels to propagate their message, the gun lobby has successfully drowned out reputable research on firearms with a torrent of falsehoods." - from a recent GVPedia report. Read the full report HERE.

common myths

Myth: More Guns Make Us Safer
This is the most pernicious myth and it takes many forms, e.g. "the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." After several years of record gun sales and expansion of gun rights in states like Ohio, America's gun deaths and gun death rate are getting worse, not better. Despite progress in several states, the latest CDC figures show that in the ten years from 2011 to 2020 gun violence deaths in the US increased by 40% (32,351 to 45,222), and the gun violence rate increased 32% (from 10.38/100k to 13.7/100k). In Ohio gun violence deaths increased by a staggering 44% in the same period (from 1227 to 1,764) while the gun violence death rate increased by 42% (from 10.63/100k to 13.7/100k). Clearly more guns in more places are not making us safer, especially in Ohio where our gun death rate is now 10% above the US average and climbing faster than the US rate. For more data on increasing gun deaths in the US and Ohio, go to our Ohio Data page.



Myth: Guns Don't Kill People; People Kill People
It's sort of true. Guns don't act alone. But it's also true that where there are more guns, more people die from gunfire. And persons with guns can kill more people more quickly and easily than persons without guns. This study (American Journal of Public Health) looked at firearm deaths from 1981 to 2010 and found that from state to state, ​" . . . for each percentage point increase in gun ownership, the firearm homicide rate increased by 0.9%." And the simple and obvious fact that guns make killing much easier is the logic that sensibly leads to banning certain types of weapons designed especially to kill humans quickly and efficiently. e.g. assault-type rifles.

Myth: When We Count Gun Deaths We Should Ignore Suicides

It is certainly true that over 60% of gun deaths are suicides, so it is no surprise that gun rights advocates would like to ignore such a large population of victims (more than 20,000 per year). Their argument typically claims that a suicidal person is going to succeed in killing himself/herself one way or another, so whether they choose to use a gun does not matter. This is false and here is a website (Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health) dedicated to destroying that myth. In short, the means of attempted suicide does matter. Many typical methods of attempted suicide are less than 50% likely to succeed, but firearms have a very high fatality rate and about half of Americans who attempt suicide use a firearm. A person who survives that first suicide attempt is very unlikely to ultimately die from another suicide attempt, so the notion that they will just kill themselves one way or another is not only false it ignores the need to ensure that access to guns is recognized as a very serious contributor to America's suicide crisis.


Myth: Gun Laws Only Affect Law-Abiding Citizens

As this reasoning goes, criminals will not be affected by laws because they simply don't obey laws. It's a clever little turn-of-phrase until you think about it. The same case could be made against any criminal law. The problem with this argument is that there is no substance behind it; it is based on truisms. Of course law-breakers break laws, and of course law-abiding citizens abide by laws. But that doesn't make laws ineffective or pointless. If a law is passed that tells us we cannot legally sell a gun to a person who hasn't passed a background check, then we can only continue to be law-abiding citizens by obeying the law (and thereby also avoid arrest and penalties). A great many guns are sold in private sales without background checks and if the law says to law-abiding gun sellers (the vast majority) that a background check is required, then it will simply be more difficult for a criminal to buy a gun from a law-abiding citizen. Yes, every criminal law is likely to have violators and every law helps define what it means to be a law-abiding citizen. As law-abiding citizens we have learned to live with certain legal restrictions on our behavior and that is part of our responsibility to support a safe and civilized society.


Myth: More Guns Lead to Less Crime
A 2017 study (National Bureau of Economic Research) examined data from 1977 to 2014 and found that states with RTC (right to carry concealed weapons) laws are "associated with higher aggregate violent crime rates, and the size of the deleterious effects that are associated with the passage of RTC laws climbs over time. We estimate that the adoption of RTC laws substantially elevates violent crime rates, but seems to have no impact on property crime and murder rates. Ten years after the adoption of RTC laws, violent crime is estimated to be 13-15% percent higher than it would have been without the RTC law."

Myth: Shooters are Attracted to Gun-Free Zones
This myth is frequently used to attack efforts to keep certain areas free of guns. Yet there is little if any evidence to support the claim. In active shooter and mass shooting situations most attackers have a personal connection to the place they choose for the crime. And those who promote this myth often ignore shootings that occur in places where guns are permitted while claiming gun-free status existed in places where guns were not clearly prohibited. More discussion here.
Note too that a great many workplaces remain gun-free because employers continue to believe that prohibiting firearms contributes to safety. A study cited by Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence found that workplaces that permit guns are five to seven times more likely to experience a worker homicide.

Myth: A Gun in the House Will Keep My Family Safer
Numerous studies have found that a gun in the home increases risks for suicide, unintentional shootings and homicides (especially for women). Examples of such studies are here (University of Pennsylvania), here (Science Daily), here (American Journal of Epidemiology), here (National Center for Biotechnology Information), and here (American Journal of Epidemiology). Another study (National Institutes of Health) found that "guns may be used at least as often by family members to frighten intimates as to thwart crime."

Myth: Guns Make Women Safer One study (Violence Policy Center: When Men Murder Women) found that women are 5 times more likely to be murdered by a husband, partner, or former partner than by a stranger. Another study (National Center for Biotechnology Information) found that the likelihood of female homicide is increased 5-fold if a domestic abuser has access to a gun. And women living in states where guns are more prevalent are nearly 5 times as likely to be killed with a gun according to another study (National Center for Biotechnology Information).

Myth: An Armed Society is a Polite Society
This old saw, attributed to science fiction author Robert Heinlein suggests that carrying weapons leads us to more responsible behavior. Studies are showing the opposite. One study (National Center for Biotechnology Information) found that having a gun in the car is one of several markers "for aggressive and dangerous driver behavior." Another study (BMJ: Injury Prevention) used polling data to examine claims of defensive gun use to determine of those claims were legitimate, concluding ". . . far more survey respondents report having been threatened or intimidated with a gun than having used a gun to protect themselves. A majority of the reported self defense gun uses were rated as probably illegal by a majority of judges."

Myth: Carrying a Gun Makes You Safer
A report in 1997 based on a survey claimed that guns are used approximately 2.5 million times each year to prevent crimes. This report has been widely discredited (examples here and here). A study (National Center for Biotechnology Information) found that in cases of assault an armed victim was 3 to 5 times more likely to be shot or killed than an unarmed victim, and these probabilities held firm even in cases where the victim had the opportunity to resist. In fact right-to-carry laws have been linked to significant increases in aggravated assault: study (Social Science Research Network). And from a National Criminal Justice Reference Service report:

"The data presented in this report indicate that private handgun ownership provides no significant deterrent to burglary and violent crime.  It may, in fact, escalate the severity of the violence if offenders believe they must be more heavily armed than the citizenry. The statistics also showed that the use of a weapon in resistance to a criminal attack usually results in greater probability of bodily injury or death to the victim. Other methods of resistance, such as flight or verbal resistance, were found to be more effective in aborting the crime while having less probability of causing harm or death to the victim. In circumstances where the offender is armed, non-resistance most likely resulted in the minimum amount of harm to the victim. The authors conclude that because of the surprise nature of most violent crime and the fact that it is likely to occur between strangers, it is improbable that the victim would have time to use the handgun in any event. They argue that in light of the risks of handgun ownership - the possibility of escalating the violence of the crime, and the risk of accidents and suicides among family members - other safer methods of crime prevention must be adopted."

Myth: Our Gun Laws (or Lack Thereof) Are the Only Thing Standing Between Us and Tyranny

This claim might be believable if it were not true that our world includes numerous well functioning, safe, and prosperous democracies that all have much stricter gun laws (and far, far fewer people shot) than the U.S. To believe the statement above one must also believe that the US is somehow uniquely prone to tyranny as compared to other democracies, so only in America must citizens arm themselves against their own government and against its armed forces.

Also see our GVP Research page for additional evidence based analyses and studies. 

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