We here at TJP.com are extremely reluctant to wade into the debate about gun policy that’s taking place after this tragic event. In private discourse, our impression is that anyone who wants to have a conversation about guns right now doesn’t really want to have a conversation about guns. People on both side of this issue are reacting reflexively and emotionally. That’s understandable, but still unfortunate. So we’re not going to voice our (generally pro-gun) opinions here. But here are some facts that thoughtful analysts of the issue should not neglect:
- Your odds of being killed in a mass shooting are roughly similar to your odds of getting struck by lightning.
- Data on legitimate defensive use of firearms in the U.S. is an area of hot debate. However, even the most critical analysts agree that law-abiding citizens use firearms for legitimate self-defense thousands — if not hundreds of thousands — of times each year.
- Connecticut already has a state-level assault weapons ban. The school in which the Newtown shooting occurred was a “gun free school zone.”
- Academic and government research repeatedly found no evidence that previous assault weapon bans reduced crime.
- The vast majority of mass killers since 1982 have targeted places in which firearm possession was prohibited.
- In the past 20 years, crime in the United States has receded to levels not seen since the 1960’s.
- Meaningful data on historic rates and types of firearm ownership for periods before 2001 appears elusive. (Please point us to anything we missed.) However, by some measures, sales of firearms in the U.S. appear to have increased dramatically over the last 20 years. For instance, NICS background checks, which must be conducted at the sale of a gun by a federally-licensed dealer, have increased about 58% from 1999 (the first full year in which background checks were required) to 2011 (the last full year of data). Since the relevant law was enacted, over 130 million background checks have been conducted. This suggest a roughly similar number of firearm sales, as fewer than 1% of background checks result in denial.