Why Does the U.S. Have So Much Gun Violence? The Reality Is Complex

COMMENTARY Firearms

Why Does the U.S. Have So Much Gun Violence? The Reality Is Complex

Mar 31st, 2021 1 min read
COMMENTARY BY
Amy Swearer

Legal Fellow, Meese Center

Amy is a legal fellow in the Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies.
Gun instructor Mike Stilwell demonstrates with a revolver for a class to obtain the Utah concealed gun carry permit on January 9, 2016 in Springville, Utah. George Frey / Getty Images

Key Takeaways

The question is too narrowly phrased for any answer to reflect a full and fair picture of gun violence in the United States.

Our overall suicide rate is comparable to—and even lower than—that of many other countries with far more restrictive gun laws.

Rates of gun crime and gun homicide remain much lower today than in the early 1990s, despite the presence of far more guns per capita.

The question is too narrowly phrased for any answer to reflect a full and fair picture of gun violence in the United States.

Legal context is important. The U.S. Constitution protects an individual right of American civilians to keep and bear arms, while other nations consider it a mere privilege subject to the government’s good graces and arbitrary whims. Our government is largely prohibited from enacting the types of restrictive, burdensome gun laws imposed in other countries.

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Still, the reality is more complex than “more guns mean more overall death.” As just one example, Americans are far more likely to kill themselves with firearms than are their European counterparts, but our overall suicide rate is comparable to—and even lower than—that of many other countries with far more restrictive gun laws.

Some historical perspective is also warranted. We experienced an unprecedented spike in gun violence during 2020. But the evidence suggests this was due largely to COVID-19-related societal stressors and abrupt changes in policing practices, not rising gun sales. Rates of gun crime and gun homicide remain much lower today than in the early 1990s, despite the presence of far more guns per capita and loosened restrictions on public carry in many states.

Read the full opinion piece here

This piece originally appeared in Deseret News