by Peter Franklin
Wednesday, 25
May 2022
Debate
11:45

Progressives have made gun control harder

The Left's disregard for law and order damaged the cause of reform
by Peter Franklin
Credit: Getty

Every murder is a unique tragedy — and yet there’s something horribly familiar about the headlines this morning. “Texas shooting: 19 children among dead in primary school attack” is the BBC’s top story today; but it probably won’t be long before we’re reading about a similar event — with only the precise location and casualty count changing.

We can also expect the follow-up stories to run their usual course: Firstly, the big picture statistics on gun violence and mass shootings in the US. Then the impassioned calls for gun reform from the Democrats — plus some defensive mumbling from the Republicans. Finally, after the initial shock has worn-off, we’ll get the fatalistic op-eds arguing that America’s gun culture will never change. 


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But is that really true? Last month — in the wake of another mass shooting (this one on a New York subway train) — the BBC published a feature entitled “America’s gun culture — in seven charts”. Some of these make the point that the US really is an outlier among western nations. For instance, while gun-related killings account for 79% of American homicides, the equivalent proportions are 37% in Canada, 13% in Australia and just 4% in the UK. Combine that with a comparison of overall homicide rates and it really does seem that America is gun-crazy.

And yet another chart, based on Gallup polling, shows a decade-long increase in US voter support for gun control. While around half were in favour of stricter laws in 2008, that had risen to two-thirds in 2018.  Spurred by atrocities like the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in 2012 and the Charleston church shooting in 2015, it really did seem as if a head of steam was building up for change.

Credit: BBC

However, over the last couple of years, support for stricter laws has fallen-off again. Indeed support for a ban on all handguns, except those carried by the police and other authorised persons, has hit a record low. 

What explains this very recent change in public opinion? One factor looms large — the surge in violent crime that took place in 2020 and which has yet to subside. According to official figures analysed by the Manhattan Institute, “America’s homicide rate increased by an astonishing 30%, even as many less serious types of crime held steady or even declined.”

Credit: Manhattan Institute

The authors point out that the divergence from 2019 began before the George Floyd protests and riots, but widened afterwards. 

It’s difficult to prove a direct causal link between the sudden increase in criminal violence and the sudden decline in support for gun control; but it doesn’t seem likely that the progressive call to “defund the police” was the best way of persuading citizens to disarm themselves.

Of course, no one is more to blame for America’s insanely lax gun laws than the gun lobby and their Republican allies. Nevertheless, in showing such disregard for law and order, their progressive opponents have damaged the cause of reform.

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Sisyphus Jones
Sisyphus Jones
6 months ago

Of course, no one is more to blame for America’s insanely lax gun laws than the gun lobby and their Republican allies.

“The gun lobby”? Pete, go work at Starbucks or something. That’s the kind of cosmically obtuse statement that one expects from the NYT not Unherd.

I think Pete accidentally stumbles upon the real impediment to real solutions: leftists fulminating facile bulls*** as if they aren’t the problem. I don’t know how the Uvalde shooter got his hands on the guns, but in too many instances the problem has been local law enforcement, the FBI, and the background check process that has failed. The Buffalo shooter was held on suspicion of planning a mass shooting a year ago yet was still able to purchase a firearm after that. Which agency – which agent – was too lazy to file the proper paper work so that he would be flagged when he tried to buy a gun? That’s the dude whose a** I wanna kick. We have gun laws. We also have layers of bureaucracy insulating agents from culpability when they aren’t enforced.

Neil McNab
Neil McNab
6 months ago
Reply to  Sisyphus Jones

Meaning leftists ARE the problem? But then you go on to slam law enforcement. Was the snipe at the left just reflexive then?

Dominic A
Dominic A
6 months ago
Reply to  Neil McNab

Neil, don’t expect addicts to add up. They will try to justify or deny anything that gets in the way of their emotional crutch.

Mikey Mike
Mikey Mike
5 months ago
Reply to  Neil McNab

Yeah, definitely reflexive. But, there is little doubt in my mind that on the issue of guns (very much like on the issue of illegal immigration) the Democrats have a lot more to gain politically by not solving the problem (nor participating in the search for solutions) because that would mean forfeiting a well-worn cudgel.
I’m not sure how you read my criticism of the bureauracy which makes the communication between agencies exquisitely inept as a criticism of law enforcement.

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
6 months ago

Takes the number of gun deaths in the US
Strip away suicides, even though they are close to 55-60% of those deaths, because we don’t care about those deaths
Strip out murders in certain crime infested black majority cities and a couple of states, because raising questions would be racist.

When you are done, homicide rates in the US are far below genuinely violent countries, and maybe twice the level of countries in West Europe that have among the lowest homicide rates among large countries.

And the attention is all in school shootings – a small % of deaths, and invariably done by psychopaths who were clearly dangerous and should not have allowed to buy guns even in the US, under existing laws

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
6 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

all true above, but how does a democracy identify a potential psychopath before they commit an atrocity?

Samir Iker
Samir Iker
6 months ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

I think in at least one the recent cases of not more: behaviour patterns, outbursts, threats, open admission of intent online.

Dominic A
Dominic A
6 months ago
Reply to  Samir Iker

So many ways to be wrong:
US homicide rate (2019) = 5 per 100k pop. 41% of perps were white = 2.05 per 100k. Homicides in Switzerland 0.5 per 100k. Homicide by white Americans is 4 x higher in the US than in Switzerland.
You don’t care about suicides? Charming. Actually not so much sociopathic, but ignorant. Anyone can bottom out into suicidal thoughts, the great majority who fail in an attempt do not ultimately go on to be successful – ie they change their minds. Moreover the data is clear that the easier suicide is (access to guns, gas, pills) the higher the rate.
Actually, we can and do talk about race and crime. Yes, there are many so-woke-they’re-asleep people around these days, ‘anti-racism’ is often racism, but don’t over-extend this issue. We can say, because it is true, that socio-economic class is the best predictor of violence, crime, homicide. By factoring out black people in the US, you are saying ‘lets remove a huge chunk of Americas lower/under class (ie the group that does the most crime) and then compare it with the whole of Switz’. Sloppy. Try getting that through a peer review. BTW – ‘Samir Iker’ – makes me wonder what your ethnic background is and where this would place you in the socio-economic class of a typical developed country, and how you would feel about being pigeon-holed in this way.

Finally, 85% of the World’s school shootings occur in the US, which has 4% of the World’s population. A school child is 160x more likely to be killed in the States that in the World generally. You say that the killers should not have been allowed to acquire the guns legally in the US – but 85% did –

https://www.statista.com/statistics/476461/mass-shootings-in-the-us-by-legality-of-shooters-weapons/

R Wright
R Wright
6 months ago

The real issue isn’t about guns, it’s about the demographics of those using the guns. White Americans with guns commit crimes with guns not much more than the Swiss. The U.S media focus tends to be on these horrifying individual events while ignoring inner city drive bys. At the bare minimum they didn’t get the opportunity to crow about white supremacists because nearly everyone involved in the shooting here is non-white, including the gunman.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
6 months ago
Reply to  R Wright

I don’t follow mass media news, but the one article that I did read about this incident failed to mention the race or ethnicity of the shooter. Therefore, I assume he was a “person of color”. Otherwise, the left’s lynch mob would be summoned into action.

R Wright
R Wright
6 months ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

I can’t imagine there are many KKK members called Salvador Ramos living on the Mexican border, but with American politics being the way it is it probably would not surprise me that much.

Warren Trees
Warren Trees
6 months ago

That little, inconvenient amendment in our constitution, usually referred to as the Second Amendment, is the differentiator in the U.S. This has nothing to do with more gun laws. You can pass another billion gun laws and murders will still take place on the streets. Freedom has a price.
As long as criminals know they won’t be charged or incarcerated, why bother adhering to the law?

Dominic A
Dominic A
6 months ago
Reply to  Warren Trees

Is that the same 2nd amendment that allows for guns specifically as part of a ‘well regulated militia’? How’s that going?
Freedom has a price.
As long as criminals know they won’t be charged or incarcerated, why bother adhering to the law?
Cringeworthy. The USA actually does not score well on freedom indices, and those countries that do better all have much stronger gun regulation. People adhere to the law for many reasons – mostly because they are moral and know right from wrong (America clearly has a deep problem here – more ‘Do what thou wilt’, than Christian). Deterrence is a weak, but necessary factor, and gun ownership, despite superficial appeal is not effective overall –
https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/more-guns-do-not-stop-more-crimes-evidence-shows/
Newsflash – America’s peers – similarly developed countries – do not particularly regard the US as free or safe, and the stats, polling bears this out. I would wager that they are can also see clearly that America has a perverse fetish for guns – little to do with true freedom or protection, or hunting – and to indulge that, they will tolerate killings on a scale unknown to other developed countries.

David Kingsworthy
David Kingsworthy
6 months ago

I’ve been red-pilled recently from the woke/liberal mind-virus, but I can’t imagine that I would change my views that our gun laws and culture are problematic and ultimately are to blame for incidents like this. Strictly speaking guns aren’t to blame, but we know people are even now plotting some kind of massacre, easy access to guns means their plan can succeed. Unless we drastically restrict gun proliferation, these shootings will continue to happen.

Neil McNab
Neil McNab
6 months ago

Next you’ll be repeating the absurdity that “whole cities were burned down by antifa”.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
6 months ago

Why do they need ‘assault’ guns?

Dominic A
Dominic A
6 months ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Because it puts lead in the pencil of emotionally weak people.

Richard Abbot
Richard Abbot
6 months ago

Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. Nothing can really change until we address the darkness that lives in peoples hearts. Banning guns will stop gun violence, but it won’t stop all violence because the root cause – darkness in the heart – will find another way.
Progressives make everything worse. Their ‘kindness’ and ‘tolerance’ blinds them to the true nature of the human condition. They think that people are made by their environment, whereas the truth is that the environment is made by people.

Andrew D
Andrew D
6 months ago
Reply to  Richard Abbot

Why then should there apparently be so much more darkness in American hearts?
Banning (or controlling) guns won’t of course stop all violence, but it will reduce it (or reduce its effects). Was it really the wish of the founding fathers that 18-year-olds should have free rein to go into schools and massacre children?

Last edited 6 months ago by Andrew D
Richard Abbot
Richard Abbot
5 months ago
Reply to  Andrew D

But is there really more darkness in American hearts? A quick view around the world and its history suggests not.

Thomas Hutcheson
Thomas Hutcheson
6 months ago

Uh, What is the evidence for “progressives” showing “disregard for law and order?” Would the author be able to name one and cite their disregard? Progressives as a group do have lots of silly ideas (opposition to taxation of net [email protected] emissions is my favorite example) but disregard for law and order is not one of them.
My guess about the decline in support for gun safety is the increase in homicides, which in my hometown of Washington DC has led the mayor to propose increasing the police force.

L R
L R
3 months ago

I really don’t know where you have been.
The whole destructive “defund the police” movement, along with the basic okaying of the (“mostly peaceful”) violent rioting, murders of 2020, which allowed the criminally minded to feel emboldened. The basic “sainthood” of George Floyd.
The destruction of historical art/statues. The violent protests at Berkeley Calif. to prevent Milo Stephanopolous from speaking. No cash bails, allowing violent criminals, and even pedophiles out on the streets. The basically porous southern border, treating the border patrol like cr*p. Allowing the empowering of cartels, child traffickers, illegals who are criminally minded into our country.
These are all so called, “progressive” ideas, and values.
They certainly aren’t even moderate, or conservative.

Pete Williams
Pete Williams
6 months ago

How can anyone suggest that the gun laws in the US, which are the ONLY reason there are so many guns in private hands, and the ONLY reason that a nut job was able to buy an assault rifle on his 18th birthday, are NOT TO BLAME FOR 19 DEAD SCHOOLKIDS?
Sure the nut job 18 year old pulled the trigger, but if he can’t get his hand on the guns then 19 school kids go home alive.
Am I failing to understand the nuances of lunatics committing mass murder with weapons of war?

Last edited 6 months ago by Pete Williams
Dominic A
Dominic A
6 months ago
Reply to  Pete Williams

The answer is that such people are addicts, and like the traditional drug addict, they wheedle, prevaricate, deny, threaten, diminish anything and anyone who gets in the way of their supply.

L R
L R
3 months ago
Reply to  Dominic A

There are definitely laws, and red flags that should be in place, and paid attention to so murderous nutcases hell bent on going into schools can’t so easily get a hold of a gun.
All the kids, and other innocents getting murdered in the ghettos though gets ignored.
I think there are plenty of gun advocates that are quite sane, and have protected innocent lives too. Check out, “Blackgunsmatter”.