So, this is about the reality of guns as a means of obtaining security in day to day life. It was inspired by this article which is about buying single shot guns.
First, we have to think about what security is. For the purpose of this piece, security is something that reduces your chance of dieing, being injured, and losing possessions, in that order. So, do guns help in these three categories? I am also going to introduce two seperate areas, inside the home and outside the home (as inside the home a gun can be stored, outside the home it needs to be carried).
The most common scenario for inside the home that people talk about is a burglary. The burglar enters the home, you get your gun and shoot the burglar before they can harm your family. The only problem is that almost never is what happens. Most of the time, you hear a burglar, you turn on the light or get out of bed, they hear you and they run the fuck away. This is out of fear. It happens in places with strict gun control and places with no gun control, but more often in places with gun control (I will go into the reason for that later). The fear is predominantly of the police, but also of the homeowner. Most burglars are not hardened violent people (there are easier ways to make money if you are inclined to violence), but are trying to get money easily. It is far, far easier to just move on to the next house and try that one. In fact, most burglars are addicts or new to the criminal world (usually young people, also often addicts). Most burglars are at, or near, the bottom of the criminal food chain and very, very poor. The main way they are able to get their hands on guns is if the owner of the gun has left the gun in their home while out and the burglar manages to steal it while burgling the house. Most of the time the burglar will then sell the gun to buy drugs, but hey, they might actually try and mug someone, but it is far more likely that if they use the gun they will shoot another criminal with it. Then, after they use the gun, they will probably sell if for money to buy drugs. The end result? The gun enters the criminal economy for far less than a smuggled gun from an arms dealer would fetch. In this scenario the gun made all of society a bit less secure. On a final note: the odds that you will be killed in a burglary attempt are way, way higher if you draw a gun. The burglar then has to use force, since you threatened their life. They might have a stolen gun on them, or maybe they have a knife. Maybe they grab one of the member of your family to block your shot, maybe you are too close and they take your gun. Fact is, you are just as likely to lose stuff if you draw a gun, and way more likely to die or lose a family member.
Okay, what about a home invasion? Has a home invasion ever been stopped by a gun? I can’t think of an instance, but it is a big world. In real life, in the time it takes you to get the gun you could have called the police. Criminals who are doing a home invasion can’t give you the time to call the police, so they also don’t give you the time to get a gun. Usually in a home invasion the criminals get someone to open the door and then move in very, very quickly. Often the gun they use was actually stolen by an addict in a burglary and then sold for drugs really cheap). The invaders will make sure that there are a small number of people in the house (one or two) and that they know the location of those people. If you do manage to draw a gun, odds are good the criminal will shoot you before you shoot them. Again, guns reduce survivability for the homeowner.
The final scenario is a rapist who makes their way into the home. This would be the only situation where I personally would want a gun, but again it probably won’t help the situation. If a woman is attacked by a rapist while in her house, she is probably either dating the rapist (invited him in) and thus is far from a weapon or asleep, so also doesn’t have a weapon in hand (and rapists who break into homes to commit rape are incredibly rare). A good course in Wen-Do or the ability to keep your head is far more likely to be useful than a gun. If you are a family member of a potential victim and you stuble onto the scene, it is almost unthinkable that a single rapist would not flee as soon as you arrived. You might be able to catch them, but that is when people get hurt the worst. If it is a group, well, that just doesn’t happen. A group of guys don’t break into a family home and start to rape one member of the family without securing the rest of the family. Now, I would want to shoot someone who was raping someone I loved, I freely admit that, but I would prefer to make sure that person was safe and not being raped than get revenge on their assailant. As an aside, I actually did know someone who surprised a group in the process of attempting to rape his fiancé and had a gun on him. He did shoot one of them, not fatally. All of them were in the process of fleeing before he even had his gun in his hand, but he certainly doesn’t regret having shot one of them. It just didn’t make things any safer.
So for the home, so far the gun is a bust in terms of improving safety of people and things. On the flip side, having a gun in the house can be dangerous. Children sometimes shoot themselves and each other, both by accident and on purpose but without fully realizing the consequences of their actions. This happens even in houses where the children have been given strict safety lessons, where the guns and ammo are locked up in separate places, where every precaution has been taken. It is far, far more common than the incredibly rare case where a burglar (or group of burglars) break into the house and the gun saves people. Long guns are less likely to cause an accident than handguns however, and are arguably better for home defence.
Now we leave the home. The assumption is that walking around with a gun prevents you from getting mugged, raped on the street, killed for you shoes, etc. Does this assumption hold up to the real world? Again, not even close. A mugger doesn’t usually give you the chance to get a weapon, and may kill you if you even look like you are reaching for one. I know of one mugger who would dress well, stick to nicer parts of town, and hit his victims over the head with a ball peen hammer from behind. A mugger might bring a knife to your throat from behind and hit you once you handed over you wallet, to give them time to flee. The only time a mugger really has a gun (because guns cost money, and if you are mugging people you are probably a dirt broke addict – who would sell a gun to get drugs) is if they steal one from someone who they just hit over the head with a ball peen hammer, so they are unconcious and not able to resist the mugger.
Actually everything there applies to almost every kind of street encounter. There is almost no situation where the type of criminal who attacks random strangers is going to be affected by a gun. From all of the dealing I have had with criminals, there was not a single instance where the possibility of the victim carrying a gun factored in. The only place I can see the value of a gun as a deterrent is in the case of a car jacking, where you can probably get your hands on the gun without being detected. Even so, keeping your windows rolled up, your doors locked, and not going stupidly slow in bad areas are probably a lot more useful.
The final reason often cited for owning a gun is the ability to resist the government. I think that the day of resisting a national government effectively with the kind of guns you can get are long, long over. It seems that fighting a force equipped with bunker buster bombs, F16’s, main battle tanks and nuclear warheads is far less dependent on owning a log of guns, and far more on being smarter, more dedicated, and more willing to die. A motivated population with no access to guns will craft IED’s and send suicide bombers against the government. One without the popular support will try to do those things and fail. In no case will the legal right to own a gun change the outcome of this struggle.
This article doesn’t touch on the idea of guns as hunting or survival implements, a role that I think they fill well (although if you have read my site at any length you already know that I don’t include sport hunting in that equation…) and I am in favour of long gun ownership, but I simply cannot make a case for civilian ownership of handguns.