8 Common Myths About Gun Control And Mass Shootings, Debunked

America saw its deadliest mass shooting in history early Sunday morning when Omar Mateen allegedly killed 49 people and injured 53 at a gay nightclub in Orlando. While Donald Trump and other Republican leaders have been quick to fixate on Mateen’s ethnic identity rather than the direct attack on the LGBTQ community, the fact remains that Mateen legally purchased guns the week before he claimed almost 50 lives Sunday. Mateen legally purchased firearms despite a record of domestic violence and the fact that he was previously investigated by the FBI for terrorist ties. To anyone with just a grain of common sense, this is indicative of a need for serious reform of current regulations on purchasing guns in America, yet inaccurate myths about gun control and mass shootings remain all too prevalent.

You know the myths — the ones your great uncle touts at Thanksgiving when the issue of guns inevitably comes up, despite promising yourself you’d skirt over all religious and political issues. The ones Second Amendment-loving politicians endlessly explain when defending easy access to deadly weapons. The ones meant to justify America’s lax requirements that allow almost anyone to own a gun.

Here’s just a few of these myths (which you’ve probably heard spewed by either Trump or some obnoxious Trump supporter you’re unfortunately Facebook friends with) and the facts you need to know about each.

1. Gun control regulations don’t decrease mass shootings.

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CREDIT: Scott Olson/Getty Images

But actually, they do. This may come as a shock, but mass shootings and gun violence are, as Vox points out, a uniquely American problem. In fact, industrialized nations around the world collectively gawk at America’s obsession with and tendency to romanticize and glorify gun ownership. America’s gun homicide rate is nearly six times more than the gun homicide rate in Canada, more than seven times the rate of Sweden, and 16 times the rate of Germany, according to U.N. data.

In Australia, when lawmakers actually did something in response to a deadly mass shooting in 1996, gun-related homicide rates literally dropped by 42 percent, and their buyback program, which confiscated about 650,000 guns, was correlated with drops in homicide rates as well. According to IZA researchers, the confiscation of 3,500 guns per 100,000 people was associated with up to a 50 percent drop in homicide rates.

Meanwhile, background checks, waiting periods, safety training, and restrictions on assault rifles literally made for mass killing have all been connected with lower rates of gun-related homicide and suicide in America and around the world. Let’s take a chance here.

2. The solution is arming good guys to fight the bad guys.

This is probably the most common, and the most short-sighted, ignorant, and immature of all the myths that exist about guns and gun violence, and, oh boy, are there a lot of myths out there. First things first, it’s difficult to believe the solution to gun violence is more guns, given the strong correlation between gun ownership and gun violence.

More firearms consistently equate higher rates of homicides. Additionally, let’s take a minute to consider the overall danger of arming the ill-prepared or emotionally unstable (let alone arming as many of them as possible) and horrifying statistics about rates of accidental gun deaths involving children. In December, a retired army sergeant point blank called the “good guy with a gun” theory delusional and derived from a “fantasy world,” and I don’t know about you, but his experience makes this insight pretty credible to me.

3. But gun ownership is all about self-defense and security!

Is it though? As Australian comedian Jim Jefferies pointed out not too long ago, our culture’s collective fascination and obsession lies not with secure doors or padlocks or home security systems, but guns. “You have guns because you like guns! That’s why you go to gun conventions; that’s why you read gun magazines,” Jefferies said. “None of you give a shit about home security. None of you go to home security conventions. None of you read Padlock Monthly. None of you have a Facebook picture of you behind a secure door.”

And it’s difficult for me to believe that keeping one’s family safe is really the concern here when accidents involving children and guns are disturbingly common. In the same vein, I don’t think you need assault rifles or military grade weapons to protect your family from a burglar most likely just there to steal your TV. As a whole, I cannot stress this enough: more guns, more gun violence. Period.

4. Guns don’t kill people; people kill people.

Guns Sales Rise As Fear That Obama Will Change Gun Laws Persists
CREDIT: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

No, a gun lying alone in the middle of nowhere isn’t going to kill anyone. By themselves, guns don’t kill people — but people with both violent intentions and easy minimal obstacles to purchasing firearms do.

5. Knives and cars kill people too. Why not ban those?

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CREDIT: Cameron Spencer/Getty Images

People cook with knives and travel with cars. Meanwhile, I defy you to name a purpose of guns other than killing.

6. The real problem here is mental health.

No one’s saying the government shouldn’t invest more in treatment for mental health issues. But it’s ridiculous that according to one survey, 63 percent of Americans blame mental health for gun violence rather than guns.

According to one 2015 study, “eliminating the effects of mental illness” would reduce gun violence by a mere 4 percent, and between 2001 and 2010, only 5 percent of gun homicides were committed by individuals diagnosed with some mental illness. The solution here obviously isn’t to further stigmatize a group as harassed, shamed, demonized, and scapegoated as those with mental illness already are.

7. Making something illegal won’t prevent people from doing it.

As any pot-smoking teen can attest, this might be true, but following this same logic, murder and rape and stealing would be legal, too. It’s true that illegal, under the radar gun sales happen every day and are difficult to prevent, but I don’t see how making legal gun sales more lax will help this either.

In the same vein, I concede more gun control regulations aren’t going to magically eliminate mass shootings and gun violence point blank, but here’s something the pro-gun crowd won’t like to hear: probably the only way to really, really reduce gun violence is to buy back guns from dangerous people who already own them. The whole “they’re coming for our guns!” panic isn’t exactly rooted in truth right now, but I’m just saying, maybe it would be for the greater good if it were.

8. But the Second Amendment protects individuals’ right to bear arms!

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CREDIT: Henry Guttmann/Getty Images

To some extent, that might be true, but let’s take a minute to consider the actual context and meaning of the NRA’s beloved shield. It’s worth noting the amendment explicitly contains the words “well regulated.” As The New Yorker pointed out in October, “If the Founders hadn’t wanted guns to be regulated, and thoroughly, they would not have put the phrase “well regulated” in the amendment.”

In context, the Second Amendment was written while the American Revolution was underway, during a period of unrest in which America was essentially under martial law as it fought with Great Britain. Looking carefully at the amendment and considering the circumstances in which it was written, it pertained more to the assembly of militias for local communities to defend themselves from invading Redcoats than to a 21st century domestic abuser having the right to own an assault rifle.

Further, I leave you with this: the Second Amendment was written at a time when no one would have imagined the sort of mass-killing machines that would be available in the 21st century, one of which was legally sold to a man who went on to murder 49 people and injure 53 early Sunday morning. As slavery and voting rights and segregation should have taught us long ago, as society grows and changes through the centuries, some of its laws should too.