Is The NRA Right? Should More Americans Carry Guns?


Radical Muslims and home-grown nut cakes have once again brought the gun debate to the fore. All guns used in recent events were legally purchased. And this plays right into the NRA’s rhetoric:

  • Block further gun regulations and
  • Argue that regulations won’t work: the solution is for more Americans to carry guns.

The NRA Solution

As abhorrent the NRA “solution” might sound to some, I ask the following: in Paris, if 50% of the Bataclan theater-goers had been carrying guns, would the outcome have been different? I think so. There were 1,500 in attendance and 3 terrorists. And sure, the 3 terrorists had automatic weapons, but against 750 guns? The odds were not quite as good in San Bernardino – 80 party attendees vs. 2 terrorists – but they were still overwhelming: the results would have been fewer partygoer deaths and quite likely, the terrorists would not have gotten out of the building alive.

The logic here is quite compelling. And if I wanted to go to a concert and was concerned about mass shootings/terrorists, my preference would be a Texas concert hall. Why? Because while 33% of American households own guns, 44% of Texan households do. You might respond: “but even in Texas, most gun owners will not take their guns to a concert.” Probably not. But mass shooters don’t know this.

Unintended Consequences 

Of course, more gun owners will mean more homicides, suicides and gun accidents. Gun homicides probably won’t grow much as a result of more households having guns. For as the NRA has reported, people who want to kill have no problems getting guns now. Gun suicides, now just over 20,000 might grow, but until physician-assisted suicides are legal, some will have no problem with more suicides by gun. But there are also gun “accidents.”

Gun “Accidents”

Guns are dangerous and accidents will happen. So far in 2015, there have been 1,817 accidental gun deaths. The more guns, the more accidents. A small sampling gives a sense of recent senseless tragedies:

  • An argument between two children over puppies turned tragic when an 11-year-old boy killed his 8-year-old neighbor with a shotgun. Each of the children had a puppy, and the 11-year-old “wanted to see the 8-year-old’s puppy. She said no. The boy fired a 12-gauge shotgun from inside his house, striking the girl as she stood in her yard. The gun, which was stored in a closet without locks, belonged to the boy’s father.
  • A 2-year-old toddler, sitting in a shopping cart in an Idaho Wal-Mart, found a gun in his mother’s purse and fired it at his mother. She died at the scene. A policeman was asked why the woman might have felt the need to go armed to the Wal-Mart. His response: “It’s pretty common around here – a lot of people carry loaded guns.”
  • In Arizona, A firing-range instructor was shot to death by a 9-year-old girl with an Uzi machine gun. Her parents apparently wanted their daughter to learn how to handle a submachine gun. When she squeezed the trigger, the instructor died from a bullet shot to his head.
  • A Utah man threatened his teenage daughter with a rifle during an argument that began over a game of Battleship. The 68-year-old man accused her of cheating. The girl tried to leave the trailer where they were playing, but the man dragged her back by her hair and pointed the loaded rifle at her head. She called 911 from a cell phone and escaped from the trailer after deputies arrived. The father was arrested on suspicion of intoxication, aggravated assault and other charges. This could have been much worse.

The Balance

The NRA recommends more American to own guns to thwart the terrorists and nut cakes that shoot people. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there were 12,574 gun murders and another 1,602 accidental gun deaths in 2014. These numbers will undoubtedly go up if Americans carry more guns. Against these costs, there might be fewer mass shootings. How many less? There are several mass shooting databases. All of them define mass shootings as ones where 2 people or more die. Shooting Tracker has recorded 383 mass shooting deaths in 2014. So far in 2015, it has counted 462. But its database includes all shootings where 2 or more die. Most of these deaths are the result of domestic issues occurring in the home. Stanford also has a database on mass shootings. It has recorded 176 mass shootings for 2015. However, Stanford also reports on the type of guns used. Using the Stanford gun categories, the guns most likely to be used in non-domestic mass shootings are rifles (25 deaths), shotguns (13 deaths) and multiple guns (33) totaling only 71.


 The media’s 24-hour coverage of recent terrorist shootings has Americans worried. In actual fact, there are very few mass shootings that are not of a domestic nature. If more Americans had guns, there would be more in-family killings and accidents. It is near certain that these deaths would far outweigh any reduction in mass shootings coming from more Americans owning guns to protect themselves from terrorists.

Post Script on Profiling

Profiling can be an extremely effective method in the identification of dangerous people. There appears to be an interesting inconsistency on profiling views amongst Americans. When it comes to blacks, profiling is not supposed to be done. And this is the case even though blacks at 13% of the US population commit 37% of all murders. In contrast, the American people have no problem with profiling Muslims who have been involved in a very small share of mass shootings….

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