One of the most important pieces ever posted at Politico Magazine was written on January 14 by Evan DeFilippis and Devan Hughes. Titled The Myth Behind Defensive Gun Ownership, it’s worth revisiting again:
What do these and so many other cases have in common? They are the byproduct of a tragic myth: that millions of gun owners successfully use their firearms to defend themselves and their families from criminals. Despite having nearly no academic support in public health literature, this myth is the single largest motivation behind gun ownership. It traces its origin to a two-decade-old series of surveys that, despite being thoroughly repudiated at the time, persists in influencing personal safety decisions and public policy throughout the United States.
There is nothing beyond anecdotal evidence and one very flawed study suggesting that defensive use of firearms has benefits that outweigh the obvious societal drawbacks. The conclusion to the article needs to be ingrained into the DNA of the gun control debate:
The myth of widespread defensive gun use is at the heart of the push to weaken already near catatonic laws controlling the use of guns and expand where good guys can carry guns to bars, houses of worship and college campuses—all in the mistaken belief that more “good guys with guns” will help stop the “bad guys.” As Wayne LaPierre of the NRA railed in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun, is a good guy with a gun.”
But the evidence clearly shows that our lax gun laws and increased gun ownership, spurred on by this myth, do not help “good guys with guns” defend themselves, their families or our society. Instead, they are aiding and abetting criminals by providing them with more guns, with 200,000 already stolen on an annual basis. And more guns means more homicides. More suicides. More dead men, women and children. Not fewer.
In the latest mass shooting in Oregon, of course, the “good guy with a gun” hypothesis fell on its face. Just as the potential “good guy with a gun” in the Gaby Giffords shooting came very close to firing on the wrong man and thankfully kept his weapon in check, an armed veteran in Oregon also wisely chose not to fire his gun lest he cause greater danger to himself and others.
There is no reason to believe that guns serve much if any social benefit beyond a few news stories now and again that are massively promoted by the gun lobby to further entrench the myth of effective self-defense.
Comedian Jim Jefferies also exploded the “self-defense” myth in a blisteringly funny and effective 3-minute bit:
But sadly, the same false arguments will continue to be used by gun proponents, in the same way that false arguments about climate change, taxes and abortion are consistently used no matter how often they’re debunked. The American right has gone so far off the rails that reality is no longer a relevant boundary on discussion. As with supply-side economics, the benefits of gun culture are taken not on evidence but on almost cultic faith by the right wing and its adherents.