More Guns Equals Less Crime: A Thought Experiment

Scientists all over the world are in favor of thought experiments as a primary tool for discovery.  In fact, much of what I have read about scientists suggests they don’t use factual scenarios to prepare a printout for what is about our universe.  Instead, they dream and imagine certain possibilities that fit within the constraints or just outside the constraints of what we know, and then attempt to prove these imaginings with science and mathematics.

That being said, I’m taking this concept to task.  There’s a letter to the editor in today’s St. Petersburg Times that’s emblematic of this argument. This issue in particular among social issues is a victim of statistics.  There are plenty of relevant statistics to support either side and unless we want to get through the very arguable territory of what’s the actual cause of drops in crime (cough: Roe V. Wade*), then we’ll simply never see the light at the end of this rhetorical tunnel.

Let’s keep this local.  Imagine your city.  Mine is Tampa.  In scenario A, everyone in Tampa has a pistol on them at all times, with the safety on but a full clip of ammunition.  Everyone knows that everyone has a gun on them at all times.  Admittedly, I don’t think anyone wants to Start Shootin‘. In places like the Ybor City of the early 2000s, the petty theft and crime rate is gone.  Rape does not disappear in the University area because drinking and drugs still exist, those crimes neither go up or down.

Murders made in passion skyrocket.  A husband comes home to discover a cheating wife, instant double homocide – unless in this thought experiment people have sex with their holsters on, in which case accidental shootings shoot for the moon.  Someone cuts you off in traffic, or you get in a stupid accident, there’s a huge possibility for more gun crime there, but I won’t say that it’s inevitable.  Maybe someone will headshot the people who continue to flow through red lights during rush hour (i.e. Fletcher and B. B. Downs).  It’s not all negatives!

People who do commit crimes must all be considered armed and dangerous.  When the police pursue anyone, they will inevitably have to let more people get away.  There’s protocols here that state how police approach gun-toting criminals on the run.  In most cases its more dangerous to chase someone down than to let them get away.  Possibly crime against minors will go up noticeably – assuming you cannot carry until you are 18.  If the age is brought down below 18, then I suggest that crimes committed by teenagers will go up.  They are an impulsive lot.

When the government inevitably falls next week – it’s always just a week around the corner! – there’ll be a melee of biblical proportions to get to be top red neck.  It’s like playing King of the Mountain as a kid, except everyone’s got glocks.

In Scenario B, we have the U.K. Everyone gives up their guns.  Owning a gun is a crime.  All guns are registered and tracked and impossible to differentiate from their source, so using a gun to commit a crime makes it all but assured that you will be caught for it.  Specially trained police forces have access to tactical firearms and are extraordinarily proficient with them.  A few crimes are committed with guns.  Theres a vast black market trade in unregistered firearms that the police have to regularly cope with.  At the end of the day, it’s safe to assume that everyone you meet in a given day is not part of the unlicensed gun trade.  They can’t commit too many crimes, after all, without being busted up by the police.  And at the end of the day, all crime rates, including murder, theft and rape are obscenely lower than in Scenario A.

I invite anyone who has anything else to offer to make their own suggestions of how life would be in Scenarios A and B.  Statistics aren’t welcome.


Steven Dubner’s book Freakonomics proves that the drop in crime experienced during the moral crusades of the 90s is directly linked to removing the ban on abortions.  For further reading.


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