Thankfully, things do seem to be getting better on the overall assault death score. Nonetheless, it's vital to remember that the problem we face is far larger than even the terrible heart rending massacres. The chart below from Keiran Healy includes all assault deaths with gun deaths being a key driver. Of course, guns are not autonomous drones, they don't kill people of their own volition. Instead guns make it easy to kill people.
Ezra Klein has a good round up of facts about gun massacres. Whenever one of these occurs, you see suggestions that the solution is more guns. If that were true, wouldn't the U.S. be safer than other countries because we already have so many guns? Gun massacres, while being increasingly common in the U.S. still make up only a small percentage of the total annual blood toll our gun culture charges. At best, suggestions that we arm everyone would decrease the number of guns massacres while increasing the number of routine assaults which would naturally up the death toll.
But what about Switzerland and Israel?
Ezra Klein: Israel and Switzerland are often mentioned as countries that prove that high rates of gun ownership don’t necessarily lead to high rates of gun crime. In fact, I wrote that on Friday. But you say your research shows that’s not true.
Janet Rosenbaum: First of all, because they don’t have high levels of gun ownership. The gun ownership in Israel and Switzerland has decreased.
For instance, in Israel, they’re very limited in who is able to own a gun. There are only a few tens of thousands of legal guns in Israel, and the only people allowed to own them legally live in the settlements, do business in the settlements, or are in professions at risk of violence.
Both countries require you to have a reason to have a gun. There isn’t this idea that you have a right to a gun. You need a reason. And then you need to go back to the permitting authority every six months or so to assure them the reason is still valid.
The second thing is that there’s this widespread misunderstanding that Israel and Switzerland promote gun ownership. They don’t. Ten years ago, when Israel had the outbreak of violence, there was an expansion of gun ownership, but only to people above a certain rank in the military. There was no sense that having ordinary citizens [carry guns] would make anything safer.
Switzerland has also been moving away from having widespread guns. The laws are done canton by canton, which is like a province. Everyone in Switzerland serves in the army, and the cantons used to let you have the guns at home. They’ve been moving to keeping the guns in depots. That means they’re not in the household, which makes sense because the literature shows us that if the gun is in the household, the risk goes up for everyone in the household.