Are You Willing?

Another day, another shooting. Another blog post about gun control? No. It is an issue that has already been exhausted. Nobody needs to read another post that will not change any mind or create a truly civilized debate. Those who like firearms are opposed to at least one form of gun control, namely banning all guns. On the other side, those who do not like guns absolutely love gun control. This will never change. If you are interested in the troubles with academic studies relating to crime, keep reading. Otherwise, skip the next paragraph.


Part of the issue is that both ends of this debate are able to quote an Ivy League sponsored study to prove their point. However, as any academic will acknowledge, it is very easy to scrutinize research. There are issues that arise with faulty assumptions, biased data, and weak conclusions. This is especially true for matters relating to crime. Crime tends to fluctuate year to year. In the United States crime rates have been trending down for many years. For this reason, most crime-related studies performed by economists employ what is a called a “difference in differences” model. In this statistical analysis, the effect of a treatment (or an independent variable, such as background checks for firearms) is measured based on some outcome (the dependent variable, such as violent crime rates or homicide) by comparing the average rates over time. For example, if violent crime, without gun control, decreased by an average of 5% three years in a row and the next year with gun control resulted in a decrease of 6%, one might conclude that gun control was successful. The only problem is the author is assuming those four years are nearly identical. Economic troubles, societal issues, and policy changes all are able to change crime rates. What if the year with gun control in effect also had an unrelated economic boom? Wouldn’t it more likely that a thriving economy, not gun control, was the main reason for the lower crime?

There is an overlooked aspect of the gun debate that needs to be discussed. For the record, despite living in Maine, I did not grow up with guns. I have never been shooting or hunting in my entire life with the exception of a single time going to the rifle range at scout camp. It has never been my cup of tea, or can of vanilla coke, or a container of an unoffensive beverage. I have many close friends I trust who do have guns. This is not meant as a bash against gun owners. That being said, it has occurred to me that those who have guns primarily for self-defense by definition indicate they are more willing to shoot someone compared to those who do not have guns. Now make sure that sentence was read carefully. Those with guns are more willing to shoot someone. More willing, not more likely. Obviously, gun owners are more likely to fire their weapon because they have a gun and non gun owners do not have a gun, but there is an important distinction between willing and likely. I personally do not feel comfortable pulling the trigger. I am not willing to pull the trigger.

In Alma we learn that there were a group of Lamanites who laid down their weapons of war and took “an oath that they never would shed blood more” (Alma 53:11). Those people were willing to institute a form of weapon control. Of course those people later faced a serious crisis as another group (probably more like a nation) sought to invade with those same weapons. Today most people in the world live in a country with a military designed to protect itself against potential threats. The invasion scenario in Alma is unlikely to happen in the United States.

Forget about background checks, high capacity clips, or assault weapons. What if everybody was willing to lay down their weapons of war? Regardless of your opinion on gun control, I think most would agree that a place with no weapons is safer than a community with every weapon. That can only happen if we are willing. After a massacre, Australia was willing. The United Kingdom was willing after a tragic school shooting. What about you? Are you willing?



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