Category Archives: Philosophy

Guns Don’t Kill People, People Kill People?

spartan117gw_gun_vs_sword

I’ve heard or seen this cliché forever and never gave it much thought until now. I’ve generally thought to myself, “That may be true to some degree, but guns increase people’s capacity or ability to kill.” When I see the cliché mentioned online, I often see talk that people would be killed in alternative ways (knives, bombs) if guns were banned and links to random crimes where 7 people were stabbed to death. Now, I’m going to present an absurdity I heard in class. Let’s replace guns in the cliché with lawnmowers.

Lawnmowers don’t mow lawns, people mow lawns.

This statement is true in the same way the titular statement is. It is true that the lawnmower would mow no lawn if a person was not involved. But, how much lawn would someone with the intent to mow a lawn be able to mow without a lawnmower? Probably .01% of the amount? Just as lawnmowers increase people’s ability to mow lawns, guns increase people’s ability to kill other people. Think about it this way…

Let us suppose I am out on the street with the intent to kill someone in front of me that is equal in size. These are some ad hoc guesses of mine.

Probability I kill them with my bare hands – 1%
Probability I kill them with a knife – 20%
Probability I kill them with a gun – 95%

These probabilities will decrease exponentially if I want to kill two people or more with my bare hands or a knife (fighting two people is hard), but decline only slightly with a gun.

Probability I kill two people with my bare hands – .1%
Probability I kill two people with a knife – 2%
Probability I kill two people with a gun – 90%

It gets to a point that only guns can kill in large numbers

Probability I kill ten people with my bare hands – 0%
Probability I kill ten people with a knife – .01%
Probability I kill ten people with a gun – 40%

But, besides this point, guns’ probabilities don’t waver between people of different means as much. This is an example…

Probability I kill someone who weighs 50 pounds more than me with my bare hands – -10% (they kill me instead)
Probability I kill someone who weighs 50 pounds more than me with a knife – 5%
Probability I kill someone who weighs 50 pounds more than me with a gun – 92%

Guns relax constraints on who can kill and raises their ability to kill. I could go on…