MYTH: The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.
FACT: It just doesn’t work. Columbine High School had an armed deputy sheriff. Virginia Tech had an entire police force, including a SWAT team. At the Tucson shooting, not only was there an armed civilian who failed to stop the shooter, but he almost shot one of the brave unarmed people who tackled and disarmed the shooter. The Fort Hood massacre happened at a military base filled with soldiers. President Reagan and his press secretary Jim Brady were surrounded by armed police and Secret Service, and yet both were shot. Let’s get back to the real debate.

MYTH: Gun laws are an attack on law-abiding citizens.
FACT: You could make that argument against any law. Why not claim we shouldn’t have driver’s licenses because it might lead to bicycling licenses, walking licenses, and the confiscation of cars? All you’re doing is suggesting you can’t find a good argument against the actual proposal. Can we get back to the issue—why do you think we should be selling these guns and magazines to any adult, no questions asked?
Response provided by Progressive Majority at
MYTH: Criminals don’t follow the law.
FACT: One survey asked prison inmates who did not use a gun to carry out their crime why they chose not to: 79 percent chose “get a stiffer sentence” and 59 percent chose “Against the Law.”
Dozens of empirical studies show that stricter gun control laws in the United States lower the rate of gun deaths. International evidence also confirms this point: Gun buy-back programs in Australia, Firearm Certificates in the United Kingdom, and rigorous background checks and licensing procedures in Japan, have all been shown to decrease gun violence.
Contrary to the gun lobby’s claim that “when guns are outlawed, only the outlaws have guns,” the experience in both Great Britain and Japan has instead been “When guns are outlawed, very few outlaws will have guns.” Indeed, gun crime in Japan and England is virtually nonexistent compared to American standards. In fact, 60% of the time when a “firearm” is used in England, the firearm is a dummy replica or a bluff.
Adapted from
MYTH: Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.
FACT: Guns may not kill people, but people with guns do, and they do so more frequently and more efficiently than people without guns. In five areas: suicides, accidental deaths, domestic violence, domestic homicide, and international homicide, the relationship between guns and death is consistent and robust across time and location.
Compared to other high-income countries, for example, the United States has a firearm homicide rate that is 6.9 times higher than other high-income countries, a firearm suicide rate that is 5.8 times higher than other high-income countries, and an unintentional firearm death rate that is 5.2 times higher than other countries. In fact, 80% of all firearm deaths in the developed world occur in the United States.
Adapted from
MYTH: Video games are to blame, not guns.
FACT: This is not an either-or debate. While there is some research that violent video games can hinder moral development in some teens, there is alternative research that finds no correlation. And correlation is not causation. We should discourage the playing of violent video games while being careful not to get distracted from proven policy measures that we know will reduce gun violence, such as permit-to-purchase and fingerprint-based background checks.
MYTH: The Second Amendment is absolute. Our rights cannot be infringed.
FACT: Hunting and shooting are part of our national heritage. But the Supreme Court ruled, just five years ago, that reasonable gun laws are constitutional. Justice Scalia’s majority opinion explicitly upheld the current ban on possession of guns by felons and there is no constitutional distinction between having that ban and enforcing it with a background check.
He also affirmed the ban on sawed-off shotguns and there is no constitutional distinction between that ban and one on semiautomatic assault weapons or large-capacity magazines. Legally, there is no question that modest gun laws like these do not violate the 2nd Amendment.
Response provided by Progressive Majority at
MYTH: This is a mental health problem. More gun laws will not make a difference.
FACT: People with mental illnesses aren’t any more prone to violence than the general population.
The media and entertainment industries typically depict the mentally ill as violent criminals — but people living with mental health issues are actually more likely to be the victims of crimes than the perpetrators of them.
There is, however, a lack of mental health services and that needs to be addressed.
MYTH: If gun controls work, Chicago ought to be safe.
FACT: While Chicago continues to suffer from “unacceptably high” violent crime, in 2013 the city had lowest murder rate it’s had since 1966 and the lowest overall crime rate it’s had since 1972. In fact, Chicago’s murder rate in 2013 was less than half that of New Orleans and Detroit.
Chicago is not an island. Interstate gun trafficking (primarily from neighboring Indiana) is a major issue in Chicago. As is the issue of guns being purchased within Illinois but outside of the City of Chicago where those purchases are not subject to the same laws. Between 2009 and 2013, 60% of guns recovered in crimes in Chicago were originally purchased in other states – suggesting that interstate gun trafficking is a major source of street guns in Chicago.
In fact, this level of crime guns originally purchased in other states is double the nationwide average for portion of interstate crime guns (30% according to a 2010 report from Mayors Against Illegal Guns).
Adapted from Think Progress at

MYTH: Cars kill more people than guns.
FACT: Cars are used regularly by more than 210 million Americans, whereas, approximately 82 million Americans own a gun.
But simply comparing the number of citizens who use cars vs. guns isn’t enough. The average American spends roughly 600 hours each year in a car; can the same be said of Americans’ gun usage? Cars are our primary mode of transportation; our economy and our way of life require efficient transportation. Comparing the use of guns to the use of cars is nothing more than a distraction.
Furthermore, we regulate cars, we require seat belts, restrict speed, and require a license and insurance in order to drive. These actions have cut down on fatalities. Similar measures for gun purchasers, such as fingerprint-based licensing, would similarly cut down on fatalities.
MYTH: Legal gun owners don’t commit crimes.
FACT: Most guns are initially purchased legally. They become illegal guns once they fall into the hands of someone who should not have them, often being bought in an area with weak (or no) laws and sold on the black market in an area with strong(er) laws.
Our weak national gun laws allow this type of gun trafficking, which is conducted by (a small fraction of) legal gun owners. We deal with this by closing the loophole used by these gun peddlers to move guns from states with few or no laws to states who are proactively conducting licensing and background checks.
MYTH: We tried this before with the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban and it didn’t work.
There is evidence that the 1994 federal ban saved lives despite a series of loopholes closed in the Feinstein bill and several state bans. Though there isn’t reliable data on the number of people killed by assault weapons in the United States, there is strong evidence from the Mexican border that both California’s assault weapons ban and the federal assault weapon ban lowered the homicide rate. The clearest comes in a 2012 academic paper that treated the expiration of the federal assault weapon ban in 2004 as a natural experiment — California still had its assault weapon ban, but Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona didn’t have equivalents. The authors tracked homicides and weapon seizures in the Mexican provinces bordering the states, finding disproportionately lower homicide rates in provinces near California. This difference remained when other potential causes (like police presence) were accounted for, suggesting the federal and California bans had successfully kept assault weapons out of the hands of cartels and other criminals. The expiration of the federal law, on this paper’s model, has gotten roughly 239 people killed on the Mexican border per year since 2004. This is consistent with another paper that found “the expiration of the AWB is responsible for at least 16.4 percent of the increase in the homicide rate in Mexico between 2004 and 2008.”
The 1994 ban, according to a Department of Justice review, also appears to have caused the percentage of crimes involving assault weapons in some major US cities to drop from 72 percent to 17 percent.
While it’s true that the same review couldn’t find support for the idea that the Assault Weapons Ban reduced crime in 2004, the authors concluded that there simply hadn’t been enough time or data to come to a strong conclusion. The more recent Mexican studies may have filled this gap.
Response from Think Progress at
MYTH: Crime has gone down 17% since the Assault Weapons Ban expired.
FACT: This one is just an abuse of statistics — just because violence is declining doesn’t mean it couldn’t be declining faster.
It’s true that violent crime as a whole, including gun homicides, has declined over the course of the past decade. This suggests that gun laws aren’t the only factors that determine the crime rate — see Kevin Drum’s fantastic series on lead and crime for a clear explanation of the other causes that might’ve mattered.
Moreover, when you compare different states with different gun laws at the same time, you find states with tighter gun regulations (including assault weapon bans) have significantly lower rates of firearm death. This suggests that, independent of whatever good fortune the United States has seen the past decade, better gun laws could significantly accelerate decline in lives lost to gunfire.
Response from Think Progress at
MYTH: We don’t need more gun laws. We just need to enforce the ones we have.
FACT: There are only 16 states (and the District of Columbia) where strong gun laws exist and those laws are weakened by the lack of gun laws in the remaining 34 states.
First, we have to have strong gun violence prevention laws to enforce – the majority of the nation doesn’t – and then we need to make sure our neighboring states do as well or their guns will find their way into the wrong hands and then cross the border into our state. Furthermore, how do we know if a felon is trying to purchase a gun if we don’t perform a background check?