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The debate about gun ownership is relatively new. Before WWI it was a non–event. Pretty much anybody anywhere in the world (not subject to paranoid dictators, kings or czars) was able to purchase a gun. Between WWI and WWII some restrictions were introduced. After WWII the restrictions begun to grow exponentially. Today, pretty much anybody in the world would need to jump through a gigantic number of bureaucratic steps just to purchase a gun, much less transport it.… if allowed. Many countries simply disallow private gun ownership. Period.

RATIONALE

The excuses are tiring, ridiculous and always the same:

  • It does not matter because very few people own them anyways
  • People want more restrictive gun ownership laws
  • It will lower violent crime
  • It will reduce robbery
  • Crime is committed by people with legally obtained weapons
  • It will reduce domestic violence
  • It will reduce suicide and accidents
  • It will deter the armed criminal
  • They are not used for self–defense anyways

And many others. Statistically speaking, they have been debunked time and time again. We won't even bother providing the data.

However, on the same token:

  • This is not to say that private gun ownership is not a profitable industry. It is and very much so.
  • This is not to say that there aren't vested interests. There are.

Those points are fully understood and acknowledged, however, they make no difference in the arguments. If the most basic excuse to prevent personal guns is that there is an industry behind it, then we should ban things like car manufacturers (to prevent car accidents), restaurants (to prevent food poisoning) and schools (to prevent gym accidents). How ridiculous does this sound?

PERSONAL EXPENDITURES

One piece of data that is illustrative of how much people wish to own guns is the percentage of GDP that the population spends in guns. This number is only applicable to countries where people actually have the choice to do so and the country is not at war (formal or informal). We are only interested in finding out how much people spend for defensive or sport purposes under normal circumstances. To arrive at this estimate we purposely removed countries where people are not allowed to purchase guns. This number is, however, quite illustrative.

The range of % GDP spent in guns by the population of such countries is in the range of 0.04% to 0.3%.

This is roughly the same as saying that a typical family would spend between 0.04% and 0.3% of its yearly income in personal guns. To make it simpler, let's take the average of that range hence arriving at 0.17%.

GOVERNMENT EXPENDITURES

If we now perform the same calculation for governments, we obtain the following %GDP spent in weapons: 2.5%

This means that on average a country not at war spends approximately 2.5% of all its yearly income in guns.

THE COMPARISON

If we do a quick calculation we reach the conclusion that governments spend on average 15 times (that's right times, not percentage) in guns that people do. You can see this clearly in the graph below.

Gun Spending As Percentage Of GDP

PERSONAL USE

Another number that would be interesting to know is what is the likelihood of a person using a gun for self–defense. These numbers are highly contentious and statistics are scarce, but the best estimates indicate that in a country where gun ownership is at least achievable and it is not at war (formal or informal) the number is in the order of 0.15% per year. This means that over an adult lifetime the percentage raises to about 9%.

This means that over an adult life, the possibility that a gun owner may have to use its gun for self–defense purposes is roughly about 1 in 11. This is, that 1 in 11 gun owners will probably have to use a gun to defend their life.

GOVERNMENT USE

As with personal use, we can perform the same rough calculation with governments. If we look at the number of self–defense wars and military actions (formal or informal) that occurred over the last 80 years we reach the conclusion that about 1/2 of all governments on earth were involved in such military events.

In other words, the probability of a government using its weapons for self–defense over one citizen lifetime is roughly 50% or 1 government in 2.

THE COMPARISON

If we do a quick calculation we reach the conclusion that governments are 5 times more likely to use weapons on self–defense (that's right times, not percentage). You can see this clearly in the graph below.

Gun Self-Defense Use Over A Lifetime

The secondary issue with self-defense is that people face all kinds of attacks, many of them unrelated to firearms (think knives, hands, batons, etc.). Governments, on the other hand, always face firearms-related attacks; attacks that would not take place if governments would have been disarmed in the first place! The flip side of self-defense is the attack. Means of attack do matter. Superior means of attack coupled with politics (i.e. the complete lack of personal responsibility at any level) can only translate into an increased probability of attack... which is vastly different from a personal point of view. In other words, countries self-defend far more often than people because they attack far more often than people. Governments are far more belligerent than people and superior firepower is the enabler of this behavior.

PERSONAL DAMAGE

Yet another number to consider is how much damage is produced by the use of personal guns. Again, these numbers are not easy to come by, but some estimates indicate that the loss of productivity due to small guns use at the world wide level is about 0.15% of the world GDP.

GOVERNMENT DAMAGE

A similar number can be calculated for governments. In this case the number raises to a range between 3% and 10% (the latter being the modern number). Again, for simplification purposes, we will take the average or 6.5% GDP worth of damage.

THE COMPARISON

If we do a quick calculation we reach the conclusion that governments produce about 43 times more damage (that's right times, not percentage) through the use of weapons than gun owners do. You can see this clearly in the graph below.

Damage Infliceted As Percentage Of GDP

THE ANALYSIS

In normal life, if you were to compare yourself to let's call this person John, you would probably say that:

  • If John spends 15 times more in guns than you do, he is a gun nut
  • If John uses his gun in self–defense 5 times more than you do, he is trigger–happy
  • If John causes 43 times more damage than you do when using his guns, he is out of control

Governments do exactly that. Yet, when it comes to government weapon purchase and use, they never receive the moniker of gun nuts, trigger–happy and out of control! You can see this effect more clearly in the graph below.

Government v Household Weapons Comparison

Why is that? Would it be because of government propaganda? You got it!

It is not as if the military–industrial complex is brainwashing us; we seldom see ads in newspapers or the internet promoting sales of assault rifles, rockets or tanks, if ever! These industrial complexes prefer to operate in the background as lobbyists. They have been doing so since WWII quite effectively. However, it is the government that insists in selling us the concept that "defense spending" is benign and that we "must do it" to maintain our "society" or our "way of life" while in reality being gun nuts, trigger–happy, out of control lunatics!

The bottom line is that military–industrial complexes are only viable if governments exist. We have shown this in War Is Good Business Invest a Child.

But these complexes are not to blame for the destruction that governments cause through the use of such weapons. This lies squarely on governments' shoulders.

CONCLUSION

Weapons are indeed dangerous, but never as much as when in government hands. Governments use these weapons far more and with much more devastating effects than people, yet, they use the same excuse: self–defense.

Furthermore, these devastating effects are only possible because of the existence of governments. Remove governments and this devastation mostly disappears. That is today's lesson. Short and sweet but important. Now you know. You may share this knowledge or not. Entirely your choice.

Note: please see the Glossary if you are unfamiliar with certain words.

 

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