Self-Selection: An Overlooked Factor in the Gun Debate


It’s probably not what you think, so let me explain the context.

One of the obvious missions of the anti-gun lobby is to magnify the negative consequences of widespread gun ownership in America.  As you probably know, they do this in several ways.

Most notably, while discussing rare and highly disturbing crimes like mass murders of children, they throw out a number that represents all types of gun deaths.  This distracts attention from the fact that most gun deaths are suicides and most gun murders are criminals killing each other.  Misdirection is a cheap trick, but it keeps working well enough that it’s been a go-to tactic of anti-gunners for years.

Another tactic is to compare U.S. gunshot deaths with a carefully selected group of “developed” countries.  If you cherry pick the data carefully, you can make the U. S. look like a very dangerous place that is desperately in need of more authoritarian gun laws.

 A more realistic measure of violence is to compare our country with all countries and use the overall murder rate rather than just gun deaths.   If you do that, the U. S. is right in the middle of the pack.  There is no tsunami of death—our murder rate has been declining for decades.   If you look beyond the primary source of homicides, gangs and drug criminals in certain cities, America is one of the safest countries in the world.  Not bad for a stressed-out, multi-ethnic society with lots of freedom and from 350 to 600 million guns in civilian hands.

So, with such a huge number of guns in a turbulent society, why isn’t our overall murder rate sky high?

One reason is never mentioned in gun law discussions.  No, I’m not going to throw statistics at you.   This theory is strictly based on my own observations, what I call “ground truth.”

Everyone in my large circle of friends knows I’m a gun guy.  I’ve taken many novices to the range to introduce them to safe gun handling.  It’s one of my passions.  I’ve had many more chat with me privately about their personal feelings regarding gun ownership.

I’ve learned that people generally know when they are not suited to taking on that responsibility.  I’d love to have a dollar for every time someone told me they don’t trust themselves to keep a gun around.  They worry about their temper, their ability to react appropriately in an emergency, their use of intoxicants, their relationship issues and other factors that affect their mental state.

The biggest reason we don’t have an astronomical rate of gun deaths is simple:  people generally choose the best option for their own circumstances without orders from the nanny state.   This “self-selection contradicts the idea that we need to be micro-managed for our own safety.

As a result of self-selection much of what the anti-gun lobby claims they want to accomplish has already been done individually by the people themselves at zero cost.  No tax money expended, no freedoms restricted, no need for state-mandated mental health exams.

This theory of self-selection is one of several important reasons that gun control laws  have no measurable effect.  It’s been ignored in the gun control debate, probably because it can’t be weaponized in the war on liberty and our civil rights.



Dr. Tim Wheeler

—Dr. Michael S. Brown is a pragmatic Libertarian environmentalist who has been studying the gun debate for three decades and considers it a fascinating way to learn about human nature and politics.

All DRGO articles by Michael Brown, OD