Imagine This, but with Guns…

One of the most common counter-arguments from people who oppose any form of gun control is that people will kill people with other “tools” if guns are not around. They’ll say that guns are just “tools” and that it’s the “bad” person holding the gun who has a say in whether or not someone will get killed with a gun. This goes against the best evidence that guns are mostly used as an intimidation tool — instead of self-defense — and that confrontations tend to escalate dangerously if a gun is involved.(1)

Worse yet, it seems that a person with a firearm in their vehicle is more aggressive towards others.(2) That makes sense since there is ample evidence that just having a firearm at hand tends to enhance or increase the chances of someone being aggressive.(3) If only the United States was like Japan and their strict rules on owning guns (not handguns, just rifles) (4) or the UK and their 1 per 1,000,000 resident gun homicide rate (5).

If only.

So what does happen if someone gets into a fight and wishes to protect themselves or inflict harm on an aggressor, but neither has a gun? They could just use any tool, right? Like a machete, or a trash can. How would that turn out? Well, the experiment was run on the streets of New York, and here are the results.

That’s right. Everyone walks away. We don’t hear about a pedestrian shot by a motorist with a gun, or a couple in their car shot by a pedestrian. Or, worse yet, innocent bystanders being hit by stray bullets. (How the dude handles the machete, and how they punch each other, all tell me neither is very well coordinated.) According to police, the guy in the red hat was crossing the street without paying attention. The man in the car almost struck him, and the fight ensued. The driver was later arrested for assault and for having that big knife.(6) But, again, everyone walked away.

Of course, the hardcore “from my cold, dead hands” crew won’t believe any of the evidence. They’ll say that “you never know” and that maybe these two fine citizens would have never even gone to blows if one had pulled out a gun and deterred the other from attacking. Stuff like that. But, at least for this one time, everyone walked away.

1. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/hicrc/firearms-research/gun-threats-and-self-defense-gun-use-2/
2. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/hicrc/firearms-research/youth-and-guns/
3. https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/get-psyched/201301/the-weapons-effect
4. http://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-38365729
5. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/world/2016/06/16/gun-violence-united-kingdom-united-states/85994716/
6. https://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20170719/upper-west-side/machete-fight-video-broadway-94th-street

I'm a doctoral candidate in the Doctor of Public Health program at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health. All opinions posted here are my own, of course, and they do not necessarily reflect the opinions of my school, employers, friends, family, etc. Feel free to follow me on Twitter: @EpiRen