Anti-gun op-ed claims "simple math," then fails math

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

When people want to affect change, they tend to focus on the most horrific acts imaginable. It’s like a thing my wife showed me yesterday that advised women of different ways to be safe. It kept invoking “serial killers” when there are more likely horrors out there.


Gun control advocates, for example, love to use mass shootings.

In order to do that, though, they often feel they need to undermine counterclaims by gun rights supporters. That’s fair enough. After all, we go the same route.

But I came across this one today that claimed gun control was a simple matter of math.

Every time there’s a mass shooting — over 260 so far in 2023 — some pundits blame our “gun problem” on mental illness. So I looked up the countries with the highest rates of mental illness. The World Health Organization, using the criteria of depression, found that Greece, Spain, and Portugal top the list. America doesn’t even crack the Top 10. Interestingly, these three countries also have very low rates of gun deaths. In fact, Spain had 70 firearm deaths in 2022, while the United States had over 13,000.

You know what? That’s fair.

Now, I tend to argue that anyone trying to kill people in job lots is probably mentally ill as illustrated by the fact they want to kill people on a mass scale, but the numbers are what they are. I won’t argue with them right now because, frankly, they’re not where I want to focus my attention.

And, frankly, the author is arguing gun crimes in general, not mass shootings–which, however, is where the “gun problem is because of mental illness” argument tends to originate–and most criminals aren’t necessarily mentally ill.


The author goes on to decry the stigmatizing effect of just blaming “mental illness” anytime something happens, which is also fair.

Yet the next paragraph in a piece arguing that gun control is a simple matter of math is where things go off the rails.

Our real problem? Access….especially the proliferation of assault weapons. Right now, there are over 120 firearms per 100 Americans. There are estimated to be over 400 million guns in the U.S., 20 million of them assault weapons. It’s simple math. Regrettably, lobbyists put millions of dollars into the pockets of politicians who only offer “thoughts and prayers.” That’s simple math, too.

That’s simple math?

First, The Trace–a vehemently anti-gun journalistic organization–just did a piece earlier this week and found that most mass shootings historically haven’t used so-called assault weapons but handguns.

Further, that holds true among more pedestrian homicides, if there is such a thing. In fact, hands and feet are used more often to take a life than rifles of any kind, must less the much-maligned “assault weapon.”

How can you talk about assault weapons and “simple math” while failing so miserably at math?

Plus, the author doesn’t even seem to know how bad guys get their guns in the first place.


A 2020 report found that just 10 percent got their firearm through a retail purchase, with just 0.8 percent getting them via a gun show–so much for that gun show loophole thing. The largest portion of criminals got theirs either via the black market or through theft.

In other words, criminals aren’t buying guns legally, so why should we impose more burdens on law-abiding citizens that won’t actually stop the criminals?

Again, that’s just simple math.

So while the author thinks their point is just “simple math,” as she puts it, the truth is that all she did is look at numbers that make her uncomfortable and pretend it’s an incontrovertible mathematical proof. Meanwhile, when you look at the broader picture, the math changes quite a bit.

So much for the author’s mathematical skills. For someone whose argument for gun control depended on it, she certainly seems to fail at math.

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