Firearms / Media

What If All Guns Disappeared? BBC Thought Experiment

A while ago I was asked to comment for a BBC Future story on what would happen if all guns suddenly disappeared. I saw it as an interesting thought experiment, and I wanted to represent the minority perspective (among BBC interviewees and readers) that the world would NOT all of a sudden become an amazingly peaceful and safe place.

As usual and expected, only a small piece of what I discussed with the author was used. Also as usual and expected I was quoted accurately, even if I wished I could have had a chance to follow up with the scholar quoted after me contradicting what I said.

Interested to know what others’ thoughts on on what might happen if all guns disappeared?

24 thoughts on “What If All Guns Disappeared? BBC Thought Experiment

  1. “‘Think of two immature, angry, impulsive and intoxicated young men in the UK who come out of a pub and get into an argument,’ Swanson says. ‘Someone’s going to get a black eye or bloody nose.’
    “‘But in our country [the US],’ he says, ‘it’s statistically more likely one of those men will have a hand gun, and you’re going to get a dead body.’”

    Apparently, he is quite ignorant about the prevalence and hysteria around knives in the UK.

    Yes, it is indeed *statistically* more likely that there will be a handgun in such a situation, but “more likely” does not mean “likely.”

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The overall decline in interpersonal violence and increase in individual freedom in the West correlates with the introduction and spread of firearms from the 15thC. Take away the comparative advantage firearms give to a defender and “Might Makes Right” will return.

    Those with greater size, strength, training, or numbers will always be able to impose their will on people less equipped by nature or inclination to defend themselves, those attackers have never needed guns to do so. Guns offer their potential victims an equalizer that no other weapon realistically can.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Firearms have excited for only about 500 of the 5000 years of recorded history. A brief and honest look at that history will prove the fallacy of that argument. And looking at London were guns are very illegal and how it has past New York in murder and attacks with none firearm weapons is the reality of that pipe dream.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Peace through Strength. Works on a personal level as well as for a Nation State. The gun (especially the handgun) is a great (semi) equalizer. It puts the 65 year old woman on a much more even footing with the gangbanger. Fear of guns is like any other fear – mostly founded on ignorance. Fear of people…that is founded on fact starting with Cain and Able.

    The author of this article is pulling a lot of big round numbers out of the air and doing what the topically uneducated liberal minded individual does often. He pulls data that supports only his statement, but ignores all the other data. I didn’t see anything about the skyrocketing murder rates in Europe due to knives. He should also check the first 8-10 years after confiscation in England on homicide rates.

    Let’s also consider why Americans have a 2nd Amendment. It is so we don’t wind up like 6 million Jews in WWII (and millions of others around the world) – victims of government. If the people are disarmed, then whoever is bigger will alway win the fight. The government will always be bigger. Personal weapons are the deterrent (and I’m in agreement with his take on nuclear warfare up to the point of state sponsored terrorism).

    His article isn’t written from the perspective of individual freedom, but then again, he’s BBC. I think it’s best he stay inside with the like minded and just look out the window occasionally whilst wringing his hands.

    If we really wanted to “Save Lives”, we would ban alcohol 🙂


  5. The world will remain at best as it is and probably become a worse place.

    When will we ever get our heads around the fact that it is not the TOOL but the HUMAN BEING that is the issue in this?

    Whether interpersonal or genocidal, if the intent is to inflict harm the tools will be found even in societies where guns are not commonly found – Rwanda 1994 – 1 million human beings massacred in 100 days – mostly with machetes and blunt objects – by ordinary people.
    Had the 1 million victims had access to guns I very much doubt there would have been 1 million innocents slaughtered in cold blood.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Much violence is political. As Matthew points out, violence has been declining as we have advanced our ability to civilize ourselves. And as you say, when societies disintegrate, they find excuses to kill each other, whether with guns or machetes. I suspect if they had guns, it would have been worse because the motive and the irrational hate was still there and the means more lethal. Look at Iraq. The fact that they had guns out the grand wazoo didn’t deter anything.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This whole “what if there were no guns” thing is a case of extreme navel gazing. Kinda like “what if there were no nuclear weapons?”. We don’t know, but one cannot un-invent the wheel. I’ve sometimes quipped that if there were no nukes, we might not have finally noticed that war had already become far too gruesome to be an effective foreign policy tool, something no one seemed to notice even after Verdun, Ypres, the Somme, or most of WW II. Read “Among the Dead Cities: The History and Moral Legacy of the WWII Bombing of Civilians in Germany and Japan” by AC Grayling, who writes about the mass bombing of civilians throughout WW II. And of course there was Stalingrad…

    I had a minor bone to pick with the BBC story and left a comment in Twitter (that I guess David got a kick out of). The steady decline in gun homicides in Oz (which were already lower than in the US by about a factor of 3) went back at least to 1980, long before the 1996 Port Arthur shooting and resulting semiauto confiscation. So the idea that the Port Arthur laws (or whatever they are called) resulted in a 50 percent decline in shootings is pure, unadulterated hogwash. The researchers are quibbling over whether there was a change in slope in the decline and I think they are straining the math to say so. Not to mention, ascribing the whole change in slope, if one exists, to the law.

    That’s not to say that I think every idiot should be playing with an AR. I’m not on that bandwagon either. As a motorcyclist and bicyclist, I wish no one were allowed to drive anything bigger than an underpowered Prius unless they had a Class I license. But that’s just my two cents. When you are a two-wheeled aficionado, you tend to notice incompetence that puts others at risk. A few weeks after Parkland we moved from Los Alamos to Santa Fe and I had the Family Arsenal locked up at a local gun shop while the movers were moving our worldly goods. Upon picking up my stuff, I saw three kids barely out of their teens giggling over an AR. Made me wonder.

    Liked by 1 person

    • A truck, like a bomb, is a weapon that a “good guy,” with or without a gun, cannot realistically hope to stop. Either you aren’t in its path and thus won’t have any shots until it already has come to a stop, or you are in its path and at best will have a low-percentage shot, even if you can become aware of it and react in enough time to draw and shoot (as opposed to getting out of the way, a better use of that time).

      Liked by 1 person

      • The other problem is that like guns, cars and trucks are ubiquitous. One can claim an interest in traffic violence prevention or gun violence prevention and make a lot of progress in either, but the idea that you can get down to zero incidents is not realistic.

        We accept an annual traffic car-nage, so to speak, since we assert that cars have a high social value as transportation and in fact have embedded cars in our culture to such a degree it would be hard to back out. We’ve driven down the death rate with engineering fixes and crashworthyness but like little kids in schools, pedestrians and bicyclists, etc, are soft targets. But nice liberals and nice conservatives and everyone in between drive so one can’t talk about ripping car keys out of cold, dead hands. Guns are not quite a niche item (I’m reading Bindu Kalesan’s 2015 article saying some 30% of Murrcans own guns) but are more highly politicized and to many on the left, have no social value. Hence the culture war aspect superposed on efforts to reduce violence. If something has no socially redeeming value to some political segments, then wholesale removal of the object in question is justified to reduce risk.

        I’d be willing to meet halfway if I thought I could trust that there were fixed goalposts and actual solutions. Just not sure of two things. One, what laws might actually work and two, that the goalposts would stay fixed. Guns, like cars, will always have some small number that cause death/injury either by accident or malevolence. Given that 30% of Murrcans own smokepoles you don’t need many loose cannons, thefts, drug wars, gangs, or bad marriages to rack up a body count. Hell, I bought a coring tool and bolted my safe to the garage slab. Overkill? Probably not.

        Liked by 1 person

      • “Hell, I bought a coring tool and bolted my safe to the garage slab. Overkill? Probably not.”

        When I worked at the local indoor range we sold gun safes. One of the things my manager would always tell the customers when we delivered them was to bolt them down because, “Anything two guys and a dolly can bring into your house, two guys and a dolly can take right back out.” I’m still bemused that people think because something is too heavy for them to move easily by themselves that it is “impossible to move.” An unbolted gun safe (or business cash safe) is just a pre-packed, albeit heavy, carrying case of your valuables _you_ helpfully provided the thief.

        Liked by 1 person

      • “One, what laws might actually work and two, that the goalposts would stay fixed.”

        Completely agree. I tend to end up, on social media, pointing out the failure of most restrictive laws to show statistically positive results, but that is usually in response to people making claims that we could “eliminate gun violence” via over-broad and intrusive laws. So I sound like an absolute absolutist. I do believe that, although the roots of both criminal violence and suicide are social and cultural, there is a lot of nibbling around the margins we could effectively do, and some low-hanging fruit, though most would be safety education-based IMO, as in teach early and teach often to kids as they grow and private/public partnerships to “normalize” gun safety adverts and PSAs in traditional and social media, not legislative.

        There might be some other marginal areas some laws might help impact, but every damn time those “reasonable” small steps aren’t offered in good faith, and, since they could not and would not accomplish the “big” gains desired, based on previous examples they’d just start the ball rolling down the restriction slope when they “fail.”

        Liked by 1 person

  7. A frankly absurd article, clearly written with a political agenda. Your statement was good, but it seems as though the author included it solely for the purpose of further demonizing gun ownership.

    The extensive quoting of Philip Albers, a hack “professor” with no degree & prone to bouts of dishonesty & statistical illiteracy, also rankles.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. If all guns were to dissappear? We would return to the time when guns actually did not exist on the planet…the strong raped, murdered and enslaved the weak…. that was human history until firearms came along and allowed the weak, the small, the outnumbered to fight back…….


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