There is No Such Thing as “Gun Violence”


I do not believe that there is any such thing as “gun violence”. There is also no such thing as knife violence, car violence, alcohol violence, etc. Violence is perpetrated by an individual or group. The tool used is irrelevant.

Most articles about ‘gun violence’ are written as if to justify positions that the authors don’t recognize or accept aren’t true. Let’s break it down:

1.  Suicide, whether involving firearms or not, is an act of desperation, remorse, inability to accept circumstances, or choosing to avoid a situation that the individual cannot control.

The literature is replete with data about other countries’ numbers and rates of suicide. Culture strongly influences rates as well as the preferred mechanisms. Suicide by firearm makes up approximately half of United States firearm associated deaths.

2.  Justifiable homicide falls into the category of self-defense, including law enforcement action. Whether it involves firearms, conducted electrical weapons, blunt objects, pointed objects or blades, or hands makes no difference in the end.

These make up 20 to 25% of firearms associated deaths. These outcomes are socially and culturally acceptable.

3.  There are small and declining numbers of accidental firearm deaths in the United States.

4.  That leaves approximately 25% of firearms associated deaths due to criminal activity. More than half of these occur in just a few of our large cities and are associated with gang activity and other drug or sex trafficking crime.

With that basic information on the table, the question becomes: What to do about violence? The emphasis on firearms is the proverbial red herring. The problem is not firearms, knives, or tire irons in the hands of the police or honest citizens.

The avowed intent of much of the literature on “gun violence” is to design laws that will preclude criminals obtaining firearms. That idea is either mistaken or malicious. No law will prevent a criminal from breaking the law. That is what defines “criminal”. The only purpose of laws is to punish people for violating them, which may be of some deterrence. Until human nature becomes angelic, there will be the need to punish criminal behavior.

By definition, honest people are not criminals, so the only purpose of such laws can be to harass honest people. To paraphrase Ayn Rand in Atlas Shrugged: “The government cannot control honest people. The government can only control criminals. Therefore the plan is to pass laws that no one can obey and make everyone criminals. Then the government can control everyone.”

The emphasis on firearms by many of our politicians and academics represents their blatant failure to grasp reality. Life circumstances do not explain the venality of Bernie Madoff, the pederasty of some clergy, or the violence of gangs. They have all chosen to manipulate and control people criminally. A firearm is a tool some use to exercise that control, nothing more or less.

I value laws that are based on the moral principles of society. Abusive behavior toward other human beings is the problem, not the tools used in doing so.



—Robert A. Margulies, MD, MPH, FACEP, FACPM is an emergency medicine specialist, retired Navy Medical Corps captain, sworn peace officer, and firearm trainer with multiple certifications from the NRA and the Massad Ayoob Group.

All DRGO articles by Robert A. Margulies, MD, MPH 

Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership (DRGO) is a project launched in 1994 in response to a coordinated public health campaign against gun rights. DRGO is now a nationwide network of physicians, allied health professionals, scientists, and others who support the safe and lawful use of firearms. DRGO’s members include experts in public health, firearm technology, gun safety education, and tactical medicine.