I'm all for stricter gun control, but the evidence is not all that convincing that fewer legal guns would reduce US homicides, of which the large majority are committed with stolen handguns. Given the low per capita gun ownership rates in some countries with high homicide rates, how do we know that making it harder to purchase guns legally would make a dent in homicide rates? Speaking of “per capita” gun ownership rates in the US, it's true that Americans own more guns "per capita" than any other country but that stat is highly misleading, being based on number of guns divided by number of people. It doesn’t say anything about how many Americans actually own guns. As it turns out, gun ownership by household has actually been declining in the US for years. It's a minority of Americans who own most of the guns - and it's not at all clear that these gun owners have much to do with gun crimes. Specifically, just 20% of US households own 65% of the guns and according to Pew Research, gun owners are more likely to be white (over twice the rate of other ethnicities), suburban/rural, Republican, older (50+), and outdoorsy. Multiple gun owners appear to be mostly collectors and hunters (e.g. different guns for different game, from quail to bear).
While I would be happy if people didn’t hunt (except as a means of population control for species that are over breeding due to lack of predators, like deer in the East), it’s hard for me to see the connection between old white Republican hunters and homicide rates in the US. Per the FBI, rural counties (those under 50,000 population) have less than half the violent crime rate (and about two-thirds the murder rate) of urban areas, which have half the gun ownership rates of rural areas.
Clearly more research is needed. For instance, it would be nice to have county- and country-level comparisons for percentage of individuals or households owning one or more guns (as opposed to the phony “per capita” statistics). So far I haven’t found any. Butwe still need to go beyond correlational studies and look at the actual causal chains between gun laws and violent crime.
I’m thinking the impact of gun control is subject to a dose effect. That is, unless gun control laws are super strict and impact whole communities (not just law-abiding hunters), the effect may be pretty minimal. If some gun ownership were still allowed, those who want guns would probably find ways to obtain them illegally.
Problem is, such broad bans would violate the Second Amendment, which is about the basic right to self-defense (at least according to a recent Supreme Court ruling). It’s not that the Second Amendment prohibits gun control – it doesn’t, as long as gun control is based on the characteristics of guns and the people who buy them. What does violate the Second Amendment (per Scalia et al) are bans that apply to all types of guns and all types of people, such as community-wide bans that include simple handguns or regulations that are so onerous that they effectively function as a ban.
Obviously if no one had guns, no one would be killed by guns. And since it’s a whole lot easier to kill with a gun than with most other kinds of weapons, a society without guns would have fewer murders. But gun control advocates usually don’t push for complete bans on gun ownership; they push for increasing regulation of the gun market and for restrictions on types of guns and types of people who can own guns. Most gun control initiatives sound reasonable – I’m just not sure they would make that much of a difference. We need better, less politicized research on the matter.