On Tuesday, as reported by one of my colleagues, Eagles of Death Metal frontman Jesse Hughes shared some of his thoughts regarding gun control with French television station iTélé. Hughes did not pull any punches in articulating exactly how he felt:
"Did your French gun control stop a single fucking person from dying at the Bataclan? And if anyone can answer yes, I’d like to hear it, because I don’t think so. I think the only thing that stopped it was some of the bravest men that I’ve ever seen in my life charging head-first into the face of death with their firearms.
I know people will disagree with me, but it just seems like God made men and women, and that night guns made them equal ... And I hate it that it’s that way. I think the only way that my mind has been changed is that maybe that until nobody has guns everybody has to have them.
Because I’ve never seen anyone that’s ever had one dead, and I want everyone to have access to them, and I saw people die that maybe could have lived, I don’t know."
Hughes is correct: France does have strict gun control laws. But has that made French citizens less safe? More to his actual point, should everyone have guns? The nation that Hughes calls home (spoiler alert: its America) seems to believe that the right to bear arms is critically important. In fact, its seemingly so important that there were rumors of a conspiracy that the President was going to try to take away guns from Americans who legally owned them.
“Everything’s fucked. Honestly, if we lost guns in America it would be the linchpin of disaster, it really would ... I’ll do anything, including give up my own life, to protect my liberty. I’m willing to do anything for freedom."
So it's not incredibly surprising that that he thinks more guns are the solution to the problem of gun violence. But the history and statistics of gun violence in the US, particularly within the last decade, paints a different picture.
Private citizens having the right to bear arms is, as compared to other bedrock civil liberties, actually a relatively newer concept than might be immediately apparent. In 2008, Justice Scalia (RIP) penned the opinion in District of Columbia v. Heller, the case which decided, for the first time, that private citizens could own a gun for self-defense purposes. This ruling, in conjunction with the 2010 decision in McDonald v. Chicago, are the legal precedents that allow for more than 300 million guns to be sold to private citizens in the US.
So, is America safer than France because an average of 88 out of 100 people own guns?
According to that chart, the answer is no. In fact, in 2013, The Atlantic ran a report comparing the gun-homicide rates in American cities against other nations and found:
If it were a country, New Orleans (with a rate of 62.1 gun murders per 100,000 people) would rank second in the world.
Detroit's gun homicide rate (35.9) is just a bit less than El Salvador (39.9).
Baltimore's rate (29.7) is not too far off that of Guatemala (34.8).
Gun murder in Newark (25.4) and Miami (23.7) is comparable to Colombia (27.1).
Washington D.C. (19) has a higher rate of gun homicide than Brazil (18.1).
This evidence seems to stand contrary to Hughes' position. Americans are 20 times more likely to die from gun violence than citizens of other civilized nations. This, despite the fact that there may in fact be more guns than people in the country. It stands to reason that the same or similar situation would be present in any other nation that relaxes its gun control laws and allows more of their citizens to carry firearms.
Hughes had another note-worthy quote:
“I did an interview … where the interviewer said, ‘It’s brave of you to come back,'” he said. ” I disagree with that. What’s brave is to get in a Metro car and … walk through the streets and come to the show.”
And in all likelihood, their bravery wasn't predicated on being strapped with a gun.