Gunnies, as gun lovers like to call themselves, list four major reasons for owning guns: hunting, target shooting, self-defense, and gun collecting. Let's take a look at all four.
Hunting. Due to the demographics of our country, hunting is in rapid decline. It has almost no appeal to young people, women, or immigrants. There aren't enough ducks or other wildlife left to shoot, there aren't enough people who like killing defenseless animals, there are fewer and fewer people who have emotional attachments to guns because they grew up hunting, and there aren't that many people who have enough spare time to sustain hunting as a popular sport. Hunting is an outdoors experience with very little cache for people who live in cities and suburbs, and our country continues to be more and more urbanized.
Target shooting. Same situation. It will soon be as popular as archery.
Self-defense. Some people have guns at home so that they can shoot burglars. If a gun is stored safely in a locked vault to prevent people from accidentally shooting themselves or other members of their households, it takes a few moments to get the gun out. Most burglars would be more quickly scared off if you just turned on the lights or shouted, “go away.”
But assuming you are confronted by an unusually bold, determined burglar, could you shoot that person? A high percentage of trained soldiers can't bring themselves to shoot the enemy. However, if you did shoot, would you hit the burglar? At distances beyond a few feet, most people have difficulty hitting any moving target, so you probably would miss.
Even if you were one of very few people who is ever burglarized while you are at home, if you tried to shoot the burglar, you would create a bigger problem for yourself, because the burglar might shoot back. Burglars who carry guns have told researchers that, overwhelmingly, they don't plan on shooting or hurting anyone – they just carry guns to scare people into complying with their requests to turn over their money, or to protect themselves from armed homeowners. You may think your gun protects you, but it actually increases the likelihood that you will get shot.
Some people think that they will use their guns to protect themselves against violence on the street. They read about drive-by gang-related shootings and imagine that they would be able to shoot an attacker who was speeding around a corner in a car. These people watch too many movies. Reacting fast enough and shooting accurately enough to hit the driver of a fleeing car and not hit innocent bystanders on the street is far beyond the abilities of almost every gun owner, including most cops.
Some people want to have guns to protect themselves from being robbed. They relish stories of convenience store robbers being shot by cops who happened to have stopped for a cup of coffee. They don't talk so much about the security guards, clerks, and customers who get shot when they pull guns and try to stop a robber from stealing some cigarettes or a little cash from the store's register. The banks, where the real money is, know better. They train their tellers to give the robbers the money. It's not nearly as important as someone's life, and it's insured, just like all the stuff in people's houses.
Some people think they will use their guns to fight off an invading army or to shoot at their local police, National Guard, or the U.S. military if these forces ever decide to stage a coup and take over our country. These people haven't noticed the weapons in our armories, including armored vehicles, artillery, and drone aircraft. This weaponry is why people in Iraq and Afghanistan use roadside bombs to resist invaders. Guns won't do the job – they'll just get you killed.
Gun Collecting. I'm pretty sure that if gun owners didn't also have their guns for hunting, target shooting, or defense, there wouldn't be any more people collecting guns than there are people who collect antique typewriters or cameras, which are much more complex mechanical wonders than guns.
It is pretty clear that the ostensible reasons that people give for owning guns are based on fiction, not facts. It is hard to believe that gun owners are ignorant of all of the hundreds (maybe thousands) of studies of guns that have been done over the past several decades by academics, law enforcement agencies, and independent researchers, which show that guns make people less safe, not more safe. It is disturbing to think that gun owners are delusional and incapable of reconciling their fantasies with reality. Perhaps gun owners just have other reasons which they aren't talking about for wanting their guns. That will be a topic for another day.