Steven Pinker: Are guns to blame for America’s homicide rate?


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One of the reasons we don’t know whether limiting access to guns would effectively decrease the homicide rate in America is because the Congress passed a law that bars the Centers for Disease Control from conducting such related studies.In the United States, gun rights are a sacred cause of the right and are protected vehemently. As Steven Pinker says, «anything that might compromise the right of everyone to have a gun is squelched.» The word «anything» seems to even include research. A lot is at stake — people’s lives — by not conducting research to find out how to control gun violence in America. We need to keep politicians accountable to the people, and pressure them to enact policies founded on solid research. This first means though that such research is no longer suppressed.



Steven Pinker is an experimental psychologist who conducts research in visual cognition, psycholinguistics, and social relations. He grew up in Montreal and earned his BA from McGill and his PhD from Harvard. Currently Johnstone Professor of Psychology at Harvard, he has also taught at Stanford and MIT. He has won numerous prizes for his research, his teaching, and his nine books, including The Language Instinct, How the Mind Works, The Blank Slate, The Better Angels of Our Nature, The Sense of Style, and Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress.



STEVEN PINKER: One of the big puzzles when it comes to understanding violence is why the American rate of violence is five to ten times higher than that of other wealthy democracies. There are countries that have spectacularly high rates of violence mainly in Central America and North and South America and in Southern Africa. But it’s funny to see the United States not quite up there but much higher rates of homicide than our peers in the British Commonwealth and in Europe.

Now the ready answer is well, that’s because we have all those guns. And that is part of the answer but it’s not the total answer. Because even if you subtract out all of the gun homicides in the United States and you just look at all the murders committed with ropes and candlesticks and knives and so on. The United States still has a higher rate of homicide.

But and we also don’t know for sure whether the favorite remedy of many people on the liberal left, namely tougher gun control, would have an effect in lowering homicides given how many guns are already out there. The United States has more guns than people so restricting the sale of future guns is a small measure. Maybe it does but no one really knows for sure. And we do know that the United States itself had quite a spectacular reduction in violent crime starting in the 90s and again in the 2000s. It certainly wasn’t because massive numbers of guns were taken off the streets. Quite the contrary. So there’s a lot we don’t know but tragically and boneheadedly the U.S. Congress passed a law that the Centers for Disease Control was not allowed to study gun violence as a public health problem. Now that is insanity. That is an example of political interference with conductive research.

In the United States gun rights are a sacred cause of the right and anything that might compromise the right of everyone to have a gun is squelched. I’ve talked about many of the threats to academic freedom from the campus left but the political right is far more pernicious because they actually have power. I mean academics, it’s often said that academic debates are fierce because so little is at stake but when it comes to government a lot is at stake and the suppression of research on gun violence is an example of how the right is also guilty of suppressing freedom of inquiry and it’s one of the reasons why we really don’t’ know how best to reduce gun violence in the United States.

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  1. Peter Misiorek

    You said it Pinker! Gun ownership is not related to high rate of homicide. And rightly so keeps the socialist in check!

  2. Blurry Dinosaur

    We know what the issue is. Unfortunately most people including Pinker are to scared to admit it, due to the inevitable consequence of being socially ostracized. Watch Red Elephants with Vincent James if you want some real answers.

  3. The Hand Above the King aka THAK
  4. LegendaryCanary

    this guy didn't like epstein (not kidding look him up). put him on the list (jk)

  5. Julie Baker

    We were plenty homicidal before guns existed. Hate and fear cause homicide; not guns. Guns or any advanced weaponry are just the fruition or product of fear and hate. We don't tend to shoot our family or friends when we have an argument; we create dialog and talk it out. We don't tend to call in an air-strike during a fight with our next-door neighbor; we use a conflict resolution process to argue an issue out and compromise. Violence (particularly racialized violence) is sadly imbedded in the the fabric of the US military/incarceration state, but it doesn't need to necessarily be imbedded in its subjects. As long as hate and fear rule us, violence will continue to reign in any form it can; guns or not. In the absence of guns people lynch; rape; stab; enslave, torture.. people do any number of abhorrent violences. This country was plenty homicidal before guns were so plentiful.

  6. Eivind Amundsen

    I belive poverty are to blame for your high homicide rate.

  7. Andy Anaya

    Steven Pinker is a villain — everything out of his mouth is a calm, condescending, articulate request to be led to the guillotine

  8. Q-Hack!

    Wow, so much left out.
    1) The CDC is no longer banned from studying gun violence. Trump signed legislation allowing it back in 2018.
    2) The CDC isn't funded to study gun violence. Gun violence isn't a disease/health issue so they really shouldn't be funded to study such things directly. A suicide study with a point of data regarding use of a gun… fine, but not directly.
    3) Supporters of the Second Amendment are not against true scientific studies surrounding gun violence. What we oppose are laws regulating gun ownership based on junk science. Back when the CDC was banned they were on the record stating they would use their scientific clout to pursue stricter gun regulations. This was wrong and so the gov put a stop to it. Oddly enough, the CDC has done studies showing that defensive use of guns outweigh the dangers of gun ownership. The CDC never made those studies public. Some would say the CDC tried to bury them, others claim non-malfeasance. Either way, the studies should have been made public long before they got caught.

    I like Steven Pinker, he is usually very good, but on this issue he really should have studied up a bit before this video.

  9. Nathan 556

    The CDC did do studies on gun violence and found defence gun uses outweighed criminal gun use. Also, why should the Centers for Disease Control study gun homicides, guns aren't a disease.

  10. Thomas Chen

    Putting on an extra layer of clothing doesn't necessarily prevent you from getting cold; but no one is foolish enough to go out naked in winter. Having some basic measures in place is the vital step to take. It is the common sense conclusion that doesn't need an expert to explain.

  11. Ewok Jedi

    When you account for suicides and blacks you get a different picture…

  12. Avraham Yeuda

    what about the answer to the question?

  13. Al

    I don't know how you can more clearly admit that you're hiding something than to forbid research into it.

  14. Colby Porter

    Problem is collegic ellietist will be conducting these studies and true Americans don't trust them. They lie more than speak the truth. Here is truth…

  15. LoC

    Short but surprisingly balanced. A couple of points though:

    In Britain guns are heavily regulated, so it's knife crime which is the problem. Or to put it another way they really do just find something else to kill each other with.

    2. If you want to restrict guns don't ban them, ban (or restrict) the ammunition & supplies.

  16. CrzyLion

    every time an american doesnt mention that their culture is an inbred circular motion driving around more blood and bigger explosions and good guys vs the bad guys, i smile.

    i mean come on the USA has illegally overthrown two south american countries in JUST NOVEMBER ALONE.
    your children grow up with rambo and your adolescents then have actual war criminals as heroes (bush obama trump which one was your favourite childkiller?), obviously your murders will go up.

  17. killbotone

    Americans are to blame. If they cant behave then they should have the guns taken away, it's really that simple.

  18. Cat Tac

    Answer is no. Don't even watch the video because the answer is common sense.

  19. Jan Williams

    I strongly support the Second Amendment but to not allow studies is stupid and short sighted.

  20. JRR31984

    Guns are NOT the problem, they reveal the problems.

  21. To Err is Huma

    Europe is catching up in terms of murder rate, though. Well at least in the areas that are emulating the American multicultural, multi-ethnic utopian grand-experiment.

  22. David Boson

    The most dangerous person on Earth for an American — is another Amercian = and that is the way we like it!!!!!

  23. Rick Conner

    Banning research with predetermined conclusions and with the political aim of increasing gun control is hardly suppressing valid research. I have a suspicion there is a middle ground where truth will be found. Having any government agency fund studies with the goal of suppressing a Constitutional Right is never a good thing.

  24. brandon castillo

    The truth and fact of the matter is, guns are not the reason for the homicide rate.
    But media manipulation can influence the sale of the guns.

    Just the facts. Case closed.

  25. GenesicShinZyraelKai

    Definitely not… It's definitely video games… Video games are definitely the reason why homicide even exists.

  26. Brad Wilson

    Because firearm "research" has been distorted to support gun control, it was never conducted from a neutral stance. Think of the DOJ changing the upper age to 19 to inflate the numbers for "youth violence". Think of how suicide is always included in the base rate.

  27. itskarl79

    1:50 — Studying mental health issues would be far more beneficial and cost effective. Seems like regulation often focuses on symptoms and not the root of issues. I would say as long as someone is profiting from mismanagement of our country, we're unlikely to seek genuine resolutions for anything.

  28. VIII Maus

    What kind of idiot would let the government take away their own failsafe.

  29. James L

    Some of the other western democracies have higher rates of certain violent crimes like rape and assault.

  30. Angry Emu

    Guns are not to blame. Coloreds are.
    Deport your local minority today

  31. heidiheidi0

    PSA: as of march 2018, cdc can now research gun violence again.

  32. Frank Donohoe

    Ending Prohibition and disarming police are the first steps to reducing violence.

  33. Zach Love

    I think resentment and envy due to what we see on social media plays a role in this but no one really talks about that. Seeing people that are as far as you know having far more of a better life than you are can make you hateful. Something to consider

  34. Daniel Malloy


  35. Daniel Malloy

    Guns right are the sacred freedom of the the bill of rights not the far right.

  36. Daniel Malloy

    Has nothing to do we are attached to the most violent country in the world, no not Canada

  37. apogeus2

    i blame hollywood, mtv and violent video games