A "bucket brigade," or "human chain," involves a line of people where items are passed from one person to the next. For example, passing buckets of water to a house on fire.
If you broke the chain of people, input would not arrive at the output.
Two things must both happen for a person to commit murder using a gun:
- The person must have access to a gun
- The person must want to commit murder
You can prevent murder by gunshot by removing either component.
- If guns are made to be extremely rare, then murder by gunshot will be rarer than if guns are extremely common
- If you convince people to never commit murder, then even if everyone carries a gun at all times, murder by gunshot will not occur.
The problem with the saying, "guns don't kill people, people kill people" is that it fixates on only one element of the bucket brigade. The reality is that you could remove either element of the bucket brigade, and the chain would be broken. You can attempt to remove the guns, or you can attempt remove a person's desire to kill another person.
Where I work for living, there is a drop-off location for dirty cotton gloves. The dirty-glove has a black plastic trash bag in it and it looks like a trash can. There is a sign saying "cotton gloves only," but the sign is difficult to read. Employees often put plastic trash in the dirty-glove-bin. We ear both plastic gloves and cloth gloves, and the glove-bin often contains as much trash as actual washable gloves. Different employees spend a lot of time removing all of the trash before putting the gloves into a washing machine. If employees did not put trash in the bin, then the gloves could go straight into the washing machine without someone spending the time to first remove all of the trash.
The following arguments both fixate too much on one component instead of the system as a whole:
- It is the employee's fault that the glove bin is always full of trash!
- It is the management's fault that the glove bin is always full of trash! They should not line the glove-bin with a black trash bag! Why don't they buy a bin that looks really different from a trash can? Also, they should put up a sign-up with bigger text, and in more than one language!
Whenever people talk about whose "fault" some outcome is, people almost always note that the removal of event X would result in a better outcome. Usually, it is plausible that if X did not happen first, then the bad thing would not have resulted. If event X did happen, but event Y did not, then the bad thing would not have resulted either. You can break the bucket brigade chain-of-causation at any link in the chain. There is not one unique chain link.
As another example, I was recently angry at myself, because I wanted a case to protect my cellphone, but I waited too long to buy one. My phone screen got scratched in the interim. I ordered a case on Amazon, but the order was canceled when I canceled my debit card. I thought something like, "If only I had not canceled my debit card, I would have a phone case by now!" However, even if I had not canceled my debit card, I still could have gotten a phone case earlier. I could have bought a cellphone case when I got the phone, but I decided not to buy one, because the in-person store charged many times what internet vendors charge for cases. If you do badly in chess, it makes no sense to fixate on one bad move. The reality is that 100s of things could be imagined differently. If your opponent had not made an even earlier mistake, you might have lost long before you arrived at your "bad move."
You can reduce the number of murders in this world by eliminating 1 of 2 factors:
- reducing people's access to firearms
- reducing people's desire to kill each-other.
Note that it is not the case that if no gun were available, a person would always commit the murder by another means. Knives, for example, involve a context of physical strength. If you increase how risky a stock is, while holding potential benefit constant, some people will still buy the stock, but fewer will buy it than before. If you shrink the set of options for how people commit murder, murder will still occur, though not as often as before.
Suppose there was a magic substance which killed dandelions, only dandelions, and had no environmental impact, etc... If you sprayed it on your lawn, would there still be weeds? Yes, there might still be Russian thistles, crab grass, purse-lane, bindweed (morning glory).
It is up to you to decide how many resources to invest in each bucket brigade link. For example, you could try putting 10% of your effort into reducing access to firearms and 90% into making people not want to kill each-other, or vis versa. What strategy is most effective, making guns more difficult to come by, or persuading people not to kill each-other?
"Guns don't kill people, people kill people" is a very stupid way of viewing the issue. I am not saying that allowing people to have guns is stupid, only that this specfic justification for why guns should be available, is downright dumb. The saying "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" asserts that if you remove people's desire to commit murder, it would not matter how many guns they had. We could all be carrying guns by the armful, and no firearm-related homicide would occur. That is technically true, but not useful.