Besides the evidence of the negative social costs in relation to violence, the ruling raises another key issue. The ruling notes that gun ownership is important for hunting and self-defense. On the issue of hunting, clearly the preferred weapon of most hunters is not a handgun. While hunting may be a enjoyable pastime for some, it seems that having measures such as trigger locks or disassembling them should not be a problem, as was required in Washington D.C. prior to the ruling today. For self-defense, Hemenway (2000) found that that criminal uses of guns far outweigh self-defense uses. This casts serious doubt on whether the presence of guns actually makes us safer, even from a self-defense standpoint. Wintemute (2008) also notes the dangers of guns and the likelihood of fatal accidents when fear is a factor, even when there was no actual threat.
While I don't think any amount of evidence can make die-hard gun activists change their mind, I hope that others are more open to the overall effects of guns on society. While a collectivist approach to public policy is not something that many Americans understand, it would provide for a safer future. Fixing the fear of violence through arming ourselves does little to assuage the fear and makes us less safe as a society. Reducing inequalities and creating active, engaged communities would do much more to foster safer neighborhoods than any amount of individual effort.
Cook, Philip J., and Jens Ludwig. 2006. "The social costs of gun ownership." Journal of Public Economics 90: 379-391
Hemenway, David, and Deborah Azrael. 2000. "The Relative Frequency of Offensive and Defensive Gun Uses: Results From a National Survey." Violence and Victims 15: 257-272.
Kleck, Gary. 2004. "Measures of Gun Ownership Levels for Macro-Level Crime and Violence Research." Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 41: 3-36.
Wintemute, Garen J. 2008. "Guns, Fear, the Constitution, and the Public's Health." New England Journal of Medicine 358: 1421-1424.