The Gun Debate: Too Much Emotion, Not Enough Data?

Journalist and Author
Over a year ago

There's arguably no more contentious debate in today's America than the one raging over firearms and gun control. Freakonomics author Stephen J. Dubner explains that the lack of good data on national gun trends is a major contributor to this contention. Dubner thinks the United States would benefit from a National Firearms Safety Administration to collate firearms data, similar to how the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration handles transportation data.

"The more we know about how every accident happens, the better we can do at preventing. Similarly with something like guns the more we know about how guns are used, how they get in the hands of the people who use them for crime."

As for the gun control debate itself, it's too often dominated by extremists from each side shouting emotional arguments at each other without pointing toward empirical evidence... again, because there's a major hole currently where a whole lot of useful data could be. And if you've ever read a Freakonomics book, you know that data is the key to understanding trends, incentives, and best practices for a better society.

"Data can be a kind of different tool in the arsenal when you’re trying to make better policy or public policy because otherwise you’re just kind of shouting at each other with your ideology rather than understanding how people actually behave."