Anti-gunners have attacked guns — and gun owners — in many ways over the years. Some attacks might have some legitimacy, but most are pretty far out there. In a recent article, however, Salon might have designed the most unique anti-gun argument ever heard. The writer decided to make the claim that men become more aggressive by simply holding a gun.
The article reads:
“With a gun in his hand, a man can look around a room, a building, or a public area and specifically identify who will instantaneously die and whom he will allow to live. It’s a power that traditionally has only been held by doctors, priests, police and soldiers.
“The power over life and death is greater and more intoxicating than any other power; it’s one of the reasons why some men are specifically drawn to these professions and historically have tried to regulate them to be male-only.
“If you are not male and have never carried a gun in public, it’s only an imaginary experiment, but science shows that simply handling a gun alters men’s levels of testosterone and measurably increases their aggressive behavior.”
Basically, this article claims that male gun owners have more testosterone, and this raises every time a man touches a gun. It also states that holding a gun makes a man more aggressive; i.e. more likely to commit a violent crime, such as assault and murder.
Guns, Testosterone and Aggression
The concept behind the Salon article came from a study called, “Guns, Testosterone, and Aggression.” In the study, researchers took 30 college-aged males and had them play with either a gun or a children’s toy. Before and after, the subjects gave saliva samples to determine testosterone levels. Then, the young men had to put hot sauce into a water glass intended for another person. The researchers told the subjects they were studying taste sensitivity in males. The gun or toy stayed in the room the entire time.
Afterwards, the men watched a relaxing video due to the “potentially arousing nature of the experiment,” as the researchers wanted them to leave calm. The young men were also debriefed, since the researchers lied about the nature of the experiment, and told to not feel bad about the level of aggressiveness exhibited. The study determined that those who handled the gun had testosterone levels go up by 62.05 pg/ml, compared to 0.68 pg/ml who played with the toy. Also, those men put averaged a little over 9 grams more hot sauce than the others. The researchers believe this confirmed the hypothesis that “amount of hot sauce placed in the cup was positively correlated with changes in testosterone level.”
For reference, the average male’s testosterone level is around 679 nanograms per deciliter of blood, ranging between 300 to 1,000 ng/dl. Testosterone level peaks around age 20 before slowing declining. Numerous factors affect testosterone level and its decline in men.
Salon Article Pushing Gun Registration
The Salon article contains numerous troubling analogies, the first being that simply holding a gun leads to aggressive behavior. Next on the list is that shooting a gun raises adrenaline and endorphin levels. Actually, might have to give them a point for that one; shooting provides an awesome feeling. However, this comparison subtly pushes the idea that carrying and shooting guns naturally leads to violent behavior, via the “40,000 gun deaths a year” fallacy. The author references that number in the article with no actual explanation about it. Accidents and suicides are more than half of the total. But hey, who needs context when it contradicts the point you’re trying to make?
Going by this study and article, concealed carriers should be walking around committing violent crimes on a regular basis. However, the Crime Prevention Research Center has numerous examples showing that permit holders are extremely law-biding.
Additionally, the author somehow equates implementing car registration and reduced vehicles deaths to gun registration.
“In 1920 you could buy and drive a car without a driver’s license in most states. We figured out the downsides of such a libertarian policy, and regulated cars; the result was a rapid reduction in deaths and morbidity.”
“… If a driver must carry liability insurance because his car could kill somebody, why not a gun owner?”
The author tries to make whatever point this is, but fails to acknowledge a study that shows permit holders are far less likely to drive recklessly.
And the Survey Says …
The final problem in the Salon article is actually pointed out by a few of its readers. One reader points out that testosterone fluctuates throughout the day, due to numerous factors. In fact, the reader explains how the change in testosterone found in the study is similar to the average change over an hour. As such, this study doesn’t come to any logical conclusions.
If guns caused aggressive behavior, then America would probably be the most violent country on Earth; and concealed carriers would be the most likely to commit crimes, rather than being the most law-biding.