The Corner

Guns & Brains

The New York Times has a story on a new study that links gun ownership to aggressive behavior. Showing a newfound willingness to take cues from the Times, Andrew Sullivan implies that because guns increase male testosterone levels that lends credence to those who want to ban guns. He writes:

A new front has just opened up in the Second Amendment debate. The usual NRA argument is that guns don’t kill people; people kill people. I’ve always been almost-persuaded by this. The missing link is what actually owning or handling a gun does to male psychology. Does it ramp up testosterone all by itself and thereby make firing a gun more likely?

Huh? Does Andrew really want to go down this path? What if testosterone levels spike when men see depictions of open homosexuality? Should such depictions be regulated? We know pornography fires all sorts of cylanders in peoples’ brains, not all of them healthy. How should policy makers react to that? We know that religion has many beneficial effects on health, perhaps the state should encourage religion more?

New technologies will tell us many interesting things, but fewer new things than people believe. Science will confirm for the umpteenth time that man is sinful, that he is tempted by things, including guns. Simply because we can measure the manner in which sin and temptation operate on us physically shouldn’t immediately mean that new policies and prohibitions should be rollled out. Is anyone shocked that men dig guns? Do we really need beakers and test tubes to know this?

This isn’t even a new argument. Whatever role testosterone plays in all this, it surely pales compared to the more conventional argument that owning a gun makes it far more likely you will shoot someone with a gun. I don’t think gun rights advocates ever disputed that.

And, of course, if the “scientific” connection here was all that strong, we’d see a lot more bullets flying, given how many guns and gunowners are out there. The reason we don’t? Because citizens are not slaves to testosterone.

Update: From a reader:

Another thing about that gun study: it comared the testosterone levels of people who handled a gun to people who handled the board game “mouse trap.” Why didn’t they compare the gun-handlers testosterone to a group of men who were handling a car engine?

And from another:


The real story in the NYTimes article isn’t that people who like guns also like hot sauce, and like to prank other people, but that Mouse Trap is, in fact, the most boring game of all time, and it sends you into a coma-like state where your sense of humor is destroyed by stupid falling cages.

The answer is obvious: Drop millions of Mouse Trap games on al Qaeda strongholds!

One last one:


They should test a guy’s testosterone level while trying to put the thing together with two toddlers climbing all over him; and his wife is in the other room watching Shalom in the House (or is it Shalom in the Home?). Not that I know anything about that, or am bitter or anything like that.




Jonah Goldberg, a senior editor of National Review and the author of Suicide of the West, holds the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty at the American Enterprise Institute.

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