It’s not black and white.
On Facebook today, yet another one of my friends was ranting about the need for gun control. He especially took offense to the “cars kill more people” argument, which I agree is pretty idiotic. Of course, I chimed in.
Truth is, neither guns nor cars kill people. People kill people. A gun (or a car) sitting on its own won’t kill anyone. It takes someone to pull the trigger (or drive carelessly) to kill.
My friend lashed out against the people who say that with gun control, only the bad guys will have guns. I’m one of those people. Sadly, I believe that the bad guys and wackos will continue to be able to get guns, no matter what the law says is allowed.
How about some Facts?
I then mentioned an article I’d read a while back that reported on studies that have shown that in cities where tough gun control laws were enacted, gun-related crime went up. I didn’t have the link handy, and someone immediately accused me of quoting the NRA. So I tracked down the link, which I’d bookmarked in Delicious — indeed, it appeared in the list of Interesting Links here back in January. The piece is called “More God, Less Crime or More Guns, Less Crime?” and it reviews two books that look at the relationship between religion and crime and gun control and crime. Because it’s a lot harder for Facebook users to click a link and read an article than simply click a “Like” button, I included the three key paragraphs to support my argument:
Take Washington, D.C. Before the ban on handguns was implemented in August of 1976, DC ranked 20th in murder rates out of the top 50 cities in America. After the gun ban, DC shot up to either #1 or #2, where year after year it held steady as “the murder capital of the nation,” as it as dubbed by the media. As a control experiment of sorts, after the Supreme Court decision in the Heller case overturned the DC gun ban, murder rates dropped and have continued to fall ever since. According to Lott, whose data is based primarily on crime statistics provided by the FBI, once the gun ban was lifted, homicide rates plummeted 42.1%, sexual assault rates dropped 14.9%, robbery excluding guns dropped 34.3%, robbery with guns plunged 58%, assault with a dangerous weapon excluding guns sank 11%, assault with a dangerous weapon using guns tumbled 35.6%, and total violent crime nosedived 31%, along with total property crimes decreasing a total of 10.7%.
Chicago showed a similar effect, Lott demonstrated. Ever since the gun ban was implemented in 1982, no year has been as low in crimes as it was before the ban. Island nations (which serve as good tests, Lott says, because their borders are more tightly controlled from extraneous variables) demonstrate the same effect: Jamaica and Ireland homicide rates increased after gun bans were imposed. Ditto England and Wales: After a gun ban was imposed in January of 1997, homicide rates slowly climbed and peaked at an average of 28% higher after the ban. (By dramatic contrast, Lott said that in 1900 London in which people were free to do whatever they wanted with their guns, there were a grand total of 2 gun-related deaths and 5 armed robberies in a population of many millions, and this was 20 years before gun laws began going into effect in 1920.)
Why do more guns mean less crime? Lott offers a very practical explanation: it is extremely hard to keep criminals from getting and keeping guns. In other words, Gun bans are primarily obeyed by non-criminals. Criminals that already have guns do not turn them in, and potential criminals that want to get guns have no problem procuring them on the street illegally. Lott cited several studies by criminologists who interviewed criminals in jail and collected data on the amount of time they spend casing a home before burglarizing it. In the U.K., where gun bans are much more prevalent than in the U.S., the criminals reported that they spend very little time casing a joint and that they don’t really care if someone is home or not because they know the residents won’t be armed (whereas they, of course, are armed). Their U.S. counterparts, by contrast, reported spending more than double the time casing a home before robbing it, explaining that they were waiting for the residents to leave. Why? They said that they were worried they would be shot.
Anyone truly interested in taking a different, fact-based look at the gun control argument should probably track down John Lott’s book, More Guns, Less Crime. Or keep ranting without the facts. Whatever.
But Assault Weapons?
Don’t get me wrong — I don’t think anyone should have an assault rifle. That’s not what the founding fathers were thinking about when they penned the Bill of Rights. The Second Amendment was written in a time when armed militias were needed to protect small towns. Part of our gripe with Britain at the end of the 18th century is that they wanted us disarmed so they could control us. The Second Amendment was written, in part, to prevent the government from having the ability to do that. And I’m sure that came in handy in 1812 when the British came back for a second try.
Sadly, the NRA and Second Amendment proponents have twisted that around to say we have the right to bear any weapon. I really don’t think that’s what was intended.
What happened in Aurora is simple. A freaking nut job legally got his hands on guns and, in his deluded mind, carried out some sort of mission which involved killing a lot of innocent people. No gun control law would have prevented him from getting guns if he wanted them badly enough.
Or maybe he would have built a bomb or — to take my Facebook friend’s analogy a step further — used an SUV as a ramming speed killing machine at an outdoor event. The problem wasn’t the guns as much as it was the person who held them.
Guns don’t kill; people kill.
Thinking about Gun Control
I have some pretty strong thoughts and feelings about gun control — and oddly enough, they’re from both sides of the argument. In other words, I’m not for it or against it. I do think something needs to be done, but I don’t know what it is.
What’s the solution? I don’t know. I don’t think there is one. But anyone following the Aurora story should know that gun permit requests and gun purchases have gone up in Colorado in the past week. I think that says something about how people really feel about guns.
And several fellow Arizonans truly believe that if this had happened in Arizona, all the gun-toting “patriots” there would have put this guy down before too many people were hurt or killed — and saved taxpayers a lot of money on legal proceedings in the process.
I don’t know what the answer is. Without all the facts, how could I know? How could anyone?
But until I do, I’m certainly not willing to step out on a limb and support any policy that might make matters worse.
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