Tuesday, 16 April 2013 11:00

Gun Control Advocacy: Fact-free Crusades

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Amid all the heated, emotional advocacy of gun control, have you ever heard even one person present convincing hard evidence that tighter gun control laws have in fact reduced murders?

Think about all the states, communities within states, as well as foreign countries, that have either tight gun control laws or loose or non-existent gun control laws. With so many variations and so many sources of evidence available, surely there would be some compelling evidence somewhere if tighter gun control laws actually reduced the murder rate.

And if tighter gun control laws don't actually reduce the murder rate, then why are we being stampeded toward such laws after every shooting that gets media attention?

Have the media outlets that you follow ever even mentioned that some studies have produced evidence that murder rates tend to be higher in places with tight gun control laws?

The dirty little secret is that gun control laws do not actually control guns. They disarm law-abiding citizens, making them more vulnerable to criminals, who remain armed in disregard of such laws.

In England, armed crimes skyrocketed as legal gun ownership almost vanished under increasingly severe gun control laws in the late 20th century. (See the book Guns and Violence by Joyce Lee Malcolm). But gun control has become one of those fact-free crusades, based on assumptions, emotions and rhetoric.

What almost no one talks about is that guns are used to defend lives as well as to take lives. In fact, many of the horrific killings that we see in the media were brought to an end when someone else with a gun showed up and put a stop to the slaughter.

The Cato Institute estimates upwards of 100,000 defensive uses of guns per year. Preventing law-abiding citizens from defending themselves can cost far more lives than are lost in the shooting episodes that the media publicize. The lives saved by guns are no less precious, just because the media pay no attention to them.

Many people who have never fired a gun in their lives, and never faced life-threatening dangers, nevertheless feel qualified to impose legal restrictions that can be fatal to others. And politicians eager to "do something" that gets them publicity know that the votes of the ignorant and the gullible are still votes.

Virtually nothing that is being proposed in current gun control legislation is likely to reduce murder rates.

Restricting the magazine capacity available to law-abiding citizens will not restrict the magazine capacity of people who are not law-abiding citizens. Such restrictions just mean that the law-abiding citizen is likely to run out of ammunition first.

Someone would have to be an incredible sharpshooter to fend off three home invaders with just seven shots at moving targets. But seven is the magic number of bullets allowed in a magazine under New York State's new gun control laws.

People who support such laws seem to blithely assume that they are limiting the damage that can be done by criminals or the mentally ill — as if criminals or mad men care about such laws.

Banning so-called "assault weapons" is a farce, as well as a fraud, because there is no concrete definition of an assault weapon. That is why so many guns have to be specified by name in such bans — and the ones specified to be banned are typically no more dangerous than others that are not specified.

Some people may think that "assault weapons" means automatic weapons. But automatic weapons were banned decades ago. Banning ugly-looking "assault weapons" may have aesthetic benefits, but it does not reduce the dangers to human life in the slightest. You are just as dead when killed by a very plain-looking gun.

One of the dangerous inconsistencies of many, if not most, gun control crusaders is that those who are most zealous to get guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens are often not nearly as concerned about keeping violent criminals behind bars.

Leniency toward criminals has long been part of the pattern of gun control zealots on both sides of the Atlantic. When the insatiable desire to crack down on law-abiding citizens with guns is combined with an attitude of leniency toward criminals, it can hardly be surprising when tighter gun control laws are accompanied by rising rates of crime, including murders.

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94305. His website is www.tsowell.com. To find out more about Thomas Sowell and read features by other Creators Syndicate columnists and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.

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2 comments

  • Comment Link REMant Tuesday, 16 April 2013 16:43 posted by REMant

    By any estimate taking guns out of the hands of the ppl who've shot up theaters and schools in the past year, or intended to according to police, would've saved a few hundred lives. But of those only a very few were actually shot with an "assault" weapon. No, this is about stopping several thousands from committing suicide or, more likely, in the view of big city officials, threatening others with pistols. Perhaps about disarming militias hostile to govt. But, ultimately, about being left free to terrorize others without fear of repercussions.

  • Comment Link Julian Hale Tuesday, 16 April 2013 12:57 posted by Julian Hale

    100,000 Defensive Gun Uses per year is about the lowest estimate I've ever seen, but still far outpaces people injured or killed with a gun. Other estimates I've seen place that number between 600,000 and 2.5 million per year, and the most comprehensive reviews place that number between 1 and 1.5 million. In the vast majority of cases, these DGUs are simply a display of a gun, with no shots fired. Far more people are saved from crime, injury, and murder than are at the receiving end of a criminal with a gun.

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