Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Getting Rid of Guns

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Americans are nearly unanimous about the need to reduce mass shootings, but not about needing more gun control. That’s because evidence shows fewer guns mean more deaths.

From the print edition of The New American

In the aftermath of the latest school shooting in Florida, multiple groups around the country are clamoring for more gun-control measures, putting together protests, marches, and school walkouts to put pressure on legislators to do something to reduce gun crimes.

Many students are getting on board with these protests, and their motivations are understandable because everyone except crazies wants to keep kids safe.

Because gun owners are also generally parents, everyone should be on the same page — in agreement to do something to reduce the number of mass shootings that happen in this country, while still acknowledging that in our relatively free society, no action will eliminate mass shootings altogether. (Even though some people are mean enough or crazy enough to kill indiscriminately, that doesn’t mean they aren’t clever enough to skirt any laws meant to stop them.)

Many murders even happen in U.S. prisons, where the convicts are under near full-time scrutiny by guards. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s study entitled “Mortality in Local Jails and State Prisons, 2000-2013 — Statistical Tables,” approximately 22 inmates in local jails die of homicide each year, and 295 commit suicide. Three out of every 100,000 jail inmates will die of homicide. That compares to a homicide rate in the U.S. populace at large of 4.9 per 100,000 people. If you can’t stop murders in prison by banning weapons, you certainly can’t stop them in society at large. Add to the figure on jails the fact that about 54 inmates in state prisons also die by homicide each year — again about three out of every 100,000 prisoners — and 184 per year die of suicide. Plus there are homicides in federal penitentiaries.

America as a whole also has a murder rate of 3.2 per 100,000 without counting homicides done with guns.

Percentage-wise, the United States has a particularly violent underclass — a cultural issue; our country has more hom­icides in prisons, where prisoners are monitored by cameras and guards and where prisoners have no ready access to weapons (they must improvise weapons from items the authorities deem safe), than some countries as a whole experience. As was mentioned, about three out of every 100,000 prisoners in the United States fall victim to homicide. That is a much higher figure than the total homicide rates across most countries in Europe. According to the United Nations’ Office on Drugs and Crime, Norway has .56 homicides per 100,000 people, Sweden has 1.55, the U.K. .92, Italy .78, Austria .51, France 1.58, Germany .85, and Switzerland .69. Interestingly, target shooting is the national pastime in Switzerland, and young men — as part of the country’s militia — must keep military weapons in their residences, and its hom­icide rate is among the lowest in Europe (and most of its violent crime is committed by foreigners).

The question becomes, “Though we can’t prevent all mass murders, what measures would dramatically reduce mass shootings?”

Both the National Academy of Sciences and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control — anti-gun groups — set out to find the most useful gun-control measures by scrutinizing the world’s gun-control laws. Both came to the same conclusion: Not one gun-control measure in the world actually reduced violent crime and murders. None. The New York Post had this to say about the report by the Academy of Sciences: It issued a 328-page report entitled Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review on gun-control laws in December 2004, “based on 253 journal articles, 99 books, 43 government publications, a survey that covered 80 different gun-control measures and some of its own empirical work [and] the panel couldn’t identify a single gun-control regulation that reduced violent crime, suicide, or accidents.”

For students, who should be being taught to make decisions based on “logic” and “rational thought,” these studies should end any efforts to get rid of certain types of guns in order to reduce murders, especially mass shootings, for if no gun-control law can be shown to be effective at reducing violence and murders, they are not beneficial; rather, they are merely intrusive, onerous, and un-American.

But there are always responses ready against those who note the failure of gun-control laws: Skeptics question the studies’ conclusions, often claiming other studies have had opposite findings; they claim there isn’t anything else to try; or they push the idea that if such a law even stopped one mass shooting, it would be worth any inconvenience or loss of freedom.

Unfortunately for innocent victims of murderers, the rationalizations are wrong. First, the studies showing that gun-control laws don’t reduce violent crime are correct, as we can see by looking at some countries with very strict gun-control laws, such as Mexico, Brazil, and South Africa. In Mexico, according to a review of statistics by the UN’s Office of Drugs and Crime entitled “Intentional Homicides (Per 100,000 People) — Country Ranking,” despite strict gun laws, the murder rate is more than three times greater than in the United States (and kidnapping is so common that many businessmen actually make regular payments to criminal organizations not to kidnap them). Moreover, criminal gangs in that country are so brazen about ignoring gun laws that they regularly assassinate police officers, and they even break into police stations and prisons, with guns blazing, to help inmates escape. Mexico’s gun-control laws are very stringent: Citizens must go through background checks that include criminal history, mental history, physical health, any past drug addictions, and provide a detailed reason to own a gun; and then citizens are restricted as to the types of weapons and the calibers of cartridge available (including banning the calibers associated with most “assault rifles”).

Brazil, which since 2004 has required gun applicants to offer a good reason to get a gun and to renew a gun license every three years and has used that law to essentially forbid citizens from having guns, has a homicide rate of 26.7 people per 100,000, and there are an estimated nine million unregistered firearms in the country.

South Africa — which generally prohibits semi-automatic weapons of all types and requires passing a very in-depth background check, and in which civilians must establish a good reason to own a weapon and the sale of guns between individuals is prohibited and the number of cartridges one may possess is limited by law — has a murder rate of 34.3 per 100,000 people.

The United States is presently 84th in the world in homicide rates, with 4.9 murders per 100,000 people. However, that tells only part of the story since U.S. gun laws vary from one locality to another, and most murders in this country are done by gangs in cities that have very strict gun control, such as Detroit, which in 2013 had 45 murders per 100,000 people. There are also Chicago, Oakland, Los Angeles, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and more. These cities also have some the highest rates of violent crime overall. On the other hand, many areas of the United States that have very lenient gun laws have lower murder rates than the European countries that gun controllers always cite as evidence that gun control works.

Photo: benjaminjk/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

This article appears in the April 23, 2018, issue of The New American. To download the issue and continue reading this story, or to subscribe, click here.

The fact that gun-control laws don’t equate with less homicides gets buried if a person gets his news from left-wing sources such as the New York Times. Those news sources manufacture data and manipulate comparisons to damn guns and gun ownership. One hears that, as the Times said in its article “What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest an Answer,” “The only variable that can explain the high rate of mass shootings in America is its astronomical number of guns.” (Emphasis added.) The “manipulation” here is done by focusing the argument on the number of mass shootings in the United States, rather than on the number of people killed altogether.

The manufacturing of facts is equally apparent. According to the Times article, criminology professor Adam Lankford, the author of the main study the Times quotes, claims that the only underlying factor to which the large number of mass shootings in this country can be attributed is the large number of guns; it can’t be a propensity to violence by Americans, mental health, or anything else. The Times says:

A country’s rate of gun ownership correlated with the odds it would experience a mass shooting. This relationship held even when [Lankford] excluded the United States, indicating that it could not be explained by some other factor particular to his home country.

As is common among anti-gun publications, the New York Times lied. In fact, the abstract for the article at PubMed said flatly, “The global distribution of public mass shooters appears partially attributable to cross-national differences in firearms availability but not associated with cross-national homicide or suicide rates.” (Emphasis added.) Ironically, the same criminologist also has other articles in which he explores other causes of mass shootings in the United States, such as the fact that U.S. media make celebrities out of mass shooters, almost ensuring copycat killers. An abstract from another of Lankford’s studies says:

Findings indicate that the mass killers received approximately $75 million in media coverage value, and that for extended periods following their attacks they received more coverage than professional athletes and only slightly less than television and film stars. In addition, during their attack months, some mass killers received more highly valued coverage than some of the most famous American celebrities, including Kim Kardashian, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Johnny Depp, and Jennifer Aniston. Finally, most mass killers received more coverage from newspapers and broadcast/cable news than the public interest they generated through online searches and Twitter seems to warrant. Unfortunately, this media attention constitutes free advertising for mass killers that may increase the likelihood of copycats.

Hence, the New York Times’ own reporting is as likely to be the cause of mass shootings in this country as the number of firearms. Too, the New York Times claims, based on the Lankford study, that since mental health spending in countries around the developed world is similar, mental health differences cannot explain why the United States has so many mass shooters. This an extremely weak claim. Similar mental health spending between countries doesn’t mean that mental issues aren’t at play in the number of mass shootings in the United States. Many medications for anxiety and depression occasionally cause homicidal ideation (the urge to kill others), and Americans use more of these drugs than any other society in the world. Moreover, the vast majority of mass shooters in this country took such medications.

One last problem with the Times’ claim that access to guns means more mass shootings is that a mere few decades ago, guns were so accessible in the United States that Americans could literally order them through the mail from catalogs, and kids regularly brought them to school — either to target shoot after school or merely to leave in their vehicles — and mass shootings in this country were virtually nonexistent.

The culture changed for the worse; guns didn’t.

Statistics on Guns and Crime

The inconvenient truth for anti-gunners is that laws allowing Americans more freedom to own guns and use them in self-defense are not linked with more homicides. On the contrary, more guns in law-abiding hands show evidence of discouraging violent crime.

Florida’s gun-control laws are relevant here. Anti-gunners claimed when Florida allowed concealed carry by citizens in 1987 that murders would skyrocket. Here’s what happened, as recalled by the Texas Concealed Handgun Association:

Obviously concealed carry would turn Florida into another Dodge City. Blood would flow in the street. Fender-benders would turn into firefights.

The fight was tough, but the Unified Sportsmen of Florida succeeded. The Dire Predictions? A year later the president of the police chiefs association, who had opposed the bill, was asked if he had kept track of all the problems the law caused. “There aren’t any,” he said.

Then, in 2005, Florida passed a law known as the “stand your ground” law, which said that when citizens were faced with someone threatening their lives, they didn’t have to flee from danger as a first resort. They could defend themselves immediately. Again there were dire predictions of death and destruction, but it didn’t happen. Crime figures from 1960 to 2016, derived by disastercenter.com from several sources including the Florida Law Enforcement Agency Uniform Crime Reports, tell the story. In the 1960s, Florida averaged 9.7 murders per 100,000 people and 308.1 violent crimes. In the 1970s, it had 12.6 murders and 650.6 violent crimes. In the 1980s, it had 12.3 murders and 976.9 violent crimes. In the 1990s (after numbers of Floridians began carrying concealed guns), it had 8 murders and 1092.7 violent crimes per 100,000 people. From 2000 to 2010, Florida had 5.7 murders and 726.6 violent crimes. And 2010 to 2016 saw 5.1 murders and 480.5 violent crimes. Similar reductions in crime occurred around the country as gun restrictions were loosened so that people could defend themselves from criminals. I doubt anyone would be so foolish as to make the claim that American culture is more friendly and forgiving now than in the past decades when Americans routinely left their doors unlocked on their houses.

Guns Abroad

While access to guns by law-abiding Americans apparently greatly reduces overall murders and violent crimes, we see by looking to other countries that increased restrictive laws and decreased guns aren’t a causative factor in making people more safe. Laws and a huge police presence don’t discourage bad people who want to make a point or make a name for themselves. The U.K. provides a case in point. The U.K. is set on a pedestal by anti-gun advocates because of its low rate of homicides with guns and its strict gun laws. Supposedly one leads to the other. But the evidence shows that laws and police can’t stop determined would-be attackers.

After England effectively banned handguns in 1997, a 2002 Reason magazine article reported, “The use of handguns in crime rose by 40 percent” over the next two years, and the use continued upward afterward. (The reason that England has such low levels of homicides and gun crime is cultural. Even many criminals there eschew guns. As the Reason article stated, “A government study [in England] for the years 1890-92 … found only three handgun homicides, an average of one per year, in a population of 30 million. In 1904 there were only four armed robberies in London, then the largest city in the world.”)

However, because robbers in England don’t have to worry about their victims being armed, most English burglaries happen when the victims are home; in the United States only about 13 percent happen while the victims are home, the Reason article stated, because the burglars admit that they fear armed homeowners more than the police.

There is much more evidence that strict laws and invasive government don’t stop bad people. The U.K. was targeted by the Irish Republican Army with a terror campaign in the 1930s. The IRA launched hundreds of attacks because of England’s occupation of part of Ireland. In response, Britain sent troops into Ireland, patrolled the streets, enlisted spies to find out who the terrorists were, asked citizens to watch for suspicious behavior, and clamped down on any suspicious activity and organizations. Yet the bombings went on. Wikipedia reported on the bombings that happened just since 1971:

Between 1971 and 2001, there were 430 terrorist-related deaths in Great Britain. Of these, 125 deaths were linked to the Northern Ireland conflict, and 305 deaths were linked to other causes — most of the latter deaths occurred in the Lockerbie bombing. Since 2001, there have been almost 100 terrorist-related deaths in Great Britain, the vast majority linked to Islamic jihad and religious extremism.

Despite the huge government effort that the British expended and the enactment of laws meant to stop bombers and bombings, terrorist attacks continued — and they continue still, only from Islamic terrorists in their midst. In May of last year, despite a police presence (which because it was England was likely huge), 22-year-old Salman Abedi exploded a suicide vest outside an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester England, killing 22 innocent bystanders and wounding 50 others.

The lackluster effect of laws and government campaigns in stopping murders in the U.K. can be shown in another form, as well: When a rash of knife stabbings happened in England, authorities tried to take away dangerous knives as part of a large campaign to reduce the attacks. The results are notable for their failure. The UN’s 2014 Global Study on Homicides tells about an all-out effort to curb stabbings in that country. Murders with knives were prevalent in certain areas of the U.K. so the government introduced programs to slow the killings. The study observed:

Noting the severity of knife-related homicide, particularly among young people, the United Kingdom enacted the Violent Crime Reduction Act in 2006. Among its many provisions, it included raising the minimum age for buying a knife from 16 to 18 years of age, and increasing the maximum sentence for carrying a knife without good reason from two to four years.

In addition, the United Kingdom launched the “Tackling Knives Action Programme (TKAP)” in 2008, in response to a number of knife hom­icides involving teenage victims. Police in areas of greatest concern introduced a range of enforcement, education and prevention initiatives aimed at reducing youth knife violence. The programme ran from June 2008 to March 2010 and demonstrated positive reductions in the number of homicide victims and suspects in the areas in which it was implemented, though the reductions were not proportionately higher in programme areas than elsewhere, as reductions of serious youth violence were noted across the country from 2007 to 2010. [Emphasis added.]

According to the UN’s Global Homicide Study, youth carry knives in other countries because they want them for self-defense, and knife attacks continue. London alone last year saw 80 people get murdered with knives, including 20 teenagers. There were also five teens shot, and one teen who died of multiple injuries.

Police also reported that during school raids in London in November and December, they confiscated hundreds of knives. The U.K. Independent reported, “It is the highest number of teenage hom­icides in the city since 2008, coming amid mounting concern over a rise in violence including knife crime, moped robberies and acid attacks.”

In the U.K. criminals also use knives to commit many violent crimes, such as rape and robbery. In England and Wales, “There were 37,443 [knife] offences in the 12 months ending in September 2017, a 21% increase on the previous year and the highest number since 2011,” reported the BBC.

And the number of serious crimes in the U.K. appears to show that there is significantly more violent crime there than in the United States. As the website Politifact states, though exact comparisons between the countries can’t be done because they keep statistics differently, we can analyze crime generally and see that the unarmed populace in the U.K. seems vulnerable to violent crimes. Politifact says:

For England and Wales, we added together three crime categories: “violence against the person, with injury,” “most serious sexual crime,” and “robbery.” This produced a rate of 775 violent crimes per 100,000 people.

For the United States, we used the FBI’s four standard categories for violent crime that Bier cited. We came up with a rate of 383 violent crimes per 100,000 people.

And it should be reiterated that most violent crime in America happens in urban areas with strict gun-control laws.

In Australia, which is also praised by gun-control advocates because most guns, including rifles, shotguns, and pistols, were confiscated by authorities in 1996, though homicides with guns did decrease to 17 percent of all homicides after the confiscation (homicides with guns had been declining steadily since 1969 already), the overall number of hom­icides climbed, as did armed robbery, unarmed robbery, assaults, and sexual assaults. Sexual assaults increased by about four percent per year.

The proliferation of guns, even “assault rifles,” cannot be stopped by legislation. Consider the experience of Israel, a country the size of a small U.S. state, where there’s a military or police presence nearly everywhere and civilians must prove a reason to own a gun. In Israel, though it has very strict gun laws owing to the numerous terrorist attacks it has suffered and the large Arab populace that often hates the Jewish authorities and supports the Palestinians, the Israeli publication Haaretz reported in a 2012 article entitled “How Easy Is It to Get Hold of Illegal Firearms in Israel?”:

“Today, if you go to certain places and ask someone where to buy a gun, he’ll refer you to a second person, and by the third person you’ll be able to find what you want,” said a senior police official. “Whoever wants to get a weapon illegally in Israel will be able to get one.”

The same article reported that a recent police investigation

uncovered a factory in Nazareth last year that was manufacturing guns and explosive devices and supplying them to dealers all over the country. What surprised the detectives was that the weapons producers were working according to instructions they had downloaded from the Internet — precise directives that showed them how to build weapons identical to those sold elsewhere.  

But those facts don’t appear to influence gun-control advocates, who want to ban many guns anyway.

The Lily, a publication for women created by the left-wing Washington Post, reported on February 15 that since 1966, 1,077 people have been killed in mass shootings in the United States in 150 incidents. Unlike many left-wing publications that try to conflate street crime and drive-by shootings by gangs with mass-shooting incidents — thereby making it look as if mass shootings happen nearly every day in the United States — the Post tried to get a true number of mass shootings, counting instances “in which four or more people were killed by a lone shooter (two shooters in a few cases).”

In The Lily piece, the writers were rightly distraught about the number of homicides in this country as a result of mass shooters, but they seemed to blame the access to guns in America as the problem, implying that making certain classes of guns illegal would stop similar incidents. Happenings in France would seem to indicate otherwise. Since the early 1960s, France, which has had very strict gun laws for decades and doesn’t have a right to bear arms, has had 168 people die in mass shootings (though it has about one-fifth the population of the United States). One hundred and thirty of these victims were killed in a massive assault by Islamic militants using illegal submachine guns. Lest we wrongly think that gun-control laws are stopping more mass shootings, the Washington Post reported — in a January 2015 article entitled  “France has strict gun laws. Why didn’t that save Charlie Hebdo victims?” — about another mass shooting in France:

Bloomberg reports that weapons designed for military use, such as the Kalashnikov AK series, have been illegally flooding France over the past few years, with state bodies recording double digit increases.

“The French black market for weapons has been inundated with eastern European war artillery and arms,” Philippe Capon, the head of UNSA police union, told Bloomberg. “They are everywhere in France.”

The number of illegal guns is thought to be at least twice the number of legal guns in the country. [There are roughly 7.5 million legal guns in France.] Weapons such as AK-47s can be bought for the equivalent of a few thousand dollars.

Like Britain, France has also had dozens of bombings since the 1960s, and it has also had a terrorist truck attack in which a terrorist drove a truck through a crowded street, killing 86 people.

Again, laws don’t stop determined killers; the killers merely find alternate methods to kill their intended victims. As to wished-for laws, any and all new gun laws meant to forbid people from owning certain weapons are as good as useless nowadays anyway because advancements in 3D printers now allow people to literally print guns in their house by the dozens. New anti-gun laws are like locking the gate after the horse has escaped — futile and foolish.

Even in Communist China, where defying the government very often means the death sentence, the website gunfacts.info relates, “Chinese police destroyed 113 illegal gun factories and shops in a three-month crackdown in 2006. Police seized 2,445 tons of explosive, 4.81 million detonators and 117,000 guns.”

New gun-control laws won’t deter determined killers any more than anti-drug laws deter drug use by druggies or anti-drunk driving laws deter alcoholics from driving while intoxicated. Gun laws would work only if everybody willingly abided by them. When any individuals decide not to abide by them, the only real deterrence to crime is other individuals who have the ability to defend themselves (because when seconds count, the police are minutes away).

Rather than reducing instances of mass shootings, any new gun-control laws will likely encourage more shootings because the new anti-gun laws will mean that laws permitting law-abiding people to defend themselves will not get passed, and 98 percent of all mass shootings in this country have taken place in “gun-free zones,” where perpetrators know that their intended victims will lack the means to fight back.

On the other hand, somewhat ironically, when guns are used to stop crimes, both parties often walk away unharmed. Criminologist John Lott reports in his book More Guns Less Crime that a national survey he conducted in 2002 “indicates that about 95 percent of the time that people use guns defensively, they merely have to brandish the weapon to break off the attack. Such stories are not hard to find: pizza deliverymen defend themselves against robbers, carjackings are thwarted, robberies at automatic teller machines are prevented, and numerous armed robberies on the streets and in stores are foiled.” And studies show that a victim of a crime is less likely to be seriously injured if he or she fights back with a gun.

Also ironic is the fact that many of the same people who are pushing gun-control laws — despite the fact that all of these laws likely are unconstitutional under the Second Amendment and will infringe upon the freedoms of law-abiding Americans — are at the same time against reinstituting alcohol prohibition and are for the legal use of marijuana, though both are linked to increased fatal car crashes, and alcohol is involved in most homicides. The gun-controllers are also often people who support sexual promiscuity for all Americans, though according to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2016 34,800 Americans got AIDS from sex, and in 2014, 6,721 people died of AIDS. And treating AIDS costs our country about $16 billion per year. It is estimated that since 1981, 630,000 Americans have died from AIDS. Too, there are about 20 million cases of sexually transmitted disease in America, half of which are caught by people from 15 to 24 years of age, which lead to sterility, infant deaths, ovarian cancer, and more. And many people who have these diseases knowingly pass them on to others. They are sexual murderers.

To avoid being complete hypocrites, gun-controllers need to be for freedom for all Americans, or for none at all.

To end on a better note, there are actions we can take to reduce mass shootings. We can arm adults in schools; Israel has had good results with this even though it is literally surrounded by peoples who wish its destruction. We can fix welfare laws to stabilize families, as fatherless children are much more likely to commit crimes. We can follow the constitutional gun laws we have now, as many mass murderers, including Nikolas Cruz, have committed crimes that should have meant their guns were taken away. And more.

Since everyone in the country should be on board with effective plans to reduce not only mass shootings, but homicide in general, this should be uncontested.

Photo: benjaminjk/ iStock / Getty Images Plus

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