Legal Gun Ownership Saves Lives

Firearms
“Laws that forbid the carrying of arms . . . disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes . . . Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”
–Thomas Jefferson, quoting Cesare Beccaria in On Crimes and Punishment (1764).

THE GUN CONTROL DEBATE has shifted over the last 20 years. Activists pointed to Britain, Australia and Canada as models of gun control policy; however, the statistics tell a far different story, says John Barnes of the Washington Policy Center. Read on...

It’s an age-old story. A criminal shoots someone, and then politicians propose gun-control measures that would have done nothing to prevent the shooting. On March 26, Kyle Huff killed six people at a late-night party in Seattle. Seattle mayor Greg Nickels immediately called for more regulations on guns. None of his proposals would have prevented the tragedy.

There is another side to stories about guns. In 1990 a group of gang members pulled a Seattle man from his bicycle and beat him. He used his legally-registered handgun to shoot one of the assailants and stop the attack. In 2002 a West Seattle woman shot an intruder who had broken into her home and was beating her roommate. In 2003 an elderly Tacoma man confined to his bed shot an intruder who had kicked in his door and attacked him. In 2004 a Spokane woman awoke one morning to discover an intruder in her house, whom she held at gunpoint until the police arrived. In all of these cases, if it were not for the legal use of guns in self-defense, the victims would likely be dead.

The gun control debate has shifted over the last 20 years. Back then it was common to hear that it is in everyone’s best interests if the government made guns go away. The legislative agenda of anti-gun groups was much more radical and overt. Activists pointed to Britain, Australia, and Canada as models of gun control policy.

In 1997 Britain banned handguns, and between 1998 and 2003 gun crimes doubled. According the British Home Office, between 1997 and 2001 homicides increased by 19% and violent crime increased by 26%, while in the U.S. those same crimes fell by 12%. Between 2000 and 2001, robbery increased by 28% in Britain but only 4% in the U.S. Domestic burglary increased by 7% in Britain, but only 3% in the U.S.

In 1996 Australia enacted sweeping gun control laws. In the six years following, violent crime rates rose by 32%. Canada isn’t faring well under its stringent gun control laws. Today Canada’s violent crime rate is more than double that of the U.S.

The fact that during this time right-to-carry laws were expanding in the U.S. makes these statistics all the more telling. Now 40 states allow citizens to carry guns. Violent crime rates are steadily declining in the U.S. Research—and common sense—show the “right-to-carry” by honest citizens deters crimes against persons and property.

Now even the most vocal anti-gun groups in Washington admit there is an individual right to own guns. The debates rage not over the right of law-abiding citizens to own guns, but how to keep them away from criminals. But just because the debate has shifted doesn’t mean we are immune from bad ideas masquerading as sound public policy. Exhibit one is Mayor Greg Nickels’ knee-jerk call for more gun control.

Citing a rash of gun-related crimes in the past few months, the mayor wants the state to allow cities to tighten restrictions. He is going after the usual targets: “assault” weapons, the supposed “gun show loophole,” and requirements for trigger locks and “safe storage.” All of these are problematic.

There was a federal assault weapons ban in place from 1994 to 2004. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms says the ban did not reduce crime nationally. Criminals who wanted to obtain such weapons found easy ways to get them in spite of the ban. Moreover, law enforcement research shows these guns are used in only about 1% of violent crimes.

The National Institute of Justice found in the 1980s and again in 1997 that only 2% of criminal guns come from gun shows. A report by Handgun Control, Inc., (hardly a friend of gun rights) found only two of 48 big-city police chiefs said guns bought at shows were a major problem in their cities.

Research shows at least 2.5 million protective uses of guns each year in the U.S. Guns are used about three to five times as often for defensive purposes as for criminal purposes. Most often the mere sight of a gun prevents a crime from occurring or getting worse.

Reasonable gun restrictions are clearly necessary; obviously owning a machine gun shouldn’t be legal. But gun ownership is not only a fundamental constitutional right, it is a proven way to reduce crime and save lives.

Source: John Barnes, "Legal Gun Ownership Saves Lives," Washington Policy Center, May 17, 2006.

Of course, there are blank spots in the cited statistics above, but some trends are obvious. Deterrence is not a big headline grabber, but it does change the dynamics of who does what to whom and when. Indeed there are untold instances on record of someone "successfully" defending themselves and others against intruders, but of course the liberal media avoids these stories. What's more disturbing is the fact that often the surprised but alert homeowner is hauled into court to defend himself against charges, while the intruder skirts off. It's an outrage.

Criminals use guns illegally with impunity, and yet the system coddles them. Meanwhile law abiders are demonized, and if the anti-gun lobby has its way, soon they will be criminalized. Ironically, perhaps only then will the system begin to work in their favor again.

But don't take my word for it. Google the web using these four keywords: gun ownership saves lives. There are lots of stories supporting the data. One merely has to be open to the information.

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