December 14, 2007

• Darwin Award 8

Posted in Darwin Awards, From The Blog-O-Sphere, Reciprocating States at 11:29 pm by Rid

(hat tip: The Daily Iowan)

Can gun control stem America’s shooting problem?

point/counterpoint

Issue date: 12/14/07 Section: Opinions

 

POINT: America the gun-happy

This country has a serious blind spot when it comes to the Second Amendment. Clearly, we can read the part that says “the right to keep and bear arms,” but we get bullet-shaped cataracts in the part about “a well-regulated militia.”

The events of the past year should prove beyond all reasonable doubt that America is suffering from an epidemic of mass shootings. Virginia Tech. A mall in Omaha. A church and a missionary school in Colorado. A school bus in Vegas. The list goes on and bloodily on. Few corners of our country have been spared this horror.

Can it really be a simple coincidence that so many countries in Europe, many of them developed, diverse societies quite similar to our own, have strict limits on gun ownership as well as per-capita murder rates that are a fraction of America’s? I doubt it.

Gun “rights” advocates argue that citizens have a right to defend themselves, and they should therefore be granted access to all manner of deadly weapons. (I myself recently saw pump-action shotguns marketed as “home-defense” weapons at major sporting goods store.) Gun owners, though, are much more likely to see their family or friends harmed by those firearms than they are to use it to successfully repel the faceless intruders that seem to haunt the dreams of the pro-gun lobby.

It’s interesting that most of the people who live in places where an honest claim could be made for a gun as self-defense are not those lobbying for free access to firearms. In fact, most residents of high-crime neighborhoods would probably like to see fewer guns, not more. Those “well-defended” middle- and upper-class homes are a major source for the weapons used in street crime.

Our society simply must disarm. What possible reason could Americans have – outside the fact that other Americans have them – for owning a handgun or assault weapon? A society without those items in the hands of the civilian population is safer, period.

Can gun control stem America’s shooting problem?

point/counterpoint

Issue date: 12/14/07 Section: Opinions

 

– Jonathan Gold
DI Opinions Editor

COUNTERPOINT: Strict limits solve little

Because of their role in violent crime, guns are often associated with America’s outrageous homicide rate, and rightly so. However, the question at hand is not whether guns play a significant role in violent crime, but whether gun-control laws play a significant role in the reduction of violent crime. To that end, empirical research shows there is no such connection.

The evidence speaks for itself. Steven Levitt, renowned economist and coauthor of Freakonomics, conducted a comprehensive study to determine whether gun control reduces violient crime. As the data show, after the Brady Act – one of the most strict gun-control policies to date – there was no decline in violent crime that would not have occurred naturally, because crime rates were already falling. Furthermore, research of violent inmates shows that only around one-fifth of criminals obtain their guns legally, in which case gun-control laws have no effect. Of course, some evidence seems to show that the Washington, D.C., handgun ban had beneficial effects, but when Baltimore (which had no such ban) was used as a basis for comparison, the benefits vanished completely. This is because violent crime rates have been falling consistently for the last two decades, even in areas with virtually no gun restrictions. It seems the benefits of gun control are little more than illusions.

There is also reason to believe that gun-control laws are counterproductive, because they only deter those interested in purchasing guns legally. As the saying goes: If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns. In Myths About Gun Control, a study conducted by the National Center for Policy Analysis, this danger is corroborated. According to empirical data, after passing what was then considered the most stringent gun law in the nation, New Jersey saw a 46 percent increase in the murder rate and a 50 percent increase in the robbery rate. The evidence seems to suggest that, on some level, decreased legal gun ownership only serves to inspire confidence among criminals – in that their potential victims are unarmed.

The problem is that gun-control laws do little to constrict the pipelines through which most criminals acquire guns. For that reason, such laws will affect those interested in purchasing guns legally but likely not the criminals for whom they were intended. As it turns out, the 200 million guns already in circulation render gun-control laws pointless.

– Erik Hovenkamp
DI editorial writer

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