The facts are not on the side of gun-control advocates

| December 18 2012
Christopher Cook

I tend to agree with James Taranto’s point Monday that “the immediate aftermath of a horrific massacre is not the time to be picking arguments about divisive political issues.” Of course, Taranto goes on to point out the obvious fact that many on the pro gun-control side of the argument don’t wait more than a few minutes (and in these technological and social media-heavy days, even seconds) before starting in on their agenda. Consequently, those who favor the freedom to own the means to defend oneself have to chime in to defend that freedom.

That freedom, of course, is a natural human right. You have a right to life, a right to survive, and a right to prevent others from violating those first two rights. It is not a right granted by presidents or kings—you have the right. Laws pertaining to that right only serve to decrease your communion with that right; they do not change the right itself.

But there is more than just a deontological (what is right and wrong) issue here. There is also the consequentialist issue (what works and doesn’t). And on that front, the data are clear. Strict gun control laws make things worse for innocent people. They cause more harm. They literally get more people killed. By contrast, when such laws are limited or nonexistent, innocent people are victimized by crime a good deal less.

The gun control crowd has Hollywood, Bob Costas, easy emotional appeals, and foaming righteous indignation on their side.

The gun rights side has actual facts, data, and scientific studies.

To wit,

WOULD BANNING FIREARMS REDUCE MURDER AND SUICIDE?
A REVIEW OF INTERNATIONAL AND SOME DOMESTIC EVIDENCE

DON B. KATES* AND GARY MAUSER

(Note, link is a PDF)

International evidence and comparisons have long been offered as proof of the mantra that more guns mean more deaths and that fewer guns, therefore, mean fewer deaths.1 Unfortunately, such discussions are all too often been afflicted by misconceptions and factual error and focus on comparisons that are unrepresentative. It may be useful to begin with a few examples. There is a com‐ pound assertion that (a) guns are uniquely available in the United States compared with other modern developed nations, which is why (b) the United States has by far the highest murder rate. Though these assertions have been endlessly repeated, statement (b) is, in fact, false and statement (a) is substantially so.

Since at least 1965, the false assertion that the United States has the industrialized world’s highest murder rate has been an artifact of politically motivated Soviet minimization designed to hide the true homicide rates.2 Since well before that date, the Soviet Union possessed extremely stringent gun controls3 that were effectuated by a police state apparatus providing stringent enforcement.4 So successful was that regime that few Russian civilians now have firearms and very few murders involve them.5 Yet, manifest suc‐ cess in keeping its people disarmed did not prevent the Soviet Union from having far and away the highest murder rate in the developed world.6 In the 1960s and early 1970s, the gun‐less So‐ viet Union’s murder rates paralleled or generally exceeded those of gun‐ridden America. While American rates stabilized and then steeply declined, however, Russian murder increased so drasti‐ cally that by the early 1990s the Russian rate was three times higher than that of the United States. Between 1998‐2004 (the lat‐ est figure available for Russia), Russian murder rates were nearly four times higher than American rates. Similar murder rates also characterize the Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and various other now‐independent European nations of the former U.S.S.R.7 Thus, in the United States and the former Soviet Union transition‐ ing into current‐day Russia, “homicide results suggest that where guns are scarce other weapons are substituted in killings.”8 While American gun ownership is quite high, Table 1 shows many other developed nations (e.g., Norway, Finland, Germany, France, Denmark) with high rates of gun ownership. These countries, however, have murder rates as low or lower than many devel‐ oped nations in which gun ownership is much rarer. For example, Luxembourg, where handguns are totally banned and ownership of any kind of gun is minimal, had a murder rate nine times higher than Germany in 2002.

The same pattern appears when comparisons of violence to gun ownership are made within nations. Indeed, “data on fire‐ arms ownership by constabulary area in England,” like data from the United States, show “a negative correlation,”10 that is, “where firearms are most dense violent crime rates are lowest, and where guns are least dense violent crime rates are high‐ est.”11 Many different data sets from various kinds of sources are summarized as follows by the leading text:

[T]here is no consistent significant positive association be‐ tween gun ownership levels and violence rates: across (1) time within the United States, (2) U.S. cities, (3) counties within Illinois, (4) country‐sized areas like England, U.S. states, (5) regions of the United States, (6) nations, or (7) population subgroups . . . .12

A second misconception about the relationship between fire‐ arms and violence attributes Europe’s generally low homicide rates to stringent gun control. That attribution cannot be accu‐ rate since murder in Europe was at an all‐time low before the gun controls were introduced.13 For instance, virtually the only English gun control during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was the practice that police patrolled without guns. During this period gun control prevailed far less in England or Europe than in certain American states which nevertheless had—and continue to have—murder rates that were and are comparatively very high.14

In this connection, two recent studies are pertinent. In 2004, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences released its evaluation from a review of 253 journal articles, 99 books, 43 government publications, and some original empirical research. It failed to identify any gun control that had reduced violent crime, sui‐ cide, or gun accidents.15 The same conclusion was reached in 2003 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s review of then‐ extant studies . . . keep reading

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