The 'Gun Control' Farce
By Thomas Sowell
President Obama’s intrusion into the mourning community of Roseburg, Oregon, in order to promote his political crusade for stronger gun control laws, is part of a pattern of his using various other sites of shooting rampages in the past to promote this long-standing crusade of the political left.
The zealotry of gun control advocates might make some sense if they had any serious evidence that more restrictive gun control laws actually reduce gun crimes. But they seldom even discuss the issue in terms of empirical evidence.
Saving lives is serious business. But claiming to be saving lives and refusing to deal with evidence is a farce. Nor is the Second Amendment or the National Rifle Association the real issue, despite how much the media and the intelligentsia focus on them.
If there is hard evidence that stronger gun control laws actually reduce gun crimes in general or reduce murders in particular, the Second Amendment can be repealed, as other Amendments have been repealed. Constitutional Amendments exist to serve the people. People do not exist to be sacrificed to Constitutional Amendments.
But if hard evidence shows that restrictions on gun ownership lead to more gun crimes, rather than less, then the National Rifle Association’s opposition to those restrictions makes sense, independently of the Second Amendment.
Since this all boils down to a question of hard evidence about plain facts, it is difficult to understand how gun control laws should have become such a heated and long-lasting controversy.
There is a huge amount of statistical evidence, just within the United States, since gun control laws are different in 50 different states and these laws have been changed over time in many of these states. There are mountains of data on what happens under restrictive laws and what happens when restrictions are lifted.
Statistics on murder are among the most widely available statistics, and among the most accurate, since no one ignores a dead body. With so many facts available from so many places and times, why is gun control still a heated issue? The short answer is that most gun control zealots do not even discuss the issue in terms of hard facts.
The zealots act as if they just know — somehow — that bullets will be flying hither and yon if you allow ordinary people to have guns.
Among the many facts this ignores is that gun sales were going up by the millions in late 20th century America, and the murder rate was going down at the same time.
Among the other facts that gun control zealots consistently ignore are data on how many lives are saved each year by a defensive use of guns. This seldom requires actually shooting. Just pointing a loaded gun at an assailant is usually enough to get him to back off, often in some haste.
There have been books and articles based on voluminous statistics, including statistics comparing gun laws and gun crime rates in different countries, such as “Guns and Violence” by Professor Joyce Lee Malcolm of George Mason University. Seldom do these factual studies back up what the gun control zealots are saying.
Why would an ultimately factual question about the consequences of gun control laws divide people along ideological lines? Only if at least one set of people were more devoted to their vision than to the facts.
This shows up when gun control zealots are asked whether whatever new law they propose would have prevented the shooting rampage that they are using as a stage from which to propose a new clampdown on gun ownership. Almost always, the new law being proposed would not have made the slightest difference. That too is part of the farce. A deadly farce.
So is the automatic assertion that whoever engaged in a shooting rampage was a madman. Yet these supposedly crazy shooters are usually rational enough to choose some “gun-free zone” for their murderous attacks. They seem more rational than gun control zealots who keep creating more “gun-free zones.”
Gun control zealots are almost always people who are lenient toward criminals, while they are determined to crack down on law-abiding citizens who want to be able to defend themselves and their loved ones.
The grand illusion of zealots for laws preventing ordinary, law-abiding people from having guns is that “gun control” laws actually control guns. In a country with many millions of guns, not all of them registered, this is a fantasy and a farce.
Guns do not vanish into thin air because there are gun control laws. Guns — whether legal or illegal — can last for centuries. Passing laws against guns may enable zealots to feel good about themselves, but at the cost of other people’s lives.
Why anyone would think that criminals who disobey other laws, including laws against murder, would obey gun control laws is a mystery. A disarmed population makes crime a safer occupation and street violence a safer sport.
The “knockout game” of suddenly throwing a punch to the head of some unsuspecting passer-by would not be nearly so much fun for street hoodlums, if there was a serious risk that the passer-by was carrying a concealed firearm.
Being knocked out in a boxing ring means landing on the canvas. But being knocked out on a street usually means landing on concrete. Victims of the knockout game have ended up in the hospital or in the morgue.
If, instead, just a few of those who play this sick “game” ended up being shot, that would take a lot of the fun out of it for others who are tempted to play the same “game.”
Even in places where law-abiding citizens are allowed to own guns, they are seldom allowed to carry concealed weapons — even though concealed weapons protect not only those who carry them, but also protect those who do not, for the hoodlums and criminals have no way of knowing in advance who is armed and who is not.
Another feature of gun control zealotry is that sweeping assumptions are made, and enacted into law, on the basis of sheer ignorance. People who know nothing about guns, and have never fired a shot in their lives, much less lived in high-crime areas, blithely say such things as, “Nobody needs a 30-shot magazine.”
Really? If three criminals invaded your home, endangering the lives of you and your loved ones, are you such a sharpshooter that you could take them all out with a clip holding ten bullets? Or a clip with just seven bullets, which is the limit you would be allowed under gun laws in some places?
Do you think that someone who is prepared to use a 30-shot magazine for criminal purposes is going to be deterred by a gun control law? All the wonderful-sounding safeguards in such laws restrict the victims of criminals, rather than the criminals themselves.
That is why such laws cost lives, instead of saving lives.
Are there dangers in a widespread availability of guns? Yes! And one innocent death is one too many. But what makes anyone think that there are no innocent lives lost by disarming law-abiding people while criminals remain armed?
If we are going to be serious, as distinguished from being political, we need to look at hard evidence, instead of charging ahead on the basis of rhetoric. Sweeping assumptions need to be checked against facts. But that is seldom what gun control zealots do.
Some gun control zealots may cherry-pick statistics comparing nations with and without strong gun control laws, but cherry-picking is very different from using statistics to actually test a belief.
Among the cherry-picked statistics is that England has stronger gun control laws than the United States and much lower murder rates. But Mexico, Brazil and Russia all have stronger gun control laws than the United States — and much higher murder rates.
A closer look at the history of gun laws in England tells a very different story than what you get from cherry-picked statistics. The murder rate in New York over the past two centuries has been some multiple of the murder rate in London — and, for most of that time, neither city had strong restrictions on the ownership of guns.
Beginning in 1911, New York had stronger restrictions on gun ownership than London had — and New York still had murder rates that were a multiple of murder rates in London. It was not the laws that made the difference in murder rates. It was the people. That is also true within the United States.
But are gun control zealots interested in truth or in political victory? Or perhaps just moral preening?