What the gun control lobby doesn't want you to know

By Dr. Michael S. Brown
web posted April 10, 2000

The media is filled with stories intended to convince us that we need more gun laws, but one critical fact is being ignored. Gun control doesn't work and the evidence is undeniable.

During the twentieth century, three major cities in the United States enacted extremely tough gun laws. New York, Washington and Chicago gradually tightened their laws to the point that for all practical purposes, guns were outlawed.

These laws were rigorously enforced. Homeowners and shopkeepers who kept guns for defense were heavily fined when police found their illicit weapons. Only celebrities, politicians and political contributors were able to obtain permits to own weapons legally. Even allowing for the fact that guns could still be smuggled in from surrounding areas, one could reasonably assume that these laws had at least a small effect on reducing crime.

How much was crime reduced? It wasn't. In fact, crime of all types, especially gun crimes, increased dramatically each time a new law was passed. Only the boom economy of the 1990's combined with locking up a greater percentage of convicted criminals has had a positive effect in recent years.

The British experience with gun control is similar. As gun laws were gradually tightened, crime went up. British newspapers say that large numbers of high quality weapons are being smuggled in from Eastern Europe to meet the demand and criminals are better armed than at any time in the past. Analysts now say that the overall crime rate in Britain is roughly similar to the U.S. and still rising, while crime here is falling despite the annual purchase of millions of new guns by law abiding citizens.

Australia has not benefited from its expensive and divisive gun confiscation. Some observers say that crime has gone up. Canada's new gun registry is mired in bureaucratic inefficiency and bedeviled by civil disobedience. Several provinces are battling the federal government over the issue in the Supreme Court.

The dismal failure of gun control laws is quite logically explained by numerous scholars who have researched the question, including John Lott, Gary Kleck, Don Kates and David Kopel. They say that you can never effectively keep guns out of the hands of criminals, because it takes so few guns to meet their needs. That need will always be met by black markets and smuggling.

To make matters worse, gun control efforts interfere with self-defense by law abiding citizens, making life easier for the crooks. Even if very strict laws do keep some guns away from lawbreakers, they will gladly substitute cheaper weapons against the now disarmed citizenry, decreasing their cost of doing business.

Minor gun control laws, such as those that require guns to be stored in a way that inhibits quick access, probably have a small negative effect. Since guns are used to prevent crime much more often than they are used to commit crime, anything that reduces access by lawful citizens will tip the balance towards more crime.

The gun control lobby makes frequent use of statistics which simply tell us that guns are dangerous. We knew that already. What we really want to know is how well the various proposed gun control laws would work, but research predicting success for any likely gun law is nonexistent.

Aren't people curious about the lack of evidence to support new laws? Why is the failure of past gun laws ignored while more of the same type are so passionately promoted? There are no statistics or scholarly essays to explain the continued push for more laws, but we can imagine some possibilities.

Politicians love the issue, because they can engage in their favorite sport of grandstanding while appearing sympathetic to public concerns about crime. Highly politicized police chiefs know that defenseless, unarmed citizens are more likely support larger law enforcement budgets and expanded police powers.

Soft hearted individuals don't like to blame violence on violent people. It is much easier to blame inanimate objects.

Many journalists support more gun laws because they don't personally know any responsible gun owners. In their urban world, only cops and criminals appear to have guns. This effects the way that gun stories are covered, so people who rely on the media for their information don't know that guns in civilian hands reduce crime.

The media bias against guns by the national television networks was impressively documented in a study by the Media Research Center released in January. They found news stories advocating more gun control outnumbered those advocating less gun control by a 10 to 1 ratio.

David Kopel pointed out an interesting fact in the April 17th issue of National Review. He notes that the gun control lobby does not care when the facts don't match their ideology. They simply lie, a fact that is obvious to anyone with enough ambition to check the sources of their propaganda statements. Unfortunately, many people accept those false factoids at face value

These are a few possible explanations for this strange state of affairs, but in the final analysis it might be due to simple intellectual laziness. It is easy to accept the seductive promise of gun control. It takes a little more effort to understand the facts.

Dr. Michael S. Brown is an optometrist who moderates an email list for discussion of gun issues in Washington state. He may be reached at mb@e-z.net or through his web site at http://www.geocities.com/rkba2000/

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