First of a two part series
[Click here for part II New Evidence on Gun Control II: The British Experience]
Blaming violence on guns and fanning hysteria over accidental deaths to children from firearms are staples of anti-gun propaganda. Media help gun control zealots spread false information that gun ownership and self-defense are certain paths to injury and death. Handgun Control, Inc., gives erroneous advice that if you are attacked, the best way to avoid injury "is to put up no defense." Anti-gun zealots blame the actions of criminals on guns and argue that disarming law-abiding gun owners is the best way to reduce the crime rate.
Scholars such as Gary Kleck, Don Kates, and John Lott have demonstrated the falsity of these claims. [Click here for a "Violence Policy Center" attack on Lott.] Now comes an important new book from Harvard University Press. Guns and Violence by Bentley College history professor Joyce Lee Malcolm, who brings new evidence that guns reduce violence.
Professor Malcolm's carefully researched book is a study of guns and violence in England from the Middle Ages through the present day. When the English were armed to the teeth, violent crime was rare. Now that the English are disarmed, violent crime has exploded. Indeed, crime in England is out of control.
Offering instruction for the U.S., the English experience will be covered in a subsequent column. Professor Malcolm presents many facts about guns and violence in America, and it is to these we turn first.
Did you know that water is 19 times more dangerous to a child than a firearm? In 1996, 805 children died from accidental drownings and 42 died from firearm accidents. (Gun control zealots inflate "child" firearm deaths by including teenage drug gang members killed in turf battles.)
Bathtubs are twice as dangerous to children as guns. Fire is 18 times more dangerous to children than guns. Cars are 57 times more dangerous. Household cleaners and poisons are twice as dangerous.
Did you know that defensive gun use prevents far more crimes than the police? National polls of defensive gun use by private citizens indicate that as many as 3.6 million crimes annually are prevented by armed individuals. In 98 percent of the cases, the armed citizen merely has to brandish his weapon. As many as 400,000 people each year believe they saved a life by being armed. Contrary to Handgun Control's propaganda, in less than one percent of confrontations do criminals succeed in taking the gun from the intended victim.
Did you know that the testimony of incarcerated felons supports the large number of defensive gun uses? Thirty-four percent of felons said they were scared off, wounded or captured by victims who turned out to be armed.
Convicted felons say that they are more deterred by armed victims than by the police. In the U.S. where roughly 50% of households are armed, only 13% of burglaries occur with residents at home. In contrast, in Britain, where homeowners are disarmed, 50% of home burglaries take place with the residents present.
Gun control zealots claim that the availability of guns is the primary cause of homicides. Between 1973 and 1994 the number of guns in private ownership in the U.S. rose by 87 million. During this period both the homicide rate and the percent of homicides committed with firearms dropped.
Another test of the relationship between guns and violence is provided by the concealed-carry laws now in force in 33 states. Gun control zealots predicted that traffic accidents and other altercations combined with an armed public would result in a bloodbath. Professor Malcolm confronts this false prediction with empirical evidence:
"In all the decades of experience with concealed-carry laws in an increasing number of states, there is only one recorded incident of the use of a permitted handgun in a shooting following a traffic accident, and that was determined to be a case of self-defense."
The 17 states and the District of Columbia without concealed-carry permits enjoy an 81 percent higher rate of violent crime. Their restrictive gun laws produced 1,400 more murders, 4,200 more rapes, 12,000 more robberies, and 60,000 more aggravated assaults.
Professor Malcolm disproves the claim that family members are the main victims of gun ownership. This myth results from FBI reports that most victims are "known" to the murderer. In the category of "known to the murderer," the FBI includes members of rival drug gangs, prostitutes and their pimps, and even cab drivers killed in robberies by "customers."
Far from the picture of hot-tempered spouses turning the family firearm upon one another in moments of rage, it turns out that 90% of adult murderers have prior criminal records involving major felonies. Three-quarters of juvenile murderers and their victims have an average of 10 prior criminal arraignments.
The English Bill of Rights guarantees English citizens "arms for their defense." Politicians and bureaucrats stole this right from the people by subterfuge. In England today, only outlaws have guns.
Senators Lieberman, McCain and Schumer are working to duplicate the English calamity by stealing gun rights from the American people.
Do these three senators represent the criminal lobby? Are they trying to create a black market in guns?
Paul Craig Roberts is the co-author of The Tyranny of Good Intentions : How Prosecutors and Bureaucrats Are Trampling the Constitution in the Name of Justice.
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