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Jewish World Review Jan. 7, 2000/ 28 Teves, 5760

Larry Elder

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Did Britain's anti-gun laws save ex-Beatle Harrison?

http://www.jewishworldreview.com -- "THANK 'MY SWEET L-RD' For Gun Laws."

A major newspaper opinion piece led with that headline. Ex-Beatle George Harrison, maintains the columnist, remains alive today only because of England's tough anti-gun laws. A few weeks ago, an apparently deranged man entered Harrison's estate. His bodyguards off duty, Harrison did not put on the burglar alarm to protect his walled, barbed-wire protected home.

Armed with a knife, the assailant stabbed Harrison four times. But Harrison and his wife struggled and managed to disarm the suspect, Harrison's wife striking the trespasser with a lamp.

"John Lennon never stood a chance in 1980 when he was ambushed by a gun-wielding Mark David Chapman outside a New York apartment building and assassinated," the anti-gun columnist said, "Had his brother Beatle been living in America rather than on a 34-acre compound near London, it is entirely possible that a candlelight vigil would be carrying on this morning just outside the gates of that estate."

Get it? But for England's strict anti-gun laws, the ex-Beatle's a dead man. Well, but for England's confiscatory income tax laws, perhaps John Lennon remains in his own country and never moves to America. Amazing how the self-righteous anti-gunners display no doubt whatsoever about the causal connection between the presence of guns and murder.

Yet, when proponents of tough sentencing laws claim credit for a crime rate drop, opponents call this reasoning "simplistic." After all, they say, many variables contribute to a decline in crime. But, when it comes to guns, forget about other variables -- guns kill, and more guns kill more people.

Harrison remains alive, reasons the columnist, "because the attacker carried nothing worse than a knife. ... A lamp would have done little good against a gun." Well, O.K. But had Harrison kept a revolver in a nightstand next to his bed, the assailant's knife "would have done little good against a gun."

Pulling a trigger requires little effort, goes the logic. The presence of guns, therefore, makes crime easier and more deadly. But what about suicide?

The presence of guns presumably makes suicide more likely and more "successful." Yet, in Japan and England, both with extremely restrictive gun laws, suicide rates exceed America's. And in Scotland and Ireland, countries with gun laws similar to England's, residents kill more people per capita than do Americans.

England, because of its zero tolerance for handguns, enjoys a reputation as a quaint, civil, law-abiding nation. But, in many major categories of crime -- robbery, burglary, assault, and motor vehicle theft -- England's per capita rate exceeds America's. If guns make crime easier and more deadly, gun control proponents must explain this apparent contradiction. In America, 13 percent of burglaries are called "hot," where the burglar enters an occupied home. In England, nearly half of all burglaries are "hot." Why?

In the UK, the bad guys know that the occupants aren't packing heat. Cars kill people everyday, some 40,000 in 1998, yet aside from maybe Al Gore, nobody wants them illegal. Their benefits sort of outweigh their liabilities. But, with guns, proponents simply talk about the liabilities, without bothering to answer the other part of the equation: Do guns save lives?

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John Lott, author of "More Guns, Less Crime," says absolutely. He estimates that over 2 million Americans use guns for defensive purposes each year, preventing deaths, rapes, assault, and other serious injuries.

Los Angeles Police Chief Bernie Parks wishes to outlaw so-called "Saturday Night Specials." I once asked him how often Americans use guns for defensive purposes, saving lives and injuries. He did not know. "Is it relevant?" I asked. "No," he answered. Incredible.

David P. Kopel, former Manhattan assistant district attorney, says, "According to a 1979-1985 study by the National Crime Survey, when a robbery victim does not defend himself, the robber succeeds 88 percent of the time, and the victim is injured 25 percent of the time. When a victim resists with a gun, the robbery success rate falls to 30 percent, and the victim injury rate to 17 percent. No other response to a robbery -- from drawing a knife to shouting for help to fleeing -- produces such low rates of victim injury and robbery success."

About two years ago, Australia announced a gun buy-back program. Australia's prime minister said, "Self-defense is not a reason for owning a firearm." The government confiscated 640,381 firearms. The results for the first twelve months? Homicides up 3.2 percent; assaults up 8.6 percent; armed robberies up 44 percent. And, in the state of Victoria, homicides increased 300 percent.

Most Americans now oppose further gun laws, and want the laws currently on the books enforced. Considering Australia's "experiment," let us thank "Our Sweet Lord" that we Americans are smart enough to reject the emotional, simplistic "solutions."


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