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Jewish World Review Oct. 24, 2002/ 18 Mar-Cheshvan, 5763

Larry Elder

Larry Elder
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Consumer Reports

More gun control, please | More gun control, please!

Gun-control proponents, predictably, in the wake of the Beltway sniper, urge still more gun-control laws. So, as news watchers sit through another round of softball interviews with gun-control advocates, we humbly offer Second Amendment-challenged hosts some suggestions for questions:

Why does Switzerland, a country that requires a military-style rifle, plus ammunition, in every home, enjoy a very low homicide rate?

Why does Israel, a country where perhaps 10 percent of citizens possess permits to carry concealed weapons, enjoy a very low murder rate?

Why do gun-control proponents fail to mention countries with homicide rates higher than ours, including Brazil and Russia, with very restrictive gun-control laws?

Why does Washington, D.C., a district whose laws make it illegal to buy, possess, transport or acquire a handgun, experience the highest per capita murder rates in the nation?

Why does Canada, a nation of 31 million citizens, with official estimates of 7 million guns -- although other experts place the number at 25 million -- enjoy a low per capita murder rate?

Why did America, a hundred years ago, when citizens could purchase guns anonymously and with few of today's restrictions, enjoy a murder rate of 1.2 per 100,000, versus the 5.5 rate in 2000?

Why don't gun-control proponents talk about the rising murder rate in severely gun-restricted England? "The American murder rate," writes Reason magazine, "which had fluctuated by about 20 percent between 1974 and 1991, was 'in startling free-fall.' We have had nine consecutive years of sharply declining violent crime. As a result the English and American murder rates are converging. In 1981 the American rate was 8.7 times the English rate, in 1995 it was 5.7 times the English rate, and the latest study puts it at 3.5 times." According to Reason, after a few days of crime after crime, "London police are now looking to the New York City police for advice."

Why does The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence's Web site say, "The risk of homicide in the home is three times greater in households with guns"? They fail to mention that Dr. Kellermann, the expert who came up with that figure, now distances himself from it.

According to The Wall Street Journal, Dr. Kellermann now says, "A gun can be used to scare away an intruder without a shot being fired," although he admits that such events weren't included in his original study. "Simply keeping a gun in the home may deter some criminals who fear confronting an armed homeowner." Kellermann also admitted, "It is possible that reverse causation accounted for some of the association we observed between gun ownership and homicide -- i.e., in a limited number of cases, people may have acquired a gun in response to a specific threat." In other words, some people obtain guns because they are more likely perpetrators, or they fear becoming victims, of violent crime.

How often do Americans use guns each year for defensive purposes, some of whom -- but for their guns -- might have been killed? Criminologist Gary Kleck estimates that 2.5 million Americans use guns for defensive purposes each year, and approximately 400,000 of them believe someone would have been dead had they not resorted to their defensive use of firearms. A government study put the figure at 1.5 million.

Why do gun control proponents fail to admit the ineffectiveness of the Brady Act?

Following the 1994 Brady Act's imposition of a 5-day waiting period for the 32 states previously not subject to such waiting periods, those states should have seen a reduction in crime, compared to the other 18 "control" states. But according to The Journal of the American Medical Association, "Our analyses provide no evidence that implementation of the Brady Act was associated with a reduction in homicide rates. . . . We find no differences in homicide or firearm homicide rates to adult victims in the 32 states directly subject to the Brady Act provisions compared with the remaining control states." The study did find a decrease in gun suicides for men over 55. But the overall suicide rate remained unchanged. Men over 55 simply resorted to other means to kill themselves.

A father recently sent me the following letter: "I had to go to work unexpectedly one night due to an emergency. My 8-year-old daughter was a little worried that I would be leaving her and my wife alone. We live in a very nice and safe neighborhood but nonetheless she was concerned. I jokingly told her that no bad men would come in our house because I put out a sign that read, 'No Bad Men Allowed.' She frowned and immediately responded, 'Daddy, bad men don't do what the signs say. That's why they're bad.'"

Some things are so complicated only a child can figure them out.

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JWR contributor Larry Elder is the author of, most recently, Showdown: Confronting Bias, Lies, and the Special Interests That Divide America. (Proceeds from sales help fund JWR) Let him know what you think of his column by clicking here.

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© 2002, Creators Syndicate