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Jewish World Review March 2, 1999 /14 Adar 5759

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell
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Facts versus dogma on guns

( FOR YEARS, THE TRAGIC SHOOTING OF PRESIDENT REAGAN'S press secretary James Brady has been exploited politically by gun-control advocates. Federal gun-control legislation has been called "the Brady bill." Yet there was scarcely a peep from the liberal media when it was announced recently that the man who shot Brady -- John Hinkley -- will be allowed furloughs from the mental hospital in which he has been kept.

Unfortunately, this is a classic liberal pattern -- remarkably little concern over those particular people who actually commit crimes with guns, combined with ferocious crusades against law-abiding citizens who own firearms.

Furloughs, parole, probation or lenient sentences for violent criminals do not alarm the liberals. What alarms them is the thought that people who have never shot anybody might be able to have a gun in their home or business to protect themselves against the kinds of armed criminals that liberals allow to walk the streets.

Liberal dogma on gun control is like liberal dogma on so many other issues: Ordinary people cannot be trusted to look out for themselves, but must be put under the thumb of wiser and nobler people -- such as liberals -- through strict government regulations. According to the gun-control zealots, we will shoot each other in the heat of arguments if we have guns.

Automobile accidents will lead to gunfire between the angry drivers. In other words, innocent people cannot be trusted with firearms. Far better to leave them helpless against armed criminals.

It is bad enough that liberals have this vision of the world. What is worse is that the liberal media will consistently ignore or suppress any facts which contradict that vision.

A recently published, massive empirical study by John Lott of the University of Chicago Law School shows the direct opposite of virtually everything in the liberal vision of gun control. Rising rates of gun ownership in particular counties across the country have almost invariably been followed immediately by falling rates of violent crimes in those counties.

This should not be a surprise to anyone. Violent criminals prefer helpless victims, not people who can shoot them full of holes. But where have you seen this empirical study mentioned in the media? Its title is "More Guns, Less Crime."

In those European countries where citizens almost never have guns, burglaries are far more common than in the United States, and the burglars do not spend nearly as much time casing the place before breaking in. Similarly, in those American communities where liberal politicians have long had tight control, law-abiding citizens are similarly disarmed and similarly vulnerable.

As for the gunplay that would supposedly follow every fender-bender on the highway, John Lott has been able to find only one example. Two truckers had an accident and one was giving a brutal, bone-breaking beating to the other, until the second trucker pulled out a gun and opened fire, probably saving his own life.

Even in counties where a high percentage of the people are armed, bullets are not flying hither and yon on the highways -- or anywhere else. There are usually far more shootings in places where the criminals know that ordinary citizens are unlikely to be able to shoot back.

Isolated incidents of accidental death from guns are inevitable in a country of more than a quarter of a billion people, just as there are accidental deaths from swimming pools, ski runs, wild animals and other causes. But only accidental gunshot deaths are played up big in the media.

The larger number of lives saved by armed citizens protecting themselves and their families are seldom reported, much less weighed against the isolated gunshot accidents. If our concern is for the safety of decent, law-abiding people, then all the facts need to be considered. But nothing that undermines the gun-controllers' vision is likely to be reported when the mass media show more concern for protecting liberal dogma than for protecting people.

In the media, it is all presented as a story of humanitarian efforts by the good guys to save lives against the evil resistance of the National Rifle Association. In the media, James Brady is repeatedly put on the screen when the issue comes up. Meanwhile, the man who shot Brady gets furloughs and nobody cares.


03/01/99: Losing the cultural wars
02/22/99: "Saving" social security
02/18/99: Too many Ph.Ds?
02/8/99: A national disaster
02/8/99: Economic fallacies in the media: Part II
02/5/99: Why economists visit dentists so often
02/2/99: Warning: Good news
01/29/99: What is at stake?
01/26/99:Moral bankruptcy in the schools
01/22/99: Who is going to convict Santa Claus?
01/19/99: Seeing through the spin
01/13/99: A trial is a trial is a trial
01/11/99:Trials and tribulations
01/08/99: Rays of hope
01/04/99: Random thoughts
12/31/98: The President versus the presidency
12/29/98: The time is now!
12/23/98: World-class hypocrisy
12/21/98: The spreading corruption
12/17/98: Politically "contrite"
12/16/98: Polls and partisanship
12/14/98: The "non-profit" halo
12/11/98: Corruption and confusion
12/03/98: The health care "crisis"
11/30/98: Knowing what you are talking about
11/23/98: The impeachment legacy
11/23/98: Random thoughts
11/19/98: Tales out of bureaucracies
11/16/98: Scholarships based on scholarship
11/12/98: Forward march
11/09/98: Moral outrage
11/05/98: Will the Republicans ever learn?
11/02/98: A voter's duty
10/30/98: The poverty pimp's poem
10/29/98: Random thoughts on the election
10/27/98: "Partisan" and "unfair"
10/23/98: Ed-u-kai-tchun
10/21/98: McGwire, Maris and the Babe
10/16/98: Lightweight Boxer
10/14/98: A strange word
10/09/98: Impeachment standards
10/08/98: Alternatives to seriousness
10/07/98: Heredity, environment and talk
10/02/98: A much-needed guide
10/01/98: Starr's real crime
9/24/98: Costs and power
9/18/98: Are we sheep?
9/16/98: Judicial review
9/15/98: Hillary Rodham Crook?
9/14/98: Taking stock
9/11/98: Moment of truth
9/04/98: Random thoughts
8/31/98: The twilight of special prosecutors?
8/26/98: "Doing a good job"
8/24/98: America on trial?
8/19/98: Played for fools
8/17/98: A childish letter
8/11/98: Hiding behind a woman
8/07/98: A flying walrus in Washington?
8/03/98: "Affordability" strikes again
7/31/98: Random thoughts
7/27/98: Faith and mountains
7/24/98: Clinton in Wonderland
7/20/98: Where is black 'leadership' leading?
7/16/98: Do 'minorities' really have it that bad?
7/14/98: Race dialogue: same old stuff
7/10/98: Honest history
7/09/98: Dumb is dangerous
7/02/98: Gun-safety starts with
parental responsibility
6/30/98: When more is less
6/29/98: Are educators above the law?
6/26/98: Random Thoughts
6/24/98: An angry letter
6/22/98: Sixties sentimentalism
6/19/98:Dumbing down anti-trust
6/15/98: A changing of the guard?
6/11/98: Presidential privileges
6/8/98: Fast computers and slow antitrust
6/3/98: Can stalling backfire?
5/29/98: The insulation of the Left
5/25/98: Missing the point in the media
5/22/98: The lessons of Indonesia
5/20/98: Smart but silent
5/18/98: Israel, Clinton and character
5/14/98: Monica Lewinsky's choices
5/11/98: Random thoughts
5/7/98: Media obstruction of justice
5/4/98: Dangerous "safety"
5/1/98: Abolish Adolescence!
4/30/98: The naked truth
4/22/98: Playing fair and square
4/19/98: Bad teachers"
4/15/98: "Clinton in Africa "
4/13/98: "Bundling and unbundling "
4/9/98: "Rising or falling Starr "
4/6/98: "Was Clinton ‘vindicated'? "
3/26/98: "Diasters -- natural and political"
3/24/98: "A pattern of behavior"
3/22/98: Innocent explanations
3/19/98: Kathleen Willey and Anita Hill
3/17/98: Search and destroy
3/12/98: Media Circus versus Justice
3/6/98: Vindication
3/3/98: Cheap Shot Time
2/26/98: The Wrong Filter
2/24/98: Trial by Media
2/20/98: Dancing Around the Realities
2/19/98: A "Do Something" War?
2/12/98: Julian Simon, combatant in a 200-year war
2/6/98: A rush to rhetoric

©1999, Creators Syndicate