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Jewish World ReviewJune 10, 1999 /26 Sivan 5759

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell
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Mass shootings and mass hysteria --
IN A WORLD of emotional-outburst TV shows and dumbed-down education, it may not be so surprising that the deaths of 15 people have stampeded Congress toward laws affecting more than a quarter of a billion Americans and their descendants.

That stampede is called "gun control."

The tragic irony is that such laws are much more likely to increase shooting deaths than to reduce them. For those of us old-fashioned enough to think that facts still matter, comprehensive research has shown that allowing law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons reduces gun violence, as well as other kinds of violence.

Unfortunately, facts may carry very little weight politically, in the midst of an emotional orgy with rhetorical posturing. Yet the evidence is overwhelming that allowing law-abiding citizens to be armed has reduced violence in general and mass shootings in particular.

For those to whom facts still matter, John Lott's book "More Guns, Less Crime" presents overwhelming evidence. Another study of his, with Professor William Landes of the University of Chicago as co-author, addresses mass shootings, such as those which have been taking place in schools, post offices and other public places. These shooting rampages have been far more common in places where there are strong gun control laws. No matter what other factors these authors take into account -- poverty, race, population density, etc. -- the results are still the same. Places with many armed citizens have fewer mass shootings. Their data cover mass shootings in every state and the District of Columbia, going back nearly two decades.

Congress would do well to call Lott and Landes as witnesses who could provide some much-needed education for the public and the media, as well as for the legislators who are being rushed toward ill-considered legislation. Gun control laws have a bad track record, however popular they may be in some quarters.

Think about it: People who are committing illegal acts are not going to be stopped because guns are illegal. What does stop them then? Often it is somebody else with a gun. Indeed, such shootings may not occur at all in places where there is a high probability of encountering armed resistance, either from an intended victim or from someone else on the scene in a public place. If those who are asking emotionally, "How can we stop these school shootings?" were serious, they might discover that some of these shootings have in fact been stopped by an armed adult at the school. None of them would have been stopped by the kinds of gun control laws that Congress is currently being stampeded into passing.

Waiting periods? The young murderers in Colorado waited longer than any waiting period ever suggested before carrying out their well-planned orgy of death. "Assault weapons" ban? Such bans would not have applied to the kinds of guns that were used. Nor would the Columbine High School tragedy have been prevented by programs for "troubled youths." The Columbine killers had already been given a clean bill of health by shrinks running such programs. So had the young killers in another school mass shooting. The track record of psycho-babble is miserable, however popular it may be in the media.

Some people support gun control laws simply because they are opposed to guns. We may all agree that the world would be a better place if guns had never been invented. The same could be said for everything from bows and arrows to nuclear weapons.

But there is no way to unring the bell. The only options available to us today involve choices about what to do now, given that all these deadly things exist and cannot be made to disappear, no matter what kinds of words we put on paper.

In a country where there are millions of guns available illegally to criminals, the real question is whether we should allow potential victims be armed as well. Even people who never carry a gun are less likely to become victims in a community where concealed weapons are widely permitted to law- abiding citizens, because the criminal has no way of knowing who is armed and who isn't.

Statistics on gun accident deaths need to be weighed against statistics on reduced murders where gun ownership is widespread. The latter far more than balance the former -- but only if facts matter.


06/08/99: The other side of affirmative action
06/03/99: Childish labor laws
06/01/99: Demonizing for dollars
05/27/99: The real public service
05/24/99: Income, taxes and demagoguery
05/18/99: Random thoughts
05/14/99: Aborted knowledge
05/10/99: The new "fairness"
05/04/99: Holding parents responsible
05/03/99: Exit strategies
04/28/99: Tragedy and farce
04/26/99: Guilt and cop-outs
04/21/99: Choosing a college
04/16/99: When success fails
04/13/99: A photo-op foreign policy
04/09/99: Russia and the Serbs
04/06/99: Random thoughts
03/31/99: Irresponsible "experts"
03/29/99: Another Doleful prospect?
03/23/99: Random thoughts
03/22/99: Loving enemies
03/19/99: Naming names
03/15/99: Undermining the military
03/10/99: Joe DiMaggio -- icon of an era
03/02/99: Facts versus dogma on guns
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