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Jewish World Review August 5, 1999 /23 Av, 5759

Thomas Sowell

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Gunning for guns -- NOW THAT THE MASS SHOOTINGS in Atlanta have led to predictable demands for more federal gun control laws, let us at least make an effort to think rationally. Is the way to prevent more tragedies like the one in Atlanta to pass laws ensuring that virtually all Americans will be as helpless as those who were shot and killed by Matt Barton? Does that make any sense?

When people ask emotionally, "How can we stop these things?" the most straightforward answer is to ask: How was it in fact stopped? It was stopped, like most shooting sprees, by the arrival on the scene of other people with guns.

It is the monopoly of guns by people with evil intentions that is dangerous. Some of the most dangerous places in America are places where strict gun-control laws provide assurance to violent criminals that their victims will not be able to defend themselves.

What if every third or fourth person in that building in Atlanta had a gun available at the time? Under such conditions, it is very unlikely that Matt Barton could have shot 22 people before he was stopped.

There are communities whose gun laws permit law-abiding citizens to have ready access to firearms and where many citizens accordingly have registered guns. These communities have less violence in general and fewer shooting sprees like this in particular. Wouldn't it be better if nobody had guns? Of course it would. It would be better if man had never invented the bow and arrow, much less modern weapons. But that is not a serious option.

The one thing that so-called "gun control" laws do not do is control guns. They disarm potential victims. People who do not care about the law can always get guns in a country with 200 million guns and more coming in, both legally and illegally.

We can't even stop millions of human beings from coming into this country illegally -- and a handgun is a lot smaller than a person. That basic reality is not changed by politicians and media loudmouths who appeal to emotions and symbolism by crying out for more guns laws. You can always pass feel-good laws and ignore their actual consequences. In fact, we have already done too much of that on too many other issues.

The biggest hypocrites on gun control are those who live in upscale developments with armed security guards -- and who want to keep other people from having guns to defend themselves. Affluent homeowners pay to have private armed security patrols cruising their neighborhoods. Many of them are also for gun control. Of course you don't have to have a gun yourself when you are paying other people to carry guns for you. But what about lower-income people living in high-crime, inner city neighborhoods? Should such people be kept unarmed and helpless, so that limousine liberals can "make a statement" by adding to the thousands of gun laws already on the books?

Could gangs of armed hoodlums and criminals flourish and terrorize whole neighborhoods, as they do, if people all around them had guns? We don't have to speculate. Studies at the University of Chicago show that violence drops immediately in communities that pass laws permitting law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons.

Such communities do not have shoot-outs on the streets or vigilante actions -- the big bugaboos of those who love to believe that others lack the brains or the decency that they reserve for the anointed like themselves. Contrary to those to whom politics is an ego trip, both citizens and criminals have common sense. That is why there are more shootings when only one side has guns.

If the real purpose of gun control laws was to prevent crime, then we would expect their most zealous advocates to be zealous about other anti-crime measures as well. They are not. On the contrary, those who are most vocal against guns are generally the most reluctant to put criminals behind bars and keep them there.

How many gun-control advocates have even noticed -- much less protested -- the fact that John Hinckley, who attempted to assassinate President Reagan and grievously wounded press secretary Jim Brady in the process, is now walking the streets again on furlough? Instead, they have exploited the shooting of Jim Brady to pass laws disarming more citizens who have never shot anybody.

There is a very real possibility that the tragedy in Atlanta will lead to more laws making more such tragedies more likely.


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©1999, Creators Syndicate