Jewish World Review Nov. 27, 2002 / 22 Kislev 5763

Thomas Sowell

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Gun Control myths: Part II

http://www.NewsAndOpinion.com | Talking facts to gun control zealots is only likely to make them angry. But the rest of us need to know what the facts are. More than that, we need to know that much of what the gun controllers claim as facts will not stand up under scrutiny.

The grand dogma of the gun controllers is that places with severe restrictions on the ownership of firearms have lower rates of murder and other gun crimes. How do they prove this? Simple. They make comparisons of places where this is true and ignore all comparisons of places where the opposite is true.

Gun control zealots compare the United States and England to show that murder rates are lower where restrictions on ownership of firearms are more severe. But you could just as easily compare Switzerland and Germany, the Swiss having lower murder rates than the Germans, even though gun ownership is three times higher in Switzerland. Other countries with high rates of gun ownership and low murder rates include Israel, New Zealand and Finland.

Within the United States, rural areas have higher rates of gun ownership and lower rates of murder, whites have higher rates of gun ownership than blacks and much lower murder rates. For the country as a whole, handgun ownership doubled in the late 20th century, while the murder rate went down. But such facts are not mentioned by gun control zealots or by the liberal media.

Another dogma among gun control supporters is that having a gun in the home for self-defense is futile and is only likely to increase the chances of your getting hurt or killed. Your best bet is to offer no resistance to an intruder, according to this dogma.

Actual research tells just the opposite story. People who have not resisted have gotten hurt twice as often as people who resisted with a firearm. Those who resisted without a firearm of course got hurt the most often.

Such facts are simply ignored by gun control zealots. They prefer to cite a study published some years ago in the New England Journal of Medicine and demolished by a number of scholars since then. According to this discredited study, people with guns in their homes were more likely to be murdered.

How did they arrive at this conclusion? By taking people who were murdered in their homes, finding out how many had guns in the house, and then comparing them with people who were not murdered in their homes.

Using similar reasoning, you might be able to show that people who hire bodyguards are more likely to get killed than people who don't. Obviously, people who hire bodyguards already feel at risk, but does that mean that the bodyguards are the reason for the risk?

Similarly illogical reasoning has been used by counting how many intruders were killed by homeowners with guns and comparing that with the number of family members killed with those guns. But this is a nonsense comparison because most people who keep guns in their homes do not do so in hopes of killing intruders.

Most uses of guns in self-defense -- whether in the home or elsewhere -- do not involve actually pulling the trigger. When the intended victim turns out to have a gun in his hand, the attacker usually has enough brains to back off. But the lives saved this way do not get counted.

People killed at home by family members are highly atypical. The great majority of these victims have had to call the police to their homes before, because of domestic violence, and just over half have had the cops out several times. These are not just ordinary people who happened to lose their temper when a gun was at hand.

Neither are most "children" who are killed by guns just toddlers who happened to find a loaded weapon lying around. More of those "children" are members of teenage criminal gangs who kill each other deliberately.

Some small children do in fact get accidentally killed by guns in the home -- but fewer than drown in bathtubs. Is anyone for banning bathtubs? Moreover, the number of fatal gun accidents fell, over the years, while the number of guns was increasing by tens of millions. None of this supports the assumption that more guns mean more fatal accidents. Most of the gun controllers' arguments are a house of cards.

No wonder they don't want any hard facts coming near them.

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JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author of several books, including his latest, The Einstein Syndrome: Bright Children Who Talk Late.

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© 2002, Creators Syndicate