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Jewish World Review June 1, 2000 / 27 Iyar, 5760

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell
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Gun control hypocrisy -- ROSIE O'DONNELL is only the latest liberal to be vociferously in favor of gun control for other people -- and yet ready to use firearms for their own protection. Others have included columnist Carl Rowan and Adolph Ochs Sulzberger of the N. Y. Times, whose newspaper has been 200 percent behind gun control laws for years.

Rosie O'Donnell has hired a security guard to protect her young son and the guard has applied for a gun permit. However, children of famous people are by no means the only ones at risk. A recent study showed that a 15-year-old black youth in the inner city has about one chance in 12 of being killed before he reaches the age of 45.

Why is it more important for Rosie O'Donnell's son to have armed protection than for a black youth, or other people living in high-crime neighborhoods, to have armed protection? Here is the same "do as I say, not as I do" hypocrisy found among liberals who want to prevent other people from exercising the same school choice that they exercise for their own children.

There will be no rational discussion of gun control until both sides acknowledge that guns both cost lives and save lives, so that the issue boils down to the net effect. This is a factual question and the facts are readily available, so there is no excuse for this to continue to be discussed in terms of assumptions and theories.

The empirical data are very clear. Where ordinary, law-abiding citizens have been allowed to carry firearms, violent crimes -- including shootings -- have gone down, not up. Where local governments have begun restricting the availability of firearms, including requiring all sorts of "safety" provisions, violent crimes have gone up, even at a time when such crimes are going down nationally.

Obviously, whenever guns are widely available in a country of a quarter of a billion people, somebody somewhere is going to get killed accidentally or by someone whose anger or viciousness gets out of hand. That has to be weighed against the lives that are saved when an armed citizenry reduces violent crime. Taking both these things into account, there has still been a net reduction in violent crime and deaths from allowing law-abiding people ready access to firearms.

This is not a theory. It is what has happened, again and again, in communities all across this country. The facts simply do not fit the gun control advocates' theories.

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More than 90 percent of all uses of guns in self-defense do not involve actually firing the weapon, despite gun control advocates' assumption that we are all such trigger-happy idiots that letting ordinary citizens have guns will lead to bullets flying hither and yon. Like virtually every other liberal crusade, gun control is based on the assumption that other people lack common sense and must be controlled by the superior wisdom and virtue of the anointed.

But both criminals and law-abiding citizens have common sense. An intruder in your home who hears you loading a shotgun in the next room is going to be out of there before you can get to where he is -- and he is very unlikely ever to come back. Muggers or rapists who are ready to attack you on the street are likely to have a sudden change of plans if you pull out a gun.

Every incident where someone opens fire at random in a public place is exploited to the hilt by the media and by gun control advocates. But have you noticed that such shootings occur in places where the potential victims are unlikely to be armed? Restaurants, schools, churches and synagogues are far more likely to be targets than gun shows or conventions of the National Rifle Association. Open fire on people who have firearms themselves and that can be the last dumb thing you do.

The facts are readily available in books like "More Guns, Less Crime" by John Lott or "Pointblank" by Gary Kleck. But gun control advocates do not want to face the facts -- not if it means giving up their vision of the world and their sense of superiority, based on that vision. Not even if it costs other people their lives.

When gun control advocates throw around figures about how many children are killed by guns, they don't tell you that most of these "children" are teenage gangsters, not little kids who find loaded guns around the home.

Joseph Schumpeter once said that the first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie. Gun control advocates prove his point.

JWR contributor Thomas Sowell, a fellow at the Hoover Institution, is author, most recently, of The Quest for Cosmic Justice.


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