Solution to gun violence oversimplified

The two opinion articles in the April 27 Record regarding gun violence and the purported necessity of banning all firearms merit a response. I will not express an opinion on whether guns should be outlawed or not, but merely suggest a proper line of reasoning required to reach that conclusion.

That said, let me consider the reasoning contained in both articles from two weeks ago. It proceeds roughly as follows. Premise: Other nations have more restrictive gun laws and also less violent crime (probably true). Conclusion: The United States should ban all guns and seize those weapons which are currently privately owned.

You don’t need to have taken a lot of logic classes to see that the conclusion does not follow from the premises. You need another premise, namely that the elimination of private firearm ownership will reduce crime in the United States. This is simply assumed to be true by many of the advocates of gun control, and they have a lot of totally irrelevant statistics which they claim prove the point. The two authors of Record articles point out that other countries often have lower crime rates than the United States does. Comparing crime rates in the United States to other countries is meaningless unless you can account for factors like ethnic makeup, social institutions like welfare and health care, education, differing justice systems and myriad other factors which are very difficult to control. It is incredibly difficult to make a proper comparison and very easy to simply assert, as both writers in the Record did, that mimicking only one aspect of another nation’s legal system will solve the whole problem (heck, the trains run on time in Japan, too, so why don’t we just turn over the administration of our nation to the Japanese government?).

I have a better way to look at this issue than meaningless comparisons to other countries. Let me introduce you to two questions which I have never seen addressed in the media, but which are more important than everything else put together. First: how many crimes are committed using weapons which are purchased and owned legally? That is to say, how many times per year does someone go into a gun store, buy a gun he or she is legally permitted to own, and use it commit a crime? This gives us a rough estimate for the number of crimes which would be prevented by banning guns. Second: How many crimes are prevented because some law-abiding citizen uses a weapon in self-defense (including both cases where the criminal is actually killed and those where he is not)? That is, how many more rapes, murders, etc., would we have if we banned gun ownership? The way these figures stack up gives us a starting place in our discussion of laws to be passed.

With these two numbers in hand (from a reputable source like the FBI – neither the NRA nor Handgun Control, Inc. can possibly be trusted) we can begin a real discussion. For example, some people intending to commit a crime, if prevented from buying a gun in a store, will turn to the black market, so fewer crimes than we thought will be prevented by an outright ban. And, of course, many black market guns are simply stolen from people who bought them legally, so a ban might reduce the supply. So we might go on to ask: how many guns are stolen from police departments, and how many from private citizens? And so on.

Try asking someone for the two main statistics from above the next time you talk about gun control. No one I have talked to knows them. Many people, however, are convinced that the numbers, were they known, would support their pre-conceived notions (what a surprise). Personally, I do not know either one. Accordingly, I do not have a firm position on gun control or elimination. To have such a firm position in the absence of data is to be part of the problem with American political dialogue, not the solution to violent crime.

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