Monday, April 30, 2007

John Stossel on Gun Control

Gun Control Isn't Crime Control

Stricter Gun Control Laws Wouldn't Have Prevented Va. Tech Tragedy
April 26, 2007—

This past Tuesday the governor of Virginia announced he would close the loophole that allowed Seung-Hui Cho to buy the guns he used to kill 32 people -- and himself -- on the Virginia Tech campus. OK, it's a good idea to keep guns out of the hands of people who are mentally unstable. But be careful about how far the calls for gun control go, because the idea that gun control laws lower gun crime is a myth.

After the 1997 shooting of 16 kids in Dunblane, England, the United Kingdom passed one of the strictest gun-control laws in the world, banning its citizens from owning almost all types of handguns. Britain seemed to get safer by the minute, as 162,000 newly-illegal firearms were forked over to British officials by law-abiding citizens.

But this didn't decrease the amount of gun-related crime in the U.K. In fact, gun-related crime has nearly doubled in the U.K. since the ban was enacted.

Might stricter gun laws result in more gun crime? It seems counterintuitive but makes sense if we consider one simple fact: Criminals don't obey the law. Strict gun laws, like the ban in Britain, probably only affect the actions of people who wouldn't commit crimes in the first place.

England's ban didn't magically cause all British handguns to disappear. Officials estimate that more than 250,000 illegal weapons are still in circulation in the country. Without the fear of retaliation from victims who might be packing heat, criminals in possession of these weapons now have a much easier job, and the incidence of gun-related crime has risen. As the saying goes, "If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns."

It's true that if gun control laws had been stricter in Virginia, Seung-Hui Cho would have had a more difficult time getting ahold of the weapons he used to gun down innocent students and teachers. But it's foolish to assume that stricter gun laws will prevent maniacs like Cho from committing heinous crimes. A deranged criminal will find a way to get his hands on a gun. Or a bomb.

The sad truth is that if gun laws had been less strict in Virginia, there is a possibility that the tragedy at Virginia Tech could have claimed fewer lives.

In January 2006, a bill was proposed in the Virginia State Assembly that would have forced Virginia Tech to change its current policy and allow students and faculty members to legally carry weapons on campus. Teenage college students carrying guns makes me nervous, but shouldn't adults be able to decide if they want to arm themselves -- just in case? When the bill was defeated, a Virginia Tech spokesman cheered the action, saying, "This will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus."

However, one gun rights advocate lamented the bill's failure with chilling accuracy: "You never know when evil will pop up."

Back in 2002, evil arrived at Virginia's Appalachian School of Law. A disgruntled student opened fire on the school's campus, killing three and wounding more. The law school also prohibited guns on campus, but fortunately two students happened to have firearms in their cars. When the pair heard gunshots, they retrieved their weapons and trained them on the killer, helping restrain him until authorities arrived.

There's no way to know whether Seung-Hui Cho's murderous rampage could have been stopped in a similar way, but what's certain is that strict gun control laws do not always have the effect that legislators intend. More guns (in the right hands) can stop crime, and fewer guns (in the wrong hands) can make for more crime. Gun control isn't crime control.

Copyright © 2007 ABC News Internet Ventures

The life of Indigo Red is full of adventure. Tune in next time for the Further Adventures of Indigo Red.


jack rensimer said...

I remember being in Israel and feeling very secure. My motto was the more guns the better. It seems the only time there is a gun related crime,is when one of the so-called Palestinian devils ambushes an innocent family on the road, far away from heavily populated areas.

There was a time, several years ago, when one of these fools fired upon unsuspecting citizens in Jerusalem or Tel Aviv, and was consequently gunned down by the folks on the sidewalks! No attacks in the city with handguns or rifles these days.

dcat said...

I like guns and the Goverment will not take them from me! They need to lock up the crazies and do more background!

NO SUCH THING AS PRIVACY WHEN BUYING A WEAPON!!! Medical history should be out for investigation! Where is my fucking right to be safe at school or work from these idiots!!! HUH!?! DAMN!

Ron Lyre said...

Oh no not dcat again!!

Anyway...I never thought the day would come when I would agree with you about what is happening in the UK regarding gun crime. I can honestly say that I'm confused. I have nothing but admiration for our mostly unarmed police force but in these rapidly changing times I have to admit I worry for their safety. I think what we dread most over here is what we see as a gung-ho mentality towards guns. A mentality that we feel is rife in your country. A country where I believe its fairly easy to pick up an AK 47 for a birthday present? However, as the years pass I think you will see less criticism coming from this side of the pond.
Slightly off the point, why do you have so many fat policemen over there? Isn't there a level of fitness they have to achieve? And aren't you worried about them falling over and accidently firing their weapon? Mind you I suppose it's handy to have one of them standing between you a mad gunman.

Indigo Red said...

HI, Ron. Nice to see your name on the comment list today.

I too am concerned for the safety of your mostly unarmed police officers. The legendary English decorum has been taking a beating the last several years. Fair-play seems to be a terribly antiquaited idea to many of your fellow Brits.

Gun purchases here can be extremely diffiicult to fairly easy depending upon the state in which one lives. One must remember that the US is not like any European country in that we are a federation of 50 semi-autonomous "countries" each with its own laws. In California, my home, I must wait 10 days before picking-up a firearm. The Federal government requires 15 days. That's a long time if one is committing a spontaneous act of senseless violence.

The AK-47 as known to the world through news reports of terrorists or videos of military operations are not legal anywhere in the US. Those weapons are full automatic and have various other features the gun control people think make the gun more dangerous such as a bayonet mount. The AKs that are available really are nothing more than semi-automatic rifles with a pistol grip. Remove the grip and all that's left is an ordinary rifle that is not objectionable.

The tragic shooting at Virginia Tech was committed with guns not of American origin. They were German and Austrian in make. Obtaining the guns should not have been possible. But the PC culture in the educational system prevented all those professors and doctors from labelling the killer as a psych case and putting him in a mental hospital for observation. Had that been done, it would have been on the record and the gun seller would not have sold the guns. However, the killer could have still got guns from illegal sources. Criminals are like that, law breakers.

Studies have shown that people who have had and used guns since childhood and have had training in their proper use are very unlikely to use a firearm to commit a crime. That holds for America, Britain, and the rest of Europe where gun traditions go back centuries. In Japan, where gun ownership is illegal, murder by knives is very high compared to the US. In England, deaths by knives skyrocketted after strict gun control was legislated. Now, the Aussies are experiencing alternative murder tools after removing guns from the general population.

We all hear about the sensational gun crimes in the US, but what we aren't told by the media are the other facts: fatal firearm accidents occur about one in every six hours; for victims under 14 years old, it's fewer than 1 per day. That's is undeniably bad. A criminal homicide using a gun happens about once every 30 minutes and two-thirds of those are criminal on criminal. All of that is really bad and would demand that guns be eliminated. Until one learns that guns prevent a crime or death EVERY 13 SECONDS.

Let's see that all by itself:

Every 13 seconds an American gun owner uses a firearm in defense against a criminal.

Criminal attacks stopped by guns this year: 810,013

Gun defenses since January 1, 2007.
Date and Time Now: Wednesday, May 02, 2007 10:02:59 PM


A man I work with is a Reserve Sheriffs Deputy and he just returned from 3 weeks in Britain as a tourist - pubs mostly. I asked him about fat cops in the US and why that is. When he was on the streets of London, he saw many cops on foot patrol, whereas here the cops are in patrol cars. Not much on-the-job exercise as an American police officer. He also said that after Academy training, there is no organized police mandated fitness regime or requirement to maintain physical health. An older, retired cop we work with said that when he worked in the 1960s, all officers had to meet strict physical guidelines and pass a physical test once a year. Apparently few if any police departments have such requirements. And you are quite right, it is better to have a fat cop between me and the ne'r-do-well than a skinny cop.

Now what's this I hear about Bobbies getting a uniform makeover? It seems their helmets don't remain on their heads whilst chasing the riff-raff or some such.

Gayle said...

I was also wondering why we have so many overweight cops in this country. What you said makes sense. Since they are in cars all day, perhaps they should adjust their eating habits a bit. A fat cop would have a hard time running down someone who is unarmed.

I don't believe we will see a time when all guns are outlawed in this country. The NRA is very strong and influential. I just don't see it happening. Let's hope I'm right!

Anonymous said...

Hang on, but gun crime is down in the UK... I think it was 55 gun deaths across the UK for an entire year last year.

Gun crime did go up for a bit - but that's because there were new laws. If you got rid of all gun laws there would be no gun crime - because the acts would not be criminal...

The new laws have had an effect and gun crime is falling.

Mike's America said...

That's a great graphic. I'm going to steal it.

Indigo Red said...


I was going to answer with my findings from the Home Office Crime Report 2004/2005, but crimes statistic weren't the point. Also, I could not find any numbers on how many times guns had been used to prevent crimes in the UK. I did find that those few who had used firearms in defence of life and/or property were themselves arrested and jailed. In one case, a citizen with a shotgun, shot a burgler in the act. The police arrested the homeowner, the burgler was the prosecution witness; the burgler went free and collected disability because of his injuries and the homeowner went to jail. Something is wrong with such a society.

US studies have shown, when a woman is armed and accosted in the streets she is able to fend off the attack in 83% of the cases. She is only half as likely to be injured in the process. This is good for the approx. 17 million American women packing heat, but it does nothing for the English lass prohibited from defending herself, hoping to catch a glimpse of her attacker's face so that the Metropolitan Police can apprehend to assailant.

While the number of rapes in the US is higher than in Great Britain, it is falling. The rate of sexual assaults and violent crimes in the British Isles is rising rapidly due to the fact that the good citizens are unarmed and the criminals know it. Preditors always prefer passive prey, it's a law of nature - the only kind of law that law-breakers obey.

As stated above, the US has one gun related homicide per half-hour while the UK has one gun crime every hour. Across England and Wales the number of gun crimes have doubled since 1997 with 10,000 incidents a year.

While guns have been removed from the general British population, the number of knife crimes has skyrocketted to epidemic proportions. The government is now confiscating knives. It won't be long until police are expropriating cricket bats. In Denmark, a favorite weapon for assault and defense in last years riots was the good old American baseball bat - in a country that doesn't play baseball! So what were the bats for? Oh yeah - guns are illegal.

Crime cannot be eliminated and violent crime certianly will not be eliminated so long as humans have emotions. It's not a question of how many crimes are committed using guns, but how many crimes are prevented by gun use. Even if we accept that there was one homicide every 30 minutes in the US, 48 every day, 1440 every month, 17,280 per year, that's still much lower than the 801,000 crimes prevented by guns in the hands of responsible citizens in just the first four months of the year, or 9,612,000 prevented crimes projected for the entire year. That's a lot of prevention, none of which police can do; the police show up after the crime to take a report. Only I can prevent my own victimization, and if a gun can provide the equalization of power, then I should have that right and opportunity.

Ron Lyre said...

Thanks for that Indigo, very interesting.


Indigo Red said...

You are welcome, Ron. And thanks for asking. I hadn't thought about fat cops before.