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Do gun control laws control guns?

By
From page A9 | January 27, 2013 |

The gun control controversy is only the latest of many issues to be debated almost solely in terms of fixed preconceptions, with little or no examination of hard facts.

Media discussions of gun control are dominated by two factors: the National Rifle Association and the Second Amendment. But the over-riding factual question is whether gun control laws actually reduce gun crimes in general or murder rates in particular.

If, as gun control advocates claim, gun control laws really do control guns and save lives, there is nothing to prevent repealing the Second Amendment, any more than there was anything to prevent repealing the Eighteenth Amendment that created Prohibition.

But, if the hard facts show that gun control laws do not actually control guns, but instead lead to more armed robberies and higher murder rates after law-abiding citizens are disarmed, then gun control laws would be a bad idea, even if there were no Second Amendment and no National Rifle Association.

The central issue boils down to the question: What are the facts? Yet there are many zealots who seem utterly unconcerned about facts or about their own lack of knowledge of facts.

There are people who have never fired a shot in their life who do not hesitate to declare how many bullets should be the limit to put into a firearm’s clip or magazine. Some say 10 bullets but New York state’s recent gun control law specifies seven.

Virtually all gun control advocates say that 30 bullets in a magazine is far too many for self-defense or hunting – even if they have never gone hunting and never had to defend themselves with a gun. This uninformed and self-righteous dogmatism is what makes the gun control debate so futile and so polarizing.

Anyone who faces three home invaders, jeopardizing himself or his family, might find 30 bullets barely adequate. After all, not every bullet hits, even at close range, and not every hit incapacitates. You can get killed by a wounded man.

These plain life-and-death realities have been ignored for years by people who go ballistic when they hear about how many shots were fired by the police in some encounter with a criminal. As someone who once taught pistol shooting in the Marine Corps, I am not the least bit surprised by the number of shots fired. I have seen people miss a stationary target at close range, even in the safety and calm of a pistol range.

We cannot expect everybody to know that. But we can expect them to know that they don’t know – and to stop spouting off about life-and-death issues when they don’t have the facts.

The central question as to whether gun control laws save lives or cost lives has generated many factual studies over the years. But these studies have been like the proverbial tree that falls in an empty forest, and has been heard by no one – certainly not by zealots who have made up their minds and don’t want to be confused by the facts.

Most factual studies show no reduction in gun crimes, including murder, under gun control laws. A significant number of studies show higher rates of murder and other gun crimes under gun control laws.

How can this be? It seems obvious to some gun control zealots that, if no one had guns, there would be fewer armed robberies and fewer people shot to death.

But nothing is easier than to disarm peaceful, law-abiding people. And nothing is harder than to disarm people who are neither – especially in a country with hundreds of millions of guns already out there, that are not going to rust away for centuries.

When it was legal to buy a shotgun in London in the middle of the 20th century, there were very few armed robberies there. But, after British gun control zealots managed over the years to disarm virtually the entire law-abiding population, armed robberies became literally a hundred times more common. And murder rates rose.

One can cherry-pick the factual studies, or cite some studies that have subsequently been discredited, but the great bulk of the studies show that gun control laws do not in fact control guns. On net balance, they do not save lives but cost lives.

Gun control laws allow some people to vent their emotions, politicians to grandstand and self-righteous people to “make a statement” – but all at the cost of other people’s lives.

Thomas Sowell is an author, economist and senior fellow at the Hoover Institute, Stanford University.

 

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Discussion | 27 comments

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  • G-ManJanuary 26, 2013 - 9:59 pm

    I can't think of a word that Sowell wrote that doesn't ring true..Is this the dog poked w/ a stick that Kirchubel wrote about..Doesn't seem so..Sowell's piece is the dialog some of you have been asking for..

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  • Vincent PitzuloJanuary 27, 2013 - 10:13 am

    .....and the factual studies are? Dr. Sowell fails to cite a single source, but why should this article be any different.

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  • G-ManJanuary 27, 2013 - 10:48 am

    Maybe you can help Dr. Sowell out..and do some digging of your own..you may find that of the top 10 ways humans do harm to each other..illegal and legal guns rank 9th and 10th...Perhaps look@ crime statistics in the UK,and our cities like Chicago, and Washington DC..If you're willing to abrogate your own safety to outside sources,police etc then you'll be a useful tool for the Gun Control Goons.

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  • rlw895January 27, 2013 - 8:49 pm

    One thing of which we can be sure is the "factual studies" weren't funded by the federal government, because the NRA has succeeded in having such funding banned. See dailyrepublic.com/usworld/will-obamas-order-lead-to-surge-in-gun-research/. Draw your own conclusions, but I suspect the factual studies Sowell cites are funded by pro-gun groups. They don't have to worry about any competing views funded by the pesky federal government. We will never come together on this issue when we don't have facts we can all trust. But that serves the NRA fine; as soon as we come together, it is out of business, except to go back to low-profit activities like recreational shooting and gun safety classes.

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  • VallejoanJanuary 27, 2013 - 10:27 am

    This is the part that so many well-meaning gun control advocates miss: "But nothing is easier than to disarm peaceful, law-abiding people. And nothing is harder than to disarm people who are neither" If all privately owned firearms were outlawed in the US tomorrow, all firearms confiscated and destroyed, and all gun shops shut down, do you really think that gun violence would stop? What about all the guns already owned by criminals that they hid during the firearms roundup? Such a ban would create a massive black market for firearms. Not just imported firearms, either, but privately manufactured ones. It's really not that difficult to build a gun if you're not too picky about having safety locks, changeable magazines, and all the other perks of modern weapons. So the important question to ask at each step of the way is, what will this proposed new law really accomplish in the real world? Will it reduce the number of weapons in the hands of criminals, or reduce them only for peaceful, law abiding citizens?

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  • G-ManJanuary 27, 2013 - 10:54 am

    The latter most certainly...

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  • rlw895January 27, 2013 - 8:57 pm

    Straw man argument. No one in authority, least of all the president, is proposing anything close to "all privately owned firearms outlawed, all firearms confiscated and destroyed, and all gun shops shut down," and the objective is not to "stop all gun violence." The objective is to do something reasonable and practical that will reduce gun violence, especially the mass killings of innocents by a deranged person.

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  • Monty Python Argument ClinicJanuary 27, 2013 - 9:05 pm

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsxVzhvQ02s

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  • G-ManJanuary 28, 2013 - 12:25 am

    Nice to see you're so tuned in as to how obama thinks...Next time you talk ask him if his Portuguese Water Spaniel,"BO" (He even names the freaking dog after himself) is a grooming headache.

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  • Cheap mixersJanuary 28, 2013 - 12:36 am

    U know what...frozen lemonaid (reconstituted)and cheap Sherry is a nice pick me up. Say Good Night Gary.

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  • G-ManJanuary 28, 2013 - 12:45 am

    Good night,Gary

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  • 4 some reason....a haikuJanuary 28, 2013 - 1:02 am

    Good Gracious Gary....Greasy Grimy Gopher Guts...And me I'm a Loon...Good night

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  • rlw895January 28, 2013 - 1:15 am

    Not what he thinks, just what he's proposed.

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  • G-ManJanuary 28, 2013 - 2:01 am

    Exactly..so since I presume you and certainly not I are mind readers..we can only go by what we've experienced in the past..the little man is a politician on steroids..and as such has told half truths,and outright lies all his political life...

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  • VallejoanJanuary 28, 2013 - 9:49 pm

    rlw, I was using the extreme example to make a point. I never said anyone had proposed it. "The objective is to do something reasonable and practical that will reduce gun violence, especially the mass killings of innocents by a deranged person." Agreed - but in practice the focus is almost solely on "gun control," never on "people control," or "mental health control." I don't have the answers, but experience has shown that gun control can do only so much. We need to find other approaches.

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  • rlw895January 29, 2013 - 12:33 am

    Vallejoan: Sorry about that. But I think it important that we stop talking about gun control when that is not our real interest. We should especially stop talking about gun control in the abstract that no one in authority is proposing. That scatters people away from a serious conversation. Our real interest is what I said and with which you agree. That's what we shoud be talking about, not gun control. So here it is again; say it again and again and see if the scattered folks will come back to the campfire to talk: "The objective is to do something reasonable and practical that will reduce gun violence, especially the mass killings of innocents by a deranged person." The NRA has suggested having armed guards at schools. That's a fair response to meeting the objective. In evaluating it, we have to ask: Is it reasonable? Is it practical? (For example, how do we pay for it?) Will it work to meet the objective? We can do the same analysis for regulating magazine capacity, banning military-style semi-automtice weapons, requiring more screeing of gun sales, etc., etc. We need to reserve judgment until all the ideas are in, then evaluate and act. I would like to see some pro-gun states take the initiative to try out some of the the pro-gun solutions. That's one of the beauties of our federal system--states and act as laboratories.

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  • G-ManJanuary 29, 2013 - 2:56 am

    Adolph Hitler when asked isn't he afraid to always be standing up in an open car..replied.."Nothing can save a man from another man who's willing to sacrifice his life to take yours"...Armed guards,metal detectors,armed teachers etc are all valid..but WAIT..here comes that bomb thru the window...We MUST pass the Brady Bunch Bill...NOW!!!..

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  • rlw895January 29, 2013 - 12:33 am

    Vallejoan: Sorry about that. But I think it important that we stop talking about gun control when that is not our real interest. We should especially stop talking about gun control in the abstract that no one in authority is proposing. That scatters people away from a serious conversation. Our real interest is what I said and with which you agree. That's what we shoud be talking about, not gun control. So here it is again; say it again and again and see if the scattered folks will come back to the campfire to talk: "The objective is to do something reasonable and practical that will reduce gun violence, especially the mass killings of innocents by a deranged person." The NRA has suggested having armed guards at schools. That's a fair response to meeting the objective. In evaluating it, we have to ask: Is it reasonable? Is it practical? (For example, how do we pay for it?) Will it work to meet the objective? We can do the same analysis for regulating magazine capacity, banning military-style semi-automtice weapons, requiring more screeing of gun sales, etc., etc. We need to reserve judgment until all the ideas are in, then evaluate and act. I would like to see some pro-gun states take the initiative to try out some of the the pro-gun solutions. That's one of the beauties of our federal system--states can act as laboratories.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • VallejoanJanuary 29, 2013 - 2:02 am

    While it's the horrible stories of mass murders that make the headlines, most gun violence isn't committed by crazy people but by criminals. Clearly it would take very different strategies to combat the two different types of violence, so perhaps we should start by clarifying and prioritizing our goals. Do we want to focus on preventing the majority of gun violence? That would be the criminal uses. Or do we want to focus on the mass killings that take fewer lives overall but involve more innocent people than do the criminal incidents? We don't need more knee-jerk reactions that produce ineffective laws, we need real analysis and we need to make careful decisions about how to use our scarce resources. Since CA has some of the strictest gun control laws in the country, it would be useful to really study which of those laws are producing results and which are not. Take the ineffective laws off the books instead of wasting the resources of law enforcement and the courts to enforce useless laws.

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  • rlw895January 30, 2013 - 9:32 pm

    Well said, Vallejoan. But guys like G-Man don't want to study anything; they have all the answers they want already, and they don't seem to be interesting in persuasion. I would say my priority is the deranged person type of violence, and Sandy Hook doesn't justify any other reaction. Stopping (sane) criminal violence is also important, but not my present focus. I think most people are willing to assume the risk of crime, but not that they might be gunned down at random by a nut on the street with a very efficient weapon.

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  • G-ManJanuary 30, 2013 - 9:38 pm

    G-Man dioesn'

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  • G-ManJanuary 30, 2013 - 9:45 pm

    G-Man doesn't want to study anything?..He has all the answers he wants already?..That's not fair..ALl I'm saying is enforce the laws we have...as for research into gun violence...once again cause you're thick as a brick...Academia sitting in a classroom pontificating on this theory or that..won't stop the odd nut case that just snaps...live with it our species is just violent..the only one that I can think of that kills for pleasure or for reasons other than food or survival.

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  • rlw895January 30, 2013 - 10:37 pm

    G-Man: Well, I was about ready to apologize, but as I read on, it sure sounds like you don’t want to study anything! And your idea of what research is might be the problem. Researchers are people much like you or me, with curiosity about the way things are, or aren’t, and some skills in collecting and analyzing data. What the government does is ask the questions. But if we don’t pay for the research, we don’t get any answers. And the NRA makes it worse by making it painfully obvious that they are willing to be the enforcer of the funding ban. If any researcher gets close to looking at guns, their grant might be yanked. So they stay far, far away from firearm research. Obama has issued executive orders that provide a safe harbor for researchers within the law. It lessens the intimidation by the NRA, but it doesn’t solve the overall problem of the funding ban.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • G-ManJanuary 31, 2013 - 12:58 am

    RLW...What can I say?..humans have a propensity for violence..and unstable humans have an unpredictable propensity for violence..weapons used are irrelevant..it could be a gun..it could be a can of gas and a match..or maybe a truck packed full of whatever that goes boom...If research is done by Academia then that research has a liberal taint as most Academia is liberal...I choose not to beat my head against the wall...but I'm OK with you doing it..

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  • rlw895January 31, 2013 - 2:03 am

    G-Man: Well, all right! You can join me then in calling for Congress to lift the firearm research funding ban by repealing the stupid law that gave rise to it.

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  • G-ManJanuary 31, 2013 - 3:59 am

    RLW whatever are we going to do with the poor boo hoo clueless liberals..I see where Congress cut 2.6million from CDC..2.6huh..that wouldn't even cover an obama Christmas in Hawaii..get real clueless..I've read there are @ least 5 other agencies along with private orgs..wasting time and money on this non-subject..what?..Not enough for you?..Like yips like Warren Buffet who bemoan tax reform..then do everything they can to lower their own taxes,outright evade taxes,and then beyond on all comprehension DON'T PAY BACK TAXES OWED!!..What's wrong with you RLW?..You liberals slay me..You'll fight tooth and nail against waterboarding people who are more than willing and able to do you harm..then turn around and advocate the murder of millions of unborn babies..You enable an imperial government to live like Sultans while millions are undernourished in this country...You embarrass yourself and insult my intelligence when you gripe about a 2.6million cut in research while your lovely little pimple of a president invest(aka wastes) billions on green energy...Tell you what cat..you don't want to write Congress you want to write the White House (I hear they have people who can actually read there)..and tell them..HEY!!How about mothballing Air Force One for a few months..bingo..research money found..now all that's missing is your integrity.

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  • Can't You SeeJanuary 30, 2013 - 10:51 pm

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ikOqJ8qYoMw

    Reply | Report abusive comment
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