The Myth of Gun Control
a brief essay by Joe Boudreault
There is a common story that circles the globe, and it says that too many people have too many firearms. Violence solves nothing, and armed civilians are their own worst enemies, so the story continues. Modern societies are plagued by gun violence and the modern world is the biggest culprit, so goes the popular complaint. Americans, for example, are armed to the teeth and don’t know better. But it is a myth.
Take away the right for a good citizen to bear protective arms and who do you serve? The citizen or the criminal? It doesn’t take a genius to see that it is the criminal who disobeys the law and will have a gun no matter what; the citizen is robbed of security. How true it is that if you “outlaw the guns, then only the outlaws will have guns.” By the same token, “Guns don’t kill people – people kill people. Only one in about 300 citizens who own guns resort to violence, and they are usually repeaters. Should the other 2,999 give up their right to protection?
Now picture a society in which good law-abiding citizens run around without protection from the outlaws. “Well,” say the gun-owner opponents, “let the police handle the criminals”. Why, that’s what they’re there for, right? Oh yes, the police do deal with crime and violent offenders. But the statistics of the safe use of firearms do not lie and what they reveal is that protection against the predations of violent crime by citizens who wield their own guns is far less deadly and far more effective than anything done by the police. Does this mean that police are incompetent and shouldn’t have guns? Not at all. But the laws passed against citizen ownership do not benefit the citizen, and in fact such restrictive laws add to the heavy burden of official law enforcement personnel. One study shows that more than 10% of police shoot-outs kill an innocent person, versus 2% for civilian shoot-outs. I don’t know about you but I think I would sooner (if possible) that my armed law-abiding neighbor comes to my aid rather than the local police.
Guns do kill tens of thousands of people each year. Filmmaker Michael Moore, in his documentary Bowling For Columbine, suggests that the number is too high and it is time to have strict gun bans among this murderous citizenry. Moore, a maker of highly-suggestive visual accounts of local practices such as youth gangs and unnecessary gun violence, can turn a lot of heads and minds with his darkly charming presentations. But he is a propagandist of the first class and propaganda usually means misleading with only selected facts, not all of the facts. I was willing to buy into his meaningful arguments up to a point until I realized there was a lot of stuff he was assiduously avoiding. It’s a tactic he uses over and over again in all of his feature films. If Moore would tell the whole truth he would serve the public better.
Bowling For Columbine suggests that the USA is chock full of armed murderers and that only by disallowing guns to the general public will these murderers be defanged. The violent gangsters and mobsters must be laughing at Moore’s pretentious depictions of them, but Moore is most likely laughing all the way to his bank with the profits of his twisted fear mongering. It is too bad; Moore could be such an effective documentary filmmaker if only he allowed his instincts to better guide him. Films such as this one are of no help to citizens and they just add fuel to the fires of anti-gun lobbyists. Moore could have told a more truthful tale if he had focused on the carnage of North American highways. Driving on highways causes many more fatalities than using handguns, and it is a privilege. Gun ownership causes far less carnage but it is a constitutional right for Americans. Heart disease, cancer and diabetes each account for tenfold the number caused by gun deaths, and they are primarily caused by lifestyle and societal negligence. What justice is there here? A privilege to kill by automobile (even if unintentionally) versus a censorship against a right to self-protection?
There were a few moments in Moore’s film where I felt genuinely moved, but if Moore had simply turned the cards 180 degrees, as it were, and had campaigned for gun use by ordinary citizens, he would have caught my intellectual ear. He might, for example, have used the statistics of accidental deaths by other means to illustrate that while guns do cause some havoc, for every death by firearm (for whatever reason) there are 12 deaths by auto accident, five deaths by drug overdose, 10 children dead by bicycle accidents, three deaths by drowning, three more deaths by fire, and an astounding 98 deaths by other accidental means. Yet the gun-control lobbyists are the loudest and rudest of the control lobbies out there. Moore could have made an even more powerful, meaningful and effective film on automobile safety. But that would not be as dramatic, high-profile or self-serving as what he did give the public.
I have written elsewhere about the very real deterrent that a death penalty has in any society against the prevalence of capital crime. A law that allows good citizens to carry concealed weapons for their own protection has actually reduced the incidence of violence within their societies. Why? Because if a potential criminal knows that there is a possibility of being repelled by a comparable force, he or she will think twice. It is the same deterrence at work on the streets as at the gallows and courthouse. Anti-gun lobbyists don’t want you to know these simple facts. They also don’t want you to know that in every jurisdiction where laws were passed to allow citizens to carry concealed weapons for self-protection, violent crime declined dramatically. In areas where such laws are not passed, the highest of violent crime exists. This was always the statistic which came up in every case ever studied, in every country.
One of the reasons for a gun-control movement or an anti-gun lobby is not to achieve greater safety for ordinary citizens, but rather it is for a big tax grab and for central government control of any and all firearms. This carries with it a potentially disastrous outcome for you and me as law-abiding citizens. If our right to protect ourselves is strictly in the hands of police authorities and home guards, what happens when the central government becomes an oppressive police state? Citizens everywhere want good government and they won’t rise up to overthrow such a government. But they should be able to rise up and overthrow a bad government and history invariably shows that this is what happens. A good government has nothing to fear from law-abiding citizens who also bear arms; a bad government has everything to fear. Guess which kind of government tries again and again to erase these built-in safeguards of a good society?
If the rest of the world were to follow the American pattern, it would be a better world in many ways. The constitution of the United States clearly allows the bearing of arms by ordinary citizens, and for good reason. Citizens must posses the means by which to prevent a despot from taking power. American history (as well as that of other democracies) has no record of a military coup or illegal take-over of their legal governments, because their armed citizenry would not allow such a thing. Such a public policy is contained in public history itself – visionaries from Aristotle and Plato all the way to John Locke and Patrick Henry have advocated the right to bear arms by ordinary people.
When a constitution is abrogated and compromised, the freedom of its citizens is at risk. Military dictatorships thrive simply because the control of self-protection is taken away from the common people and is in the hands of the dictator. The best control of violent crime is that exercised by the common peoples themselves, because commoners are the most trustworthy. Using the USA as an example once more, in the past four decades private gun ownership has increased by over 300 percent, yet murder by firearm has decreased by 25 percent, and accidental death by firearms has decreased by 75 percent. Add to this the fact that three-quarters of violent crimes are committed by repeat offenders, not by first-timers. Do you want privately-owned guns to be in the hands of those people only?
And now, just a few sobering statistics to leave you to ponder:
Israel has one of the world’s lowest rates of violent crimes by gun ownership of its citizens. And yet this small nation not only allows free gun ownership by everybody, but intensely encourages it and loans guns from its armories. Switzerland also has a very low crime rate, but the Swiss government, which does require gun registration, not only encourages private gun ownership for protection and recreation, it actively loans guns to those who cannot afford them. In both these nations, concealed carrying of guns for protection is vigorously promoted. European countries have strict gun registration and gun control laws, yet European crime rates vie firearms are remarkably higher than the USA or Canada. And nations like South Africa and Taiwan have much higher murder rates than the USA but Saudi Arabia has very punitive gun control laws and Taiwan has made gun possession a capital offence!
The verdict on gun control is clear: no government (and no citizen) has any right to tell you or I what weapon we may chose to own, and any government that attempts to do so by a law should immediately be held suspect. Any time you hear a call for gun control, watch out. A dictator is on the rise in your future.