This started as a reply to a comment at this Roanoke Times editorial on the recent “guns in church” debate. It grew long enough, and hit some points that I don’t think I’ve hit before, so I decided to make it a blog post here as well.
First, the comment I’m replying to:
@35 Jake, I’m with you. I admit my failure to consider it may have no effect one way or the other. Certainly if there are more guns in a society there is the potential for more violence but as the pro-gun side has said, mostly law abiding citizens, if allowed to carry concealed present no threat. Personally I don’t have a dog in this fight as I never attend church.
I am with Sandi in that Mr. Lott doesn’t sound very much like a credible researcher.
But, and this is important, there still seems to be little in the way of good statistics either way per my earlier link to the NY Times story. Without good statistics, you can’t say ANYTHING about how safe concealed carry is or isn’t.
And my reply:
@37 Scott M:
Also consider that laws restricting where one can carry guns have the greatest effect on the law-abiding: they will, by nature, disarm themselves in those places because that is the law. Criminals, on the other hand, have already chosen to break one (or more) laws against murder, rape, robbery, etc., and are highly unlikely to stop because using a gun would break yet another law. Thus, such laws have a vastly disproportionate – and negative – effect on the law-abiding, while doing effectively nothing to stop criminals.
“Certainly if there are more guns in a society there is the potential for more violence”
The potential for gun violence may be greater, but I doubt the overall potential for violence would be greater. Violent people will be violent whether it’s with a gun, a baseball bat, a knife, or just their bare hands – and any one of those items is perfectly capable of killing with one blow.
What a gun does is place people on an equal footing regardless of physical ability. Yes, it gives someone who intends to kill the ability to do so from a distance and rapidly. But it also allows someone in a wheelchair to protect himself against a healthy assailant, or a 110 woman to protect herself against a 200 rapist, or a gay man to protect himself against a group of bashers – and it allows a healthy, fit man to defend himself and others against a man bent on using another gun to commit mass murder. In this exchange of capability, the law-abiding citizen sees the greatest benefits.
The statistics, and history, show that there is no correlation* between the number of firearms owned in the US and the rate of crime committed with firearms in the US. Given that lack of connection, and the negative effect laws like the one proposed by Sen. McEachin have on the law-abiding, those laws should not be passed.
I would also suggest everyone look at England, which – despite a near-total gun ban – has had rising violent crime rates for several years,** prompting them to move on to banning pocket knives, and even confiscating canes from senior citizens.
* The numbers at the linked site actually show a weak negative correlation: meaning more guns = less gun crime. I say no correlation both because it is a “weak” correlation and because other studies have agreed with “no” correlation. However, as the author at the link notes, “This negative correlation also completely precludes any possibility of firearm ownership causing crimes committed with firearms.”
** Use caution when comparing crime rates between the US and England. From what I understand, they use different criteria when compiling those statistics from what we use here – they only count crimes that have been solved, whereas we count crimes that have been reported. Their method is biased towards lower numbers (i.e., active cases and cold cases are not counted), while ours is biased toward higher numbers (i.e., false or erroneous reports that are not disproven before that year’s statistics are compiled are counted).