January 18, 2009

Hunting down the facts

Okay, let's start here: Gun Control Network

Look closely at the charts on their page. Years and countries are chosen apparently at random. Data is taken from the United States for 2001, from Italy for 1997, from England/Wales for 2002. This is like comparing apples and oranges. Choosing different years for different countries implies (but does not prove) cherry-picking the years that best illustrate the writer's main point. In other words, the facts are changed to fit the argument rather than the argument being derived from the facts.

In 1997 the United Kingdom banned all cartridge-based modern handguns regardless of caliber (Wikipedia article). In 2001 gun-related crimes rose 40%. In 2002 gun-related crimes rose another 35%! Even worse, in 2008 we learned that official stats underestimate gun-related crime by 60%! (Unfortunately, these were the only years I could find online articles about. Feel free to use your favorite search engine and learn what the other years look like!)

It seems to me that the best thing the U.K. could do now is reverse their handgun ban. Obviously the effect of banning handguns has been exactly the opposite of what legislators expected. It is time to face reality. The grand experiment is a dismal failure. In the United States we need to look to the British experiment (and the Australian buyback where the results are just as bad) and ask ourselves if we really want to subject our country to the same experiment. Britain banned handguns and experienced dramatic growth in gun-related crimes. Australia bought them back and experienced no statistically significant changes in murder and suicide rates.

People are afraid. I understand and sympathize. I really do. But that does not change reality! Punishing handgun owners and enthusiasts by passing draconian regulations restricting or banning handguns will not assuage those fears. It does not matter how the Brady Campaign and their followers manipulate the data, misquote their facts, or twist the information around. In the real world any and every attempt to reduce the number of guns in the possession of law-abiding citizens has led directly into greater crime while a city in Georgia that requires every home to have at least one gun has seen almost the complete elimination of violent crime. Their population tripled (from 5,000 to 13,000). Instead of expanding their police force, they expanded gun ownership. In doing so they achieved the goal of gun control advocates everywhere, dramatic reductions in crime.

It seems so logical, "fewer guns = less crime", but like any other faith-based assumption, logic fails in the face of cold, hard facts. The facts are clear: legal restrictions on gun ownership encourage crime while removing obstacles to gun ownership reduces crime.

Training law-abiding citizens to use guns safely and effectively and then letting them buy guns with no limits or restrictions is the only way to reduce crime. It might not be logical, but it is real.

Think about it this way, since 1965 the United States has passed almost 20,000 laws at all levels of government that restrict or prohibit law-abiding citizens from owning handguns. Yet, in every community where these laws are the most restrictive crime is growing in leaps and bounds. Every time they pass another law, crime in their community increases. Don't believe me? Look here: FBI Uniform Crime Reports. National statistics complied from 17,000 law enforcement agencies nationwide.

Don't trust commentators, lobbyists and advocates. Don't even trust me! Go to the FBI website and browse the stats for yourself. You don't have to be a mathematician. Compare California (strictest gun control laws in the nation) in any Uniform Crime Report after 1996 with any other state in the nation. Just look at the raw numbers.

Here's a quick example: Murder by State, type of weapon, 2007
For California, total murders by handgun is 1,374
For Texas, total murders by handgun is 727

Those crazy hyper-conservative Texans with their lax handgun laws and easy to get concealed carry permits only murdered half as many people as the fun-loving, liberal Californians where concealed carry permits are virtually impossible to get and handguns can be confiscated at traffic stops (even if they are properly registered and readily visible). Population size and density for the two states is (much to my own surprise) quite close.

When thinking about guns (or any other controversy), look beyond your own emotional response, ignore the wild rants of commentators on both sides of the debate. Do your homework and get the facts for yourself. You might not like what you find, but at least you'll know the facts.