An armed society is a civil society; a knifed and booted society is a dangerous one

I grew up deathly afraid of guns.  This wasn’t like my fear of snakes and spiders, which seems to be pretty atavistic.  Instead, this was a learned fear:  Guns kill people.  Guns also kill innocent animals that should, instead, die nice clean deaths in factory farms, before being sliced up and packaged in cellophane.  I knew the truth:  guns are bad, very, very bad.

Then I went to England and learned that guns aren’t the only bad things.  My sojourn in England coincided with the explosive rise of soccer hooligans, louts who traveled the length and breadth of England, and periodically spilled over into the rest of Europe, bringing jack-booted violence with them wherever they went.  (Among the Thugs is a horrifying account of these louts and the carnage in which they delighted.) Up in the north of England, where I lived, I could always tell when the local soccer team was having a home game because all the businesses near the soccer stadium boarded up their windows.  England may not have had mass shootings, but it had death by a thousands cuts and boot stomps.

When I returned to America, I still hated guns (I had, after all, been carefully taught to do so), but I began to wonder — Are guns really the only bad thing out there? Will doing away with guns turn America into an Eden that sees that loutish lion and the helpless lamb lie down together?  England, which was a less armed country than America, wasn’t necessarily a safer one.  People still got victimized; it was just that guns weren’t the weapons doing the victimizing.

Upon my return to the states, Second Amendment supporters to whom I spoke told me that, while bullets have the advantage of distance, in the close quarters of a bar fight, knives or broken bottles are much more dangerous.  They made the logical argument, then, that no one ever suggests outlawing knives or bottles.  Likewise, the fact that more people die from car accidents than gunshot wounds doesn’t mean we’re about to outlaw cars.  (Although, I must say, the climate change people are making a good stab at outlawing cars.)

When I was still in my liberal phase, I always had the right answer at hand when I heard these logical arguments:  knives and bottles and cars all have a primary utility separate from their secondary, dangerous uses.  Guns, however, exist only to kill.

With age, thankfully, I’ve gained wisdom. I’ve figured out that guns are extremely useful:  you can get your own food if you’re nowhere near a market with tidy cellophane packages; you can have the sheer pleasure of target practice; you can discourage looters in the wake of a disaster; if you’re a woman and a large man is threatening you, guns are the great equalizer; if you’re alone and a crazy man is at your door, you don’t have to die like the screaming teen in a slasher movie; and guns are the only defense against the single largest and most deadly entity known to man — a totalitarian government that has turned on its citizens.

As I know from my gun hating years, even though all of the above are good reasons to cheer the Second Amendment, these facts make no headway with the anti-gun crowd.  Instead, they just keep pulling out this tired old poster:

Well, I think we’ve finally got a new poster in our Second Amendment arsenal:

Here’s an interesting point about those numbers.  In 1997, Britain’s Labour government worked overtime to remove guns from the hands of law-abiding citizens:

After Hungerford [a massacre in 1987], the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 criminalised most semi-automatic long-barrelled weapons; it was generally supported by the Labour opposition although some Labour backbenchers thought it inadequate.After the second incident, the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 criminalised private possession of most handguns having a calibre over .22; the Snowdrop Campaign continued to press for a wider ban, and in 1997 the incoming Labour government introduced the Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Act, which extended this to most handguns with a calibre of .22 (there are exceptions for some antique handguns and black-powder revolvers.)

And not coincidentally, since 1997, the year law-abiding Brits were denied arms, violent crime in England has skyrocketed:

The Tories said Labour had presided over a decade of spiralling violence.

In the decade following the party’s election in 1997, the number of recorded violent attacks soared by 77 per cent to 1.158million – or more than two every minute.

The figures, compiled from reports released by the European Commission and United Nations, also show:

  • The UK has the second highest overall crime rate in the EU.
  • It has a higher homicide rate than most of our western European neighbours, including France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
  • The UK has the fifth highest robbery rate in the EU.
  • It has the fourth highest burglary rate and the highest absolute number of burglaries in the EU, with double the number of offences than recorded in Germany and France.

But it is the naming of Britain as the most violent country in the EU that is most shocking. The analysis is based on the number of crimes per 100,000 residents.

In the UK, there are 2,034 offences per 100,000 people, way ahead of second-placed Austria with a rate of 1,677.

The U.S. has a violence rate of 466 crimes per 100,000 residents, Canada 935, Australia 92 and South Africa 1,609.

Britain used to be famed as a polite society.  It is no longer.  It is also a society that full lives up to the saying that “when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.”

People will kill.  They always have, and they always will.  Culture matters, in that cultural norms can encourage or discourage violent crime.  But only guns will be there when you’re small and alone, and that’s true whether you’re facing a home invader, a street thug, or a modern-day Hitler, Pol Pot, or Stalin.

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  • Caedmon

    I was just about to write “Oh but soccer violence is not the problem it was when you lived here” before I recalled that today’s edition of my local paper reports that one of my neighbours has been sentenced to 18 years for stabbing a man to death in  a bar for no other reason than that the victim supported Liverpool.
    Nevertheless things have got better, I promise.

    I’m sure many readers of this blog will be amused that the London slang for street robbery is “taxing” as in “a couple of guys taxed me of my mobile phone”. 

  • JohnC

    Some people love to tout how many crimes are committed by armed individuals. It’s truly unfortunate there can never be a count of all the crimes cut short because a potential victim was armed. I’d be willing to bet for every crime committed with a gun there are at least 5 or more crimes that never happen because someone knows they risk catching a bullet in return.
    And on another note regardless of whatever Bob Costas may think Kasandra Perkins’ only chance to survive a life and death encounter with Jovan Belcher would have been, ironically enough, to be armed with a gun herself. Even a tiny woman can pull a trigger. Belcher was a big, big man but a single bullet is all it takes to put a big, big man in the ground. Belcher proved that very fact with his last act. 
    An armed society is a polite society because violent people are forced to be mindful of other people’s rights. The one’s who aren’t get removed from society in due course no matter how physically tough they might be. Like the old saying goes, “God created man. Samuel Colt made them equal.”

  • Jose

    Has Bob Costas shared any insights on what to do about people being pushed in front of subway trains?

  • weathtd

    For the crime victim, “when seconds matter, the police are only minutes away.”  Every person is responsible for their own safety.  

  • Danny Lemieux

    JohnC, there is very good documentation on the deterrence value of guns in the U.S., collected and analyzed by John Lott (economist) and Gary Kleck (lifelong Democrat and criminologist) on a county-by-county basis. In sum, it is estimated that gun ownership deters between 750,000 to 1.5 million crimes per year in the U.S. (with deterrence defined as any event where a gun is used, though not necessarily fired). That is compared to 10,000 to 20,000 gun-related deaths per year.

    Here is an article by John Lott (there are many more): 

  • JKB

    It is impossible to know the true deterrence value of having a gun.  Yes, some get documented when the gun is revealed but the true deterrence is the risk that the person might be armed.  Add to that the confidence to stare down or the firmness in stride that deters many would be attackers because you know you have the capability to deal with the crazy (or attacker with personal intention) who isn’t warned off.  So I’d say you could increase the deterrent statistics by a factor of 10 or more for the true reality.  

    I know the focused eye contact and determined stride works as I’ve had to bluff my way out of a couple encounters. I can tell you, I’d much preferred to have had something other than my ability to control my fear to fall back upon had my bluff failed.

  • MacG

    Danny, your link seems to be busted. :(

  • MacG

    All I can say is it is a good thing that Abel’s brother Cain did not have a gun…

  • Danny Lemieux

    Don’t know why the link didn’t work, MacG. 

    Here is a link to a U. of Chicago interview with John Lott. You can also find a lot of information at John Lott’s Wiki page. 

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  • DL Sly

    Ms. Book, I trust now that you have had the opportunity to actually fire a gun, that you realize that guns do not kill people.  Just as cars do not.  They are inanimate objects that require the physical presence of an actor to make them function.  A loaded gun (or an unloaded one, for that matter as loading a gun requires an actor as well) sitting on the table will continue to sit there until something or some one causes it to *do* something.  Just as a parked car will continue to sit there until there is an actor to make it move either by starting the engine and driving away, having it towed away or any other unforseen circumstances that occur in daily life.  Alcohol sitting in a bottle will not get you drunk – it must be consumed for that, or any other deliterious results, to occur.  In fact, the only common denominator in all the statistics regarding murder rates, car deaths, alcoholism, etc. is the human factor.  But for some reason people still believe that guns, by their own little lonesome, kill people.
    *shakes head*

  • Oldflyer

    Interesting data and chart Book.  I would like to pass it on via email, but I have become leery of “internet sources” that I cannot corroborate.  Do you know anything about the organization that compiled and charted those statistics?
    I grew up in a gun culture, and enjoyed shooting.  Back in the 1940s I had two different distant relatives shot and killed in lawless backwoods Florida. (Both were shot in the back) In each case the gun was in the hands of a person who was demonstrably unstable.  So, to me, the issue of how much control is reasonable, and how controls are implemented, is a ticklish one.  Nevertheless, I would err on the side of less, rather than more, control.
    One of my regrets about moving to California is that I sacrificed my Virginia concealed carry permit.  I very rarely used it, but I appreciated having the option.

    • Bookworm

      OldFlyer: I managed to cut off the edge of that chart a little bit. The Daily Mail, which created the chart, claims that it got the information from “Conservatives, EU Commission, UN.” In other words, they compiled data from various sources.

      JohnC: I agree with you about the poster’s subliminal message. With those statistics, they’re actually claiming that America is a damned culture.

  • JohnC

    I don’t know about anyone else but on that Brady Campaign poster where it says “God Bless America” I always imagine the speaker spitting on the ground after saying it. It seems to convey such deep disdain as to be disrespectful. I mean it literally might as well say “F*** You America.” I wonder if that’s the message they were going for? ‘Cause it’s the one I get.

  • JohnC

    Thanks for the info!
    I think this what you were linking to:
    I will have to read it all at a later time.

  • JohnC

     750,000/10,000 or 1,500,000/20,000
    Wow, so it’s actually more in the range of 75 crimes prevented to every one committed.
    “You are 75 times more likely to be saved with a gun than shot with one.”
    I wish that were as common a saying as that stupid “more likely to shoot a loved one than a criminal” myth that gun-control people repeat like a mantra at every opportunity.

  • Ymarsakar

    Given how the LEft works, their loved ones are the criminal. So technically what they are saying is accurate.

     Numbers are meaningless. One death is a tragedy, a million is a statistic. The Left lives this philosophy in case nobody has noticed yet.

  • Ymarsakar

    Technically speaking the government cronies, Democrat business cartels, and ATF goon squads selling guns to cartels, is what kills people.

  • Owen Glendower

    Here is a very sensible article which I am quite surprised to find in the current issue of The Atlantic:

    Also, from the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, perhaps the best single article I have ever read on this issue:

  • Earl

    Hi, BW:  Just got the newsletter in which you update this post.  The last line is:
    “Rather, the connection is that an armed society is one that sees fewer violent crimes and fewer suicides.”
    I think the connection to violent crime is well-supported by evidence, but the suicide rate is definitely not.  
    Suicide appears to be driven by something entirely different than the presence or absence of guns.  Without comparative data (state to state in the U.S., for example) showing, at the very least, a negative correlation between suicide and gun ownership, any actual relationship is highly speculative and shouldn’t be used.

  • Owen Glendower

    “Suicide appears to be driven by something entirely different than the presence or absence of guns.”
    Exactly right.  Last time I looked, Japan’s suicide rate was about twice that of the U.S.
    Remember this “scare” statistic often quoted by gun-control advocates?  “Almost 50% of firearms deaths occur in the home.”  As John Lott pointed out, FULLY 50% of “firearms deaths” are suicides, so this is a less-than-surprising statistic.

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  • Ron19

    I keep seeing, and believe, that if the victims in many murders had had a gun they might still be alive.

    Of course, they might be dead anyway.

    Except for one person’s guess about the Aurora theater shooting, I haven’t seen any one suggesting, let alone showing data, that if the victim or a bystander was armed, and shooting, more innocents would have died.

    Comments, anyone?        

  • Ron19

    Owen Glendower, #19:   The Case for More Guns (And More Gun Control)
    From far down in the article:
     Universities, more than most other institutions, are nearly unified in their prohibition of licensed concealed-carry weapons. Some even post notices stating that their campuses are gun-free zones. At the same time, universities also acknowledge that they are unable to protect their students from lethal assault. How do they do this? By recommending measures that students and faculty members can take if confronted by an “active shooter,” as in the massacre at Virginia Tech.
    These recommendations make for depressing reading, and not only because they reflect a world in which random killing in tranquil settings is a genuine, if rare, possibility. They are also depressing because they reflect a denial of reality.
    Here are some of the recommendations:

    Wichita State University counsels students in the following manner: “If the person(s) is causing death or serious physical injury to others and you are unable to run or hide you may choose to be compliant, play dead, or fight for your life.”
    The University of Miami guidelines suggest that when all else fails, students should act “as aggressively as possible” against a shooter. The guidelines, taken from a Department of Homeland Security directive, also recommend “throwing items and improvising weapons,” as well as “yelling.”
    Otterbein University, in Ohio, tells students to “breathe to manage your fear” and informs them, “You may have to take the offensive if the shooter(s) enter your area. Gather weapons (pens, pencils, books, chairs, etc.) and mentally prepare your attack.”
    West Virginia University advises students that if the situation is dire, they should “act with physical aggression and throw items at the active shooter.” These items could include “student desks, keys, shoes, belts, books, cell phones, iPods, book bags, laptops, pens, pencils, etc.”
    The University of Colorado at Boulder’s guidelines state, “You and classmates or friends may find yourselves in a situation where the shooter will accost you. If such an event occurs, quickly develop a plan to attack the shooter … Consider a plan to tackle the shooter, take away his weapon, and hold him until police arrive.”

     I find it interesting that most of the recommendations are to, without any preparation like self-defense classes, get in the attackers face by being even more aggressive than the attacker, and throwing things at him/her/them that could kill them if you managed to hit them in the head on the temple. 
     For the last one, “ Consider a plan to tackle the shooter, take away his weapon, and hold him until police arrive.”   If the last resort is to be an armed defender, why can’t the student start out as an armed defender, and not waste time.

  • Danny Lemieux

    Thanks for the links, Owen.

    I found the Harvard link rather amusing. Here’s a quote therefrom (p. 671):

    Ironically, to detail the American evidence for widespread de‐
    fensive gun ownership’s deterrent value is also to raise questions
    about how applicable that evidence would be even to the other
    nations that have widespread gun ownership but low violence.
    There are no data for foreign nations comparable to the American
    data just discussed. Without such data, we cannot know whether
    millions of Norwegians own handguns and carry them for protec‐

    tion, thereby deterring Norwegian criminals from committing
    violent crimes. Nor can we know whether guns are commonly
    kept for defense in German homes and stores, thus preventing
    German criminals from robbing them. 

    Actually, we can know the answers to those questions. I think that the Harvard philosophers responsible for this piece were just to lazy to research the answers.

    One of the points that is almost never addressed is that the U.S. (versus Finland, Switzerland or New Zealand….all of which have higher ownership rates of guns than the U.S.) are culturally homogenous countries without violent subcultures. In the U.S., we have population groups that are culturally more violent than the mainstream: this includes Scotch-Irish, African-Americans and Hispanics.

    But, of course, to discuss this is not politically correct, so it just cannot be. Just one more reason why our violence rate will never be addressed in an adult manner, much less solved.

  • JohnC

    Sad. Self-defense tactics created by pacifists.
    As I was reading I thought “How about a bullet? Can I throw a bullet at the attacker? What if threw one really fast, say, about 1100 feet per second? Would that be cool?”

  • Owen Glendower

    Danny 25
    Thanks for the reply.  What I like most about the Harvard study is the way it demolishes the “conventional wisdom” endlessly repeated by gun-control advocates.
    I have mixed feelings about the quotation you cite.  On one hand, I also feel that the two criminologists (by the way, they’re not from Harvard) are being too careful when they decline to conclude that “more guns=less crime” also applies to other countries.
    On the other hand, you raise a critically important point about “culturally homogenous countries without violent subcultures.”  Those countries happily do not suffer from the ethnic divides we have in this country, not to mention the divides of class and poverty.  Gun ownership rates are high in these countries, but crime rates are low.
    But these differences which you & I point out also mean that cross-country comparisons–such as those which the authors of the Harvard JLPP article are reluctant to make–are on shaky ground.
    As was pointed out above, ““Suicide appears to be driven by something entirely different than the presence or absence of guns.”  To me, this is beyond dispute.  So why can we not also understand that violent crimes are not driven SOLELY by the presence or absence of guns?

  • Owen Glendower

    Ron19, #24
     “For the last one, “ Consider a plan to tackle the shooter, take away his weapon, and hold him until police arrive.”   If the last resort is to be an armed defender, why can’t the student start out as an armed defender, and not waste time.
    Your comment of course makes perfect sense.
    Not long ago, I was reading about one of the “concealed carry on campus” lawsuits…Colorado, perhaps.  One of the briefs filed in the case asked why someone who had fulfilled the requirements for a concealed-carry permit had to sacrifice his right to carry merely because he stepped onto a college campus.  Good question.

  • Owen Glendower

    “JohnC: I agree with you about the poster’s subliminal message. With those statistics, they’re actually claiming that America is a damned culture.”
    Bookworm, with those “statistics,” the Brady Campaign poster is simply pandering to the ignorance of the reader.  So what if only 17 people were murdered in Finland by someone using a gun?  This “statistic” means nothing unless you consider Finland’s population and rate of gun ownership compared to that of the U.S.
    Incidentally, the Harvard study I cited (p. 652) notes that Finland’s rate of gun ownership is relatively high…nearly 10 times higher than in Russia, for instance.  But Russia’s murder rate is 10 times higher than Finland’s.  Curious.

  • Owen Glendower

    Ron19, #23
    I keep seeing, and believe, that if the victims in many murders had had a gun they might still be alive.
    Of course, they might be dead anyway.
    Except for one person’s guess about the Aurora theater shooting, I haven’t seen any one suggesting, let alone showing data, that if the victim or a bystander was armed, and shooting, more innocents would have died.
    Comments, anyone?
    I’ve seen plenty of speculation that if a bunch of people in the Aurora audience had started firing back, things could have been much worse.  Perhaps.  We can only speculate.
    But it’s a fact that at least three military veterans were in the audience at Aurora.  One of them died protecting his lady friend.  A pity they weren’t carrying.

  • Ymarsakar

    Since slaves can’t carry weapons or serve as the police, indentured serfs with a debt like students can’t be expected to be armed. And if they are, we are to disarm them.

  • Ymarsakar

    Why would the Left, having never believed in an individual’s right to their own life, now suddenly want you to be able to live? They want you to do as you are told. When it conveniences, they will tell you to die, and in what manner. That is it in the Left’s Utopia.

  • Ron19

    JohnC #26:

    ” Can I throw a bullet at the attacker? What if threw one really fast, say, about 1100 feet per second?”

    I like the way you put that! 

  • Ymarsakar

    Traffic cops will ticket you for that.

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