Rather than debating gun control, we should be debating ways to diminish violent crime.

Glock 23

Words matter, President Obama once said.  He’s right.  How we choose words gives a very good insight into our feelings upon the subject under discussion.

In the current debate regarding the Second Amendment, conservatives have made the mistake of ceding oratorical control to the Left.  How?  By accepting the phrase “gun control” as the operative phrase to describe the debate.

Calling the debate “gun control” presupposes that there will be control — i.e., that government control over guns is the end, rather than the means.  The only question remaining in such a debate is how much control the government will ultimately exert over citizens’ guns.

Most people, though, if they thought about it, would say that what they’re really aiming for is “violence minimization.”  If one properly identifies minimizing violence as the goal, the debate changes dramatically.  It forces those participating in the debate to ask, not “how many guns can we take away or how many magazines can we limit?” but, instead, “what approach results in the fewest number of gun deaths or overall violence?”.

When it comes to overall violence, data from the world over easily answers that question.  Those Countries that have extremely strict gun bans also have extremely high violence rates — and those rates have often climbed in direct proportion to the increased gun bans.  England’s experience is the most stunning example.  From the time it imposed limitations on guns so stringent that almost all law-abiding citizens are now disarmed, England has seen its violent crime rate soar, to the point where the number of violent crimes per capita is the highest in the First World:

In the U.K., gun ownership is virtually banned. Even the police force in the U.K. is, for the most part, unarmed. Raw figures show that the UK has a lower homicide rate than the U.S., 1.2 per 100,000 of population in the U.K. versus 4.8 in the U.S. But when it comes to violent crime overall, the UK is a much greater hotbed than the U.S., with 2,034 violent criminal incidents in the U.K. per 100,000 of population versus 486 in the U.S.

Incidentally, when it comes to discussing murders in the United States versus those in England, don’t make the mistake of getting caught up in the fact that England has a lower homicide rate than we do.  It has always had a lower murder rate than America, which is not a surprise given that, until recently, it was a small, homogeneous nation, as compared to the brawling, sprawling frontier that is America.  In addition, it’s a sad fact — one that few have the courage to address — that America’s high gun crime numbers are rooted almost entirely in America’s black community.  If one subtracts that subset of America from the equation, our gun homicide rates are comparable to other majority Caucasian nations.  Comparing American and British murder rates is to compare apples to oranges.

However, comparing British to British murder rates over the period of the gun ban is edifying, since those rates have increased consistently for the first thirteen years after the 1996 gun ban.  They have tapered off again in the last three years, which suggests that the decrease in homicides is unrelated to the 1996 gun ban and may, instead, have more to do with the recession’s effects on England.

England’s violent crime statistics, while shocking, are not unique.  Putting aside anarchic areas (in the Middle East and Africa, for example), there’s a consistent correlation between government interference in private gun ownership and higher violence rates.  Take Australia, for example, a country that the New York Times touts as the example the U.S. should follow when it comes to government gun bans:

The homicide rate in Australia, low in 1996 at 1.9, increased in the three years after their gun ban before dropping to 1.3 in 2007. Regardless, overall, violent crime in Australia has exploded since gun control was imposed, with the sum of violent crime, including sexual assaults, robberies and assaults, increasing about 20% in just 12 years.

Russia and Mexico, two countries that have stringent laws controlling citizen access to guns, are two other countries frequently cited by Second Amendment supporters as proof that government restrictions on guns don’t work.

We really needn’t look so far afield, though, to determine whether people are safest when the government takes guns or when it allows law abiding citizens to hang onto their guns (including guns with high capacity magazines).  Reason.com has assembled a boatload of data showing that in America, as private gun ownership soared over the past 20 years, public violence — including violence in schools — decreased:

1. Violent crime – including violent crime using guns – has dropped massively over the past 20 years.

The violent crime rate – which includes murder, rape, and beatings – is half of what it was in the early 1990s. And the violent crime rate involving the use of weapons has also declined at a similar pace.

2. Mass shootings have not increased in recent years.

Despite terrifying events like Sandy Hook or last summer’s theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, mass shootings are not becoming more frequent. “There is no pattern, there is no increase,” says criminologist James Allen Fox of Northeastern University, who studies the issue. Other data shows that mass killings peaked in 1929.


5. “Assault Weapons Bans” Are Generally Ineffective.

While many people are calling for reinstating the federal ban on assault weapons – an arbitrary category of guns that has no clear definition – research shows it would have no effect on crime and violence. “Should it be renewed,” concludes a definitive study, “the ban’s effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement.”

Correlation is not causation, of course, but it’s very hard to avoid looking at the above data (fewer guns and more crime versus more guns and less crime) without coming to the conclusion that, in a nominally Judeo-Christian society with a rule of law, guns add to, rather than subtract from, public safety.

So we’re back at the beginning.  Do we want to debate gun control, which is the current nomenclature of choice,  or do we want to debate lessening violence overall?  The former discussion presupposes government restrictions on gun ownership, with the only question being how much restriction the government can and should impose.  The latter discussion, however, forces people to confront the fact that the best way to lessen violence would be to arm more law-abiding citizens, rather than to leave guns as the exclusive preserve of the criminal and the insane.

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  • Caped Crusader

    I read several years ago that if you factor out African Americans and “undocumented” residents, the murder by gunfire and other violent crimes were lower here than in Norway or any other Scandinavian country. Suppose anyone has the guts to propose we deny firearms to these groups only as a test case? One can only imagine the “racist” howls of the politically correct, but it does spring from logical thought which so terrifies liberals. Before anyone comments, I do realize that most mass murderers are white males (usually with severe mental problems) and rational thought would also be in favor of intervening in this group also with denial of arms, proper treatment, and incarceration, as necessary for the protection of society. Don’t hold your breath until the governing class uses rational thought to address any problem.

  • JKB

    This is a very good idea and I plan on taking it up.  Don’t discuss firearms but discuss how to stop/reduce the violence.  
    Of course, the Progs counter with the argument proposals aren’t 100% effective, but Joe Biden has undermined that with his common ground to reduce probabilities.  This undermines Chris Christie as well who’s opposition to putting guards in schools is the shooter could use a side door  (Moron).  

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  • Barry

    I forget the attribution, but: “An armed society is a polite society.”

  • Danny Lemieux

    It may have been a Robert Heinlein short story that I read in my pubescent years.

  • Wolf Howling

    Just a few comments on the margins.  One, whenever the left is about to discuss limiting what arms we can and cannot own, they invariably bring up hunting with a promise that they have no intention of taking arms away from hunters.  But the majority opinion in Heller barely even references hunting.  The whole focus of the 2nd Amendment is to allow individuals to to defend themselves against “public and private violence.”
    With that in mind, when you hear a high pitched scream from the left that “assault weapons” are only meant for killing people, the correct response ought to be . . . “and your point is?”  When your at the point of having to defend yourself with a weapon, you want one that will end the threat as soon as possible.  THAT is precisely within the ambit of the 2nd Amendment.  And indeed, I can think of no more family friendly weapon for effective self defense than an AR15.
    Two, the Heller decision directly addressed what type of weapons were within the ambit of the 2nd Amendment.  Heller explicitly gave its approval to continuing restrictions on machine guns and sawed off shot guns.  But as to other weapons, Scalia characterized the argument that the 2nd Amendment applied only to 18th century weapons  as “bordering on frivolous.”  And indeed, he said quite clearly that “[j]ust as the First Amendment protects modern forms of communications, . . ., and the Fourth Amendment applies to modern forms of search, . . ., , the Second Amendment extends, prima facie,to all instruments that constitute bearable arms, even those that were not in existence at the time of the founding.”  With that in mind, given that semi-automatic weapons have been around in the U.S. for over a century – and the AR15 has been in civilian circulation for half a century – I question whether any limitiation on ownership of “assault rifles” would be held constitutional by the SCT.
    Lastly, as to states that give government officials the power to subjectively deny concealed carry permits for reasons other than a criminal background or mental illness, we await a future Supreme Court decision.  But the operative language of the 2nd Amendment gives a right to “keep and bear arms.”  “Bear,” in 18th century parlance, meant to “carry.”  Being forced to leave your weapon at home, thus limiting your ability to defend outside of the home, conflicts with both the language and intent of the 2nd Amendment.  This surely points to the fact that “may carry” laws are likely to be held unconstitutional.  (Don’t tell Bloomberg or Cuomo)
    All of that said, unless the Supreme Court changes membership between now and 2016 (or John Roberts starts making political instead of legal decisions yet again), we may be witnessing the last gasp of the gun control movement.  Then, maybe, we might see the arguments finally begin to change to where they should be – as you point out, BWR, how to reduce violent crime.  

  • Caped Crusader

    GOOD’UN!  Down to the nitty-gritty of it all.
    ”Gun control is like trying to reduce drunk driving by making it tougher for sober people to own cars.”

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