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.

[snip]

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.

Bookworm's target

[If you'd like more Bookworm Room in your life, don't forget to subscribe to the Bookworm Room newsletter.]

Factual weaponry for the stalwart foot soldiers fighting on behalf of the 2nd Amendment in the cause of Common Sense

I thought it would be useful to assemble in one place factual data refuting the Left’s instinctive demand for gun control in response to the Newtown tragedy.  In no particular order, I’m setting out their arguments and the factual counter arguments:

England is the most violent country in the Western world

1.  America’s out-of-control guns make it the most violent place in the world.  False.  First of all, there are two different types of violence.  The first is violence by a government against its people.  The second is violence by a people against each other.

Thankfully, America is still way, way, way low on the list of violence by a government against its people.  I’m sure that the beleaguered citizens in North Korea, or China, or Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, or Gaza and the West Bank, Saudi Arabia, or Iran, or in any other dictatorship around the world would love to have a chance to live in America.  They would laugh at what we call “violence,” because they understand that the worst violence is always that visited by an armed government against an unarmed citizenry.

As for the people against people violence, putting aside fairly anarchic places such as Brazil or Peru or Mexico, America still doesn’t even rank near the top of the list.  The most violent place to live if you’re afraid of your fellow citizens is . . . drumroll please . . . England, a country with ferociously stiff gun control laws.  (See the chart, above.)  Incidentally, the violent crime rate in England increased dramatically from the moment the Labour government put extremely harsh gun-control laws in place.  Not only was there more gun crime, there was more of every kind of crime.  If you read the British papers, you learn that the Brits got very creative about violence, resorting with ferocity to knives, broken bottles, head stomps, drowning, choking, poisoning, etc.  People who want to kill will kill.

********************

Bring out your dead in Acapulco

2.  Countries with strict gun control laws don’t have mass murders along the lines of Columbine or Newtown.  False.  There are three types of mass murderers:  (1) ideological killers, who are usually Muslims with the random Timothy McVeigh thrown in for good measure; (2) insane people; and (3) professional killers, along the lines of the drug gangs Mexico.  These people are driven to kill and will do so regardless of any limitations placed upon them.

Your crazed or professional killers will always get guns and bombs, as Anders Breivik did when he killed 77 people, mostly children, in strict-gun-control Norway.  They will use fertilizer and box cutters to turn trucks and airplanes into bombs, as Timothy McVeigh did in Oklahoma and Al Qaeda did on 9/11.  They will turn cities into charnel houses, as the Mexico drug gangs have done in Mexico, despite Mexico having some of the strictest gun control laws in the world.  (Of course, the interesting twist to the Mexico murders is that Attorney General Eric Holder ignored Mexican law and ran hundreds of illegal weapons into Mexico, courtesy of Operation Fast and Furious.)  They will blow up buses and subways, as Muslim extremists did in London; and trains, as Muslim extremists did in Spain.  They will slaughter school children, as one madman did in Scotland.  Islamic extremists in Mumbai were not slowed down even a little bit by India’s strict gun control laws.  Germany, another country in love with strict gun control, also couldn’t stop a mass murder at a school.  Gun control does not stop mass murder.

********************

Widowed teen mother shoots home intruder

3.  Gun control in America will lower the number of gun related murdersFalse.  Even if one concedes that ideological killers, insane people, and professional killers are in a class by themselves, and operate outside of gun control laws, won’t gun control laws stop garden-variety criminals, suicides, and impulse killers?  No.  Emphatically no.  Guns are a very useful deterrent, especially for women.  Men have a physical advantage over women, but they don’t have any advantage over a trained and armed woman.  (The picture above is of Sarah McKinley, an 18-year-old widow and mother of a small child, who killed home intruders seeking drugs.) Homeowners are sitting ducks if robbers know that they are unable to defend themselves.  If you doubt these assertions, just look at the statistics.

Howard Nemorov kindly assembled some statistics and they show definitively what the NRA has always claimed:  when guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns:

Collating gun ownership rates with Centers for Disease Control (CDC) homicide data underscores the above conclusions:

* States with the lowest firearms ownership average the highest firearm and non-firearm homicide rates.
* As firearms ownership rates increase, homicide rates generally decrease.
* States with the highest gun ownership have the lowest firearms homicide rates.

[UPDATE: I've also been reminded that Switzerland and Israel, both of which arm their citizens, have amongst the lowest violent crime rates in the world.]

********************

Fort Hood shooter

4.  At the very least, gun free zones are safe placesFalse.  Gun free zones are barrels and those in the zone are the fish.  Gun free zones are the one place in the world the mass murderer knows that he cannot be stopped.  This is true whether the gun free zone is an army base, a school in Columbine, or a university in Virginia.  In each of these locations, mass murderers took advantage of everyone else’s unarmed status to go on gleeful killing sprees.  (Glenn Reynolds has more here.)

********************

Second Amendment

5.  Congress should outlaw gunsFalse.  Even if you think Congress should, it can’t.  Like it or not, the Second Amendment stands in the way, stating as a matter of contract between government and people that the American people the right to bear arms.  There is only one mechanism to bypass the Second Amendment — more amendment.  Or, as Article 5 of the Constitution says:

The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.

Funnily enough, gun control advocates seem disinclined to attempt either of the options the Constitution provides for its amendment.

[UPDATE: In the comments, Wolf Howling noted that, while Congress can't do anything, an activist Supreme Court can. This raises an interesting question. Since the beginning of the 19th century the Supreme Court has granted itself the power to interpret a law's constitutionality. Does that same power give it the right to interpret the Second Amendment out of existence? In other words, can the Supreme Court effectively nullify a Constitutional Amendment?]

********************

Pulp Fiction

6.  America’s culture is violentSort of true, but let’s figure out where to place the blame.  I say “sort of true” because, while America certainly isn’t up there with Britain or certain other European countries when it comes to violence, we’re certainly a more violent country than Iceland or Japan.  (Although Japan has an insanely high suicide rate, so lack of both violence and guns doesn’t mean lack of suffering.)  Because we are a ginormous, heterogeneous country with a huge influx of immigrants, both legal and illegal, we are never going to have the social unanimity that other countries use as a counter to violence.  We cannot mimic Iceland or Japan because our population is too differently constituted.  In this regard, it’s worth noting that Nordic countries such as Sweden, Norway, and Denmark that have opened their Leftist hearts to a vast influx of Muslim immigrants who don’t subscribe to Nordic social norms have seen a huge increase in one very specific type of violence:  rape.

There’s another reason America has a violent culture:  our entertainment industry celebrates it.  Movies, TV shows, video games, and music are all blood-soaked.  They are also all the product of a dominant Progressive industry.  Yup — the people who are selling American disarmament are also the same people glorifying an extraordinarily violent culture.  My suggestion is that, before the Progressives take away my Constitutional right to bear arms, they give some thought to changing the message they sell to America and the rest of the world.

[UPDATE:  USMaleSF had the courage in the comments to speak the unspeakable:  America's violent culture tends to cluster around blacks and, more than that, it clusters around ghettos, with the greatest number of gun crimes being black on black crime.  Stating this fact honestly should be seen as the opposite of racism.  I, safe in my little suburban enclave, am far removed from this scourge.  The ones at risk are blacks themselves, especially women, children, and adolescent males.  The political correctness that silences our tongues makes us morally complicit in a violent subculture that preys upon itself.]