While guns can be dangerous, they are only as dangerous as the person using them.


By Faisal Moghul —— Bio and Archives August 14, 2012

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In the wake of the Batman massacre in Aurora, Colorado, and now the Sikh Temple attack in Oak Tree, Wisconsin, the mainstream media’s propaganda blitz has predictably inundated the airwaves with the conventional, yet fallacious, orthodoxy that more guns equal more armed crime. Against this backdrop, some lawmakers have sought to justify tighter gun control laws under the guise of “public safety.” 1

In this miasma of myth and disinformation, the debate surrounding gun control laws is primarily driven by preconceived notions impervious to facts, history or any iota of objective analysis. The notion that the state can reduce armed crime by strictly controlling the availability of guns to the general public, while superficially plausible, ignores the ample historical precedent and criminological data suggesting otherwise. 2 The reality is that stricter gun control laws have never coincided with a reduction in armed crime.

The sinister attempt to associate private ownership of firearms with incidents of armed violence, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, furnishes the ideological camouflage for the state to disarm its populace by restricting their “last auxiliary right,” as Sir William Blackstone observed, of individual and collective self-defense against criminals and tyrannical governments.3

Democide and the State.

“Democide,” a term coined by RJ Rummel, refers to acts of intentional killing of unarmed people by their own governments. 4  Rummel’s extensive cataloguing of mass murders by governments of their own people provides a sobering reality check of the destructive power of the most prolific megamurderer of all time—the state. Government is force, as George Washington once cautioned, “Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”

Consequently, in addition to sanctifying the individual’s natural right to defend himself, the second amendment to the United States Constitution was also meant to preserve the balance of power between the overweening state and its subject populace. This insight stems from the history of wrongs perpetrated by totalitarian regimes.

It comes as no surprise, therefore, that tyrants throughout history—from Adolf Hitler to Joseph Stalin, from Mao Tse Tung to Benito Mussolini, from Ferdinand Marcos to Idi Amin, from Pol Pot to Fidel Castro—have monopolized the state’s control of weaponry while removing any obstacles to effective resistance by disarming their populace. The following quote by Adolf Hitler is a glaring reminder of this historical condition:5

The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by doing so.

The relentless fear-mongering and ‘tough-on-crime’ rhetoric that characterizes the push for greater gun control is reminiscent of the propaganda utilized to turn London into a pervasive Orwellian surveillance society with more CCTV cameras per capita compared to any other European nation.6  Yet, such video surveillance carried out under the putative banner of “public safety” has had no effect on crime as the United Kingdom still has a higher recorded rate of violent crime than any other European country.7

Guns Don’t Kill, Criminals with Guns Kill—The Criminological Perspective:

Knowledge is neither good nor evil, but takes its character from how it is used. In like manner, weapons defend the lives of those who wish to live peacefully, and they also, on many occasions kill [murder] men, not because of any wickedness inherent in them but because those who wield them do so in an evil way.8

Criminology has shed some light on the fact that, unlike most law abiding people, a certain class of hardened criminals are not deterred by the threat of stiffer penalties. The faulty assumption undergirding gun control laws is that such “chronic offenders”—the small proportion of criminals who are typically responsible for a major share of crime—are likely to comply with laws restricting gun ownership! “To belabor the obvious, murderers do not obey restrictions on gun possession,” as Jacob Hornberger notes, “contrary to the long-repeated suggestion of the gun-control crowd that if we simply enact such restrictions into law, murderers will comply with them.”9

Interestingly, although Colorado is a concealed-carry state, the theater in Aurora that was the site of the shooting was a “gun free zone”—just like Virginia Tech’s campus. But that did not stop James Holmes, or Seung-Hui Cho, from embarking on a killing spree of their defenseless victims. These examples highlight the perspective advanced in several academic studies suggesting that laws prohibiting gun ownership, ironically, do not disarm criminals but only the law abiding citizens whom they are meant to protect.

In this equation, one must also consider that the average police response rates—the time it takes for law enforcement personnel to arrive at the scene of the crime—for the highest priority emergencies is conservatively estimated at five minutes.10  Clearly, depending on the police for your safety is an inadequate substitute for armed self-defense when faced with an imminent existential threat. In fact, laws directed at gun disarmament only serve to make us—the unwitting populace—easier targets for criminals.

Just like prohibition and the war on drugs, restrictive gun laws will only create a burgeoning black market for guns, freely available to criminals, thereby exacerbating the safety of the law abiding public. In this context, the manner in which gun control laws are enforced is tantamount to selective gun control.

Furthermore, if it is merely the potential for aggressive use of firearms that concerns us, then why stop at guns alone? After all, knives, automobiles and baseball bats can also be used to inflict serious bodily injuries and deaths. The fact is that ownership of firearms by law abiding and responsible people is not the problem; the real issue is that such laws have been proven not to stop criminals who are determined to kill.

Additionally, it is a part-to-whole fallacy to suggest that just because there are some people who may use guns violently, this justifies the wholesale restriction and confiscation of guns from all. Ignoring the logical disconnect built into this proposition, gun control advocates also subscribe to an unduly reductionist approach by using only one variable—guns—to explain the multifaceted phenomenon of crime.

Gun Control Across Countries—A Comparative Look.

The speciousness of the causal connection between the availability of guns and higher rates of armed crime can easily be refuted by comparing gun control laws in the United States with those of other countries.

If it is true that the greater availability of guns is the cause of—rather than being a means to—armed violence, then Switzerland should be the crime capital of the world. Due to mandatory military conscription, guns are as ubiquitous in Swiss society as cheese and chocolates, yet incidents of armed violence are virtually non-existent in that country.11

Similarly, Mexico has more restrictive gun laws compared to the United States, but armed crime and homicide rates are much higher.12  In the same vein, even though South Africa has some of the strictest gun control laws in the world, the rate of armed crime is higher than the United States.13

Furthermore, gun control apologists often cite Japan’s strict anti-gun laws as the reason for the low Japanese homicide rates. This fails to explain, however, why the homicide rate in Taiwan, where gun possession is criminalized as a capital offense, is higher than that of the United States.14

Conclusion.

Unfortunately, the public policy debate on gun control is plagued by bias, emotive appeals and blatant propaganda that has obfuscated the real problems attendant to stricter gun control laws.

Perhaps, the more fundamental question is whether we as a society are willing to entrust the state apparatus with our protection, even in light of the historical precedents of governmental abuses of power, the inefficacy of restrictive gun legislations, and at the cost of forsaking our natural right of self-defense?

Just like minimum wage laws do not help the poor, like mandatory minimum sentences do not lower drug crimes, like mass surveillance does not yield a safer society, and like bombing countries does not eliminate terrorism, gun bans do not reduce armed crime.

While guns can be dangerous, they are only as dangerous as the person using them.

Faisal Moghul is a New York and Washington, DC licensed attorney.

1 Kaplan, Thomas.After Shootings, Push in Albany for Tougher Gun Laws. New York Times, August 6, 2012, available at

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/07/nyregion/after-shootings-a-push-for-stricter-gun-laws-in-new-york.html

2 The following is a partial list of available scholarship critical of gun control.

Lott, John. More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun-Control Laws. University of Chicago Press, Jun 15, 2000; See also Carter, Harlon (November-December 1974), “The Issue Is Crime Not Guns”, Option (Canada), 2(6), pp. 7-9; See also Botsford, David, The Case Against Gun Control, Political notes No. 47, Libertarian Alliance, London, 1990; See also Kates, Schaeffer, Lattimer, Murray and Cassem, Guns and Public Health: Epidemic of Violence or Pandemic of Propaganda? 61 Tenn. L. Rev. 513-596 (1994); See also Worsthorne, Peregrine, More Guns, More Safety for Britons. The Sunday Telegraph (London) (August 22, 1993).

3 Joseph E. Olson and David B. Kopel, All the Way Down the Slippery Slope: Gun Prohibition in England And Some Lessons For Civil Liberties in America. 22 Hamline L. Rev. 399-465 (1999).

4 R.J. Rummel, Death By Government, New Brunswick, N.J.: Transaction Publishers, 1994.

5 See http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Guns

6 Brooke, Heather. Investigation: A sharp focus on CCTV (April 1, 2010), available at http://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2010/05/start/investigation-a-sharp-focus-on-cctv?page=all

7 Noam Biale, What Criminologists and Others Studying Cameras Have Found. ACLU Technology and Liberty Program, available at http://www.aclu.org/images/asset_upload_file708_35775.pdf

8 Boccaccio, The DeCameron 686, 1982. (Musa & P. Bondanella trans., Mentor-New American Library) (quoting from Guns and Public Health: Epidemic of Violence or Pandemic of Propaganda? 61 Tenn. L. Rev. 513-596 (1994)).

9 Jacob G. Hornberger, Once Again, Gun Control Doesn’t Work. April 18, 2007, available at http://www.fff.org/comment/com0704i.asp

10 American Police Beat, Response times- city to city, available at http://apbweb.com/featured-articles/1188-response-times-city-to-city.html

11 Kates, Schaeffer, Lattimer, Murray and Cassem, Guns and Public Health: Epidemic of Violence or Pandemic of Propaganda? 61 Tenn. L. Rev. 513-596 (1994), at 555

12 Cave, Damien. At a Nation’s Only Gun Shop, Looking North in Disbelief. July 24, 2012, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/25/world/americas/in-mexico-a-restrictive-approach-to-gun-laws.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all

13 Id. at 555 (see footnote 163)

14 Id. at 555 (see footnote 163)


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Items of notes and interest from the web.