Recently read this in the Seattle Times and thought it had a very good point. For gun advocates and grabbers alike...
Gun-control advocates should change their tune
By Matt Rosenberg
Special to The Times
Times are hard for gun-control advocates. Following Sept. 11, firearm purchases spiked 10 to 20 percent nationwide. It's not about terrorism, but personal security.
Even in pacific Seattle the numbers are up, police say. You can almost picture trust-fund liberals from Leschi and Laurelhurst laying down their copies of the Utne Reader and Mother Jones to buy pistols and take target practice in Bellevue.
The old anti-gun rhetoric sounds dated. As when state Democratic Party Chairman Paul Berendt told the Olympian newspaper that Eastern Washington GOP activists doorbelling in suburban Seattle legislative races this fall were "... gun nuts and religious nuts from Spokane, Yakima and Moses Lake... "
The media haven't done much better, parroting speculation that the mysterious murder of Assistant U.S. Attorney Tom Wales, an outspoken gun opponent, might have been perpetrated by a gun-rights extremist.
Piggybacking on local reports, People magazine asked, "Was it someone he prosecuted, or a pro-gun zealot?" The magazine then quoted a friend certain the killer was "trying to silence Tom and his cause." Law-enforcement authorities have reached no such conclusion.
The evil plot by the National Rifle Association to brainwash America must be working. The overall number of guns owned in the U.S. was around 200 million in the early '90s. That grew to 240 million by 2000, according to Yale Law School scholar John Lott. About 80 million are handguns, still widely available despite regulatory hoops, decreased international production and higher prices.
Concurrently, the Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) reports that robbery and overall violent crime in 2000 reached their lowest points since measurements began.
There's more. Lott, the co-author of "More Guns, Less Violence," examined 18 years of FBI crime data for all 3,054 U.S. counties. He found violent crime dropped most significantly within the 30-plus states issuing "right to carry" concealed handgun permits, especially in more populous counties.
Painstaking research by Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck indicates guns are used to scare off criminals some 2.5 million times a year in the U.S. That's several times more than the total number of gun-related crimes.
Gun fatalities are among the tragedies that befall some children and teens, especially where gangs and drugs are involved. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported such incidents were down 35 percent between 1994 and 1998. They've dropped further in subsequent years, too.
The CDC also notes gun deaths for all ages reached a 30-year low in '98, then dropped another 6 percent in '99. Further, 57 percent of all U.S. gun deaths in 1999 were suicides, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. This is a typical percentage, and points toward the individual rather than the means chosen.
Another oft-stated concern is accidental gun deaths. The National Safety Council's "Deaths Due to Unintentional Injuries, 2000" report sheds some light here. It shows accidental death rates for all ages combined are far greater from motor vehicles, drownings, fires and burns, falls, poisonings by solids and liquids, and suffocation than from firearms. For youths and teens, the rates are dramatically higher for cars and drownings than for guns; and somewhat higher for fires and burns than guns.
Let's go back to the record lows in violent crime and robbery, achieved as gun ownership rose. Experts say the changes are due in part to the strong economy of the mid-to-late '90s, a fading crack epidemic, an aging population, better policing, and perhaps stiffer sentencing.
And there's some concern the first half of 2001 shows a less-steep crime decline. But it's increasingly difficult to tie more firearms to more crime when the opposite happens to be the case.
Nonetheless, proposed legislation extending background checks to customers of all sellers at gun shows is on the mark. So is a continued emphasis on safety, to help prevent the mishaps that still occur.
In Seattle, the city's voluntary gun-lock program is getting emphasis at the neighborhood level. Some nonprofit agencies are fighting the urban crime cycle that disproportionately affects minorities by encouraging stronger dual-parent families. Other programs focused on mentoring, block watch groups and community policing are part of the anti-violence arsenal, too.
In his composition, "Gun," streetwise social critic and songwriter Gil Scott-Heron grudgingly concedes:
The philosophy seems to be
At least as near as I can see
When everybody else gives up theirs
I'll give up mine
This is the more realistic counterpoint to John Lennon's wistful entreaty in the much-quoted song "Imagine" to picture "a world without guns."
One need not imagine. Look to Lennon's native England, which has seen a surge in gun crimes after a 1997 handgun ban. Black markets endure like cockroaches. No laws or naïve utopian schemes will ever get guns out of the wrong hands.
Even with crime down dramatically in the U.S., plenty of domestic-issue creeps are still looking to victimize good, law-abiding folk. What would you like to reach for if someone broke into your home at night? A cell phone?
Matt Rosenberg is a Seattle writer and regular contributor to the editorial pages of The Times. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2002 The Seattle TImes Company
The numbers are encouraging-- both the crime stats and the ownership stats. Especially the crime stats paired up with gun ownership in the area.
And the author has a point-- stiffer sentencing is a big key to lowering gun crime rates... must give the criminals a reason NOT to use a gun (I am for automatic capital punishment in murders where a gun was used; automatic life sentence for other gun crimes).
Anyway, its something to chew on.