As gun ownership falls, homicides rise

Since my rebuttal to Lora Machel’s article (“Cold truth about guns, society,” Aug. 30) from the Arizona Daily Wildcat appeared in The GW Hatchet Sept. 2 (“Guns don’t cause violence”), two other writers have penned pieces in opposition to my own. Most recently, Adam Brenneman’s article in Monday’s Hatchet (“Sensible guns laws to stop the bleeding,” Sept. 13) attacks my position on two grounds: First, that guns have little value as tools to prevent the imposition of tyranny; and secondly, that imposing more restrictions on the sale, possession, and use of firearms would lead to a corresponding reduction in crime.

Despite Brenneman’s spurious references to the absence of “threatening postures of the Canadians and Mexicans,” it is important to realize that our current domestic security may not always be present. Our Constitution was written more than 200 years ago. God willing, it will be here for centuries to come. We, in our finite scope of vision and ignorance of the future, should not risk the freedom of future generations of Americans because Mexico is not currently a threat to our national security.

More compelling, Brenneman makes no mention of the possible rise of domestic tyranny. As advocates of strong gun ownership rights often point out, one of the first actions of Adolf Hitler upon coming to power in Germany was to criminalize private ownership of guns. The case of Nazi Germany is an apt and terrifying example of the power of a government over its unarmed citizenry. Even as I write, the people of East Timor, where gun ownership has been illegal for nearly 30 years, find themselves at the mercy of Indonesia-backed military forces that are now roaming the country in a violent rampage aimed at preventing the people from voting for independence.

I leave this point of my discussion with an open question: Why couldn’t that happen here? What makes our country so special that it should assume the eternal beneficence of our government?

As to Brenneman’s contention that restricting gun ownership would reduce crime and violence, there is no evidence to support his claim. On the contrary, the quantitative data shows that there is a strong correlation between increasing restrictions on legal gun ownership and rising crime rates.

In the 30 years following the District of Columbia’s ban on handguns, the city’s homicide rate tripled. During the five years immediately following the ban, nearly 80 percent of murders, and all firearm murders, in the city were committed with handguns.

Chicago imposed handgun registration in 1968 and saw no interruption in its rising homicide rate. In 1982, the city imposed a D.C.-style ban on handguns. Its murder rate doubled between 1982 and 1997. In 1975, California imposed a 15-day waiting period on the retail and private sale of handguns, outlawed assault weapons in 1989, and subjected rifles and shotguns to a waiting period in 1990. Yet, since 1975, California’s annual homicide rate has averaged 34 percent higher than the national average.

There are similar statistics for Maryland, New York City, New Jersey, and other jurisdictions with strict gun control laws.

Furthermore, there is strong evidence that suggests that increasing the rate of legal firearm ownership leads to a reduction in the violent crime rate. In his book, “More Guns, Less Crime,” professor John Lott Jr. demonstrates that while “many factors influence crime with arrest and conviction rates being the most important, non-discretionary concealed-handguns laws are also important, and they are the most cost-effective means of reducing crime.”

Lott’s research shows that jurisdictions with the largest increases in legal gun ownership also have the largest decreases in violent crimes. Additionally, Lott found that high-crime areas, urban areas, and neighborhoods with large minority populations demonstrated the greatest reduction in violent crimes as gun ownership has increased. As Lott writes, there is “a strong negative relationship between the number of law-abiding citizens with permits and the crime rate. As more people obtain permits, there is a greater decline in violent crime rates.”

As a case study of this, Florida adopted a right-to-carry law in 1987. Since that time, its homicide rate has dropped 40 percent compared to a nationwide decrease of just 21.5 percent. Furthermore, less than two hundredths of a percent of carry licenses have been revoked because of firearm crimes committed by licensees, according to the Florida Department of State.

And, to Mr. Brenneman and all the other gun control advocates on campus and wherever they may be, please take a hard look at the policies you advocate. While I am sure you all speak and act with the best intentions, the evidence shows that gun control only endangers honest, law-abiding citizens. History shows us that an unarmed citizenry is a vulnerable citizenry. If you make the personal choice not to own a gun, that is fine; but please, do not work to restrict the right of others to safely own a firearm.

-The writer is a junior majoring in political science.

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