JWR Roger SimonMona CharenLinda Chavez
Paul Greenberg Larry ElderJonathan S. Tobin
Thomas SowellClarence PageRobert Scheer
Don FederCal Thomas
Political Cartoons
Left, Right & Center

Jewish World Review / July 10, 1998 / 16 Tamuz, 5758

Mona Charen

Mona Charen

Guns as the solution?

SENSING THAT HE MUST INTRODUCE some government initiative to respond to the recent shootings at public schools, President Clinton proposed last week to make parents criminally responsible if their children obtain access to guns.

Some liberal commentators protest that this is an anemic response to a dreadful scourge. Columnist Mary McGrory, a gun-control advocate, observes bitterly that "It might be simpler to go after guns than to try to make adults responsible."

Gun control is one of the defining issues between liberals and conservatives, and the recent school shootings illustrate the divide very well.

Gun-control advocates really think that they are more deeply concerned about schoolyard violence than gun defenders. They think that they are more peaceable folks than conservatives, more civil and more concerned for children's safety. Proof of their concern is their eagerness to ban handguns.

Those who oppose gun control, they assume, are willing to see a few dozen teenagers mowed down on the way to wood shop as the price to pay for the Second Amendment. (Very similar reasoning motivated liberals' enthusiasm for the nuclear freeze in the early '80s. Peaceable folks must oppose nuclear weapons, they reasoned. And those unwilling to engage in nuclear arms control must be warmongers.)

Personally, I would love to write columns in praise of gun control. I know it would bring me prestige as an "independent thinker" not shackled by any particular ideology -- and I would be given credit for concern about children.

But one cannot adopt a policy position based upon emotion alone. The facts are more important than how one feels. In the Cold War context, it turned out that those who adopted a realistic view of the need for nuclear weapons did far more to make the world a safer place than those who indulged the vain conceit that good people oppose nukes.

And the facts do not support gun control either. In fact, according to research by John R. Lott Jr., former chief economist for the U.S. Sentencing Commission and a professor of law at the University of Chicago Law School, the very best way to stop mass shootings at schools or anywhere else is to adopt "concealed carry" laws.

Lott acknowledges that his own research results shocked him. Nevertheless, a survey of all multiple-victim public shootings in the United States between 1977 and 1995 (excluding gang wars, organized crime hits and shootings in the course of a robbery or other crime) showed quite conclusively that nothing else works.

Lott and his research partner William Landes examined many other state attempts to reduce shootings. They found that enacting death-penalty statutes had no effect. Neither did raising arrest rates for murder, imposing waiting periods before gun purchases, or performing background checks for gun purchasers. Only one kind of law proved to have a dramatic effect on public shootings, and that was the enactment of "concealed carry" laws.

Five years after permitting law-abiding citizens to carry guns, 10 states found that their murder rates had dropped by an average of 15 percent, rape by 9 percent, and robberies by 11 percent. The likelihood of a mass shooting in those states dropped from nearly 75 percent to zero.

Concealed-carry laws help deter crime in two ways. They keep criminals off balance because they cannot be sure which of their intended victims is armed, and they save lives when an armed citizen is able to subdue a criminal before the police arrive. In Jacksonville, Fla., recently, a criminal brandished a gun in a restaurant and threatened to start shooting people at the count of 10 unless the cash register were opened. At the count of 8, two armed citizens with handgun permits stood up and shot him.

Not only do concealed-carry laws deter crime, they do not increase suicide rates, swell accidental shootings or result in citizens turning their guns on police officers -- all dangers that opponents of concealed-carry laws cite. By contrast, several police officers have had their lives saved by permit-holding citizens.

In Pearl, Miss., an assistant principal was able to subdue the young murderer who opened fire at a high school because he carried a gun in his car. It's hard to be enthusiastic about a weapon of death, but facts are facts: Guns save lives.


7/6/98: Teacher preacher
7/6/98: The China behind the headlines
7/1/98: What is the First Amendment for?
6/26/98: The Republican city
6/24/98: Poison pen
6/22/98: Clinton: inventing his own reality?
6/16/98: Senator mom?
6/12/98: Wisconsin: a trail blazer?
6/9/98: These girls say no to sex, yes to excellence
6/5/98: Lewinsky's ex-lawyer would feel right at home as Springer guest
6/2/98: English? Si; Republican? No!
5/29/98: The truth about women and work
5/27/98: Romance in the '90s
5/25/98:Taxing smokers for fun and profit
5/19/98: China's friend in the White House
5/15/98: Look out feminists: here comes the true backlash
5/12/98: The war process?
5/8/98: Where's daddy?
5/5/98: The joys of boys
5/1/98: Republicans move on education reform
4/28/98: Reagan was right
4/24/98: The key to Pol Pot
4/21/98: The patriot's channel
4/19/98: Child-care day can't replace mom
4/15/98: Tax time
4/10/98: Armey states obvious, gets clobbered
4/7/98: A nation complacent?
4/1/98: Bill Clinton's African adventure
3/27/98: Understanding Arkansas
3/24/98: Jerry Springer's America
3/20/98: A small step for persecuted minorities
3/17/98: Skeletons in every closet?
3/13/98: Clinton's idea of a fine judge
3/10/98: Better than nothing?
3/6/98: Of fingernails and freedom
3/3/98: Read JWR! :0)
2/27/98: Dumb and Dumber
2/24/98: Reagan reduced poverty more than Clinton
2/20/98: Rally Round the United Nations?
2/17/98: In Denial
2/13/98: Reconsidering Theism
2/10/98: Waiting for the facts?
2/8/98: Cat got the GOP's tongue?
2/2/98: Does America care about immorality?
1/30/98: How to judge Clinton's denials
1/27/98: What If It's Just the Sex?
1/23/98: Bill Clinton, Acting Guilty
1/20/98: Arafat and the Holocaust Museum
1/16/98: Child Care or Feminist Agenda?
1/13/98: What We Really Think of Abortion
1/9/98: The Dead Era of Budget Deficits Rises Again?
1/6/98: "Understandable" Murder and Child Custody
1/2/98: Majoring in Sex
12/30/97: The Spirit of Kwanzaa
12/26/97: Food fights (Games children play)
12/23/97: Does Clinton's race panel listen to facts?
12/19/97: Welcome to the Judgeocracy, where the law school elite overrules majority rule
12/16/97: Do America's Jews support Netanyahu?

©1998, Creators Syndicate, Inc.