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Jewish World Review April 28, 1999 /12 Iyar 5759

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell
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Tragedy and farce

(JWR) ---- (
THE SHOCKING KILLINGS of school children in Littleton, Colorado, has once more illustrated Hegel's view that tragedy is often followed by farce.

Immediately after the shootings, loudmouth talk show hosts and demagogic politicians have leaped front and center, proclaiming a need for more gun control.

Where do the gun controllers think the 200 million guns in this country are going to go if they pass more gun control laws? Will these vast numbers of firearms simply vanish into thin air somehow? Will criminals line up at police stations to turn in the tools of their trade?

Or does it matter what will actually happen? Is it enough for the gun controllers that they will have "made a statement" and taken a stand on the side of the angels -- regardless of what the consequences might be?

The most likely consequence of stronger gun control laws is the same as the consequences of international disarmament agreements in the 1920s and 1930s: Those who are no threat to anybody will be disarmed, shifting the balance of power in favor of those who remain armed and dangerous. It took a Second World War for us to learn that lesson internationally, but we have yet to learn it domestically -- or even to consider it as a possibility.

There is no excuse for the widespread ignorance and demagoguery on gun control that hold sway in politics and the media, after a massive study by John Lott of the University of Chicago has shown convincingly that armed citizens deter violent criminals. His study, "More Guns, Less Crime," shows that an increase in licensed gun ownership is almost invariably followed immediately by a decline in violent crime in the county where these licensing laws have been relaxed.

When an airplane crashes, costing hundreds of lives, does anyone suggest banning planes? When thousands die in automobile accidents, does anyone suggest banning cars? But let a fraction as many people die from guns and shrill cries for banning guns ring out across the land.

No one asks about how many lives have been saved by guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens defending themselves and their families against the violent criminals that liberal gun controllers allow to walk the streets.

Lott's study is one of the few that even addresses that question.

The very phrase "gun control" is a farce. Laws controlling guns have been on the books for years. The only meaningful question is whether those laws are to be tightened and how. What the so-called gun control advocates want is a sweeping ban on the legal possession of guns by law-abiding citizens.

Typical of the demagoguery on this issue is the phrase "assault weapons" -- a term that nobody has been able to define legally with any precision.

Instead, ugly-looking weapons have been banned by name, while equally deadly weapons that don't look so bad are still sold.

All weapons are for assault. That is what makes them weapons, whether they are guns, bows and arrows or boomerangs. Because they are capable of assault, they are also capable of deterring assault, usually just by being pointed at a potential assailant. They are a lot better for protection than phoning 911 and waiting for the police to arrive after the crime has been committed and the criminal is long gone.

In short, guns save lives and guns take lives. If we are serious, then we can talk about how many lives are involved each way and what can we do to continue to deter violent criminals, while reducing the deaths caused by accidents or crime.

If the media were serious, then they would want to talk about the facts on both sides, instead of talking in terms of a political contest between the National Rifle Association and supporters of gun control laws. After all, there are a quarter of a billion Americans who do not belong to either the NRA or the anti-gun lobby. It is these ordinary citizens' interests that matter most.

The most tragic farce of all is that we continue to listen gullibly to shrinks who are spouting off, all across the media, on why the school shootings took place. But this is not the first school shooting where the young killers were given a clean bill of health by shrinks before they started slaughtering their classmates.

Why are shrinks so wise after the fact and so wrong beforehand? And why do we keep taking them seriously?


04/26/99: Guilt and cop-outs
04/21/99: Choosing a college
04/16/99: When success fails
04/13/99: A photo-op foreign policy
04/09/99: Russia and the Serbs
04/06/99: Random thoughts
03/31/99: Irresponsible "experts"
03/29/99: Another Doleful prospect?
03/23/99: Random thoughts
03/22/99: Loving enemies
03/19/99: Naming names
03/15/99: Undermining the military
03/10/99: Joe DiMaggio -- icon of an era
03/02/99: Facts versus dogma on guns
03/01/99: Losing the cultural wars
02/22/99: "Saving" social security
02/18/99: Too many Ph.Ds?
02/8/99: A national disaster
02/8/99: Economic fallacies in the media: Part II
02/5/99: Why economists visit dentists so often
02/2/99: Warning: Good news
01/29/99: What is at stake?
01/26/99:Moral bankruptcy in the schools
01/22/99: Who is going to convict Santa Claus?
01/19/99: Seeing through the spin
01/13/99: A trial is a trial is a trial
01/11/99:Trials and tribulations
01/08/99: Rays of hope
01/04/99: Random thoughts
12/31/98: The President versus the presidency
12/29/98: The time is now!
12/23/98: World-class hypocrisy
12/21/98: The spreading corruption
12/17/98: Politically "contrite"
12/16/98: Polls and partisanship
12/14/98: The "non-profit" halo
12/11/98: Corruption and confusion
12/03/98: The health care "crisis"
11/30/98: Knowing what you are talking about
11/23/98: The impeachment legacy
11/23/98: Random thoughts
11/19/98: Tales out of bureaucracies
11/16/98: Scholarships based on scholarship
11/12/98: Forward march
11/09/98: Moral outrage
11/05/98: Will the Republicans ever learn?
11/02/98: A voter's duty
10/30/98: The poverty pimp's poem
10/29/98: Random thoughts on the election
10/27/98: "Partisan" and "unfair"
10/23/98: Ed-u-kai-tchun
10/21/98: McGwire, Maris and the Babe
10/16/98: Lightweight Boxer
10/14/98: A strange word
10/09/98: Impeachment standards
10/08/98: Alternatives to seriousness
10/07/98: Heredity, environment and talk
10/02/98: A much-needed guide
10/01/98: Starr's real crime
9/24/98: Costs and power
9/18/98: Are we sheep?
9/16/98: Judicial review
9/15/98: Hillary Rodham Crook?
9/14/98: Taking stock
9/11/98: Moment of truth
9/04/98: Random thoughts
8/31/98: The twilight of special prosecutors?
8/26/98: "Doing a good job"
8/24/98: America on trial?
8/19/98: Played for fools
8/17/98: A childish letter
8/11/98: Hiding behind a woman
8/07/98: A flying walrus in Washington?
8/03/98: "Affordability" strikes again
7/31/98: Random thoughts
7/27/98: Faith and mountains
7/24/98: Clinton in Wonderland
7/20/98: Where is black 'leadership' leading?
7/16/98: Do 'minorities' really have it that bad?
7/14/98: Race dialogue: same old stuff
7/10/98: Honest history
7/09/98: Dumb is dangerous
7/02/98: Gun-safety starts with
parental responsibility
6/30/98: When more is less
6/29/98: Are educators above the law?
6/26/98: Random Thoughts
6/24/98: An angry letter
6/22/98: Sixties sentimentalism
6/19/98:Dumbing down anti-trust
6/15/98: A changing of the guard?
6/11/98: Presidential privileges
6/8/98: Fast computers and slow antitrust
6/3/98: Can stalling backfire?
5/29/98: The insulation of the Left
5/25/98: Missing the point in the media
5/22/98: The lessons of Indonesia
5/20/98: Smart but silent
5/18/98: Israel, Clinton and character
5/14/98: Monica Lewinsky's choices
5/11/98: Random thoughts
5/7/98: Media obstruction of justice
5/4/98: Dangerous "safety"
5/1/98: Abolish Adolescence!
4/30/98: The naked truth
4/22/98: Playing fair and square
4/19/98: Bad teachers"
4/15/98: "Clinton in Africa "
4/13/98: "Bundling and unbundling "
4/9/98: "Rising or falling Starr "
4/6/98: "Was Clinton ‘vindicated'? "
3/26/98: "Diasters -- natural and political"
3/24/98: "A pattern of behavior"
3/22/98: Innocent explanations
3/19/98: Kathleen Willey and Anita Hill
3/17/98: Search and destroy
3/12/98: Media Circus versus Justice
3/6/98: Vindication
3/3/98: Cheap Shot Time
2/26/98: The Wrong Filter
2/24/98: Trial by Media
2/20/98: Dancing Around the Realities
2/19/98: A "Do Something" War?
2/12/98: Julian Simon, combatant in a 200-year war
2/6/98: A rush to rhetoric

©1999, Creators Syndicate