Anti-Gun Propaganda & Controlling Violent Crime

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To Serve and Protect?

Let us examine one final common misconception -- that the protectors of society should solely be the police. This turns out to not be the case. I quote, from Lynch v. N.C. Dept. of Justice:

Law enforcement agencies and personnel have no duty to protect individuals from the criminal acts of others; instead their duty is to preserve the peace and arrest law breakers for the protection of the general public.

More quotes[15].

The law in New York remains as decided by the Court of Appeals case Riss v. New York: the government is not liable even for a grossly negligent failure to protect a crime victim. In the Riss case, a young woman telephoned the police and begged for help because her ex-boyfriend had repeatedly threatened, 'If I can't have you no one else will have you, and when I get through with you, no one else will want you.' The day after she had pleaded for police protection, the ex-boyfriend threw lye in her face, blinding her in one eye, severely damaging the other, and permanently scarring her features. 'What makes the City's position particularly difficult to understand,' wrote a dissenting opinion, 'is that, in conformity to the dictates of the law, Linda did not carry any weapon for self-defense. Thus by a rather bitter irony she was required to rely for protection on the City of New York which now denies all responsibility to her.'

And this one from Hartzler v. City of San Jose[16].

Ruth Brunell called the police on twenty different occasions to beg for protection from her husband. He was arrested only one time. One evening Mr. Brunell telephoned his wife and told her he was coming over to kill her. When she called police, they refused her request that they come to protect her. They told her to call back when he got there. Mr. Brunell stabbed his wife to death before she could call the police to tell them that he was there. The court held that the San Jose police were not liable for ignoring Mrs. Brunell's pleas for help.

It is also significant that most police, when not being observed by anti-gun sponsoring superiors, say overwhelmingly that they'd prefer not to see guns outlawed, but rather to see the laws we already have in effect implemented more effectively, so that criminals will be punished rather than the average responsible, gun-owning citizen. In one poll, 88.7% believed that banning all firearms would not reduce the ability of criminals to obtain firearms and 90.4% felt that law-abiding citizens should be able to purchase any legal firearm for either sport or self-defense. Also, 97.4% of the responding Chiefs of Police agreed that even if Congress approved a ban on all rifles, shotguns, and handguns, criminals would still be able to obtain 'illegal' weapons (NACP 1995)[17].

How Did Our Fore-Fathers See Gun Ownership?

Let us look at this from a historical perspective. Our forefathers believed in the morality of both gun ownership and self-defense. Thomas Jefferson's words are still stirring even today:

And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms... The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants[18].

George Mason said, "To disarm the people -- that was the best and most effective way to enslave them..." Alexander Hamilton comments rather dryly, "The best we can hope for concerning the people at large is that they be properly armed." And Patrick Henry is quoted as saying:

Where is the difference between having our arms in possession and under our direction, and having them under the management of Congress? If our defense be the real object of having those arms, in whose hands can they be trusted with more propriety, or equal safety to us, as in our own hands?[19]

We were initially a nation of self-sufficient, self-reliant, responsible individuals who chose to throw off the yoke of an uninterested and distant government. What will we be saying to our children if we institute gun prohibition? Do we really wish to teach them that they must look to others for protection; that they must live in the enslavement and fear of potential violence rather than the empowerment of self-reliance; that they must pray that a frequently distant and uninterested police force will keep them safe?

The villain in this piece is most frequently defined as the violent criminal. Yet I'd like to assert that they are in reality products of the system that forces them into a life of poverty and attitudes of anomie. A gun becomes a symbol of power to them in that situation. It would seem to me that addressing the multiple, real problems of inner city poverty would do more to alleviate our dilemma, rather than blaming a symbolic tool -- the simplest answer is not always the best. I refer to Prof. Kleck:

Fixating on guns seems to be, for many people, a fetish which allows them to ignore the more intransigent causes of American violence, including its dying cities, inequality, deteriorating family structure, and the all-pervasive economic and social consequences of a history of slavery and racism.

If we outlaw guns, we will have addressed only the precipitating causes. The remote causes are the true villains here: ignorance, poverty, helplessness, and fear of the unknown. These causes are unfortunately ably aided by well-meaning but misinformed and misguided individuals who do not clearly understand cause and effect. The politicians hopping on the gun control bandwagon, the private citizens who are not thinking clearly of what exactly they are espousing -- these are our unfortunate and secondary villains.

Our victims, unfortunately, are ourselves. Each time we chip away at our basic freedoms; each time we believe legislating morality will work; we harm ourselves a little more. Legislating morality has been repeatedly proven to be an ineffective method of cultural change -- we need only study Prohibition to see that. Our basic freedoms are precious and hard-won. To carelessly surrender them is to deny the toil and blood of our founding fathers, and the Constitution itself. We must not act without thought, or we begin, uncomfortably, to resemble our villains.


It is my hope that gun prohibition legislation will be abolished. However, I can visualize a possible world where such legislation will pass. In that case, I do not see a happy outcome. Cliches become cliched because they express a basic truth we all recognize. It is a cliche, but when guns are outlawed, it is my belief that only outlaws, in the general public, will have guns. With no one of sufficient strength to deter them but the police, we will be trapped like sheep in a pen with a wolf, hoping our desperate bleating will alert a distant police dog -- a dog that may not believe our problems are important enough to engage it. Violent crime will rise as a result of the lack of a deterrent. Our ability to defend ourselves gone, it will be a natural reaction to give the police more and more power in a desperate race against violent criminals. At some point the police will have enough power that we the sheep, looking up, will no longer be able to tell the dog from the wolf -- and we will rue the day we chose to be helpless and dependent on others[20].

How Can We Help?

So what can we do for accurate information? Are guns of any use? Let us look at people who have examined the issues repeatedly and dispassionately -- the criminologists and the social scientists who have been quietly, non-hysterically studying the problem all along. There are criminologists who have changed their minds on the gun issue. Significantly, this only goes one way -- towards gun control rather than gun prohibition. There are no examples of evidence convincing scholars who looked skeptically at the gun issue to change their minds in favor of anti-gun sentiment. There are several examples of this change towards pro-gun sentiment -- Kleck, and Wright & Rossi are a few. Kleck pointed out that he changed his mind when he discovered:

...handguns are used by good citizens to defeat crimes about 3 times as often as by criminals committing crimes. Despite all the harm guns do, they do three times as much good (Kleck 1989).

He came to the conclusion that gun prohibition would potentially increase violent crime:

Serious predatory criminals perceive a risk from victim gun use which is roughly comparable to that of criminal justice system actions, and this perception may influence their criminal behavior in socially desirable ways. Consequently, one has to take seriously the possibility that 'across-the-board' gun control measures could decrease the crime-control effects of noncriminal gun ownership more than they would decrease the crime-causing effects of criminal gun ownership. (Kleck 1989)

The solutions these researchers propose are unfortunately not simple. As they point out, it is true that we could simply legislate guns, treating them like cars, making them a licensed tool whose use requires training, and which one must demonstrate capability in. Unfortunately, guns aren't cars, and people would not view them as such without significant educational efforts. To simply start legislating guns in a reasonable fashion would open the door to unreasonable and hysterical anti-gun attempts. As Mr. Kates puts it:

...automobile regulation is not premised on the idea that cars are evils from which any decent person would recoil in horror -- that anyone wanting to possess such an awful thing is atavistic and warped sexually, intellectually, educationally and ethically. Nor are driver licensing and car registration proposed or implemented as ways to radically reduce the availability of cars to ordinary citizens or to secure the ultimate goal of denying cars to all but the military, police and those special individuals whom the military or police select to receive permits.

Thus I'd have to say legislation should wait until guns are viewed not as civilization-destroying horrors, but as situationally-dependent useful tools. In order to do this, the people must act. Let us no longer blindly accept the stories we are fed by the media. If you hear of someone quoting a purported study, don't simply accept the information. Do research for yourself -- look to see if the study is repeatable, and if so, does it show consistent results? Spread the truth. Write your state and federal legislators and insist on honest data for public policy-making. Insist that taxes not pay for biased or incompetent research. Insist that tax-payer funded studies be made public, not suppressed because the results weren't 'politically correct.' Write newspapers, TV, and medical journals and let them know you will not tolerate dishonest and unbalanced reporting on the gun prohibition issue. Expose their fallacies, and send honest data to them. Get involved and vote for legislators that are truthful and that support your freedoms to defend yourself, your family, and your community (Suter 1995). Once the hurdle of disinformation is passed, we can begin making gun laws in a calm, reasoned, non-hysterical fashion. If we do otherwise we show that we are not even sure as to what we should blame for our woes -- and we choose the simplistic, comforting, ultimately useless answer of blaming a tool.

Gun prohibition violates basic premises that are central to our Constitution; it makes villains of the well-meaning and victims of us all. Also, lamentably, should it occur, there is a real possibility that gun control will contribute to the crime problem we face, rather than alleviating it. Gun control will neither prevent violent crime, nor afford us safety. To quote Benjamin Franklin, "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." Gun control, as stated by anti-gun advocates, should be abolished in the United States.

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Last Updated: Sat, February 05, 2000