Wednesday, October 8, 2008

What gun control really does

In response to my "Anti-Gun Rights to Pro-Gun Rights: My conversion" a man posted the following reply:
Thanks for that most eloquent post. I am strongly anti-gun, helped partly by the fact, I admit, that I live in Rome Italy and not Newark NJ.

I seriously question (often on my blog) whether arming ourselves is the answer. Does it not lead to a never ending escalation of the very violence that you cite?
My response:

That certainly seems logical, doesn't it? More guns should equal more violence. I used to think so, too. However obvious that may seem, my experience actually tells exactly the opposite!

I moved to Virginia eight years ago from California. I had lived in California for most of my life, and that's where I developed my anti-gun attitude. When I came to Virginia I found that crime is different here, and it's even different from the crime in Maryland which is only a few miles from where I live. For years it didn't make sense to me.

We have never had our house broken into in Virginia. Not even an attempt. It's a much better house than we had in California, and we have more belongings. As I mentioned in my earlier post, my son bought a rental property. What I didn't mention is that it's in Maryland. The house was broken into within the first week of his ownership. He replaced the windows and door locks, and it was broken into again as soon as he was finished. After that, he did what almost everyone else in the area did. He put bars on the windows. As I drive through Maryland neighborhoods, I see bars on lots of homes. When I drive through Virginia neighborhoods, I rarely see them.

Although we have had no home burglaries, we have had four car breakins. One was when our car was parked in front of a friend's house. "They" stole a bunch of CDs that my son was dumb enough to leave where they could be seen through the car window. The other three times have been in our own driveway! They removed car stereos and a navigation system. I've been baffled. Are these criminals stupid? Why break into the car when we have better stuff in the house? Why not break into the house like they did in Maryland? Home breakins in Maryland and car breakins in Virginia. What's the deal?

Only after a long time did I realize what was going on in the minds of those criminals. People in Maryland don't have better things in their homes than people in Virginia, and Virginians don't have better property in the cars than Marylanders.

The difference is guns.

Maryland has very strict gun control. Law-abiding citizens have to prove that they need a gun to be able to carry one, and it's up to the police to decide whether your reason is "good enough." How about this reason, Maryland: "Because I'm afraid!" Sorry, that's not good enough in Maryland. Consequently, far fewer people in Maryland are armed. In Virginia I don't have to prove any "need" to carry a gun. I can carry it openly or concealed.

Here's the point: In Virginia a criminal can't tell whose armed. There's a fairly good chance that anyone might be. A potential burglar will have to spend some time casing a house to figure out when someone is at home or if the place is occupied by someone who is likely to be unarmed. In Maryland, the burglar can make a pretty good bet that the household is unarmed. In Maryland there's not nearly as much risk in breaking into a house. In Virginia, you can get yourself killed doing that.

Property crimes are much more prevalent in my neighborhood than violent crimes of any kind. It's just too risky to attempt to enter a house. However, a thief can easily tell whether a car is occupied. If he really wants more than a car sterio, he can quickly cross the border into Maryland.

So, to answer the question: "I seriously question (often on my blog) whether arming ourselves is the answer. Does it not lead to a never ending escalation of the very violence that you cite?"
I have to give an emphatic NO. Arming ourselves leads to LESS violence. Nobody in their right mind wants to mess with someone who might be armed.

John Lott understands this. He titled one of this books "More Guns, Less Crime." That was hard to believe, and even counter-intuitive, until I moved and saw what gun control really does. Gun control gives criminals free reign.


mikeb302000 said...

One of the things I hear on my blog from the gun enthusiasts is that I use theories and hypotheses while they use facts and stats. I think that can be turned around equally fairly. In this post you say you used to think one way but by noticing the disparity in break-ins between MD and VA you learned better. I say you can't extrapolate like that and maintain validity. Even if what you're seeing is happening for the reasons you think, it's too small a sampling to make general.

I think the theory, which is what it is at this point, that widespread gun ownership is a deterrent to the would-be break-in artist is false for the same reason the death penalty or more severe prison sentences don't deter their respective crimes. Deterrence doesn't work because criminals almost always think they're going to get away with it. They often have a distorted opinion of their ability to outsmart law enforcement. This is only exacerbated and increased in prison where they get out determined to do it bigger and better with all the additional tricks they picked up inside. The same thing works for the two-bit criminals who live in MD and VA. So, for me there must be some other explanation.

About my ideas of escalating the violence, I ask where does it end? Let's say you have a bigger gun or a faster gun than a would-be armed robber, he either runs away or gets busted. Then what, is he cured of his tendencies? No. He does it bigger and better somewhere or sometime else.

In the short range, your way works. Granted. But in the long run it's bad news. I agree with those who said that the criminal will seek the path of least resistance, so what's the answer? Arm everybody?

Don't forget there are peripheral problems involved. Some of those hundreds of millions of weapons get stolen and end up on the black market. Some of those millions of gun owners suffer from depression or alcoholism creating problems of their own. Some of those millions of legit guys stop being legit and commit crimes themselves.

With all due respect to you for protecting your family, I mean that sincerely, I don't think it's the facile solution that many claim it to be.

aciel said...

By the way, it's worth noting that John Lott works in gun "product defense." That is, he makes people believe guns are a better idea than they actually are because otherwise the gun companies can't sell as many guns.

If you search google scholar you'll find a couple explanations for why his "counter-intuitive" results are actually incorrect.

I hope you don't feel like I'm picking on you. If so, sorry! I'll be happy to go away if you like.

OnThe Right said...

Oh, I don't mind being "picked on." I know a whole lot of people won't agree with me, and I understand that. In the past, I didn't agree with it myself.

kalashnikat said...

Mike, You're entitled to your opinion, and you're entitled to stake your life on that opinion...but in this country, you're not entitled, like a lot of anti-gunners think they are, to say that everyone has to be disarmed.

I've also lived in Virginia and Maryland, both, and a lot of other places as well, and I have to second her observation. In places I've lived where supposedly no one has a gun because they're illegal, do you really think there is no violence? People are beaten to death in England and Scotland almost routinely, and many times for "kicks", because they know the average ordinary citizen will be almost certainly, completely unarmed.

Someone who breaks into your home or tries to carjack you, with a weapon, has already made a decision that your life is unimportant, and has the means to prove his point. If you are unarmed (and especially if you are a woman or physically smaller, or handicapped, injured, or elderly), you are pretty much helpless without a weapon of equal lethality. People defending themselves aren't the ones who "escalated" the violence...that was already done for them by the person who came at them with a weapon or even with bare hands in some cases, where there's a real disparity between the physical ability of the two parties.

In this country we recognize the God-given right to defend ourselves...if you disagree, feel free to not carry a gun, knife, or whatever...when someone threatens you, you'll find out what that feels like. But don't pretend you have the right to make that life-or-death decision for anyone but yourself, and considering the potential consequences of your advice, you shouldn't even advise others not to defend themselves.

Regardless of your opinion, Law-abiding concealed carriers like ontheright and myself, having been trained in both the mechanics of weapon handling and the law relating to self defense, had our fingerprints and photographs taken at the local law enforcement office, and made the committment to defend ourselves and our family, are a deterrent to the non-law abiding, who think they can take anyone and anything they choose because the want to. Criminals are often stupid, but most of them still recognize that it's safer to attack someone who is almost certainly unarmed than someone who might, one chance in ten, be able to take their life.

We don't get into road-rage shootouts over a parking place, but we are prepared to defend ourselves if attacked on a lonely parking lot.

kalashnikat said...

Mike, you said: "In the short range, your way works. Granted. But in the long run it's bad news. I agree with those who said that the criminal will seek the path of least resistance, so what's the answer? Arm everybody?" really don't trust yourself or others to be able to carry a weapon without shooting themselves or someone else...but you trust them to drive a car that can kill, or buy gasoline, which if it came on the market today would probably be banned as a hazardous and explosive substance. Everyone is already armed with weapons capable of killing, every time they get behind the wheel.

Arm everybody, with a gun?
Nope...but fifty percent of the adult population being lawfully carrying a concealed weapon would sure be a significant deterrent to someone contemplating a robbery, burglary of a home, a car-jacking, etc. Even one in ten would be a don't have to carry, I'll carry for your protection. You're welcome.

kalashnikat said...

There's an interesting summary of reasons why even in America, bad things happen to innocent people...and therefor they need to be able to defend themselves.

Hecate said...

"The Nonviolent Lie"
"Ethics From The Barrel Of A Gun"
"A Brief History Of Firearms Policy Fraud"
"An Armed Society Is A Polite Society"
"Staying Alive"
"Give Them Nothing"
"A World Without Guns"
"Why The Gun Is Civilization"

When I lived in Chicago, where gun ownership is banned to this day, I found out the hard way that a stalker/rapist with the "right" connections can be completely immune to arrest and prosecution.

I was unable to defend myself effectively, the authorities refused to take action before or after the rape, and I became a victim. Not any more.

You feel that the point solution of an armed citizen able to defend her own life is unsatisfactory? Well, it works just fine for me.

Hecate said...

And for the "facts and stats" I offer the USDOJ Bureau of Justice Statistics "Firearms And Crime Statistics."

mikeb302000 said...

kalashnikat said, "but in this country, you're not entitled, like a lot of anti-gunners think they are, to say that everyone has to be disarmed."

First of all, I don't say that. And secondly, I certainly am entitled to say it, if I want.