The atrocity committed in Connecticut last week is still to me incomprehensible and ineffable. I can find no adequate words to express my grief for all of those affected by such an inhumane act. As the joys of anticipation of Christmas for those families were dashed and replaced with the profoundest grief at losing a loved one, especially the children, the weight of their sorrow has hung over all of us.
As a sentient people, we should be repulsed, angered, saddened, and outraged at such a heinous act. The challenge is to channel the emotions and the feelings that have distressed us, into actionable ways to address such violence. Our feelings and emotions instinctively call for reduction or elimination of the tool of choice for the perpetrator. Yet we must, when reaching for solutions, transcend our feelings, and reason through logically what is viable, what will work, and what won’t.
The immediate call for more gun control is instinctive, yet must be approached logically rather than emotionally, based on empirical data. And there is a lot of it available.
The city of Chicago currently has the most restrictive gun control laws on the books, has been declared a “gun free zone” where handguns are banned, yet it is the most bloody city in the world in terms of gun-related deaths. The city averages 40 deaths per month from guns, and is nearing 500 for the year. Chicago’s murder rate is 19.4 per 100,000, which is by far the highest rate in the nation, at nearly 3 times New York which is at 6, and nearly 2 ½ times Los Angeles’ 7.5. In fact, Chicago ranks as the number one deadliest Alpha city (significant urban center in the global economic system) on the planet. Since it is no longer possible to legally own guns within city limits, the only ones who still have them are criminals. It doesn’t appear gun control works for Chicago. In fact, the city illustrates how correct the aphorism is that if guns are outlawed, only the outlaws have guns. The law-abiding citizens do not.
The Center for Disease Control (CDC), in 2003 thoroughly analyzed fifty-one in-depth studies dealing with gun control. Those studies included everything from the effectiveness of gun bans to laws requiring gun locks. From their objective analysis, they “found no discernible effect on public safety by any of the measures we commonly think of as ‘gun control.’”
In 2005, the American Journal of Preventive Medicine conducted a similar analysis of extant gun laws across the country. They arrived at a similar conclusion, as the abstract for their research concludes, “that evidence for the effectiveness of a given firearms law on an outcome is insufficient.” After reviewing over fifty different gun control laws, and coming to the conclusion that their effectiveness on an outcome is “insufficient” is euphemism for “they had no discernible effect.”
Some have argued for a so-called “assault weapons ban,” which would restrict firearms clip size for ammunition, among other things. We had such a federal law on the books from 1994 through 2004. A 2004 University of Pennsylvania study, commissioned by the National Institute of Justice to ascertain the effects of the ban, revealed, “We cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence. And, indeed, there has been no discernible reduction in the lethality and injuriousness of gun violence.”
So-called “gun free zones” obviously don’t work either, as Chicago clearly demonstrates, and the very concept is ludicrous. Every shooting in a school is done illegally per federal law (1995 Gun Free School Zones Act). For those intent on inflicting harm, nothing’s quite so appealing as a gun free zone, for they know all the law-abiding citizens are going to be compliant, giving the perpetrator a veritable shooting gallery to work with, unfettered and undeterred from his mayhem by a legally armed citizen. In short, criminals aren’t the least deterred by gun free zones, and if anything, they’re likely to consider any signage indicating a gun free zone as a welcome sign.
Since gun control doesn’t work, let’s look at increasing the ability of citizens to protect and defend themselves. Simi Valley, California is consistently listed among the safest of American cities. They have all of California’s gun control laws in force, but locals know it as the home to a lot of police officers from neighboring communities. Nothing like trained and armed homeowners to keep a community virtually crime free.
In 1982, Kennesaw, Georgia, witnessing an increase in local crime, did something counterintuitive to the likes of Chicago and New York: they passed an ordinance requiring heads of households, with some exceptions, to own a handgun. Crime dropped precipitously, and has stayed down. So much so, that Family Circle selected the town as one of the ten best in the nation to raise a family in.
Our problems with violence and mass shootings have much more to do with cultural and societal issues, mental illness, and a lack of ability on the part of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves. Guns are not the root of the problem. Our nation was brought to its knees eleven years ago by nineteen fanatics armed with box-cutters. The tool of destruction is not the perpetrator; the person using or misusing it is.
Gun control has proven impotent in curbing the problem, and “gun free zones” are absurd, since they practically advertise themselves to be potential venues of mayhem and violence. More gun control is not a solution, but only serves as a Band-Aid to our emotions so we feel like we’re doing something. The problems are much deeper in our society than Band-Aids can cure.
AP award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, Idaho, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit: Gregory Wild-Smith (Creative Commons)
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