(Page 2 of 2)
One reason the dangers of guns tend to be viewed very differently than, say, the danger of cars is that cars are presumed to serve a legitimate purpose, whereas guns are not. Yet there is, in fact, a good deal of evidence that the case for guns as a means of self-defense and crime prevention may be more than just National Rifle Association propaganda.
No one has convincingly refuted the work of John R. Lott, an economist teaching at Yale Law School, who concludes that state laws allowing any citizen with no criminal record to get a concealed weapon permit tend to result in lower rates of crime, including murder. Most of the mainstream media and punditry simply ignore Lott and scoff at the notion that guns may have benefits.
Ban is the ultimate goal
Few reasonable people object to handgun licensing and registration, or to measures that help keep lethal weapons out of the hands of dangerous individuals, or of minors. There may be other sensible gun control proposals (though the effectiveness and safety of trigger locks and "smart gun" technologies are far from proven).
But if guns are truly the terrible scourge portrayed by anti-gun crusaders, it seems ludicrously inadequate to promote modest restrictions rather than a total or near-total ban on private ownership of handguns --- which is clearly the ultimate goal of many activists.
Let's assume for the sake of argument that such a ban could be enacted, and that it would be a good thing if only the military and police had access to guns. Could any laws actually accomplish this?
The truth is, this society isn't very good at keeping banned substances away from people. Last year, the fatal shooting of Michigan first-grader Kayla Rolland by a classmate sparked cries for anti-gun measures. Yet the 6-year-old shooter, who had found an illegal gun at home, lived in a house awash in illegal drugs --- in spite of draconian drug laws. What makes anyone think laws could have kept out the guns?
Prohibition would be difficult
Compared with drug prohibition, gun prohibition might prove even harder to enforce, with a large portion of the population opposed to the ban. There are already 65 million handguns (and 130 million other firearms) in private hands in America.
Unlike drugs, these weapons have a long shelf life; as with drugs, underground gun manufacture and traffic would likely spring up to meet new demand. And, like the War on Drugs, the War on Guns could ultimately endanger our civil liberties by creating pressures for expanded police powers to search and seize private property --- without being much more effective.
Gun fatalities have been steadily declining for years, despite rhetoric that feeds perceptions of a raging epidemic. There is probably more we can do to reduce gun violence. But this problem needs to be addressed with a clear understanding of the facts, without losing sight of the far larger problem of violence in America and without turning the gun debate into a morality play and demonizing the opposition. Otherwise, we will end up with nothing but simplistic and illusory solutions.