Does defensive gun use stop crime? Would more gun control save lives? Those were the topics of a public debate recently hosted by the Soho Forum, featuring Gary Kleck, a criminologist from Florida State University, and Paul Helmke, the former president and CEO of the Brady Center/Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence as well as the former mayor of Fort Wayne, Indiana.
Kleck argued that there are at least four times as many defensive gun uses by potential victims as there are by criminals, and that new gun controls would reduce the defensive uses far more than the criminal ones. Helmke questioned Kleck's take on the data.
The debate was held on September 13, 2018, at the SubCulture Theater in Manhattan's East Village. Soho Forum Director Gene Epstein moderated. Comedian Dave Smith, host of the podcast Part of the Problem, was the opening act.
The full resolution read: While laws that prohibit gun ownership would reduce crimes perpetrated by criminals, that benefit would be more than offset by the foregone opportunities for defensive gun use by victims of crime.
It was an Oxford-style debate in which the audience votes on the resolution at the beginning and end of the event, and the side that gains the most ground is victorious. Kleck, arguing the affirmative, prevailed by convincing about six percent of audience members to change their minds.
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Kleck's research has focused on the impact of firearms and gun control on violence, deterrence, and crime control. He is the author of Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America, which won the 1993 Michael J. Hindelang Award of the American Society of Criminology. He also wrote Targeting Guns (1997) and, with Don B. Kates, Jr., The Great American Gun Debate (1997) and Armed (2001), and, with Brion Sever, Punishment and Crime (2017).
Helmke is a professor of practice at Indiana University's School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and he is the founding director of the Civic Leaders Living-Learning Center in Bloomington, IN.
Edited by Todd Krainin.
"Modum" by Kai Engle is licensed under a CC-BY creative commons license.