By Don B
Kates and Gary Mauser
another big win for the truth.
heard the bogus statistics, skewed studies and
incompatible comparisons that the anti-gun lobby and
the media elite endlessly repeat ad nauseum in their
propaganda, which blames firearm freedom for violent
* "A gun
kept in the home is 43 times more likely to kill a
family member, friend or acquaintance, than to be
used to kill someone in self-defense."
"Americans are more likely to be shot to death than
people in the worldís other 35 richest nations."
day in America, 13 children are killed by guns,
almost a classroom full of children every two days."
drilling you with these anti-gun "statistics" until
you can recite them in your sleep, they hope youíll
come to accept and expect them, like the morning sun
in your window, or the drone of an air conditioner
that you swiftly cease to hear.
in an authoritative analysis of dozens of existing
studies on the subject, Don Kates, a Yale-educated
attorney who served as a professor at Stanford Law
School, and Gary Mauser, a Canadian university
professor and author, have shattered the
anti-gunnersí elaborate faÁade into a thousand
fragments of falsehood.
paper is entitled, "Would Banning Firearms Reduce
Murder and Suicide? A Review of International and
Some Domestic Evidence," and it was published this
spring in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public
Policy--the nationís most widely distributed law
review, with 10,000 copies sent to federal judges
and attorneys--where itís likely to have a big
impact on the national debate.
donít have to sit on the federal bench to get your
own copy. The paper is free. Itís available
here for you to download. And itís a "must
read" for anyone who wants to defend firearm
ownership with the most up-to-date and comprehensive
international information available.
analysis, Kates and Mauser compared different
countries, different population groups and different
types of interpersonal violence, homicide and
suicide throughout much of recorded history, and
found that the old anti-gun axioms that you so often
hear are false:
firearms do not equate to more homicide or more
firearms do not equate to less homicide or less
more often than not, just the opposite is true.
The Non-Connection Between Guns and Death
probably heard Sarah Brady, the former head of
Handgun Control, Inc., and now of the Brady
Campaign, say, "If guns made people safer, America
would be the safest nation on earth."
the early 1980s the U.S. gun-ban lobby has sponsored
advertisements suggesting that firearms are uniquely
available in the United States, and that as a
result, the U.S. has a gun-homicide rate higher than
the rest of the industrialized world.
and Mauser deftly point out, both assertions are
all, firearms are abundantly available and widely
owned throughout much of Europe, but that doesnít
necessarily lead to high homicide or suicide rates.
research that question, Kates and Mauser compiled
statistics for the rates of murder and gun ownership
for nations stretching from the Baltic to the
Mediterranean and the Atlantic to the Pacific.
problem with many of the existing published studies,
Kates explained, was that the raw numbers used in
the existing studies were not published. So he and
Mauser set out to get the raw numbers and analyze
able to put together figures for nine European
nations that had more than 15,000 firearms owned per
100,000 households, and we also had nine European
nations that had less than 5,000 firearms owned per
100,000 households," Kates said.
found was that the first group, with triple the rate
of gun ownership, had one-third the homicide rate of
the second group."
other hand, in Russia--where firearms had been under
police-state control for decades--Kates and Mauser
found an exceedingly violent society.
the Soviet communist regime tried to hide the
problem from the rest of the world, the collapse of
the Soviet Union exposed the truth: Despite those
iron-fisted government controls on firearm
ownership--almost no Russian civilians owned
firearms--Russia had, and continues to have, by far
the highest murder rate in the developed world.
and Mauser write: "In the 1960s and early í70s, the
gunless Soviet Unionís murder rates paralleled or
generally exceeded those of gun-ridden America.
While American rates stabilized and then steeply
declined, however, Russian murder increased so
drastically that by the early 1990s the Russian rate
was three times higher than that of the United
States. Between 1998-2004 Ö Russian murder rates
were nearly four times higher than American rates."
much the same thing in Luxembourg, where handguns
are completely banned and firearm ownership of any
kind is rare. Even though its (lawful) citizens are
effectively disarmed, in 2002 Luxembourg had a
murder rate nine times higher than in neighboring
Germany--where firearms are legal and widely owned.
proponents of so-called "common-sense gun control"
who fail to see the point, Kates and Mauser
connected the dots even more clearly in their paper:
"Individuals who commit violent crimes will either
find guns despite severe controls or will find other
weapons to use."
When Life Means Nothing, Laws Mean Even Less
Tragically, the same phenomenon seems to place
suicide beyond the reach of anti-gun laws.
studies of suicide in dozens of nations, Kates and
Mauser point to comparison after comparison that
shows no link between gun availability and suicide
example, Spain has 12 times the gun-ownership rate
of Poland, yet Polandís suicide rate is more than
double that of Spain. Greece has triple the
gun-ownership rate of the Czech Republic--and
admittedly more gun-related suicide--yet the overall
Czech suicide rate is nearly triple that of Greece.
Similarly, Finland has over 14 times the
gun-ownership rate of its southern neighbor Estonia,
yet Estonia nonetheless has a much higher suicide
rate than Finland.
absence of firearms, suicidal people simply
substitute other means. As evidence, Kates and
Mauser point to two powerful examples.
1980s, suicide among teenagers and young adults
spiked in the U.S., and many blamed firearm
availability for the increase. What they failed to
mention was that suicide among young adults was
rising throughout the developed world--regardless of
gun availability--and in many places was rising far
faster than in the U.S.
English youth, for example, suicide increased 10
times as fast as among American youth, yet the
preferred method of suicide there was car exhaust
tragic illustration involves suicide among young
Indian women living on the island of Fiji. When
these women marry, often to non-Indian men, they
commonly go to live with their husbandsí extended
families in less-than-friendly, if not openly
antagonistic, circumstances. Perhaps as a result,
they have a suicide rate many times higher than that
of non-Indian Fijian women.
unavailable to these women, Kates and Mauser report,
but that evidently makes no difference: Many still
commit suicide--about 75 percent of them through
hanging, and nearly all the rest by poisoning
themselves with the herbicide Paraquat.
Giving Guns Magical Powers and Malevolence Toward
favorite fantasy of the gun haters is that firearms
have some mystical power to transform otherwise
lawful, peaceable people into murderers and maniacs.
the gun-ban lobby tell the tale, itís as if firearms
were some sort of evil magic charm just waiting for
humans to let down their guard so that they, the
firearms, could turn the tables on us once and for
Firearms, they tell us, will turn family
disagreements into shooting wars.
kept in a closet as a defense against intruders,
they say, will instead be used against a spouse in a
moment of rage.
According to the Violence Policy Center, "the
majority of homicide[s] [occur] ... not as a result
of criminal activity, but because of arguments
between people who know each other."
Kates and Mauser point out in their study, "These
comments Ö contradict facts that have so uniformly
been established by homicide studies dating back to
the 1890s that they have become Ďcriminological
axioms.í Ö [N]either a majority, nor many, nor
virtually any murderers are ordinary Ďlaw-abiding
citizens.í Rather, almost all murderers are
extremely aberrant individuals with life histories
of violence, psychopathology, substance abuse and
other dangerous behaviors."
more, as Kates and Mauser note, a major national,
yearlong study on gun murders in U.S. homes between
acquaintances found that the most common situation
was one in which the victim and the perpetrator
"knew one another because of prior illegal
between the lines and youíll realize what that
refers to: Drug pushers murdered by rivals or
robbers. Gang members murdered by fellow gang
members. Women murdered by stalkers or domestic
of these cases, as Kates and Mauser explain, the
perpetrators are "all individuals for whom federal
and state laws already prohibit gun possession."
Do Guns Reduce Crime? Or Does Crime Reduce Guns?
their data would support such a claim, Kates and
Mauser donít argue in their paper that firearm
ownership is the cause of low crime rates in many
write in their paper, "It would be simplistic to
assume that at all times and in all places
widespread gun ownership depresses violence by
deterring many criminals into nonconfrontation
crime, [although] there is evidence that it does so
in the United States Ö"
they maintain, with refreshing candor, that some
European countries simply have low crime rates, and
because of that, those countries never imposed
anti-gun laws. So gun ownership is high, and crime
is low--itís just not necessarily low as a result.
illustration, Kates cites Norway: "The reason
Norwegians have guns is for hunting. They donít keep
them for self-defense and they donít need them--they
have a low-crime country."
other hand, some European nations experiencing high
levels of crime subsequently passed anti-gun
laws--but those laws failed to have any effect on
people you need to control are not going to obey the
gun control laws," Kates explained. "And the people
you donít need to control, those are the ones who
obey. So what you get is, you get either nothing, or
you get worse results, with gun control."
final analysis, this paper places the burden of
proof squarely on the shoulders of the proponents of
although higher rates of gun ownership may not
necessarily reduce crime in all societies, in no
case can it be demonstrated that higher gun
ownership rates cause higher crime.
relationship between firearms and crime may be one
of correlation more than causation, but the
correlation is a good one: More guns may not always
dictate less crime. . . but more guns definitely go
hand-in-hand with less crime.
advocates of gun bans bear the burden of proving
otherwise before imposing more onerous laws.
and Mauser conclude in their study:
gun availability is viewed as a cause or as a mere
coincidence, the long term macrocosmic evidence is
that gun ownership spread widely throughout
societies consistently correlates with stable or
declining murder rates. Whether causative or not,
the consistent international pattern is that more
guns equal less murder and other violent crime.
2009, National Rifle Association of America,
Institute for Legislative Action.
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