America Will Be Safer If You Give Grandma an Uzi

by Brad Edmonds

Look at the Facts

Giving fully automatic weapons to old ladies sounds extreme, and Iím not claiming that people too weak to care for themselves should brandish sidearms; neither should drunks or children. But arming decent people, including your Aunt Bea, and arming them with – yes – machine guns if they want, is the way to make America safer for all of us. Let me explain:

Prof. John Lott has shown (see his book, articles, and testimony) that violent crime decreases when states and cities relax restrictions on gun ownership and concealed carry. Further, people holding concealed-carry permits commit an almost implausibly low number of violent crimes. I noted some figures earlier, and provided links, regarding revocations of concealed-carry permits following arrests of permit holders. Those impressive numbers become dramatically more impressive when revocations are counted only for violent offenses; they go lower still when only convictions are recorded.

Whether this success is due to self-selection (few felons march into the sheriffís department offering positive ID) or to the self-inhibiting awareness that you are both physically secure and legally liable (as I discussed a few weeks ago) is an interesting question, but the rule holds in every state regardless: Civilian gun toters are goodguys.

And itís not because theyíre shrinking violets – see Keep and Bear Arms and for daily news of the legal acts of law-abiding gun owners, from basic self defense to heroic intervention in defense of others.

Even policemen should be happy. Not only are they not threatened by permit holders, though some department chief in every state will claim so when laws are relaxed, but there is preliminary evidence from Prof. David Mustard that police in carry-permitting areas are safer after people begin toting than before.

Now, how about automatic weapons? This is almost common knowledge among 2nd-Amendment activists, but it was new to me: There are over 240,000 legally owned fully automatic firearms in the United States. There are also illegal ones; join a gang to get yours. But of all the legally owned machine guns, there has been one (!) occasion since 1934 where one has been used in commission of a crime, and that was by a policeman. (This startling datum is documented here and here; also interesting is that relatively few machine guns are used by criminals.)

"But why would anybody need a machine gun?" While violent crime generally is on the decrease in the USA, there are still pockets where residents are afraid to leave their homes even in daylight. And those areas with the fewest legal weapons are the ones in the worst shape – L.A., D.C., New York CityÖ

"But why a machine gun?" Well, for one small matter, drive-by shooters are hard to hit with a single-shot anything. Iím not recommending you spray the neighborhood when a suspicious car appears; rather, gang members will be less brazen when they believe the residents match or beat their firepower.

And most importantly, thereís home defense. Only an expert can use a pistol well when an intruder is moving; you and I would mostly miss. Pistols are for carrying, as when walking to your car. Shotguns are better in the home, but their recoil is too strong for weaker people, so Bea had better hit him with the first shot. By contrast, a small-caliber machine gun can stop a big, drugged-up felon even when used by a tiny and relatively inexpert citizen (though practice is requisite for responsible ownership) – many of these guns shoot standard 9mm rounds, and thus recoil gently, and they move a lot of lead. For older women living alone (among others), a small machine gun is the best firearm for home defense.

And no, civilians will not start shooting their families and the cable guy. Such accidents are surpassingly rare, and if Bea hasnít been terrorizing innocents with her derringer, she wonít do it with her Uzi either. The data show we should not be afraid of law-abiding people who own machine guns; nor of people with carry permits; nor of John Doe with a hunting rifle at home; nor of little old ladies, though I donít have data on them – Iíll assume they tend not to be violent criminals.

But you should be a little afraid of criminals, and you should be able to stop criminals who threaten your life, liberty, or property. Comprehensive data establish this: There is no sensible reason to deprive decent folk of the most effective tools of self defense, particularly since criminals donít play by our rules.

Limits on magazine capacity; vaguely worded, thus infinitely expandable, bans on "assault weapons"; limits on shotgun barrel length; and bans on fully automatic weapons are nothing but feel-good, do-bad laws that function as a violent assault on decent people through their empowerment of criminals and the government. All such laws should be repealed.

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April 23, 2001

Brad Edmonds, MS in Industrial Psychology, Doctor of Musical Arts, is a banker in Alabama.

Copyright © 2001

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