By Rachel Alexander
Should we ban guns?
Those in favor of making gun ownership illegal say that it will prevent criminals from getting guns and committing crimes with them. However, studies show that banning guns does not lower the crime rate. In New York and Washington, D.C., where guns are illegal, the murder rate has gone up as much as 200 percent since guns were banned. Correspondingly, in the states which have recently adopted laws allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons, the violent crime rate has gone down, according to a 1996 study by Professors Lott and Mustard of the University of Chicago. Criminals will either obtain guns illegally (one-third of the illegal guns confiscated in Washington, D.C. are homemade), or will use other methods of violence. The killer of Nicole Simpson and Ron Brown didn't need a gun.
Surveys of law enforcement have revealed that 78.2 percent of police believe criminals will obtain guns regardless of how strict the gun control laws are. Former D.C. Police Chief Maurice Turner noted, "What has the gun control law done to keep criminals from getting guns? Absolutely nothing." In a study cited by columnist George Will, it was found that 93 percent of the guns obtained by violent criminals are obtained illegally and would not have been prevented by gun control legislation like the Brady Law.
How dangerous is society? One woman in the United States is raped every five minutes. Three out of four American women will fall victim to violent crime at some time in their lives. Women are abused two million to four million times a year. Not surprisingly, the leading researcher for the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, Dr. Arthur Kellerman, realizes the implications of what he has found and has stated that he wants his wife to carry a gun.
Blacks are 50 percent more likely to be violent crime victims than are whites and half of all murder victims are black. Restricting firearm ownership disproportionately hurts the black community.
A study done by Florida State University Criminologist Gary Kleck found that legally armed citizens protect their lives and property from criminals approximately one million times a year. In 98 percent of these instances, the person simply brandished the weapon or fired a warning shot. For these reasons, 92.9 percent of police surveyed said that private citizens should use handguns for personal protection.
Countries with stricter gun control laws do not reflect a lower crime rate. England has had twice as many homicides with firearms as it did before adopting its stricter gun control laws, and its handgun-related robbery rate rose about 200 percent between 1981 and 1992, five times as fast as in the U.S., as reported by Criminal Statistics England and Wales.
Despite the ample evidence that banning guns does not reduce crime, there are still some people who would like to ban all guns. These arguments, though well-intentioned, are based solely on emotion. An irrational fear and distrust of all citizens leads to disarming those who wish to participate in protection of their life, liberty and property, as is their right.
The Bill of Rights is a partial list of our protections from the federal government, not a list of governmental responsibilities. The Second Amendment says, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." The "militia" referred to all able-bodied males (since women and non-whites were excluded then). It certainly did not mean that only the government could bear arms, as those who would ban guns try to interpret it. During the debates to
ratify the Constitution, George Mason said, "I ask sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people, except for a few public officials."
We know that restricting gun ownership does not stop violent crime. It is time to put a halt to the emotional rhetoric which labels people criminals for wanting to protect themselves from real criminals.
Rachel Alexander is a second-year law student. Her column, "Common Sense," normally appears every other Monday.