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Tom Sowell On Gun Control

Mr. Sowell is one of my favorite economists to be sure, but he also writes articles for several publications, today, he is talking gun control. As always, he doesn’t disappoint.  I thought I would grab a few excerpts and provide a little additional commentary on the side.

The key fallacy of so-called gun control laws is that such laws do not in fact control guns. They simply disarm law-abiding citizens, while people bent on violence find firearms readily available.

This argument doesn’t always convince everyone, because gun control laws can make it harder for those wanting to commit violence to obtain weapons legally. The problem is that only those people who are not any danger respect these types of laws and in doing so are not willing to seek guns by illegal means, while criminals don’t typically have such qualms. Guns are easy to get a hold of illegally in every country on the planet, even in countries that have strict gun control laws.

When it comes to the rate of gun ownership, that is higher in rural areas than in urban areas, but the murder rate is higher in urban areas. The rate of gun ownership is higher among whites than among blacks, but the murder rate is higher among blacks. For the country as a whole, handgun ownership doubled in the late 20th century, while the murder rate went down.

This is an extremely good point, and it goes along with my argument that those with concealed handgun licenses are 21 times less likely than the general population to commit a murder, and 7 times less likely than the general population in the UK, a place with very strict guns laws. Sowell is not making the point that blacks are more violent than white people, nor that people in urban environments are more violent than those in rural areas. What I take away from his data and my own research is that urban dwellers and blacks tend to identify with certain cultural groups that don’t see violence as abhorrent as those in rural areas, who identify with different ideas about the use of violence. Some urban cultural identities are the problem, not the race or gender of the people.

The few counter-examples offered by gun control zealots do not stand up under scrutiny. Perhaps their strongest talking point is that Britain has stronger gun control laws than the United States and lower murder rates.

But, if you look back through history, you will find that Britain has had a lower murder rate than the United States for more than two centuries – and, for most of that time, the British had no more stringent gun control laws than the United States. Indeed, neither country had stringent gun control for most of that time.

Vastly lower for many of those 200 years. I think this is once again mostly an issue of culture. Another thing that is different is the power the government has to force compliance, we have tremendous protections from police nosiness in the US, the UK has some, but nothing like what we have, which makes it much easier to enforce the law.

In 1954, there were only a dozen armed robberies in London but, by the 1990s – after decades of ever tightening gun ownership restrictions – there were more than a hundred times as many armed robberies.

And Sowell gives us another piece of the puzzle and it still looks like culture is probably the main issue.

He goes on to point out that a number of countries with stronger gun laws have higher murder rates than the US. In Russia I know the rate to be more than 200% higher than here in the United States and not only that but Russia is by far the largest exporter of black market weapons. All in all, Sowell doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, but he always does a nice job of connecting the dots for us.

I’ll wrap up by making the point again, that the laws we need to reduce violence are not those which ban certain types of weapons, ammunition, and cosmetic features. What we need are for people who are negligent with firearms to be held accountable for it, we do this with cars, why not with guns? There is some of that, but not enough. Personally I only keep one gun loaded, a 9mm handgun. The rest of my firearms I keep out in the open, but locked, the bolt or firing pin is removed from all of them and they are kept in my safe, rendering them all to be nothing but expensive clubs.

We also need to do a better job of finding and tracking those who are mentally unstable and also we need to do a better job of recording who has been stripped of their 2nd amendment rights, violent criminals, etc. Neither of those two proposals place any real burden on gun owners. I think it is likely that some atrocities would also be prevented with those two ideas in place.

Gun control activists need to be realistic and realize that no proposal keeps guns out of the hands of those who want them. They need to do some research and stop arguing based on emotions and ‘feel good’ laws like the purported assault weapons ban, which banned assault weapons in roughly the same manner and with the same effectiveness of a ban on unicorns.

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