Liberal Dogma Biting Gun Owners

Thomas Sowell
February 25, 1999

For years, the tragic shooting of President Reagan's press secretary James Brady has been exploited politically by gun-control advocates. Federal gun-control legislation has been called "the Brady bill." Yet there was scarcely a peep from the liberal media when it was announced recently that the man who shot Brady — John Hinkley — will be allowed furloughs from the mental hospital in which he has been kept. Unfortunately, this is a classic liberal pattern — remarkably little concern over those particular people who actually commit crimes with guns, combined with ferocious crusades against law-abiding citizens who own firearms.

Furloughs, parole, probation or lenient sentences for violent criminals do not alarm the liberals. What alarms them is the thought that people who have never shot anybody might be able to have a gun in their home or business to protect themselves against the kinds of armed criminals that liberals allow to walk the streets.

Liberal dogma on gun control is like liberal dogma on so many other issues: Ordinary people cannot be trusted to look out for themselves, but must be put under the thumb of wiser and nobler people — such as liberals — through strict government regulations. According to the gun-control zealots, we will shoot each other in the heat of arguments if we have guns. Automobile accidents will lead to gunfire between the angry drivers. In other words, innocent people cannot be trusted with firearms. Far better to leave them helpless against armed criminals.

It is bad enough that liberals have this vision of the world. What is worse is that the liberal media will consistently ignore or suppress any facts which contradict that vision.

A recently published, massive empirical study by John Lott of the University of Chicago Law School shows the direct opposite of virtually everything in the liberal vision of gun control. Rising rates of gun ownership in particular counties across the country have almost invariably been followed immediately by falling rates of violent crimes in those counties.

This should not be a surprise to anyone. Violent criminals prefer helpless victims, not people who can shoot them full of holes. But where have you seen this empirical study mentioned in the media? Its title is "More Guns, Less Crime."

In those European countries where citizens almost never have guns, burglaries are far more common than in the United States, and the burglars do not spend nearly as much time casing the place before breaking in.

Similarly, in those American communities where liberal politicians have long had tight control, law-abiding citizens are similarly disarmed and similarly vulnerable.

As for the gunplay that would supposedly follow every fender-bender on the highway, John Lott has been able to find only one example. Two truckers had an accident and one was giving a brutal, bone-breaking beating to the other, until the second trucker pulled out a gun and opened fire, probably saving his own life.

Even in counties where a high percentage of the people are armed, bullets are not flying hither and yon on the highways — or anywhere else. There are usually far more shootings in places where the criminals know that ordinary citizens are unlikely to be able to shoot back.

Isolated incidents of accidental death from guns are inevitable in a country of more than a quarter of a billion people, just as there are accidental deaths from swimming pools, ski runs, wild animals and other causes. But only accidental gunshot deaths are played up big in the media.

The larger number of lives saved by armed citizens protecting themselves and their families are seldom reported, much less weighed against the isolated gunshot accidents. If our concern is for the safety of decent, law-abiding people, then all the facts need to be considered. But nothing that undermines the gun-controllers' vision is likely to be reported when the mass media show more concern for protecting liberal dogma than for protecting people.

In the media, it is all presented as a story of humanitarian efforts by the good guys to save lives against the evil resistance of the National Rifle Association. In the media, James Brady is repeatedly put on the screen when the issue comes up. Meanwhile, the man who shot Brady gets furloughs and nobody cares.


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