NORMAN — Editor, The Transcript:
In her Transcript letter on Jan. 21, Allison Lee Palmer argued that the “benefits of gun laws outweigh the gun hazards.” This is the same tired argument that people have made for decades.
Palmer’s conclusion is not supported by any objective statistics or facts. On the contrary, the evidence suggests that more guns in the right hands results in less crime (www.gunfacts.info).
Palmer compared guns to cigarettes. Yes, both cigarettes and firearms can be hazardous. The difference is that cigarettes offer no benefit to society. In contrast, guns have a variety of useful purposes. If there were no benefit to be derived from firearms, we would not equip our police and military with them.
The Founders of our country considered civilian gun possession to be so important that they guaranteed our right to keep arms as “necessary to the security of a free state.” Guns in the hands of civilians are also commonly used to prevent crime, and firearms are widely employed for recreational and sporting purposes. So much for the comparison with cigarettes.
According to the FBI, over the last 20 years, the violent crime rate in the U.S. declined by 49 percent, even as gun ownership soared. Do you remember the dire predictions that were made in Oklahoma and other states of what would happen if people were allowed to carry concealed weapons? We were warned of Wild West scenarios with gunfights on every street corner. That didn’t happen. We now have millions of people carrying weapons in nearly every state in the Union, and crime rates have dropped precipitously.
Palmer argued that gun rights should be restricted because the number of people killed by guns “far outweighs the number of lives saved by guns.” There are a number of flaws in this reasoning. First of all, Palmer lumped normal people together with criminals and the mentally ill. More than 60 percent of gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides. Of the remaining 40 percent, many gunshot victims are criminals in gangs shot by other criminals.
Palmer assumed that the only benefit to having a gun is to save a life. But guns can also be used to prevent crimes such as home invasions, rapes, burglaries and carjackings. If you’re going to count the benefits, you have to count all of them.
Palmer did not differentiate between justifiable homicides and murders. Many people will remember the case from Oklahoma City last year where an 18-year-old mother guarding a three-month old baby used a shotgun to kill an intruder armed with a hunting knife. In Palmer’s accounting, this justifiable homicide becomes a “person killed by a gun” and is used as a rationale to disarm people and leave them defenseless in their homes. Most sensible people don’t think that way.
Peaceful, law-abiding people use guns every day to save lives and prevent crimes. As long ago as 1995, criminologist Gary Kleck concluded that guns in the U.S. are used to prevent crimes 2.5 million times a years. You don’t have to necessarily discharge a firearm to prevent a crime. Even people who don’t own or carry guns are kept safer by gun owners. The fact that gun ownership is common in Oklahoma helps prevent crimes such as home invasions and carjackings.
About the only way people can still argue that restrictions on gun ownership reduce crime is to pick their statistics tendentiously. We are told repeatedly that gun homicides in the UK are far lower than in the U.S. But violent crime overall in the UK is nearly five times higher than in the U.S. Civilian gun ownership in Mexico is highly restricted, yet the murder rate is five times higher than in the U.S.
People who want to ban guns always present their plans disingenuously by talking about what they call “common-sense” restrictions. But, in fact, they don’t want “common-sense” regulations. Common sense means having more guns in the hands of people who use them lawfully and fewer in the hands of criminals.
What the gun haters want is to confiscate all civilian firearms, period. They will never stop until they get them all, and if you think otherwise, you’re naive. Several years ago, New York state limited legal magazine capacity to 10 rounds. Now it’s been reduced to seven rounds. How long do you think it will be before they get it down to zero?
In a rare moment of candor, Dianne Feinstein confessed “if I could have gotten 51 votes in the Senate of the United States for an outright ban, picking up every one of them ... I would have done it.”
Professor Palmer even wants to take guns away from elderly veterans, leaving them defenseless against thugs. Imagine being crippled in the service of your country and then being told you are not considered responsible enough to have a gun in your home to defend yourself from criminals.
Palmer wants to disarm veterans, but conspicuously absent from her letter was any explanation of how she plans to get criminals to turn in their weapons.
Recent events have made one thing very clear. We have among us a minority population of extremists who hate guns and want to end all civilian ownership of firearms by any means possible.
They have lost the criminological argument. In the Supreme Court ruling of District of Columbia v. Heller (2008), they lost the legal argument. About all they have left are fear mongering and popular hysteria. Unfortunately, these are powerful forces. If we don’t guard our rights zealously, we will lose them.