by George Jonas
September 20, 2004
Earlier this month a paper published by the Fraser Institute landed on my desk. The Failed Experiment is Professor Gary Mauser's look at the relationship between firearms control and criminal violence. It brought to my mind an anecdote I heard from my father.
In the late 19th century, a young Viennese lawyer became county administrator in a remote corner of the old Austro-Hungarian monarchy. Being a reform-minded urban intellectual, he was aghast to discover that in the local market-town Saturday nights at the pub often ended in mayhem. The frisky lads of the district couldn't resist stabbing each other with the knives they all carried in their boot-tops.
The new administrator decided to put an end to this barbaric practice.
"Here's what you do," he told his sheriff. "Come Saturday, you and your deputy go to the pub. As the lads come in at sundown, you tell them to take the knives from their boot-tops and hand them to you. No ifs and buts. When they leave, they can get their knives back."
The constables obeyed, as did the local lads. A couple of months passed. The progressive administrator had already put his mind to other matters, when the sheriff knocked on his door again.
"I was thinking, sir," he said to the liberal reformer, "that perhaps we had better let the lads keep their knives, after all."
"What are you babbling about? I hear no one was stabbed at the pub for months."
"That's just it, sir" the sheriff replied. "The lads that got stabbed, they mostly recovered. But the lads that get hit on the head with an oak bench, see -- with respect, they don't stand a chance."
In our days, Prof. Mauser plays the role of the sheriff, along with some like-minded scholars, firearms experts, lawyers and criminologists. Last year, a group of them held a symposium in London, England, and recently released a DVD about it. Called A Question of Balance, the one-hour presentation reviews, in Prof. Mauser's words, "the academic critique of the United Nations' efforts to ban or tightly control firearms."
As part of the London symposium, Prof. Mauser's paper examines "the failed experiment" of gun control in Canada, Australia, England and Wales. Like the sheriff in the anecdote, by looking at the overall consequences of a policy, Prof. Mauser comes to the conclusion that gun control laws, far from reducing criminal violence in a given society, tend to increase it.
"The widely ignored key to evaluating firearm regulations," he writes, "is to examine trends in total violent crime, not just firearms crime." This is precisely the sheriff's point.
The statistical evidence seems persuasive. On the whole, violent crime rates have been falling and rising in inverse proportion to the extent and severity of gun control laws. In America, where 35 states permit qualified citizens to carry concealed handguns, violent crime rates have been dropping. In Britain, where handguns are banned and confiscated, violent crime, including firearms crime, continues to grow.
I doubt, though, if the evidence offered by Prof. Mauser and his colleagues will do much to influence public policy in the short run. At present, public policy is in the thrall of the anti-gun lobby -- yes, there is an anti-gun lobby, though there isn't much talk about it in the media -- and the anti-gun lobby is guided by its own agendas and phobias, not by evidence.
Showing that a person is less likely to become a victim of violent crime in, say, Switzerland, where people of military age aren't only permitted but obliged to have automatic assault rifles in their homes, than in, say, Britain, where no person is permitted to own a handgun, won't cut much ice with either the rational or the irrational opponents of firearms.
Irrational opponents have a visceral aversion to guns. It may, perhaps, be modified by hypnosis or psychotherapy but not by evidence or argument. Rational opponents have no phobias as such, but they have a political agenda. They recoil from seeing weapons -- symbols of individual sovereignty -- in the hands of private citizens. It interferes with their ideal of power that, in their view, ought to belong exclusively to the state. Perhaps such people have a phobia, after all: a phobia to liberty.
The gun lobby is usually described as "powerful" in the media, but in fact the anti-gun lobby is far more powerful and pervasive in most Western societies. Being urban and well-connected, culturally as well as economically, it has the ear of administrators and legislators. A successful lobby well entrenched in the corridors of power is unlikely to be swayed by the statistical evidence and common sense arguments of Prof. Mauser and his colleagues. More's the pity. Listening to the scholars and experts on A Question of Balance -- the DVD is available from Snow Goose Productions, Mill Valley, Calif. -- could save Canada's taxpayers a cool billion on our useless gun registry alone.
© 2004 George Jonas
Letters on Gun Control:
Two sides to gun control
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Re: Ban The Knife, Beware The Bench, George Jonas, Sept. 20.
Mr. Jonas has, in one column, done more to expose the truth behind gun control in Canada and around the world than I have been able to do in the hundreds of letters that I have written on the subject over the past 10 years. His description of the anti-gun lobby is perfect: both the phobic and the ideologue are shown for what they are.
When it comes right down to it, gun control isn't about controlling guns, it's about controlling people -- and it is invariably those people who are the most law abiding that get "controlled," not the criminals.
Kudos to George Jonas for his most insightful column.
Bruce N. Mills, Dundas, Ont.
© National Post 2004
Thursday, September 23, 2004
Re: Gun Control, Online extra letter, Sept. 20.
Mahmood Elahi takes the cake when it comes to anti-gun extremist letter writers. Not only does he provide only one Canadian example of “gun misuse”, he uses Texas as some sort of archetypal example of the “gun culture”, and has to reach back into the mists of time to do so! Not only that, two of his examples are totally irrelevant. The Waco massacre wasn’t perpetrated by the Branch Davidians,but the United States Federal Agencies.
If anyone shouldn’t have guns, it’s the State, so they can’t use them against their own citizens.
The other example of the Luby’s Restaurant massacre is misleading, at best. Suzanna Gratia-Hupp was a survivor of the attack, by chance only. Because of the laws at the time, her legally owned handgun was locked up in her car, 20 feet away in the parking lot. She is convinced that if she had been allowed to carry it on her person that day, she could have made short work of the attacker, and saved several lives - including those of her parents.
Suzanna Gratia-Hupp is now an elected member of the Texas House of Representatives, and was the driving force in changing the law in Texas to “Shall Issue” Concealed Carry. Oddly enough, statistics show that licenced CCW holders are more law abiding than the Law Enforcement Officers of Texas.
Dr. John Lott has shown in his book “More Guns, Less Crime” that U.S. states that pass such CCW laws have a reduction in confrontational crime by an average of 24%, even while the rates for the same crimes are increasing in other, non-CCW States. There hasn’t been any concommittant “shootouts in the streets” that the anti-gun extremists always screech will happen when such laws are introduced. In the U.S., guns are used somewhere around 2.5 million times a year for self defence; 98% of the time, the gun doesn’t even need to be drawn, let alone discharged, for the criminal to suddenly remember an important engagement elsewhere.
Elahi’s other examples of snipers and wife killers are the exception, not the norm. The number of spouses killed by their husbands with firearms is minuscule. Actual numbers are hard to come by, because they are always expressed in terms of percentages of total firearms homicides, but there are on the order of 60 such homicides per year. While tragic, it is hardly an epidemic. It certainly isn’t worth pouring over $1 billion dollars into a black hole of a gun registry, and infringing on over a dozen Charter Rights of law abiding gun owners in the process.
Bruce N. Mills, Dundas, Ont.
It seems the author has done very little research into the accusations made about crime in Texas. It is Texas where law-abiding citizens have a right to carry handguns for self defense. It is Texas where the overall crime rate is the lowest since 1973. It is Texas where the murder rate is now lower than in 1966. It is Texas where the burglary rate is the lowest since 1966. It is Texas where the largest reduction in crime has actually occurred within the big cities. It is in Texas where "a South Houston couple were loading items into their car in front of their home when two young men approached them and struck up a conversation. The woman said the men made her uncomfortable, and she immediately backed away from them. She noticed that as one man kept talking the other was moving behind her husband and kept his hand deep in his pants pocket.
The woman ran inside and called 9-1-1 and then looked out her front window. One of the men now had a gun pointed at her husband's head. She then ran into another room and picked up a gun just as the second man burst into her house. He came straight at her, and she fired the gun, striking him in the arm. The wounded man ran from the house, shouting to his partner that he'd been shot. The nefarious duo then ran off in opposite directions. Police had the two 16 year old suspects in custody within minutes" (Southwest News, Bellair, TX.).
According to the National Center for Policy Analysis their statistics reflect very real improvements in public safety which are unlike similar studies done in Canada. "The number of murders reported is generally conceded to be accurate. So is the number of motor vehicle thefts because cars and trucks are relatively expensive, insured items. Between 1991 and mid-1995, murder in the state (Texas) fell 41 percent and motor vehicle theft 43 percent. Further, although many crimes are not reported to the police, the National Crime Victimization Survey shows that the reporting rates have been gradually creeping upward (up 20 percent since 1973), and better performance by the criminal justice system has stimulated even more reporting. Thus the decline in total crime, considering both crimes reported to the police and those not reported, may actually be even greater than statistics indicate."
Your writer recalls the 1991 massacre at Luby's Restaurant in Killeen, Texas where a mentally deranged person shot 23 people dead. If some or all of those people had been armed with a firearm the slaughter may have been prevented entirely. One hundred unarmed citizens were defenseless victims to a person who had a firearm. If those people would have had defensive tools (firearms) equal to those of their attacker they would have had the power to protect themselves. They had no firearms available to use thus they became victims of the aggressor.
The Columbine incident used by your writer is also a good example except it is projected from the wrong angle. Our schools are "gun free zones" thanks to the gun grabber Bill Clinton; schools are totally defenseless areas. They are now the easiest targets for terrorists; look at Beslan, Russia just recently. If teachers would have had firearms and knew how to use them, Columbine and Beslan may never have happened. Those teachers who want to carry firearms and are trained to protect our children should have the opportunity to do so immediately.
Joe Gingrich, White Fox, Sask.
To be fair, Switzerland's low crime rates may have less to do with their armed civilian populace and more to do with their aversion to letting dirty thugs into their nation.
Lawrence Kong, Windsor, Ont.
It has taken fully two days to get over the shock of seeing an column in your newspaper which actually deals with firearms in a non-emotional fashion (Ban the Knife, Beware the Bench, George Jonas, Sept. 20). I congratulate Mr. Jonas for both his factual presentation of the information from Professor Mauser's paper "The Failed Experiment" and his willingness to look beyond the emotion and phobias of all those who would oppose private firearms ownership in Canada and around the world.
Gun control has a history of backfiring on those countries with the strongest controls. The dictators and oppressors love gun control, as it is a tool to gather all the firearms into the hands of their military forces. We can all look at each other and think: "It could never happen here - not in Canada!" Hmm... sounds rather like what the German Jews must have been thinking in 1928 when their government passed the "Law on Firearms and Ammunition" which brought licensing and registration to the German people.
I recommend to all that you take a short break in your busy lives and watch the documentary called "Innocents Betrayed" put out by the Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership. Put aside your emotion and learn from the mistakes of other nations and cultures before it is too late to protect our own freedoms.
Steve Stubley, Mission, B.C.
© National Post 2004
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