L. Neil Smith's

Number 19, December 1, 1996

Private Firearms 'Almost Certainly' Save 400,000 Lives Per Year

By Vin Suprynowicz

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

         "Allowing citizens without criminal records or histories of significant mental illness to carry concealed handguns deters violent crimes. ... If the rest of the country had adopted right-to-carry concealed handgun provisions in 1992, at least 1,570 murders and over 4,177 rapes would have been avoided."
         As well as 60,000 aggravated assaults.
         That's the conclusion of the most sophisticated study yet undertaken of "Crime, Deterrence, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handguns," the title of the 45-page report released Aug. 15, 1996 by John R. Lott, Jr., of the School of Law, and David B. Mustard, of the Department of Economics, University of Chicago.
         The Chicago study did discover a down-side. Although criminals prove noticeably less willing to attack strangers when the chances of their victims being armed are increased by even a few percentage points, it does not appear this leads them to entirely give up their chosen line of work. Instead "property crimes involving stealth" -- burglaries and the like -- increase when the citizenry is better armed.
         Still, the financial gain to the economy from allowing the legal concealed carry of handguns by everyone but felons and the raving insane, the authors conclude, "is at least $6.214 billion," while some 400,000 law-abiding citizens per year report that their use of a gun -- usually without discharging the weapon -- "almost certainly" saved a life.
         The victim disarmament gang love to weep over their 18- and 19-year-old "child gunshot victims," even in cases like the one in Las Vegas last week, where it turned out the poor child had been busted for gang-related crimes many times, and was finally shot down in the act of stealing someone's tires.
         Yes, every death of a young person is tragic. But now let's place in the balance the estimated 400,000 law-abiding American citizens whose lives are saved each year because they or a family member had a gun. And that's before we even allow for the sensible argument of Aaron Zelman of the Milwaukee-based Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership, that government genocides occur only in countries where the citizenry has been disarmed.
         Once disarmed -- the political equivalent of giving up all inoculations as "no longer necessary" -- how many lives would the ensuing "North American genocide" likely cost us?
         The Lott and Mustard report cites and tends to confirm -- but does not depend upon -- the work of Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz of Florida, whose surveys for the journal Criminal Law and Criminology found 764,000 to 3.6 million defensive uses of guns per year.
         This number completely debunks "gun control" myths about how gun owners are more likely to injure themselves or their loved ones than to scare off a criminal, since those gun-grabber "statistics" count only gunshot incidents written up by police, not the far more numerous occasions when merely displaying a weapon sends a potential assailant heading in the opposite direction in a hurry.
         Crimes committed by those with permits? Florida issued 221,443 firearms licenses between Oct. 1, 1987 and April 30, 1994. Only 18 of those licensees were ever charged with crimes.
         Meantime, Lott and Mustard reveal that: "Police accidentally killed 330 innocent individuals in 1993, compared to the mere 30 innocent people accidentally killed by private citizens who mistakenly believed the victim was an intruder."
         Curiously, I have yet to hear any "gun control" advocate calling for a ban on these dangerous "police officers" carrying firearms.
         And this statistic of 330 "accidental" police killings wouldn't even include the police murders of Vicki Weaver, millionaire recluse Donald Scott, or several dozen innocent women and children in Waco, Texas.
         Why is "concealed carry" better? "By the very nature of these guns being concealed, criminals are unable to tell whether the victim is armed before they strike, thus raising criminals' expected costs, ..." the authors report. In other words, this policy tends to help protect even those who choose not to go armed.
         Even the headlines of the newspaper stories cited by Messrs. Lott and Mustard read like a catalogue of "Stories Handgun Control hopes you'll never hear," one of my favorites being The New York Times' entry of Sept. 7, 1995: "Burglar Puts 92-year-old in the Gun Closet and is Shot."
         The good news, in short, is that the number of states requiring authorities to issue, without discretion, concealed-weapons permits to "qualified applicants" has increased from nine to 31 just since 1986, and violent crime has dropped consistently in those very states.
         Of course, this begs the question of why anyone should be required to apply for a "permit" to carry a firearm, under a form of government which this people agreed to ratify only upon the guarantee that "the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed."
         Doesn't it?

Vin Suprynowicz is the assistant editorial page editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. The web site for the Suprynowicz column is at http://www.nguworld.com/vindex/.

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