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Some Notes on Gun Control

(A Handout to the Ill Informed)

by Faxanadu

In an overwhelming number of cases, the conventional wisdom regarding gun control is substantially, or even diametrically, inconsistent with criminological, legal, and other scholarship.

Repudiating his own prior support for banning hand guns, professor Hans Toch of the School of Criminology, State University New York (Albany), concludes that the best available current evidence shows that:

"When used in protection firearms can seriously inhibit aggression and can provide a psychological buffer against the fear of crime. Furthermore, the fact that national patterns show little violent crime where guns are most dense implies that guns do not elicit aggression in any meaningful way. Quite the contrary, these findings suggest that high saturations of guns in places, or something correlated with that condition, inhibit illegal aggression." [1]

Professor Brandon Centerwall of the School of Public Health, UoW:

"If you are surprised by my findings, so am I. I did not begin this research with any intent to "exonerate" handguns, but there it is a negative finding, to be sure, but a negative finding is nevertheless a positive contribution. It directs us where not to aim public health resources." [2]

From Dean Joseph Sheley of the School of Social Science, California State University of Sacramento, and his colleagues:

"[The problem of urban youth violence] will not yield to simplistic, unicausal solutions. In this connection, it is useful to point out that everything that leads to gun related violence is already against the law. What is needed are not new and more stringent gun laws but rather a concerted effort to rebuild the social structure of inner cities." [3]

Gun accidents kill 10 to 20 children under age 5 each year, as common as deaths at that age from ingesting iron supplements prescribed for mothers after birth. Gun accidents kill about half as many children annually as the ingestion of common household poisons. Gun accidents rarely involve pre-adolescents of any age. [4]

Typical of the wild exaggeration that regularly appears is USA Today's claim that fourteen thousand fatal gun accidents occur each year; the actual number is fourteen hundred. In comparison, as many as 2.5 million victims use guns to defend against crime each year. If the public is unaware of this, it is because the media do not mention the 2.5 million figure and report only a tiny proportion of such defense incidents. Nevertheless, the total number of defense uses is so large that the tiny proportion reported still constitute a goodly number. Yet consumers of the popular media are unlikely to realize how common such incidents are because even when reported locally, defensive gun uses somehow never manage to make the national news, unlike the far, far fewer instances of children being killed in gun accidents. [5, 6, 7]

The one exception is that a defensive gun use that seems to have gone wrong can become nationwide news. Those who get their information from the popular media are unlikely to realize that erroneous killings by civilians total only about thirty per year; even less likely is the average person to know how favorably this compares to the police who erroneously kill five to eleven times more innocent people each year. [8]

Hanguns are used by victims to repel crime as much as 3 times more than they are used to commit them. [9]

Criminological data and studies have definitively established that, compared to victims who resisted with a gun, victims who submitted were injured about twice as often; also, of course, nonresisters were much more likely to be raped or robbed. [10]

The doyen of American Criminologists, University of Pennsylvania Professor Marvin Wolfgang:

"I am as strong a gun control advocate as can be found among the criminologists in this country. If I [had the power] ... I would eliminate ALL guns from the civilian population and maybe even from the police. I hate guns -- ugly, nasty instruments designed to kill people. Nonetheless the methodological soundness of the current Kleck and Gertz study is clear. I cannot further debate it. The Kleck and Gertz study impresses me for the caution the authors exercise and the elaborate nuances they examine methodologically. I do not like their conclusions that having a gun can be useful, but I cannot fault their methodology. They have tried earnestly to meet all objections in advance and have done exceedingly well. [11]

It can be seen here again that the popular media is suppressing scholarly research that contradicts conventional wisdom. [12]

Proponents of total gun control have stated self-defense is not a personal right but rather a social evil that ought to be eliminated to the extent possible. [13, 14]

A later study that differed from the earlier one both in its conclusions and in its extensiveness of its data. Done by University of Chicago economists, its findings were based on data from all 3,054 American counties. Perhaps more important to the Times however, was that the data showed that liberal allowance of concealed handgun carry by thirty-one states had coincided with a reduction of thousands of murders, rapes, and other violent crimes in those states. [15] The authors tentatively concluded that adoption of such policies by the other 19 states would save many more lives and prevent thousands more violent crimes.

New York City Police issue conceal and carry handgun licenses only to affluent individuals including Donald Trump, numerous Rockefellers and DuPonts, and a raft of politicians, celebrities and millionaires. Perhaps because its own publisher was one of these licensees, the New York Times never found this story fit to print. It is ironic that in lieu of such info, the Times gives readers editorials asserting that "the urban handgun offers no benefits," interalia, because "most civilians, whatever their income level are likely to lack the training and alertness" required to "use a gun to stop an armed criminal." [16, 17, 18]

A child under 15 is 351% more likely to drown at home in an unattended swimming pool or bathtub than to be killed in a handgun accident. Editorialists often assert that no one really needs a handgun. It would be more accurate to say that no one, except the disabled, needs a bathtub, and that in most areas even Olympic swimmers do not need home swimming pools. Does it follow that home swimming pools and bathtubs should be subject to a licensing system under which they are forbidden to all except that disabled and anyone else who can satisfy the authorities that they have a pressing need that cannot otherwise be met? In raising this rhetorical question I am aware that handguns and swimming pools are different things and may require different policy responses. A vital difference, for instance, is that swimming pools do not prevent millions of violent crimes annually. [19]

As a class, gun owners are routinely reviled by the popular media as "gun lunatics", "terrorists", people who represent "the worst instincts in the human character", etc. [20] Contrast this to the facts sociological and psychological research reveal about the character of gun owners as a class:

Middle and upper-income people are significantly more likely to own [firearms] than lower income people. Gun owners are not, as a group, psychologically abnormal, nor do attitude surveys show them to be more racist, sexist, or violence-prone than nonowners" Gun ownership is higher among middle-aged people than in other age groups, presumably reflecting higher income levels and the sheer accumulation of property over time. Married people are more likely to own guns than unmarried persons. Probably fewer than 2 percent of handguns and well under 1 percent of all guns will ever be involved in even a single violent crime. Thus, the problem of criminal gun violence is concentrated within a very small subset of gun owners. [21]

It is clear that only a very small fraction of privately owned firearms are ever involved in crime or [unlawful] violence, the vast bulk of them being owned and used more or less exclusively for sport and recreational purposes, or for self-protection. [22]

Studies find gun owners do differ from nonowners in some ways. Gun owners are more likely to approve "defensive" force, ie., force used to defend victims; in contrast, those with "violent attitudes" (who condone violence against social deviants or dissenters) are no more likely to own guns than not. A study of citizens who rescued crime victims or arrested violent criminals found these Good Samaritans were two-and-half times more likely to be gun owners than non-owners. [23, 24]

"...the conventional wisdom [is] that most murders are perpetrated by ordinary people, and only because they had firearms available in a moment of ungovernable anger. The endlessly repeated argument for banning firearms is that "most [murderers] would be considered law abiding citizens prior to their pulling the trigger"; "most shootings are not committed by felons or mentally ill people, but are acts of passion that are committed using a handgun that is owned for home protection." [25]

"The point of these falsehoods is to evade the problem of gun bans being unenforceable. The embarrassing fact that criminals are not going to obey gun bans can be evaded by misrepresenting murder as something committed by "law-abiding citizens." But "the use of life threatening violence in this country is, in fact, largely restricted to a criminal class and embedded in a general pattern of criminal behaviour". [26]

This is documented by homicide studies so numerous and consistent that their findings "have now become criminological axioms" about the "basic characteristics of homicide". "Local and national studies dating back to the 1890's show that in almost every case murderers are aberrants exhibiting life histories of violence and crime, psychopathology, substance abuse, and other dangerous behaviours. Looking only to prior criminal records, roughly 90% of adult murderers had adult records, with an average adult criminal career of six or more years, involving four major adult felony arrests." [27, 28]

Several recent criminological studies at Harvard have gained access to previously inaccessable records regarding juvenile violent crime. these studies show the average minor who murders has compiled at least five to ten prior arrests. Between them, "the relatively small number of very scary kids" who were identified as murderers in Boston in the years 1990 to 1994 had previously been charged with: 3 murders; 160 armed violent crimes; 151 unarmed violent crimes 71 firearms offenses, 8 involving other weapons; and hundreds of property offenses and drug offenses. The great majority of these murderers were gang members, though their murders were not necessarily "gang-related" (i.e., gang member beats girlfriend to death believing she has been unfaithful to him). [29]

"...available evidence as to juveniles who murder shows them to be as aberrant as adult murderers. ...if juvenile records of adult murderers were reviewed (which they are not), criminal careers would show much more than their average of four major adult felonies". "The fact that most murders occur among acquaintances does not mean they arise out of neighborhood or family disputes among previously law abiding people. Typical acquaintance murders involve murders between rival gangs, between drug dealers and their customers, and the murder of a woman by a brutal man who has savaged her on numerous occasions. [30]

Possession of firearms by the responsible, law-abiding citizenry is not a cause of murder. On the contrary, murders are committed by a relatively small number of very scary aberrants. [31, 32]

The National Institute of Justice funded evaluation of the literature on the criminology of firearms states:

"there is no good reason to suppose that people intent on arming themselves for criminal purposes would not be able to do so even if the general availability of firearms to the larger population were seriously restricted. Here it may be appropriate to recall the First Law of Economics, a law whose operation has been sharply in evidence in the case of Prohibition, marijuana and other drugs, prostitution, pornography, and a host of other banned articles and substances, namely, that demand creates its own supply. There is no evidence anywhere to show that reducing the availability of firearms in general likewise reduces their availability to persons with criminal intent or that persons with criminal intent would not be able to arm themselves under any set of general restrictions on firearms. [33]

An english gun control analyst has commented that no matter how restrictive and severe its laws, in any society there will always be enough guns available to arm those who are willing to obtain and use them illegally. Thus, "conventional wisdom" is wrong in thinking that gun laws can substantially reduce crime as it is in thinking that widespread gun ownership leads the law-abiding to murder. [34]

Gun Control -- A Historical Perspective

Whether you agree or not, it's an interesting lesson in history. Something to think about:

  • In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control. From 1929 to 1953, about 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
  • In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
  • Germany established gun control in 1938 and from 1939 to 1945, a total of 13 million Jews &others who were unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated.
  • China established gun control in 1935. From 1948 to 1952, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
  • Guatemala established gun control in 1964. From 1964 to 1981, 100,000 Mayan Indians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
  • Uganda established gun control in 1970. From 1971 to 1979, 300,000 Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
  • Cambodia established gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977, one million 'educated' people, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
  • Defenseless people rounded up and exterminated in the 20th Century because of gun control: 56 million (very conservative number).
  • It has now been 12 months (old numbers) since gun owners in Australia were forced by new law to surrender 640,381 personal firearms to be destroyed by their own government, a program costing Australia taxpayers more than $500 million dollars. The first year results are now in:
    • Australia-wide, homicides are up 3.2 percent
    • Australia-wide, assaults are up 86 percent
    • Australia-wide, armed robberies are up 44 percent
    • In the state of Victoria alone, homicides with firearms are now up 300 percent.

    (Note that while the law-abiding citizens turned them in, the criminals did not)

    Australian politicians are at a loss to explain how public safety has decreased, after such monumental effort and expense was expended in successfully ridding Australian society of guns.


1. From an article coauthored with his colleague Professor Alan J.Lizotte, "Research and Policy: The Case of Gun Control," in Psychology and Social Policy, ed. Peter Sutfeld and Philip Tetlock (New York:Hemisphere, 1992).

2. Brandon Centerwall, "Homicide and the Prevalence of Handguns: Canada and the United States, 1976 to 1980," American Journal of Epidemiology 134 (1991): 1245-65

3. Joseph F. Sheley and James D. Wright, "Gun-Related Violence in and Around Inner-City Schools," American Journal of Diseases of Children 146 (1992):682.

4. Alfred Blumstein, "Youth Violence, Guns and the Illicit-Drug Industry," Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 86 (1995): 10-36.

5. Compare National Safety Council, Injury Facts (Itasca, Ill.: NSC, 1999), pp. 16-17, 32, 101 (seventeen child deaths from accidents with all firearms combined in 1996, an estimated nine from handgun accidents) to the following figures for accidental poisonings of children in 1991: twenty-four died from ingesting a cariety of household poisons (ammonia, kerosene, pesticides); eleven dead from ingesting iron supplements; ten from antidepressants, "Iron Pills Lead List in Killing the Young," New York Times, 9 June 1992.

6. Compare NSC, Injury Facts, above to USA Today editorial, "Stop the Madness; Pass Sane Gun-Control Laws," 17 October 1991, p. 10A.

7. See Odessa (TX) American, 21 March 1996, p. 3B, and Lori Shawn, "Violence Shoots Holes in USA's Tourist Image," USA Today, 9 September 1993, p. 2A

8. David B. Mustard and John R. Lott, "Crime, Deterrence, and Right-to-carry Concealed Handguns," Journal of Legal Studies 26 (1997): 3n. 8 (police erroneously kill eleven times more often than do civilians, based on 1993 figures); Don B. Kates, "The Value of Civilian Arms Possession as Deterrent to Crime or Defense Against Crime," American Journal of Criminal Law 18 (winter, 1991): 130 (5.5 times more erroneous police shootings, based on 1970's figures).

9. Father Robert Drinan, S.J., coined the term "dangerous self-delusion" in his "Gun-Control: The Good Outweighs the Evil," Civil Liberties Review 3 (summer, 1976): 4. The Handgun Control, Inc., language quoted is from a book by its then chairperson, Nelson Shields, Guns Don't Die, People Do (New York: Arbor House, 1981): 124-25. To the same effect see, e.g., Matthew Yeager et al., How Well Does the Handgun Protect you and Your Family? (Washington, D.C.: Handgun Control Staff of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, 1976); Franklin E Zimring and Gordon Hawkins, The Citizen's Guide to Gun Control (1987): 32. And Public Health Articles Cited in Chapter 2 of Armed by Gary Kleck and Don B. Kates.

10. Self Defense with Guns, The Consequences," Journal of Criminal Justice, 2000.

11. Marvin E. Wolfgang, "A Tribute to a View I Have Long Opposed," Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 86 (1995): 188.

12. David McDowall, Colin Loftin, and Brian Wiersema, "Easing Concealed Firearms Laws: Effects on Homicide in Three States," Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 86 (1995): 193-206.

13. David McDowall and Colin Loftin, "Collective Security and the Demand for Legal Handguns," American Journal of Sociology 88 (1983): 1146.

14. New York Times, 2 November 1995, p. A-16; 15 March 1995, p. A-23; see the critique by Daniel D. Polsby, "Firearms Costs, Firearms Benefits and the Limits of Knowledge," Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 86 (fall, 1995): 207-20 and Gary Kleck and Don Kates discussion between them in Armed: New Perspectives on Gun Control, pp 221-30.

15. The earliest version of this study was Lott and Mustard, "Crime, Deterrance, Right-to-Carry"; a later version with greatly extended findings to the same effects is John Lott, More Guns, Less Crime, 2d ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000).

16. Typically, the Associated Press, and the newspapers that ran its story, simply accepted the false claims of antigun lobbying groups"though they would never have published a progun lobby group press release without checking its accuracy. Checking would have been easy in this case. As any reporter could have discovered by calling the University of Chicago, Professor Lott holds a position the Olin Foundation had endowed decades ago. Lott is just a successor to earlier holders of the same endowment. The Olin Foundation had no part in Lott's selection nor in the funding for his study. For an account by a Chicago Tribune columnist who did check, see Stephen Chapman, "Taking Aim: A Gun Study and a Conspiracy Theory," Chicago Tribune, 15 August 1996, p.31. As any reporter could have discovered by calling the Olin Foundation, it is entirely independent of the Olin corporation. The foundation was established in John Olin's will decades ago, and the corporation has no control over the Foundation or connection to it. See the Foundation chairman's letter to the editor: William Simon, "An Insult to Our Foundation," Wall Street Journal, 6 September 1996, p. A15.

17. See, e.g., Chicago Sun-Times editorial, 11 August 1996, p. 25. When Lott published a brief popular article on his results in the Wall Street Journal ("More Guns, Less Violent Crime," 28 August 1996, p. A13), then-Rep. (now Senator) Charles Sehumer (D-N.Y.) wrote a letter to the editor repeating the falsehood: "Gun Control Thesis Is a Shot in the Dark," Wall Street Journal, 4 September 1996. Perhaps aware of the falsity, Mr. Schumer carefully attributed this disinformation to the Associated Press's false report of the matter. Nevertheless the Wall Street Journal later printed both its own retraction and a letter to the editor by former Treasury Secretary William Simon, the chairman of the Olin Foundation. See last note.

18. Don B. Kates, "Handgun Prohibition and the Original Meaning of the Second Amendment," Michigan Law Review 82 (1983): 208, notes 16, 17. Emphasis added.

19. National Safety Council, Injury Facts"1999 Edition, 32 (138 children age 0 to 14 died in firearms accidents in 1996, an estimated 78 with handguns); Acciodent Facts"1997 Edition, 131 (470 drowned at home); National Safety Council, Accident Facts"1988 Edition (Itasca, Ill,: NSC, 1988), p.91 (three fourths of home drownings are in swimming pools or in bathtubs, implying approximately 352 such deaths of persons age 0 to 14 in 1996).

20. These are direct quotations from: Braucher, "Gun Lunatics Silence [the] Sounds of Civilization," Miami Herald, 19 July 1982; Lewis Grizzard, "Bulletbrains and the Guns That Don't Kill," Atlanta Constitution, 19 January 1981; Washington Post editorial, "Guns and the Civilizing Process," 26 September 1972; and a series of columns by Garry Wills, including, "the Terrorists Who Pack an NRA Card," Albany, N.Y. Times Union, 22 April 1996; "NRA Is Complicit in the Deaths of Two Children," Detroit Free Press, 6 September 1994; "Or Worldwide Gun Control," Philidelphia Enquirer, 17 May 1981; Handguns That Kill;" Washington Star, 18 January 1981; and "John Lennon's War," Chicago Sun-Times, 12 December 1980. See also the following cartoons: San Jose Mercury-News, 3 March 1989; Herblock cartoon, Washington Post, 21 March 1989 ("these guys who want to spray the streets with bullets"); Los Angelas Herald Examiner, 31 January 1989 (showing "Crips, Bloods and NRA" as "Three Citizen Groups Opposed to Outlawing Assault Rifles") Interlandi cartoon, Los Angelas Times, 16 December, 1980.

21. Gary Kleck, Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America (New York: Aldine, 1991), pp. 22, 47-48. Emphasis added.

22. James D. Wright and Peter Rossi, Armed and Considered Dangerous: A Survey of Felons and Their Firearms (New York: Aldine, 1986). p. 4.

23. Alan J. Lizotte and Jo Dixon, "Gun Ownership and the Souther Subculture of Violence," American Journal of Sociology 93 (fall 1987): 383.

24. Kates, "Civilian Arms," p. 125).

25. Quoting public health writers who hold leading positions in disparate antigun lobbying grous, respectively: Daniel W. Webster et al., "Reducing Firearms Injuries," Issues in Science and Technology (spring, 1991): 73 (emphasis added); and Katherine Kaufer Christoffel, "Toward Reducing Pediatric Injuries from Firearms: Charting a Legislative and Regulatory Course," Pediatrics 88 (1991): 300. A host of such assertions by academic antigun advocates are quoted in Don B. Kates and Daniel D. Polsby, "Long Term Non-Relationship of Widespread and Increasing Firearm Availability to Homicide," Homicide Studies 4 (May 2000): 192.

26. Delbert S. Elliott, "Life Threatening Violence is Primarily a Crime Problem: A Focus on Prevention," Colorado Law Review 69 (1998): 1085; see statistics cited on pp. 1085-97.

27. David M. Kennedy and Anthony Braga, "Homicide in Minneapolis: Research for Problem Solving," Homicide Studies 2 (1998): 267.

28. Unless otherwise referenced, all assertions in this paragraph are based on Kates and Polsby, "Long Term Non-Relationship"; Kennedy and Braga, "Homicide"; and Elliott, "Life Threatening."

29. See generally the following studies coathored by David M. Kennedy. Anthony Braga, and their colleagues: "Youth Violence in Boston: Gun Markets, Serious Youth Offenders and a Use Reduction Strategy," Law and Contemporary Problems 59 (1997): 159-60; "Homicide in Minneapolis," pp. 263-90; and "Youth Homicide in Boston: An Assessment of the Supplementary Homicide Report Data," Homicide Studies 3 (1999): 277. Professor Kennedy has other data on Baltimore and other cities being readied for publication.

30. U.S. Justice Department data analyzed by Gary Kleck, Targeting Guns: Firearms and Their Control, p. 236.

31. Daniel Polsby and Don B. Kates, "American Homicide Exceptianalism," University of Colorado Law Review 69 (1998): 969-1007.

32. Federal and state law generally bar gun ownership by felons, drug addicts, minors, and persons who have been formally committed to mental insitutions. See statutes cited by James B. Jacobs and Kimberly A. Potter, "Keeping Guns Out of the 'Wrong' Hands: The Brady Law and the Limits of Regulation," Hournal of Criminal Law and Criminology 86 (fall 1995): 93-95.

33. James D. Wright, Peter rossi and Kathleen Daly, Under the Gun: Weapons, Crime and Violence in the United States (New York: Aldine, 1983), pp. 137-38.

34. Colin Greenwood and Joseph Magaddino, "Comparitive Cross-Cultural Statistics," in Restricting Handguns, ed. Don B. Kates (New York: North Point, 1979).

For further information, read:

Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America

What is striking is that Prof. Kleck actually began this series of studies to "prove" that guns in the hands of citizens doesn't reduce crime. Ya see, Kleck is a liberal Democrat. He is a member of the ACLU, Common Cause, Amnesty International and supports the typical liberal agendas. When he got done crunching the data he found results that shocked him. At a minimum, Americans use firearms 2.5 million times per year in direct, face to face defenses. And that is Kleck's admittedly conservative estimate. Additionally, only 1% of the time is the thug shot, and only 0.1% of all encountered thugs are killed. Remarkable restraint, I'd say. Good people just left alone.

The bad news, Kleck received far fewer invitations to Florida State University cocktail parties. The good news, He won the Hindelang Award for the most significant work by a criminologist (in a whole bunch of years).

(Isaiah 33:22) For the Lord is our judge, the Lord is our lawgiver, the Lord is our king; he will save us.

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