Mad Prophet's Sanctuary

Packing Heat: The Safest Bet

by Dr. Paul Gallant

"Gun Industry Fears Litigation Costs" headlined a story from the Associated Press on March 20. It noted that several cities have been represented by the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence in lawsuits against gun makers.

In an effort to justify the Bridgeport lawsuit against Sturm, Ruger & Co., CPHV legal director Dennis Henigan declared: "... its [business] decisions have cost people's lives..."

Henigan omitted one fact: guns save lives, too, far more than they cost! According to University of Chicago researcher Dr. John Lott, "citizens use guns to prevent crimes about five times more frequently than crimes are committed with guns."

That's a fact America's anti-self-defense lobby will never acknowledge. Because in order for the firearm-prohibitionists to prevail, they need to show that civilian disarmament benefits us: our husbands, our wives, and our children.

It also requires them to frighten us into believing that our firearms aren't worth the danger they pose, and that self-defense with a gun is a risky proposition.

One of the caveats the firearm-prohibitionists have given us is that resisting a criminal attack with a gun only serves to escalate the level of violence. They further warn that a gun used for self-protection is more likely to end up in the hands of one's assailant.

But suppose we follow the advice of the firearm-prohibitionists. Will it save our lives? Or will it more likely cost us our lives, or the lives of our loved ones?

Some law enforcement professionals who advise against self-defense with a gun do so out of sheer political considerations. Others, however, do so generally because they mostly see only the worst-case scenarios. It's similar to the perceptions of a cancer specialist, who sees mostly very sick patients, not healthy ones.

Dr. Gary Kleck, professor at Florida State University's School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, elaborated: "Neither the defender/victim nor the criminal ordinarily has much incentive to report this sort of event...and either or both often have strong reasons NOT to..."

Kleck cautioned that "advising victims not to use guns to resist criminal attempts seems imprudent at best, dangerous at worst", a conclusion based on his own extensive research on defensive gun use.

Kleck found that victims who resist with a gun are less likely to be attacked, injured, or suffer property losses, than those who use any other means of self-protection, or who do not resist an attack - even when confronted by an attacker armed with a gun. Furthermore, Kleck concluded from existing data that armed defenders lose their guns to an attacker less than 1% of the time.

In an attempt to link lower rates of gun ownership with lower crime rates, firearm-prohibitionists invariably point to countries where guns are banned or severely regulated. A favorite example has been Great Britain, where handguns are outlawed, and possession of long guns is restricted.

Despite strict gun-control, a U.S. Department of Justice report shows that, as of 1995, rates for robbery, assault, burglary, and motor vehicle theft in England and Wales had surpassed those here in the States. On average, for all 4 crimes, English rates were double U.S. rates.

A January 14, 1999 column in the Washington Times by Dr. Joyce Malcolm traced the British government's efforts to disarm its subjects. Throughout this century, Brits have been incrementally conditioned to accept the notion that self-defense with a gun is never acceptable. Malcolm commented that "Englishmen afraid of visiting an America where 31 states now have laws permitting people to carry concealed weapons [are] shocked to learn they are at far greater risk of violence at home."

In a landmark case holding firearm manufacturers responsible for gun-violence through "negligent marketing practices", a verdict was returned on February 11, by a federal jury in Brooklyn. But the verdict was far from unanimous - in the words of the jury, they had reached a "compromise".

While firearm-prohibitionists cheered the decision, their celebration may be short-lived. Two days before the Brooklyn verdict, Georgia became the first state to pass a law prohibiting municipalities from suing gun makers.

About a dozen other states have since followed suit with similar proposals, and with good reason. A March 1999 study from the National Center for Policy Analysis pegged the net value of private firearm ownership - the dollar savings from defensive gun use, minus the costs of gun violence - at up to $38.9 billion, annually.

One might well ask why public officials who bring such lawsuits ignore the overwhelming benefit of firearm ownership, as well as the harm which would result from putting gun makers out of business.

In her closing argument, Elisa Barnes, lead plaintiff attorney in the Brooklyn case, likened handguns to "toxic waste". But Barnes has it backwards. Criminals who plague our society are the "toxins". Guns - in the right hands - are the sure-fire "cure".

Dr. Paul Gallant practices Optomtery in Wesley Hills, New York, and is a research associate with the Independence Institute, a free-market think tank in Golden Colorado.

From the Idaho Observer, April 1999. The same piece appeared in The Journal News, Rockland County, NY, on 04/15/99 as a "Community View" entitled "Allowing Americans to Carry Guns Protects All Society from Harm".

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