Kids and Guns: The Politics Of Panic in the United States
by Paul Gallant
"Enough is enough. No more excuses. Call Congress and tell them to close the loopholes that give children and criminals easy access to firearms".
That was the plea from Susan Sarandon and Rosie O'Donnell in recent television ads aimed at Congress. With a "rare legislative victory" in sight according to an October 18 Associated Press story, Handgun Control, Inc. recruited the entertainers for an advertising blitz. The ads contained scenes from recent U.S. school shootings, and the shooting at a Los Angeles Jewish community center.
When it comes to "gun-violence" - especially when children are involved - America's anti-self-defense lobby is predictable: play to emotion, for all it's worth. The reason is simple: with emotion left out of the equation, Americans might just figure out the answer to "Why now?"
That answer does not lie, as we are told, in "easy access to firearms", or a "proliferation of guns among children", the latest media-fueled myths created to manipulate a gullible public into demanding "reasonable", "common-sense" gun laws.
These firearm factoids were created from two statistics: between 1984 and 1993, the rate at which homicides were committed by adolescents aged 13-17 quadrupled. And that increase is accounted for, almost exactly, by the increase in homicides committed with guns.
What we are not told is who, exactly, is committing all the crime, and where. The fine print tells the story: fueling almost the entire increase in "youth homicide" is gun-crime committed by inner-city youths, many of them gang members.
We are told by researchers from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) that "...the current understanding of exposure to and use of firearms by school-age children is based on studies of inner city children". Using unrepresentative samples to extrapolate conclusions about "youth homicide" to the rest of the country turns science upside down.
Yet we're asked to accept public policy for an entire nation based on research limited to "hotspots" often consisting of just several city blocks, as a February 1999 Department of Justice (DOJ) report so stated. According to that same report, the St. Louis youth gang homicide rate is 1,000 times higher than the U.S. homicide rate.
CDC researchers also tell us that "many adolescents, particularly...those who reside in inner cities, can easily and inexpensively obtain high-quality and powerful firearms." The mental picture that's painted for us is one of wildly proliferating - but lawful - firearm possession among our children, providing a pretext to "close all the loopholes".
Except....the DOJ's crime "hotspots" are located in areas where lawful handgun possession by teenagers is virtually forbidden. Unlawful, perhaps, but not unattainable. Their procurement involves a term firearm-prohibitionists avoid using like the plague: the black market - a consequence of government restrictions which deny lawful access to guns.
The lie of easy, legal access to guns by juveniles was exposed by Dr. John Lott, in the June 19, 1999 Wall Street Journal: "Gun availability has never before been as restricted as it is now." Ironically, Lott noted, "Until 1969, virtually every public high school in New York City had a shooting club. High-school students carried their guns to school on the subways......nowhere were guns more common than at schools."
Why no Littletons then?
Stricter gun laws have not made Americans safer - they've only made victims more vulnerable. The perpetrators at Littleton succeeded in their carnage for one reason only: no one was able to stop them. State and Federal laws had ensured the absence of armed law-abiding citizens.
Yet the mere suggestion of allowing responsible adults to carry firearms in and around schools is met with scorn, despite the research of Dr. Lott, with colleague Dr. William Landes, showing that such a policy provides the safest environment of all.
Americans have been brainwashed into believing their children are incapable of safely and responsibly handling firearms. However, nothing could be further from the truth. The cycle of gun ownership from parent to child has, in the past, always produced children capable of handling potentially deadly objects without harm to themselves - or to others. All available evidence shows that hasn't changed.
In an ongoing DOJ-funded study on juvenile delinquency, 7th- and 8th-grade adolescents in Rochester, NY, who owned one or more legal guns - i.e. obtained a gun from a parent - were tracked for 4-1/2 years. By the time they reached 11th- and 12th-grade respectively, not one had committed a firearm-related crime.
Children given guns, and provided the education to handle them responsibly and with respect for what they are capable of, are the most non-violent of all groups studied - and are less violent than teenagers who do not own guns, according to the Rochester data.
The demand for "reasonable" gun laws to close all the "loopholes" which allow children access to firearms is driven by fear-mongering and lies. What we are witness to is the politics of panic.
The writer lives in Wesley Hills and is chairman,
Committee for Law-Abiding Gun Owners, Rockland.