Gun Control Is a Substitute for Solutions

Article excerpt

Gun control is back. Suddenly it is the answer to everything from crime in our neighborhoods to health care costs.

President Clinton says we cannot have a healthy society until gun ownership is restricted.

The Brady bill will impose a national five-day waiting period for the purchase of a handgun. Sen. John Chafee, a Rhode Island Republican, would go further, prohibiting citizens from owning handguns.

Rep. Major Owens, a Democrat from New York, has introduced legislation to repeal the Second Amendment.

We've heard these arguments before, of course. For decades, the same people who have argued for gun control also have argued for disarmament - U.S. disarmament, in particular.

It was bellicose Americans, not misunderstood Soviets, whose arms were provoking international tensions and increasing the risk of war. The liberal solution was arms control. But history and experience have shown that a strong military with effective armament is the best guarantor of peace, be it in Western Europe, Kuwait or South Korea.

Gun control would be as self-defeating as arms control. Unilateral disarmament of law-abiding citizens in the face of armed criminals is as ill-conceived as disarmament of a nation faced with international aggression.

Gun control is a shibboleth likely to turn citizens into victims before it turns criminals into citizens. For starters, disarming our citizenry is an authoritarian step inconsistent with our heritage. Since 1776 it has been understood that individuals have both the right and the responsibility to protect their lives, liberty and property.

The framers of the Constitution thought the right of self-defense to be so important that they included the right to bear arms in the Bill of Rights, along with freedom of speech, due process and trial by jury. Requiring citizens to give up a legitimate right because the government thinks they should would be un-American and authoritarian.

Nor does prohibition of gun ownership work. In 1977 the District of Columbia stopped issuing permits for handgun purchases; in the 16 years since, the homicide rate has tripled, to 75.2 for each 100,000 residents. The U.S. average is 9.3.

Waiting periods such as those in the Brady bill are ineffective as well. The 1992 FBI Uniform Crime Reports show that states and cities with waiting periods and other firearm purchase restrictions have higher overall rates of violent crime that those that do not. …