U.S. Gun-Control Laws Don't Save Lives

Insight on the News, November 10, 2003 | Go to article overview

U.S. Gun-Control Laws Don't Save Lives


Byline: Woody West, INSIGHT

Blessed are the experts who keep our complex hive buzzing or most of the experts, much of the time. But these necessary specialists, in their noisy swarms, also can obscure social and political questions that are intricate enough to begin with. Thus, there is a point when the shaman of the social sciences should be disregarded and mother-wit mobilized.

For instance, it does not require overcredentialed academics to commit study after study to conclude whether the graphic violence that is routine on television and in the movies has an effect on young viewers: It unarguably affects them. At the very least it dangerously denies the pain that always is part of violence in the real world.

An even more obvious area of attention is firearms. To those of liberal piety, gun control is not just the first commandment but all 10 (they have tossed the Biblical version over the side anyhow). Rid America of the curse of firearms, they loudly proclaim, and no one ever need lock his doors at night. That's nonsense. Gun control as these zealots conceive it would be effective only in disarming the law-abiding.

In the fierce argument over firearms control, a recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report will cause heartburn to the ban-the-gun brigades. As the Associated Press reported, "A sweeping federal review of the nation's gun-control laws including mandatory waiting periods and bans on certain weapons found no proof such measures reduce firearm violence." The analysts also noted after their review of 51 gun laws that "firearms-related injuries" in this country have declined since 1993 despite the fact that "approximately 4.5 million new firearms are sold each year."

Those of us with limited confidence in centralized power will not be astounded by the report, nor by the CDC's conclusion that it can reach no more declarative judgment because many of the gun-control laws it reviewed were inconsistent, overly narrow in scope or poorly executed. That the CDC even undertook this three-year review was a liberal ploy that has led to classifying gun violence as a public-health issue. It doesn't follow that government do nothing. But it must legislate with a sensible perspective of limitations and proportionality. That's a difficult chore, of course, given the ingrained tendency of democratic legislators to leap at the loudest noise.

With gun control, however, there literally are thousands of restrictive laws on various U.S. statute books, and yet the cry constantly is for more legislation. It's a sure indication of how futile laws can be when, on a given issue, more and more statutes on the same issue are passed to try to find a workable equation, and yet nothing changes. Some basic gun regulations clearly meet the criterion of social consensus denying possession of a firearm to thugs and loonies. …

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