gun control1



In some cases, gun control may be favored even if the price is more death. Consider, for example, H. Laurence Ross\'s review of Gary Kleck\'s book Point Blank in the American Journal of Sociology. Kleck\'s book was awarded the Hindelang Prize, as the most significant contribution to criminology in the last three years; Ross praises Kleck\'s meticulous research and analysis, and Kleck\'s debunking of many of the myths surrounding the gun issue. And Ross does not deny Kleck\'s conclusion that, because handguns are frequently used by law-abiding citizens for lawful defensive purposes, the availability of handguns to law-abiding citizens results in a large net saving of innocent lives every year, even after accounting for the large number of handgun murders and suicides. Yet saving lives, according to Ross, is not the most important goal: "But despite the masses of data and the cleverness of his analysis and argument, Kleck has missed the point ... [To accept Kleck\'s viewpoint is to] embrace a society based on an internal as well as an external balance of terror. The social order is seen to rest adequately on masses of potential victims using the threat of gun violence against masses of potential armed criminals.... [The] spectacle is one that ought to disgust rather than cheer the civilized observer." Not only is Ross willing to sacrifice the protection of innocent life in order that "civilized" persons will no longer need to feel "disgust" at crime victims using force for protection, Ross actually looks forward to more criminal gun violence as a spur to further controls. After noting the "fate of James Brady" (confined to a wheelchair after being struck by a bullet intended for President Reagan), Ross notes approvingly that Brady\'s tragedy provided "impetus for attempts at broader control." Ross looks forward to the spur of "more incidents, more heinous ones with more tragic or important victims, to develop the necessary determination" for society to progress beyond "narrow controls" to the confiscation of all firearms (Ross, 1992).(p.13)
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[13] Alan Lizotte and Jo Dixon, "Gun Ownership and the \'Southern Subculture of Violence,\'" American Journal of Sociology 93 (1987): 383. This approval of "defensive force" must be distinguished from generally "violent attitudes" (as defined by approval of violence against social deviants or dissenters). Gun owners are no more likely to have generally violent attitudes than are nonowners. Indeed, the holders of violent attitudes were less likely than the average gun owner to approve of defensive force (perhaps perceiving it would be directed against violent people like themselves).
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Discussion
More guns more crime? More guns less crime? Without the entire picture, one could play all sorts of statistical games with the above data. Depending on the starting year and time frame, we could find "evidence" to support either position. However taking the long view it appears that the gun supply does not have a significant impact on total homicides or suicides. (Since 1945 the handgun per capita rate has risen by over 350% and over 260% for all firearms.)
Kleck in Targeting Guns commenting on the gun stock relationship:
"About half of the time gun stock increases have been accompanied by violence decreases, and about half the time accompanied by violence increases, just what one would expect if gun levels had no net impact on violence rates. The rate of gun suicide is correlated with trends in the size of the gun or handgun stock, but the rate of total suicide is not, supporting a substitution argument--when guns are scarce, suicide attempters substitute other methods, with no effect on the total number who die. Trends in the size of the cumulated gun or handgun stock have no consistent correlation with crime rates."
Incidentally regarding non-lethal violent crime:
 Offenders were armed with a firearm in 10% of all violent crimes; a knife in 6% and some other object used as a weapon in 5%.
 Offenders used or possessed a weapon in an estimated 27% of overall violent incidents, 8% of rapes/sexual assaults, 52% of robberies, and 25% of assaults.
Source: Bureau of Justice Statistics, Criminal Victimization in the United States, 1993, May 1996.
Why is violent crime decreasing?
The FBI lists many major contributing factors to violent crime in their 1997 FBI Uniform