Debate Club

Gun Restrictions Leave People Vulnerable and Helpless


When bad things happen with guns, the desire to ban guns is to take away guns is understandable. But doing that can often make problems worse.

For example, it might seem obvious to protect people by banning guns in areas. But law-abiding citizens, not those intent on committing terrorist acts, obey these bans. Instead of making places safer, disarming law-abiding citizens leaves them as sitting ducks. With just one single exception, every public shooting since at least 1950 in the United States in which more than three people have been killed has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry guns.

This isn't random. If it were, 98 or 99 percent of the attacks would occur in areas where people are allowed to carry concealed handguns for protection. Yet, all these attacks are squeezed into the tiny areas where guns are banned.

[See a collection of editorial cartoons on the Newtown shooting.]

Take the Aurora, Colo. tragedy. There were seven movie theaters showing the premiere of the Batman movie within a 20-minute drive of the killer's apartment. Only one banned guns, posting signs warning permit holders that their guns weren't allowed. Yet, the killer didn't go to the theater that was closest to his home. Nor did he go to the largest theater. He went to the single one where he didn't believe that others would be able to protect themselves.

There is a simple way of understanding this point. If a violent criminal were ever stalking you or your family, would you put a sign in front of your home announcing that you didn't own a gun? Probably not. Yet, even though no one puts up those signs in front of their homes, we put up those signs on all sorts of other areas.

Another comment we frequently hear is, "Why do people need a semi-automatic Bushmaster to go out and kill deer?" The answer is simple: It is a hunting rifle made to look like a military weapon.

The claim has frequently been made that there is "no reason" for such "military-style weapons" to be available to civilians.

[See a collection of political cartoons on gun control and gun rights.]

Yes, the Bushmaster and the AK-47 are "military-style weapons." But the key word is "style"—they are similar to military guns in their cosmetics, not in the way they actually operate. The guns covered by the federal assault-weapons ban (which was enacted in 1994 and expired 10 years later) were not the fully automatic machine guns used by the military but semi-automatic versions of those guns.

It just doesn't make much sense to campaign against semi-automatic guns based on their looks, not the way they function. If you want to ban some semi-automatic guns, you probably should go after all of them.

But the point isn't to help hunters, semi-automatic weapons also protect people and save lives. Single shot rifles where you have to physically reload the gun may not do people a lot of good when they are facing multiple criminals or when their first shot misses or fails to stop an attacker.

We all want to try to protect people, but, unfortunately, the cures being offered will leave individuals more vulnerable and helpless.

John Lott

About John Lott Author of 'More Guns, Less Crime.'

gun control and gun rights

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