Chapter 3 Preface
A teacher was raped by a student one day during her first weeks teaching in Ohio. A writer was stalked by a man who used to live in her neighborhood, forcing her to move. A female columnist was threatened by a mugger on a bridge in Washington, D.C. Women often become victims of male violence, and many analysts are urging them to purchase guns for self-defense.
Ann Coulter, the columnist who nearly got mugged, reasons, “We can’t have a world without violence, because the world is half male and testosterone causes homicide. A world with violence—that is to say, with men—but without weapons is the worst of all possible worlds for women.” She claims that “without guns I’m what is known as prey.” Barbara Goushaw, the writer who was stalked, calls guns “a girl’s best friend.” She contends that firearms are the great equalizer between the sexes because guns make physical strength irrelevant. Gun advocates such as physician Andrew A. Johnstone— who attended the teacher who was raped—assert that women who arm themselves will be less likely to become victims of violent crime.
Although most people would agree that, generally, women are physically weaker than men, not everyone thinks that guns level the playing field. For example, a 1995 study conducted by the National Opinion Research Center found that guns actually make women less safe. According to the study, in 1998, for every time a woman used a handgun to kill an intimate...
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Guns Are an Effective Means of Self-Defense
While news stories sometimes chronicle the defensive uses of guns, such discussions are rare compared to those depicting violent crime committed with guns. Since in many defensive cases a handgun is simply brandished, and no one is harmed, many defensive uses are never even reported to the police. I believe that this underreporting of defensive gun use is large, and this belief has been confirmed by the many stories I received from people across the country after the publicity broke on my original study [which investigated the relationship between private gun ownership and violent crime]. On the roughly one hundred radio talk shows on which I discussed that study, many people called in to say that they believed buying a gun to defend themselves with had saved their lives. For instance, on a Philadelphia radio station, a New Jersey woman told how two men simultaneously had tried to open both front doors of the car she was in. When she brandished her gun and yelled, the men backed away and fled. Given the stringent gun-control laws in New Jersey, the woman said she never thought seriously of reporting the attempted attack to the police.
Similarly, while I was on a trip to testify before the Nebraska Senate, John Haxby—a television newsman for the CBS affiliate in Omaha—privately revealed to me a frightening experience that he had faced in the summer of 1995 while visiting in Arizona. At about 10 A.M., while riding in...
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Guns Are Not an Effective Means of Self-Defense
The images are grisly. Gunshot victims surrounded by paramedics rushing to waiting ambulances outside a school, a community center, an office building. Little wonder that people worry that a gunman with an assault weapon and a grudge could loose a reign of terror on anyone, any time, anywhere.
Such incidents reinforce a widespread myth that the number of shooting deaths in the United States is increasing. In fact, the number dropped to 32,436 in 1997, the latest year for which statistics are available, from a peak of 39,595 in 1993.
Guns and Self-Defense
But highly publicized shootings, no matter how rare, can prompt people to buy guns for self-protection, an act that, many experts say, actually increases the likelihood that the buyer or a member of his or her family will be shot.
More often the carnage occurs in thousands of small tragedies too mundane to make national headlines in a country where surveys have indicated that half the households have at least one gun.
“The odds that a home will be the scene of a homicide are substantially greater if there is a gun in the home,” said Dr. Arthur L. Kellerman, head of emergency medicine at Emory University in Atlanta, who led a team that studied shootings in Memphis, Galveston and Seattle.
And those homicides will have little to do with intruders. A number of studies have concluded that very few people with guns in the home ever use them to...
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Defensive Gun Use Is Common
Citizens continue to arm themselves as protection against criminals, adopting a simple credo: It’s better to have a gun and not need it than to need one and not have it.
Gunpoint confrontations in which armed private citizens turn the tables on violent criminals occur with explosive swiftness hundreds, perhaps thousands, of times each day in the United States. This guerrilla shooting war is almost invisible to the public, experts say, because combatants on both sides have qualms about publicity. While public debate focuses on the danger of citizens defending themselves, the media tend to ignore foiled crimes as unnewsworthy.
Opponents on the issue offer widely varying estimates, citing statistics showing that guns are used in self-defense 180 times a day to once every 13 seconds—a breathtaking number even to the National Rifle Association, or NRA, which culls a handful of such stories for its monthly magazine feature, “The Armed Citizen.” Whatever the total of potential victims who actually halt crimes with their own guns—a surprising number of them young women with babes in arms—they are growing in number. Among them:
• Two grandmothers in snowbound Moses Lake, Ore., who repelled an attack on their home by four men;
• A deacon in Apache Junction, Ariz., who wounded an armed robber in his church;
• A man in Brewer, Maine, who shot a robber in his front hallway after being slashed with a...
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Defensive Gun Use Is Not Common
Contrary to gun industry hype, . . . unfortunate and wholly unintended consequences happen often when people buy guns for self-defense. Scholarly studies by doctors and public health professionals have repeatedly found that having a gun around for any reason increases the likelihood that a family member—as opposed to a criminal—will be injured or killed with the gun. One study showed that members of families that had a history of buying a gun from a licensed dealer were twice as likely to die in a suicide or homicide as were persons similarly situated who had no such family history of gun purchase. This increased risk persisted for more than five years after the gun was purchased.
The Dangers of Keeping Guns in the Home
Other studies have looked specifically at the narrower question of keeping guns in the home for self-defense. One, published in The New England Journal of Medicine, found that having a gun in the home makes it nearly three times more likely that someone in the family will be killed:
Despite the widely held belief that guns are effective for protection, our results suggest that they actually pose a substantial threat to members of the household. People who keep guns in their homes appear to be at greater risk of homicide in the home than people who do not. Most of this risk is due to a substantially greater risk of homicide at the hands of a family member or intimate acquaintance. We did...
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Legalizing Concealed Weapons Makes Society Safer
Since 1986, the number of states in which it is legal to carry concealed weapons has grown from nine to 31, representing 49 percent of the country’s population. Should we feel safer?
Opponents of right-to-carry [concealed weapons] laws predicted a sharp decline in public safety because minor incidents would escalate into killings and more children would be victimized by more guns in irresponsible hands. Further, critics claimed that criminals would be undeterred by any increase in armed citizens. Indeed, they claimed that right-tocarry laws would increase crime rather than deter it. Experience has proven them wrong.
What objections do the critics offer?
Objection #1: Citizens Are Safe Enough Without Handguns.
Criminals commit 10 million violent and 30 million property crimes a year. Hospital emergency rooms treat an estimated 1.4 million people a year for injuries inflicted in violent attacks, according to a Department of Justice study.
Since the US Supreme Court and lower courts have held that the police are not obligated to protect individuals from crime, citizens are ultimately responsible for their own defense. Carrying a handgun allows millions to effectively provide for their own protection.
Objection #2: Concealed Weapons Do Not Deter Crime.
In choosing their crimes, criminals weigh the prospective costs against the benefits. If criminals suspect that the costs will be too...
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Legalizing Concealed Weapons Does Not Make Society Safer
An analysis conducted by The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, comparing the latest drop in crime rates among the states, provides compelling evidence that the gun lobby is wrong: allowing more people to carry concealed handguns does not mean less crime. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) Uniform Crime Reports, from 1997 to 1998 the nation’s overall crime rate dropped 6.4%, from 4930.0 to 4615.5 crimes per 100,000 population. More telling is this continuing trend where crime fell faster in states that have strict carrying concealed weapons (CCW) laws or that do not allow the carrying of concealed weapons at all than in states which have lax CCW laws. This strongly suggests that, contrary to the arguments made by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and others, states should not make it easier for citizens to carry concealed weapons in order to reduce crime.
Carrying Concealed Weapons Does Not Reduce Crime
From 1992 to 1998 (the last six years for which data exists), the violent crime rate in the strict and no-issue states fell 30% while the violent crime rate for the 11 states that had liberal CCW laws (where law enforcement must issue CCW licenses to almost all applicants) during this entire period dropped only 15%. Nationally, the violent crime rate fell 25%. The decline in the crime rate of strict licensing and no-carry states was twice that of states with lax CCW systems, indicating that there are more...
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