Self-Control, Not Gun Control

Are Guns to Blame for Violent Crime?

Mrs. Farmer is a freelance writer living in St. Francisville, Louisiana.

Disarm Americans. Force every law-abiding citizen to surrender all firearms and America will at last be a safer place to live. Sounds absurd doesn’t it? But the anti-gun lobby, fueled by misinformation—and the FBI’s unprecedented political support of gun control—is effectively eroding Americans’ constitutional right to keep and bear arms.

Passage of the Brady Bill was strategically important. Brady II, which will require federal licensing and registration of all guns, has been submitted to Congress. We can expect more restrictive legislative initiatives to follow.

Meanwhile, Americans are fearful, almost desperate, as they are assailed with reports of an exploding crime wave.[1] Proponents of gun control promise safety and protection in exchange for our civil liberties. That’s not a new promise, but it is an empty one. All totalitarian regimes disarm their citizens.

Routinely, superficial theories are offered to explain the orgy of violent crime in our nation. The fundamental reason is ignored. Self-control—not gun-control—is the key to preventing anarchy in America.

It’s Up to the Individual

Personal accountability has virtually been abandoned in our social structure and is conceptually absent for an entire generation of young Americans. Amid a web of informational overload, one message is paramount. The moral standards, and internal restraints inherent in historic Western culture are obsolete. Human behavior has been officially unleashed. And if, in a hedonistic tantrum, one goes beyond the ever increasing limits of acceptable conduct, one need not look far for absolution. Society, biology, psychology, racism, sexism—anything—except the individual is now responsible.

It is as natural, and in their hands as deadly, for such a deviant to use a knife, a hatchet, a club. The Gainesville student murders are a case in point. Gruesome details of rape, stabbing, and decapitation were revealed after Danny Rolling, a career criminal, pleaded guilty to murdering five college students. Rolling suffers, we are told, from “intermittent explosive disorder, a rare condition characterized by aggressive, violent outbursts and sometimes by remorse.”

The Criminal as “Victim”

A glance at our criminal justice system shows there are minimal or often no consequences for criminal behavior. Criminals are routinely characterized as victims. Through plea bargaining, psychiatric defenses, prison furloughs, and early parole, they are put back on our streets. Seventy percent of all violent crimes are committed by only six percent of all criminals.

Demands to reform our criminal justice system are valid. But it’s a long road back to sane procedures and substantive justice. Instilling self restraint and responsible behavior will not be instantaneous or easy. It is, however, our best hope.

Moreover, is it beneficial, is it moral, to surrender the right to effectively protect our children—ourselves? By capturing the moral high ground with their assertion: “If gun control saves just one life, then it’s worth it,” proponents of gun control are often successful in evading the alternative. “Existing gun control laws have already cost innocent lives.”

In October 1991, 23 people were murdered in Luby’s cafeteria in Killeen, Texas. The assailant reloaded his two pistols five times before the police arrived. Texas law, which prohibits carrying firearms, insured that all the victims would be unarmed and defenseless. Most of us remember the Luby’s massacre. It was national news, and is often cited as proof of the need for still more comprehensive gun control.

Shoney’s in Anniston, Alabama, just two months later, was the scene of another violent encounter involving two criminals with stolen pistols who forced employees and 20 customers into the walk-in refrigerator of the restaurant. You probably don’t remember the Shoney’s episode. Most people have never heard about it. It never made the national news. (National coverage is rare when guns are used to save lives.) Unlike Texas, the only people killed this time were the two criminals. Thomas Glen Tarry, a courageous citizen who was legally armed under Alabama law, fatally shot both outlaws, and saved the lives of 20 innocent people.[2]

The Right to Defend One’s Self

In a landmark study on crime control, criminologist Gary Kleck explains that “Victim gun use in crime incidents is associated with lower rates of crime completion and of victim injury than any other defensive response, including doing nothing to resist.” According to Professor Kleck, “victim gun use may be one of the most serious risks a criminal faces.”[3] Fear of confronting an armed citizen is a deterrent that also benefits the roughly 50 percent of American families who don’t own firearms. If Janet Reno and her allies prevail, only criminals will be armed.

Far from vigilantism, the right to keep and bear arms is affirmed in our Constitution, and is rooted in centuries of responsible citizenship.

But while the constitutionality of gun control laws is being argued, empirical evidence has shown they simply don’t work. Already, there are over 20,000 gun control laws in the United States. A 1982 National Institute of Justice report concluded that such laws had no impact in reducing criminal violence.[4]

To remove guns from law-abiding citizens presumes that guns are to blame for violent crime, and shifts responsibility from the individual to an object. It has been said before. It’s worth repeating: guns don’t kill people; people do.

1.   For countervailing perspective on crime trend see, Rich Henderson, “Crime Story,” Reason, June 1994, p. 14.

2.   David B. Kopel, “The Violence of Gun Control,” Policy Review, Winter 1993, p. 7.

3.   Professor Gary Kleck, “Crime Control Through the Private Use of Armed Force,” Social Problems, February 1988, pp. 16, 2.

4.   Kopel, p. 16.

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