Monday, March 18, 2002
After getting slapped down a couple of weeks ago by about 1/2 of the bloggers on the Internet for his weak and misleading article on gun crime, the New York Times' Nicholas Kristof, does an encore on Tuesday.
One of the biggest complaints from Kristof's earlier article was his comparison/contrast of the number of gun deaths in the United States, where guns are plentiful, and Japan, where they are rare.
But there's abundant evidence that having more handguns also means more gun thefts, more armed robbery, more suicide and more murder.
Japan, where I used to live, allows only about 50 people (all leading target shooters) to own handguns, and while criminals do smuggle them in, there were only 28 gun deaths (murders and suicides combined) in 1999, the most recent year for which figures are available. By contrast, the United States had 26,800 gun deaths in 2000.
Yeah, there's abundant evidence, if, like the majority of gun-control advocates, you ignore new research like that conducted by John Lott, author of "More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws."
Lott's sources are broad and inclusive, and his evidence the most extensive yet assembled, taking full account of the FBI's massive yearly crime figures for all 3,054 U.S. counties over eighteen years, the largest national surveys on gun ownership, as well as state police documents on illegal gun use. His unexpected findings reveal that many of the most commonly held assumptions about gun control and its crime-fighting efficacy are simply wrong. Waiting periods, gun buybacks, and background checks yield virtually no benefits in crime reduction. Instead, Lott argues, "right to carry" laws and legally concealed handguns currently represent the most cost-effective methods available for reducing violent crime.
In what may be his most controversial conclusion, Lott finds that mass public shootings, such as the infamous examples of the Long Island Railroad by Colin Ferguson or the 1996 Empire State Building shooting, are dramatically reduced once law-abiding citizens in a state are allowed to carry concealed handguns.
The key is allowing law-abiding, mentally stable people to carry a firearm and not criminals or the insane. Some critics have discounted the reference to crimes like the Long Island Railroad massacre, as ones that could have been prevented if law-abiding people had guns on their person. Of course, very recently a suicide bomber was killed in Israel before he could detonate the bomb strapped to his body because an observant Israeli noticed what he was doing and shot him dead -- saving lives.
What really got Americans' Irish up at Kristof was his little throwaway line that having more handguns "means more...suicide," in comparison to Japan. Kristof threw out the factoid that there were only 28 gun deaths (murders and suicides combined) in 1999.
Kristof left most people under the impression that there's less suicide in Japan, per capita, than in the United States. Well, that's a wrong impression to leave people with.
Friday June 30, 2000
Japan Suicide Rate Clings Near Record High
TOKYO (Reuters) - In November last year, an unemployed Japanese factory worker drove his car into the sea near Tokyo, taking his life as well as those of his wife and three young children.
This incident was far from isolated. Statistics show that more than 30,000 Japanese killed themselves last year--the second highest figure on record, and a grim sign that social and economic turmoil still rocks a nation once known for stability.
If people want to kill themselves, they'll find a way. If guns aren't available, drugs, rope or driving your car into a lake will do the job.
In Tuesday's paper, Kristof describes his recent visit to heavily armed Yemen.
SUQ AL-TALH, Yemen — Want to buy a submachine gun?
This little market town in the wild, wild north of Yemen has more than 50 shops selling all kinds of toys for boys. A used Uzi goes for $170, a machine pistol with silencer is $350, and a brand-new AK-47 assault rifle goes for nearly $400.
Grenades are $4 each. An antitank mine is $22. A rocket-propelled grenade launcher is $500. An arms merchant I met here might even be able to find you an antiaircraft gun or a tank. No sales tax.
This is Yemen, where we're preparing to send American soldiers to open a new front in the war on terrorism. I admire the instinct of trying to boost security here, but the bottom line is that we're going to send our troops on a poorly defined mission into a country where they're not wanted, where grenades cost $4 each
The headline on the story: "Visiting N.R.A. Heaven."
Now, I doubt that Kristof wrote the headline. That's a copy editor's job. But it is symptomatic of the anti-gun attitude of the paper's editorial pages. It also shows how little the Times understands the vast number of Americans that own firearms.
Don't get me wrong, I think that people should have to take some safety/training class before they're allowed to purchase a gun. I'm not too opposed to a short waiting period either, if that time is used to do a background check. I don't the general public should be allowed rocket launchers, heavy machine guns or anti-aircraft guns. I think my views are somewhere in the mainstream of American public opinion (I could be wrong, it's happened once or twice before). But for Kristof and his gun-control/gun-abolishment friends, anyone who thinks that law-abiding, private individuals have the right to own guns are a menace -- as dangerous as those gun-toting civilians in Yemen.
And if you're so bothered by gun registration, and so convinced that guns don't kill people, then consider moving to a nice mud-brick home here in Suq al-Talh. With you and everybody else carrying around an assault rifle, with armor-piercing rounds in your bandolier, with a couple of grenades in your pockets, you'll really feel safe. You'll love the freedom!
Mr. Kristof, your suggestion is juvenile. It's easier to argue on the extremes. But there's a lot of gray in this world. There is someplace in the middle, someplace between the extremes of Japan, where firearms are practically banned, and Yemen, where you can buy a rocket propelled grenade on the street. America is someplace in the middle -- and that's a good thing. Just leave it be.