International Statistics
Don't Support Gun Control

PUBLICATION: The Telegram (St. John's)
DATE: 2007.04.29
SECTION: Opinion
BYLINE: Allan Smith


We have been horrified by another tragedy. A deranged man with a pistol shot and killed 32 people.

Again, we hear the chorus, "Ban guns," "More gun control," "Only the police and military should have guns" (isn't that what's known as a police state?).

I am just curious about one thing: if the murderer had walked onto the Virginia Tech Campus with a bag of glass bottles full of gasoline, lit the wicks and started tossing them into groups of people ... would there be a uproar to ban gasoline and glass bottles? I think not.

When a drunk driver kills a person while under the influence of alcohol/drugs, do we blame the vehicle he was driving? No, we do not.

Why, then, do some in our society always blame the gun when someone commits a crime with one? A gun is a piece of machinery. It has no conscience, no morality and no independent will. It is as dangerous as the person who is holding it.

People who support draconian gun laws and shrilly scream that the U.S. is the murder capital of the world should do some homework. The U.S. isn't even close. Authors David C. Stolinsky and John Lott document in their works rates of homicide with firearms in nations around the world.

Prepare to be surprised.

Gun laws, like all laws, should be evaluated to determine if they meet accepted measures of success. Gun-control advocates contend that gun laws reduce murders as well as other gun crimes. An examination of this proposition shows conclusively that gun laws fail to reduce murder rates in many countries. Therefore, they fail to meet the fundamental measure of success and should be amended or repealed.

Murder by numbers

A 1997 U.S. Justice Department report on murders in that country shows a murder rate of seven victims per 100,000 population per year. There are a number of well-known examples of countries with more liberal gun laws and lower murder rates than the U.S. One is Finland, with a murder rate of 2.9. Israel is another example; although its population is heavily armed, Israel's murder rate is only 1.4. In Switzerland, gun ownership is a way of life. Its murder rate is 2.7. Canada's rate, by the way, is 4.1/100,000.

In contrast, consider Cuba. Fidel Castro controls every aspect of life with an iron hand, including gun ownership. Castro remembers well how he and his rag-tag armed Communist rebels overthrew the government of Fulgencio Batista and set up a Communist dictatorship. An armed populace is a threat to a repressive government. Still, somebody in Cuba is obtaining guns and using them to murder fellow citizens. Cuba's murder rate is 7.8/100,000 people.

The former Soviet state of Lithuania is now an independent democratic country. But it still retains some vestiges of Stalinism. Lithuania's citizens must obtain a police permit to buy a gun. All guns are registered with the government. Somehow, these restrictions are not deterring the criminal element; Lithuania has an unenviable murder rate of 10.8/100,000 people.

Trouble in paradise

It is surprising to learn that there is gun trouble in the tropical paradise of Trinidad and Tobago. Here, a permit is required to purchase a gun. All guns are registered with the police. In spite of (or perhaps because of) these restrictions, Trinidad and Tobago has a murder rate of 11.7/100,000 people.

Gun control in Mexico is a fascinating case study. Mexican gun laws are simply draconian. No civilian may own a gun larger than .22 calibre, and a permit is required to buy one. All guns in Mexico are registered with the Ministry of Defence. Guns may not be carried in public, either openly or concealed. Mexico's murder rate is an eye-popping 17.5/100,000 people. Mexican authorities are fond of blaming the high murder rate on firearms smuggled across the border from the United States.

Nonsense. The U.S. has many more personal guns than Mexico, yet their murder rate is far lower than Mexico's. It is Mexico's absurd gun laws that prevent law-abiding citizens from protecting themselves against illegally armed criminals.

I saved the worst for last. Guns are effectively outlawed in Russia. Private handgun ownership is totally prohibited. A permit is required to purchase a rifle or shotgun. All guns are registered with authorities. When transporting a long gun, it must be disassembled. Long guns may only be used for self-defence when the gun owner is on his own property.


By the way, Russia's murder rate is a staggering 30.6/100,000 people.

In all fairness, it must be noted that many of the countries with high murder rates have governments and cultures very different from our own. Even so, the fundamental measure of gun-control success still applies. The countries I have discussed, along with many others, have gun laws that are more restrictive than U.S. laws, yet their murder rates exceed the U.S. murder rate. These laws clearly do not meet the fundamental measure of success, which is ultimately to save lives.

Basic instinct

What anti-gunners all over the world fail to understand is that people everywhere are basically the same in one important respect. They are determined to protect themselves and their families. If their governments will not allow them to have firearms for self-defence, then they may obtain guns illegally, even at the risk of harsh punishment. It is a natural human response to danger. I, for one, will not willingly give up my obligation to protect my family, my community or myself to any law enforcement agency. I will call 911, but if I and/or someone immediately present is in danger, I will do whatever is necessary to protect human life - even at the cost of my own, because I could not bear the shame of doing nothing after some madman had taken an innocent life.

Try as they might, Coalition for Gun Control co-founder Wendy Cukier and her bunch will never be able to defeat the primal instinct to protect ourselves and our families through whatever means necessary. This fundamental human truth may offer some small measure of comfort to law-abiding gun owners around the world.

The advocates of gun control are afraid of the dangers of the world and want us to be, as well. I refuse to be afraid.

Just a little bit of info in closing. It's not well known or reported, but Virginia Tech was a "gun-free zone." One can only speculate what might have happened if another student or a staff member had been armed, as well.

Allan Smith lives in Conception Bay South.

The advocates of gun control are afraid of the dangers of the world and want us to be, as well. I refuse to be afraid.