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Better Them Than Us

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In response to soaring violent crime, Brazil has passed what some are considering one of the strongest anti-gun laws in Latin America, and Brazil’s pro-gun lobby, backed up by the powerful National Rifle Association, was powerless to stop it. Rather than mourn, however, Americans who fight against “gun control” should see this as a blessing in disguise.

Hoping to curb a homicide rate that puts Brazil’s violent death rate above every other nation not at war, President da Silva signed the aptly termed “disarmament act” during the Christmas week. The new law limits the carrying of handguns in public to police officers, the military, licensed security guards, and hunters; requires a background check for gun purchases; and raises the minimum age for gun ownership from 21 to 25.

But here’s the real kicker: the act requires that a national referendum be held in 2005 to decide on a ban on the sale of handguns altogether. With opinion polls showing that nearly 80 percent of Brazilian adults favor the disarmament act and a handgun ban, the forthcoming referendum will almost certainly pass.

So what is there for gunowners here to be happy about?

It has long been maintained by Second Amendment supporters in the United States that guns are a valuable tool in the hands of the citizenry. Pro-gun activists have been arguing for years that passing laws that make it harder for law-abiding citizens to have access to guns for their own defense only encourages crime.

Of course, the typical response has been that such notions are delusions of vigilante grandeur. It’s an article of faith for anti-gun folks that allowing people to own guns – particularly handguns – causes high crime.

Then the award-winning research of Dr. Gary Kleck and the surprising findings of scholars such as John Lott shined much needed light on the subject. Kleck has argued in several criminological studies and two books that there are actually more crimes thwarted in the United States by armed citizens than there are crimes committed. In fact, Kleck suggests that as many as 2.5 million times per year – around 5,000 per day – an armed citizen stops a crime or defends himself with a gun.

In 1998 John Lott, a distinguished professor at the University of Chicago, published his book More Guns, Less Crime, a tireless study on the effects of issuing concealed-carry permits to citizens over a 10-year period. The result? According to Lott, states that pass permissive concealed-carry laws have fewer instances of crime, including rape, assault, and murder, than states that leave their citizens to the good graces of the criminal class. Not a surprising outcome, which helps to explain why many people now refer to gun control more accurately as “victim disarmament.”

Casting further doubt on the efficacy of gun control, the United Kingdom in 1997 passed a total ban on the private possession of handguns following a high-profile public shooting in Scotland and all but eliminated every other form of gun ownership. This is the precise “antidote” desired by gun-control supporters elsewhere. Six years later, “peaceful” Britain now has the highest overall crime rate in the Western world, and violent crime is skyrocketing. Gang wars and drive-by shootings are increasing.

Such is the wisdom of gun control. Nevertheless, Brazil is proceeding down that same baleful road.

Handguns are the best and cheapest means for the average person to defend himself against criminals who don’t care about the law. Americans who oppose gun control – who know it for what it is, a failed public policy and an immoral disarmament of decent people – will soon have Brazil to cite as just one more example of the tragic consequences of gun control. Perhaps the spectacle of yet another country banning handguns, and seeing its citizens suffer under an even worse burden of crime and violence, will embolden the American people to oppose further encroachments on the right to own handguns for individual self-defense.

Like half of our own population, much of the rest of the world readily falls victim to the utopian allure of creating a safer society through defenselessness. The people of Brazil, foolishly searching for security through disarmament, will provide us with another experiment from which we can learn and teach about the failure of gun control.

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    Scott McPherson is policy adviser at The Future of Freedom Foundation. An advocate of the Free State Project, he lives in Portsmouth, New Hampshire.