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A Reply to a Gun Control Critic

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From: C.H.
To: fff@fff.org
Sent: Saturday, November 06, 2004 3:29 AM
Subject: gun control

I’m curious: nowhere in that article on Gun Control does it mention Canada.  We’ve *always* had gun control, in one form or another.  It’s never been possible for someone to walk in off the street and out with a firearm twenty minutes later.

So if gun control is so heinous and detrimental, why is our crime so vastly smaller than yours and why is our population so much less paranoid?

I’m sorry, but going through your site, it seems to me to be less about “freedom” of a people as a whole and more about individual freedom — and that leads to anarchy.

Thank you.
C.H.

#####

To: C.H.
From: Scott McPherson
Sent: Monday, November 15, 2004 9:39 PM
Subject: gun control

Thank you for contacting the Future of Freedom Foundation. The Foundation always welcomes questions and comments from our readers, and I will do my best to respond to your satisfaction.

My first response would have to be to your final point. You wrote, “going through your site, it seems to me to be less about ‘freedom’ of a people as a whole and more about individual freedom — and that leads to anarchy.” Well, you’re sort of right.

The mission of FFF is to promote limited government, free markets, private property, and individual rights. To speak of the “freedom of a people as a whole” is completely baseless unless those people are protected by some moral structure which shields them from the arbitrary use of force by others — including their own governments. It is individuals that require protection. We at FFF are of the opinion that individuals are best protected under a system of individual rights, and that by protecting individual rights you best guaranty the protection of “people as a whole.”

If you’re interested, I would recommend reading Ayn Rand’s Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal and The Virtue of Selfishness as a start to better understanding the concept of individual rights.

Regarding your conclusion, “and that leads to anarchy,” I couldn’t disagree more. Anarchy is a system where no government exists, there is no moral recognition of individual rights, no private property, and no rule of law. This term is best applied to Somalia or even Communist Russia. It does not, however, apply to a libertarian society based on individual rights, private property, and the rule of law — all supported, it should be noted, by a government limited and dedicated to preserving just those institutions. Your conclusion lacks logical foundation. We strive for moral government. Regardless of your opinion of our philosophy, you cannot claim that it calls for no government.

You opened your comments by referring to an article on gun control. I do not know of which article you speak, and so cannot comment on any statements in particular, but I can speak to the general gun control argument. You wrote that Canada has “‘always’ had gun control, in one form or another. It’s never been possible for someone to walk in off the street and out with a firearm twenty minutes later.” I’m not sure what conclusion you’re hoping we’ll reach from that particular statement.

Even when Canada’s gun control laws were (relative to today) lax, the crime rate in that country was low relative to the United States because the United States has historically had a higher crime rate. The important question is whether the presence of firearms is the cause of that high crime rate and whether gun control is a proper policy to adopt in combating crime.

To my knowledge, the most comprehensive look at guns and gun control laws in the United States (complete with international comparisons) has been done by Dr. Gary Kleck, in his book Targeting Guns: Firearms and Their Control. (Far from being a “right wing gun nut” Kleck is, by his own admission, a liberal Democrat who supported Al “Gun Control” Gore in the 2000 general election), which reaches the general conclusion that any connection between guns and crime is, at best, tenuous. Kleck’s conclusions were vindicated when the Centers for Disease Control admitted late last year that their “independent” analysis found no known link between any US gun control laws and a reduction in violent crime. (It should also be noted that the CDC is notoriously anti-gun).

Of particular interest to you may be an article published in the Fall 2004 “Journal on Firearms and Public Policy,” published by the Center for the Study of Firearms & Public Policy, written by Gary Mauser, a Canadian and, according to his bio, “a Professor at the Faculty of Business Administration and the Institute for Urban Canadian Research Studies at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia.” Mr. Mauser’s article, titled “The Failed Experiment: Gun Control and Public Safety in Canada, Australia, England and Wales,” is a thoughtful indictment of the gun contol mentality in those countries (and this one, for that matter) that views gun control laws as the great panacea for crime and guns as evil, despicable objects. I will quote Mr. Mauser at length.

After evaluating the failure of gun controls in England, Wales, and Australia, to reduce violent crime (in fact he, like many others, observed that crime in general, including violent crime, has actually been rising in those countries following passage of their gun control laws) Mauser writes,

“In the 1990s, sweeping changes were made to the [Canadian] firearms laws, first in 1991 and then again in 1995. Licensing and registration are still being phased in.” However, “The contrast between the criminal violence rates in the United States and in Canada is dramatic. Over the past decade, the rate of violent crime in Canada has increased while in the United States the violent crime rate has plummeted… [emphasis added]

“[T]he United States provides a valuable point of comparison with Europe and the Commonwealth for assessing crime rates because the criminal justice system in the United States is unique. Not only are criminal penalties typically more severe in the United States, often much more severe, but also conviction and incarceration rates are usually much higher. Perhaps the most striking difference is that the United States is one of the few countries to encourage qualified citizens to carry concealed handguns for self defence. During the past few decades, while Britain and the Commonwealth were making firearm ownership increasingly difficult, more than 25 states in the United States passed laws allowing responsible citizens to carry concealed handguns. There are now 35 states where citizens can get such a handgun permit…As surprising as it may seem to casual observers, these new laws appear to have caused violent crime rates to drop, including homicide rates.” [emphasis added]

Mr. Mauser cites the work of John Lott at this point. I strongly recommend his excellent book, More Guns, Less Crime.

I quote again, at length, from Mr. Mauser:

“[T]he homicide rate has been falling as fast or faster in the United States [compared with Canada]…The homicide rate in the United States has fallen from 10.5 per 100,000 in 1991 to 6.1 per 100,000, while the Canadian rate has fallen from 2.7 per 100,000 to 1.8.

“The contrast between the rate of criminal violence in the United States and that in Canada is much more dramatic. Over the past decade, the Canadian rate of violent crime has increased while, in the United States during the same time period, the rate of violent crime has slid from 600 per 100,000 to 500 per 100,000…

“Only the United States [compared with Canada, Australia, England and Wales] has witnessed a dramatic drop in criminal violence over the past decade…If the goal is deterring criminal violence, perhaps it is time for Commonwealth countries to encourage more individual self-reliance.”

You wrote that Canada’s crime is “vastly smaller” than the United States. This is a trend that pre-dates gun control, not the coup de grace that gun control supporters have long believed it to be. We can learn a great deal more from watching the crime rates in England, Wales, Australia, and Canada (all Western, industrialized countries with historically low crime rates) dramatically rise, as they have been, following the introduction of gun control and disarmament of the general population, than we can from making specific crime-rate comparisons with the United States. Such comparisons may serve their (perhaps intended) purpose of making the citizens of these countries feel morally superior to citizens of the United States…but it makes for tragically flawed policy making.

Finally, you asked why, “if gun control is so heinous and detrimental” are Canadians “so much less paranoid” than Americans. I reject your premise. Michael Moore may have won an Academy Award, and that may make him a good documentary film maker, but it does not make him a social scientist. I own guns, but I would not consider myself paranoid. In fact, it was only while living in the United Kingdom for two years, where I was not allowed to own a gun, that I worried a great deal about crime. Now I live in Virginia, where citizens have the right to carry handguns concealed (with a permit) or even openly (no permit needed). I don’t carry a gun — mostly because I feel so much safer knowing that so many people around me are carrying guns.

Further, would you say that Canada’s estimated 2.3 to 4.5 million (legal) gun-owners, who own between 8 and 15 million guns, are automatically, simply by virtue of their owning a gun, paranoid? That is an unfounded generalization unworthy of 5 million people, let alone 280 million.

I appreciate your taking the time to read my lengthy response, and hope that it has helped you better understand the Future of Freedom Foundation’s position on gun control. We contend that guns help people protect themselves from violent criminals, and that when access to guns by the general population is curtailed, decent and innocent people suffer. This position is not only moral, but practical. Rising crime in Canada, England, and Austrialia, following so closely on the heels of their recent experiments with radical gun control measures, would seem to prove our point.

Sincerely,

Scott McPherson
Policy Advisor,
The Future of Freedom Foundation

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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.