July 2, 1998
POLITICAL REACTIONS to this year's rash of schoolhouse shootings have been classic liberalism: The government should crack down on gun owners who haven't shot anybody. Meanwhile, liberals have very little interest in punishing the young murderers, and instead are ready to listen to psychobabble excuses.
The latest ploy in the anti-gun crusade is shifting from emphasis on gun "control" to emphasis on gun "safety." As with so many other safety issues, few people -- least of all politicians -- seem ready to acknowledge that one kind of safety often comes at the expense of other kinds of safety.
Child-locks for guns are the latest safety craze. But schoolhouse shootings are not being done by infants and toddlers. They are being done by people old enough to figure out any lock that an adult can figure out. Child-locks provide no protection whatever against the premeditated murder of school children and their teachers.
If you are serious about stopping smaller children from firing guns that they may find around the house, there is an incredibly simple way to prevent that: Don't leave the guns loaded. Moreover, most guns already have safety devices.
Maybe some parents are not responsible enough or thoughtful enough to remember to take the bullets out of guns that they keep in their homes. But are such parents any more likely to remember to lock the gun?
More important, how often does this happen? More children die each year from bicycle accidents than from gun accidents, but where is there any such orchestrated hysteria about a need to ban bicycles?
There is a dangerous down side to locking guns -- and especially adding a child-lock to the existing safety devices. Many people keep guns in their homes to protect themselves and their families. Studies show that these guns have in fact saved great numbers of people from being victims of intruders in their homes.
Multiple safety devices slow down the very people who need to be able to fire in self-defense. Criminals with guns will undoubtedly already have them unlocked and loaded. Zealots for gun-control laws never seem to understand that criminals do not obey laws. Gun control means unilateral disarmament of law-abiding citizens.
These law-abiding citizens have used guns to defend themselves at least 760,000 times in a single year. Some people with gun permits have saved policemen's lives by coming to their rescue.
None of this fits the liberal vision, so you are unlikely to hear about it in the mainstream media. In the liberal vision, the rest of us are such irresponsible slobs that we will go around shooting members of our family or our friends, whether in anger at the moment or out of sheer carelessness.
But what are the facts? Since the mid-1980s, there has been a 50 percent increase in gun ownership. If guns are the problem, then we should have seen a rise in murders. Instead, there has been a decline in murder and other violent crimes -- especially in places where gun ownership has gone up.
In a country with more than a quarter of a billion people, you can find isolated examples of almost anything. But the handful of accidental deaths from guns are far outweighed by the reduced murder rate with increased gun ownership.
If guns are the problem, then there should be higher murder rates in rural areas, where guns are more prevalent, or among whites, who have a higher rate of gun ownership than blacks. In both cases, the facts are directly the opposite.
A careful and extensive study of the actual effects of gun ownership has just been published by Professor John Lott of the University of Chicago. It is titled "More Guns, Less Crime." You may not hear much about this book in the media because its factual data annihilate the liberal shibboleths about gun control.
The truly ugly side of the gun-control crusade is in its typical liberal assumption that ordinary people must be deprived of self-reliance and have the government take care of them instead. Unfortunately, the government is in no position to put a cop on every street corner, much less in every home.
As Professor Lott discovered, gun ownership deters crime. But what will deter liberals? Certainly not the facts. They have too much invested in their vision of themselves as the saviors of us all.