Montréal, le 28 août 1999
Numéro 44
  (page 6)
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 by Ralph Maddocks
          Recently there was an attempted mass shooting in California in which luckily nobody was killed, although in a separate but related incident a postal employee lost his life. Shortly before we had seen a massacre in Atlanta. Mr. Clinton, followed by an obedient gaggle of politicians mounted their respective soap boxes again and blathered on about the need for more gun control.  
          To most Canadians, the US seems to be obsessed with guns, but much of what passes as fact is seldom true. The news media invariably focuses on tragedy, while ignoring any potentially tragic events which were avoided. Never, or only on very rare occasions, does one hear about the more than two million occasions each year that people in the USA used guns in self-defence. Cases in which public shootings are stopped before they happened. A teacher in the South who carried a gun was able to prevent a deranged student from carrying out what might have been a massacre. There are stories of mothers using guns to prevent their children from being kidnapped by car-jackers, few of which ever make the local evening news. 
Gun mythology 
          One marvels at the lack of even-handedness of press reporting. The mythology which has resulted from all this defies belief. Many of the stories disseminated can, if believed and acted upon, threaten a person's safety by making them feel fearful and preventing them from employing what is probably the most effective means of defence available to them, a gun.  
          Among the many myths are « If we let citizens carry concealed handguns, they will end up shooting each other after traffic accidents. » This myth is being propagated even though millions of people currently hold concealed handgun permits, with some states having issued them for over sixty years. Yet only one permit holder has ever been reported to have used a concealed handgun after a traffic accident, and that case was ruled as self-defence. Only a law abiding person is likely to go through the tedious process of seeking a « concealed carry » permit as it is known. In Florida, between 1987 and 1997, only 84 people have lost such licences for violations involving firearms. Eighty-four out of almost half a million licences issued! 
          The main violation leading to revocation of a gun permit involves incidents such as carrying a concealed weapon into an airport or other restricted area. In Virginia not a single licencee has committed a violent crime and similar results have been reported in Texas, Tennessee, both Carolinas, Nevada and Kentucky, to mention a few of the states for which information seems available. 
          The public is told often that, « In the event of attack, the safest response is not to resist. » Interestingly, the National Crime Victimization Survey, issued by the U.S. Department of Justice, indicates that the probability of serious injury from an attack is 2.5 times greater for women offering no resistance than it is for women resisting with a gun. For men, the benefit from using a gun is a bit smaller; offering no resistance is 1.4 times more likely to result in serious injury than resisting with a gun. Why then are we told it is safer to remain passive?  
 « In Australia, where the people were forced
to give up their instruments of self-defence,
sexual crimes have increased, armed robbery
is up 44% and murders up 300%. »
          Another view commonly disseminated is that « The most likely killers are friends or relatives. » This ingredient of current mythology rests on two claims. One being that  53% of murder victims are killed by either relatives or acquaintances and that anyone could be a murderer. Using the definition of « acquaintance » as used in the Uniform Crime Reports, published by the FBI,  most victims are classified as knowing their killer. But what is not made clear is that « acquaintance murder » includes mainly drug buyers killing pushers, taxi-drivers killed by their customers, gang members killing gang members, prostitutes slain by their clients and so on. There is one U.S. city, Chicago, which reports a more precise breakdown on the nature of such killings. Their statistics provide a very different impression for the five years between 1990 and 1995. They reported that, under 20% of murder victims were either family members, friends, neighbours or roommates of those who killed them. 
          About 90% of adult murderers already have an adult criminal record, they are not your average citizen. The profile of the majority of murderers in the USA is a young male with a low IQ who has a long history of difficulty getting along with other people. 
Statistical mythology 
          Again and again we hear that, « The USA has a high murder rate because the citizens own more guns. » This is the most simplistic of the arguments heard, often from many who ought to know better. Other countries have gun ownership rates as high or higher than the USA. Three, Switzerland, New Zealand and Finland have similar ownership rates and yet, in 1995, New Zealand's murder rate was lower than Australia's. Switzerland had a murder rate 40% lower than that of Germany. Sweden and Finland have different gun ownership rates but similar murder rates. Israel, which has an even higher gun ownership rate than the USA, has a murder rate which is 40% below ours in Canada. In fact, studies have shown that where gun ownership increases violent crime decreases. 
          « A family member of a gun owning household is more likely to be shot and killed than an intruder is to be killed in self-defence. » The study upon which this myth is founded appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1993, but it never actually looked into whose gun did the killing. If a household owned a gun and if someone in that house, or someone he or she knew, was shot in that house, then that household's gun was blamed. Later examination of the study's data showed that almost all the killings (96%) were committed with guns owned by the intruder. The remaining 4% attributable to the householder's gun is somewhat insignificant. Often unreported, or forgotten, is that 98% of the time simply brandishing a gun is enough to deter an aggressor. The gun is actually fired at the attacker in less than 1% of reported cases. 
          It is well known that criminals rarely attack armed men, they much prefer the weak and unarmed. The simple fact that a person could be carrying a gun is often sufficient to deter the aggressor. This is why so many tourists have been attacked in Florida, the criminal knows that his victim will definitely not be carrying a gun. 
          In Australia, where the people were forced to give up their instruments of self-defence, sexual crimes have increased, armed robbery is up 44% and murders up 300%. Oddly enough, unarmed robbery has shown a decrease. In Britain, where handguns are banned absolutely, more policemen are being armed in order to deal with the rising crime rate. Assaults with firearms and attempted murders have risen and the crime rate is expected to increase even more in the next two years. Excluding murder, rates of violent crime in England and Wales are higher than in any other European country or even in the USA. Further evidence, if it were needed, that criminals much prefer their victims to be unarmed. 
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