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
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?
Australia, where the people were forced
to give up their instruments
sexual crimes have increased,
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.
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.
de Ralph Maddocks