Saturday, October 10, 2009

The social value of firearm ownership

By Peter Moss (Richmark Sentinel)

President Zuma’s recent claims that too many guns are a “problem” and his sabre rattling antics of declaring war on guns, is misleading the public into believing the ANC government is doing the best it can to fight crime. Nothing could be further from the truth.

While some choose to believe the emotionally charged graphic descriptions and overly lurid presentations of gun control amplified by the mainstream media’s sensationalist reporting of all crimes involving firearms, one seldom reads of the many successful encounters by armed citizens when criminals with evil intent are driven away or prevented from committing crime.

Law-abiding citizens with firearms, justifiably seldom report such matters in fear that it will invoke a great deal of unreasonable suspicion and harassment from the police. There is a very real concern that the police will apply some unnecessary bureaucratic reason to remove or confiscate their firearm, leaving them defenceless in the face of rampant and uncontrolled criminality.

Good citizens have been convinced by the persuasive nature of such one-sided gun control propaganda, sensationalist reporting by the media, the unsupported utterances of government minions and the political commissars of the South African Police, that firearms are to blame and thus are the cause of the problem. The illogical conclusion and promise is therefore that legal firearm ownership must be strictly controlled and discouraged to the point of eradication if crime is to be reduced. Those who believe that enacting strict control measures or even a complete ban will be sorely disillusioned.

Examination of anti-firearm legislation shows that such measures not only fail to stop violent criminals from committing crimes, it also fails to prevent the flow of legal firearms into the illegal arms pool. Restrictive firearm legislation and bans unjustifiably deny law-abiding adults a vital and critical means of self-defence.

Even if the illegal arms pool fails to meet criminal demands, criminals who already smuggle in drugs by the ton will find no problem in adding a few hundred or even thousands of guns to any illegal shipment.

The ANC, in operation Overland managed in a short time to smuggle into South Africa 40 tons of war arms and munitions. Specialised weapons, not easily available will -as they are now- simply be obtained from state resources either by theft, hire or purchase from the many criminally corrupt state officials.

Great Britain banned handguns more than 10 years ago and has had very stringent gun control laws since 1968, yet their criminal violence has escalated since then and not reduced due to the stricter measures. As early as 1971 the study by Chief Inspector Colin Greenwood of the West Yorkshire Constabulary concluded that there was no direct correlation between gun laws and violent crime. Greenwood’s study discovered that previously Britain had a very low crime rate with effectively no gun laws. Even convicted criminals could legally purchase firearms. The social circumstances at the time prevented violent crime. Since then, that restraint has faded.

The study by King´s College of London in 2002 concluded the same. Social and cultural mores affect the level of crime. Don Kates a graduate of Yale’s law school and author of "Restricting Handguns - The Liberal Sceptics Speak Out" and "Firearms and Violence: Issues of Public Policy" states that blaming guns and the gun lobby is an easy political solution. Those laws don’t impact aberrants in our society. The long-term solution, even though more difficult, is to identify those variables in society that create violent people and affect changes.

But for the sake of argument let us imagine that the gun control lobby and government policy are correct, that a complete ban therefore should eliminate or at the very least impact heavily on violent confrontational crime. What would be the result of such a ban, that no law-abiding citizen would be armed and how would criminals with violent natures react to this situation?

• Would violent criminals as the gun lobby claims now be deprived of firearms? Greenwood’s study has already found that the pool of illegal firearms is more than sufficient to continue the supply for many years.

• Would criminals already enticed by easy money, low risk of prosecution and an expensive life-style from the massive proceeds of crime suddenly develop a social conscious and seek menial low paid work? Few would think there was even a vague chance of such lofty ideals.

• Would unarmed citizens now dissuade criminals - and aspirant criminals - not quite so brave enough to risk life and limb with confrontation of an armed citizen, in a safe work place and no risk of serious injury or even death, from committing crime?

• Would government’s gift of unarmed victims to criminals be seen as an act of friendship and aid or a reason to rehabilitate themselves into becoming law-abiding model citizens?

• Would all citizens suffer higher crime rates and increased risk of injury, even death, because of this ban or would we be living in the promised land of safety and security?

It should come as no surprise to anyone that violent and even non-violent criminals will react by celebrating the bounty of unarmed victims awarded to them by government in the only way possible, by becoming even more brazen and active in crime.

Government will not accept any responsibility for increased crime by paying victims compensation for their decisions, the self-evident results of such legislation could hardly be claimed to be unknown.

Isn’t it obvious that armed citizens provide a protective shield for all citizens by the simple fact that criminals are unaware of who is armed and willing to defend their life and property with a firearm? This is confirmed by the most extensive study ever done in the USA. The Wright, Rossi and Daley survey for the Carter administration of convicted felons found that criminal’s greatest fear was a confrontation with an armed victim, not the police.

Anyone who desires to remain a high-risk element in the criminals mind should not encourage the removal or even a small decrease of this low cost ‘protective shield’. There is much evidence and reason to indicate they do so to their own detriment also that of everyone else.

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