This is a response to Professor McDowell’s Jan. 22 letter to the editor, “Guns kill people, Mr. Pierre,” in which he decried firearm ownership and called for additional gun control legislation.
I understand the desire to do something after the recent tragedies. However, it is important to avoid knee-jerk reactions and instead formulate a response based on data rather than emotions and ignorant assertions.
First of all, it is essential to consider both the benefits and the costs of an item. McDowell focuses exclusively on the costs of firearm ownership and implies that benefits are nonexistent. This is a fatuous assertion as firearms are useful self-defense tools. Criminologist Gary Kleck researched the defensive use of firearms and concluded that people lawfully use firearms 2.5 million times each year to defend themselves from criminals. With approximately 30,000 deaths related to firearms each year, this means that firearms are used to defend life 80 times more often than they are used to take it.
The case in Georgia, in which a woman successfully used a handgun to defend herself and her children from an intruder, is one recent example of this self-defense benefit.
McDowell goes on to decry assault weapons. However, what he fails to understand is that “assault weapon” is a media invention.
The rifles he describes are actually ordinary semi-automatic rifles. They are not machine guns, and they are not military rifles. They function identically to rifles that have been on the market for over 100 years. Millions of law-abiding owners have these so-called “assault weapons,” and they are widely used for competitive shooting, target shooting, pest control and self defense. The only difference when compared to other rifles is their appearance.
The “high capacity” magazines are actually standard magazines. The 10-round limits are completely arbitrary, and handguns and rifles have been produced with standard capacities of more than 10 rounds since the 1930s. These magazines are widely used in competition and hunting and are essential for self defense as criminals frequently attack in groups and are often not stopped with one shot. Needless to say, law-abiding citizens deserve the means to defend themselves and should not be restricted to the inferior self-defense capabilities provided by these reduced capacity magazines.
Apart from his ignorance about what he wants to ban, McDowell also ignores the fact that there is simply a lack of credible evidence that an assault weapons ban would reduce crime involving gun violence. Numerous studies, including those from the Department of Justice and the National Research Council, concluded that the last assault weapons ban had no effect on reducing the number of violent crimes.
Broader studies from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Criminal Justice Reference Service concluded that there is no clear evidence that any existing gun-control laws reduce violent crime. Chicago, with its over 500 murders and draconian gun-control laws, epitomizes the ineffectiveness of these policies. Criminals, who are determined to break laws for a living, do not abide by firearm regulations.
Rather than discredited, stricter gun-control agendas, we should focus on measures that would actually be effective in reducing gun violence, such as improving the data in the National Instant Background Check System and actually enforcing existing gun laws.
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