THE "PSYCHIC COST" OF HOLIDAY
By Dr. Paul Gallant and David Kopel
The approach of the holiday season brings a
perennial problem: what to give the relative or good friend who already has a
VCR? For many American gift-givers the answer has often been a high-quality
firearm. Perhaps that long-admired hunting rifle, for him? Maybe a LadySmith
revolver for her?
"Don't do it - you'll frighten your neighbors!"
warn some latter-day Scrooges, citing an article "Firearms and Community
Feelings of Safety," from the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology.
Polling information "provides suggestive evidence that possession of firearms
imposes, at minimum, psychic costs on most other members of the community,"
wrote David Hemenway of Harvard's School
of Public Health.
Like Dickens' character, the
contemporary Scrooges would cast a cloud over the joy of holiday gift-giving
among many of their fellow Americans, invoking unwarranted fear.
Hemenway studied the "psychic costs": the
psychological effect a gun-owner's possession of firearms has on her neighbors.
According to Hemenway, "eighty-five percent of non-gun-owners report they would
feel less safe if more people in their community acquired guns; only 8% would
feel more safe."
But "psychic costs" are imaginary. The reality
is that non-gun-owners benefit when their neighbors possess firearms.
Social science research has shown that the
regions with the highest rates of gun ownership are the safest. Conversely, in
gun-banning cities like Washington, D.C., and Chicago, criminals run wild,
knowing that victims cannot legally protect themselves.
In a study of 15 years
worth of data on concealed-carry of handguns in America, University of
Chicago Professor John Lott showed that all Americans are safer when the good
guys are armed. When law-abiding, trained citizens can carry concealed handguns
for protection, the violent crime rate drops six to eight percent. Everyone, not
just gun carriers, benefits, since criminals don't know which potential victims
might have a gun.
Similarly, America has a much lower rate of home
invasion burglaries than does England or Canada, where gun ownership for
protection is illegal. American burglars usually make sure that no victims are
home. Canadian and British burglars, however, prefer that the victim is home, so
that wallets and purses can be stolen too.
Because American burglars can't be sure exactly
which homes have guns (about half of American homes do), American burglars must
avoid all dwellings where somebody might be present. Thus, people without guns
enjoy greater safety in the home, thanks to the large number of Americans who do
Complementing the evidence about individual
criminals is the evidence about criminal government. In the book "Lethal Laws",
the group Jews for the Preservation of Firearm
Ownership provides incontrovertible proof that whenever genocide takes place
in the 20th century, the government first disarms the intended victims.
Free elections are not a guarantee against
genocide; Hitler was elected democratically. As "Lethal Laws" demonstrates, the
only ironclad protection against mass murder by government is that victims be
able to resist.
Simply put, the more guns, the safer the
community. Summing up the interactions of firearms and human nature,
Lizotte and Hans
Toch (a former gun control advocate) arrived at a very politically-incorrect
conclusion: "...guns do not elicit aggression in any meaningful way. Quite the
contrary...high saturations of guns in places, or something correlated with that
condition, inhibit illegal aggression."
The question posed by Hemenway about "feelings"
of safety raises another question: should baseless, irrational fears of some
people be a reason to limit the rights of others? If some people irrationally
fear that Black people are dangerous, should Black people lose the right to move
into a neighborhood? If some people irrationally fear gun ownership by their
law-abiding neighbors, should those neighbors lose the right to self-defense?
The hate-mongering against gun owners by the gun
prohibition lobbies in Washington sows the seeds of fear, distrust, and division
in our society. Perhaps Hemenway should examine the "psychic cost" imposed by
anti-gun lobbies' campaign against responsible gun owners.
In the end, Scrooge achieved salvation through a
miraculous transformation, which vanquished his fear of mankind. Perhaps at
least a few members of the anti-self-defense lobby, like Scrooge, will overcome
their misanthropy in a dream this Christmas Eve, and wake up shouting the truth
to everyone in the street: "Gun owners are your friends and neighbors, not your
enemy. Gun ownership by good people makes all of us safer."
Paul Gallant is a doctor in New York. David
Kopel is Research Director of the Independence Institute, a free-market think
tank in Golden, Colorado, http://i2i.org.
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Copyright© 1999 David B.