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The Oklahoma Legal Group Blog

Safer with Guns?

Adam Banner - Friday, February 07, 2014

Do guns lead to violence, or does violence lead to guns?

Most recently, gun control advocates began a concerted push for tighter gun restrictions in the wake of the mass-shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary that left 20 children and 6 teachers dead. Shortly after the incident, the support for gun control reform reached 52 percent. However, this number has since declined, and a couple of high-profile stories have shown that many Americans believe they are actually safer if they, their friends, and their neighbors are armed.

“Really?” you might ask. Well, consider this: A Rasmussen Reports gun control poll indicates that nearly 70 percent of Americans say they would feel safer if people in their neighborhoods were allowed to own guns, compared to only 23 percent of respondents who would feel safer if no one owned guns. Just under one half of Americans support tighter gun control, but nearly 7 out of 10 would sleep a little easier if they or their neighbors were armed.

The idea that gun ownership is a deterrent to crime is controversial, but that hasn’t stopped Detroit Police Chief James Craig from taking an outspoken stance regarding his belief that arming law abiding citizens reduces crime. Craig compared his time on the police force in California with his time in law enforcement in Maine, saying, “Coming from California, where it takes an act of Congress to get a concealed weapon permit, I got to Maine, where they give out lots of CCWs (carrying concealed weapon permits) . . . . Maine is one of the safest places in America. Clearly, suspects knew that good Americans were armed.”

Gun control advocates disagree, saying that there is no indication that gun ownership makes a person safer. They point to statistics that homes in which guns are present are more prone to accidental shootings and suicides. They quote statistics from a recent American Journal of Medicine study that shows a correlation between higher rates of gun ownership with higher rates of gun death.

However, they fail to mention that the study is correlational, and not causal.

Perhaps living in areas already prone to violent crimes and shootings prompt people to arm themselves. Does a higher rate of gun ownership cause a higher rate of gun death, or does a higher rate of gun death cause a higher rate of gun ownership? It’s the classic chicken versus egg debate.

Those who advocate tighter gun control point out that South Africa is the only exception, with its low rate of gun ownership and high rate of gun death. However, the flip side may be more telling: Canada, Iceland, and Norway all have high rates of gun ownership but low rates of firearm death. A Harvard study finds that “the nine European nations with the lowest rates of gun ownership (5,000 or fewer guns per 100,000 population) have a combined murder rate three times higher than that of the nine nations with the highest rates of gun ownership (at least 15,000 guns per 100,000 population).”

Regardless of which came first, the firearm license or the gun crime, Americans say that they feel safer when they are allowed to protect themselves and their homes. Count me in that clique. I have a concealed-carry license, and I think every responsible person who is meets the criteria should. We have a Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms, and we have a Fourth Amendment right to be secure in their homes.

Just ask Sarah McKinley, who was 18 years old, recently widowed and home alone with her 3-month-old son when a man with a knife tried to break into her home in Blanchard, Oklahoma. Armed with a 12-gauge shotgun and a pistol, McKinley asked a dispatcher if it was okay to shoot the man. The dispatcher replied, “I can't tell you that you can do that, but you have to do what you have to do to protect your baby.”  When the man forcefully pushed through the door, shoving aside a couch McKinley tried to use as a barricade, she fired, killing the man later determined to be armed and looking for drugs.

Oklahoma is considered to be a gun-friendly state, and just over a year ago, the state began to issue open carry permits.  The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) reported that 60,000 Oklahomans were approved for open carry permits in the first year. By comparison, the state issued just under 40,000 concealed weapons permits the previous year, which set a record for the most gun permits issued in Oklahoma in one year. There are estimated to be more than 185,000 licensed gun owners in Oklahoma.

Critics of gun ownership say there is no evidence of gun ownership reducing crime, and point to statistics that indicate guns are used defensively fairly infrequently. Brian Hull, founder and president of the Oklahoma Open Carry Association, argues that the visibility of a weapon is a deterrent in itself, without the necessity of using the gun defensively: "With conceal carry, all I can do is react when someone has begun an attack. With open carry, I may be able to stop an attack."

The gun control debate is nearly as old as guns themselves. In the Old West, gunslingers were required to surrender their guns at the edge of town. In this modern era, should we be require to surrender our rights as well?






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