At the end of the day, more gun control becomes a method of social control, not an anti-crime policy. If we look at crime stats, they support both pro-gun and anti-gun positions, and thus neither of them. Pro-gun states — Vermont, North Dakota, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Utah — and other countries like Switzerland, Norway, and Israel, have relatively low violent crime and crime overall. Anti-gun states like Wisconsin and Hawaii, as well as the countries of Japan and Ireland, also have relatively low violent crime and crime overall. The same goes for high violent crime and crime overall.
If more gun control doesn't mitigate crime, then what does it do? Look no further than any authoritarian state or society in history. Look no further than our own Southern backyard under the Jim Crow laws — laws that in many states still had a significant presence only 50 years ago. What was one of the first things these laws did to Southern blacks? They took their guns away. In a society where even the authorities were complacent with lynching and other hate crimes, whom else could a law-abiding citizen turn to for defense against a frequently racist government and society than himself? As in many other instances of the past, gun control was used to oppress people, to remove checks and balances on despicable government policies and, in short, to do what it implies: control.
To say the United States will never have circumstances in the future where citizens will have to fend for themselves against an oppressive government or society, or in a situation of utter chaos, seems rather arrogant and presupposing. Additionally, the challenge that tens of millions of gun owners pose to an authoritarian government remains a powerful political liability for any overtly authoritarian regime, especially if we take into account that many members of the U.S. military and the U.S. State Guard bear arms. It remains doubtful that the U.S. Armed Forces would gladly turn against their own comrades in arms.
So anti-gun supporters, keep in mind that further disarming a populace also means further controlling a populace, with no apparent benefit to fighting crime. Nor does it even prevent last week's horrible events if existing federal gun control laws had been adequately enforced. After all, Virginia Tech murderer Cho Seung-Hui purchased both his handguns illegally.
His purchases occurred after state Special Justice Paul M. Barnett ruled in December 2005 that Seung-Hui presented "an imminent danger to himself as a result of mental illness." This ruling should have barred Seung-Hui from purchasing any gun as per the requirements of the 1968 Federal Gun Control Act since it "adjudicated [him] mentally defective" long before he purchased his handgun murder weapons and after mandatory federal background checks administered in February and March 2007. Tragically, due to ambiguities and unfunded mandates in Virginia state law, this ruling never entered the federal background check database, the same database that would have stopped Seung-Hui from making his gun purchases had it contained the above information. The lesson here: If any smart gun laws come out of this tragedy at the federal or state level, they should serve to better enforce existing federal gun control laws, not to punish tens of millions of responsible and law-abiding gun owners by unnecessarily adding more controls.
If you don't believe me when I say many gun owners follow the law, just look at the numbers. According to a survey administered by the Harvard School of Public Health, there were 57 million adult gun owners in 2004. According to the U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, there were 338,587 instances of firearms related crime in 2004. Do the math and we'll find that, in 2004, at most 0.59 percent of gun owners committed a crime with their firearms. Additionally, we'll find that at least 99.41 percent of gun owners in 2004 were law-abiding citizens. Run the same analysis on every year for the past 20 and you'll get roughly the same results. In any given year, a super-super-majority of gun owners used their firearms in a responsible and lawful manner.
So why should we unnecessarily control so many people to prevent crimes they will never commit? If doing so will not prevent crime, then why do it? Control for the sake of control remains the only reason why.
David Lapidus ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in economics, math and history and a member of the Associated Students of Madison Student Services Finance Committee.