Seattle PI: Evidence says gun laws don’t work

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Thursday, February 1, 2007

Evidence says gun laws don’t work

By MICHAEL S. BROWN

The anti-gun op-ed by Dr. Clifford M. Herman (“Bowing down to NRA is dangerous,” Jan. 23) certainly fits in with the renewed push by the P-I for more gun laws. As with previous articles, this one demonizes the NRA, offers anecdotal insights and questions the meaning of the Second Amendment. What it does not do is address the essential question.

Honest legislators must ask: Which gun laws, if any, will truly reduce violence? Thanks to the Clinton administration and the Centers for Disease Control, we have a pretty good idea. A group of scientists reviewed the extensive literature on the effectiveness of gun laws and released its report in 2003. With so many gun laws enacted in the latter half of the 20th century, there were numerous examples to study, but they were unable to find convincing evidence that any gun laws have ever been effective.

Their search included Herman’s 1988 Seattle-Vancouver study. Given that Herman is vociferously anti-gun, what are the chances that his study was scientifically sound and unbiased? That’s right, and virtually every anti-gun study ever done was created by the same kind of people and funded by openly anti-gun foundations. Their built-in bias makes them useless for public policy debate.

Washingtonians are not stupid. We are aware that gun laws have failed miserably wherever they have been tried. Anyone who knows how to visit the FBI Web site can tell you that the most dangerous places in the United States often are the places with the strictest gun laws. Gun laws overseas have been no more successful. Asking the Legislature to give us more is a colossal waste of time and an insult to our intelligence.

The real reason for the resurgence of anti-gun rhetoric is a long-running culture war between the two sides of the gun debate. From 1994 until the 2006 elections, the once powerful gun control lobby got kicked around by the NRA. Now that they have new friends in office, they want some payback.

Knowing that gun laws don’t work, what is the anti-gun lobby to do with its renewed political influence? Here in Washington, it is promoting a bill that will end private sales of guns at gun shows. But wait, the Department of Justice tells us that less than 1 percent of crime guns were purchased at gun shows, so why support such a useless law? The answer, in a word, is payback.

You see, although gun shows are not a significant source of crime guns, they are both a tool and symbol of the gun rights movement. People gather to discuss their hobby, curse the gun grabbers and enjoy spirited haggling over the price of treasured objects. They also recruit new members and raise funds for gun rights organizations. What better target for the wrath of those who despise guns and gun owners?

The concept of reducing violence by passing gun laws is a fallacy, as evidenced by several decades of failure. The only proven solution is to put criminals in prison and keep them there as long as you can. This is not a popular way to spend tax dollars, hence the opening for culture warriors to hijack the lawmaking process for their own ends.
Michael S. Brown, O.D., of Vancouver is a member of Doctors for Sensible Gun Laws; http://www.dsgl.org.

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