Gun control advocates have attacked John Lott’s More Guns, Less Crime since the work first appeared. None has taken it down. No surprise there. To do so would require an advanced degree in statistics. So Lott’s detractors have been left flailing about, countering his chart-laden conclusions with less well-researched though equally turgid (sorry John) studies. Surprisingly, Firmin Debrabander takes another whack at MGLC. In a salon.com article entitled The right’s big gun lie: Debunking the phony case that more guns will stop crime, Debrabander ends up promoting gun ownership [paragraph breaks added] . . .
The existence of gun-free zones has become a topic of debate. While they were conceived with good intentions, to safeguard our most vulnerable locations, gun rights advocates maintain that the effort has backfired: gun-free zones advertise themselves to would-be shooters as places where they will encounter little or no resistance. That’s why, the argument goes, Adam Lanza targeted Sandy Hook Elementary School— he knew he would not be hindered there.
Gun rights advocates point out that James Holmes, the Batman-obsessed shooter who targeted a packed midnight screening of the Batman film The Dark Knight Rises, could equally well have gone to six other theaters in Aurora, Colorado, that were showing the film that night. Why did he choose that one theater, when two other potential targets were actually closer to his home?
It turns out, John Fund writes in National Review, that the theater he chose was the only one of the seven that “posted signs saying it banned concealed handguns carried by law-abiding individuals.” Fund suspects that was the deciding factor for Holmes.
The Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, attacked by shooter Wade Michael Page in August 2012 was also a gun-free zone, as gun rights groups reminded us at the time. The president of the temple was armed with only a butter knife, and heroically employed it to save others before he was shot and killed. If, however, the temple had permitted guns, some argued, members of this religious minority, often mistaken for Muslims and targeted for prejudice since 9/11, could have protected themselves better.
Thank you, Firmin. You’ve made a convincing case against gun-free zones. If Debrabander had quoted some of Lott’s stats on the subject, we could’ve all gone home and cleaned our carry guns.
Nope! Debrabander keeps going! He offer Salonistas two more epic paragraphs making the case that gun ownership reduces crime. Debrander even quotes pro-gun law professor Glenn Reynolds without contradictory commentary. And then Debrabander writes two more gigantic paragraphs explaining Lott’s thesis, again without arguing the pro-gun points. Seriously, it’s as good a pro-gun piece as one could ever imagine being published on the über liberal website.
When Debrabander finally gets around to rebutting all this pro-gun goodness, he stays aways from the sub-head’s promise: The NRA and some researchers claim we just need more good guys with guns. The math shows they’re all dead wrong. Avoiding math like the philosophy major he once was (hence the John Stuart Mill-like paragraphs), Debrabander focuses his rebuttal of Lott’s work on a case of self-defense quoted in MGLC, wherein a Baltimore native denied his gun rights suffers the consequences. Debrabander’s fisking is as toothless as a mollusk.
Yet this case also suggests that individual gun ownership is not an enduring solution for security and is quite flimsy even as a temporary solution. Clearly, other factors need to be addressed first if we would promote Scott’s safety and that of his neighbors—and the children on his street. Lott says that guns in the hands of private citizens cause criminals to flee an area. But Scott lived in a rough part of town: his home had been burgled repeatedly, and he was harassed outside his house. West Baltimore is notoriously dangerous, and his neighborhood is the kind that spawns criminal behavior. The dearth of viable employment options and the abundance of negative social factors lead residents into lives of crime—which, in Baltimore, principally means the drug trade. If Scott had had a gun, it would hardly inspire criminals to “leave the area.” In Baltimore, where gang members are already well armed, they will know sooner or later that they only require a more powerful weapon if they wish to invade the old man’s home. Mr. Scott’s gun would not deter any desperate drug addict from breaking into his home. Would he have saved himself on that fateful night if he had had a gun? Perhaps. But because his home was obviously a target in the neighborhood, he most likely would have been outgunned or outmaneuvered sooner or later. Hardened, resolved, well-armed criminals—or strung-out drug addicts—are hardly fearful of guns in the hands of private citizens. The latter are no more than an inconvenience, and no real obstacle to what criminals do or want. In Baltimore’s most desperate neighborhoods, where opportunity is bleak and social afflictions vicious, armed citizens will not suddenly cause criminals to wise up, get a job, or move out. If we would really aim for less crime, which Lott claims is the objective of his book, there are broader social conditions that must be addressed. Scott’s gun is no better than a tenuous and temporary salve. I don’t think for one second he would say it made his life safer, and evidence suggests the contrary. It was a last resort in a desperate situation.
As in Debrabander’s inane Atlantic Monthly article, the author presents a farrago of anti-firearms fail. But it’s the Baltimore native’s abject inability to tackle Lott’s overarching conclusion that stands out. He ignores Lott’s central premise, strings together flimsy conjecture and presents the result as if it had some basis in observable facts. Debrabander wants readers to believe guns are a salve not a solution. Yet he makes his case without providing any solid evidence to refute Lott — relying on a vague reference to two anti-gun researchers who rejected Lott’s analysis — or backing up his own opinions. Like this:
If we do not address the real drivers of crime, then individually owned guns are at best a stopgap solution. They may occasionally save some lives, but they do not on the whole make us safer. In a world where more and more people must walk the streets armed, I wager, they would hardly consider themselves safe. Guns are a sign of insecurity—at the very least, they are no deterrent to criminals who are resolved, ruthless, and well armed. If we do not address the underlying causes of crime, it is not hard to see that a plethora of guns is a toxic ingredient added to the mixture.
I draw your attention to Debrabander’s suggestion that armed Americans “hardly consider themselves safe.” Maybe that’s because they’re not. Even outside of the Baltimore’s rougher neighborhoods, the world is not a safe place. But Debrabander doesn’t understand or approve of the idea that armed Americans are safer. Not just because they can fight back against criminal attack but also because most (but not all) criminals prefer not to confront armed Americans. That’s not hard to see, either. Unless you refuse to consider the data. In other words, unless you’re willfully ignorant.