Guns do not increase personal safety

JBy Cathryn Carlis John E. Caile’s June 16 opinions piece, “A shift in the gun debate” encourages those who continue to oppose the Minnesota “shall-carry” handgun permit law to join the growing number of “pro-gun” Americans and accept the law as is. However, Caile’s justifications for the soundness of the new law incorporate misleading and disturbingly flawed reasoning.

To explain the rise in “pro-gun” attitudes on college campuses, Caile first suggests students might be reacting to recent shootings on various campuses – places often declared as “gun-free” zones.

According to Caile’s logic, law-abiding students see gun ownership as a way to protect themselves from criminals who will obtain guns by any means. In essence, more guns mean more safety. Not only is this proposition false, as will be shown below, but his next suggestion as a reason for increased campus pro-gun attitudes – that the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 occurred in spite of “gun-free” zones at airports – seems an even more desperate attempt to support the flimsy house of cards that is his argument. Amid all possible factors that contributed to the terrorist attacks, such as American foreign policy in the Middle East, global political and economic trends, etc., adding gun control as partly responsible for Sept. 11, 2001, is laughable, as the terrorists did not use guns.

Caile points out the danger of rape on campus as another possible cause for the shift in “pro-gun” attitudes, but he does not cite any evidence that carrying a concealed weapon really can prevent rape. Even the Women’s Issues page on the Minnesota Concealed Carry Reform, NOW! Web site – the Web site of the organization Caile works for – only lists a few anecdotes for successful self-defense with a gun and vague statistics on handgun use in self-defense. The site does not note how often self-defense with a gun was successful or if it led to increased violence.

A likelier cause in the shift in attitude toward gun control seems to me to be the culture of fear and paranoia promoted by the George W. Bush administration as they push their agenda for increased national and global “security” in response to Sept. 11, 2001, and global terrorism fears. As they remind us of the evil and danger lurking around every corner, waiting to erode our “freedoms,” it is natural to seek tools that we believe increase our safety. However, giving people easier access to handguns does not increase personal safety.

To wit, according to the Gun Control Network Web site, gun deaths per 100,000 people are higher in the United States than in countries with stricter gun control. For example, gun deaths per 100,000 people in the United States in 1999 were 10.58; in England – a country with very strict gun control – gun deaths per 100,000 people in 1999 were 0.35.

Further, guns in the home, even if purchased for self-defense, are far more likely to be used for other purposes. As was noted in a 1998 Journal of Trauma article, “A gun in the home is 22 times more likely to be used in a criminal, unintentional or suicide-related shooting than to be used in a self-defense shooting.”

Finally, gun control can increase personal safety. The Brady Campaign – a nonprofit organization dedicated to reducing gun violence – contains the following on their Web site: “According to the U.S. Department of Justice, during the first six years after the Brady Law went into effect, background checks nationwide stopped over 600,000 felons and other prohibited purchasers from buying handguns from federally licensed firearm dealers.” During this time, “an estimated 9,368 fewer people died than expected because the percentage of robberies and assaults committed with firearms fell each year after reaching a peak of 42.4 percent of robberies and 25.1 percent of aggravated assaults in 1993.”

I hope other readers were as insulted and incensed by Caile’s bombast as I was, and will continue to carefully and critically examine complex issues like gun control and actively participate in the democratic process to change misguided and dangerous laws such as this one.

Cathryn Carlis is a senior in the College of Liberal Arts.

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