In response to the most famous of the bumper-sticker myths, the authors had something interesting to say.
Gun regulation is as American as Wyatt Earp, the legendary frontier lawman who enforced Dodge City's ban on gun-carrying within town limits. But two years ago in District of Columbia v. Heller, the Supreme Court decided for the first time that the Second Amendment grants a personal right to keep and bear arms, a decision that cast doubt on the future of gun control regulations in this country. Now, the court is considering a challenge to Chicago's ban on handgun ownership -- a regulation that has been in place for nearly 30 years. Would a repeal of the ban have a major impact on gun violence in Chicago or in other parts of the country? It's a tricky question. And disagreements on the answer come from several persistent myths about guns in America.
1. Guns don't kill people, people kill people.
This anti-gun-control slogan, a perfect fit for bumper stickers, has infected the public imagination with the mistaken belief that it's just criminals, not weapons, that lead to deadly violence. The key question is, really, whether guns make violent events more lethal. While mortality data show that attacks are far more likely to be fatal when a gun is involved, gun-control opponents argue that this difference simply reflects the more serious, deadly intent of offenders who choose to use a gun.But in a groundbreaking and often-replicated look at the details of criminal attacks in Chicago in the 1960s, University of California at Berkeley law professor Franklin Zimring found that the circumstances of gun and knife assaults are quite similar: They're typically unplanned and with no clear intention to kill. Offenders use whatever weapon is at hand, and having a gun available makes it more likely that the victim will die. This helps explain why, even though the United States has overall rates of violent crime in line with rates in other developed nations, our homicide rate is, relatively speaking, off the charts.
I don't think I'd heard about that study before comparing gun attacks with knife attacks. What I have heard before is the pro-gun argument that removing all the guns would make little difference. I've always considered that an indication of intellectual dishonesty because you don't need a study to tell you that the lethality of the gun would make a major difference.
So, it's good to have a study to back up what everybody who's the least bit reasonable already knows. The problem is the ones who wouldn't admit it before still won't. They'll question the validity of the study or disparage its authors, anything but admit they might have been wrong about something. I can't wait to hear what Kurt the 45superman has to say, for example.
What's your opinion? Do you thing these facile slogans are nothing more than that, facile slogans? Or do you believe in them?
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