In The Hoya’s Oct. 23 issue, columnist John Thornburgh called for stricter gun control laws because of persistently high rates of gun violence in the United States (“National Gun Epidemic Calls for Treatment,” A3). Pointing to extensive gun violence in Chicago, New York City and Los Angeles, Thornburgh argued for stricter gun control to solve this problem.

To alter a Ronald Reagan quotation: Gun control is not the solution to our problem. It is the problem.

Gun control laws don’t work. They don’t stop criminals from acquiring firearms. They do, however, disarm the law-abiding population, leaving citizens legally incapable of defending themselves on equal ground. Instead of nominally protecting people, owning and carrying guns actually reduces violent crime. Allowing individuals to keep and bear arms both deters gun violence and allows citizens to defend themselves most effectively.

I am not advocating for repealing any and all gun control laws. People with criminal records should not be allowed to purchase firearms. Neither should the mentally ill or minors. I doubt many people have legitimate uses for owning an Uzi or a bazooka. Past those restrictions, however, most gun control laws do far more harm than good.

Gun prohibition, the most severe form of gun control, is about as effective as alcohol and drug prohibition. Sure, it’s illegal to sell or buy drugs, but that illegality will only motivate those who want to abide by the rules. The same goes for gun control. The D.C. government effectively banned all handguns in 1975, yet people still obtained firearms and committed a torrent of crimes with them. Despite its complete ban on handguns, D.C. still managed to earn the nickname “murder capital” because of its high homicide rates. This demonstrates that criminals aren’t concerned with acting legally – they are willing to break the law and acquire guns from the black market or smuggle them in from out of state. Criminals don’t care about gun control laws; they have more important laws to break.

Only people who care about acting legally will obey gun control laws. This makes intuitive sense: If you’re going to rape and murder, for example, you’re probably not overly concerned with laws concerning firearms. If you’re an ordinary, law-abiding citizen, you’re much more likely to obey the gun control laws. Most individuals aren’t going to go to the black market and risk arrest to purchase a gun. If the laws dictate it, you’ll keep your weapon disassembled, unloaded and locked away – making it completely useless as a defensive tool. Gun control laws disarm the people they are meant to protect, leaving them vulnerable to gun-carrying criminals.

Allowing citizens to own and carry firearms deters crime and allows them to defend themselves with the same force brought against them. In a study by the Justice Department, 60 percent of convicts polled said, “A criminal is not going to mess around with a victim he knows is armed with a gun.” Furthermore, most convicts agreed that “criminals are more worried about meeting an armed victim than they are about running into the police.”

Each day, 550 rapes, 1,100 murders and over 5,000 other violent crimes are prevented by brandishing firearms, according to the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. The gun is fired, not necessarily hitting anyone, less than one in 1,000 times. Allowing citizens to use firearms helps prevent crime and, at minimum, puts criminals and potential victims on equal footing.

An armed society does not entail many of the negative consequences that opponents argue it does. Those who have acquired firearms legally just don’t commit crimes. John Lott Jr. a senior research scientist at the University of Maryland, College Park, illustrates this phenomenon in a 1997 paper. Officials in Miami-Dade County, Fla., abandoned a program that tracked license holders because carry permit holders were involved so infrequently in incidents. As far as accidental gun deaths go, you’re 27 times more likely to die from poisoning than from accidental gunfire, according to the Center for Disease Control. There aren’t sufficient drawbacks to warrant more gun control legislation.

Gun control does not prevent criminals from acquiring firearms; it limits the ability of law-abiding citizens to protect themselves. Allowing individuals to own and carry handguns deters crime and lets people defend themselves effectively. Instead of nominally protecting people through gun control, we ought to avoid the sort of gun-control legislation Thornburgh endorses. Individuals can do a better job of actually protecting themselves than legislation that only disarms law-abiding citizens. Level the playing field: Let people own and carry firearms.

Kevin Meers is a part-time student in the College and an editorial assistant for The Hoya.

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