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The impact of firearms on
crime, business, and politics

By John Silveira

Issue #91 • January/February, 2005

The other day a news item stated that for the last 10 years the crime rate in the United States has been dropping, but the "experts" don't seem to know why.

Nothing in society is simple, and there are all kinds of factors operating at any one time, but one of the things the media and the so-called experts have apparently overlooked, consciously or unconsciously, is the plethora of new laws that allow law-abiding citizens to carry concealed weapons. Just a few decades ago, there were almost none, but today 37 states have "right-to-carry" laws on their lawbooks. Nine others, plus Washington, D.C., allow carrying with restrictions, and in the remaining four the right is denied.

In the meantime, as state after state considered easing carrying restrictions, gun phobics marched out their sordid descriptions of gunfights in bars and shootouts at traffic accidents. They never materialized. Still, they marched them out, again and again, every time another state considered a right-to-carry law despite the drop in crime that followed the passage of such laws in other states.

Why does right to carry result in reduced crime? In surveys of violent criminals, the number one thing they say they fear is not the police, who almost always get to the scene of a crime after it's over, but an armed citizen. And in his book, More Guns, Less Crime, economist John Lott pointed out that in a county-by-county study of all 3,054 counties in the U.S., wherever gun restrictions are relaxed violent crime rates have dropped, with the greatest drops in the counties that had had the most crime. In adjoining states where right to carry was instituted in one state and not the other, crime in the counties in the right-to-carry states went down while, right across the border, crime in the state with restrictions generally went up.

Business and guns

Americans love their guns; and criminals, politicians, and businesses should beware—perhaps with good cause. The number of gun owners is significant. The website for Reason Magazine (www.reason.com) cites a Gallup poll taken in the year 2000. About 40 percent of Americans report having guns in their homes. This amounts to as many as 90 million gun owners, and the average gun owner owns about four guns.

When K-Mart hired Rosie O'Donnell as a spokesperson, one of the first things I and several people I know did was to decide not to shop there anymore. A movement materialized on the Internet calling for a K-Mart boycott. Stores like K-Mart work on a very thin profit margin; it doesn't take a large percentage of their shoppers staying away or switching to a competitor to affect their profitability. In the United States, gun ownership is higher in rural rather than urban areas. It may not be coincidental that the least profitable of K-Mart's stores became the rural ones and those are the ones K-Mart's management decided to close on their way to bankruptcy.

In a country where 47 percent of men reported owning guns in their homes, Ace Hardware was committing economic suicide by having O'Donnell as a spokesperson. I stopped shopping at the local Ace as did the publisher of this magazine, and a call on the Internet came out to boycott them until Ace suddenly dropped her. No reason was given, but the protest from customers—men, gun owners—was likely the reason. Ace, at least, didn't have to confront bankruptcy.

Smith & Wesson, the gun manufacturer, caved in to the Clinton trigger locks and saw sales dramatically plunge as a boycott began and they, too, went bankrupt. The company now has new ownership and gun buyers have more or less forgiven the company. But the market reaction by gun owners was clear: "Don't fool with our guns."

Politics and guns

George W. Bush is wishy-washy on guns, but John Kerry never saw an antigun bill he wouldn't sign. Nearing the end of the 2004 campaign, John Kerry's advisors saw the writing on the wall, but just a little too late. They saw he had to pick up some votes in the so-called "red" states and they suddenly had Kerry do a photo shoot looking for all the world like a hunter. But few were fooled and, just as it's hard to tell how much of K-Mart's bankruptcy was caused by gun owner boycotts, it's difficult to tell how many voters that would have voted for Kerry either stayed home or voted for Bush just because of his antigun stance.

In the 2000 election, in several states where gun ownership was high, including Al Gore's home state of Tennessee, Bush eked out victories over antigunner Gore by the slimmest of margins. We'll never know how many votes Gore lost because of his antigun stance, but just a few percent in any one of at least five states would have swung the election to him.

Just as politicians, entertainers, and media types woefully underestimate the number of people who believe in God, despite the number of churches that dot the American landscape, they and many businesses continue to underestimate the number of Americans who believe in the Second Amendment and their right to bear arms and want the option to defend their families and themselves. They are blind to this despite the fact that there are more guns in this country than there are people. And these shortsighted people will continue to pay the price for their lack of vision in the future.




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