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KIDS & GUNS: EXPLOITING TRAGEDY
by Dr. Paul Gallant and Dr. Joanne Eisen

Reprinted with permission from Guns & Ammo Magazine, July 2000. Copyright 2000 by Petersen Publishing Co.; All rights reserved.

In England, it's taken nearly a century to convince the Brits that self-defense is no longer their right, and that firearms have no place among "civilized" people, not even for "sporting purposes". But here in America, they've figured out a short cut. The newest scheme of the anti-self-defense lobby targets our children, the key to the future. If our children can be deprived of firearms, the cycle of firearm ownership from parent to child can be broken, and the "final solution" accomplished in one generation.

This article will expose some of the ways in which politically motivated criminologists have created the media-fueled myth of a "proliferation of guns among children", and have used it to manipulate a gullible public into demanding "reasonable", "common-sense" gun laws.

"HOT-SPOT"

Between 1984 and 1993, the rate at which homicides were committed by adolescents aged 13-17 quadrupled. And that increase is accounted for - almost exactly - by the increase in homicides committed with guns.

These statistics have spawned the latest factoid being shoved down the throats of Americans: their country is in the midst of a juvenile violent crime "epidemic", and at the heart of it is the gun.

What we are not told are the demographics. WHO, exactly, is committing all the crime. And where?

If one bothers to check the numbers, it becomes apparent that today's youthful offenders are mostly inner-city, minority gang members. In a rare lapse into honesty, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) researchers James Mercy and Mark Rosenberg confirmed this well-kept secret: "... the current understanding of exposure to and use of firearms by school-age children is based on studies of inner-city children."

Acknowledging in a 1998 article that "at present there are fewer than five studies in this area" - and each with "significant limitations" - Mercy and Rosenberg lamented the lack of information about firearm violence and "children who live in suburban and rural communities". What they failed to tell us was the reason for the absence of that information.

WE will. No such problem exists outside these inner-city areas. It's the crime confined to geographically narrow inner-city neighborhoods that's driving the entire youth homicide rate! A February 1999 U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) monograph entitled "Promising Strategies to Reduce Gun Violence" pin-pointed the locations of juvenile "gun-violence":

"One of the key research findings of the last 10 to 15 years has been the discovery of the importance of hotspots of crime...even within high-crime areas there are specific locales that generate the majority of calls for police..."

In fact, according to the DOJ report, these "hotspots" are often limited to just "a small number of city blocks".

One of the tenets of scientific research is that, in order to legitimately generalize a study's conclusions to a population beyond the sample of that study - in this case, to the rest of the United States - the study's sample must be representative of that larger population. Using "hotspot analysis" to draw conclusions about juvenile homicide in America turns the scientific method on end.

But that's exactly what some unscrupulous criminologists have been doing. And they're asking us to formulate public policy for an entire nation based on those conclusions. For example, in a 1998 DOJ compendium of articles entitled "Youth Violence", paid for with taxpayer funding, Jeffrey Fagan and Deanna Wilkinson repeatedly acknowledge the problem of crime hotspots in a section entitled "Guns, Youth Violence, and Social Identity" - and then proceed to lay the blame at the feet of this country's overwhelmingly non-violent juvenile population:

"Guns play an important role in the recent epidemic of lethal youth violence...These effects appear to be large enough to justify intensive efforts to reduce availability, possession, and use of guns by American adolescents."

That message uncritically accepted by America's biased mainstream media and corrupt politicians.

CATCHY SOUND BITES

After fabricating a "gun problem" with "the children", the firearm-prohibitionists lost no time in creating a new catch phrase to go along with it: "proliferation of guns".

Nice sound-bite. But as usual, 180-degrees away from the truth, because Janet Reno's "hotspot" neighborhoods just happen to be located in areas which, for decades, have been the recipients of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation. These are places where lawful firearm possession is virtually forbidden.

Yet while they may be "unlawful", guns are far from impossible to obtain, and their procurement involves "black markets".

The illegality of black markets makes it difficult to quantify their scope, and their clandestine nature allows dishonest researchers like Mercy and Rosenberg to minimize their importance. But what we do know about the black market is that it is a direct consequence of restrictions that deny lawful access to firearms - policies which people like Mercy and Rosenberg have helped implement.

Mercy and Rosenberg tell us another fact: "Many adolescents, particularly (but not exclusively) those who reside in inner cities, can easily and inexpensively obtain high-quality and powerful firearms."

The mental picture we're expected to form is one of wildly proliferating - but lawful - firearm possession among our children, providing the firearm-prohibitionists with a pretext to "close all the loopholes". And for those taken in by the vision of truckloads of Uzis rolling down the streets of America in plain sight, and guns being handed out like water to marathon runners on a hot summer's day, the scam worked as planned.

But Yale researcher and law professor Dr. John Lott addressed the myth of easy, lawful juvenile access to guns in the June 19, 1999 edition of the Wall Street Journal:

"Everyone from President Clinton to the hosts of the Today Show attributes the recent wave of school violence to the greater accessibility of guns...Yet the truth is precisely the opposite. Gun availability has never before been as restricted as it is now...

The fact is, today's juvenile crime "epidemic" arises not from easy, lawful access to guns, but from the co-existence of "killer-kids" and black markets. While the two may be sociologically linked by virtue of ill-conceived policies of liberalism, there is no scientific connection between them.

And what's the solution from Janet Reno's Department of Justice?

"[Our] programs...seek to reduce firearm possession and carrying by juveniles...To accomplish this goal, some communities have limited the number of Federal firearms licensees (FFL's) that are allowed to sell firearms".

Do America's politicians really think that underage gang members get their guns from licensed gun dealers, when the Department of Justice's own research shows this not to be the case? Are they really unaware of the universal fact that more restrictions mean more business for the black market, and even easier access for criminals?

And are they really that stupendously incompetent when it comes to setting "reasonable", "common sense" public policy?

Not a chance! They're just feigning ignorance - and lying through their teeth - in order to camouflage their real intent: total civilian disarmament.

KILLER KIDS

The emotional clincher for the firearm-prohibitionists in demonizing firearm use among children has been the recent spate of high-profile - but statistically insignificant - school shootings. However, just like government intervention is the cause of a robust black market in guns, the evidence points to government intervention as the cause here, too.

In 1990, Federal legislation banning guns within 1,000 feet of a school was signed into law by then-President George Bush. Although ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court on April 25, 1995, the legislation was re-worked, resurrected by Congress, then signed back into law by Bill Clinton that same year. To date, 40 states have enacted similar laws.

In an April 1999 working paper entitled "Multiple Victim Public Shootings, Bombings, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handgun Laws", Dr. Lott and colleague Dr. William Landes explored the phenomenon of mass public shootings in relation to the absence or presence of restrictive concealed handgun laws, enacted at the state level. Between 1977 and 1995, Lott and Landes found that 15 shootings took place in schools located in states with restrictive firearm laws, resulting in a total of 19 deaths and 97 injuries.

In contrast, only one shooting took place in a state where ordinary citizens had easy legal access to firearms, including concealed handguns. The result: one death, and two injuries.

The difference was the factor of deterrence, brought about by armed, law-abiding citizens, and the possibility that would-be perpetrators might just run into one of these, instead of unarmed, defenseless victims.

This was brought home by a shooting that took place in Pearl, Mississippi, in October 1997. Armed with a hunting rifle, 16-year-old Luke Woodham killed his ex-girlfriend and her friend, and then proceeded to wound 7 other students at Pearl High School. After hearing shots fired and seeing a teenager with a gun, Assistant Principal Joel Myrick ran to his car, retrieved a handgun he had forgotten to remove during the preceding weekend, and interrupted Woodham's shooting spree, holding him at bay until police arrived.

Although Mississippi had enacted a nonrestrictive concealed handgun law in 1990, Federal law prohibited Myrick from having the gun in his car because of its proximity to the school. But he did, and, in the process, saved an unknown number of lives.

The story, like many others, has been conveniently ignored by the mainstream media. But Drs. Lott and Landes commented on the ramifications of banning guns in and around schools:

"...these incidents [public school shootings] raise questions about the unintentional consequences of laws...The possibility exists that attempts to outlaw guns from schools, no matter how well meaning, may have produced perverse effects."

Dr. Lott pointed out that, 30 years ago, "nowhere were guns more common than at schools. Until 1969, virtually every public high school in New York City had a shooting club. High-school students carried their guns to school on the subways..."

If "easy access to guns" and their "proliferation" are the problem, why no Littletons then? And how is it that first-graders didn't go around shooting classmates back then?

THE POWER TO KILL

Consider this. Suppose we were to carry out a survey among American adults, and pose the following scenario: The problem of juvenile delinquency was examined in a study of 7th- and 8th-grade boys and girls. Some of them were given one or more guns by their parents. More adolescents from high-crime than from low-crime areas were included in the study in order to maximize the number of serious, chronic offenders.

And then, suppose we asked the following question: By the time these adolescents had reached 11th and 12th grade, respectively, of those adolescents whose parents had given them a gun, what percentage would you guess would have committed a firearm-related crime?

Just such a study was carried out by the U.S. Department of Justice in Rochester, NY, and published in March 1994. And we would wager that few, if any, of our hypothetical survey respondents would come even remotely close to the answer arrived at in the Rochester study.

Because hidden within the mass of data of that DOJ study entitled "Urban Delinquency and Substance Abuse" was the finding that, of all children who had received a gun from a parent, zero percent had used a gun in committing a crime!

The cycle of gun ownership from parent to child has, in the past, always produced children capable of handling potentially deadly objects without harm to themselves - or to others. All available evidence shows that this hasn't changed. But Americans have been brainwashed into believing that their children are incapable of handling firearms in a responsible manner.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Children given guns, and the education to handle them safely and with respect for all they can do, are the most non-violent of all groups studied.

THE BOTTOM LINE

On February 29, 2000, Kayla Rolland was shot to death by a 6-year-old boy at Buell Elementary School, Mount Morris Township, Michigan. America's anti-self-defense lobby reveled in the tragedy.

Clinton took advantage of the opportunity, exploiting Kayla's death to urge passage of his latest firearm proposals, which included the mandatory sale of "trigger-locks" with all new handgun purchases. Said Clinton with a straight face: "I'm not at all sure that even a callous, irresponsible drug dealer with a 6-year old in the house wouldn't leave a child trigger lock on a gun".

To those Americans eager to fill the prescription firearm-prohibitionists promise will bring us a safer society - a prescription of "reasonable" gun laws designed to stop the "proliferation of guns among children" - please answer this one question: Are you willing to bet the lives of your children on a philosophy which requires tragedy, deceit, and the death of innocent persons for its successful implementation?

Firearm ownership is integral to liberty. And unless we teach our children how to handle that liberty, what some Americans still value will quickly slip beyond reach.


REFERENCES

  • Cook P, Molliconi S, Cole T; "Regulating Gun Markets"; J Crim Law and Criminology; Vol 86#1, Fall 1995
  • Lott J; "More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun-Control Laws"; University of Chicago; 1998
  • Lott J, Landes W; "Multiple Victim Public Shootings, Bombings, and Right-to-Carry Concealed Handgun Laws: Contrasting Private and Public Law Enforcement"; Univ. of Chicago, Working Paper #73, 1999
  • Lott J; "More Gun Controls? They Haven't Worked in the Past"; Wall Street Journal 6/19/99
  • Lott J; "The Real Lessons of the School Shootings"; Wall Street Journal 3/27/98
  • "Promising Strategies to Reduce Gun Violence"; Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; U.S. Department of Justice; Feb 1999
  • "Urban Delinquency & Substance Abuse"; Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention; U.S. Department of Justice; Aug 1995
  • "Violence in American Schools: A New Perspective"; Elliott D, Hamburg B, and Williams K, editors; Cambridge University Press; 1998
  • "Youth Violence"; Michael Tonry and Mark Moore, Ed.; University of Chicago Press, 1998

Dr. Paul Gallant practices Optometry in Wesley Hills, New York. Dr. Joanne Eisen practices dentistry in Old Bethpage, New York. Both are research associates with the Independence Institute, a civil liberties think tank in Golden Colorado, http://i2i.org. We are happy to welcome them as contributing members of our team.

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 QUOTES TO REMEMBER
You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our founding fathers used in the struggle for independence. —CHARLES A. BEARD

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