Are We All
Just Potential Criminals?
by Jeremy D. Blanks, Ph.D.
One of the more disturbing arguments used by
anti-gun groups is that normal, law-abiding citizens should not be allowed to
own firearms because they might just snap one day and go on a homicidal rampage.
This contention has become part of the gun ban philosophy in countries
throughout the world and here in the U.S. One must ask, is there any truth to
this argument or is it just another example of a gun control fallacy?
The first thing the potential criminal theory
must assume is that people who have no history of violence or crime cannot be
trusted any more so than convicted criminals. Those using this argument must
further believe that a large percentage of the law-abiding citizens are not of
sufficient intelligence or responsibility to be entrusted to adequately lead
their own lives and instead the government is a better place to put this faith.
Additionally, this presumption relies upon an underlying belief that we are all
just waiting to explode and turn into violent criminals through some fundamental
flaw in the human character.
It is true that a few out of every million or
so law-abiding citizens do commit a violent crime without having any previous
criminal behavior or other warning signs. It is also fascinating to note that
citizens licensed to carry concealed handguns have a lower crime rate than do
police officers. Additionally, we know that career criminals commit greater than
90% of violent crimes and the remaining 10% of violent crimes are mostly
committed by those with a background in crime or violence as a juvenile, so the
incidence of honest citizens suddenly becoming violent criminals is confirmed as
being miniscule. The reality is that there is a possibility, though
extraordinarily small, of a citizen suddenly becoming a violent criminal.
However, if a rational analysis of this issue is carried out, then one must also
ask if the small potential danger from the extremely rare case of a peaceable
citizen suddenly becoming a violent criminal outweighs the overall value of
firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens?
Over a dozen studies have been carried out by
various pro-gun, anti-gun, neutral, and even Department of Justice investigators
to determine the value of civilian gun ownership in how many times citizens use
their firearms for self defense. The numbers have varied from a low of around
100,000 crimes prevented every year by armed citizens to a high of over six
million crimes per year. The differences in the numbers are attributed to
variations in methodology, sampling techniques, and the bias of individual
researchers. While there are major differences in the aforementioned studies,
the consensus is that there are several million crimes prevented each year in
the U.S. by law-abiding citizens with a firearm. This is a staggering number of
crimes prevented each year and it speaks volumes to the overwhelming value of
This issue has also been a crucial topic when
concealed carry laws have been proposed in various states. Currently, 31 states
allow law-abiding citizens the right to carry a concealed firearm through
various licensing procedures. Another dozen states allow some form of concealed
carry, although such licenses are hard to obtain by honest citizens because of
the discretionary nature of the law. One state, Vermont that also happens to
have the lowest crime and violence levels of any U.S. state, allows all
respectable citizens the right to carry a concealed firearm. Only seven states,
which interestingly happen to have some of the highest rates of crime and
violence, currently prohibit all forms of concealed carry by peaceable citizens.
Inevitably when concealed carry is discussed, the anti-gun side states that such
laws will lead to Wild West shootouts and blood on our streets over minor
disputes. Yet, in the 31 states that allow law-abiding citizens to carry
concealed firearms none of the fears raised by the anti-gun side have become
reality. Instead, the opposite has occurred, and the results were lower crime
and violence. For example, these concerns were repeatedly raised when Gov.
George W. Bush of Texas signed a concealed carry law in 1995. Following the
enactment of the Texas concealed carry law in 1995 and through 1997, the number
of homicides had dropped 25% compared to a national reduction of 16%.
Furthermore, the number of assaults and rapes were cut in half, which again far
exceeded the national rate. Overall, the Texas crime rates have dropped to the
lowest point in over 25 years following the enactment of the Texas concealed
carry law. When Gov. George W. Bush said that he believed the concealed carry
law would make Texas a safer place, he was absolutely correct. The same cannot
be said for the outlandish scare tactics from the gun control crowd.
It is clear that the value of civilian gun
ownership far outweighs the few negatives, but there is an even more distressing
matter related to the potential criminal argument in how this theory could and
inevitably would be applied to other areas besides gun ownership. If one is a
parent, using the logic of the potential criminal philosophy, wouldn't such
parents also be potential child abusers and worse? It is a sad fact that there
are some that believe most parents, just like honest citizens with firearms,
can't be trusted to raise their children and thus the federal government should
become actively involved in all aspects of parenting. Under the potential
criminal theory we would all become guilty until proven innocent to the
satisfaction of a government bureaucrat who would act as a surrogate parent. The
same approach could also easily be applied to one's religion, marriage, diet,
family planning, personal finances, etc.
Clearly, the "potential criminal"
theory has no foundation in preventing crime or violence and thus it should be
firmly rejected. That is unless you believe the average government bureaucrat
knows better how to live your life than you do.
About the Author: Dr. Blanks is a Senior
Research Scientist with the premier R&D company in the world. In the past,
Dr. Blanks was supportive of many of the current proposals offered by gun
control groups. However, through research into the effectiveness of such
measures and the value of firearm ownership in the prevention of millions of
crimes each year, Dr. Blanks is now an advocate for self defense and firearm
ownership rights. He is a member of the Board of Directors of Doctors
for Sensible Gun Laws. Dr. Blanks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Other publications from Dr. Blanks include: