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News & Editorials

Should Handguns Be Banned?

by Clint Cook


I recently wrote an article, which presented statistics indicating that guns are not necessarily the vile objects of destruction that the anti-gun lobby would have the public believe, and that guns were not the cause of violence in America. I received a comment from one individual who stated that handguns should be banned because they cause more harm than good, and are too easily concealed.

I appreciate this comment, it wasn't rude or derogatory, and the individual simply stated his/her personal beliefs without attacking. This individual raises one of the most debated gun issues: should handguns be banned? After considering this I came to the conclusion that handguns should NOT be banned. I don't believe banning handguns would better America, make America safer, or reduce the violence that seems to dominate many American cities. I also believe that any issue that pits personal rights against public safety should have both sides weighed very closing before opinions are formed. Too many Americans simply follow their emotions and say, "I'm for/against [fill in the blank]" without studying the issue. I wish everyone would study both sides of an issue and then form an educated opinion. It is my hope that this article will explain what facts I used to reach the conclusion that handguns should not be banned.

By the way, I am in no way suggesting that the individual who commented on my previous article was not well informed. I have no way of knowing how that person came to his/her conclusion, and I hope they do not see this article as a personal attack. To the contrary, I hope this person will feel free to express his/her opinion at all times.

Now let me attempt to explain why I feel handguns should not be banned. In America it is estimated that there are more than 200 million firearms, owned by over 80 million people. Many of these firearms are handguns. 

How are all of these handguns to be removed from the public? 

If the government insists that private owners must turn in their handguns, I have no doubt that law abiding citizens would do just that, but would the people using guns to commit crimes be as willing to hand their weapons over? One could argue that the remaining handguns could be confiscated as the criminals using them were apprehended. How long would this take? How long should the American public go unarmed while the criminal population remained armed? 1 year, 2 years, 5 years? In the meantime, who or how does the now unarmed public, protect itself? 

The police are not responsible to protect the individuals; in fact their real charge is to investigate crime, apprehend suspects, and act as a general crime deterrent. The police are not meant to act as personal bodyguards. For argument 's sake, let's assume that the government is very aggressive in getting all of the illegal handguns off the streets. Will the criminal element remain unarmed? My guess is no. The government has been battling the illegal drug market for years, yet drugs still pour over our borders. Why should Americans believe that the government could prevent illegal handguns from entering America? A successful handgun ban would reduce violence. In order to reduce violence all guns must be removed from the criminal hands, and the guns cannot be allowed to return. I have very little confidence that this could happen, due to the number of guns out there, and the difficultly in preventing more guns from entering America.

One final thought on this point, before I move on. It is currently illegal for felons to own handguns, yet most criminals are repeat offenders - laws and bans have not prevented criminals from using guns. I know the argument is that because handguns are so prevalent in our society that criminals have no problems obtaining them. I don't believe that removing handguns from the law-abiding public will prevent criminal from obtaining a firearm. Keep in mind that some of the countries with the highest murder rates have the strictest guns laws. In other words, gun bans in other countries have not stopped the violence. Even in America, some of the areas with the fewest guns have the highest violent crime rates. In the last 30 years gun ownership in America has increased, but the violent crime rate has dropped. Not only is the violent crime rate dropping, but also the number of murders in which firearms are used is dropping (FBI's 1998 Uniform Crime Report, Oct 1998) -- proof that crime can be reduced without preventing responsible citizens from owning guns. And in fact some legitimate, scientifically sound studies indicate that private gun ownership actually helps reduce violent crimes.

Are handguns too easily concealed? 

I don't believe handguns should be banned for the very reason they are easy to conceal. I will readily concede that the bad guys use this to their advantage. Any way you look at it, criminals are going to be armed, so why shouldn't responsible adults be allowed to arm themselves. Statistics prove that concealed carry permit holders are far less likely to commit a crime than the average citizen, so giving people the right to carry a concealed handgun only poses a risk to an attacker. I'm not a criminologist, but I believe most of those who commit crime are looking for the "easy score"; while committing the crime they do not want attention, resistance, or the risk of personal harm. If criminals see the potential of any of these, most will move on. Allowing the public to legally carry concealed weapons ups the odds of attention, resistance, and harm. States that have allowed their citizens to be armed have seen a drop in violent crime. I believe that in these states the bad guys no longer view the general public an "easy score". Easy concealment is an important factor when choosing a weapon for personal defense, and Americans have the right to protect themselves! Concealment of the firearm is the only socially acceptable means of public carry, and responsible citizens that choose to carry are not a public threat, do not cause more violence, and do not adopt a Dodge City, and the O.K Corral attitude!

Do handguns cause more harm than good? 

I have no doubt that if ALL guns in America were eliminated, that the number of murders would drop. However I believe that the total elimination of guns is an impossibility in today's world, and that violence would continue. Like it or not, handguns are a part of America's society, and are here to stay. Let's look at how handguns are being used in today's society, and investigate if in fact they do more harm than good. According to the FBI a full 2/3 of the instances in which a gun was fired, it was fired by a criminal at another criminal. The drug dealers and gang bangers are killing each other. Why aren't these people in jail? No gun restriction is going stop a criminal from committing a crime, but gun restrictions may prevent the victim having any feasible means of defense. Murders, rapist, muggers, these people have no respect for human life, so why would they respect the law? If these people were in prison where they belong, gun crimes would instantly drop 66%.

A study conducted by The Department of Justice, the F.B.I, and other law enforcement agencies, and Prof. Gary Kleck from the School of Criminology, Florida State University says that handguns are used 1 to 1.5 million times a year, to prevent a crime from occurring. In most of these cases, no shots are ever fired. These 1 million plus instances are perfect examples of handguns doing more good than harm. No one was hurt, and quite possibly the handgun stopped someone from being hurt or murdered. Prof. Gary Kleck went on to do a study that showed victims who defended themselves with a gun suffered lower rates of injury than did those who resisted without a gun, or even those who did not resist at all but instead complied with to the attackers demands. Here is another example of handguns doing good. So while guns are often used to commit crimes and acts of violence, they are far more often the only means of preventing violence.

Are handguns unsafe?

I don't buy into the argument that handguns are unsafe. Handguns may be used to harm thousands of people each year, but willfully shooting at someone is very different than someone being shot by a gun that was unintentionally fired. Accidental shootings in America have been on the decrease for the last 50 years, yet gun ownership is on the rise. If guns were inherently unsafe, more guns would mean more accidents, but this is not the case. Take a look at the 1998 numbers, about 1,500 people died from accidental gun shot wounds, 43,000 people died in car accidents, and 120,000 died from medical mistakes made by doctors. So statistically speaking, cars and doctors are much more likely to kill you than an accidental discharge from a gun. Since cars and doctors are so unsafe should they be banned? Banning any and everything that causes a death is not a solution to a problem; education in gun safety is. 

To summarize why I believe handguns should not be banned:

1)  I believe removing handguns from the United States is impossible -- and would leave the criminal population armed. 

2)  Preventing responsible citizens from owning handguns will only enable criminals, possibly even contributing to a more violent society. 

3)  Handguns are actually a useful tool in protecting oneself, and often do more good than harm. 

4)  Handguns are not dangerous, and if gun owners will continue to practice safe handling and storage techniques, the number of accidental gun shootings will continue to fall.

I make no claim to having seen and/or understood all of the studies and statistics available on the gun issue, but I have failed to find any that would indicate that more guns = more crimes and fewer guns = fewer crimes. In fact, most data would suggest just the opposite. Banning handgun ownership would be like placing a band-aid on a compound fracture - it would do no good at all, and doesn't even address the real problem

So why should handguns be banned?

Other Writing from Mr. Cook: and


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