Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Happiness Is a Legal Gun in the District

Welcome to Georgetown, freshmen and transfer students. With the possible exception of those from Detroit or St. Louis, you all will quickly find out that Washington, D.C., is much more dangerous than your previous home. The District consistently leads the country in murders per capita despite – or, more likely, because of – the city’s 29-year-old ban on handguns.

Between the ban’s passage in 1976 and 2001, D.C.’s homicide rate has risen by 72 percent; while during the same years, the national homicide rate has fallen by 36 percent.

These opposite trends have resulted in D.C.’s homicide rate jumping from 3.7 times the national average in 1964-1976 – before the ban – to an alarming 8.1 times greater from 1991-2003.

Guns have long been a traditional part of American culture and, aided by the Second Amendment, citizens have resisted many attempts at gun control. As a result, America enjoys many significant crime-related improvements over countries such as the U.K. and Australia, where very strict gun prohibitions are found. One example is the “hot burglary” rate, which refers to the percentage of break-ins that occur when the victims are at home.

While the U.K.’s hot burglary rate is 59 percent, it is only 13 percent in the U.S. Why? That’s because many Americans keep guns in their homes and, according to interviews with convicted felons, that’s the way to get shot. In fact, American criminals spend much more time than foreigners casing possible targets to ensure that armed homeowners are not present.

Guns have a large deterrent effect on would-be criminals; if criminals are more likely to get shot when committing a particular crime, they are less likely to try it.

Twenty-three states have adopted right-to-carry handgun laws since 1985 – there are now 38 states that have such laws – and according to the FBI’s crime statistics, national violent crime has decreased every year since 1991, hitting a 23-year low in 2002. Also according to the FBI’s statistics, the five states with the lowest violent crime rates (both Dakotas, Vt., N.H. and Maine) have right-to-carry laws.

Critics of right-to-carry laws, however, begin to sound every alarm they can get their hands on any time handguns are even mentioned. Unfortunately, many of these people lack any coherent arguments whatsoever and instead resort to sensationalized exaggerations and empty emotional appeals that completely disregard what is actually occurring with handguns in this country.

Liberal pundits try and frighten families by prophesizing tales of public and accidental shootings that will become commonplace if people are allowed to have guns. But not only do right-to-carry laws fail to increase incidences of public shootings; law-abiding citizens carrying handguns are highly effective in stopping or shortening such crimes.

Between 1977 and 1997, states without right to carry laws averaged 60 percent more casualties per 100,000 citizens from public shootings than states having such laws, while the shooting incidents themselves were more than six times as common in states without right-to-carry provisions.

While accidental shootings are widely sensationalized by the media because covering violent stories is considered a good way to boost ratings and readers, accidental gun deaths have consistently claimed fewer than 10 childrens’ lives under the age of 10 for the last several years. Certainly, any accidental death is a tragedy; however, for some perspective, in 1999, 93 children under 10 died in bathtubs, and 36 children under 5 drowned in five-gallon plastic buckets. Perhaps gun control advocates should be more concerned about people locking up their tool sheds instead of their gun cabinets.

Private gun ownership has very few drawbacks when compared to the great benefits in crime reduction, and even Congress is beginning to pick up on this fact. Last year, the U.S. House passed the D.C. Personal Protection Act, which sought to end D.C.’s prohibition on guns and decriminalize their possession. Unfortunately, the old Senate did not act on this bill, but perhaps the new batch of legislators will take up this worthy cause.

In fact, I can’t think of a better thing for each of the new students (and returning Hoyas, too) to do than to call their congressperson’s and senators’ offices and express their concerns about safety in D.C. Since no voting members of Congress represent Washington, (quasi-Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton doesn’t count), it’s the entire Congress’ responsibility to pass laws with jurisdiction here, so everyone can help get involved with the issue.

Not everyone needs to start packing heat, but right now, criminals know that they are almost invincible when attacking their victims. People can’t even buy a can of mace to protect themselves in this town.

If law-abiding citizens are able to defend their persons, stores and homes with a legal weapon, those who would break the law are going to have to think twice about who might be carrying a gun before their next mugging or robbery. And that’s a much better scenario than having to think twice or more before walking down Prospect Street after 11 p.m.

Eric Rodawig is a junior in the College and can be reached at THOUGHTCRIME appears every other Friday.

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