Politics & Policy

Anti-Gun Hysteria Is Hazardous to Your Health

(Dreamstime image: Nicolae Marian)
The data prove it.

Despite their avowed faith in science and data, all too many progressives view a gun as a kind of magical, evil object. It’s a metallic voodoo doll that is best not touched, handled, or brought into polite conversation, even when it can save lives.

I remember one of the last briefings I received in my Army career. A military police major stood in front of roughly 100 soldiers and clicked through PowerPoint slides describing how service members and their families could protect themselves from terrorist violence. Slides described suggestion after suggestion as to how to conceal your identity as an American soldier and render your movements unpredictable. It was good advice, but something was missing.

At the conclusion of the briefing, I raised my hand and asked why the Pentagon wasn’t recommending that its soldiers — as a group the most highly trained warriors in the country — legally carry a personal weapon off-post. The response was instant: “Because the data indicate you’re more likely to hurt yourself than harm a criminal.” A murmur went through the room. I followed up. “Do you carry a weapon off-post?” He looked sheepish, but confessed. “Yes I do. At all times.”

I thought of that moment while reading David Montgomery’s lengthy essay in the most recent Washington Post Magazine. Montgomery’s piece is a powerful meditation on life in an era where more people and institutions than ever before must ponder how to respond to mass shootings. It walks through the emerging consensus that “run, hide, and fight” is best policy — that first you should try to escape an attacker, and, if that doesn’t work, your best and only option is to fight back.

Montgomery details what this means: “As a last resort, we must convert our fear into anger. We must swarm the attacker, swinging laptops, coffee mugs, scissors.” Laptops? Coffee mugs? It all seems so hopeless. Montgomery continues:

Given that most of us will never face an active shooter, his rise to prominence is more about us than him. He’s the perfect nightmare, an avatar of the minute-to-minute possibility of terrorism ripping the facade off the familiar.

Can we do what it takes to be ready without letting him haunt our lives?

I feel like raising my hand again. Yes, yes there is something you can do. You can arm yourself. When you do, you no longer feel helpless because you’re not. You don’t have to rely on your laptop or a pair of scissors to save your life and the lives of those around you. You can walk into a restaurant, a mall, or any other place where firearms are permitted with confidence, not as a vigilante, but as an armed citizen capable of defending yourself and others.

Yet anti-gun hysteria too often triumphs over common sense. Bring up expanded concealed-carry rights, and some on the Left seem to panic as if law-abiding men and women will somehow turn our shops and schools into free-fire zones. But the evidence is overwhelming: Concealed-carry permit holders are not a public-safety risk.

In July, the Crime Prevention Research Center published a comprehensive report on those Americans who hold concealed-carry permits. Among the findings, the Center notes that while the police are dramatically more law-abiding than the population as a whole (37 times more law-abiding), permit holders in Texas and Florida — two states that keep comprehensive records — were even more law-abiding than cops. Police officers committed crimes at a rate of 103 crimes per 100,000 officers. Permit holders in Texas and Florida committed crimes at a rate of 22.3 per 100,000.

Given that approximately 6 percent of the adult population has a concealed-carry permit, legally concealed weapons are involved in remarkably few deaths.

But don’t tell the New York Times. Last week it editorialized against legislation that would require states to recognize lawful concealed carry permits issued in other states. In “support” of its argument, it tried to make the case that permit holders are a threat to public safety. Using research from the anti-gun Violence Policy Center, it ominously claims that “since 2007, concealed-carry permit holders have been responsible for at least 898 deaths not involving self-defense.” Follow the link to the study, called “Concealed Carry Killers,” and you’ll find that almost 300 of those 898 deaths were suicides.

Where does that number fit within the context of all gun deaths in the United States? During the same ten-year span when 898 deaths occurred, there were more than 100,000 homicides and more than 300,000 total gun deaths. Given that approximately 6 percent of the adult population has a concealed-carry permit, legally concealed weapons are involved in remarkably few deaths.

Simply put, if you’re standing at a bus stop, and you know the person to your left is an armed concealed-carry permit holder, and the person to your right does not have a carry permit, the person to your right is statistically a far, far greater threat to your life than the permit holder. That’s just a fact. Indeed, that person’s hands and feet are more dangerous to you than the permit holder’s gun. Applying the New York Times’s own preferred data set, more people were murdered by fists and kicks in 2015 alone than were murdered by firearm-wielding concealed-carry permit holders in the last ten years.

#related#This means that those opposed to concealed carry on campuses and those supporting so-called gun-free zones in other public spaces are behaving irrationally. Those who are training law-abiding citizens to respond to mass shootings without also counseling them to purchase a firearm and learn how to use it aren’t empowering their clients as much as they could. (I don’t want to cast too much blame; often the clients don’t want to be empowered.)

America has a crime problem. It doesn’t have a gun problem. The gun is a tool, not a terror. In the right hands, it’s an instrument of peace and justice. It protects life and stops attacks. It’s an antidote to fear and helplessness. We cannot allow hysteria to prevent us from exercising our inherent right of self-defense.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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