Opinion

Bernd Debusmann

American riddle: more guns, less violence?

Bernd Debusmann
Jan 6, 2012 15:29 UTC

Gun ownership in the United States is up. Violent crime is down. Is this a matter of cause and effect?

The question merits pondering on the January 8 anniversary of the Arizona mass shooting which killed six people, severely injured a member of congress, Gabrielle Giffords, and rekindled the seemingly endless on-and-off debate over gun regulations in the United States, the country with the greatest number of firearms in private hands.

Judging from the background checks gun dealers filed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), that number jumped by around 1.5 million in December, thanks partly to a spurt of buying around Christmas. For Arizona gun enthusiasts who left firearms out of their Christmas giving, gun shows in Tucson and Phoenix provide another shopping opportunity on the Giffords shooting anniversary.

Advocates of tighter restrictions on firearms have long insisted that more guns equal more violence but a series of FBI statistics released in 2011 makes one wonder about that assumption. Gun sales have risen by twelve percent nationally over the last three years, initially spurred by mistaken fears that President Barack Obama would push for tighter controls. In the same period, violent crime (murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault) dropped steadily and now stands at a 37-year low.

Does this vindicate the school of thought that holds that armed citizens are the best defense against crime? “The numbers are consistent with what I’ve been saying for a long time,” says John Lott, author of a controversial 1997 study entitles More Guns, Less Crime. “When bans on guns, as in Chicago and Washington DC, were lifted, murders actually declined,” he said in an interview. (Washington recorded 145 murders in 2009 and 132 in 2010).

The war on drugs and a milestone critique

Bernd Debusmann
Jun 3, 2011 14:08 UTC

The war on drugs is a waste of time, money and lives. It cannot be won. The world’s drug warriors are out of ideas.

Fresh thinking is of the essence. Governments should consider legalizing drugs to take profits out of the criminal trade.

Filling prisons with drug users does nothing to curb the billion-dollar illicit business, one of the world’s richest. Drug use is a public health problem, not a crime. Arresting small-time dealers does little but create a market opportunity for other small fry. Destroy drug crops in one region and cultivation moves to another. Cut a supply route in one place and another one opens up.

In America, violence and guns forever

Bernd Debusmann
Jan 14, 2011 15:09 UTC

Another American mass shooting. Another rush to buy more guns.

On the Monday after the latest of the bloody rampages that are part of American life, gun sales in Arizona shot up by more than 60 percent and rose by an average of five percent across the entire country. The figures come from the FBI and speak volumes about a gun culture that has long baffled much of the world.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation compared January 10, 2011, with the corresponding Monday a year ago.

So what would prompt Americans to stock up their arsenals in the wake of the shooting in Tucson that killed six people and wounded 14, including Gabrielle Giffords, the congresswoman who was the target of an unhinged 22-year-old who has since been charged with attempted assassination?

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