On Firearms, Liberalism Breeds Confusion

From Atlanta, the inspiring story of a pizza delivery woman who defended herself against a would-be carjacker:

While delivering a pizza, the employee — whose name has not been released — walked into what is now believed to be a setup for a carjacking and heist. When she arrived at the delivery address, a man approached her car and pulled a gun out. He forced her out of the car and onto the ground.

Though Papa John’s company policy states that employees are not allowed to bring guns to work, the delivery driver had a gun with her. The police report confirms that she had the gun in her pocket and was able to reach for it while down on the ground. She then pointed the gun at the man’s face and shot him. … He survived and was later found nearby with a gunshot wound to his face. After being taken to a nearby hospital he was charged with armed robbery.

The employee was worried that she would be fired for violating company policy, but Papa John’s confirmed on its Facebook page that she will keep her job:

The shooting that occurred during a Papa John’s delivery in Atlanta recently is a tragic event. The safety of Papa John’s employees is a top priority for our company. Company policy prohibits employees from utilizing firearms in the performance of their duties. We plan no changes to our current policy, which is designed to protect customers and employees.

But wait! This particular driver believed–evidently correctly–that she was delivering in a hazardous area, and that she would be safer if she were armed. Carrying a gun may have saved her life. Why, exactly, does Papa John’s think that a company policy banning firearms makes its employees safer? On the contrary, isn’t it possible that the criminals who planned this carjacking were aware of the policy and singled out Papa John’s precisely because they believed the driver would be an easy target? Isn’t it likely that Papa John’s is endangering its drivers by publicly disarming them?

The logical error committed by Papa John’s management–the world would be safer if only there were no firearms!–is duplicated in this Politico piece titled “The Myth Behind Defensive Gun Ownership.” What is the myth? The authors devote half the article to debunking a 1992 study that concluded that guns are used defensively in the United States between 1 and 2.5 million times per year. Those numbers do seem high; certainly 2.5 million–more than one percent of the country’s adult population–can’t be right. The author cites other studies that come up with lower numbers. The bottom line is that there are no definitive statistics on defensive gun use. What’s the point? The authors argue that guns are more often used offensively by criminals than in self-defense by victims:

We have yet to find a single study examining the question that does not show that criminal uses far outweigh defensive uses. …

[C]omparing NCVS results to NCVS results yields a very different picture—that more than 9 times as many people are victimized by guns than protected by them. Respondents in two Harvard surveys had more than 3 times as many offensive gun uses against them as defensive gun uses. Another study focusing on adolescences found 13 times as many offensive gun uses.

It may well be true that guns are used more often by criminals than by victims, in self-defense. That is certainly what one would expect. But so what? If I am pondering whether to buy a gun, the more crime exists, and the more criminals use guns, the more likely I am to conclude that armed self-defense is prudent. The question is not: would the world be a better place if there were no guns? The question is, would the world be a better place if criminals have guns, but I, and other law-abiding people, don’t? It seems rather obvious that the answer to that question is No.

The authors’ conclusion is factually wrong:

[M]ore guns means more homicides. More suicides. More dead men, women and children. Not fewer.

But they don’t. Laws have been liberalized and handgun ownership has increased rapidly over the last 20 years. Meanwhile, the homicide and violent crime rates have declined steeply. The homicide rate is about half what it was during the Clinton administration, and the burglary rate is barely more than a third what it was at its peak, at the end of the Carter administration. Is this coincidental? I don’t think so.

Liberals who use various studies to minimize the defensive use of firearms seem to assume that a gun is useful only when it is fired at an attacker, as in the Papa John’s case. On the contrary, in a large majority of cases where a gun is successfully used in self-defense, it isn’t fired. But more important, the fact that many homeowners are armed obviously acts as a deterrent to would-be burglars, and the fact that millions of Americans now have carry permits is a deterrent to street crime. These days, fewer people are becoming burglars or engaging in violent street crime–thereby, happily, reducing the need for self-defense. We should all be grateful for these beneficial effects of the widespread ownership of firearms.