More guns may be part of the answer
Stabroek News
October 25, 2001

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Dear Editor,

I am perplexed by the recent letters arguing against more licensed firearms for Guyana's citizens. In particular, Mr. M. Yhap's letters are provocative by their strong opinions supported by little in the way of facts. Mr. Yhap's references to the situation in the USA are vexing because he has some bad information.

The US Justice Department reports that there are more than 30 million loaded, accessible guns in American homes, about 39% of all American homes. A recent Gallup Poll indicates that 65% of these gun-owners have a gun specifically for the purpose of self-defense. These gun-owners do not view gun-ownership as dangerous, but rather as a form of security like a seat-belt or a smoke-detector.

A university researcher here in Florida found that guns are used for self-defense in the USA as often as 2.5 million times per year. The vast majority of these incidents do not involve anything more than the display of a defensive weapon, and these incidents go mostly unreported.

Currently, thirty-three states out of fifty in the USA have "right-to-carry" laws which require the state to issue concealed firearm permits to qualified citizens (qualifications are basically mental competence and no felony conviction). These permit laws enacted during the 1990s represent a liberalization of gun laws in the USA, a reversal of a long trend toward greater limitations.

If these numbers above are startling to the average reader, consider the situation in other "developed" countries:

In South Africa, emboldened criminals are rampaging in a country where law-abiding citizens are completely disarmed . Police are being killed at the alarming rate of one every two days! Between 1994 and mid-2001, 1,597 officers were killed out of a force of about 130,000. By contrast, New York City lost three out of 41,000 officers in 2000, all in automobile accidents.

In England, after a 1997 nationwide ban on handgun possession, there was a 40% increase in crimes involving handguns by 2000. Similarly alarming statistics are appearing from Australia after the government has recently substantially disarmed the law-abiding public.

The good news is actually here in the USA. According to a recent US Center for Disease Control study, firearms-related deaths due to crime decreased 35% between 1993-1998, and those due to accidents decreased 43%. This is the same timeframe in which many states enacted their "right-to-carry" laws.

Americans tend to be pragmatic. Most realize that -- despite mobile, high-tech, well-trained police -- safety is ultimately a personal responsibility. Mostly, wherever you live, the police arrive well after the crisis is past.

It may seem counterintuitive to people like Mr. Yhap (there are plenty of Mr. Yhaps in the USA) that more guns in the hands of law-abiding citizens means less gun crime in society; but, that is what the evidence suggests. Everything else is just obfuscation.

Yours faithfully,

Harry Pristis