‘Damn lies’ on guns
I don’t usually write to your paper, but thought I might respond to Gordon Livingston’s recent piece “Lessons Unlearned,” advocating tighter gun control in light of the horrible shootings at Virginia Tech. As Mark Twain once said, there are three kinds of untruths, lies, damned lies, and statistics.
And let me say up front, I’m not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the NRA.
Mr. Livingston mentions how rates of armed robbery have dropped in Australia since tighter gun laws were passed in 1997. He does not mention that the rate of assault went from 553 per 100,000 in 1995 to 779 per 100,000 in 2001, while robbery overall rose slightly during this period. (source, Australian Government Institute of Criminology)
He also does not mention that Australians did not have the same access to guns as Americans do before 1997, and never have had a constitutional right to own weapons. One needed a reason to own a weapon, for example, an occupation, member of a sporting club, or collector to own a weapon. After 1997, pump action shotguns and semi-automatic weapons were banned, unless, of course, a need was demonstrated, not all guns. (Source: Snopes)
We also do not have “unrestricted access” to guns, well, in theory at least. I suspect one could purchase a handgun on many corners in Savannah, and would be able to do so no matter how many laws were passed. However, one group of people that are prohibited from buying guns are those that have been involuntarily committed to mental institutions (Source: FBI) as Mr. Cho evidently had. Evidently there are flaws in this system that need to be corrected. More laws is not the answer to laws already on the books that are not being enforced.
Mr. Livingston makes a rather inflammatory statement that “the NRA would doubtless be ecstatic if a decision were made to issue handguns to all entering students” Suppose, just for a moment, exactly that had happened.
Or more realistically, suppose, for a moment, that one student out that 100 had brought a weapon in their book bag. Do you think the death toll would have been higher, or lower?
Editor’s Note: Because the original columnist and two letter writers all brought up the issue of Australian gun control, out of curiosity I did some research myself.
Since dramatically expanded gun controls after the 1996 Port Arthur massacre, the rate of total gun deaths in Australia has been cut in half. Additionally, in the two decades prior to the Port Arthur massacre there were 18 mass shootings in Australia; in the decade since there have been none.
So based on that, it does indeed seem that if a society decides that decreasing mass shooting incidents is the primary goal, then increased gun control is one very effective way to accomplish that goal.
However, as you and others have written, there appear to be some unintended consequences, as possibly evidenced by the measurable increase in assault and robbery. And of course as you point out, historical comparisons of gun ownership in Australia and the U.S. are tenuous at best.
Feds fail Constitution
Regarding “Tempting target” by Kathleen Graham: The article states: “Believing at the time that nuclear power plants made likely targets, the federal government spent over $1 billion beefing up security measures at plants nationwide.” (emphasis added)
As the federal government owns no commercial nuclear plants, and is not responsible for site security at any commercial nuclear facility, this statement is misleading at best. What the federal government has failed to do in the area of security is to clearly stand behind their Constitutional responsibility to provide for the common defense against a 9/11/01 Kamikaze style attack. It would be more correct to state that, “nuclear power plant owners have spent over $1 billion beefing up security...”
Open letter to the AJC
Greetings from South Georgia, the abandoned, misrepresented and underrepresented 2/3 of the state that since 4/1/07 has been deprived of the print edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Only 66 of Georgia’s 159 counties are now covered in your circulation area, leaving 93 counties without information about what the state government is up to.
Yes, the AJC has disappeared from all but the northeast quadrant of the state, leaving Savannah, Columbus, Augusta and vast regions of rural Georgia in the dark. A “business decision” according to Sen. Eric Johnson. He hasn’t responded to my question about how much he and the governor had to pay for that “business decision.”
Apropos to this creative way of stifling the press, I recommend this article from Harpers Magazine: harpers.org/archive/2007/04/horton-20070421ymwmeldhvami
Katharine C. Otto, MD