Following the Virginia Tech massacre, Gerard Baker (for whose opinions I've usually got a lot of time) in the Times :
In Virginia, scene of yesterday’s shootings, they passed a law a few years ago that did indeed restrict gun purchases – to a maximum of one per week. In the neighbouring District of Columbia, on the other hand, the law bans the possession of all guns.
Unfortunate choice, that. The District of Columbia has one of the highest murder rates in the whole of the US. How so ? As the San Francisco lawyer and criminologist Don Kates writes :
The difficulty of enforcement crucially undercuts the violence-reductive potential of gun laws. Unfortunately, an almost perfect inverse correlation exists between those who are affected by gun laws, particularly bans, and those whom enforcement should affect. Those easiest to disarm are the responsible and law abiding citizens whose guns represent no meaningful social problem. Irresponsible and criminal owners, whose gun possession creates or exacerbates so many social ills, are the ones most difficult to disarm.
This applies in spades to the UK, where a total handgun ban has been accompanied by year-on-year increases in handgun crime.
States in the US where so-called concealed carry is allowed have seen falls in crime, as criminals take into account the possibility that their potential victims may be armed.
In Florida, which first introduced "shall-issue" concealed carry laws, crimes committed against residents dropped markedly upon the general issuance of concealed-carry licenses, which had the unintended consequence of putting tourists in Florida driving marked rental cars at risk from criminals (since tourists may be readily presumed unarmed.) Florida responded by enacting laws prohibiting the obvious marking of rental cars.
Perhaps if any law-abiding VT students had been allowed to carry their own weapons on campus the killer would not have been able to slaughter them in such numbers. But a Virginia Bill (House Bill 1572) allowing students the right to carry handguns on campus was recently defeated - prompting Virginia Tech spokesman Larry Hincker to make the unfortunate declaration :
"I'm sure the university community is appreciative of the General Assembly's actions because this will help parents, students, faculty and visitors feel safe on our campus."
Last June, VT's governing board approved a violence prevention policy reiterating its ban on students or employees carrying guns and prohibiting visitors from bringing them into campus facilities.
Unfortunately the 'violence prevention policy' doesn't seem to have taken into account the possibility that someone intent on breaking the murder statutes may not be too worried about a college ban. The killer didn't obey the college rules. Those who died did.
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