It may be politically incorrect, but guns save lives, too

July 16, 1999|By Thomas Sowell

YOU WOULD think that a man who saved three people's lives, at considerable risk to his own, would be recognized as a hero. But his story is politically incorrect, so it has received virtually no media attention and his name remains unknown.

It all started when a gunman, Richard Gable Stevens, 21, who intended to kill himself and others, took three hostages at a Santa Clara, Calif., gun club with a semiautomatic rifle that he had rented there. His plan was thwarted when an employee of the shooting range shot him twice with a handgun, freeing the hostages.

This happened on July 6, but have you seen the story anywhere? People get more media attention than this for recycling aluminum cans.

It is politically incorrect to let it be known that guns in the hands of law-abiding private citizens can save lives. Yet this has happened any number of times. There have even been cases of a policeman under fire being rescued by a private citizen with a gun. One year, more criminals were reported killed by private citizens than by the police. But it wasn't reported very widely.

People who have been wringing their hands asking, "What can we do to stop shootings at schools?" have apparently not been told that a couple of these shootings were in fact brought to a halt by an armed adult on the scene.

Fox News Network has the slogan, "We report. You Decide." That clearly is not the watchword at most major media outlets. They decide what you ought to believe and then tell you only what they want you to know, so that you will believe it.

The media present gun-control issues solely from the perspective of good guys vs. bad guys -- those who want to get rid of guns vs. the National Rifle Association, which wants to keep guns around. Most mainstream journalists don't interview the millions of Americans who do not belong to either the anti-gun lobby or the NRA.

Every story about a child killed by a gun is front-page news. However, stories about lives saved by guns are lucky to appear in the local section of the newspaper and you can just about forget it appearing on a network broadcast.

Like everything else, guns have pluses and minuses. Accidental deaths have to be weighed in the balance against the lives saved both by armed interventions and by the deterrence created when an intended victim turns out to have a gun. Just the knowledge that many citizens in a particular community are authorized to carry concealed weapons takes a lot of the fun out of being a burglar or a mugger.

It is a matter of plain fact -- no matter how much this information is ignored in the media -- that violent crimes have declined in virtually every case where local communities have adopted laws permitting law-abiding citizens to obtain permits to carry concealed weapons. The statistics are available in "More Guns, Less Crime," a book written by John Lott, who teaches at the University of Chicago Law School.

This book is the most massive and careful study of the subject ever written, but it remains as unknown as the hero who saved three lives in Santa Clara. But such politically incorrect subjects are not addressed in the media.

The issue is not one of fairness. It's one of life and death. It matters whether more lives will be lost with one policy than with another. It matters far more than the anti-gun lobby or the NRA matter.

If the media will report, we the citizens and voters can decide. But the media are bias to the gun-control side.

Thomas Sowell is a syndicated columnist.

Pub Date: 7/16/99

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