I wasn't surprised to see letters to the editor about last week's column from people who cling to their heartfelt notion that if we just had more sensible gun control laws, the assassination attempt on Rep. Gabrielle Giffords that resulted in six deaths earlier this month might not have happened.
My comments on the rush to condemn Sarah Palin and conservative commentators for somehow encouraging the alleged gunman by fostering a "climate of hate" made no mention of the gun issue.
However, just as the commentariat on the left couldn't resist trying to tie its political opponents to the Tucson massacre, however farfetched the hypothesis, so too are the believers in gun-control laws unable to avoid trotting out their discredited theories — the ones rebuffed by reality and rejected by voters outside of Democratic bastions like New York, California and, yes, Maryland.
Being a reasonable person, I will make a concession later in this column, so keep reading.
First, the heart of the matter: Laws making it difficult or impossible for ordinary citizens to exercise their Second Amendment rights do not work as their proponents assume they do.
They do not save lives. The cities in this country with the most stringent gun laws are the ones with the highest murder rates and levels of other violent crime. If such laws worked in achieving their ostensible purpose, Chicago would be a model of nonviolence. Instead it is quite the opposite.
Filmmaker Michael Moore was obviously perplexed by this earlier in the week, during a visit with fellow lefty Rachael Maddow on her TV show. A column by Jack Wheeler alerted me to this appearance. After musing about how America is number one in the world in gun ownership (which may be true on a total number basis but certainly is not on a per-capita basis), Mr. Moore said, "the vast majority of these guns are owned by people who live in safe parts of town or mostly in suburbs and rural areas, places where there are very few murders."
What puzzles Mr. Moore and people who think like him is the connection between wide gun ownership and low murder rates/safe neighborhoods. They have it backwards, thinking that people like the surgeons at the Tucson hospital, many of whom carry concealed weapons, are crazy to arm themselves in the safe environments they occupy.
It seems never to dawn on them that the relative safety in cities like Tucson is the result of an armed population, not despite it. And they have a hard time coming to grips with the fact that the gravely wounded congresswoman is a fervent Second Amendment supporter who herself owns a Glock, similar to the weapon that Jared Loughner used in his slaughter.
When the liberals puzzle over why crime rates fall as prison populations increase, or why widespread ownership of guns should be the reality in areas of low criminal activity, they seem unable to come to grips with the facts:
First, if you imprison more of the people prone to commit felonies, there will be fewer crimes. Second, as the title of Professor John R. Lott's definitive work boldly declares: "More Guns, Less Crime." In his study of gun laws and crime rates in more than 85,000 American jurisdictions, the picture is clear. The book title summarizes the statistical data.
In a piece on his Campaign for Liberty website, Congressman Ron Paul dispatched the renewed calls for gun control thusly:
"Our constitutional right to bear arms does not create a society without risks of violent crime, and neither would the strictest gun control laws. Guns and violence are a fact of life. The question is whether it is preferable to be defenseless while waiting for the police, or to have an option to arm yourself. We certainly know the criminals prefer the former."
Now for the concession: Even as a passionate defender of Second Amendment rights, I wouldn't object to a ban on extended magazines for semi-automatic pistols, such as the 30-round magazine young Mr. Loughner had purchased along with his gun. They seem to serve little purpose outside of gang-banging or actual combat.
Now that I've angered the purists on both sides of the gun argument, I consider this to have been a good day.
Ron Smith's column appears Fridays in The Baltimore Sun. His e-mail is email@example.com.