Local Vocal: Guns keep the peace

by Jeff Pickett

I love Ogi Overman, but his July 9 column [“Supreme Court: “Happiness is a warm gun'”] indicates that he may be slipping a bit. When research by Gary Kleck, John Lott and others in the early ’90s indicated handguns prevent more crime than they cause, many states, including North Carolina, passed concealed carry laws. More people legally carried handguns and homicide rates did not increase, although muggings and similar assaults declined. By contrast, after the District of Columbia passed a handgun ban, murder rates increased for many years and remain high today.

Ogi might also want to use a different example than England. Although handgun death rates are low in England, since Parliament passed a total ban on handguns, muggings, assaults and robberies have exceeded US levels. A particularly disturbing feature of English crime is “hot” burglaries (home invasions). In the US, less than 20 precent of burglaries occur while people are at home, possibly because of the risk of being shot. In England the proportion is almost exactly inverted, and Englishmen have served prison time for opposing invasion of the home by burglars.

A better national example might be Switzerland, where by law every male of military age keep a select-fire military assault rifle at home. Crime of any sort is rare in Switzerland, and much of the gun crime is committed by “criminal tourists” from other countries.

If progressives really want to help on the gun issue, please unflinchingly look at the racial aspects of gun violence. Urban blacks have the lowest rate of legal firearms ownership, but a disproportionate amount of the carnage occurs among their young men, whereas rural whites, with a high rate of firearms ownership, have homicide rates approaching that of Western Europe.

This state of affairs is intolerable, but indicates that social and cultural conservations are the most important factors in gun violence.

Lastly, I am not just a disinterested observer. In 1985, my college roommate at Chapel Hill was shot and killed during a home-invasion robbery. Like many homicides, the killers were young black men. Also, like many homicides, the killers had been arrested for serious crimes and released on bail by an impotent criminal justice system. Like many homicide victims, my roomate was involved in questionable activities, but that did not justify a savage beating and an execution-style shooting.

What was not in the papers at the time was that Perry had applied for a handgun purchase permit, and was waiting out the seven-day period that Davidson County had at the time. Possession of a firearm does not ensure one will prevail in the lethal force incident, but the 9mm Smith & Wesson he intended to purchase might have given him a chance to die like a man instead of a dog.

Jeff Pickett lives in Franklinville.