Gun Control: Clueless in Chicago

A curious editorial appeared on the Chicago Tribune website, written by their “senior correspondent”. In keeping with a classic anti-gun-rights gambit, the author claims to be speaking for everybody besides Texas when declaring that a new debate has begun about gun control due to the Virginia Tech shooting, while attempting to stigmatize and ostracize Texans:

HOUSTON -- Much of the rest of the nation might have begun debating whether new gun-control measures are in order in the wake of the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history at Virginia Tech last month. But here in Texas, a place where guns seem a part of the state’s very DNA, folks have got some other ideas.1

Suffering a dearth of factual information to support his stance, the data that was cited should give one pause as to the competence of one who purportedly represents the Tribune’s more experienced staff as well as “much of the rest of the nation”:

Nearly 250,000 Texans held licenses to carry concealed handguns at the end of 2005, the most recent year for which official figures are available.2

Actually, more recent data was available as early as March 28, 2007. As of the end of 2006, there were 258,162 active concealed carry licenses in Texas.3 Even if technically untrained in web searching, this supposedly “senior” writer could have asked a co-worker to download this data for him: after all, the Tribune does have its own website. Moreover, the author refers to legislation that was signed into law a month after the 2006 data became available online; this was not a case of needing to go with what was available due to deadlines:

Another law, signed by the governor this week, prohibits law-enforcement officials from confiscating legally owned weapons during a state of emergency -- an idea inspired by reports of police seizing guns from New Orleans residents in the chaotic days following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.4

This bill was signed by the governor on April 27, 2007.5

Gun Control Fundamentalism

With such inattention to detail, it should come as no surprise that the author justifies creating a tempest in the anti-rights teapot, citing unsubstantiated verbiage from his favorite anti-rights organization:

But of all the new pro-gun initiatives, it was the governor’s suggestion this week that access to guns be expanded in public places that has provoked the most controversy…

Paul Helmke, president of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence in Washington, said Perry’s idea is a recipe for more mayhem, especially because ordinary citizens, unlike police, are not trained to use weapons in the midst of a crisis.6

Between 1976 and 2004, only 2.0% of law enforcement officer (LEO) justifiable homicides occurred during a criminal attack on a citizen, while 50.7% occurred during an attack on a LEO (self-defense). Meanwhile, 27.6% of citizen justifiable homicides were to defend against attack, but 60.9% came while disrupting crime, including defense of others at risk of forcible felonies, compared to 23.2% LEO justifiable homicides disrupting crimes in progress.7 A legally-armed citizen is far more likely to be on hand to protect other people when a crime is occurring.

In his book The Bias Against Guns, John Lott examined the relationship between gun availability and multiple murders. He concluded:

If right-to-carry laws allow citizens to limit the amount of attacks that still take place, the number of persons harmed should fall relative to the number of shootings… And indeed, that is what we find. The average number of people dying or becoming injured per attack declines by around 50 percent.8

Lott also found that both the total number and rate of multiple murders in right-to-carry states are one-third that of restrictive states.9 In an email interview, he clarified by stating:

The simplest numbers showed a 67 percent drop in the number of attacks and about a 79 percent drop in the number of people killed or injured from such attacks. The number of people harmed fell by more than the number of attacks because some attacks that weren’t deterred were stopped in progress by people with guns.

Lott’s data remained at the state level, including “gun-free” zones within that state. How many more lives would have been saved, had victim-disarmament zones not existed?

Last fall, a mentally deranged individual took over an Amish school house, executing three girls and wounding seven more.10 (The Amish are “committed pacifists.”11) Early this year, an off-duty policeman was fortunately on hand to stop a shooter near the beginning of his rampage, but the mall where this took place bans concealed carry.12 Recently, 32 students were murdered at Virginia Tech, a public school.13 Over a year earlier, the Virginia legislature considered a bill allowing concealed carry licensees to carry on campus, but the university fought against it (the bill failed to pass).14 Nearly all mass shootings occur in documented victim disarmament zones, many in government-run schools.

The government has passed laws denying the people’s right to defend themselves in certain public places but has been unable to stop deadly attacks. Yet, anti-gun-rights people fight to disarm us even further in the blind belief that the government will protect us from mass murderers. This makes less sense every time society’s aberrants claim more victims in our “crime-enabled” zones.

Governor Perry’s quote reflects reality:

· Cops rarely arrive in time to halt completion of a crime.

· Armed citizens are a form of social triage against random violence.

· In states where armed citizens are empowered to provide for the common defense, mass homicides are greatly reduced.

Helmke At the Helm

“In a shoot ’em up situation, it’s tough for the person to get their gun quickly, to use it properly, to not become the first person the gunman kills, to not be the person the police think is the bad guy when they do respond,” Helmke said. “Life is not like the movies.”

It is of great curiosity how Helmke suddenly became an expert on the tactical use of firearms. He couldn’t reign in crime while mayor in Fort Wayne, Indiana (1988-2000). During his last five years in office, the national violent crime rate fell 7.0 percentage points faster, murder fell 12.6 more, and rape fell 12.1 faster, while the aggravated assault rate in Fort Wayne actually rose 15.9%, trailing the national index by 38.4 points. In the five years since Helmke left office, Fort Wayne has beaten the national violent crime index by 11.2 percentage points. He can’t even blame his failure on the state criminal justice environment. During his last five years as mayor, Indiana realized a 33.5% drop in the violent crime rate, beating the national index by 7.5 points and leaving Fort Wayne 14.4 points behind the state index.15

Like the Movies?

A man and his wife were in the checkout line at a grocery when two men walked in and headed to the office. After one placed his gun against the manager’s head, the armed citizen drew his handgun and shot the attacker, driving both from the store.16

In another incident, a woman kept her cool when her ex-boyfriend broke in and pointed a shotgun at her. He told her he planned to kill them both, and told her to get dressed. She persuaded him to let her let her dogs out first, which gave her an opportunity to call the police. He caught her doing this and they struggled in the bedroom. She managed to get control of the shotgun and ran into the dining room. When he pursued, she shot him.17


It is curious that the anti gun-violence crowd are wont to say “if it saves a life, it’s worth it,” but remain curiously silent when their criterion is proven to support policies against their wishes. Gun control has become an article of faith, not facts.

About the Author

Howard Nemerov is a columnist for the Texas State Rifle Association’s TSRA Sportsman magazine and is Investigative Analyst for NRA News. He can be reached at HNemerov[at sign]


[1] Howard Witt, Guns deep in the hearts of Texans, Chicago Tribune, May 3, 2007.,1,4935844.story?coll=chi-newsnationworld-hed&ctrack=2&cset=true

2 Howard Witt, Guns deep in the hearts of Texans, Chicago Tribune, May 3, 2007.

3 Active License Holders and Certified Instructors as of 12/31/2006, Texas Department of Public Safety, downloaded March 28, 2007.

4 Howard Witt, Guns deep in the hearts of Texans, Chicago Tribune, May 3, 2007.

5 Actions on SB 112, Texas Legislature Online.

6 Howard Witt, Guns deep in the hearts of Texans, Chicago Tribune, May 3, 2007.

7 James Alan Fox and Marianne W. Zawitz, Homicide trends in the United States: Trends in justifiable homicide by justification reason, Bureau of Justice Statistics, U.S. Department of Justice, last revised on June 29, 2006.

8 John R. Lott, Jr., The Bias Against Guns, page 123.

9 Ibid, page 107.

10 Pennsylvania Police: Amish School is ‘Horrendous Crime Scene’ After Shooting, Fox News, October 2, 2006.,2933,217073,00.html

11 Joe Wittmer, Ph.D., Responds to Questions Regarding the Amish (Installment #1).

12 Paul Foy, Off-Duty Cop Helped End Utah Mall Rage, Fox News, February 13, 2007.,4670,UtahShooting,00.html

Christopher Smart and Sheena McFarland, Trolley Square: Gun-rights debate gets drawn into aftermath, Salt Lake Tribune, February 14, 2007.

13 Worst U.S. shooting ever kills 33 on Va. Campus, MSNBC, April 17, 2007.

14 Greg Esposito, Laurence Hammack, Gun bill targets colleges, Roanoke Times, January 26, 2006.

15 Compiled from FBI data. Email request for spreadsheet.

16 Lori Fullbright, Man Uses Concealed Weapon To Stop Robbery, KOTV, April 11, 2007.

17 Woman turns gun on, wounds assailant, Cincinnati Post, April 18, 2006.

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