Utopians Dream of Nonviolence
by Ari Armstrong, April 3, 2000
Wouldn't it be just swell if gangsters would turn in their guns, rapists would stop molesting women, burglars would find honest work, and we could all join hands and sing Kumbaya at candlelight social meetings?
Of course it's desirable to reduce crime and deaths. But utopians believe making a wish and signing a piece of legislative paper can make crime and death go away. They get so caught up in their lofty ends that they forget to ask if their means are capable of achieving those ends. Worse yet, they forget to ask if their political agendas might actually make the problem worse. But that's often the result of feel-good laws drawn more from emotion than from a reasoned analysis of social problems.
Carla Crowder tries hard. Really, she does. But in her zeal to lay out the drama which is life in Colorado, Crowder sometimes mistakes pedantic nonsense for profundity. For instance, in an April 2 article for the Rocky Mountain News, Crowder states that, in the city, "shooting any gun can land you in court." Well, duh. She adds in the very next line, "In urban Colorado, bullets hit children more often than they hit elk." But since elk never visit downtown Denver, Crowder's statement becomes a truism if even one child dies from gun fire. Yet this passes for investigative reporting at the News.
Crowder doesn't try quite so hard to conceal her biases against the uninfringed right to bear arms. Sure, she'll quote both sides, but she often manages to slant a story in favor of those who seek more strident disarmament laws. She closes her recent editorial -- er, "news story" -- with a protracted argument supporting handgun confiscation. An edited version of that ending follows:
[Dr. Ernest] Moore has a suggestion: Get rid of handguns. Ban them....
And thus the utopian urges become obvious. The unquestioned assumption of Crowder's reporting, and of Dr. Moore's comments, is that if handguns are legally banned, criminals will no longer have handguns. But that assumption is an unwarranted leap of logic, and one totally inconsistent with the historical data.
Australia and Britain have both banned most guns, and both countries now experience a booming black-market in guns. Rates of most types of crime soared in Australia following a 1996 gun ban there.
As John Lott found in More Guns, Less Crime, liberalized concealed handgun laws reduced crime most in high-crime, urban areas. Of relevance is not just the crime committed with guns but over-all crime, because criminals are deterred by armed civilians. That Crowder didn't even mention Lott's study -- the most comprehensive crime study ever conducted -- suggests that Crowder wishes not to be confused by the facts.
A major source of crime is the drug black-market created by prohibition. But the use of guns in the drug trade is already illegal -- what makes Crowder and Moore think that these criminal gangsters are going to suddenly start obeying laws pertaining to a ban on handguns? Unfortunately, a gun ban is likely to actually increase gang activity by creating another high-profit, violent black-market.
So there is neither evidence nor reason to believe that a handgun ban would decrease emergency visits to Dr. Moore's hospital. Indeed, the opposite is the case: such a ban is likely to increase crime. But utopians are blind to unintended consequences -- they see only the whims of their imagination and believe their idealizations justify any means.
"Utopia" means "no place." Unfortunately, utopian social policies affect the real world rather than the world of utopian dreams.