A recent letter to the Tico Times, Costa Rica’s English-language weekly newspaper, using an abundance of logical and ethical claptrap, urged the paper to decline advertisements from gun shops. The writers, emigrants from the UK, were understandably concerned about crime. They wrote with the certainty of the righteous.
It’s the guns, the letter writers tell us, that cause Costa Rica’s violence. Banning them is the only way to restore peace and brotherhood. Similar reasoning would conclude that spoons cause obesity. And I can only assume the writers were unaware of the soaring violent crime rates that followed a ban on guns in their own country. Or, if they are aware of them, perhaps they illogically conclude that victim disarmament and increased crime are not related.
In the British émigrés’ simple world, illogical assumptions coupled with well-intentioned self-righteousness secure the claim of moral superiority over evil gun dealers, trigger-happy gun owners and the unethical editors who broker business between the two. The letter writers assume, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that mere possession of a firearm causes criminal behavior. If that were true, places where firearms are most common would be hotbeds of gun violence.
In fact, the exact opposite is true. Crime rates are lowest where guns are readily available to honest citizens.
There is an assault rifle in nearly every closet in Switzerland. In Vermont, no permit is necessary to carry a weapon for self-defense. These are two of the safest states on the globe. And let’s face it, shooting sprees in places where there is a pistol on every hip – shooting ranges or police stations – are unheard of. "Gun free zones," on the other hand, like schools and post-offices, are favorite targets of mass murderers. Where civilian ownership of firearms is most severely restricted, places like New York City, Washington, D.C., and London, the rates of all flavors of violence are appalling.
One must ignore the evidence and abandon logic to conclude guns cause anything but increased safety. As Robert Heinlein so accurately pointed out, "An armed society is a polite society."
And contrary to the tedious propaganda that "guns are only for killing," in the hands of honest citizens, guns save many more lives than they take, and usually without being fired. Research done for the anti-gun Clinton Justice Department found that guns were used 1.5 million times yearly for self-defense in the U.S. The figure was published in 1997 by the National Institute for Justice. The study was done by noted anti-gun criminologists Philip Cook and Jens Ludwig, who were surely disappointed by the findings.
Guns are tools, no less than butcher knives and machetes. A machete won’t turn my gardener into a killer any more than a pistol in Mother Teresa’s habit would have made her into Bonnie Parker.
From their foundation in faulty logic, the British couple move on to their moral high ground, urging the Tico Times to adopt an "ethical" advertising policy by refusing ads from gun shops. Not only does such posturing smear honest merchants as fonts of evil, but it promotes a most curious and self-contradictory notion of what is "ethical."
This peculiar theory declares human life so precious we must criminalize large groups of the law-abiding in the wild hope, refuted by actual evidence, that banning guns will prevent violence against the innocent. It then labels "unethical" any effort to prevent such violence through self-defense. If innocent life is so precious, why isn’t it worth defending?
Even worse, the morality-through-helplessness-theory requires an underpaid local cop to risk his life to protect yours, if your fastidious ethics prevent you from protecting your own. Who will protect us from such bizarre "ethics?"
In the face of gun violence here in Costa Rica, the Ticos have kept a sane attitude toward the usefulness of firearms in the hands of good guys. Armed guards are everywhere. Motorcycle delivery guys carry guns and occasionally use them. Nobody thinks these guys are going to become mass murderers. As in the states, under strict regulation civilians here can carry weapons for self-defense; many do.
Unlike in the states, when an armed citizen actually shoots a bad guy, the papers report it. The police do not torment the surviving victim of a shootout with criminals with arrest, disarmament and a protracted legal battle for his life. If he’s got his papers in order, they return his weapon and bid him a good day. La Nación, the country’s largest daily, actually published a scorecard the last time an armed civilian shot and killed a pair of armed thugs. Civilians are ahead this year.
I sincerely hope the letter writers never have to defend themselves from a vicious criminal, as they will certainly not have the means. Life is indeed precious, precious enough to defend. Forbidding good people the means to defend themselves, their families and other good people only encourages violence by bad people who will always find a gun for sale. Both ethics and logic argue against any policy of safety through victim disarmament and helplessness.