Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Gun debate continues

Professor James Gregory has a devastating response to Paul Pancella's recent letter to the editor criticizing guns on campus.

He provides a valuable reminder of the history of the debate over concealed weapons. Anti-gun forces made the same arguments in 2000, when Michigan's concealed carry law was passed. None of their predictions came true; in fact, crime declined.

The whole idea of science is to develop a hypothesis, test it, and reject it if the data contradict its predictions. But anti-gun forces never seem to learn from experience. Dr. Pancella should apply his knowledge of the principles of science to this issue.


Gun-free policies don't prevent violence
James Gregory

In response to Derek Getman's criticism of Western Michigan University's gun-free campus policy, professor Paul Pancella maintained that allowing legally armed students and faculty members to carry concealed firearms on campus would more or less ensure an increase in gun violence here at WMU.

By Dr. Pancella's logic, an increase in the number of cars on the road would, by default, more or less guarantee an increase in the number of drunk driving offenses on record. Simply because individuals are given a right does not mean that they will all abuse it. Dr. Pancella has essentially expressed the same unrealistic concern that opponents of Michigan's concealed carry law voiced prior to its passage in 2001, only on a smaller scale. Those who stood against making Michigan a "shall-issue" carrying concealed weapon state maintained that an increase in the number of lawfully trained, registered and concerned citizens carrying firearms could only result in a dramatic increase in violent shootings throughout the state.

No such condition of general chaos and disorder has descended upon our pleasant peninsula. In addition to basic education and awareness on the subject of school shootings, the only way to prevent an incident like that which recently occurred at Virginia Tech is, frankly, to make the school less attractive as a target. Either increase the number of armed police officers on campus who are trained to deal with and quickly react to shooter scenarios or allow lawfully armed individuals to carry on university grounds.

The fact is that those who intend to do harm against others, people like Seung-Hui Cho, will disregard as many laws and policies as can be put in front of them. Criminals, by definition, break laws and regulations that others follow. Having decided to commit murder, especially on a large scale, makes it quite easy to ignore rules against possessing guns on a campus - or anywhere else for that matter. In the face of a deranged individual who cares little for following such rules, the average law abiding and policy conscious students or faculty members would find themselves at a serious, and perhaps deadly, disadvantage.

James Gregory
WMU foreign languages department


The Blogger formally known as Anonymous said...

Here is part of my comment to a similar, recent post found on this blog. On a side note, I notice that Allan did not respond to someone else's challenge concerning his views on immigration. This should not be forgotten.

As concerns the issue at hand:
Advocates of gun law liberalization seem remiss in one important respect. They time and time again cite statistics purporting to show that states with right to carry laws show a drop in crime rates. It is a glairing oversight to not acknowledge the huge data endogeneity problem here. In situations where you find more liberal gun laws, you are also likely to find stiffer law enforcement in general. Thus, it is not immediately clear that anyone has successfully proved that the right to carry law caused crime rates to drop.

Increasing the amount of guns on the streets can be expected to have the marginal consequence of more individuals shooting to kill in instances where they feel even slightly endangered. [While the situtation might not be as grave as some contend, there is no good data set to make such claims one way or the other.] Another point where advocates of gun use fall seemingly silent is the question if who decides when a shot fired was really fired in self-defense? Do you trust the shooter or the person shot? What will happen in a situation where you have a white shooter and a black person shot, for example?

Such are holes in the argument for easing gun restrictions. It is by no means the open and shut case [some] might have us believe.

Allan said...

Economist John Lott analyzed the crime data from every county in the nation and consistently found an immediate, statistically significant drop in crime after concealed carry laws were passed. There is no evidence that every state that passed concealed carry changed law enforcement procedures at exactly the same time. Case closed.

Gun owners simply aren't trigger-happy, as some liberals seem to believe. Most potential crimes are prevented by displaying a gun, not firing a shot. Some crimes will be deterred, so it is not clear whether there will be more shootings or not.

Self-defense is not exactly a new issue. Cases involving it have existed for hundreds, if not thousands of years. Even if concealed carry is banned, self-defense with a gun is still legal. Such cases will be decided the way they always are: interviewing the participants and eyewitnesses, examining criminal records and forensics, etc. Putting someone in jail requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt.

The Blogger formally known as Anonymous said...

It is nice to see you finally responding to your critics Allan. Please correct me if I am wrong but it seems you removed yet another positing critical of your positions. If I am correct, it was attached to your posing on McCain. Why did you do this?

Concerning the issue of gun usage; you need to examine the structure of the argument you make. While Lott's study is certainly of interest, it in no way settles the debate with the divine stroke of finality you seek to ascribe to it. In the first place, several subsequent researchers purport that they were unable to replicate Lott's results. The National Academy of Sciences has itself concluded that there is no discernable causal linkage between increased possession of firearms and a drop in crime rates. Wikipedia provides a useful overview of this matter.

Let us consider the broader implications of your argument though shall we. You contend on the basis of one study by one economist that an issue is "[c]ase closed." The question we must now ask ourselves is whether this is a valid way to reach conclusions on whatever topic is of interest. If you contend it is, you are forced to concede that on the basis of one environmental study, preformed under methodologically valid conditions, global warming is a reality "case closed." You cannot say that because there are dissenting voices this example does not hold because there exists also dissent regarding Lott's work. Either the issue is not case closed or you must retract your statements on the environment and various other issues where a single study exists.

I leave the choice to you. As you can see, your views are not as solid as you seek to portray them and the criticisms levied against you on this page are apt. Removing such postings without explaining why or even indicating that they existed is shameful.

Ted said...

One might want to fact check Mr. Gregory's position: he is an IoR, not a professor.