The Right Opinion

Invincible Ignorance

By Thomas Sowell · Dec. 18, 2012

Must every tragic mass shooting bring out the shrill ignorance of “gun control” advocates?

The key fallacy of so-called gun control laws is that such laws do not in fact control guns. They simply disarm law-abiding citizens, while people bent on violence find firearms readily available.

If gun control zealots had any respect for facts, they would have discovered this long ago, because there have been too many factual studies over the years to leave any serious doubt about gun control laws being not merely futile but counterproductive.

Places and times with the strongest gun control laws have often been places and times with high murder rates. Washington, D.C., is a classic example, but just one among many.

When it comes to the rate of gun ownership, that is higher in rural areas than in urban areas, but the murder rate is higher in urban areas. The rate of gun ownership is higher among whites than among blacks, but the murder rate is higher among blacks. For the country as a whole, hand gun ownership doubled in the late 20th century, while the murder rate went down.

The few counter-examples offered by gun control zealots do not stand up under scrutiny. Perhaps their strongest talking point is that Britain has stronger gun control laws than the United States and lower murder rates.

But, if you look back through history, you will find that Britain has had a lower murder rate than the United States for more than two centuries – and, for most of that time, the British had no more stringent gun control laws than the United States. Indeed, neither country had stringent gun control for most of that time.

In the middle of the 20th century, you could buy a shotgun in London with no questions asked. New York, which at that time had had the stringent Sullivan Law restricting gun ownership since 1911, still had several times the gun murder rate of London, as well as several times the London murder rate with other weapons.

Neither guns nor gun control was the reason for the difference in murder rates. People were the difference.

Yet many of the most zealous advocates of gun control laws, on both sides of the Atlantic, have also been advocates of leniency toward criminals.

In Britain, such people have been so successful that legal gun ownership has been reduced almost to the vanishing point, while even most convicted felons in Britain are not put behind bars. The crime rate, including the rate of crimes committed with guns, is far higher in Britain now than it was back in the days when there were few restrictions on Britons buying firearms.

In 1954, there were only a dozen armed robberies in London but, by the 1990s – after decades of ever tightening gun ownership restrictions – there were more than a hundred times as many armed robberies.

Gun control zealots' choice of Britain for comparison with the United States has been wholly tendentious, not only because it ignored the history of the two countries, but also because it ignored other countries with stronger gun control laws than the United States, such as Russia, Brazil and Mexico. All of these countries have higher murder rates than the United States.

You could compare other sets of countries and get similar results. Gun ownership has been three times as high in Switzerland as in Germany, but the Swiss have had lower murder rates. Other countries with high rates of gun ownership and low murder rates include Israel, New Zealand, and Finland.

Guns are not the problem. People are the problem – including people who are determined to push gun control laws, either in ignorance of the facts or in defiance of the facts.

There is innocent ignorance and there is invincible, dogmatic and self-righteous ignorance. Every tragic mass shooting seems to bring out examples of both among gun control advocates.

Some years back, there was a professor whose advocacy of gun control led him to produce a “study” that became so discredited that he resigned from his university. This column predicted at the time that this discredited study would continue to be cited by gun control advocates. But I had no idea that this would happen the very next week in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.



sfj in Alabama said:

It seems strange that the very people (liberals) who say they worry about "childrens safety" are content to promote the abortion holocaust.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 10:59 AM

Robert Morris in Pittsburgh said:

What is it with a large number of conservatives that they have this gun fixation. That owing a gun is the most sacred right there is. Will gun control stop acts like the one in Newtown, no of course not and not one person has said so, it will for sure decreased the number them, The other argument is just as dumb since some people will break the guns laws that means there is no point is having any, well lets just lets repeal all laws since most laws are broken by someone at some time. I ques they need a gun to make themselves feel like big man.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 11:37 AM

wjm in Colorado replied:

What is it with useful idiots that they cannot comprehed the right to bear arms? Get a clue moron, where the most strict gun regulations exist, there is the most crime. Facts dispell gun controll arguements. The founders provided the second amendment to ensure safety against tyranny of government. It is not about hunting. It is not about feelings you jerk, it is about liberty. Robert, I pity the chains you would have for some imaginary percieved safety, but that would end in social slavery if the second amendment is superceeded by marxist statist tyranny. You exemplify the useful idiot mentally deficient left, where the gun is the problem and not letting psychopaths roam freely.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 11:55 AM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA replied:

Robert, I suspect that most people who own guns don't have them to feel like a big man. A large number of women own handguns strictly for protection and have no intent of harming anyone unless threatened. That probably holds true for most gun owners. I spent 22 years in the Army and I wouldn't think of shooting anyone unless they threatened my family or myself. Gun control advocates want to lump all gun owners into one category and it makes no sense to do so. If no law-abiding citizen has a gun then the criminals will feel free to invade anyones home because they know there is no problem of being shot by the owner. It;s time we put the blame where it belongs, on people and not guns. Our health system of handling mentally distrubed individuals is broken to the point that unless the person harms themselves or someone else they can't be taken into custody. It's too late after they go on a killing rampage. I don't know the solution to all of this but I know taking guns away from the public will not solve it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 11:57 AM

Andy in Raleigh, NC replied:

What is it with some people that they cannot understand that the right to defend yourself is the palladium of all rights. You state that not one person has said that gun control would stop acts like the one in Newtown... You're right, almost the entire apparatchik of liberalthink has said it. ABC CBS CNN NBC New York Times Pelosi Obama Reid Feinstein (who seems to have an unholy fixation) DailyKossack Puffington Host ... you name it, they have ALL said that or strongly implied it, they have all called for increased control (Feinstein said it would be the Senate's first priority) to prevent further tragedies.
If you truly believe that gun control reduces crime, read More Guns Less Crime and be converted like I was. Thoroughly addresses the rest of your arguments.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 12:52 PM

JAC in Texas replied:

This issue really has little to do with being a "big man" by owning a gun or with having a "gun fixation." It has everything to do with Constitutional and human rights, which people like you and your other left wing liberal friends feel the need to curtail, because only you are intelligent enough to really know what the rest of us need. There's a much larger issue here, and gun ownership rights are only a small symptom, just like the economy and jobs are also only symptoms of the overriding problem: the idiots now in charge in the government and the voters in American who put them there. Until you understand this, you will never fully appreciate the trouble this country is in.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 2:07 PM

G. Daylan in Peoria, IL replied:

We do not have a gun fixation, we have a Constitution fixation. The right of the people to keep and even bear arms is proscribed there. It is as much of a right as those spelled out in all of the other amendments. Apparently Robert Morris did not read the article. Dr. Sowell details how "guncontrol" laws do not decrease gun violence.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 2:34 PM

Ed Watts in Near Palm Springs replied:


...Actually any proscriptions against the right to bear "arms" (not just "guns") are prohibited (proscribed) by The Second Amendment. Even the National Firearms Act of 1934 and the Gun Control Act 0f 1968 are unconstitutional, despite ["living constitution"] courts' decisions to the contrary. The Founders intended that "We, the people..." should have access to any and all weapons available to our own government.

In an absolutely Constitutional America, John Q. Public could, assuming that he was financially able, buy an F-18 and outfit it with nuclear stores. That such an idea seems "weird" tells us how far we have strayed in our thinking from that of The Founders.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 1:40 PM

Darren in California replied:

Funny thing is that everyone is targeting the assault rifle, but from what I have read, it was hardly used. I contend that the gun laws we have in place are fairly good. I would be fine with a nation wide hold on purchasing for a background check. I would be fine with a safety course certificate before purchase as well. I just think it is unbelievably naive to think that outlawing assault rifles or limiting the magazine count will help in any way. Anyone well practiced could take a regular simi-automatic pistol that has a 10 round limit, purchase a dozen clips, load them up and do way more damage this kid did. Even more so with a rifle.

My point is that this is an act of a mad man. Even if he didn't have firearms available, he would have accomplished his task. If he had used a car and plowed into a crowd of kids just before or just after school, would we be saying that we should outlaw cars? It is very easy to make pipe bombs, would we as a nation be happier if he had a dozen of these and threw one in each class room?

Anger is understandable, but I think it is misdirected at the weapons themselves.

The other thing I keep shaking my head at is the new rush to make schools safer. Most of what I've heard is to get to where this school was already at. Locking the gates, fences, only one way in when school is in session, usually through an office. Again the safety measures deployed at this school didn't stop this mad man. And I've got one better to which I believe will happen within the next 5-10 years and that is a school fire will kill a large number of students because the doors were locked to keep people out.

I still think that if the media would dramatically cut the coverage of these things, the number of incidents would drop dramatically as well.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 11:00 AM

chip in florence sc replied:

Four quick things! 1) All constitutional rights are sacred, it is just that firearms ownership is the first one you have to remove beofre taking the others. 2)no gun law will reduce violent crime, period. This article presents that in the most crystal clear fashion possible; please read it again. 3) YOU are who the article was calling ignorant. 4)I am betting that you find that "big man" feeling when you post your opinion on internet articles. I feel bad for you. That is all

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 8:49 PM

lively4Jesus in Athol, Idaho replied:

No, Mr. Morris, i carry a concealed weapon to protect my grown Kids and Grand Children, nobody is going to be as responsible for my families safety as i'm dedicated to be. You see i have a very precious stake in their safety, which you nor your government seems to be interested or capable of securing. If one adult in that school would have been carrying, lives WOULD have been SAVED, period. Save your ignorant arguments for your liberal friends who are as ignorant as you are, sir. i'm a praying, trained, pistol packin' grammy w/absolutely no apologies!

Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 4:28 PM

d.w.hudson in Michigan said:

Some 80 to 100 million law-abiding gun-owning American citizens killed no one. Not today. Not yesterday. Not last week. Or ever.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 12:02 PM

robert in morris replied:

Gee I'm a moron since I don't like to see little children killed, I plead quilty. I have an idea why don't all of you gun nuts go to Newtown and tell the parents that your right to gun trumps the right of children to live. And when the 2nd Admen. was written the rate of fire was what two rounds per min. what is today a 100. Remember we all have rights up to a point.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 12:35 PM

Tapdaddy in Indiana replied:

"Remember we all have rights up to a point."
Your right to ignorance supersedes everybody's rights. I also have a theory, I'll
bet you're from the north-east.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 2:26 PM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA replied:

What kiind of an idiot are you to think just because we don't believe in gun cortrol that we can't grieve for the lost lives of those children? My wife and I went to the altar at our church on Sunday and said a prayer for the families of those children and for the children themselves. Do you stupid liberals think your the only ones with feelings or are you just plain ignorant? I vote for emotionally immature and ignorant!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 2:49 PM

Kevin from Arkansas in USA replied:

It's been retorted that the Sandy Hook Principal and one other tried to stop the shooter as he forced himself into the school. It's too bad they weren't trained in the use of a weapon and carrying. They might have stopped the entire thing before it started...

"NEWTOWN, CT - The Sandy Hook school principal and another staffer were killed after lunging at a gunman who forced his way inside to begin a deadly shooting spree, the regional school superintendent said Saturday."

The Liberals won't see an armed administration and staff as the obvious solution even though it's staring them right in the face.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 2:53 PM

Kevin from Arkansas in USA replied:

That should read: "It's been reported ..."

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 2:53 PM

Kevin from Arkansas in USA replied:

"And when the 2nd Admen. was written the rate of fire was what two rounds per min. "

And when the 1st was written they set type by hand so what is your point? That one must avoid using modern inventions and stick with the 18th technology? Seriously?

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 3:00 PM

Kevin from Arkansas in USA replied:

That should read "the 18th century technology?"

I need to stop posting today or proof better. I seem to be dropping a few words.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 3:02 PM

Army Offcier (Ret) in Kansas replied:

Okay, Robert, I won't "go to Newtown and tell the parents that [my] right to gun trumps the right of children to live." But I can say this: "If I had been there with my pistol their children would probably be alive - but they are not because Robert in Morris thinks that his right to ban defensive weapons trumps the rights of their children to live."

See what I did there?

By the way, the same thing would be true if you substituted me for almost anyone who posts here.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 4:32 PM

Kevin from Arkansas in USA replied:

Left Logic: Children shot dead in Gun Free zones is morally superior to an armed administrator/teacher/off duty policeman with a smoking gun and a dead perp at their feet.

Let's not forget Pearl, Mississippi either.

The outcome in Pearl would have been better had the vice-principal been allowed to actually carry his weapon rather than forced to leave it in the parking lot.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 7:26 PM

Tom in El Paso, TX replied:

It's all pretty simple, Robert. The politicians get their contributions from the NRA and other gun lobby groups, so those politicians are too weak to update any restrictions on guns. Those same groups get paid by gun/ammo manufacturers to keep those politicians in line. That way those manufacturers can keep profiting off of dead kids, all the while they are telling the "adults" to be SCARED SCARED SCARED so they will buy more guns. Funny how the NRA is quiet now...just like most the pussies on this site if they ever had to fight the government.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 6:32 PM

Wayne in Hinesville, GA replied:

I fought for the United States during my career. What about you, oh fearless one? By the way, what is the difference in people being killed by guns than those future kids being kiilled by abortion? Please explain why the liberals think its alright to take the life of an unborn child but get rabid when a child is killed by a gun. I wouldn't call anybody a pussy if your a liberal. Liberal are the biggest pussies in the world.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 7:18 PM

Kevin from Arkansas in USA replied:

More Left Logic from Tom: The more helpless you are the safer you are from criminals.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 7:29 PM

wjm in Colorado replied:

Tom, your comment is so simple minded that I cringe to think you are allowed to vote. you are the pussy sissy a hole that probably was beat up a lot as a child. Most of your fellow Texans would beat you again if they could indentify your useless ilk.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 10:06 PM


Tom & Robert - This is a site for PATRIOTS! If you don't agree with what we believe in, go find a site that does. We are NOT going to give into liberalism - EVER!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 10:44 AM

Robinius in Broomfield, Colorado replied:

This is not a site for conservatives only. When it becomes one I will no longer find it worthy of my time. Tom and Robert are obviously liberals and entitled to their views. For an experiment I suggest they take out an ad in their local newspaper stating that their home is weapon-free and that they give their names and addresses. I mean, the police will protect them, right. When you take away law abiding citizens' guns it's an invitation to criminals that you are helpless against their guns. I haven't heard yet that Obama has told the Secret Service to disarm. Hypocrisy?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 12:01 PM

Donethat in Ridgefield replied:

I am not a 'gun nut'. Why don't you go to Newtown and tell the parents they shouldn't feel so bad. In Bath, MI (1927) a nut set off a bomb in an elementary school and killed 38 children.
In 2000 another nut killed my oldest son, homicide by fire. He had been released from Fairfield Hills Hospital, located in Newtown. The problem is how we handle mental health in this Country. Not guns.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 8:26 PM

Donethat in Ridgefield replied:

I am not a 'gun nut'. Why don't you go to Newtown and tell the parents they shouldn't feel so bad. In Bath, MI (1927) a nut set off a bomb in an elementary school and killed 38 children. In 2000 another nut killed my oldest son, homicide by fire. He had been released from Fairfield Hills Hospital, located in Newtown. The problem is how we handle mental health in this Country. Not guns.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 8:29 PM

countrygirl in Texas replied:

Robert - did you even read the article?

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 10:54 AM

lively4Jesus in Athol, Idaho replied:

yes, yes you are.

Thursday, December 20, 2012 at 4:30 PM

HP in Kalispell, MT said:

Gun bans, like every other progressive/Marxist issue, has nothing to do with logic, reason or facts. It merely feels good or sounds good. We conservatives need to lighten up, toke up, get our Ophones and chill. We can be as blissful as them.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 1:10 PM

wjm in Colorado replied:

Sage advise, lets all get stoned......

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 10:08 PM

Old Desert Rat in Las Vegas, NV said:

Keep telling the truth, Dr. Sowell. In this space (Patriot Post) you are probably "preaching to the choir" but it still needs to be said.
Enjoy your every column.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 1:28 PM


AMEN!!!!! Maybe some day those idiots on the left will see through the liberal smoke and mirrors - all the left wants to do is take away every shred of Constitutional rights we have!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 10:46 AM

Jim Dickinson in PA said:

Liberals won't "feel" better until they do something. Whether their action results in the reduction of violent crimes in the future is irrelevant. What's required is that the collective liberal need to react righteously be satisfied:
grab some moral high round and beat someone else over the head with it.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 3:34 PM

wolfpat in Siler City, NC said:

When I was a kid, we used to take our shotguns to school and keep them in our lockers so we could go hunting after classes were over. Nobody thought a thing about it.

It ain't the guns. It's the insane society we live in.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 3:40 PM

Howard Last in Wyoming replied:

I attended Brooklyn Technical High School (New York City), graduated in 62. The school had a rifle team. The guys on the team would take their rifles (.22 bolt action) to school on the subway. Surprise, surprise, no one was ever shot or injured. Unfortunately the Board of Education saw fit to abolish rifle teams. BTW, how many students are injured every year playing football, basketball, soccer, etc. and no calls to ban them. If guns cause shootings how come you never hear of a shooting at a gun club or a police station? And not once has any of my guns loaded themselves and fired. I guess they are just plain stupid.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 6:19 PM

Kevin from Arkansas in USA replied:

I was upstate a bit from you, Howard, in Glens Falls graduating in 1969. We hunted before and after school. No one thought a bit about the shotguns we brought with us.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 7:19 PM

Richard J. Abbate of CT in Cheshire, CT said:

Dr. Sowell you are so right it is almost painful to know that there are people, like Robert in Pittsburgh, who just don't get it!!
It bears repeating what I have said before!

This idea that by declaring areas as "gun free zones" some how keeps criminal elements at bay, is so patently stupid, nonsensical, and depraved, that I wonder if the perpetrators of such ideas are not insane themselves. As a 'sticker' in back the window of my vehicle states, "Criminals Prefer Unarmed Victims", and that is exactly what the insane criminal in Sandy Hook found. Un-armed guardians of our most precious generation. I commend the Principal and the other persons who attempted to thwart the assault. But unarmed as they were, they were powerless in the face of depravity. No one would expect the children to defend themselves, but their parents should have expected there to be at least one person, if not several, to be prepared to mount a successful defense of their little charges. The world is not and never has been a 'safe' place.

There will be those who will argue, with significant vehemence but lack of sufficient intelligence, that the very presence of a firearm presupposes danger and violence. But for anyone with enough sense to see the world as it is, and always has been, they will recognize that the presence of a credible defense will, in and of itself, help to ward off the depredations of a character like the one that perpetrated this horror on our society, our families and our children.

Those with common sense must rise up and say, never again will we entrust our children (our lives or our property) to those who will neither understand or implement the proper safeguards.
There is evil in this world, and it is embodied in people. People kill and harm other people.
It is not the guns that foster violence, it is the criminal, insensitive, and deranged minds of some members of our human family that bring into being these acts beyond our understanding.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 4:29 PM

Army Offcier (Ret) in Kansas replied:

Correct, Richard. I'm always amazed at people who say there should be no guns in , because the mere presence of guns is dangerous. Yet when something like this happens they immediately dial 9-1-1 so that the cops will show up... to stop the criminal with their guns.

Such is what passes for logic among libtards. If they truly believed what they say, they would never call 9-1-1 in such a case, as that will only result in MORE guns at an already-violent scene. Oh, and people like Bob Costas, Nancy Pelosi, Jane Fonda, Michael Moore, and Michael Bloomberg would publicly dismiss their armed guards.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 5:07 PM

Kevin from Arkansas in USA replied:

Left Logic: Ordinary people in the presence of guns turn into slaughtering butchers but revert to normal when the weapon is removed.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 7:31 PM

wjm in Colorado replied:

Right, call 911, when seconds count, the police are minutes away, and in this case, only 26 dead, when the insane murdurer saw the cops, he quit killing the innocent and offed himself. Once again, the cops bring chalk to outline the victims, the marxists want gun control, and allow the insane to walk among us, ticking time bombs.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 10:12 PM

JAC in Texas said:

I don't know if there are actual statistics, but if there is anyone out there from Georgia, it would be interesting to find out the crime/murder rate in Kennesaw, GA, where they require firearm ownership.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 5:05 PM

ALConfederate in Birmingham, AL replied:

If memory serves correctly, there have been four shootings in Kennesaw, and three of those were in "gun-free zones".

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 6:20 PM

wjm in Colorado replied:

ALL of these assaults were in "gun free zones"!!!!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 10:14 PM

Craig in Nazareth said:

Most who post here know this but for the those who may not, Gun control is not about guns, it's about control. Nuff said.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 8:46 PM

Tony in Texas replied:

When the country was founded, the fathers intended the ultimate power to be vested by the people. If the government is the only institution to posses guns, they are the only ones with real power.
This is not about hunting. It's not about personal protection.
It's about the constitution and who has the ultimate power and authority in this land. Simple.
Look at the poor kids that will not have fathers lost in Bengazi for a stupid election.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 9:53 PM

WTD in AZ said:

Selective blindness. The article makes it clear that statistics show that places with the most restrictive gun laws do not have the least number of killings. In the same news reporting the Sandy Hook tragedy, were reports of school children injured in China by a knife-wielding assailant, and a killer roaming an Alabama hospital who was permanently stopped by being shot dead by a police officer. Now a Texas incident where an attempted shooting was ended the same way. The current restrictive Connecticut gun laws didn't prevent this shooting, and a hundred new laws wouldn't either, but just one armed individual could have.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012 at 10:38 PM

Linda in Lincoln, NE said:

As I see it, the big push for stricter gun-control measures is grounded in the desire for governmental power over the people. The 'never let a crisis go to waste' D.C. mindset loves using times like this to double down on the power grabs.
As every despot, especially the up-and-coming despot in the White House, knows: an unarmed populace is easier to subjugate. That is what we REALLY should fear and why we can never back down on this issue.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 1:37 AM


Right on Linda!!! We must never give up our fight!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012 at 10:47 AM