Sunday, March 20, 2005

Just what caliber was that capgun, Tim?

This link on Instapundit led me to the webpage of Tim Lambert, who discusses a controversy brewing with fellow Australian blogger (and Warren Blogroll Member) Tim Blair. I am completely unfamiliar with the issue at hand, and don't really have the time and desire to get familiar, but I couldn't help but chuckle when I read this comment from an Instapundit reader:

UPDATE: Andy Freeman emails: "What is Lambert doing defending himself with a gun?"

For those who are not familiar with Mr. Lambert, he is an anti-gun blogger who seems to have made it his lifetime goal to turn pro-gun researcher John Lott into a conservative version of Michael Bellesiles. While his arguments against Lott's research are well-written and sophisticated, they have an air of abstract irrelevance about them, similar to a theologian arguing about the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin. In short, Lambert relies upon complex statistical methods to argue that Lott's assertion that guns prevent crime is bunk. And he does it in a way that is so frightfully dull it fails to appeal to anyone but the true believers or hard-core statisticians.

Anyway, Lambert's response to the above comment is instructive. He reveals a picture of himself as a child, dressed as a cowboy and holding a toy gun and uses it as evidence he is not against guns per se. My first instinct was that he was being silly, but after reading the post several times it appears that is seriously arguing that his childhood ownership of a capgun means he has no anti-gun inclinations. That's roughly akin to an anti-war protestor arguing he's pro-military because he owned a GI Joe as a child.

While Mr. Lambert claims to never have explicitly stated a preference for gun control, his single-minded pursuit of Lott and skepticism of the benefits of liberalized concealed carry and widespread gun ownership would suggest the contrary. The truth is, nearly 5 million Americans now can legally carry concealed weapons, and that number is growing every year, as more and more states adopt "shall-issue" laws. Yet the US violent crime rate continues to decline. In Utah, for example, the number of concealed carry permittees has skyrocketed from 3,000 to almost 60,000 in the past 10 years, but the homicide rate has steadily declined during that period of time, reaching a 40-year low just last year.

It is possible that the two phenomena are not connected; after all, one of the first things I learned in graduate-school statistics was that correlation does not necessarily equal causation. Yet the data certainly do show that the nightmare scenarios of the anti-gunners -- increased homicide rates, shootouts at every traffic accident, wild-eyed vigilantes killing innocent bystanders -- have not materialized. That is reality. No amount of sophisticated statistical arguments can change it.


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