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Stopping Power — Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns
A Book by J. Neil Schulman
Letter to Scientific American

The following letter was sent to Scientific American. They elected not to publish it. – JNS

October 28, 1991

Franklin E. Zimring’s article in the November 1991 Scientific American, “Firearms, Violence and Public Policy,” has no proper place in any publication with the name “science” on its masthead, much less a publication with the prestige of Scientific American. It is pure political advocacy covered with a thin veneer of statistics to make it appear scientific to the naive.

Zimring’s claim that “[T]he percentage of gun-related crimes in an area is related to the proportion of owners of firearms in that area” is not even supported by comparing Zimring’s own charts on “Crimes with Guns by Region in 1990″ and “Homicides by Region in 1990″ with his “Households with Guns by Region in 1991.” These clearly show that while the Midwest has the second highest percent of households owning at least one gun, it has the lowest per capita number of crimes with guns and per capita gun homicides of any region.

That Zimring begins with an ideological point of view, and chooses to study only that which might tend to support his conclusions, is borne out by the absence from his study of any data comparing armed crimes against the unarmed with armed crimes against the armed. Zimring asks only how reducing the number of guns in criminal hands affects violence; he never asks the obvious corollary, as any scientist would, of how increasing the number of guns available to potential crime victims at the point of attack would affect the sociology of violence. His omission is not without intent: if Zimring has looked into anything on this question at all, he would be aware of the book Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America (1991) by Gary Kleck, and “The Value of Civilian Arms Possession as a Deterrent to Crime or Defense Against Crime,” by Don B. Kates Jr., in American Journal of Criminal Law, Volume 18, #3 (1991). Both clearly show, by interviews with criminals convicted of violent attacks, and with statistics comparing criminal attacks against unarmed persons with criminal attacks against armed persons, that the number of successful criminal attacks and homicides are far lower when criminals are met by armed defense.

Nor is Zimring’s premise, that reducing the number of gun deaths is a social goal that justifies curtailing the legal right of Americans to keep and bear arms, borne out by statistics from the National Center for Health Statistics that rate gun homicides as less than one-half percent of the yearly causes of death in this country and only three percent yearly of accidental deaths, or by FBI statistics showing that yearly criminal misuse of firearms involves only four-tenths of one percent of handguns, or by comparisons between U.S. cities with restrictive handgun laws and lenient handgun laws showing that the per capita rate of homicide and robbery average four times as high in cities with restrictive gun laws, or that each year, handguns are successfully used to repel more crimes than handguns used to commit crimes.

When political propaganda is labeled as science, it both discredits science in the minds of the public, and stands as evidence for the Luddites among us that scientists are mere technicians in the hire of the politically powerful.

J. Neil Schulman, Chair
The Committee to Enforce the Second Amendment


Next in Stopping Power — Why 70 Million Americans Own Guns is A Reply to Joyce Brothers

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