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Editor’s note: Following is the text of a letter sent to members of Congress by 290 scholars who say more gun controls are not the answer to the nation’s crime problems.

Dear Members of Congress:

After the tragic attacks at public schools over the last two years, there is an understandable desire to “do something.” Yet, none of the proposed legislation would have prevented the recent violence. The current debate focuses only on the potential benefits from new gun control laws and ignores the fact that these laws can have some very real adverse effects. Good intentions don’t necessarily make good laws. What counts is whether the laws will ultimately save lives, prevent injury, and reduce crime. Passing laws based upon their supposed benefits while ignoring their costs poses a real threat to people’s lives and safety.

These gun control laws will primarily be obeyed by law-abiding citizens and risk making it less likely that good people have guns compared to criminals. Deterrence is important and disarming good people relative to criminals will increase the risk of violent crime. If we really care about saving lives we must focus not only on the newsworthy events where bad things happen, but also on the bad things that never happen because people are able to defend themselves.

Few people would voluntarily put up a sign in front of their homes stating that “This home is a gun free zone.” The reason is very simple. Just as we can deter criminals with higher arrest or conviction rates, the fact that would be victims might be able defend themselves also deters attacks. Not only do guns allow individuals to defend themselves, they also provide some protection to citizens who choose not to own guns since criminals would not normally know who can defend themselves before they attack.

The laws currently being considered by Congress ignore the importance of deterrence. Police are extremely important at deterring crime, but they simply cannot be everywhere. Individuals also benefit from being able to defend themselves with a gun when they are confronted by a criminal.

Let us illustrate some of the problems with the current debate.

The Clinton administration wants to raise the age at which citizens can possess a handgun to 21, and they point to the fact that 18 and 19 year olds commit gun crimes at the highest rate. Yet, Department of Justice numbers indicate that 18 and 19 year olds are also the most likely victims of violent crimes including murder, rape, robbery with serious injury, and aggravated assault. The vast majority of those committing crimes in this age group are members of gangs and are already breaking the law by having a gun. This law will primarily apply to law-abiding 18 to 21 year olds and make it difficult for them to defend themselves.

Waiting periods can produce a “cooling-off period.” But they also have real costs. Those threatened with harm may not be able to quickly obtain a gun for protection.

Gun locks may prevent some accidental gun deaths, but they will make it difficult for people to defend themselves from attackers. We believe that the risks of accidental gun deaths, particularly those involving young children, have been greatly exaggerated. In 1996, there were 44 accidental gun deaths for children under age 10. This exaggeration risks threatening people’s safety if it incorrectly frightens some people from having a gun in their home even though that is actually the safest course of action.

Tradeoffs exist with other proposals such as prison sentences for adults whose guns are misused by someone under 18 and rules limiting the number of guns people can purchase. No evidence has been presented to show that the likely benefits of such proposals will exceed their potential costs.

With the 20,000 gun laws already on the books, we advise Congress, before enacting yet more new laws, to investigate whether many of the existing laws may have contributed to the problems we currently face. The new legislation is ill-advised.

Sincerely,

  • Brian D. Adam, Oklahoma State University
  • Donald L. Alexander, Western Michigan University
  • Dennis Allen, North Carolina State University
  • Ryan C. Amacher, University of Texas at Arlington
  • Gary M. Anderson, California State University, Northridge
  • Terry L. Anderson, Montana State University
  • Tom Anderson, University of Connecticut
  • John Antel, University of Houston
  • Charles W. Baird, California State University, Hayward
  • Mark J. Balas, University of Colorado
  • Andy H. Barnett, Auburn University
  • Randy E. Barnett, Boston University
  • Doug Barrett , University of North Alabama
  • Michael T. Bradshaw, California Institute of Technology
  • David Becker, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • David T. Beito, University of Alabama
  • Joe Bell, Southwest Missouri State University
  • Tom W. Bell, Chapman University
  • Herman Belz, University of Maryland
  • Bruce L. Benson, Florida State University
  • David A. Bessler, Texas A&M Uniersity
  • Frederick R. Bieber, Harvard University
  • Michael Block, University of Arizona
  • Walter Block, University of Central Arkansas
  • Thomas Borcherding, Claremont Graduate School
  • David J. Bordua, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Bryan L. Boulier, George Washington University
  • David Brasington, Tulane University
  • Frank H. Buckley, George Mason University
  • John A. Bull, Central Washington University
  • Colin D. Campbell, Dartmouth College
  • Bryan Caplan, George Mason University
  • Hoy F. Carman, University of California at Davis
  • Robert A. Carter, Rutgers Law School at Newark
  • C. David Channell, William Carey College
  • Marc C. Chopin, Louisiana Tech University
  • R. Morris Coats, Nicholls State University
  • John P. Cochran, Metropolitan State College of Denver
  • Lloyd R. Cohen, George Mason University
  • James M. Collins, University of Alaska at Fairbanks
  • Roger Congleton, George Mason University
  • Roy E. Cordato, Campbell University
  • Robert J. Cottrol, George Washington University
  • Jim Couch, University of North Alabama.
  • J.D. Crouch II, Southwest Missouri State University
  • Preston K. Covey, Carnegie Mellon University
  • Brad Cox, George Mason University
  • Stephen Cox, University of California at San Diego
  • Mark Crain, George Mason University
  • Peggy Currid, University of Illinois
  • John W. Danford, Loyola University Chicago
  • Ernest E. Davis, Texas A&M University
  • Ted Day, University of Texas at Dallas
  • Michael DeBow, Samford University
  • Henry Demmert, Santa Clara University
  • Brannon P. Denning, Southern Illinois University
  • Cheryl DeVuyst, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Eric A. DeVuyst, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
  • Arthur M. Diamond, Jr., University of Nebraska at Omaha
  • Tom DiLorenzo, Loyola College in Maryland,
  • Donna A. Driscoll, California State University, Northridge
  • Jefferson G. Edgens, University of Kentucky
  • Catherine Elkins, University of North Carolina
  • Euel Elliott, University of Texas at Dallas
  • Michael G. Erickson, Albertson College
  • Paul Evans, Ohio State University
  • Frank Falero, California State University, Bakersfield
  • Patricia Fennell, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Arthur A. Fleisher III, Metropolitan State College of Denver
  • Sandra Tempesti Fleming, Northeast State Technical Community College
  • John T. Flynn, Thomas Jefferson University
  • Roger Nils Folsom, San Jose State University
  • Gunter N. Franz, West Virginia University
  • Janice J. Gabbert, Wright State University
  • Lowell Gallaway, Ohio University
  • William E. Garland, Seton Hall University School of Law
  • James F. Gatti, University of Vermont
  • R. Richard Geddes, Fordham University
  • Norman J. Gierlasinski, Central Washington University
  • Roy F. Gilbert, Texas A&M University
  • Otis W. Gilley, Louisiana Tech University
  • Gregory Goering, University of Alaska
  • Rodolfo A. Gonzalez, San Jose State University
  • Dr. Michael Gordinier, Washington University
  • Peter Gordon, University of Southern California
  • Lino A. Graglia, University of Texas
  • Earl L. Grinols, University of Illinois
  • Fran Haga, University of North Carolina at Pembroke
  • Arie Halachmi, Tennessee State University
  • Dennis Halcoussis, California State University, Northridge
  • Jon Halvorson, University of North Alabama
  • Doha abd el Hamid, Exeter University
  • J. Daniel Hammond, Wake Forest University
  • Robert F. Hebert, Auburn University
  • Gary W. Heesacker, Central Washington University
  • Dale M. Heien, University of California at Davis
  • John Heineke, Santa Clara University
  • Arthur D. Hellman, University of Pittsburgh
  • David Henderson, Hoover Institution, Stanford University
  • Melvin J. Hinich, University of Texas, Austin
  • Randall G. Holcombe, Florida State University
  • James M. Holmes, SUNY-Buffalo
  • Michael Huebschmann, Oklahoma State University
  • Michael T. Hughes, Capital University
  • Lester H. Hunt, University of Wisconsin, Madison
  • Pat S. Hutton, Canisius College
  • David Hyman , University of Maryland
  • Thomas R. Ireland , University of Missouri at St. Louis
  • Robert Jacobs, Central Washington University
  • Christina F. Jeffrey, Kennesaw State University, Georgia
  • D. Bruce Johnsen, George Mason University
  • Dennis A. Johnson, University of South Dakota
  • Edward A. Kaschins, Luther College
  • Dave Kaserman, Auburn University
  • Jacqueline R. Kasun, Humboldt State University
  • James Kau, University of Georgia
  • Peter M. Kerr, Southeast Missouri State University
  • David C. Klingaman, Ohio University
  • Kenneth N. Klee, UCLA
  • Daniel Klein, Santa Clara University
  • Peter G. Klein, University of Georgia
  • Bruce Kobayashi, George Mason University
  • Vladimir Kontorovich, Haverford College
  • David Kopel, New York University
  • Alan Charles Kors, University of Pennsylvania
  • Edgar W. Kossack, Florida Atlantic University
  • Michael I. Krauss, George Mason University
  • Robert Krol, California State University at Northridge
  • David N. Laband, Auburn University
  • Val Lambson, Brigham Young University
  • Robert A. Lawson, Capital University
  • Mark LeBar, Ohio University
  • Dwight Lee, University of Georgia
  • Kenneth M. Lehn, University of Pittsburgh
  • Stanley Liebowitz, University of Texas at Dallas
  • Leonard Liggio, George Mason University
  • Dean R. Lillard, Cornell University
  • Jody Lipford, Presbyterian College
  • Luis Locay, University of Miami
  • Donald P. Loftus, University of Florida
  • Roderick T. Long, Auburn University
  • Edward J. Lopez, University of North Texas
  • John R. Lott, Jr., University of Chicago
  • Nelson Lund, George Mason University
  • Lynn H. Lutgen, University of Nebraska
  • Joseph P. Magaddino, California State University, Long Beach
  • Gregory E. Maggs, George Washington University
  • Gershon Mandelker, University of Pittsburgh
  • Geoffrey A. Manne, University of Virginia
  • Hugh Macaulay, Clemson University
  • Michael L. Marlow, California Polytechnic State University
  • Ray Massey, University of Missouri
  • John Matsusaka, University of Southern California
  • David N. Mayer, Capital University
  • James L. Maynard, New Mexico State University
  • Daniel E. McCarty, Florida Atlantic University
  • Fred McChesney, Cornell University
  • James Ross McCown, Florida Atlantic University
  • Phillip L. McIntosh, Mississippi College
  • Tom Means, San Jose State University
  • Roger E. Meiners, University of Texas–Arlington
  • Robert M. S. McDonald, U. S. Military Academy
  • David L. McLain, MIT
  • Abagail McWilliams, Arizona State University, West
  • Jeffrey A. Miron, Boston University
  • Carlisle E. Moody, College of William and Mary
  • James Moore, University of Southern California
  • John C. Moorhouse, Wake Forest University
  • Barry Morris, University of North Alabama.
  • Andrew P. Morriss, Case Western Reserve University
  • Bernie Munk, University of Pennsylvania
  • Dale A. Nance, Illinois Institute of Technology
  • Robert G. Natelson, University of Montana
  • James Nelson, University of Arizona
  • Craig M. Newmark, North Carolina State University
  • Diane Nicholl, Trinidad State Junior College
  • Bill Norton, Indiana University Southeast
  • Joe Olson, Hamline University
  • Lydia Ortega, San Jose State University
  • Dale Osborne, University of Texas at Dallas
  • Carol K. Oyster, University of Wisconsin, La Crosse
  • Christine M. Panyard, University of Detroit
  • Frederick Paola, University of South Florida
  • Melburn R. Park, University of Tennessee, Memphis
  • Jeffrey S. Parker, George Mason University
  • Allen M. Parkman, University of New Mexico
  • E. C. Pasour, Jr., North Carolina State University
  • William S. Peirce, Case Western Reserve University
  • Mark J. Perry , University of Michigan-Flint
  • Joseph M. Perry, University of North Florida
  • Charles E. Peterson, Elon College
  • Donald L. Peterson, San Diego State University
  • George Phillies, Worcester Polytechnic Institute
  • Michael Pippenger, University of Alaska
  • Dan Polsby, Northwestern University
  • Keith T. Poole, Carnegie-Mellon University
  • John B. Posthill, North Carolina State University
  • Saikrishna Prakash, University San Diego
  • Stephen B. Presser, Northwestern University
  • Adam C. Pritchard, University of Michigan
  • Douglas B. Rasmussen, St. John’s University
  • Eric Rasmusen, Indiana University
  • Gerard Rault, Loyola University
  • Will Ray, Ohio State University
  • Joan Ray, Ohio State University
  • W. Robert Reed, University of Oklahoma
  • Glenn Reynolds, University of Tennessee
  • Morgan Reynolds, Texas A&M University
  • Patrick T. Reynolds, University of Cincinnati
  • Larry E. Ribstein, George Mason University
  • Charles E. Rice, Notre Dame University
  • John R. Rice, Duke University
  • Russell Roberts, Washington University
  • Kelley L. Ross, Los Angeles Valley College
  • Randall W. Roth , University of Hawaii
  • Charles Rowley, George Mason University
  • Daniel C. Russell, University of Arizona
  • James a Sadowsky, Fordham University
  • Allen R. Sanderson , University of Chicago
  • Dave Saurman, San Jose State University
  • Norman Scarborough, Presbyterian College
  • Henry Schaffer, North Carolina State University
  • D. Eric Schansberg, Indiana University (New Albany)
  • Bill Schroeder, Southern Illinois University
  • Gerald Scully, University of Texas at Dallas
  • Barry J. Seldon, The University of Texas at Dallas
  • Daniel Shapiro, West Virginia University
  • Stephen Shmanske, California State University, Hayward
  • William F. Shughart II, University of Mississippi
  • Don Siegel, Arizona State University West
  • Gregory M. Silverman, University of Chicago
  • Dr. Aeon J. Skoble, United States Military Academy
  • Bradley A. Smith, Capital University
  • Vernon Smith, University of Arizona
  • Larry D. Soderquist , Vanderbilt University
  • Lawrence Southwick, Jr., University at Buffalo
  • Thomas Sowell, Stanford University
  • David E. Spencer, Brigham Young University
  • Mike Sproul, California State University at Northridge
  • Jeffrey Standen, Willamette University
  • Mary Zeiss Stange, Skidmore College
  • Lance K. Stell, Davidson College
  • William B. Stoebuck, University of Washington
  • Richard Stroup, Montana State University
  • Daniel Sutter, University of Oklahoma
  • Timothy D. Terrell, Liberty University
  • Clifford F. Thies, Shenandoah University
  • Henry Thompson, Auburn University
  • Mark Thornton, Auburn University
  • Walter N. Thurman, North Carolina State University
  • Richard Timberlake, University of Georgia
  • Robert D. Tollison , University of Mississippi
  • Charlotte Twight, Boise State University
  • Thomas L. Underwood, Oklahoma State University
  • James J. Valentini, Columbia University
  • Jim VanBeek, Blinn College
  • David Vandercoy, Valparaiso University
  • James E. Viator, Loyola University of the South
  • Anne Vogel, Capital University
  • Eugene Volokh, UCLA
  • Richard E. Wagner, George Mason University
  • Allan Walstad, University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown
  • Kam-Ming Wan, University of Texas at Dallas
  • Michael R. Ward, University of Illinois
  • Kenneth M. Washer, Texas A&M University
  • L. Darnell Weeden, Texas Southern University
  • John M. Wells, Auburn University
  • John T. Wenders, University of Idaho
  • Walter Wessels, North Carolina State University
  • Richard G. Wilkins, Brigham Young University
  • Pinata Winoto, University of Mississippi
  • Raymond L. Wheeler, Central Washington University
  • Samuel C. Wheeler III, University of Connecticut
  • Lawrence H. White, University of Georgia
  • Francis R. Whitehouse Jr., Lynchburg College
  • Pete Williams, University of North Alabama
  • Pinata Winoto, University of Mississippi
  • Thomas G. Winter, University of Tulsa
  • Michael K. Wohlgenant, North Carolina State University
  • Roy T. Wortman, Kenyon College
  • Leland B. Yeager, Auburn University
  • Edward E. Zajac, University of Arizona
  • Matt Zwolinski, University of Arizona
  • Benjamin Zycher, UCLA
  • Todd Zywicki, George Mason University
  • Donald J. Boudreaux, Clemson University
  • David Robinson, Jr., George Washington University
  • Richard J. Pierce, Jr. , George Washington University
  • Robert E. Park, George Washington University
  • Arthur E. Wilmarth, Jr., George Washington University

 


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