Another school shooting in America has triggered a new round of demands for gun storage laws.
But an expert is warning those requirements could cause more harm and good.
John R. Lott Jr., an economist and political commentator, has explained at Real Clear Politics that the recent shooting at Oxford High in Michigan is the kind of tragedy everyone wants to prevent.
“But more lives will be lost than saved if we mandate that everyone lock up their guns,” he wrote.
He cited comments from Karen McDonald, the Oakland County prosecutor.
“We [Michigan] don’t have a safe storage law. We’re not legally required to store your weapon in a safe manner. Children are allowed to attend [gun ranges] with their parents. … We don’t have strong enough laws,” she said.
In the Michigan case, 15-year-old Ethan Crumbley is accused of shooting and killing four people at his high school at the end of November. His parents also are facing charges of involuntary manslaughter for allowing their son to have access to the gun he used.
But gun storage requirements, which are intended mainly to prevent accidental gun deaths of children, would have little impact in the state, which averaged not even two such fatalities a year from 2010 to 2019, Lott explained.
He noted a restriction aimed at those younger than 18 would not have helped in the 2012 shooting by Adam Lanza, who was 20 when he stole his mother’s gun, or in Parkland, Florida, where Nikolas Cruz was 19 when he killed 17 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High.
Lott said his research showed that gun lock laws “make it more difficult for people to defend themselves and their families successfully. As a result, criminals became more emboldened to invade people’s homes. There have been 300 more total murders and 4,000 more rapes occurring each year in states with these laws. Burglaries are also dramatically higher.”
“If you want to see the importance of deterrence, consider so-called hot burglaries, where residents are at home when criminals strike. The United Kingdom not only has twice the burglary rate as the United States, but 59% of break-ins there are hot burglaries. By contrast, the U.S. has a hot burglary rate of 13%. Consistent with this, surveys of convicted burglars in the two countries indicate that American criminals spend about twice as much time casing a home before they break in. The reason: They want to ensure that no one is home because it prevents them from getting shot. Similarly, American burglars frequently comment that they avoid late-night break-ins because ”that’s the way to get shot.’ These are concerns that British burglars don’t share, given that nation’s strict gun laws,” he said.
And he said the cost of locking up guns is high.
“We see news stories about the horrible deaths and injuries from school shootings. And rightly so. But we don’t hear about the deaths that occur because people can’t readily access a gun to protect themselves and their families. These latter deaths are no less horrific,” he said.
Further, he noted, “The national media rarely covers instances where young children use guns to save someone’s life. I found 11 cases that got local news coverage where a juvenile used a gun to save someone’s life. On June 30, a 12-year-old Louisiana boy used a hunting rifle to stop an armed burglar threatening his mother’s life during a home invasion. On Feb. 13, after two masked men broke into a North Carolina house and shot a 73-year-old woman in the leg, another 12-year-old shot the intruders in self-defense, causing them to flee. In St. Louis on June 16, a 13-year-old shot his father as he was choking his mother. And the news media also misses the vast majority of defensive gun uses.”
He conceded that there could have been 21 fewer deaths if mass shootings by those under 18 since 2000 had been prevented by gun locks.
“One can add in the annual number of accidental gun deaths …. But the final number would still be only a fraction of those who die in a single year because states with mandatory locks kept people from getting to their guns in time.”
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