Gore Does Disservice to Gun Victims

Vice President Gore, the Democrat's presumptive presidential nominee unveiled his most recent attack on crime: guns should be banned from churches.

Finally, someone is taking a serious look at this long ignored problem. Seriously; crossfire fatigue is the reason I didn't go to church last Sunday. Okay, I over slept, but who's counting.

Of course Gore wasn't issuing a serious proposal to a serious problem. People across the country aren't avoiding church because they're afraid the person the next pew over is packin' heat. Rather, Gore just wanted to score a political point against his all but official rival, Gov. George W. Bush, by pointing to the Governor's support of Texas' conceal-carry law. But is this something the Governor should be ashamed of?

Gore notes that Bush signed a 1995 law that allows Texans to carry concealed weapons with a permit after passing an extensive training course and a background check. That law, while allowing people to carry protection, did exclude certain places.

While local support was high, there was some confusion as to what places were off limits. To clarify this rule, Bush signed a law in 1997 that requires all places wishing to ban firearms on their premises, including churches, to post a notice. After all, it didn't seem right to punish a single woman, who carries a gun for protection, for not knowing when she had to leave it in the glove box.

While poking fun at Bush's Texas, Gore doesn't say that Tennessee also has a conceal-carry provision that is remarkably similar. This omission is easy to excuse, however, given the fact that Tennessee is Gore's home in name only.

His real hometown, Washington, D.C., has some of the strictest gun control laws in the nation. In fact, it is illegal to own a handgun inside the city limits. Nonetheless, it also has one of the highest rates of violent crime, partly because only the criminals carry guns. Because of that fact, law-abiding residents continue to flee to the suburbs, or leave the area entirely, afraid they are going to be the city's next victim. In fact, I'm one of them.

Two years ago I was shot outside my Capital Hill home. I was just coming home after a long day at the office when a figure lunged out of the shadows brandishing a handgun and demanding money. Deciding that it would be easier to get the money off a dead body than to wait for an answer, my assailant sent a bullet shooting through my arm and then proceeded to empty his weapon as I fled. Only by a miracle am I still alive.

The experience has given me a better appreciation for gun violence. Gore's proposal either shows a complete lack of understanding for the real problem with guns in our communities or a callous disregard for the people affected by it.

The problem is not that there are too many guns, it's that there are too many guns in the wrong hands and not enough in the right ones. Guns are actually used to prevent crimes more often than they are used to commit them. According to at least 15 studies, citizens use guns for self-defense somewhere between 764,000 and 3.6 million times per year. In the vast majority of cases, merely showing the firearm prevents the crime. The most comprehensive study estimated defensive gun uses at more than 2.5 million per year. This far exceeds the number of crimes committed with firearms.

Behind these numbers are real people who are empowered to defend themselves adequately. For example, women faced with assault are 2.5 times less likely to suffer serious injury if they respond with a firearm than if they defend themselves with less effective weapons or offer no resistance. According to the Department of Justice, only one-fifth of all victims who defended themselves with firearms suffered injury, compared to almost half of those who attempted to use another weapon or who had no weapon.

When I decided to move to Texas, my friends joked that I was moving to where gun control means holding your pistol with both hands. While this may have been good for a laugh, I'm no longer looking over my shoulder.