Vital Signs

Disarming the Victims

More guns, more murder? This central tenet of the anti-gun movement has found strong new support from the movement's intellectual superstar. University of California law professor Franklin Zimring. In Crime is not the Problem: Lethal Violence in America, Zimring and long-time collaborator Gordon Hawkins make the most persuasive case ever for guns as the fundamental cause of America's high murder rate. At a 1998 symposium sponsored by the University of Colorado Law Review, Zimring very effectively took on all challengers to his thesis.

So, is it time to follow Zimring's plan to outlaw handgun purchases by anyone who cannot prove a special need, and to constrict sharply the boundaries for use of lethal force in self-defense? Before answering, let's examine the evidence presented by Zimring and his critics.

Zimring develops his thesis from comparative international statistics. Using data from all over the developed world, Zimring aims to refute the argument that America's high murder rate is merely one facet of an overall high crime rate. Acknowledging the limitations of international statistics (for example, what one nation classifies as a serious assault might not be so classified by another nation). Zimring shows that America does have relatively high rates of robbery and assault. But these rates only place America towards the high end of the range of developed countries, not off the charts....

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