The American Exception

A favorite exhortation of those seeking to further restrict or remove the private possession of firearms in the United States is to "look at other countries," where lower murder rates are supposed to be a result of gun control laws. The underlying presumption beneath these laws is that guns cause crime. Getting rid of guns, or at least severely limiting them, reduces, so we are told, the level of violence in a given society.

Kopel, a prosecuting attorney in New York City before moving to Colorado where he served in that state's attorney general's office, now practices law in Denver and is an associate policy analyst for the Cato Institute. His careful analysis of the data from other countries as compared with the United States reveals major flaws in the assumption that foreign gun control laws can be successfully grafted upon this country. As Kopel repeatedly shows, foreign gun laws are applied in an environment of greatly restricted civil liberties and other social controls.

Arms control in Japan began as far back as the 16th century as a way of facilitating the collection of taxes, and from that time on, arms were considered the emblem of a nobleman. Common people were to remain unarmed and to pay taxes. Today, the Japanese tolerate a level of authoritarian intrusion into their lives that would be unacceptable to Americans. (However, the federal government's assault on the Weaver family in northern...

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