Yoshihiro Nishizaua said he is confused about the number of people in the United States carrying guns.
“In Japan the regular person is not allowed to possess guns. I have no idea why people in this country are allowed to possess guns, but maybe today I can understand.”
This visiting scholar from Japan, along with about 130 other students and members of the University community, crowded into Hutchins Hall yesterday for a debate on gun control.
John Lott, author of “More Guns, Less Crime,” and a research scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, began the debate with an anti-gun control pitch.
“We all care about the same bottom line. Do guns save lives or cost lives? It”s impossible not to hear about guns, but a lot of things we know about guns aren”t true,” Lott said.
Lott said issues such as an imbalance in media coverage and the propagation of common misconceptions like the risk of having a gun in the home contribute to the stigma attached to carrying a concealed weapon.
“It”s not as newsworthy when people defend themselves then when a child is shot at home,” he said.
The various studies that find the probability of killing an attacker is much less than killing a family member are all conducted by the same authors, Lott said, and only measure the one out of 1,000 instances in which the attacker was actually killed by a gunshot. They do not take into account the instances in which guns wounded the attacker or scared him away.
Lott also argued that gun control laws are very expensive, costing 50,000 annual hours of police time for the registration of guns.
“How many crimes could have been solved with 50,000 hours of police time?”
Washtenaw County Prosecutor Brian Mackie approached the other side of the issue, citing instances in his district in which children were killed by guns as support for stricter laws governing who can bear arms.
“Dr. Lott”s book is not supported by any academic study and never will be. If it was as simple as “more guns less crime,” I would be all for it. But that”s like taking a few tablets and waking up in the morning hoping to be thin. We need to be critical thinkers,” Mackie said.
He countered Lott”s argument that gun control laws only inhibit law-abiding citizens from protecting themselves by saying, “Many people who commit horrible crimes have no criminal records.”
Mackie also disagreed with the statistic that 416 rapes a day could be prevented if women carry guns.
“That”s not how rape occurs, because the vast majority of rapes are perpetrated by acquaintances,” he said, adding that women will most likely not have a gun available to defend themselves when they are in the presence of someone they know.
First-year Law student Brian Brown said he was more persuaded by Lott”s argument because “Mackie relied more on emotions and ad hominem attacks than numbers.”
Many students expressed concern over the implications of the Concealed Weapons Act passed last December, in which the Michigan Legislature began requiring county gun boards to issue a license to carry a concealed weapon to any adult without a criminal record, with limited exceptions.
This law, Mackie said, makes it illegal for people to carry guns to class and in residence halls, but does not prevent any permit-holding gun owner from bringing their gun to a fraternity party or other such public places.
Music sophomore Katie Conrad, who attended a college party in which a student from another university actually pulled a gun, said she is also disturbed by the new law.
“I don”t want to be shot on campus. It”s unsafe (to carry guns) I don”t care how many precautions you take.”