There had been the Weapons Law, for a start. Weapons were involved in so many crimes that, Swing reasoned, reducing the number of weapons *had* to reduce the crime rate.
Vimes wondered if he’d sat up in bed in the middle of the night and hugged himself when he’d dreamed *that* one up. Confiscate all weapons, and crime would go down. it made sense. it would have worked, too, if only there had been enough coppers–say, three per citizen. Amazingly, quite a few weapons were handed in. The flaw, though, was one that had somehow managed to escape Swing, and it was this: criminals don’t obey the law. It’s more or less a requirement for the job. They had no particular interest in making the streets safer for anyone except themselves. And they couldn’t believe what was happening. It was like Hogswatch every day. [Night Watch by Terry Pratchett]
The Law of Unintended Consequences, aka Sod’s Law, rules supreme. An argument often made about controlling the availability of weapons is that if the law regulates weapons, only criminals will have weapons. Loathe as I am to disagree with one of my favourite literary characters, there are other reasons to regulate weapons. The disaster in Connecticut today illustrates one of them.
Generally, I believe, criminals do not shoot civilians (except in extreme situations like gang wars). The people who kill children and innocent adults tend not to be career criminals, but disturbed and occasionally just evil people who have access to weapons. Reducing and regulating weapons in a civilised society alleviates that. If Adam Lanza had not had easy access to guns, which are, let us recall, designed for the single purpose of seriously injuring and killing people, his mental issues need not have resulted in the deaths of 20 children and 7 adults.
And in any case the availability of guns to noncriminals does not result in them being safer. If anything, the deaths caused by civilian gun use exceed the cases in which people are able to “take down” criminals. I gather in one case that more people were shot by bystanders than by a gunman (but I cannot recall the case, so cavil at that if you like).
I live in a country that regulates weapons. No, it hasn’t made much dent on criminals having guns, largely because there was such a high number of weapons in the community when the laws were introduced that it can be expected to take time to have effect, but recent reports of criminals trying to import weapons or steal them from the military indicate that it is getting harder. But we have reduced the number of mad-gun attacks, and I feel things are better for the laws. Mind you, I would be happier if the police, who are responsible for an uncomfortable number of shootings, did not have them, or Tasers either. If you have a tool, you reach for it in every case.