Did Jovan Belcher, the 6’2” 228 pound linebacker for the Kansas City Chiefs, need a gun to kill his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins? How about to commit suicide? Apparently some think that Saturday's murder-suicide tragedy in Kansas City wouldn't have happened if he hadn't had a firearm. Amazingly, during halftime on NBC’s "Sunday Night Football," Bob Costas told viewers he believed: “If Jovan Belcher didn’t possess a gun, he and Kasandra Perkins would both be alive today.”
Belcher apparently killed Perkins, the 22-year-old mother of his 3-month-old daughter, at home. The horrible tragedy occurred in front of Perkins’ mom. He then drove to the Chiefs' practice facility where he committed suicide.
Guns can make it easier to kill people, but that isn’t relevant here. Even if no weapon existed, the strength differential is so large that Belcher could have easily killed Perkins in any number of ways. The same is true, sadly, about suicide. There are so many ways that Belcher could have killed himself, including crashing his car at a high rate of speed into a wall or even another car as he drove to Arrowhead Stadium.
Unfortunately, pointing to two deaths here does nothing to advance the case for gun control. Costas’ rant falls under the category of if gun control could save just one life it would be worth it. The argument makes as much sense as saying we shouldn’t have gun control if guns can save one life.
The question is the net effect of guns, and what Costas ignores is that guns save a lot more lives than they cost each year. And that's not even mentioning the roughly 2 million times a year that people use guns defensively.
Whether people like Costas like it or not the facts speak for themselves: Murder rates consistently rise when guns are banned. This is not just a US phenomenon in places such as Washington, DC and Chicago, but has been observed worldwide. When guns are banned, even in island nations such as the UK, Ireland, and Jamaica, the pattern has been the same. The problem is that gun bans disarm law-abiding good people, not criminals. With disarmed victims, crime is easier to commit.
Gun control advocates frequently point out that the majority of murders are committed by acquaintances, trying to make people fearful of letting relatives have access to guns. But this claim regarding domestic violence irresponsibly makes people afraid of those who they have no reason to be afraid of. What isn’t mentioned by these same advocates is that most of these acquaintances are not people who are emotionally close to each other. They involve rival gang members who know each other. Acquaintance murders also include prostitutes and their pimps or Johns as well as cab drivers who are murdered by their fares.
To put it bluntly, criminals are not typical citizens. About 90 percent of adult murderers have an adult criminal record. They tend to have low IQs and long histories of social problems. Murders are also very heavily concentrated among minorities in urban areas. Over 70 percent of murders occur in about 3 percent of the counties in the US. Even if our country passed laws banning guns, most of these murderers are not the kind of people who are going to voluntarily turn in their weapons.
If women want to protect themselves, they should get a gun. The FBI’s National Crime Victimization Survey indicates that by far the safest course of action for women to take when they are confronted by a criminal is to have a gun.
There are two groups of people who benefit the most from gun ownership: people who are weaker physically (women and the elderly) and those who are most likely to be victims of violent crime (primarily poor blacks who live in high crime urban areas).
The research by economists overwhelmingly shows that gun ownership has no impact on suicide rates. To the extent that gun control has any impact, restrictions just change the way in which the suicide is committed.
Bob Costas’ emotional reaction to the deaths of Belcher and Perkins is understandable, even if a rant on gun control during a football game is misplaced. But hopefully cooler heads will prevail before we enact laws that will unintentionally lead to more deaths.
John R. Lott, Jr. is a columnist for FoxNews.com. He is an economist and was formerly chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission. Lott is also a leading expert on guns and op-eds on that issue are done in conjunction with the Crime Prevention Research Center. He is the author of eight books including "More Guns, Less Crime." His latest book is "Dumbing Down the Courts: How Politics Keeps the Smartest Judges Off the Bench" Bascom Hill Publishing Group (September 17, 2013). Follow him on Twitter@johnrlottjr.