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NYT Reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal, Who Took on Air-Conditioning, Now Goes After Guns

Last year, New York Times reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal said air conditioning was hurting the planet. The latest Sunday Review features more left-wing activism from the paper's supposedly impartial science reporter, this time on gun control: "More Guns = More Killing," which takes on the NRA's assertion that "a good guy with a gun" is the best way to protect school children.

In the wake of the tragic shooting deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month, the National Rifle Association proposed that the best way to protect schoolchildren was to place a guard -- a “good guy with a gun” -- in every school, part of a so-called National School Shield Emergency Response Program.

Indeed, the N.R.A.’s solution to the expansion of gun violence in America has been generally to advocate for the more widespread deployment and carrying of guns.

I recently visited some Latin American countries that mesh with the N.R.A.’s vision of the promised land, where guards with guns grace every office lobby, storefront, A.T.M., restaurant and gas station. It has not made those countries safer or saner.

Despite the ubiquitous presence of “good guys” with guns, countries like Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia and Venezuela have some of the highest homicide rates in the world.

One obvious explanatory detail about the high homicide rates in those countries is downplayed and dismissed by Rosenthal: They are heavily invested in deadly drug wars.

Scientific studies have consistently found that places with more guns have more violent deaths, both homicides and suicides. Women and children are more likely to die if there’s a gun in the house. The more guns in an area, the higher the local suicide rates. “Generally, if you live in a civilized society, more guns mean more death,” said David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. “There is no evidence that having more guns reduces crime. None at all.”

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Distinctive factors contribute to the high rates of violent crime in Latin America. Many countries in the region had recent civil wars, resulting in a large number of weapons in circulation. Drug- and gang-related violence is widespread. “It’s dangerous to make too tight a link between the availability of weapons and homicide rates,” said Jeremy McDermott, a co-director of InSight Crime who is based in Medellín, Colombia. “There are lots of other variables.”

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William Godnick, coordinator of the Public Security Program at the United Nations Regional Center for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean, said that United Nations studies in Central America showed that people who used a gun to defend against an armed assault were far more likely to be injured or killed than if they had no weapon.

Post-Sandy Hook, gun groups in the United States are now offering teachers firearms training. But do I really want my kid’s teachers packing a weapon?

“If you’re living in a ‘Mad Max’ world, where criminals have free rein and there’s no government to stop them, then I’d want to be armed,” said Dr. Hemenway of Harvard. “But we’re not in that circumstance. We’re a developed, stable country.”