DO GUNS REALLY INCREASE SECURITY?: I'm generally very pro-gun. I think law-abiding citizens should be allowed to own and carry pretty much any type of gun they want without government involvement. I believe that wide-spread gun ownership can reduce crime and ultimately save lives. There are some statistics that bear out these beliefs, but what I'd really like to focus on at the moment is a situation that appears to stand in stark contrast: the on-going barbarism in the Congo.

The Telegraph article describes how crazed, drug-infused, cannibalistic militias (with periodic military support) have been devastating the country for the past five years, resulting in between 3 and 5 million deaths thus far. It's an awful, inconceivably evil conflict with no apparent end in sight, and it's being perpetrated on the populace despite the apparent widespread availability of guns.

Along the town's main street shop doors hung drunkenly from their hinges. Windows on many buildings were smashed, their contents looted. The few establishments that escaped pillaging were firmly shuttered. A Hema boy, aged no more than eight or nine, sauntered down the street dressed in a ridiculously oversized military uniform, his camouflage jacket flapping about his calves.

He disappeared into a building for a moment and re-emerged casually swinging an AK47 from his hip.

A pick-up truck filled with grim-faced Hema soldiers and mounted with a fearsomely large machinegun roared down the street.

So what's the deal? I buy into the idea that guns can make society safer, so why isn't it working in the Congo?

One might argue that civil order has already broken down, and that the problem is that there is no central authority with enough firepower to restore it. However, there don't appear to be significant quantities of heavy weapons involved on the side of the militias, so why can't the rest of the population at least organize to contain and restrain them? Lack of will? Pure fear? Do I have a mistaken impression of the quantity of guns in play? Do the militias have a monopoly on firearms that the population as a whole does not have access to?

Perhaps there is some law and order threshold such that in circumstances where peace already prevails gun ownership can reduce crime, but in circumstances where violence dominates throwing more guns into the mix just exacerbates the problem. Maybe this threshold is somehow related to mob psychology in the sense that individuals will tend to follow the existing status quo, be that peace or violence. Does anyone have any insight?

(Telegraph link via Mean Mr. Mustard.)



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