Several years ago the National Institute of Justice offered a grant to the former president of the American Sociological Association to survey the field of research on gun control. Peter Rossi began his work convinced of the need for strict national gun control. After looking at the data, however, Rossi and his University of Massachusetts colleagues James Wright and Kathleen Daly concluded that there was no convincing proof that gun control curbs crime. A follow-up study by Wright and Rossi of serious felons in American prisons provided further evidence that gun control would not impede determined criminals. It also indicated that civilian gun ownership does deter some crime. Three-fifths of the prisoners studied said that a criminal would not attack a potential victim who was known to be armed. Two-fifths of them had decided not to commit a crime because they thought the victim might have a gun. Criminals in states with higher civilian gun ownership rates worried the most about armed victims.
Real-world experiences validate the sociologists' findings. In 1966 the police in Orlando, Florida, responded to a rape epidemic by embarking on a highly publicized program to train 2,500 women in firearm use. The next year rape fell by 88 percent in Orlando (the only major city to experience a decrease that year); burglary fell by 25 percent. Not one of the 2,500 women actually ended up firing her weapon; the deterrent effect of the publicity sufficed. Five years later Orlando's rape rate was still 13 percent below the pre-program level, whereas the surrounding standard metropolitan area had suffered a 308 percent increase. During a 1974 police strike in Albuquerque armed citizens patrolled their neighborhoods and shop owners publicly armed themselves; felonies dropped significantly. In March 1982 Kennesaw, Georgia, enacted a law requiring householders to keep a gun at home; house burglaries fell from 65 per year to 26, and to 11 the following year. Similar publicized training programs for gun-toting merchants sharply reduced robberies in stores in Highland Park, Michigan, and in New Orleans; a grocers organization's gun clinics produced the same result in Detroit. Gun control advocates note that only 2 burglars in 1,000 are driven off by armed homeowners. However, since a huge preponderance of burglaries take place when no one is home, the statistical citation is misleading. Several criminologists attribute the prevalence of daytime burglary to burglars' fear of confronting an armed occupant. Indeed, a burglar's chance of being sent to jail is about the same as his chance of being shot by a victim if the burglar breaks into an occupied residence (1 to 2 percent in each case).