From the Times Online, comes a report this morning of a shooting massacre in a shopping center in Espoo, Finland, a town close to the capital Helsinki. An immigrant by the name of Ibrahim Shkupolli, took out a 9mm pistol and began shooting shoppers at a mall supermarket, killing four people. The report describes the events immediately following the shooting:
Within an hour of the shooting, Finland’s anti-terror squad, wearing heavy body armour, were scouring the labyrinthine shopping mall. Evacuated shoppers were told to leave their purchases and not to collect their cars. Trains were ordered not to stop at the station closest to the Sello Mall and armed units were stationed in Helsinki train station in case the gunman had already slipped into the capital.
In the time it took for armed security forces to arrive, Shkupolli had already gone to the home of his ex-girlfriend, killed her, and then himself.
This is the third mass shooting in Finland in two years, the previous two having been explained away as the acts of “deranged loners that could have happened anywhere.”
This time, however, politicians in Finland, instead of focusing on how Shkupolli—who had a criminal record—was able to obtain an illegal handgun in a country that already has strict gun-control laws, are now considering a further tightening of those restrictions.
Finnish politicians will now begin to debate how these “deranged loners,” under the hypnotic spell cast by the “Americanization of Finnish society,” can be prevented from carrying out such attacks in the future.
Ah yes, the American gun-culture rears its ugly head once more, this time shattering the peace in a bucolic Finnish town which would have been spared the carnage caused by Mr. Shkupolli, if only the gun-control laws had been made even stricter.
And yet, one can’t help but wonder how many lives would have been saved had another customer (licensed to carry a concealed weapon), drawn his weapon and put an end to Shkupolli’s rampage as it was getting started. Note that it took nearly an hour for Finnish security forces to arrive.
Are the Finnish politicians on the right track then, in contemplating these stricter measures? Will further restricting gun ownership for those law-abiding citizens interested in self-protection really have a positive effect on reducing the number of lives lost due to crimes committed with guns?
Let’s look at some numbers:
According to the U.S. Department of Justice, of the total murders committed in 2004, 66 percent were committed with firearms. The number of murders committed by those with licensed firearms was: 4. The ratio of crimes committed by permit holders to total permit holders is a tiny percentage compared to crimes committed by those without permits. Permit holders have to demonstrate that they are upstanding citizens with clean records when they apply for a concealed handgun permit. Statistically, they are the safest and most well informed people to have carrying guns, which is why the law allows them to have them.
But the real question, which is never alluded to in the Times article, is this: How many lives can be saved because of guns?
In the United States, there are approximately 2.5 million cases of people using firearms for self-defense each year. If this estimate is accurate, the defensive use of firearms might save as many as seventy-five lives for every life lost to gun-related crime, because firearms are involved in about 32,000 deaths (murders, suicides, and accidents) every year.
States having right-to-carry laws also have the lowest crime rates. The DOJ’s 2007 Uniformed Crime Report figures note that states with right-to-carry laws have a 30 percent lower homicide rate, as well as a 46 percent lower robbery rate than states with higher gun ownership restrictions.
In Vermont (one of the safest five states in the country), citizens can carry a firearm without getting permission, paying a fee, or going through a government-imposed waiting period. And yet for ten years in a row, Vermont has remained one of the top-five, safest states in the union — having three times received the “Safest State Award.”
In Switzerland, there are few or no restrictions on who can own, or who can carry a firearm. Switzerland’s citizens are heavily armed, and yet Switzerland has some of the lowest crime rates in the world (despite one of the highest levels of gun ownership). Maybe that’s why even Hitler and Mussolini left it alone.
Finland is about to embark on another internal debate over guns. The country should, if it really wants to be safer, have a serious look at relaxing its gun-control laws, not strengthening them.