Harold Henderson, as usual, writes from ignorance (City File, July 17) when he attacks an on-line newsletter that blames guns in Philadelphia for handgun violence. "Now why is it that guns--which aren't any more common in Philadelphia--are at fault?" asks our astute Reader clipping critic.
I know obnoxious rhetorical questions from the "Dept. of Clear Thinking" aren't supposed to be answered, but here's a try. First of all, one might normally think that handguns everywhere are somehow associated with handgun violence, but that's probably my muddy liberal brain at work again. Perhaps more important is the fact that under a 1995 law Philadelphia is required to grant a concealed handgun permit to any law-abiding citizen, and since that time the number of concealed permits has increased tenfold. Coincidence, perhaps, but I'm more inclined to think that guns contribute to gun violence. In a country with a gun for every adult (and most children) and a rate of violent crime far above the rest of the world, perhaps we need to consider the possibility that the guns killing nearly 10,000 Americans every year are, in fact, at fault.
John K. Wilson
Harold Henderson replies:
Mr. Wilson has it right. Consideration of the possibility is due, but jumping to conclusions is not. If guns are at fault, Switzerland and Israel, with proportions of guns comparable to the U.S., would have murder rates like ours, and Vermont, with the nation's most lenient "Carry Concealed Weapons" laws, would have a murder rate like Illinois'. There's more going on here than meets the eye.