Safety in the gun shop

Published 10:04 pm Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Suffolk City Council has a chance in April to strike a blow for public safety when it considers whether to approve a conditional use permit for a gun shop and firing range proposed for Carolina Road.

Anti-gun activism being what it is, readers may be surprised at the assertion that a shop that sells firearms can actually improve public safety. Nonetheless, both statistics and anecdotal evidence confirm the linkage between gun ownership and crime reduction.

Surveys of private citizens in America have shown that guns are used defensively as many as 3.4 million times a year, at least three times more than they are used in crimes, according to John R. Lott Jr. of the American Enterprise Institute.

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And television newscasts and newspapers throughout the country serve up a regular menu of stories highlighting law-abiding citizens who used their concealed or openly carried firearms to thwart robberies and other violent crimes.

Though Virginia’s gun shops have gotten a bad reputation through the years, mandatory criminal background checks help ensure that the guns that find their way into criminals’ hands are usually stolen or obtained through other illegal means, not purchased over-the-counter.

That leaves law-abiding citizens as the primary market for gun shops. And anything such shops can do to promote safe gun ownership — such as the indoor firing range proposed for the Carolina Road shop — will help reduce the instance of accidental deaths and injuries from firearms, all the while encouraging citizens to be ready to protect themselves from a heavily armed criminal element.

The City Council should welcome the new shop as another element in Suffolk’s public safety net.