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Stephen J.LurieMD, PhD, Senior EditorIndividualAuthorPhil B.FontanarosaMD, Executive Deputy EditorIndividualAuthor
To the Editor: Dr Sherman extrapolated from
the finding of Dr Villaveces and colleagues2
that banning the carrying of firearms reduced homicide rates in 2 Colombian
cities to the conclusion that a similar policy should be instituted in the
United States. Villaveces et al2 noted that
indiscriminate banning of firearm carrying, enforced with intrusive police
measures such as checkpoints and search and seizures during traffic stops,
may not have a similar effect in cities where homicides are less common. Furthermore,
constitutional restrictions on police search procedures would prevent transferring
the methods used in Cali and Bogotá to any city in the United States.
It is inappropriate to compare unregulated gun carrying in such cities
as Cali and Bogotá (114.6 and 61 homicides per 100,000 person-years,
respectively, and 88 per 100,000 person-years for Colombia as a whole) to
the United States (6.3 per 100,000 person-years3),
where we have a system of state-regulated, concealed weapon-carrying licensing.
Moreover, deep cultural and political differences exist. The situation in
Colombia, a country virtually devoid of the rule of law and immersed in anarcho-terrorism,
is not analogous to the United States, a constitutional republic imbued with
individual liberties and a long legal tradition. Cities such as Cali, Medellín,
and Bogotá are near chaos from all-out drug wars, and prosecutors,
judges, and political candidates live under death sentences. Some would argue
that a police state would be preferable to chaos in Colombia. While Sherman
may prefer the same outcome in the United States (eg, checkpoints and police
searching citizens at their discretion), I and millions of Americans disagree.
The road to tyranny is often paved with good intentions.
Faria, Jr MA. Would Prevention of Gun Carrying Reduce US Homicide Rates? JAMA. 2000;284(14):1788–1789. doi:10.1001/jama.284.14.1783
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