West Wing Continuity Guide
path: Home/ Second Season Episodes / #35  "Bartlet's Third State of the Union" * Toby's Gun Control Figures

Teleplay: Aaron Sorkin, Story: Allison Abner & Dee Dee Myers, d: Christopher Misiano

Arguing for gun control regulations, Toby says the following:
"If you combine the populations of Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan, Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark and Australia, you'll get a population roughly the size of the United States. We had 32,000 gun deaths last year. They had 112. Do you think it's because Americans are more homicidal by nature? Or do you think it's because those guys have gun control laws?"

Some viewers think, that doesn't explain the situation:
Vance P. Frickey, for instance, writes: "First, in tonight's episode, Toby added apples and oranges by comparing the combined homicide rates of a few carefully-selected western European countries with our own figures, but fails to mention what the homicide rates in each of these countries had been BEFORE their enactment of gun control laws. Then as now, guns are not the European criminal's weapon of choice and NEVER HAVE BEEN. And (having lived just outside London for three months in 1994) I can testify that the streets of London are more dangerous now than they were in the pre-gun control days of Jack the Ripper. Gun control didn't lower the homicide rates much, if at all, in any of these countries.

"Second, one of the countries Toby mentioned, Switzerland, takes the same approach to gun rights held by the framers of the U. S. Constitution, that having 'a well-regulated militia' means that all men of military age should be TRAINED by the government in the proficient use of their privately-held military weapons, not that possession of these or any firearms should be restricted to members of what is in essence a volunteer auxiliary to the standing armed forces of the United States, not traditional militias at all.

"In Switzerland, gun laws are somewhat more lenient than they are on average here in the United States. All men of military age are expected to show up for the local equivalent of Army Reserve or National Guard training on weekends and holidays, and they are sent home with their issued weapons, up to and including fully-automatic assault weapons. Permits to carry concealed handguns are routinely granted. Submachine guns and other fully-automatic firearms are available to the public and advertised on television. And yet the Swiss boast a lower homicide rate than the two countries usually cited as gun control success stories, Great Britain and Japan."

Which doesn't mean that Toby, who is very partisan on this (and other issues), wouldn't give out figures that would support his case, trying to persuade voters to his side of the argument whether or not he knew the information Mr. Frickey speaks of above.

Editorial Opinion: We agree with Sorkin and company about the need for gun control in this country, but skewing the figures to fit one's side, though a legitimate tool in argument can actually, lose credibility. We believe in that the free exchange of opinions and information will, in the end, be more favorable to the outcome we want on the gun control issue.

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