Tag: Second Amendment

Guns and irrationality

Jacob Sullum:

“Americans are now more likely to be shot to death than to die in a car accident,” Margaret Renkl declares in a New York Times op-ed piece calling for more gun control. Since Renkl is talking about mass shootings, which she says “are no longer so unthinkable,” the implication is that the risk of being murdered with a gun is on the rise. But that risk is in fact much lower than it was in the 1970s, ’80s, or ’90s.

To back up her claim, Renkl links to a CDC fact sheet that shows guns killed slightly more Americans in 2015 than car crashes did. Yet 61 percent of those gun deaths were suicides, while 36 percent were homicides. Contrary to Renkl’s implication, Americans are nearly three times as likely to die in a car accident as they are to be murdered with a gun.

Renkl deploys this misleading comparison of gun deaths and traffic fatalities to justify her own disproportionate fear of mass shootings, which account for a tiny share of firearm homicides, and of school shootings in particular, which are even rarer and have not become any more common in recent years. That is not the impression left by the recent March for Our Lives rallies, which showed that many teenagers have a grossly exaggerated sense of the dangers they face when they go to school.

Renkl says her husband, a high school English teacher, attended one of those rallies and afterward “texted me a photo he’d taken of himself standing in front of another marcher’s sign. It read, ‘Am I next?’ For just a second, I couldn’t breathe.” Renkl had a similar reaction “when our oldest son, a new middle school math teacher, took me to see his first classroom. ‘Just look at all these beautiful windows!’ I said. ‘Not exactly great for an active-shooter situation,’ he pointed out. His words turned my heart to ice.”

Renkl is afraid because other people are afraid, and she is not interested in considering whether those fears are reasonable. “Not only am I married to a schoolteacher, and the mother of one, I also have two younger sons in college,” she writes. “Not a single day goes by when I don’t worry about whether they will all be safe in their classrooms.”

In reality, Renkl’s sons are nearly 1,000 times as likely to die in a traffic accident as they are to die in a mass shooting, which is roughly as likely as being killed by a dog and only slightly more likely than dying from a lightning strike. Stinging insects kill more Americans each year than mass shooters do. Yet Renkl thinks the government should make policy decisions based on the shortness of her breath and the coldness of her heart.

“Everyone is worried about the threat of gun violence,” Renkl says, “and almost everyone has a clear idea of what to do about it.” Among other solutions, she mentions an “outright ban” on “semiautomatic weapons,” a very broad category that includes the most popular guns for self-defense. Renkl seems unaware that the Supreme Court has already said such a ban would be unconstitutional.

“We don’t need to repeal the Second Amendment,” Renkl insists. According to the headline over her essay, criminalizing possession of all firearms except single-shot weapons and revolvers represents “a middle ground on guns.” While that may be true at a March for Our Lives rally, the world outside looks different. It is more complicated but also less scary.

If there are children who are afraid of school, that is the fault of their parents for not teaching them how to deal with anxiety and fear, and/or the schools for failing to keep bullies from victimizing students.

The non-student leaders of the student anti-gun movement

Jacob Sullum:

David Hogg began his speech at the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C., on Saturday by accusing Marco Rubio, Florida’s Republican senator, of exchanging students’ lives for donations from the National Rifle Association. Dividing the $3 million or so that Rubio has received from the NRA over the years by the number of primary and secondary students in Florida, Hogg figured that the senator had charged $1.05 for each of the 14 teenagers killed in the February 14 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, where Hogg is a senior.

Hogg and the other young activists who attended demonstrations across the country on Saturday to demand legislation aimed at preventing school shootings may have energized the debate about gun control, but they certainly have not elevated it. Taking their cues from the grownups they say have failed them, Hogg and his compatriots assume their opponents are motivated by greed, cowardice, and crass political considerations—anything but honest disagreement.

“School safety is not a political issue,” the March for Our Lives website insists. “There cannot be two sides to doing everything in our power to ensure the lives and futures of children who are at risk of dying when they should be learning, playing, and growing.”

There cannot be two sides. That sort of logic practically demands contempt for anyone who does not share your policy preferences, as illustrated by Hogg’s comments about legislators who do not vote the way he thinks they should.

“They’re pathetic fuckers that want to keep killing our children,” Hogg said in an interview with The Outline. “They could have blood from children spattered all over their faces, and they wouldn’t take action, because they all still see those dollar signs.”

Hogg is only 17, but comments from older, supposedly wiser advocates of gun control reflect a similar attitude. “If you’re a political leader doing nothing about this slaughter,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) tweeted after the Parkland attack, “you’re an accomplice.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who is five times as old as David Hogg, shares his assumptions about people who disagree with her, although she expresses them in more temperate terms. “The students protesting inaction on gun safety,” she tweeted on March 14, “have the courage to stand up to the NRA and lawmakers would do well to follow their example.”

If fear of the NRA is the only conceivable reason why people would fail to support the legislation favored by Hogg, Murphy, and Feinstein, there is no point in debating whether, say, an “assault weapon” ban, a limit on the capacity of magazines, or background checks for every gun transfer can reasonably be expected to have a meaningful impact on the frequency or lethality of mass shootings. The only sensible course is to shame or scare people into doing what everyone knows is the right thing—whatever that happens to be at any given moment.

“Our lives are more important than your guns,” said a sign held by a teenager at the D.C. rally. Similar slogans, presumably written by adults, could be seen on signs held by preschoolers. The implicit message—that Americans must surrender their firearms and their Second Amendment rights in the name of protecting children—was not exactly designed to provoke a fruitful dialogue. But that approach makes sense if you think all the relevant issues have already been settled.

Lara Vance, a middle-aged Kentucky woman who was interviewed at the D.C. rally, said she was “rather shocked that this is even an issue.” After all, “This is something that can be solved. It doesn’t take a lot of thought. We know what the problems are, and we need Congress to get their act together and get this problem solved.”

I disagree with pretty much every part of that, but I have no doubt that Vance sincerely believes it. I wish she would extend me the same courtesy.

University of Maryland Prof. Dana Fisher adds:

In the days before and after more than two million Americans participated in the March for Our Lives, the gun-violence conversation has focused on the Marjory Stoneman Douglas survivors and their “student movement.”

The school shooting in Parkland, Fla., and the passion of the teenage survivors have become a catalyst for the current movement. With the help of some well-resourced benefactors, including Oprah Winfrey and George Clooney, the survivors organized an extraordinary rally in D.C. and sister marches around the country in a mere six weeks.

However, the young faces of the advocates have created an assumption that “youth” and “students” are the core of the movement. My research tells a different story about who participated in the March for Our Lives — and it is more complicated and less well-packaged for prime time.

As part of my research on the American Resistance, I have been working with a research team to survey protesters at all the large-scale protest events in Washington since President Trump’s inauguration. By snaking through the crowd and sampling every fifth person at designated increments within the staging area, we are able to gather a field approximation of a random sample. So far, the data set includes surveys collected from 1,745 protest participants.

During the March for Our Lives, my team sampled 256 people who were randomly selected. This gives us the chance to provide evidence about who attended the March for Our Lives and why.

Like other resistance protests, and like previous gun-control marches, the March for Our Lives was mostly women. Whereas the 2017 Women’s March was 85 percent women, the March for Our Lives was 70 percent women. Further, participants were highly educated; 72 percent had a BA or higher.

Contrary to what’s been reported in many media accounts, the D.C. March for Our Lives crowd was not primarily made up of teenagers. Only about 10 percent of the participants were under 18. The average age of the adults in the crowd was just under 49 years old, which is older than participants at the other marches I’ve surveyed but similar to the age of the average participant at the Million Moms March in 2000, which was also about gun control.

Participants were also more likely than those at recent marches to be first-time protesters. About 27 percent of participants at the March for Our Lives had never protested before. This group was less politically engaged in general: Only about a third of them had contacted an elected official in the past year, while about three-quarters of the more seasoned protesters had.

Even more interesting, the new protesters were less motivated by the issue of gun control. In fact, only 12 percent of the people who were new to protesting reported that they were motivated to join the march because of the gun-control issue, compared with 60 percent of the participants with experience protesting. …

The March for Our Lives had the allure of a free concert — in fact, the event’s website maintained a list of performers but never listed the speakers. But it is one thing to turn out to watch Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ariana Grande perform, and quite another to vote in the midterm election in November.

Questions to ask your gun-banning friends

This was posted on the Facebook Not the Best of the Web Today page:

The following line of reasoning applies to any enumerated right in the Bill of Rights – just substitute them for “firearms”.

Any person who says they don’t want to “take your guns away”, they simply want to ban this “military style assault weapon” or that “military style assault weapon” is a liar.

I’ve had this discussion with anti-gun people for decades.
I usually ask one or more of these questions:

– Have you ever fired a pistol, shotgun, or rifle?

Most haven’t.

– Can you describe for me the difference between a fully automatic weapon and a semi-automatic weapon?

About a quarter can, half get close, but the other half have no idea of the difference.

– Does a sound suppressor make a firearm deadlier?
Most think it does and like in the movies, renders a shot totally silent (like in the movies) – it doesn’t.

– Can you define for me what makes something military “style” and why the style makes it more evil and deadly than a non-military “style” weapon?

Most can’t. They usually describe features that have nothing to do with the operation of the weapon.

– Can you define for me what makes a firearm an “assault weapon”?

Other than how it looks and how many rounds are in the magazine, they generally can’t – other than to incorrectly state that the AR-15 is “exactly like” what is issued to the military. It isn’t.

– Is there special training needed to use what you call a “military style assault weapon”?

Generally, they think there is, that there is something different in the operation of an AR-15 type that the general gun owner just can’t do without special training.

– The military issues semi-automatic pistols and shotguns in designs readily available to the public, should those “military grade” weapons be banned as well?

– Does banning a single type of firearm used in a small percentage of homicides (less than 1%) mean you are OK with murder, you just want to reduce it by 1 percent?

Nobody has said no to the first and then yes to the second one.

– How does preventing any responsible, legal firearms owner from possessing any type of firearm stop an irresponsible, criminal possessor from committing a crime with any firearm?

This last one is the kicker – because they can’t answer this one without admitting that their real agenda is to ban all guns.

When they realize that I have worked them into a position of realization that they don’t really know what they want to ban, that the words they are using have so little meaning to mean anything, and I’ve induced them state their true desire – that they do want to ban all guns – they will either say that is correct or not say anything at all.

I have another question you can ask your acquaintance who actually wants to ban all guns: Why are you afraid of guns?

When the majority is wrong

This Fox News graphic …

… dovetails with what Robby Soave reports:

“Guns are for the police and the government,” a 13-year-old girl confidently assured me.

She was one of the hundreds of thousands of people taking part in the March for Our Lives rally in Washington, D.C., on Saturday. She was flanked by two friends—another 13-year-old, and an 11-year-old—who were equally confident that violence in schools was the problem, and banning guns was the answer.

“Our school could be next,” said the other 13-year-old. “What if it is?”

It wasn’t just these three—from what I saw and heard at the rally, dying in school was a remarkably ubiquitous fear among young people. I spotted a little girl, perched on her father’s shoulders, waving a sign bearing the text “Am I Next?”

Marissa, a teenage girl from Michigan, told me she felt unsafe in school, and thought more security would help. Teenager after teenager testified that their fears of death were all-consuming, ever-present, and more justified than ever before.

Missing from these conversations was any awareness of a very basic, indisputable fact: Gun violence has declined precipitously over the past 25 years, and most Americans are much safer today than they were a generation ago.

Schools are no exception. They are “increasingly free of mass shootings,” according to researchers James Alan Fox and Emma Fridel. As New York Magazine‘s Eric Levitz put it:

American children do not “risk their lives” when they show up to school each morning — or at least, not nearly as much as they do whenever they ride in a car, swim in a pool, or put food in their mouths (an American’s lifetime odds of dying in a mass shooting committed in any location is 1 in 11,125; of dying in a car accident is 1 and 491; of drowning is 1 in 1,133; and of choking on food is 1 in 3,461). Criminal victimization in American schools has collapsed in tandem with the overall crime rate, leaving U.S. classrooms safer today than at any time in recent memory.

Obviously, it’s understandable for the survivors of the horrific events in Parkland to be feeling unsafe, given what happened to them. But mass shootings are not the norm, and kids don’t need to be terrified of going to school.

In any case, most young people I talked to on Saturday possessed both an overriding fear of being in school and a willingness to experiment with enhanced security.

“I don’t feel safe in school,” a teenager from a high school in Maryland told me. “I think there should be more security measures put in place, and the ones that are being put in place are ineffective.”

The least popular solution was arming teachers. That was something virtually everybody at the rally seemed to oppose, kids and adults.

When I asked people whether they wanted more school resource officers—a security measure that utterly failed to stop the Parkland shooting, and creates plenty of negative externalities relating to school discipline and zero tolerance—opinions were mixed, though some reluctantly supported it.

“I think there should [be more cops in schools] but I don’t think that would be as helpful as just taking guns from those who shouldn’t have them,” said the Maryland teen. “Certain guns, like AR-15s, shouldn’t even be accessible to the public.”

Well, a majority of Americans once favored slavery and opposed voting rights for women and non-whites. The 18th Amendment creating Prohibition was approved through the constitutional process, as was the 21st Amendment nullifying the 18th Amendment.

Decades ago opponents of U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy circulated a copy of the Bill of Rights and asked people whether they favored or opposed specific provisions. The results were disappointing. You might get similarly disappointing results today.


Early versions of gun control

Stephen Halbrook:

The perennial gun-control debate in America did not begin here. The same arguments for and against were made in the 1920s in the chaos of Germany’s Weimar Republic, which opted for gun registration. Law-abiding persons complied with the law, but the Communists and Nazis committing acts of political violence did not.

In 1931, Weimar authorities discovered plans for a Nazi takeover in which Jews would be denied food and persons refusing to surrender their guns within 24 hours would be executed. They were written by Werner Best, a future Gestapo official. In reaction to such threats, the government authorized the registration of all firearms and the confiscation thereof, if required for “public safety.” The interior minister warned that the records must not fall into the hands of any extremist group.#ad#

In 1933, the ultimate extremist group, led by Adolf Hitler, seized power and used the records to identify, disarm, and attack political opponents and Jews. Constitutional rights were suspended, and mass searches for and seizures of guns and dissident publications ensued. Police revoked gun licenses of Social Democrats and others who were not “politically reliable.”

During the five years of repression that followed, society was “cleansed” by the National Socialist regime. Undesirables were placed in camps where labor made them “free,” and normal rights of citizenship were taken from Jews. The Gestapo banned independent gun clubs and arrested their leaders. Gestapo counsel Werner Best issued a directive to the police forbidding issuance of firearm permits to Jews.

In 1938, Hitler signed a new Gun Control Act. Now that many “enemies of the state” had been removed from society, some restrictions could be slightly liberalized, especially for Nazi Party members. But Jews were prohibited from working in the firearms industry, and .22 caliber hollow-point ammunition was banned.

The time had come to launch a decisive blow to the Jewish community, to render it defenseless so that its “ill-gotten” property could be redistributed as an entitlement to the German “Volk.” The German Jews were ordered to surrender all their weapons, and the police had the records on all who had registered them. Even those who gave up their weapons voluntarily were turned over to the Gestapo.

This took place in the weeks before what became known as the Night of the Broken Glass, or Kristallnacht, occurred in November 1938. That the Jews were disarmed before it, minimizing any risk of resistance, is the strongest evidence that the pogrom was planned in advance. An incident was needed to justify unleashing the attack.

That incident would be the shooting of a German diplomat in Paris by a teenage Polish Jew. Hitler directed propaganda minister Josef Goebbels to orchestrate the Night of the Broken Glass. This massive operation, allegedly conducted as a search for weapons, entailed the ransacking of homes and businesses, and the arson of synagogues.

SS chief Heinrich Himmler decreed that 20 years be served in a concentration camp by any Jew possessing a firearm. Rusty revolvers and bayonets from the Great War were confiscated from Jewish veterans who had served with distinction. Twenty thousand Jewish men were thrown into concentration camps, and had to pay ransoms to get released.

The U.S. media covered the above events. And when France fell to Nazi invasion in 1940, the New York Times reported that the French were deprived of rights such as free speech and firearm possession just as the Germans had been. Frenchmen who failed to surrender their firearms within 24 hours were subject to the death penalty.

No wonder that in 1941, just days before the Pearl Harbor attack, Congress reaffirmed Second Amendment rights and prohibited gun registration. In 1968, bills to register guns were debated, with opponents recalling the Nazi experience and supporters denying that the Nazis ever used registration records to confiscate guns. The bills were defeated, as every such proposal has been ever since, including recent “universal background check” bills.

As in Weimar Germany, some well-meaning people today advocate severe restrictions, including bans and registration, on gun ownership by law-abiding persons. Such proponents are in no sense “Nazis,” any more than were the Weimar officials who promoted similar restrictions. And it would be a travesty to compare today’s situation to the horrors of Nazi Germany.

Still, as history teaches, the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

In this country gun control was used against Southern blacks.

Seven Saturday thoughts

Jarrett Stepman went to the March for Our Lives in Washington, D.C., so we didn’t have to:

The following are my observations from walking through the crowd and assessing its common themes.

1) A Left-Wing Movement

It may seem painfully obvious, but it is worth noting the march in Washington was clearly a left-wing protest.

That obviously applies to Madison’s protest too. I shouldn’t even have to type that sentence.

As Julie Gunlock at The Federalist noted, some parents were led to believe that the March 14 National School Walkout would be about memorializing victims of the Parkland shooting. It wasn’t.

“The real mission of the walkout is to demand Congress pass more restrictive gun laws,” Gunlock wrote.

This goal was even more obvious at the March for Our Lives.

Gun control is certainly associated with the modern left, but it’s clear from observing the protesters that many were involved with other left-wing movements.

The pink hats from the 2017 Women’s March made a widespread reappearance, as did numerous anti-Trump or generally anti-Republican signs.

The crowd was certainly not a representative slice of what the country as a whole thinks about gun control, nor did it represent the opinions of most young Americans.

As The Daily Signal recently reported, polls show that millennials are no more in favor of gun control than their parents or grandparents.

2) Well-Organized and Well-Funded

This was certainly one of the largest gatherings I’ve seen in Washington, D.C., and one of the most highly organized.

Clearly, staff from a huge number of activist pro-gun control organizations showed up, as would be expected, but there were also people on almost every street corner trying to register people to vote.

People carried signs from gun control groups, such as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America.

Undoubtedly, many people from around the country came to the protest out of a sincere belief that they were making a positive difference to end violence, but there’s also no doubt that a huge amount of professional organization and money went into this march.

A series of Hollywood celebrities funded the march, including Oprah Winfrey, George Clooney, Steven Spielberg, and others.

As BuzzFeed reported, a litany of leftist organizations and politicos got involved, including the George Soros-backed MoveOn.org, Women’s March LA, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., and, curiously, Planned Parenthood.

There were certainly many children present, but there’s no way they could have put this all together on their own. Outside help and organization was apparent.

3) Prayer Is Out

The March for Our Lives protesters were seemingly not fans of prayer.

Many protesters specifically condemned the act of offering prayers in the wake of shootings, pitting it against political action. Political action is often important, but it was strange to see so many signs specifically aimed at condemning prayer.

In the wake of the Parkland shooting, liberal calls to action have centered on banning guns. But such calls have neglected other serious issues relating to school shootings that have nothing to do with firearms, including the way America deals with the mentally ill.

Another issue is how federal and local policies have let dangerous people, like the Parkland shooter, slip through the cracks. Often the problem is not with a lack of laws, but a failure to enforce the laws that already exist.

There are a number of serious proposals that would tackle the issue of school safety without confiscating guns or seriously curtailing constitutional rights. See, for instance, The Heritage Foundation’s School Safety Initiative.

But this doesn’t fit the narrative of those leading the March for Our Lives protest, who from the outset have been committed to gun control.

4) Those Who Disagree Viewed as Complicit in Murder

While the name March for Our Lives may be a coincidence, it certainly sounds similar to the March for Life, a pro-life rally that takes place each January in Washington, D.C.

Numerous signs claimed that those who back gun rights don’t care about the lives of children or are responsible for deaths.

Others specifically linked the pro-abortion and gun control movements.

And many condemned the National Rifle Association for having blood on its hands, or insinuated that the pro-gun organization has bought off politicians to support its policy interests.

One protester even compared the NRA to ISIS.

5) Second Amendment Seen as Problematic and Outdated

While gun control advocates have generally been cautious about outright attacking the Second Amendment, many of the protesters had no such reservations.

Some lamented that former President Barack Obama didn’t confiscate guns.

Several protesters questioned Supreme Court decisions upholding gun ownership as a constitutional right.

Many held signs saying essentially that the Second Amendment is irrelevant because the Founders wrote it in the 18th century.

But following that logic, one would have to question all the other provisions of the Constitution that were written by the Founding generation, including the First Amendment.

After all, the internet didn’t exist in the 18th century. Does this mean that free speech on the internet shouldn’t be protected?

And what about the constitutionally protected right to assembly, also guaranteed by the decidedly 18th-century First Amendment? These protesters seem to at least value that piece of constitutional inheritance.

6) Fuzzy Facts

It was clear that while many of the protesters were articulate in defending their views, they were misinformed about some of the facts surrounding the gun debate.

For instance, in an interview with The Daily Signal’s Genevieve Wood, one marcher repeated the thoroughly debunked claim that there had been 18 school shootings this year prior to Parkland.

This shocking number, repeated by Obama and some major media outlets, was a bogus stat cooked up by a pro-gun control group.

Almost none of the incidents used in that statistic can be described as anything like a school shooting—several were suicides or random shootings that simply took place near a school campus.

The Washington Post even called the statistic “flat wrong.”

There were other examples of misinformation as well, including one sign that called for a ban on “automatic weapons,” which have actually been banned since 1934.

Unfortunately, Americans have received a huge amount of disinformation about guns and gun control, much of it perpetuated by the media.

Read my piece about the six common media myths about gun control.

7) Not a Gun-Free Zone

The March for Our Lives crowd may have wanted to disarm Americans, but the event hardly took place in a gun-free zone.

Armed police covered the streets to ensure the safety of those gathering in the nation’s capital. In fact, there were even armored military vehicles embedded within groups of protesters.

Some signs essentially called for only the government to have firearms.

Of course, the idea that only the government and the military should have access to firearms would not have sat well with the Founders. They feared a government powerful enough to disarm the citizenry and a standing army. That’s why we have the Second Amendment.

How to get shot

The Daily Signal lists several ways to make yourself more likely to become a victim of gun violence:

In the wake of the tragic murder of 17 innocent students and teachers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, students, educators, politicians, and activists are searching for solutions to prevent future school shootings.

As emotions morph from grief to anger to resolve, it is vitally important to supply facts so that policymakers and professionals can fashion solutions based on objective data rather than well-intended but misguided emotional fixes.

Are there ways to reduce gun violence and school shootings? Yes, but only after objectively assessing the facts and working collaboratively to fashion commonsense solutions.

Here are eight stubborn facts to keep in mind about gun violence in America …

1. America is relatively safe, and the trend is toward becoming safer.

According to the National Crime Victimization Survey, violent crime has been declining steadily since the early 1990s.
The 2011 homicide rate was almost half of the rate in 1991, and according to the Pew Research Center, the 2013 gun-related death rate was half of the rate in 1993.
The number of nonfatal firearm crimes committed in 2011 was one-sixth the number committed in 1993.
In the past few years, there have been minor increases in certain types of violent crimes, mainly in large metropolitan areas. However, these increases are nowhere near those seen in the 1990s and are largely related to gang activity.
It should be remembered that it takes at least three to five years of data to show true trend lines. It appears that the collective homicide toll for America’s 50 largest cities decreased modestly in 2017 after two consecutive years of increases.
2. The principal public safety concerns are suicides and illegally owned handguns.

According to the Pew Research Center, almost two-thirds of America’s annual gun deaths are suicides. Since 1981, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention began publishing data, gun suicides have outnumbered gun homicides. In 2010 alone, 19,392 Americans used guns to kill themselves.
Most gun-related crimes are carried out with illegally owned firearms—as much as 80 percent according to some estimates.
The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports prove that the overwhelming majority of gun-related homicides are perpetrated with handguns, with rifles of any kind accounting for less than 3 percent of gun-related homicides. In 2013, 5,782 murders were committed by killers who used a handgun, compared to 285 committed by killers who used a rifle. The same holds true for 2012 (6,404 to 298); 2011 (6,251 to 332); 2010 (6,115 to 367); and 2009 (6,501 to 351).
More people are stabbed to death every year than are murdered with rifles.
A person is more likely to be bludgeoned to death with a blunt object or beaten to death with hands and feet than to be murdered with a rifle.
3. A small number of factors significantly increase the likelihood that a person will be a victim of a gun-related homicide.

Where do you live? Murders in the United States are very concentrated. According to the Crime Prevention Research Center, over 50 percent of murders occur in 2 percent of the nation’s 3,142 counties. Moreover, gun-related homicides are heavily concentrated in certain neighborhoods within those counties: 54 percent of U.S. counties had zero murders in 2014.
Who is your partner? According to a recent scholarly article in the Hastings Law Journal, people recently or currently involved in an abusive intimate relationship are much more likely to be victims of gun-related homicide than is the rest of the population, especially if the abuser possesses firearms.
Are you in a gang? According to the Department of Justice’s National Gang Center, particularly in urban areas, significant percentages of gun-related homicides (15 percent to 33 percent) are linked with gang and drug activity. Gang-related homicides are more likely to involve firearms than non-gang-related homicides are.
Are you a male between 15 and 34? The majority of standard gun murder victims are men between the ages of 15 and 34. Although black men make up roughly 7 percent of the population, they account for almost two-thirds of gun murder victims every year.
Women and children are more likely to be the victims of mass shootings and homicide-suicide shootings than they are to be the victims of a “typical” gun-related homicide.
4. The perpetration of gun-related murders is often carried out by predictable people.

According to studies, almost all mass public shooters have extensive histories of mental health issues (whether delusional/psychiatric or depression/anger), disturbing behaviors, or interpersonal violence.
Intimate partner conflict and domestic violence history are major risk factors for homicide-suicides, even for those not involving intimate partners.
Especially in urban areas, a small number of recidivist violent offenders are typically responsible for the majority of gun violence.
5. Higher rates of gun ownership are not associated with higher rates of violent crime.

Switzerland and Israel have much higher gun ownership rates than the United States but experience far fewer homicides and have much lower violent crime rates than many European nations with strict gun control laws.
While some will argue that the guns carried by Swiss and Israeli citizens are technically “owned” by the government in most cases, this does little to negate the fact that many citizens in those countries have ready access to firearms.
Canada is ranked 12th in the world for the number of civilian-owned guns per capita and reports one of the world’s lower homicide rates—but even then, some provinces have higher homicide rates than U.S. states with less restrictive laws and higher rates of gun ownership have.
Although many gun control advocates have noted that “right to carry” states tend to experience slight increases in violent crime, other studies have noted the opposite effect.
Higher rates of concealed carry permit holders are even more strongly associated with reduction in violent crime than are right-to-carry states. The probable reason for this is that right-to-carry studies often include “open carry” states, which have not been shown to correlate with more people actually carrying or even owning firearms. Rates of concealed carry permit holders are better indicators of the number of people who actually possess and carry firearms within a given population.
Further, as with most correlations, there are many other factors that can account for increases in concealed carry permits—including the fact that people who live in already dangerous neighborhoods seek out means of self-defense. The Huffington Post noted that the rate of concealed carry permit requests in Chicago has soared in recent years after the city loosened restrictions, in large part, according to the Chicago Tribune, because law-abiding residents are increasingly worried about rising rates of violent crime in the city.
The rate of gun ownership is higher among whites than it is among African-Americans, but the murder rate among African-Americans is significantly higher than the rate among whites.
Similarly, the rate of gun ownership is higher in rural areas than in urban areas, but urban areas experience higher murder rates.
6. There is no clear relationship between strict gun control legislation and homicide or violent crime rates.

The Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence ironically makes this clear with its ratings for states based on gun laws. “Gun freedom” states that score poorly, like New Hampshire, Vermont, Idaho, and Oregon, have some of the lowest homicide rates. Conversely, “gun control-loving” states that received high scores, like Maryland and Illinois, experience some of the nation’s highest homicide rates.
The Crime Prevention Research Center notes that, if anything, the data indicate that countries with high rates of gun ownership tend to have lower homicide rates—but this is only a correlation, and many factors do not necessarily support a conclusion that high rates of gun ownership cause the low rates of homicide.
Homicide and firearm homicide rates in Great Britain spiked in the years immediately following the imposition of severe gun control measures, despite the fact that most developed countries continued to experience a downward trend in these rates. This is also pointed out by noted criminologist John Lott in his book “The War on Guns.”
Similarly, Ireland’s homicide rates spiked in the years immediately following the country’s 1972 gun confiscation legislation.
Australia’s National Firearms Act appears to have had little effect on suicide and homicide rates, which were falling before the law was enacted and continued to decline at a statistically unremarkable rate compared to worldwide trends.
According to research compiled by Lott and highlighted in his book “The War on Guns,” Australia’s armed and unarmed robbery rates both increased markedly in the five years immediately following the National Firearms Act, despite the general downward trend experienced by other developed countries.
Great Britain has some of the strictest gun control laws in the developed world, but the violent crime rate for homicide, rape, burglary, and aggravated assault is much higher than that in the U.S. Further, approximately 60 percent of burglaries in Great Britain occur while residents are home, compared to just 13 percent in the U.S., and British burglars admit to targeting occupied residences because they are more likely to find wallets and purses.
It is difficult to compare homicide and firearm-related murder rates across international borders because countries use different methods to determine which deaths “count” for purposes of violent crime. For example, since 1967, Great Britain has excluded from its homicide counts any case that does not result in a conviction, that was the result of dangerous driving, or in which the person was determined to have acted in self-defense. All of these factors are counted as “homicides” in the United States.
7. Legally owned firearms are used for lawful purposes much more often than they are used to commit crimes or suicide.

In 2013, President Barack Obama ordered the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to assess existing research on gun violence. The report, compiled by the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council, found (among other things) that firearms are used defensively hundreds of thousands of times every year.
According to the CDC, “self-defense can be an important crime deterrent.” Recent CDC reports acknowledge that studies directly assessing the effect of actual defensive uses of guns have found “consistently lower injury rates among gun-using crime victims compared with victims who used other self-protective strategies.”
Semi-automatic rifles (such as the AR-15) are commonly used as self-defense weapons in the homes of law-abiding citizens because they are easier to control than handguns, are more versatile than handguns, and offer the advantage of up to 30 rounds of protection. Even Vox has published stories defending the use of the AR-15.
AR-15s have been used to save lives on many occasions, including:
Oswego, Illinois (2018)—A man with an AR-15 intervened to stop a neighbor’s knife attack and cited the larger weapon’s “intimidation factor” as a reason why the attacker dropped the knife.
Catawba County, North Carolina (2018)—A 17-year-old successfully fought off three armed attackers with his AR-15.
Houston, Texas (2017)—A homeowner survived a drive-by shooting by defending himself with his AR-15.
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma (2017)—A homeowner’s son killed three would-be burglars with an AR-15 (the man was later deemed to have acted in justifiable self-defense).
Ferguson, Missouri (2014)—African-American men protected a white man’s store from rioters by standing outside armed with AR-15s.
Texas (2013)—A 15-year-old boy used an AR-15 during a home invasion to save both his life and that of his 12-year-old sister.
Rochester, New York (2013)—Home intruders fled after facing an AR-15.
8. Concealed carry permit holders are not the problem, but they may be part of the solution.

Lott found that, as a group, concealed carry permit holders are some of the most law-abiding people in the United States. The rate at which they commit crimes generally and firearm crimes specifically is between one-sixth and one-tenth of that recorded for police officers, who are themselves committing crimes at a fraction of the rate of the general population.
Between 2007 and 2015, murder rates dropped 16 percent and violent crime rates dropped 18 percent, even though the percentage of adults with concealed carry permits rose by 190 percent.
Regression estimates show a significant association between increased permit ownership and a drop in murder and violent crime rates. Each percentage point increase in rates of permit-holding is associated with a roughly 2.5 percent drop in the murder rate.
Concealed carry permit holders are often “the good guy with a gun,” even though they rarely receive the attention of the national media. Concealed carry permit holders were credited with saving multiple lives in:
Rockledge, Florida (2017);
Antioch, Tennessee (2017);
Arlington, Texas (2017);
Lyman, South Carolina (2016);
Winton Hills, Ohio (2015);
Conyers, Georgia (2015);
New Holland, South Carolina (2015);
Chicago, Illinois (2015);
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (2015);
Darby, Pennsylvania (2015);
Chicago, Illinois (2014);
Portland, Oregon (2014);
Spartanburg, South Carolina (2012).

The alleged support for gun control

National Public Radio has some surprising news for those who assume young people support gun control:

High school students across the United States have been leading the call for more gun control since the school shooting in Parkland, Fla.

Some have called them the “voice of a generation on gun control” that may be able to turn the tide of a long-simmering debate.

But past polling suggests that people younger than 30 in the U.S. are no more liberal on gun control than their parents or grandparents — despite diverging from their elders on the legalization of marijuana, same-sex marriage and other social issues.

“Sometimes people surprise us, and this is one of those instances that we don’t know why,” says Frank Newport, editor-in-chief of Gallup.

Over the past three years, his polling organization asked the under-30 crowd whether gun laws in the U.S. should be made more strict, less strict or kept as they are now. On average, people between the ages of 18 and 29 were 1 percentage point more likely to say gun laws should be more strict than the overall national average of 57 percent.

“Young people statistically aren’t that much different than anybody else,” Newport says.

Polling by the Pew Research Center last year came to similar conclusions: 50 percent of millennials, between the ages of 18 and 36, said gun laws in the U.S. should be more strict. That share was almost identical among the general public, according to Kim Parker, director of social trends research at Pew.

When what they (think they) know is wrong

The renewal of calls for gun control in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., school shootings is, as usual for political disputes, fraught with emotionalism triumphing over facts and logic, not to mention brazen disregard for our constitutional rights.

For instance: Is there an epidemic of school shootings right now? Northeastern University reports:

The deadly school shooting this month in Parkland, Florida, has ignited national outrage and calls for action on gun reform. But while certain policies may help decrease gun violence in general, it’s unlikely that any of them will prevent mass school shootings, according to James Alan Fox, the Lipman Family Professor of Criminology, Law, and Public Policy at Northeastern.

Since 1996, there have been 16 multiple victim shootings in schools, or incidents involving 4 or more victims and at least 2 deaths by firearms, excluding the assailant.

Of these, 8 are mass shootings, or incidents involving 4 or more deaths, excluding the assailant. …
Mass school shootings are incredibly rare events. In research publishing later this year, Fox and doctoral student Emma Fridel found that on average, mass murders occur between 20 and 30 times per year, and about one of those incidents on average takes place at a school. …

Fridel and Fox used data collected by USA Today, the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Report, Congressional Research Service, Gun Violence Archive, Stanford Geospatial Center and Stanford Libraries, Mother Jones, Everytown for Gun Safety, and a NYPD report on active shooters.

Their research also finds that shooting incidents involving students have been declining since the 1990s. …

Four times the number of children were killed in schools in the early 1990s than today, Fox said.

“There is not an epidemic of school shootings,” he said, adding that more kids are killed each year from pool drownings or bicycle accidents. There are around 55 million school children in the United States, and on average over the past 25 years, about 10 students per year were killed by gunfire at school, according to Fox and Fridel’s research.

Ryan McMaken adds:

Part of the problem with accepting the crisis narrative is that it ignores other priorities and other problems that may deserve our attention elsewhere.

After all, resources for schools — or anything else — are not unlimited, and it is unclear that extremely rare events like school shootings can be put forward as a priority.

This problem of priorities can be seen in the fact that cities where snow falls irregularly do not maintain a huge fleet of snowplows. In Naples, Italy last week, for example, the city experienced the largest snowfall it’s seen in 50 years. According to the Daily Mail, the snowfall was seen as a citywide emergency and “[r]esidents have been told not to leave their homes unless it is ‘strictly necessary.'” One man was said to have even frozen to death in the unexpectedly frigid temperatures.

Now, if even a few inches of snow can bring the city to a standstill and endanger the lives of residents, why does the city not have far more snow plows than it does? Why is there not a network of emergency workers to ensure that residents are not caught in the cold where they can be injured or even killed by cold temperatures?

The answer, of course, is that the opportunity cost of such measures would be extremely high. By maintaining personnel and equipment designed to address a rare snowfall, the city would be foregoing the opportunity to train people or purchase equipment for a wide variety of other activities that are no doubt also deemed essential.

While school shootings no doubt have a greater psychological impact than frigid temperatures, it is no less true that spending large amounts of resources on anti-shooting measures carry with them their own costs.

Now, in the US, many organizations, both public and private have elected to devote sizable amounts of resources to security. But none of them deny that there is an opportunity cost to doing so.

Indeed, opponents of added security in schools have been quick to point out the costs of more security measures.

And yet, proponents of more gun control act as if there are no opportunity costs to these measures. In reality, of course, the costs of enforcing government prohibitions can be very high, both in terms of tax dollars and costs imposed upon otherwise law abiding citizens. The drug war has made this quite clear. In the absence of individual gun ownership, professional security will become more necessary, and in many cases more costly. This imposes a real cost on citizens, especially on those who cannot afford professional security. Relying on the police for protection, of course, has been shown to be unwise at best. 

Many observers will still point out that even a small number of school shootings is too many. That’s true enough, but when the multi-decade trend is downward, it would hardly be honest to attempt to frame the current situation as a “crisis.” Indeed the challenge should be to discover what factors have led to the decline in violence, and act accordingly.

Justin Fox adds more broadly:

There’s been a lot of talk over the past couple of years about rising crime. For good reason: Violent crime and murder were in fact up in the U.S. in 2015 and 2016. Early indications are that crime rates fell in 2017, though. 1 And the really big crime story of our time remains how much it has fallen in this country over the past quarter-century.

The blue line in the above chart comes from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s annual Crime in the United States reports, the 2016 edition of which came out last September. The gray line is from the less-well-known National Crime Victimization Survey of the Bureau of Justice Statistics, from which 2016 data was released in December. 2  As you can see, the BJS data — based in 2016 on a survey of 134,690 households — shows an even sharper drop than the data the FBI collects from law enforcement agencies.

The great crime decline is not the result, then, of police departments fudging numbers or victims deciding it’s pointless to report crimes. If anything, recent FBI crime data is probably more reflective of actual crime incidence than that of several decades ago, meaning that today’s violent crime rate is probably not really more than twice that of the early 1960s. Since 1965, Gallup has been asking Americans, “Is there any area near where you live — that is, within a mile — where you would be afraid to walk alone at night?” In October 2017, just 30 percent of respondents said yes, tying an all-time low. Then there’s the FBI data on murders, which tend not to go unreported.

The murder rate in 2014 was lower than at any time since the FBI started keeping track in 1960. That is … remarkable. In his illuminating new book “Uneasy Peace: The Great Crime Decline, The Renewal of City Life, and the Next War on Violence,” New York University sociologist Patrick Sharkey takes things a few steps further:

Because of shoddy data prior to 1960, it is impossible to know with certainty the exact rate of crime and violence in the first five decades of the twentieth century or at any earlier point in the history of the country. But the most persuasive research from historical mortality records concludes that the homicide rate was likely substantially higher in the first half of the twentieth century than it was in the second half. In fact, the prevalence of murder has been falling, albeit with spikes and troughs, throughout the country’s history. If the historical trends in murder derived from mortality records are roughly accurate, and all indications suggest that they are, then we are led to a startling conclusion: 2014 was not only the safest year of the past five decades, it was one of the safest years in U.S. history.

To repeat: Violent crime was possibly near or at an all-time low in the U.S. in 2014, and while it’s up a bit since then, it is still quite low by historical standards. Yet except for in 2000 and 2001, most of the Americans contacted by Gallup’s pollsters — usually in the same surveys in which a majority reported feeling safe walking around their neighborhoods alone at night — have voiced the opinion that crime is on the rise nationally:

The respondents to these polls aren’t totally clueless: The percentage of those who thought crime was getting worse fell sharply in the 1990s as crime rates fell sharply, and bottomed out in 2000 and 2001 just as the great crime decline began to flatten out. And yes, violent crime did rise in 2015 and 2016. But there’s clearly an unwarrantedly negative tilt. It takes a lot to convince Americans that crime isn’t getting worse.

Why is that? Part of it is probably hometown bias. Americans think their local public school is great but public schools in general are terrible, and they appear to think similarly about crime. Then there’s the way the media conveys information about crime. More Americans get their news from local television broadcasts than any other source, and the unofficial motto of local TV news is “If it bleeds, it leads.” Finally, politicians have on occasion been known play up fears of crime because they think it can get them votes or help them pass legislation.

It seems obvious that one thing schools should be teaching children is to not make decisions based on inaccurate information, even if making decisions based on facts and logic instead of emotion is an impossible mission anymore.


The racism of gun control

Compare and contrast — first, from the Daily Caller:

NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson called for a national gun confiscation program in a syndicated column through Black Press USA on Monday.

Comparing recent school shootings to the violence and discrimination black students faced after the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision, Johnson wrote that “fear and terror still exist in our children’s classrooms” because of the “National Rifle Association and the politicians [sic] that support them.”

“Given the disproportionate damage gun violence is having on our communities, the NAACP has advocated for sane, sensible laws, to help eliminate or at least to decrease the damage and death caused by gun violence. Requiring universal background checks on all gun sales and transfers, banning military-style, semi-automatic assault guns, enacting tough, new criminal penalties for straw purchasers and gun traffickers, and allowing the Center for Disease Control to research gun violence as a major public health issue are just a few of the reasonable steps lawmakers could take to stem the tide of gun related deaths in neighborhoods across the nation,” Johnson wrote.

The leader of America’s oldest civil rights organization noted that gun violence is the leading killer of young black Americans, but declined to note that a significant portion of these deaths are caused by illegal weapons.

“Over 80 percent of gun deaths of African Americans are homicides. Roughly speaking, 1 out of every 3 African American males who die between the ages of 15 and 19 is killed by gun violence. African American children and teens were less than 15 percent of the total child population in 2008 and 2009, but accounted for 45 percent of all child- and teen-related gun deaths. These numbers are tragic and intolerable, but most of all they are preventable,” Johnson wrote.

The column went on to celebrate Australia’s gun confiscation policy that largely banned all semi-automatic weapons, which was strictly enforced with strong sentencing.

“Australia’s success story is an example for us all. America will remain a deadly nation for our children, its schools caught in the crossfire, unless we insist politicians and the NRA curb their lobbyist efforts and allow the creation of policy that acts in the best interests of public safety.”

Johnson is, of course, free to move to Australia any time he likes.

The opposing, and correct, view is reported by The Blaze:

Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice shook the ladies on “The View” (except Meghan McCain, of course) when she shared a story from her childhood experience growing up in 1950s Alabama.

She said she’s an unapologetic supporter of the Second Amendment because it protected her and her family from the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan in the late 1950s and early 1960s in Birmingham, Alabama.

“Let me tell you why I’m a defender of the Second Amendment,” she said.

“I was a little girl growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, in the late fifties, early sixties,” she explained. “There was no way that Bull Connor and the Birmingham Police were going to protect you.”

“And so when White Knight Riders would come through our neighborhood,” she said, “my father and his friends would take their guns and they’d go to the head of the neighborhood, it’s a little cul-de-sac and they would fire in the air if anybody came through.”

Given that the overwhelming majority of victims of gun violence committed by blacks are other blacks, Johnson seems to believe that blacks are not capable of responsible gun ownership, and that blacks should not be allowed the right of self-defense. That is certainly racist, as is the rest of the history of gun control efforts. The NAACP should know from their own history, as Rice does but Johnson apparently doesn’t, that blacks’ trusting their own safety to white-run government didn’t work out very well.


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