A Few Thoughts On Gun Control
January 20, 2013 58 Comments
Every time there is a mass shooting a debate springs up about gun control. Like any loss we feel personally, it is an emotional reaction to take action to prevent such atrocities from happening again. Emotion can inform a logical decision, but it can also blind it.
This is neither a light treatment or skimpy on details regarding gun control. Honestly, if you read this all the way through, I’ll be impressed, but either way, I wanted to lay it all out on the table and address as many foreseeable concerns as I could think of. Ignorance is always a choice, and if you read this, regardless of what position you end up in, at least you can say you gave it the old college try.
I don’t often write about political issues, but the issue of gun control is one that I can’t afford to be silent about.
The sheer volume of misinformation and either willful or accidental ignorance warrants a thoughtful treatment of the serious problem that gun control poses. It is my honest belief, both from personal conversations and perhaps ardent desire, that Americans are truly interested in knowing the truth about violence and firearms in this country, but have a lot of difficulty knowing who to trust vs. who is hawking an agenda. As such, I have specifically used sources from the Federal government for as many of the statistics as I could. Other sources were utilized for ease-of-use fact checking (by you) and not necessarily because they are the best or most complete source (i.e., Wikipedia). Most of those usages were ancillary terms and general overviews, so I don’t foresee this being a problem.
This will be detailed and thorough, and I apologize in advance for its length. I also need to clarify that I am not a statistician, lawyer, political analyst, or sociologist. I am merely curious, capable at finding information, and trained in scientific analysis. If there are errors in this, they are not intentional.
This is a logical response to an emotional issue, and as such may be seen as offensive or calloused to some who have an emotional investment in the subject. It is not my intent to offend or be calloused, but undoubtedly that is almost certain given such a contentious subject. Any true analysis requires an objective look at cause and effect, implications, and importance, regardless of how controversial, personal, or political the subject matter is.
The Department of Justice Assault Weapons Ban analysis uses several terms that I will define here. AW refers to assault weapon, AP refers to assault pistol, AWB refers to assault weapons ban, LCM refers to large capacity magazines. Other terms used are DOJ (Department of Justice), BJS (Bureau of Justice Statistics), UCR (Uniform Crime Statistics as created by the FBI). CCW refers to carrying a concealed weapon and can refer to the license itself (CCW), a carrier of a concealed weapon (CCWer) or the act itself (CCWing). Unless noted, all italics and bolding are not my own. Major Headings are in Navy blue, and Subheadings are in lighter blue.
Furthermore, I cannot state enough the sorrow I feel for those at Sandy Hook and anyone else who has had someone stolen away from them by murder. I don’t know what that feels like, and I don’t think I could even comprehend that kind of pain. You have my prayers.
Causes Of Mortality In The US
To frame our discussion, it’s important to determine where firearm violence falls in comparison with all other forms of mortality. In other words, how serious of a problem is it? How serious has it been historically? Are we more violent today than last year? 5 years ago?
In the scientific community any scientist worth his or her salt conducting research understands that correlation does not equal causation. In any scientific experiment, especially those involving living beings or complex social interactions, it is almost impossible to isolate all of the variables necessary to determine that one single event or culprit is responsible for producing a result. What we can surmise is that there are probabilities that something has an effect on something, as with repeated experiments patterns can begin to emerge.
Caveat emptor is the rule.
The CDC keeps data on all forms of mortality in the US. Table B (page 4) shows the top causes of mortality in the US for 2011 and 2010.
Using the numbers extrapolated from that same PDF, I made a chart showing some cherry picked causes of death from Table 2 (page 16). It is important to note that some of the causes of death are included in the macro figures (i.e., 37,275 car accident deaths are a subset of the 122,777 accidental deaths). They were chosen based on recognizance and/or closeness to firearm deaths (and the rest can be clearly seen on the PDF if you are curious or think I have been deceitful). Interesting items have been highlighted yellow, firearm related deaths are blue, and total murders are in red.
You can see that metabolic diseases and cancer are the lion’s share of death, followed by smoking-related deaths (chronic lower respiratory diseases) and accidents. The flu and subsequent pneumonia killed 53,667, alcohol-related deaths totaled 42,890, suicide accounted for 38,285 deaths, and car accidents killed 37,275. Of the suicides, 51.6% were committed with firearms, and of the 15,953 murders, 69.6% were committed with firearms.
Regarding workplace deaths, according to OSHA’s 2011 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries preliminary data, 4609 total fatal injuries occurred at work. 780 by violence, 1898 by transportation incidents, 143 by fires and explosions, 666 by falls, slips, and trips, 401 by exposure to harmful substances or environments, and 708 contacts with objects and equipment.
“The Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) seminal study of preventable medical errors estimated as many as 98,000 people die every year at a cost of $29 billion.”
“Cigarette smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States,2 accounting for approximately 443,000 deaths, or 1 of every 5 deaths, in the United States each year.”
“During 2000–2004, cigarette smoking was estimated to be responsible for $193 billion in annual health-related economic losses in the United States (nearly $96 billion in direct medical costs and an additional $97 billion in lost productivity). Cigarette smoking results in 5.1 million years of potential life lost in the United States annually.”
“More deaths are caused each year by tobacco use than by all deaths from human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), illegal drug use, alcohol use, motor vehicle injuries, suicides, and murders combined.”
“In 2008, medical costs associated with obesity were estimated at $147 billion; the medical costs for people who are obese were $1,429 higher than those of normal weight.”
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, approximately 94 people are killed per year by floods, and 100 people are killed by lightning every year. Based on CDC total US deaths for 2011 (2,512,873) this averages out to a rate of quite literally 0.0 per 100,000 people. This is what we would certainly consider the lower bound of possible mortality, with the highest rate, major cardiovascular diseases, occurring at a rate of 249.8 per 100,000 people.
So to put death by firearm violence in perspective, given murder by firearms occurs at a rate of 3.6 per 100,000 people and using the death rates from the CDC: you are almost 1.0 x as likely to die from intestinal infections, 1.0 x as likely to die from a perinatal condition, 1.5 x as likely to die from alcoholic liver disease, 1.6 x as likely to die from choking on your food, 2.0 x as likely to die from Parkinson’s, 2.3 x as likely to die from an alcohol-induced event, 2.4 x as likely to fall to your death, 2.4 x as likely to die from high blood pressure, 2.9 x as likely to die from respiratory diseases, 2.9 x as likely to die from drug-induced mortality, 3.0 x as likely to die from liver failure and cirrhosis, 3.0 x as likely to die in a car wreck, 3.0 x as likely to be accidentally poisoned or exposed to noxious substances, 3.2 x as likely to die from septicemia, 3.4 x as likely to kill yourself, 3.9 x as likely to die from kidney failure, 4.8 x as likely to die from the flu and/or pneumonia, 6.5 x as likely to die from Diabetes, 7.6 x as likely to die from Alzheimer’s, 8.0 x as likely to die from a medical error, 10.9 x as likely to die in an accident, 11.5 x as likely to die from cerebrovascular disease, 12.8 x as likely to die from chronic lower respiratory disease, 16.2 x as likely to die from other heart diseases, 25.8 x as likely to die from all other diseases, 51.3 x as likely to die from a malignant neoplasm (cancer), 77.2 x as likely to die from major cardiovascular disease, and if you were to be born today, you would be approximately 27.8 times as likely to be killed before you even leave the womb.
Obviously, these are not age adjusted, so a 21 year old male shouldn’t be as concerned about colorectal cancer as a 60 year old male should, but they do give a perspective of total deaths in the US.
So is murder an awful problem? Absolutely. Is it even on the radar of relevancy given all other forms of mortality and given it has been trending down for almost 3 decades? No, the food you eat every day, the car you drive, and the hospitals you go to for care will take more of your lives than another human ever will.
So what do any of these have to do with this subject? It is important to establish where these causes of death actually fall vs. what their perception of occurring is. For instance, many people (myself included) get nervous when they’re in the ocean because of shark attacks. Is that fear grounded in reality or statistics? Not at all. Fatal shark attacks are rarer than lightning strikes, but whether because of movies, Discovery Channel Shark Week, or their overall scary appearance, there is a certain fear and helplessness of being in the ocean with animals like that.
Do you see the insanity of politicians and lawmakers snatching your rights and freedoms in the name of safety? Shouldn’t they be concerned with alcohol, drugs, hospitals, bacteria, and the suicide epidemic that is taking place?
The Guardian quotes the following from the 2007 Small Arms Survey:
“With less than 5% of the world’s population, the United States is home to roughly 35–50 per cent of the world’s civilian-owned guns, heavily skewing the global geography of firearms and any relative comparison. The US has the highest gun ownership rate in the world (emphasis my own) – an average of 88 per 100 people. That puts it first in the world for gun ownership – and even the number two country, Yemen, has significantly fewer – 54.8 per 100 people.”
“But the US does not have the worst firearm murder rate (emphasis my own)- that prize belongs to Honduras, El Salvador and Jamaica. In fact, the US is number 28 (emphasis my own), with a rate of 2.97 per 100,000 people.”
“Puerto Rico tops the world’s table for firearms murders as a percentage of all homicides – 94.8%. It’s followed by Sierra Leone in Africa and Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean.”
Furthermore, if you look at the data from the Guardian you see that Afghanistan, China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Libya, Mali, Pakistan, Rwanda, Russia, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen have no data available, which means they were considered as being “less violent” for firearm deaths than the US.
It is not hard to imagine that those countries are more violent than the US. Obviously, when a government and/or terrorists kill more of their own people than its own citizens do, there isn’t an honest reckoning of data to be had.
What the data says is that despite holding literally 35-50% of every single civilian owned weapon in the world, the US ranks 28th in firearm violence, and as just previously shown, that is even a soft 28 given the terrorist havens that have no data. We literally own more civilian weapons than almost every other country in the world combined.
People point at the raw numbers of murders in the US (as opposed to the rate per 100,000 people), but given the large number of our population, the US holding 35-50% of all civilian owned firearms in the world, and having arguably some of the most relaxed firearm laws, it is intellectually dishonest to pretend like there is any aspect of correlation between firearm ownership and violence in the US.
Scientifically, we could say there is no evidence of a correlation between firearm ownership and violence in the US, and there is considerable evidence for a negative correlation between firearm ownership and violence.
This table taken from the Bureau of Justice statistics shows violent crime rates since 1973. Notice that the total violent crime peaked in 1981 declined for a number of years and then came back up starting in the early 90’s. From its peak in 1991, the US has had a 67% reduction in violent crime.
Proponents of the original AWB that occurred in 1994 are quick to point out that crime started decreasing following the 1994 ban, but that is only a half-truth. Barring the increase in the early 90’s, violent crime had been trending down for two decades, and when the AWB ended in 2004, and the sale of military style weapons and high capacity magazines skyrocketed, the violence continued to trend down after a brief uptick in 2005 and 2006 (and still is as of the latest UCR statistics for 2011).
A DOJ analysis of the 1994 AWB even concluded,
“Should it be renewed, the ban’s effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement. AWs were rarely used in gun crimes even before the ban. LCMs are involved in a more substantial share of gun crimes, but it is not clear how often the outcomes of gun attacks depend on the ability of offenders to fire more than ten shots (the current magazine capacity limit) without reloading.”
But more on that analysis later.
This table is from the FBI’s NICS background checks for 1998-2012.
Notice that from 1998 to 2012, the number of background checks per year almost doubled. Specifically, the number of background checks decreased during the latter years of the 1994 AWB until 2004 (which coincides with the 1994 AWB expiration), at which point they grew by almost a million per year.
So we can deduce that firearm sales decreased in the late 90’s during the assault weapons ban until 2004, and then went up after the AWB expired, ergo there was and is an increasing amount of firearms circulating in the US following the AWB expiration.
So if increased numbers of firearms (and decreased regulation of firearms) leads to violence, we should see an uptick in violent crime following 2004. In actuality, that did happen in 2005 and 2006 according to the UCR, Table 1. But in 2007 it resumed the trend of dropping until it hit an all time low in 2011.
What caused the increase in 2005? It’s difficult to say. One could argue it was the increase in firearms, but if that was the case, we should have seen even greater increases in violent crime from 2007 onward, as firearm purchases were only increasing. That did not happen, and in fact, the trend resumed hitting an all time low in 2011.
“In 2010, strangers committed about 38% of nonfatal violent crimes, including rape/sexual assault, robbery, aggravated assault, and simple assault.
In 2005-10, about 10% of violent victimizations committed by strangers involved a firearm, compared to 5% committed by offenders known to the victim.
From 1993 to 2008, among homicides reported to the FBI for which the victim-offender relationship was known, between 21% and 27% of homicides were committed by strangers and between 73% and 79% were committed by offenders known to the victims.”
So if you are going to be a victim of a violent crime, if it is nonfatal, there is a 62% chance you will know the person who does it to you. If you are going to be violently victimized, 90% of the time the stranger will not have a firearm, and 95% of the time if you know the person, they will not have a firearm. And if you are to be murdered, there is a 73% to 79% chance you will know the person who does it.
It sounds to me that the problem lies not with the weapons that people use to hurt and control others, but it is in actuality the broken relationships themselves that are responsible for the vast majority of violent crime.
My mom, when I was expressing my frustration about the upcoming gun control attempts, said, “I’m a pacifist, but everyone still knows that the presence of guns makes us safer.”
Statistics are great and all, but they frankly don’t even matter in this discussion. The 2nd Amendment never says, “As long as murder rates are low enough, you can bear arms.”
Assumptions Of Gun Control:
The Police Can Contain The Threat/The Civility Of Society Is Real And Not An Illusion
Our law enforcement officers do an incredible job of responding to threats, patrolling, and dealing with a metric ton of horsecrap. I count one of them among my close friends and am very much pro-police; they do not get enough credit, pay, or respect from the general population.
The police, however, cannot always contain the threats faced by society. There can only be so many police officers on street corners and in so many neighborhoods at any given time. It’s why every time there is a mass shooting, ordinary people flock to gunshops; whether subconsciously or not, they understand that ultimately no one can protect you like you can.
When someone is at your backdoor breaking in, and you call 911, how long are you willing to wait for the nearest patrol car? You might get lucky, and there’s one a block away. Even so, you’re still looking at a minute of waiting. How long can your backdoor hold out against a crowbar or a criminal just punching out the glass and turning the deadbolt?
A more realistic time frame is 5-10 minutes. Physical security is great to have, but it is only a speed bump. In the words of a friend of mine from the security industry, “The only thing physical security buys for you is time.”
Have you also considered the rare instances where the police are actually pulled back, incapable of reaching people, or are just completely overwhelmed by massive non-compliance to the law? The following from Wikipedia about business owners during the Rodney King riots:
“Due to their low social status and language barrier, Korean Americans received very little if any aid or protection from police authorities. David Joo, a manager of the gun store, said, “I want to make it clear that we didn’t open fire first. At that time, four police cars were there. Somebody started to shoot at us. The LAPD ran away in half a second. I never saw such a fast escape. I was pretty disappointed (emphasis my own).” Carl Rhyu, a participant in the Korean immigrants’ armed response to the rioting, said, “If it was your own business and your own property, would you be willing to trust it to someone else? We are glad the National Guard is here. They’re good backup. But when our shops were burning we called the police every five minutes; no response (emphasis my own). At a shopping center several miles north of Koreatown, Jay Rhee, who estimated that he and others fired five hundred shots into the ground and air (emphasis my own), said, “We have lost our faith in the police. Where were you when we needed you?” Korean Americans were ignored. Koreatown was isolated from South Central Los Angeles, yet despite such exclusion it was the heaviest hit.”
When all was said and done,
“On May 3, 1992, The Supreme Court extended the charging defendants 48-hour deadline to 96 hours. That day, 6,345 people were arrested and 44 dead bodies were still being identified by the coroner using fingerprints, driver’s license, or dental records.
By May 16, 1992, 51 men and 7 women were dead because of the riots and the Los Angeles Coroner’s Office listed 50 of the 58 people dead as homicide victims. Forty-one of the victims were shot to death, seven were killed in traffic accidents, four died in fires, three were beaten to death, two were fatally stabbed, and one died of a heart attack.”
Riots are a lot more common than you probably think. The same thing happened during Hurricane Sandy and Katrina, with ordinary people having to use baseball bats, blunt objects, firearms if they were lucky, and in one instance a bow and arrow. Obviously, this is an exception and not the rule, but if you’re dead, it doesn’t matter how many apologies you get from the local PD.
What happens when the power goes out for a week? More than likely nothing, you reason. But what about if there ceases to be hope that it will come back on? No more well lit streets, no security lights, no house alarms, no closed circuit cameras, and no power at the banks and ATM’s. With everything shrouded in darkness, how long before chaos erupts?
When nobody can access any cash, what happens? When the 47 million Americans who are on welfare are no longer getting payments from the government, what happens?
When the generators that power our hydro-electric dams and provide power to large swaths of the US are outsourced to China, what happens if China decides to insert a kill switch? Certainly a miniscule chance of happening, given China’s economy benefiting tremendously from ours, but stranger things have happened.
What happens when terrorists exploit our power grid infrastructure, which is woefully susceptible to cyber intrusions? Some script kiddies from Anonymous shut down Sony’s Playstation Network for almost 24 days at a cost of $171 million . What happens when Iran decides to do the same thing to our power grid? Aramco, a Saudi company that produces 10% of the world’s oil, was the victim of a targeted cyber attempt aimed at disrupting their oil production. If the attack had been more successful, it would have caused skyrocketing gas prices. Leon Panetta, former director of the CIA has even said, if our nation does not adapt, we will be ripe for a “cyber Pearl Harbor.” No more electricity, no more interstate commerce, no more paychecks or banks, and no more food in grocery stores.
More than likely, all things considered, the nation would recover, and the government would probably still be able to function at some level, but until they get to you, you’re on your own, and millions of people who previously were living under the rule of law are no longer under the law.
When police officers are no longer getting paid and have vulnerable family members at home, what do you think they’ll do? What would you do? When people are no longer under the threat of being arrested, subject to derision from their peers, or certainly no longer under threat of being shot or killed in the commission of a felony by police, will those people become more civilized or become animalistic?
Does anonymity ever bring out the best in people? If you spend any time on online message boards, people will do and say awful things. It’s why a group of everyday people will find themselves caught up in a mob and suddenly doing unthinkable things.
Think about it. When people light couches on fire in the street and turn over cars because their team won the national championship, what do you think happens when they haven’t eaten in 10 days? Have you seen what happens every Black Friday? People will murder each other over crap from Wal-Mart. What do you think happens when those same people haven’t eaten for a few days, and they see that your family has a stocked pantry?
I don’t wear a tinfoil hat, and you’ll never see me on Doomsday Preppers, but my head is not stuck in the sand either. At some point you have to consider that just because this country has been in existence for the past 237 odd years, there is no guarantee it will continue to remain so, either in its present form or at all. As best I have seen from history, every civilization has risen, peaked, and fallen at some point. You can probably guess which end of that spectrum we’re on.
Criminals Obey The Law
I feel silly even typing the above heading, but that is actually the thinking behind these laws. Despite already having laws on the books for not murdering, not stealing, etc… politicians think that stacking more laws on the books will stop the criminally insane murderer from proceeding with his or her plan. In fact, this is the whole reasoning behind gun free zones. It is already illegal to carry a concealed handgun anywhere without a CCW license (except in Arizona and other states that don’t require a CCW permit), thus everywhere except your home, local gun range, or hunting area are gun free zones. So in fact when anyone posts a gun free zone sign, they are in effect banning only the legal carrying of firearms.
Do you see the insanity of that? Fox News even did a parody of gun free zones years ago.
Every single mass shooting in America that I have been able to read about, save for the 2011 Tucson shooting (which, again, was a targeted assassination and thus was irrespective of the venue), occurred in a gun free zone. At what point will people realize that by posting those signs, they prevent legally licensed firearm owners from defending themselves and those they love, and inform anyone with criminal intent that the building or area is utterly defenseless.
Everywhere you go is an illegal drug free zone. And yet most Americans could go make a few phone calls and get access to whatever they want. Certainly for those of you who have used illegal drugs, did the idea that you were doing that drug in a drug free zone prohibit you from partaking? Of course not. Like speed limits, most people intent on breaking them will ignore them. If a criminal is intent on killing as many people as they can, putting a sign on the front of the building is probably not going to deter anyone except the people who already obey the law, as those who seek to obey the law would not be interested in murdering a bunch of people in the first place.
Even more damning is the fact that so many of the places that are gun free zones do not have adequate security. In Aurora, there was no security in the area and the emergency exit doors were allowed to be opened and closed with no alarm going off.
I believe businesses should have the right to bar the carrying of weapons on their property, but they should be held criminally liable when they do so, someone gets murdered there, and they have failed to provide any sort of security.
If you’ll also notice, none of the new proposed laws would have prevented any of the recent mass shootings. Until the mental health-NICS background check divide is bridged, and law enforcement entities hire psychics, these shootings will continue, only with adapted weapons.
Ordinary People Commit Murders
In the Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Don B. Kates, a criminologist and constitutional lawyer, and Gary Mauser, a criminologist and professor, authored a paper entitled, “WOULD BANNING FIREARMS REDUCE MURDER AND SUICIDE?” As follows is an excerpt starting at Page 18, paragraph 2 regarding ordinary people committing murders “in the heat of the moment”, etc… All emphases are the authors’ unless noted. The text speaks largely for itself.
“These comments appear to rest on no evidence and actually contradict facts that have so uniformly been established by homicide studies dating back to the 1890s that they have become “criminological axioms.”59 Insofar as studies focus on perpetrators, they show that neither a majority, nor many, nor virtually any murderers are ordinary “law‐abiding citizens.”60 Rather, almost all murderers are extremely aberrant individuals with life histories of violence, psychopathology, substance abuse, and other dangerous behaviors (emphasis my own). “The vast majority of persons involved in life threatening violence have a long criminal record with many prior contacts with the justice system (emphasis my own).”61 “Thus homicide—[whether] of a stranger or [of] someone known to the offender—‘is usually part of a pattern of violence, engaged in by people who are known . . . as violence prone (emphasis my own).’”62 Though only 15% of Americans over the age of 15 have arrest records,63 approximately 90 percent of “adult murderers have adult records, with an average adult criminal career [involving crimes committed as an adult rather than a child] of six or more years, including four major adult felony arrests.”64 These national statistics dovetail with data from local nineteenth and twentieth century studies. For example: victims as well as offenders [in 1950s and 1960s Philadelphia murders] . . . tended to be people with prior police records, usually for violent crimes such as assault.” 65 “The great majority of both perpetrators and victims of [1970s Harlem] assaults and murders had previous [adult] arrests, probably over 80% or more.”66 Boston police and probation officers in the 1990s agreed that of those juvenile‐perpetrated murders where all the facts were known, virtually all were committed by gang members, though the killing was not necessarily gang directed. 67 One example would be a gang member who stabs his girlfriend to death in a fit of anger.68 Regardless of their arrests for other crimes, 80% of 1997 Atlanta murder arrestees had at least one earlier drug offense with 70% having 3 or more prior drug offenses. 69 A New York Times study of the 1,662 murders committed in that city in the years 2003–2005 found that “[m]ore than 90 percent of the killers had criminal records.”70 Baltimore police figures show that “92 percent of murder suspects had [prior] criminal records in 2006.”71 Several of the more recent homicide studies just reviewed were done at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and found almost all arrested murderers to have earlier arrests (emphasis my own).72
That murderers are not ordinary, law‐abiding responsible adults is further documented in other sources. Psychological studies of juvenile murderers variously find that at least 80%, if not all, are psychotic or have psychotic symptoms (emphasis my own).73 Of Massachusetts domestic murderers in the years 1991–1995, 73.7% had a “prior [adult] criminal history,” 16.5% had an active restraining order registered against them at the time of the homicide, and 46.3% of the violent perpetrators had had a restraining order taken out against them sometime before their crime.74
This last study is one of many exposing the false argument that a significant number of murders involve ordinary people killing spouses in a moment of rage. Although there are many domestic homicides, such murders do not occur frequently in ordinary families, nor are the murderers ordinary, law‐abiding adults. “The day‐to‐day reality is that most family murders are prefaced by a long history of assaults.”75 One study of such murders found that “a history of domestic violence was present in 95.8%” of cases.76 These findings are a routine feature of domestic homicide studies: “[domestic] partner homicide is most often the final outcome of chronic women battering”;77 based on a study from Kansas City, 90% of all the family homicides were preceded by previous disturbances at the same address, with a median of 5 calls per address.”78
The only kind of evidence cited to support the myth that most murderers are ordinary people is that many murders arise from arguments or occur in homes and between acquaintances. 79 These bare facts are only relevant if one assumes that criminals do not have acquaintances or homes or arguments. Of the many studies belying this, the broadest analyzed a year’s national data on gun murders occurring in homes and between acquaintances. It found “the most common victim offender relationship” was “where both parties . . . knew one another because of prior illegal transactions.”80
Thus the term “acquaintance homicide” does not refer solely to murders between ordinary acquaintances. Rather it encompasses, for example: drug dealers killed by competitors or customers, gang members killed by members of the same or rival gangs, and women killed by stalkers or abusers who have brutalized them on earlier occasions, all individuals for whom federal and state laws already prohibit gun possession.81
Obviously there are certain people who should not be allowed to own any deadly instrument. Reasonable as such prohibitions are, it is unrealistic to think those people will comply with such restrictions any more readily than they do with laws against violent crime (emphasis my own).82 In any event, studies analyzing acquaintance homicide suggest there is no reason for laws prohibiting gun possession by ordinary, law‐abiding responsible adults because such people virtually never murder. If one accepts that such adults are far more likely to be victims of violent crime than to commit it, disarming them becomes not just unproductive but counter‐productive (emphasis my own).83”
Ordinary People Cannot Be Trusted With Their Own Defense
Every time there is a new law passed that gives law abiding citizens additional tools to defend themselves (“Guns In Bars”, Stand Your Ground, CCW, Castle Doctrine), there is a horrible outcry of statements such as: “People will be murdering each other in the street!” “GUNS IN BARS!?!?! There will be gun battles every weekend!” “Our city will be just like the Wild West!”
It never happens though, and if you take a look at the actual laws, they make a lot of sense.
Allowing guns in bars sounds scary, but what does the actual law do? It allows people with a CCW license to carry their firearm in any establishment that serves alcohol (the point of the law was so that people could CCW in restaurants that serve alcohol). As was the law before, CCWers are not permitted to drink alcohol while having a concealed weapon. It probably goes without saying that most people only go to bars to drink, ergo they would not be carrying concealed regardless.
Of course, if people wanted to carry a concealed weapon while drinking, they would have done it anyways, regardless of a guns in bars bill.
Stand Your Ground caught a lot of flak after George Zimmerman shot Trayvon Martin in self defense. Despite the fact Zimmerman was on his back, getting his face pounded in, and his head bashed against a concrete curb, people freaked out about him “shooting an unarmed boy”, despite the “boy” being a 6’0 160 pound football player. I’ve already written about that situation, and all the evidence that has come out since has only supported that Zimmerman was getting the crap kicked out of him (pictures of his broken nose and back of his head here and here).
Stand Your Ground means exactly what it says. The person being assaulted is under no obligation to have to run away or make an effort to hide or evade from someone trying to assault or murder them. It’s almost unbelievable that there is any outcry over innocent people not having to bear the responsibility of running away and cowering because of the actions of murderers and thieves, but I guess that is the strange world we live in.
Castle Doctrine is similar. In some states, the burden is placed on the victim of the criminal to make every effort to barricade themselves and/or their family into the last refuge of his or her home. Only then are they legally permitted to use lethal force to defend his or her life or the life of his or her family. Castle Doctrine states that as soon as an uninvited person breaches the threshold of your door, you may use any means necessary (read: lethal force) to repel them. As soon as they leave the house, Castle Doctrine is no longer in effect (i.e., you could not pursue them outside your house and shoot them in the back). Again, why this is problematic is confusing; law-abiding citizens should never be obligated to accommodate criminals.
Regarding CCW, there has been no evidence those who CCW are more prone to violence, and in fact there is evidence they are less likely to commit crimes. From Wikipedia,
“Using publicly available media reports, the Violence Policy Center claims that from May 2007 through the end of 2009, concealed carry permit holders in the U.S. have killed at least 117 individuals, including 9 law enforcement officers (excluding cases where individuals were acquitted, but including pending cases). There were about 25,000 murders by firearm that period, meaning that concealed carry permit holders committed less than 1% of the murders by firearm (emphasis my own). Furthermore, a large number of the victims were killed in extended suicides, most of which took place in the home of the shooter, where arms can be possessed without special permits. VPC also includes in its numbers several homicides using only long guns and several instances of accidental discharge.”
“The Texas Department of Public Safety published a list of crimes committed in Texas in 2011 by everyone convicted and by those convicted who also held CCL’s. The bottom line: Concealed carry permit holders commit less than 1% of the crimes. If you want to be exact, they committed two tenths of one percent of the crimes in 2011. And not all of those involved firearms or violence (emphasis my own).”
The Assault Rifle Myth and Why Other Gun Control Laws Don’t Work Either
Passing a law that makes it illegal to text and drive seems like a good idea, but what if it actually makes people less safe because they only end up concealing their phones down in their lap, diverting their eyes even further from the road?
Prohibition probably caused less alcohol consumption and less alcohol-related violence, but it also gave birth to unprecedented police corruption and gang activity.
“In a study of over 30 major U.S cities during the prohibition years of 1920 and 1921, the number of crimes increased by 24%. Additionally, theft and burglaries increased by 9%, homicide by 12.7%, assaults and battery rose by 13%, drug addiction by 44.6% and police department costs rose by 11.4%.”
It seems that the “moral progress” that Prohibition proponents sought to increase was usurped by their own new law. Ironic, no?
This is why cooler heads prevail during heightened emotional events. Whipping people up into a frenzy and fear mongering will only lead to more Salem Witch Trials and Prohibition eras.
The Assault Rifle And High Capacity Magazine Myths
An assault rifle is by definition a select fire weapon firing an intermediate cartridge. This means you pull the trigger once, and 2 or more rounds are fired per trigger pull. An assault rifle is a type of machine gun. This definition is critical because both media personas and lawmakers speak incessantly of the dangers of assault rifles and their usage and either have no idea that that term is incorrect or are deliberately using it to deceive people. In the words of Inigo Montoya from The Princess Bride, “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.”
Actual ‘assault rifles’ are classified as ‘machine guns’ by the NFA and due to their rarity (none manufactured or added to registry after 1986) cost tens of thousands of dollars. You can read more about the NFA and its laws here, as it is not within the scope of this article to explain it.
What these people are actually talking about are AR-15 (AR stands for Armalite, the company that developed it, not assault rifle) variants, AK-47 variants, and other military/self-loading rifles. They are all semi-automatic (when you pull the trigger you only get one bullet) and are visually very similar to their fully automatic counterparts and fed by a 30 round, detachable magazine. Notice that I said ‘magazine’ and not ‘clip’. The quickest litmus test for determining that someone has no idea what they’re talking about regarding firearms is when they call a magazine a ‘clip’.
AR-15’s, the most abundant military-style rifles in America, fire the Remington .223 caliber round (that is for all intents and purposes very similar to the 5.56 x 45mm NATO round used in military M4’s and M16’s). The .223 is considered by most to be a varmint round and is illegal in some states to use for deer as it is considered ‘inhumane’ for its lack of lethality. Obviously that does not mean it is NOT capable of lethality, merely that it is not ideal for a one shot, one kill hunt and has a high chance of merely wounding the animal and/or causing it to run long distances and suffer before succumbing to its wounds.
Along with the M16, the 5.56 x 45mm cartridge (hereafter referred to as 5.56) was adopted because of its light weight when compared to the 7.62 x 51mm round utilized by the M14 that was previously being fielded in Vietnam. The lighter cartridges enabled infantry to carry many more rounds and thus complemented the maneuver warfare/support by fire military doctrine.
Whether you have read Black Hawk Down or military after-action reports from the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, you know that there are many reports of the underwhelming lethality of the 5.56 cartridge. Other than direct hits to the CNS/head, heart, and/or spine, incapacitation is highly unlikely with a single round. Of course, it is important to note that anyone who has studied terminal ballistics will tell you that for all cartridges, any hit to the non-CNS region will usually not result in immediate incapacitation. With that said, larger diameter bullets typically create larger wound channels paired with adequate penetration, which means a greater probability of penetrating and further damaging vital organs.
Specifically, the full metal jacket (FMJ) construction of Geneva Convention approved projectiles increases the penetration of bullets, but decreases the amount of tissue destruction, wound channels, and fragmentation. In other words, if you don’t hit a vital organ or artery, the rounds zip straight through the target before they can adequately tumble, fragment, or cause significant damage.
This is an important point to drive home because most of the bullets available from ammunition retailers are FMJ because they are cheaper and thus utilized more for target practice. I have no evidence to support the following claim, but it is my educated guess that most of the mass shootings that occur use FMJ ammo due both to their availability, decreased cost, and the terminal ballistic ignorance of the perpetrators.
According to Table 8 from the FBI’s UCR, there were 323 murders with rifles in the US, 6220 with handguns, 356 with shotguns. Bear in mind that the term ‘rifle’ can mean anything from a bolt action .22 rifle to a Barrett .50 caliber rifle (and certainly anything in between).
Given the sheer volume of bolt action and other non-military style rifles, it is my estimation that a majority of the murders with rifles were not by military style rifles. But for the sake of argument, let’s pretend that 75% of the murders utilizing rifles were by so-called “assault rifles” (a figure I do not think is accurate). That would be a figure of 242 murders via military style rifles. When divided into total murders, that is 1.9% of all murders. For perspective, shotguns were used in 2.8% of murders, blunt objects were used in 3.9% of murders, hands and feet were used for 5.7% of murders, other weapons/weapon not stated accounted for 6.7% of murders, knives and cutting instruments were used in 13.4% of murders, and handguns were used in 49.1% of murders.
That means you are 1.5 x as likely to be murdered via shotgun, 2.0 x as likely to be murdered via hammers and baseball bats, 3.0 x as likely to be murdered via hands and feet, 3.5 x as likely to be murdered via any other weapon, 7.0 x as likely to be murdered via knives, and 25.0 x as likely to be murdered via handguns.
The trend appears to be that rifles and shotguns are not weapons of choice for murder because of their size, unwieldiness, and inability to properly conceal. Indeed, the more concealable the weapons, the more they appear to be used.
The following quotations come from in a report prepared for the U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Congress via a grant from the National Institute of Justice. You can find the link to the paper here, and until noted, further quotations come from that report. Italics and bolding of words and phrases are my own, and pages refer to PDF pages, not actual pages).
(Regarding guns and magazines used in crimes prior to the ban):
• “AWs were used in only a small fraction of gun crimes prior to the ban: about 2% according to most studies and no more than 8%. Most of the AWs used in crime are assault pistols rather than assault rifles.
• LCMs are used in crime much more often than AWs and accounted for 14% to 26% of guns used in crime prior to the ban.
• AWs and other guns equipped with LCMs tend to account for a higher share of guns used in murders of police and mass public shootings, though such incidents are very rare.” (Page 7, Paragraph 1)
“Looking at the nation’s gun crime problem more broadly, however, AWs and LCMs were used in only a minority of gun crimes prior to the 1994 federal ban, and AWs were used in a particularly small percentage of gun crimes.” (Page 19, Final Paragraph)
“According to these accounts, AWs typically accounted for up to 8% of guns used in crime, depending on the specific AW definition and data source used.” (Page 20, Paragraph 1)
“A compilation of 38 sources indicated that AWs accounted for 2% of crime guns on average. Similarly, the most common AWs prohibited by the 1994 federal ban accounted for between 1% and 6% of guns used in crime according to most of several national and local data sources examined for this and our prior study.” (Page 20, Paragraph 1)
“Although each of the sources cited above has limitations, the estimates consistently show that AWs are used in a small fraction of gun crimes. Even the highest estimates, which correspond to particularly rare events such mass murders and police murders, are no higher than 13%. Note also that the majority of AWs used in crime are assault pistols (APs) rather than assault rifles (ARs). Among AWs reported by police to ATF during 1992 and 1993, for example, APs outnumbered ARs by a ratio of 3 to 1 (see Chapter 6).” (Page 20, Paragraph 3)
“The relative rarity of AW use in crime can be attributed to a number of factors. Many AWs are long guns, which are used in crime much less often than handguns. Moreover, a number of the banned AWs are foreign weapons that were banned from importation into the U.S. in 1989. Also, AWs are more expensive (see Table 2-1) and more difficult to conceal than the types of handguns that are used most frequently in crime.” (Page 21, Paragraph 1)
“Even so, most survey evidence on the actual use of AWs suggests that offenders rarely use AWs in crime. In a 1991 national survey of adult state prisoners, for example, 8% of the inmates reported possessing a “military-type” firearm at some point in the past (Beck et al., 1993, p. 19). Yet only 2% of offenders who used a firearm during their conviction offense reported using an AW for that offense (calculated from pp. 18, 33), a figure consistent with the police statistics cited above. Similarly, while 10% of adult inmates and 20% of juvenile inmates in a Virginia survey reported having owned an AR, none of the adult inmates and only 1% of the juvenile inmates reported having carried them at crime scenes.” (Page 21, Paragraph 3)
“Although AWs are used in a small percentage of gun crimes, some have argued that AWs are more likely to be used in crime than other guns, i.e., that AWs are more attractive to criminal than lawful gun users due to the weapons’ military-style features and their particularly large ammunition magazines. Such arguments are based on data implying that AWs are more common among crime guns than among the general stock of civilian firearms. According to some estimates generated prior to the federal ban, AWs accounted for less than one percent of firearms owned by civilians but up to 11% of guns used in crime, based on firearms reported by police to ATF between 1986 and 1993 (e.g., see Cox Newspapers, 1989; Lennett, 1995). However, these estimates were problematic in a number of respects. As discussed in Chapter 6, ATF statistics are not necessarily representative of the types of guns most commonly recovered by police, and ATF statistics from the late 1980s and early 1990s in particular tended to overstate the prevalence of AWs among crime guns. Further, estimating the percentage of civilian weapons that are AWs is difficult because gun production data are not reported by model, and one must also make assumptions about the rate of attrition among the stock of civilian firearms.” (Page 22, Paragraph 1)
“Yet the overall use of guns with LCMs, which is based on the combined use of AWs and non-banned guns with LCMs, is much greater than the use of AWs alone. Based on data examined for this and a few prior studies, guns with LCMs were used in roughly 14% to 26% of most gun crimes prior to the ban.” (Page 23, Paragraph 1)
“Although based on a small number of studies, this range is generally consistent with national survey estimates indicating approximately 18% of all civilian-owned guns and 21% of civilian-owned handguns were equipped with LCMs as of 1994.” (Page 23, Paragraph 2)
However, it is not clear how often the ability to fire more than 10 shots without reloading (the current magazine capacity limit) affects the outcomes of gun attacks (see Chapter 9). All of this suggests that the ban’s impact on gun violence is likely to be small.”19 (Page 24, Paragraph 2)
“In Baltimore, about 14% of guns recovered by police were LCM guns in 1993. This figure remained relatively stable for a few years after the ban but had dropped notably by 2002 and 2003 (Figure 8-1). For the entire post-ban period (1995-2003), recoveries of LCM guns were down 8% relative to those of guns with smaller magazines (Table 8-1, panel A), a change of borderline statistical significance. Focusing on the most recent years, however, LCM gun recoveries were 24% lower in 2002 and 2003 than during the year prior to the ban, a difference that was clearly significant (Table 8-1, panel B).78,79,80 This change was attributable to a 36% drop in LCM handguns (Table 8-1, panel C). LCM rifles actually increased 36% as a share of crime guns, although they still accounted for no more than 3% in 2002 and 2003 (Table 8-1, panel D).81
Yet there was no decline in recoveries of LCM guns used in violent crimes (i.e., murders, shootings, robberies, and other assaults). After the ban, the percentage of violent crime guns with LCMs generally oscillated in a range consistent with the pre-ban level (14%) and hit peaks of roughly 16% to 17% in 1996 and 2003 (Figure 8-1).82 Whether comparing the pre-ban period to the entire post-ban period (1995-2003) or the most recent years (2002-2003), there was no meaningful decline in LCM recoveries linked to violent crimes (Table 8-2, panels A and B).83 Neither violent uses of LCM handguns or LCM rifles had declined appreciably by 2002-2003 (Table 8-2, panels C and D). Hence, the general decline in LCM recoveries may reflect differences in the availability and use of LCMs among less serious offenders, changes in police practices,84 or other factors.” (Page 74, Paragraph 1)
And finally, the conclusion:
“Should it be renewed, the ban’s effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement. AWs were rarely used in gun crimes even before the ban. LCMs are involved in a more substantial share of gun crimes, but it is not clear how often the outcomes of gun attacks depend on the ability of offenders to fire more than ten shots (the current magazine capacity limit) without reloading.”
It is convenient that the authors posited that last question: how often are the outcomes of gun attacks dependent on magazine capacity great than 10 rounds?
The authors admit that evidence is sparse, but there is some data available on that subject that the authors present. In their own words,
“As a general point, the faster firing rate and larger ammunition capacities of semiautomatics, especially those equipped with LCMs, have the potential to affect the outcomes of many gun attacks because gun offenders are not particularly good shooters. Offenders wounded their victims in no more than 29% of gunfire incidents according to national, pre-ban estimates (computed from Rand, 1994, p. 2; also see estimates presented later in this chapter). Similarly, a study of handgun assaults in one city revealed a 31% hit rate per shot, based on the sum totals of all shots fired and wounds inflicted (Reedy and Koper, 2003, p. 154). Other studies have yielded hit rates per shot ranging from 8% in gunfights with police (Goehl, 1993, p. 8) to 50% in mass murders (Kleck, 1997, p. 144). Even police officers, who are presumably certified and regularly re-certified as proficient marksman and who are almost certainly better shooters than are average gun offenders, hit their targets with only 22% to 39% of their shots (Kleck, 1991, p. 163; Goehl, 1993). Therefore, the ability to deliver more shots rapidly should raise the likelihood that offenders hit their targets, not to mention innocent bystanders.99” (Page 88, Paragraph 4)
Notice that when criminals are shooting at armed police officers, their hit rate drops 84% (but more on that later).
“A few studies have compared attacks with semiautomatics, sometimes specifically those with LCMs (including AWs), to other gun assaults in terms of shots fired, persons hit, and wounds inflicted (see Tables 9-1 and 9-2). The most comprehensive of these studies examined police reports of attacks with semiautomatic pistols and revolvers in Jersey City, New Jersey from 1992 through 1996 (Reedy and Koper, 2003), finding that use of pistols resulted in more shots fired and higher numbers of gunshot victims (Table 9-1), though not more gunshot wounds per victim (Table 9-2).100 Results implied there would have been 9.4% fewer gunshot victims overall had semiautomatics not been used in any of the attacks. Similarly, studies of gun murders in Philadelphia (see McGonigal et al., 1993 in Table 9-1) and a number of smaller cities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Iowa (see Richmond et al., 2003 in Table 9-2) found that attacks with semiautomatics resulted in more shots fired and gunshot wounds per victim. An exception is that the differential in shots fired between pistol and revolver cases in Philadelphia during 1990 did not exist for cases that occurred in 1985, when semiautomatics and revolvers had been fired an average of 1.6 and 1.9 times, respectively. It is not clear whether the increase in shots fired for pistol cases from 1985 to 1990 was due to changes in offender behavior, changes in the design or quality of pistols (especially an increase in the use of models with LCMs – see Wintemute, 1996), the larger sample for 1990, or other factors.100” (Page 89, Paragraph 1)
Now there’s something really fascinating in Table 9-1. Notice that the average shots fired in gun attacks with either semiautomatic pistols or revolvers is on average 3.2-3.7 and 2.3-2.6 for pistols and revolvers respectively during attacks. Notice that neither of those numbers is even close to the magical 10 round magazine limit that high capacity magazine limitations seek to address.
What’s further interesting is that the differences between them are probably not even statistically significant. If I had the option, I would much rather be shot with a pistol than a revolver anyways, as the rounds that revolvers fire (.38 Special, .357 Magnum, .44 Magnum) are much more powerful than 9mm, .40, or .45 that are utilized in semi-automatic handguns.
It is also important to notice that in actual homicides, the shot difference is actually more for revolvers in 1985 and then slightly less in 1990, but both years still don’t average more than 2.7 shots fired. Again, nowhere near the 10 round limit (or 7 round limit now in New York).
Data from Figure 9.2 shows that in New Jersey, only 2.5-3% of any gunfire incidents involved 11 or more shots.
Table 9-3 shows that in violent crimes involving handguns with and without gunshot victims, there was a statistically significant difference in the number of crimes that involved large capacity magazines. That appears significant except for the fact that .38 is rarely fired in handguns and is used primarily in revolvers, which are by definition not capable of having ‘LCMs’. Do you see how that would necessarily skew the data?
In the second data subset of Table 9-3 which shows that for just 9mm, there is only a 20% difference regarding LCMs which is still statistically significant, but is significantly less than for the 9mm and .38. In the rest of the data sets, the margins for percentages of guns used with LCMs decrease and also drop outside of the realm of statistical significance. In the authors’ own words,
“The findings of the preceding studies are subject to numerous caveats. There were few if any attempts to control for characteristics of the actors or situations that might have influenced weapon choices and/or attack outcomes.103 Weapons data were typically missing for substantial percentages of cases. Further, many of the comparisons in the tables were not tested for statistical significance (see the notes to Tables 9-1 and 9-2).104
Tentatively, nonetheless, the evidence suggests more often than not that attacks with semiautomatics, particularly those equipped with LCMs, result in more shots fired, leading to both more injuries and injuries of greater severity. Perhaps the faster firing rate and larger ammunition capacities afforded by these weapons prompt some offenders to fire more frequently (i.e., encouraging what some police and military persons refer to as a “spray and pray” mentality). But this still begs the question of whether a 10-round limit on magazine capacity will affect the outcomes of enough gun attacks to measurably reduce gun injuries and deaths.” (Page 94, Paragraph 1)
“Specific data on shots fired in gun attacks are quite fragmentary and often inferred indirectly, but they suggest that relatively few attacks involve more than 10 shots fired.105 Based on national data compiled by the FBI, for example, there were only about 19 gun murder incidents a year involving four or more victims from 1976 through 1995 (for a total of 375) (Fox and Levin, 1998, p. 435) and only about one a year involving six or more victims from 1976 through 1992 (for a total of 17) (Kleck, 1997, p. 126). Similarly, gun murder victims are shot two to three times on average according to a number of sources (see Table 9-2 and Koper and Roth, 2001a), and a study at a Washington, DC trauma center reported that only 8% of all gunshot victims treated from 1988 through 1990 had five or more wounds (Webster et al., 1992, p. 696).
However, counts of victims hit or wounds inflicted provide only a lower bound estimate of the number of shots fired in an attack, which could be considerably higher in light of the low hit rates in gunfire incidents (see above).106 The few available studies on shots fired show that assailants fire less than four shots on average (see sources in Table 9-1 and Goehl, 1993), a number well within the 10-round magazine limit imposed by the AW-LCM ban, but these studies have not usually presented the full distribution of shots fired for all cases, so it is usually unclear how many cases, if any, involved more than 10 shots.
An exception is the aforementioned study of handgun murders and assaults in Jersey City (Reedy and Koper, 2003). Focusing on cases for which at least the type of handgun (semiautomatic, revolver, derringer) could be determined, 2.5% of the gunfire cases involved more than 10 shots.107 These incidents – all of which involved pistols – had a 100% injury rate and accounted for 4.7% of all gunshot victims in the sample (see Figure 9-2). Offenders fired a total of 83 shots in these cases, wounding 7 victims, only 1 of whom was wounded more than once. Overall, therefore, attackers fired over 8 shots for every wound inflicted, suggesting that perhaps fewer persons would have been wounded had the offenders not been able to fire as often.108” (Page 95, Paragraph 1)
“Caution is warranted in generalizing from these results because they are based on a very small number of incidents (6) from one sample in one city. Further, it is not known if the offenders in these cases had LCMs (gun model and magazine information was very limited); they may have emptied small magazines, reloaded, and continued firing. But subject to these caveats, the findings suggest that the ability to deliver more than 10 shots without reloading may be instrumental in a small but non-trivial percentage of gunshot victimizations.
On the other hand, the Jersey City study also implies that eliminating AWs and LCMs might only reduce gunshot victimizations by up to 5%. And even this estimate is probably overly optimistic because the LCM ban cannot be expected to prevent all incidents with more than 10 shots. Consequently, any effects from the ban (should it be extended) are likely to be smaller and perhaps quite difficult to detect with standard statistical methods (see Koper and Roth, 2001a), especially in the near future, if recent patterns of LCM use continue.” (Page 96, Paragraph 1)
So we can agree that having LCMs generally increases the number of rounds fired, thus offers a higher chance of scoring a hit and thus a potential for a higher percentage of hits. I am not trying to argue against that.
But as we’ve already seen in the previous data regarding number of shots fired, the amount of shots fired at all were still on average less than 3 rounds, period. So to answer the authors’ own question, a 10 round limit on magazine capacity would only have the potential to affect the rarest of occasions. To quantify that based on previously mentioned studies, if in New Jersey, 2.5-3.0% of gunfire incidents involved 11 or more shots, is the impact of a LCM ban even capable of making any measurable difference? Of course not. The differences, even if they dropped to zero would still not be statistically significant, and when paired with the fact that anyone can just reload after firing 10 rounds, the effect of the ban is insignificant, as the authors eventually concluded.
He still fired 174 rounds in 10-12 minutes with 28 of the 30 killed being shot in the head. Regardless of whether he had used a revolver, 7 round magazines, or a shotgun, in 10-12 minutes, that same number of rounds would have still been able to be fired, as in fact he still had not been reached by police by the time he killed himself.
Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris at Columbine primarily used pump action shotguns, pistols, and one pistol outfitted with high capacity magazines (all of which occurred during the 1994 AWB). The pump action shotgun was fired 25 times, the Hi-point 9mm carbine with standard, 10 round magazines was fired 96 times, and the Tec-9 with high capacity magazines was fired 55 times. They started shooting at 11:19 AM and killed themselves at 12:08 PM, just under an hour before they started and murdered a total of 13 people. Again, 13 people murdered largely by pump action shotguns and pistols using less than 10 round magazines with the killers still having more time to kill students.
Adam Lanza started firing at Sandy Hook at 9:35 AM and had already killed himself by 9:46-9:49 AM. Reports indicate that “he reloaded frequently during the shooting, sometimes firing only fifteen rounds from a thirty round magazine.”
Notice also that Lanza only ends his shooting when confronted by an armed police officer. Again, whether he had been using 10 round magazines or 30 round magazines, he would have been able to easily fire 50-100 rounds in 10-15 minutes either way (also remember that Connecticut already has an AWB).
Now I’ve never run the risk of being called a brain trust, but it doesn’t take a genius to see that the rate limiting step in these massacres has never been the size of the magazines. If you’re slaughtering a bunch of defenseless people, until someone with a gun stops you, you will only be limited by the number of targets you have and your own objective(s). None of these mass shootings end until either: 1) the police show up and either shoot or detain the subject, 2) someone with a gun confronts them first, and they kill themselves or are shot or detained, or 3) the shooter accomplishes his objective. Period.
Thus far, for mass shootings, it hasn’t mattered if you throw books at the shooter, rush them, beg for your life, or anything else. They will either keep firing, or if they need to reload, they can just step away for about 1.5 seconds and slam a fresh magazine in.
If you know anything about reloading magazines, with just a few days of training in your house, you can easily be reloading a fresh magazine in less than 2 seconds.
Those have been the only outcomes, save for the example of Jared Loughner’s assassination attempt of Gabrielle Giffords (the Tucson, AZ shooting in 2011). And in fact, that example is of an entirely different nature anyways, considering it was a targeted assassination where his primary objective was to murder her, not just shoot as many people as possible.
It’s also critical to realize that save for the Tucson shooting, all of these massacres have happened in gun free zones.
The attempt at these laws reveals a fundamental ignorance by the lawmakers who draft them. They can’t seem to grasp that the two greatest factors that determine the highest impact of damage are gun free zones and the response of police in halting the threat. You can ban high capacity magazines, military style rifles, or fertilizer, but until gun free zones are eliminated and armed security is close by, the massacres will keep happening unabated.
Going back to the study of AWs and LCMs, the authors write:
“Having established some basis for believing the AW-LCM ban could have at least a small effect on lethal and injurious gun violence, is there any evidence of such an effect to date? Gun homicides plummeted from approximately 16,300 in 1994 to 10,100 in 1999, a reduction of about 38% (see the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reports). Likewise, non-fatal, assaultive gunshot injuries treated in hospitals nationwide declined one-third, from about 68,400 to under 46,400, between 1994 and 1998 (Gotsch et al., 2001, pp. 23-24). Experts believe numerous factors contributed to the recent drop in these and other crimes, including changing drug markets, a strong economy, better policing, and higher incarceration rates, among others (Blumstein and Wallman, 2000). Attributing the decline in gun murders and shootings to the AW-LCM ban is problematic, however, considering that crimes with LCMs appear to have been steady or rising since the ban. For this reason, we do not undertake a rigorous investigation of the ban’s effects on gun violence.109
But a more casual assessment shows that gun crimes since the ban have been no less likely to cause death or injury than those before the ban, contrary to what we might expect if crimes with AWs and LCMs had both declined. For instance, the percentage of violent gun crimes resulting in death has been very stable since 1990 according to national statistics on crimes reported to police (see Figure 9-1 in section 9.1).110 In fact, the percentage of gun crimes resulting in death during 2001 and 2002 (2.94%) was slightly higher than that during 1992 and 1993 (2.9%).” (Page 96, Final Paragraph)
“Similarly, neither medical nor criminological data sources have shown any post-ban reduction in the percentage of crime-related gunshot victims who die. If anything, this percentage has been higher since the ban, a pattern that could be linked in part to more multiple wound victimizations stemming from elevated levels of LCM use. According to medical examiners’ reports and hospitalization estimates, about 20% of gunshot victims died nationwide in 1993 (Gotsch et al., 2001). This figure rose to 23% in 1996, before declining to 21% in 1998 (Figure 9-3).111 Estimates derived from the Uniform Crime Reports and the Bureau of Justice Statistics’ annual National Crime Victimization Survey follow a similar pattern from 1992 to 1999 (although the ratio of fatal to non-fatal cases is much higher in these data than that in the medical data) and also show a considerable increase in the percentage of gunshot victims who died in 2000 and 2001 (Figure 9-3).112 Of course, changes in offender behavior or other changes in crime weaponry (such as an increase in shootings with large caliber handguns) may have influenced these trends. Yet is worth noting that multiple wound shootings were elevated over pre-ban levels during 1995 and 1996 in four of five localities examined during our first AW study, though most of the differences were not statistically significant (Table 9-4, panels B through E).
Another potential indicator of ban effects is the percentage of gunfire incidents resulting in fatal or non-fatal gunshot victimizations. If attacks with AWs and LCMs result in more shots fired and victims hit than attacks with other guns and magazines, we might expect a decline in crimes with AWs and LCMs to reduce the share of gunfire incidents resulting in victims wounded or killed. Measured nationally with UCR and NCVS data, this indicator was relatively stable at around 30% from 1992 to 1997, before rising to about 40% from 1998 through 2000 (Figure 9-4).113 Along similar lines, multiple victim gun homicides remained at relatively high levels through at least 1998, based on the national average of victims killed per gun murder incident (Table 9-4, panel A).”114 (Page 97, Paragraph 2)
Are you beginning to get the feeling that the emperor has no clothes?
Inevitably, the question is then asked, “I see your point, but why do you need a military style rifle or high capacity magazine?” I’ll get into that in a second, but from the outset, that is the wrong question. America was built around the rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” Shooting firearms will never be everyone’s favorite activity. It is, however, one of mine. I find it relaxing, meditative, and mentally exhausting at the same time, in ways that nothing else can touch. There are few activities you can do with a sustained mental effort for 6-8 hours, all the while not saying a word and wondering where the time went.
All of that is fine and good, but the 2nd Amendment was never about hobbies. Another straw man that the politicians and media like to build up is by patronizing us and saying, “Hunters and sportsmen needn’t worry about the upcoming laws. We recognize your right to hunting and sporting purposes.” Apparently there is some phantom clause in the 2nd Amendment about the right to shooting trophy bucks and paper.
I guess I find it to be a prototypical case of Historical Revisionism 101 that anyone, knowing our country was born out of a rejection of a tyrannical government and that the “shot heard ‘round the world” was due to the attempted confiscation of arms from a weapons cache by colonists (read: average Americans) and that the revolutionary war was fought by American citizens using the military and cultural equivalent of an AR-15, could boil that down to an amendment about hunting and sporting events.
For high capacity magazines, specifically, if you know anything about gunfights, you know that they happen rapidly, and that the human body does funny things when under that kind of stress. Whether you are a police officer or Average Joe, it is difficult to shoot another person who is attempting to take your life or someone else’s, depending on the situation obviously.
Some people find themselves not just confronting one person also. As a group of business owners discovered during the Rodney King riots, sometimes an angry mob decides they want to burn your business down or drag you from your vehicle and bash your head in with a brick. When someone starts raining death down on you from the rooftop of his or her business, it tends to stymie your desire to loot and commit arson.
Sometimes you’re a mom at home by yourself and several men decide they want to break in. Maybe they’ll just take your flat screen, or maybe they’ll gang rape you and your kids and then slit your throats. Maybe 5 guys will break into your home and stab everyone. No one can say for certain, but I would feel a lot safer leaving my wife at home knowing she has every capability, adequate training, and experience to deal with people that come to destroy what is innocent and beautiful.
Think about the whole decade of the 1950’s. How many lynchings and mob murders committed against blacks could have been prevented if they were armed? It’s a well kept secret that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., probably the greatest example of non-violence in our country’s history, applied for a CCW in Alabama and was denied. He wasn’t a hypocrite—there is no dissonance between utilizing non-violence as a means of political and social change and protecting yourself and the people around you.
In fact, you can make certain, thanks to excellent laws like Castle Doctrine and Stand Your Ground, that the burden is placed not on the innocent, but on those who seek to steal, murder, and rape to prove otherwise.
I have an AR-15 because, like owning dozens of screwdrivers, each tool I have serves a different purpose. I carry a pistol when I’m running around town to defend myself and those around me from those who seek to murder and destroy, I deer hunt with a lever action rifle, I plink around with a .22 rifle, I shoot waterfowl and doves with a shotgun, and I target shoot and keep for home defense my AR-15. All of those weapons serve different purposes, and some of their purposes overlap, but each can do something that the rest cannot. I have an AR-15 because I am a law abiding citizen who loves his country and believes that the innocent should never be punished for the sins of the few. I have an AR-15 because over 200 years ago men and women bled and died for that right. As Senator Graham put it,
“Well, we had the assault weapons ban from 1994 to 2004 and the conclusion was, it did not change crime by banning assault weapons in an appreciable way, and last year with the lowest murder rate in the history of the United States, people buying more guns, murder rates have gone down — you are talking about preventing mass murder by mentally unstable persons,” Graham said. “You can’t take every sharp object out of the reach of people like this.”
The Gun Registration Myth
You’ve probably heard that a “common sense” gun law is to register weapons. I’ve always been puzzled by this because for the life of me, I can’t understand how it helps in any way in reducing crime. If a criminal steals your registered gun and wants to use it in a crime, even if the police recover the weapon, it only gets traced back to you, which obviously doesn’t prevent a crime or even solve one. That’s of course assuming that the criminal didn’t take 15 minutes to file off the serial number, which again would render the tracing of the weapon ineffectual.
What gun registration has led to is astronomical costs, massive non-compliance, and ultimately in several countries, eventual confiscation (as New Yorkers will soon find out). Canada created a registry several years ago but disbanded it after it cost over $2 Billion and caused no appreciable difference in crime.
“In 2002, the auditor-general revealed that the Firearms Centre had grown out of control. Despite political promises that the program would not cost over $2-million, costs were expected to exceed $1-billion by 2005. By 2012, this had ballooned to $2.7-billion.”
“An estimated 65% of firearms owners registered at least one rifle or shotgun, and no more than half of all long guns ended up in the registry.”
“Over a decade ago, Professor Brandon Centerwall of the University of Washington undertook an extensive, statistically sophisticated study comparing areas in the United States and Canada to determine whether Canada’s more restrictive policies had better contained criminal violence. When he published his results it was with the admonition: If you are surprised by [our] finding[s], so [are we]. [We] did not begin this research with any intent to “exonerate” handguns, but there it is—a negative finding, to be sure, but a negative finding is nevertheless a positive contribution. It directs us where not to aim public health resources (emphasis my own),” (Page 694, paragraph 1).
Germany instituted the 1938 German Weapons Act that relaxed German gun laws for everyone . . . except Jews. Among other things, it required handgun registration and barred Jews from manufacturing or dealing in firearms or ammunition. Then Regulations Against Jews’ Possession of Weapons was passed in November of 1938 banning altogether Jews from owning weapons. It’s no secret that this paved the way for the genocide of 12 million Jews.
You can read further about what oppressive governments do when their citizens are disarmed by reading about the Soviet Union under Stalin, Pol Pot in Cambodia, Mao Zedong in China, what happened to the Armenians in Turkey, and many others that killed tens of millions of their own here. The sheer number of those killed by their own governments blows out of the water those killed in WWI, WWII, and Vietnam combined.
This illustrates the greatest problem of gun registration. As soon as the state decides it doesn’t want a certain kind of people to be armed, they merely check the registry, go to those homes, and take them by force.
Incidentally, your 1st Amendment has as much worth as toilet paper when the government no longer has to fear its people.
The Gun Show “Loophole” And Internet Gun Purchase Myths
Undoubtedly you’ve heard of the gun show “loophole”—apparently a black hole where criminals buy all of their guns.
A gun show is a collection of vendors selling firearms, firearms accessories, and ammunition. Like any gunshop, all of the vendors are required to complete background checks on any purchases and must have a FFL (Federal Firearms License).
There is no difference between gun show vendors and any other business selling firearms.
The law does permit the private, person to person sale of firearms to anyone that is not a felon and does not require a background check. People call it the gun show “loophole” because people are allowed to walk around with their private weapons and can sell them to anyone interested. It is also important to note that many gun owners do get a background check anyways when selling to someone they don’t know and are held criminally liable for selling to someone who is a felon.
Again, it has long been a deceptionally crafted argument to call it a gun show loophole, when people are only doing what they normally could do from home or anywhere else. Banning the private sale of weapons doesn’t accomplish anything because as we have seen from the recent mass shooting, the weapons have been purchased legally or outright stolen.
Guns purchased on the internet are treated no differently than guns bought in a store. They must ship from a FFL dealer to another FFL dealer, with the recipient dealer required by law to do a background check on the person buying the weapon. Again, no different from buying from a gun shop.
If future laws aimed at preventing the illegal acquisition of firearms are easily bypassed, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to shackle the law-abiding people with additional laws that offer no solutions.
The Killer Was Wearing Body Armor/An Armed Citizen Would Only Cause More Damage Myths
It is often cited that a lot of these mass shooters are wearing body armor. If you are familiar with body armor you know that getting shot while wearing it (assuming the bullet doesn’t penetrate) is extremely painful and would more than likely render most people completely ineffective while follow up shots are directed at them.
Plenty of American soldiers have been killed by small arms fire despite wearing body armor. If you do a quick YouTube search, you will see that getting shot by a handgun while wearing body armor is extremely painful. Imagine getting shot like that and then attempting to shake it off and continue making accurate shots.
Furthermore, the face, limbs, and pelvic girdle are all still unprotected.
After the Aurora shooting, numerous pundits stated that if someone in that theater was armed, they would not have been able to stop the shooting. I’m not familiar with such defeatist logic, but I am puzzled at how a theater full of unarmed people being shot at are in further danger in the same scenario but with a fellow citizen who is armed with a handgun? Indeed, another crazed gunman entered a movie theater attempting to murder and was cornered and shot in the restroom by an off-duty police officer.
I don’t mean to be calloused when I say this, but what’s the worst that could happen? Even assuming the worst case scenario—the CCWer misses the killer and hits another citizen—is that result still worse than the murderer being uncontested? At least the killer has to stop targeting the unarmed patrons and has to deal with the immediate threat before him. That buys precious seconds for lots of people to get out of dodge, let along if the CCWer is actually making hits on the bad guy.
The aforementioned figures even stated, “Other studies have yielded hit rates per shot ranging from 8% in gunfights with police (Goehl, 1993, p. 8) to 50% in mass murders (Kleck, 1997, p. 144).”
This illustrates that when bad guys are being shot at or think they will be shot at, they suffer an 84% decrease in accuracy. It’s not hard to imagine that getting shot at and/or actually shot would be detrimental to your accuracy.
Contrary to the media narrative, there are multiple examples of people stopping mass shootings by using weapons (Appalachian School of Law Shooting, Clackamas Town Center Shooting, New Life Church shooting, and Police Officer Saved by Armed Citizen). It’s also hard to track because when a mass shooting is stopped, it is no longer a mass shooting and is thus no longer exceptional or good for ratings. Like preventing a disease, it’s usually hard to track the instances of crimes prevented.
“Cop Killer” Bullets
This one has largely died out, but every once in a while someone attempts to revive the argument that armor-piercing rounds should not be available for sale. As of yet, I have still never seen an example of armor-piercing ammunition being used to kill a police officer.
Again the greatest problem with the argument is that what is the definition of a armor piercing bullet? Many FMJ rounds of various calibers are capable of piercing armor because of their velocity. Banning them would eliminate a tremendous amount of ammunition available to the public.
Online Order of Ammunition/Ammunition Limitation Myth
There are frequent calls to develop databases to track ammo purchases, ban the online sale of ammunition, or laws to that effect. Again, a 3rd grader can think about ways around those. Say, any sale of 100 or more rounds triggers a database alert. People would just place orders of 99 rounds from various vendors. Of course, the fact of the matter is that given that the majority of murders are committed with 2-3 shots, this magical database still solves nothing. Better yet, anyone can just go to 3 or 4 different brick and mortar stores and do the same thing there.
Perhaps someone would argue that the database could keep track of total ammunition purchased. Again, all someone has to do, is just space out their purchases so as not to trigger the database. James Holmes, the Aurora shooter, spaced out his purchases over months.
Assuming the database gets an alert, what will the police do? Go to the person’s house after securing a warrant and do what? If everything has been legal, there is nothing they can do or prevent. And people like me, who shoot hundreds of rounds every month, would be spamming the database with alerts that accomplish nothing.
Even more, people can just make their own ammo using reloading presses.
Fixing the Problem of Unlawful Violence
If a friend of yours struggles with his or her weight, would you go in to their house and remove all of their silverware? Or, a more appropriate analogy would be to go to everyone else’s houses and remove their silverware. Why not? Well of course you would reason that the silverware is only the means to the end of eating food, or in this case eating too much of the wrong kind(s) of food, and certainly punishing other people who have no problem enjoying food responsibly is unfair and, well, illegal.
In other words it doesn’t address the root problem. Much like our current system of medicine, treating the symptoms and not the root cause is an exercise in futility. You can use scissors to cut the weeds in your garden, or you can pull them out by the root.
People blaming guns for violence is akin to an overweight person blaming the fork, an alcoholic blaming the bottle, and so on and so forth; there is something deeper going on that needs to be addressed, and once it is addressed, the exterior problem fixes itself.
You can call it evil, karma, or whatever you want, but the fact remains that no matter how many laws you pass, no matter how many freedoms you strip away, as long as people still have fists and feet, they are going to murder each other. Specifically, the lone gunman, mass killings are almost impossible to prevent because they are a single person who usually is not swapping emails or leaving an observable intelligence stream. If there isn’t a paper trail or obvious, overt signs and symptoms, there isn’t anything that can be done. Those people who seek to murder and destroy will always have the advantage over law-abiding citizens. What we can control however, is how much of an advantage we will allow them to have.
Timothy McVeigh murdered 168 people and wounded 450 with fertilizer and racing fuel.
Hijackers armed with only box-cutters murdered 2977 with airplanes.
Adam Lanza and James Holmes have come and gone, and as much as I hate to say it, there will be more. To quote Gavin DeBecker from his excellent book, The Gift of Fear,
“The institutions of psychiatry, law enforcement, and government have proved that no matter what our resources, you cannot reliably control the conduct of crazy people. It is not fair, but it is so.”
Frankly, solutions and analyses of what causes people to commit violence are beyond the scope of my abilities or time right now. I’m in my second year of a four year doctoral program, and I simply don’t have the ability to properly research such a complicated problem right now.
I do think that given repeat offenders’ propensities toward violence, the sheer volume of suicides/mental illness in this country, a disintegrating family unit, fathers abandoning their role in the lives of their children, and the media giving mass murderers unprecedented status and attention all contribute.
There are also interesting insights in this report on gang member violence.
What would be erroneous to say, however, is that any one of these factors is to blame. Are they contributing factors? Maybe, but the other side of maybe is maybe not. We don’t know. Wayne LaPierre, the NRA’s vice president, in his laughably ironic speech following the Sandy Hook massacre, laid the blame at the feet of video games. . . .while giving a speech about the foolishness of blaming firearms for the actions of murderous people. Ridiculous, and worse, has no statistical evidence (that I have seen) to support it.
As an aside, when you think about it, almost every single male that I know of plays or has spent considerable time playing violent video games. Thus, if it’s highly probably that any young male plays violent video games, to deduce that a young, male murderer went on the rampage because of violent video games is a classic confirmation bias.
But What About (Insert Country Here)?
The UK is usually the first country to be pointed to as an example of the benefits for gun control. I should clarify from the beginning that comparing different nations with different laws, different cultures, different demographics, and sheer geographical differences is not exactly scientific, but let’s look at the UK (and a few other nations) anyways.
Via Wikipedia, a summary of UK gun laws:
“Britain has had few firearms rampage incidents in modern times. During the latter half of the 20th century there were only two incidents in which people holding licensed firearms went on shooting sprees and killed on a large scale, the Hungerford massacre of 1987 and the Dunblane school massacre of 1996; each led to strong public and political demands to restrict firearm use, and tightening of laws. The result has been among the strictest firearms laws in the world. After Hungerford, the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 criminalised most semi-automatic long-barreled weapons (emphasis my own); it was generally supported by the Labour opposition although some Labour backbenchers thought it inadequate. After the second incident, the Firearms (Amendment) Act 1997 criminalised private possession of most handguns having a calibre over .22 (emphasis my own); the Snowdrop Campaign continued to press for a wider ban, and in 1997 the incoming Labour government introduced the Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Act, which extended this to most handguns with a calibre of .22 (there are exceptions for some antique handguns and black-powder revolvers.) The Cumbria shootings in 2010 led to 13 fatalities and 11 injured when Derrick Bird shot and killed three people connected to himself, and 12 others in an apparently random shooting spree before turning the gun on himself. Bird held legal permits for three shotguns and a rifle.”
So notice a few things off the bat. Britain had a couple horrible massacres happen, they were scared (rightfully so, to an extent), and they passed broad, sweeping laws that neutered the people of everything except .22 pistols, bolt action rifles, and shotguns, none of which are permitted for self defense.
Yet in 2010, in the Cumbria shootings, a man using only a shotgun and a bolt action rifle killed 12 and injured 11. He wasn’t even challenged, and police eventually found him dead in a wooded area from a self-inflicted gunshot. So despite all of their new laws and regulations, a man with a bolt action rifle and shotgun, firing from a moving vehicle killed almost as many as the 1997 Dunblane school massacre, where a gunman was shooting kids trapped in a school, that originally sparked all of the gun laws.
Certainly that is anecdotal, so what about more national, broad statistics?
In 2009, the Express, A UK paper, had the headline ‘KNIFINGS AND SHOOTINGS UP AS MURDER RATE SOARS’. The following are quotes from that article.
“Shocking statistics released last night show a 14 per cent increase in murder and manslaughter in England and Wales between 1998 and 2007.” (Note that the major gun laws were introduced in 1988 and 1997).
“There was also a 28 per cent increase in deaths from bladed weapons (emphasis my own). Those killed by shootings increased by the same figure. Most shockingly, there was a 57 per cent increase in deaths caused by punching and kicking (emphasis my own).”
So, rather than use firearms, people just stab, punch, and kick each other to death.
“Figures show 608 homicides in England and Wales in 1997-98, compared to 734 for 2006-07 – the latest year for which complete information is available.
The most common violent deaths last year came from use of sharp instruments – up from 201 in 1998-99 to 258 in 2006-07. Second was hitting or kicking, with 140 deaths.
But strangulation cases fell from 78 in 1998-99 to 54 in 2006-07 and there was decline in use of poison or drugs, from 47 to 25. Deaths from blunt instruments dropped from 65 to 41.”
“Separate figures out last week showed there were 9,967 gun-related crimes, a rise of 373 on 2006 (emphasis my own), although gun deaths fell from 56 to 49.”
So, despite handguns greater than .22 caliber having been illegal for 10 years, it appears there is no problem whatsoever attaining those weapons by criminals.
The following headline came from the UK Mail Online in 2009: The most violent country in Europe: Britain is also worse than South Africa and U.S. As follows are quotations.
“Britain’s violent crime record is worse than any other country in the European union, it has been revealed.
Official crime figures show the UK also has a worse rate for all types of violence than the U.S. and even South Africa – widely considered one of the world’s most dangerous countries.”
“In the decade following the party’s election in 1997, the number of recorded violent attacks soared by 77 per cent to 1.158million – or more than two every minute (emphasis my own).
The figures, compiled from reports released by the European Commission and United Nations, also show:
- The UK has the second highest overall crime rate in the EU.
- It has a higher homicide rate than most of our western European neighbours, including France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
- The UK has the fifth highest robbery rate in the EU.
- It has the fourth highest burglary rate and the highest absolute number of burglaries in the EU, with double the number of offences than recorded in Germany and France.
The U.S. has a violence rate of 466 crimes per 100,000 residents, Canada 935, Australia 92 and South Africa 1,609.
Shadow Home Secretary Chris Grayling said:
‘This is a damning indictment of this government’s comprehensive failure over more than a decade to tackle the deep rooted social problems in our society, and the knock on effect on crime and anti-social behaviour (emphasis my own).’”
Ah, someone who understands that you cannot legislate away moral bankruptcy. If you’re not convinced yet, you can read further. If you are, I encourage you to skip to the next section (A Trajectory for a Nanny State).
“One reason the extent of gun ownership in a society does not spur the murder rate is that murderers are not spread evenly throughout the population. Analysis of perpetrator studies shows that violent criminals—especially murderers—“almost uniformly have a long history of involvement in criminal behavior.”37 So it would not appreciably raise violence if all law abiding, responsible people had firearms because they are not the ones who rape, rob, or murder.38 By the same token, violent crime would not fall if guns were totally banned to civilians. As the respective examples of Luxembourg and Russia suggest,39 individuals who commit violent crimes will either find guns despite severe controls or will find other weapons to use. 40
Startling as the foregoing may seem, it represents the cross national norm, not some bizarre departure from it. If the mantra “more guns equal more death and fewer guns equal less death” were true, broad based cross‐national comparisons should show that nations with higher gun ownership per capita consistently have more death. Nations with higher gun ownership rates, however, do not have higher murder or suicide rates than those with lower gun ownership. Indeed many high gun ownership nations have much lower murder rates. Consider, for example, the wide divergence in murder rates among Continental European nations with widely divergent gun ownership rates.
The non‐correlation between gun ownership and murder is reinforced by examination of statistics from larger numbers of nations across the developed world. Comparison of “homicide and suicide mortality data for thirty‐six nations (including the United States) for the period 1990–1995” to gun ownership levels showed “no significant (at the 5% level) association between gun ownership levels and the total homicide rate.”41 Consistent with this is a later European study of data from 21 nations in which “no significant correlations [of gun ownership levels] with total suicide or homicide rates were found.”42
However unintentionally, the irrelevance of focusing on weaponry is highlighted by the most common theme in the more guns equal more death argument. Epitomizing this theme is a World Health Organization (WHO) report asserting, “The easy availability of firearms has been associated with higher firearm mortality rates.”43 The authors, in noting that the presence of a gun in a home corresponds to a higher risk of suicide, apparently assume that if denied firearms, potential suicides will decide to live rather than turning to the numerous alternative suicide mechanisms. The evidence, however, indicates that denying one particular means to people who are motivated to commit suicide by social, economic,
cultural, or other circumstances simply pushes them to some other means.44 Thus, it is not just the murder rate in gun‐less Russia that is four times higher than the American rate; the Russian suicide rate.” (Page 12, Paragraphs 2 Onward)
“To reiterate, the determinants of murder and suicide are basic social, economic, and cultural factors, not the prevalence of some form of deadly mechanism. In this connection, recall that the American jurisdictions which have the highest violent crime rates are precisely those with the most stringent gun controls.49 This correlation does not necessarily prove gun advocates’ assertion that gun controls actually encourage crime by depriving victims of the means of self defense. The explanation of this correlation may be political rather than criminological: jurisdictions afflicted with violent crime tend to severely restrict gun ownership. This, however, does not suppress the crime, for banning guns cannot alleviate the socio‐cultural and economic factors that are the real determinants of violence and crime rates.50 (Page 15, Paragraph 3)
Once again, we are not arguing that the data in Table 2 shows that gun control causes nations to have much higher murder rates than neighboring nations that permit handgun ownership. Rather, we assert a political causation for the observed correlation that nations with stringent gun controls tend to have much higher murder rates than nations that allow guns. The political causation is that nations which have violence problems tend to adopt severe gun controls, but these do not reduce violence, which is determined by basic socio-cultural and economic factors. The point is exemplified by the conclusions of the premier study of English gun control. Done by a senior English police official as his thesis at the Cambridge University Institute of Criminology and later published as a book, it found (as of the early 1970s), “Half a century of strict controls . . . has ended, perversely, with a far greater use of [handguns] in crime than ever before.” 51 The study also states that:
No matter how one approaches the figures, one is forced to the rather startling conclusion that the use of firearms in crime was very much less [in England before 1920] when there were no controls of any sort and when anyone, convicted criminal or lunatic, could buy any type of firearm without restriction.52
Of course the point of this analysis is not that the law should allow lunatics and criminals to own guns. The point is that violence will be rare when the basic socio‐cultural and economic determinants so dictate; and conversely, crime will rise in response to changes in those determinants—without much regard to the mere availability of some particular weaponry or the severity of laws against it.” (Page 16, Paragraph 1 Onward)
“There is a compound assertion that (a) guns are uniquely available in the United States compared with other modern developed nations, which is why (b) the United States has by far the highest murder rate. Though these assertions have been endlessly repeated, statement (b) is, in fact, false and statement (a) is substantially so.
Since at least 1965, the false assertion that the United States has the industrialized world’s highest murder rate has been an artifact of politically motivated Soviet minimization designed to hide the true homicide rates.2 Since well before that date, the Soviet Union possessed extremely stringent gun controls3 that were effectuated by a police state apparatus providing stringent enforcement.4 So successful was that regime that few Russian civilians now have firearms and very few murders involve them.5 Yet, manifest success in keeping its people disarmed did not prevent the Soviet Union from having far and away the highest murder rate in the developed world (emphasis my own).6 In the 1960s and early 1970s, the gun‐less Soviet Union’s murder rates paralleled or generally exceeded those of gun‐ridden America. While American rates stabilized and then steeply declined, however, Russian murder increased so drastically that by the early 1990s the Russian rate was three times higher than that of the United States (emphasis my own). Between 1998‐2004 (the latest figure available for Russia), Russian murder rates were nearly four times higher than American rates (emphasis my own). Similar murder rates also characterize the Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and various other now‐independent European nations of the former U.S.S.R.7 Thus, in the United States and the former Soviet Union transitioning into current‐day Russia, “homicide results suggest that where guns are scarce other weapons are substituted in killings (emphasis my own).”8 While American gun ownership is quite high, Table 1 shows many other developed nations (e.g., Norway, Finland, Germany, France, Denmark) with high rates of gun ownership. These countries, however, have murder rates as low or lower than many developed nations in which gun ownership is much rarer. For example, Luxembourg, where handguns are totally banned and ownership of any kind of gun is minimal, had a murder rate nine times higher than Germany in 2002.9 (Page 2, Paragraph 1 Onward)
“The same pattern appears when comparisons of violence to gun ownership are made within nations. Indeed, “data on firearms ownership by constabulary area in England,” like data from the United States, show “a negative correlation,”10 that is, “where firearms are most dense violent crime rates are lowest, and where guns are least dense violent crime rates are highest.” 11 Many different data sets from various kinds of sources are summarized as follows by the leading text:
[T]here is no consistent significant positive association between gun ownership levels and violence rates: across (1) time within the United States, (2) U.S. cities, (3) counties within Illinois, (4) country‐sized areas like England, U.S. states, (5) regions of the United States, (6) nations, or (7) population subgroups . . . .12”
“A second misconception about the relationship between firearms and violence attributes Europe’s generally low homicide rates to stringent gun control. That attribution cannot be accurate since murder in Europe was at an all‐time low before the gun controls were introduced.13 For instance, virtually the only English gun control during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries was the practice that police patrolled without guns. During this period gun control prevailed far less in England or Europe than in certain American states which nevertheless had—and continue to have—murder rates that were and are comparatively very high.14 (Page 5, Final Paragraph)
In this connection, two recent studies are pertinent. In 2004, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences released its evaluation from a review of 253 journal articles, 99 books, 43 government publications, and some original empirical research. It failed to identify any gun control that had reduced violent crime, suicide, or gun accidents.15 The same conclusion was reached in 2003 by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s review of the nextant studies.16 (Page 6, Paragraph 1)
Stringent gun controls were not adopted in England and Western Europe until after World War I. Consistent with the outcomes of the recent American studies just mentioned, these strict controls did not stem the general trend of ever‐growing violent crime throughout the post‐WWII industrialized world including the United States and Russia. Professor Malcolm’s study of English gun law and violent crime summarizes that nation’s nineteenth and twentieth century experience as follows:
The peacefulness England used to enjoy was not the result of strict gun laws. When it had no firearms restrictions [nineteenth and early twentieth century] England had little violent crime, while the present extraordinarily stringent gun controls have not stopped the increase in violence or even the increase in armed violence.17
Armed crime, never a problem in England, has now become one. Handguns are banned but the Kingdom has millions of illegal firearms. Criminals have no trouble finding them and exhibit a new willingness to use them. In the decade after 1957, the use of guns in serious crime increased a hundredfold.18 (Page 6, Paragraph 2)
“In the late 1990s, England moved from stringent controls to a complete ban of all handguns and many types of long guns. Hundreds of thousands of guns were confiscated from those owners law‐abiding enough to turn them in to authorities. Without suggesting this caused violence, the ban’s ineffectiveness was such that by the year 2000 violent crime had so increased that England and Wales had Europe’s highest violent crime rate, far surpassing even the United States.19 Today, English news media headline violence in terms redolent of the doleful, melodramatic language that for so long characterized American news reports.20 One aspect of England’s recent experience deserves note, given how often and favorably advocates have compared English gun policy to its American counterpart over the past 35 years.21 A generally unstated issue in this notoriously emotional debate was the effect of the Warren Court and later restrictions on police powers on American gun policy. Critics of these decisions pointed to soaring American crime rates and argued simplistically that such decisions caused, or at least hampered, police in suppressing crime. But to some supporters of these judicial decisions, the example of England argued that the solution to crime was to restrict guns, not civil liberties. To gun control advocates, England, the cradle of our liberties, was a nation made so peaceful by strict gun control that its police did not even need to carry guns. The United States, it was argued, could attain such a desirable situation by radically reducing gun ownership, preferably by banning and confiscating handguns. (Page 7, Paragraph 1)
The results discussed earlier contradict those expectations. On the one hand, despite constant and substantially increasing gun ownership, the United States saw progressive and dramatic reductions in criminal violence in the 1990s. On the other hand, the same time period in the United Kingdom saw a constant and dramatic increase in violent crime to which England’s response was ever‐more drastic gun control including, eventually, banning and confiscating all handguns and many types of long guns.22 Nevertheless, criminal violence rampantly increased so that by 2000 England surpassed the United States to become one of the developed world’s most violence‐ridden nations. (Page 8, Paragraph 1)
To conserve the resources of the inundated criminal justice system, English police no longer investigate burglary and “minor assaults.”23 As of 2006, if the police catch a mugger, robber, or burglar, or other “minor” criminal in the act, the policy is to release them with a warning rather than to arrest and prosecute them.24 It used to be that English police vehemently opposed the idea of armed policing. Today, ever more police are being armed. Justifying the assignment of armed squads to block roads and carry out random car searches, a police commander asserts: “It is a massive deterrent to gunmen if they think that there are going to be armed police.”25 How far is that from the rationale on which 40 American states have enacted laws giving qualified, trained citizens the right to carry concealed guns? Indeed, news media editorials have appeared in England arguing that civilians should be allowed guns for defense.26 There is currently a vigorous controversy over proposals (which the Blair government first endorsed but now opposes) to amend the law of self‐defense to protect victims from prosecution for using deadly force against burglars.27 (Page 9, Paragraph 1)
The divergence between the United States and the British Commonwealth became especially pronounced during the 1980s and 1990s. During these two decades, while Britain and the Commonwealth were making lawful firearm ownership increasingly difficult, more than 25 states in the United States passed laws allowing responsible citizens to carry concealed handguns. There are now 40 states where qualified citizens can obtain such a handgun permit.28 As a result, the number of U.S. citizens allowed to carry concealed handguns in shopping malls, on the street, and in their cars has grown to 3.5 million men and women.29 Economists John Lott and David Mustard have suggested that these new laws contributed to the drop in homicide and violent crime rates. Based on 25 years of correlated statistics from all of the more than 3,000 American counties, Lott and Mustard conclude that adoption of these statutes has deterred criminals from confrontation crime and caused murder and violent crime to fall faster in states that adopted this policy than in states that did not.30 (Page 9, Paragraph 2)
As indicated in the preceding footnote, the notion that more guns reduce crime is highly controversial. What the controversy has obscured from view is the corrosive effect of the Lott and Mustard work on the tenet that more guns equal more murder. As previously stated, adoption of state laws permitting millions of qualified citizens to carry guns has not resulted in more murder or violent crime in these states. Rather, adoption of these statutes has been followed by very significant reductions in murder and violence in these states. (Page 11, Paragraph 1)
To determine whether this expansion of gun availability caused reductions in violent crime requires taking account of various other factors that might also have contributed to the decline. For instance, two of Lottʹs major critics, Donohue and Levitt, attribute much of the drop in violent crime that started in 1990s to the legalization of abortion in the 1970s, which they argue resulted in the non‐birth of vast numbers of children who would have been disproportionately involved in violent crime had they existed in the 1990s.31 (Page 11, Paragraph 2)
The Lott‐Mustard studies did not address the Donohue‐Levitt thesis. Lott and Mustard did account, however, for two peculiarly American phenomena which many people believed may have been responsible for the 1990s crime reduction: the dramatic increase of the United States prison population and the number of executions. The prison population in the United States tripled during this time period, jumping from approximately 100 prisoners per 100,000 in the late 1970s to more than 300 per 100,000 people in the general population in the early 1990s.32 In addition, executions in the United States soared from approximately 5 per year in the early 1980s to more than 27 per year in the early 1990s.33 Neither of these trends is reflected in Commonwealth countries. (Page 11, Paragraph 3)
Although the reason is thus obscured, the undeniable result is that violent crime, and homicide in particular, has plummeted in the United States over the past 15 years.34 The fall in the American crime rate is even more impressive when compared with the rest of the world. In 18 of the 25 countries surveyed by the British Home Office, violent crime increased during the 1990s.35 This contrast should induce thoughtful people to wonder what happened in those nations, and to question policies based on the notion that introducing increasingly more restrictive firearm ownership laws reduces violent crime. Perhaps the United States is doing something right in promoting firearms for law‐abiding responsible adults. Or perhaps the United States’ success in lowering its violent crime rate relates to increasing its prison population or its death sentences. 36 Further research is required to identify more precisely which elements of the United States’ approach are the most important, or whether all three elements acting in concert were necessary to reduce violent crimes.” (Page 12, Paragraph 1)
The authors’ summation:
“This Article has reviewed a significant amount of evidence from a wide variety of international sources. Each individual portion of evidence is subject to cavil—at the very least the general objection that the persuasiveness of social scientific evidence cannot remotely approach the persuasiveness of conclusions in the physical sciences. Nevertheless, the burden of proof rests on the proponents of the more guns equal more death and fewer guns equal less death mantra, especially since they argue public policy ought to be based on that mantra.149 To bear that burden would at the very least require showing that a large number of nations with more guns have more death and that nations that have imposed stringent gun controls have achieved substantial reductions in criminal violence (or suicide). But those correlations are not observed when a large number of nations are compared across the world (emphasis my own).” (Page 45, Paragraph 2)
A Trajectory for a Nanny State
Government by definition will always be able to do its job better if it has more controls over the people. The very essence of government is an entity that will always seek to grow and expand, metastasizing into every pie it can stick its fingers into. It’s not some conspiracy or evil intent from the folks who work there—I legitimately believe they’re just trying to do their jobs better. But the government’s ability to do its job best, like any business or organization, will ultimately reach a crossroads where it is no longer seeking what is best for everyone else (read: us) and is seeking what is best for itself.
I’m not using the following example for its negative qualities–it’s just the best analogy. Cancer happens when normal, good cellular machinery essentially gets high-jacked, and the cancerous mass of tissue begins creating new blood vessels, hogging more and more glucose and fatty acids, and doing whatever it is able to in order to keep growing and expanding. It’s not that the cancer has an evil bent toward your destruction, it is just ensuring its own survival, unfortunately to your detriment.
This isn’t a conservative or liberal argument. President Bush let the original 1994 AWB expire in 2004, and President Obama, during his first term signed into law the ability to carry firearms into national parks.
At what point does the pursuit of our safety and defense outstrip and usurp the very ideals and reasons our nation was started to begin with? Just as WMD’s and false information obtained from torture were used as a pretext for the Iraq war, what do you think will happen when the new legislation (that has a documented failure to prevent gun violence) fails to prevent gun violence? There is then a pretext to say, ‘See! Look, we need even more laws to reign in gun violence!’ That was surely the main agenda with Operation Fast and Furious. The government rarely admits it is wrong and even rarer, relinquishes power. Along the liberty and security continuum, there is a distinct point where they diverge and never come back together.
Liberty or security. Pick one. Life plays by Big Boy rules, and there isn’t a free lunch to be had.
In the UK, now that stabbings are skyrocketing, physicians have decided that the public can’t be trusted with kitchen knives. No, you didn’t read me wrong—they are calling for a ban on kitchen knives. If I was writing a parody article for what the Nanny State is, I could not have written something more appropriate than this article. Like the administration at UCLA, when their goal of lowering LDL cholesterol were met and 75% of people were still having heart attacks, they just lowered the target goal even more rather than thinking that perhaps their premise was wrong from the outset.
It’s advertised that some utopian fantasy camp awaits us in the future, where we will all love each other, and selfishness and broken relationships will evaporate because we no longer have firearms around. Like a desert mirage, the promise is always that the crystal-clear water is just over the horizon. It is a snake-oil solution to a very real problem; you cannot legislate out the human condition.
Do you think Germany in 1933 would have ever guessed that in less than 10 years they would have either actively participated in or stood silent while 12 million of their friends, neighbors, countrymen, and countrywomen were exterminated like valueless animals?
Germany’s economy was in ruins (sound familiar?) because they were being forced to pay war reparations from WWI, they were humiliated both from defeat and having had to pay aforementioned reparations, and they were leaderless and scared. Does anyone make good decisions when they are scared and feel helpless? What happened when German citizens turned a blind eye to some obvious character flaws of the young, enigmatic, Adolf Hitler, who powerfully led them out of their ruin and into the “glory” of the Third Reich?
You’re probably thinking, ‘Yes, but surely we would never commit genocide here!’ We already have and currently are. Last year alone, over 300,000 children were aborted. That’s on top of over 30 million aborted since Roe vs. Wade. Our government mobilizes and moves mountains when 26 children are brutally murdered in a school, but couldn’t care less about the 300,000 this year who had no advocates and no voices. We can dance around the issue, use scientific jargon, and call them fetuses, but the fact is that tens of millions of people have been stripped of their lives. Our children and grandchildren will look back on us with revulsion, as we have looked back on those who enslaved their fellow humans years ago.
Keep in mind that this is the same country that gave Native Americans smallpox blankets and all but wiped their culture from the face of the Earth. The same country that allowed for over 100 years the enslavement of an entire ethnic group. The same country that disarmed its own Japanese-American citizens and placed them in concentration camps on American soil during WWII. The same nation that dropped two atomic bombs on the civilian cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and firebombed the civilian city of Dresden. The same country that has held (and is still holding) detainees in Guantanamo for a decade without charges or trial. The same country that forced gun stores near the border to sell guns to cartel members and/or their straw buyers with the intent of picking them up after they were used in crimes. The same country that has tortured people in the war on terror.
That’s the tip of the iceberg and only what I could conjure from memory.
I’m not a terrorist sympathizer, but America is better than that. What has always made this nation great is the ideal that we don’t stoop to the level of our enemies. We have certainly betrayed that at times, but by and large this country has been about freedom from tyranny and safeguarding the liberties and rights of not just Americans but many the world over.
I’m not discounting the job that our police, federal agencies, and military do to keep us and our liberties safe; the sheer volume of constant threats they face is overwhelming. Those men and women wade daily through the most horrific atrocities that humans can commit against one another, so it is not surprising that they desire more tools to do their jobs better. I can’t emphasize enough the great job they do and how much I admire and look up to them.
If you think this whole stink is only about the 2nd Amendment, you’re kidding yourself. When you let people crap where you eat long enough, your food starts to taste funny. The other amendments will follow, as the 2nd Amendment is the only teeth that protect the 1st from being anything other than a suggestion.
Gun control is by nature an Orwellian, Hunger-Games esque, collectivist punishment. We’re all equal, it’s just some of us are apparently more equal than others. As Ronald Reagan said,
“We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.”
There were some other people in our past that supported gun control. They were slave owners. As it turns out, it’s really difficult to enslave other humans when they’re allowed to have weapons.
David Gregory, while talking about gun control, held a 30 round, high capacity magazine on national TV, while being in Washington D.C. This was illegal, and his studio had already reached out to the local police to see if it was legal. The police informed them that it would not be legal, but they proceeded to do it anyways.
“The argument for letting him walk rests on his membership of a protected class — the media. Notwithstanding that (per Gallup) 54 percent of Americans have a favorable opinion of the NRA while only 40 percent have any trust in the media, the latter regard themselves as part of the ruling class. Which makes the rest of you the ruled. Laws are for the little people — and little people need lots of little laws, ensnaring them at every turn (emphasis my own).”
David Brock, founder of Media Matters, was discovered to have been guarded by two men armed with Glocks while accepting a $400,000 donation for the advancement of gun control from the pro-gun control Joyce Foundation. “Brock reportedly told confidantes that he feared for his safety and needed hired guns to keep him safe.” It was lost on him that that’s the whole point of the laws he was trying to destroy.
The very nature of all criminality is about leveraging strength against weakness.
That’s why gun free zones get targeted whenever anyone wants to inflict the most terror. How many mass shootings happen at the police station? Why? Because these murderers are just like terrorists—cowards leveraging their strengths against those who are unable to defend themselves.
President Obama goes nowhere without the finest PSD (protective services detail) in the nation, armed to the teeth and ready to pour out the wrath of God on anyone who so much as farts in his general direction. Their rules of engagement are simple—any threat is terminated with extreme prejudice, regardless of collateral damage.
I’m not criticizing the President—he and all other presidents should be protected from all threats (and the threats against them are constant).
But there is something perverse about politicians (and even media personas), who spend most of their waking hours surrounded by armed security, signing laws that say that “the rest of you”, despite obeying the laws, are not worthy of that right.
Stefan Molyneux said it best,
“If you are for gun control, then you are not against guns, because the guns will be needed to disarm people. So it’s not that you are anti-gun. You’ll need the police’s guns to take away other people’s guns. So you’re very Pro-Gun, you just believe that only the Government (which is, of course, so reliable, honest, moral, and virtuous…) should be allowed to have guns. There is no such thing as gun control. There is only centralizing gun ownership in the hands of a small, political elite and their minions.”