The Science of Guns Proves Arming Untrained Citizens Is a Bad Idea

Source: Scientific American

Author: Michael Shermer

(N.B.: Consider the source)

“According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 31,672 people died by guns in 2010 (the most recent year for which U.S. figures are available), a staggering number that is orders of magnitude higher than that of comparable Western democracies. What can we do about it? National Rifle Association executive vice president Wayne LaPierre believes he knows: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” If LaPierre means professionally trained police and military who routinely practice shooting at ranges, this observation would at least be partially true. If he means armed private citizens with little to no training, he could not be more wrong.

Consider a 1998 study in the Journal of Trauma and Acute Care Surgery that found that “every time a gun in the home was used in a self-defense or legally justifiable shooting, there were four unintentional shootings, seven criminal assaults or homicides, and 11 attempted or completed suicides.” Pistol owners’ fantasy of blowing away home-invading bad guys or street toughs holding up liquor stores is a myth debunked by the data showing that a gun is 22 times more likely to be used in a criminal assault, an accidental death or injury, a suicide attempt or a homicide than it is for self-defense. I harbored this belief for the 20 years I owned a Ruger .357 Magnum with hollow-point bullets designed to shred the body of anyone who dared to break into my home, but when I learned about these statistics, I got rid of the gun.

More insights can be found in a 2013 book from Johns Hopkins University Press entitled Reducing Gun Violence in America: Informing Policy with Evidence and Analysis, edited by Daniel W. Webster and Jon S. Vernick, both professors in health policy and management at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. In addition to the 31,672 people killed by guns in 2010, another 73,505 were treated in hospital emergency rooms for nonfatal bullet wounds, and 337,960 nonfatal violent crimes were committed with guns. Of those 31,672 dead, 61 percent were suicides, and the vast majority of the rest were homicides by people who knew one another.

For example, of the 1,082 women and 267 men killed in 2010 by their intimate partners, 54 percent were shot by guns. Over the past quarter of a century, guns were involved in greater number of intimate partner homicides than all other causes combined. When a woman is murdered, it is most likely by her intimate partner with a gun. Regardless of what really caused Olympic track star Oscar Pistorius to shoot his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp (whether he mistook her for an intruder or he snapped in a lover’s quarrel), her death is only the latest such headline. Recall, too, the fate of Nancy Lanza, killed by her own gun in her own home in Connecticut by her son, Adam Lanza, before he went to Sandy Hook Elementary School to murder some two dozen children and adults. As an alternative to arming women against violent men, legislation can help: data show that in states that prohibit gun ownership by men who have received a domestic violence restraining order, gun-caused homicides of intimate female partners have been reduced by 25 percent.

Another myth to fall to the facts is that gun-control laws disarm good people and leave the crooks with weapons. Not so, say the Johns Hopkins authors: “Strong regulation and oversight of licensed gun dealers—defined as having a state law that required state or local licensing of retail firearm sellers, mandatory record keeping by those sellers, law enforcement access to records for inspection, regular inspections of gun dealers, and mandated reporting of theft of loss of firearms—was associated with 64 percent less diversion of guns to criminals by in-state gun dealers.”

Finally, before we concede civilization and arm everyone to the teeth pace the NRA, consider the primary cause of the centuries-long decline of violence as documented by Steven Pinker in his 2011 book The Better Angels of Our Nature: the rule of law by states that turned over settlement of disputes to judicial courts and curtailed private self-help justice through legitimate use of force by police and military trained in the proper use of weapons.”

This article was originally published with the title Gun Science.

Emphasis Mine


History, culture, mistrust combined to defeat gun control effort

Source: McClatchy

(N.B.: when we use the frame ‘gun control’, our message fails; when we use ‘reduced gun violence’, our message succeeds.

It might also be noted that as the First Amendment does not protect the dissemination of child pornography; the Second does not protect unlimited access to firearms of any type.)

Author: David Lightman

Why is it so hard for even the most modest gun-control effort to succeed?

The easy answer is the power of the gun lobby, but the obstacles are far more complex. Growing numbers of people distrust Washington. A deeply rooted gun culture sees big government as a threat to its security, not to mention its constitutional rights. Members of Congress from conservative areas are well aware that votes on gun control, even in baby steps, are politically perilous.

Gun control advocates thought their task would be so different this week. President Barack Obama was making a passionate, heartfelt pitch unlike almost any he’d made before during his presidency. A congressional colleague, former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., who was severely wounded during the Tucson shootings two years ago, visited the Capitol to make her plea. Families of recent shooting victims visited senators and watched them vote.

But what began as an energetic effort to finally get something new on the books wound up in defeat after defeat, and on Thursday the bill was pulled. There’s no telling when it will return or what might change if it does, because switching votes is going to require changing some profoundly held views.

The biggest hurdle is overcoming the long-simmering, ever-growing public fear that government is too intrusive and incompetent. That attitude almost scuttled the 2010 health care law, as people resented government forcing them to buy coverage. People also became concerned that “death panels” would be created to determine who’d live or die.

They weren’t, but Republicans have tried nearly three dozen times to repeal the law, which will require nearly everyone to obtain health insurance next year or pay a fine. More government intrusion, they say.

The resistance to more gun control follows a similar pattern.

“There certainly is an erosion of trust and confidence in the competence of government,” said Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, one of four Republicans who voted to toughen background checks. “People often don’t trust government to protect them, and there’s a very distressing lack of any confidence government will keep its word.”

A Pew Research Center survey this month found that only 13 percent of Republicans have favorable views of the federal government, compared with 27 percent of independents and 41 percent of Democrats. Gun rights advocates argue that if Washington wants to gain some trust, it should enforce the laws that already are on the books.

“More gun laws are not the solution,” said Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho. And when gun control advocates try even to tinker with gun laws, they tinker with what Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., called “the depth of feeling about the Second Amendment.”

Millions of Americans grow up with guns in the home, for hunting, self-defense and other uses. “In northern Maine, guns are part of the lifestyle,” Collins said.

Learning to use a gun is as common as learning to drive a car or use hand tools, and any effort by Washington to infringe on that right is viewed with suspicion. That’s why even a mild form of gun control – expanding background checks to gun shows and online sales while exempting private transactions – got nowhere.

“People see it as the nose under the camel’s tent,” former Senate Republican leader Trent Lott said. “They ask, ‘Where does this end?’ ”

Add to this mix some raw politics. Of the five Democrats who voted against expanded background checks, three face difficult re-elections next year: Montana’s Max Baucus, Alaska’s Mark Begich and Arkansas’ Mark Pryor. North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp, whose state Obama lost last year by nearly 20 percentage points, joined them. So did Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada, though he voted no only for procedural reasons.

While polls suggest that the senators’ re-elections probably won’t be won or lost on gun issues, gun interests are well-heeled and offer a simple explanation as to why the background check plan was misguided.

“Expanding background checks, at gun shows or elsewhere, will not reduce violent crime or keep our kids safe in their schools,” said Chris Cox, the executive director of the Institute for Legislative Action, the political and lobbying arm of the National Rifle Association.

Change is especially difficult in this age of polarization. An NBC News analysis found that 39 of the votes against the expanded background checks came from senators in states that Obama didn’t carry. Two of the swing votes who sided with the opponents, Nevada’s Dean Heller and New Hampshire’s Kelly Ayotte, both Republicans, were from states that Obama won.

If a gun control measure makes it to the House of Representatives, the red-blue state divide is likely to be more obvious. Republicans control 233 of the 435 seats there, and districts often are so carefully drawn that most are downright politically monolithic.

Will the gun control forces’ task get any easier? They say yes, that as people become more educated, as Obama presses harder, as the victims’ families keep up the heat, people will come around.

It won’t be that easy, said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who explained, “It’s very hard for someone from a gun culture to vote for gun control.” Email:; Twitter: @lightmandavid

Again, vote for ‘reduced gun violence’, not ‘gun control’!

Emphasis Mine



Everything You Need To Know About Obama’s Gun Violence Prevention Proposals

From: Think Progress

By: Annie-Rose Strasser

“In a press conference on Wednesday, President Obama outlined a sweeping effort to prevent gun violence in the United States. Surrounded by children who had written him letters voicing their desire to see gun laws passed, Obama announced that he will sign 23 executive orders and bring a set of proposals to Congress.

The President referenced one child’s letter that read, “I know that laws have to be passed by Congress, but I beg you to try very hard.”

“I promise that I will try very hard,” he said.

Obama also condemned lawmakers who vocally resist any new gun measures, pointing out that the gun policies of Ronald Reagan were more reasonable.

The initiatives cover everything from mental heath, to gun safety, to blocking the most deadly firearms from making it to market. Here are some of the most important efforts the President introduced today:

1. Making background checks universal. Obama wants every single gun owner to go through a proper background check, so it can be determined whether they have a criminal history or diagnosed mental illness. He wants Congress to close the gun show loophole that allows people at gun shows, and private buyers of used weapons, to avoid getting checked. He will also, through executive action, urge private sellers to conduct background checks, even if they aren’t mandatory.

2. Improving state reporting of criminals and the mentally ill. While all states are required to report to the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) people who should not have access to guns, some states are sluggish about putting the data into the system. Obama will put more money into the hands of the states so that they can improve their reporting systems, and issue stronger guidelines to let states know when they should report people. Obama will also, through Presidential Memorandum, work to make sure agencies are regularly entering data into NICS.

3. Banning assault weapons. This is likely the most difficult battle Obama will undertake. He wants to reinstate the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, which outlaws military-grade weapons, like the AR-15 used by Newtown gunman Adam Lanza and by Aurora Theater gunman James Holmes. Obama wants Congress to pass the ban, and close some of the loopholes identified in its 1994 iteration.

4. Capping magazine clip capacity at 10 bullets. A military-grade weapon is dangerous, but so are its accessories: Obama proposes banning all extended magazine clips that hold over 10 bullets. Huge magazine clips allow a gunman to fire off hundreds of rounds without having to stop, even once, to reload. The high-capacity magazine ban was also part of the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban.

5. Purging armor-piercing bullets. The sale of armor piercing ammunition has been banned for quite some time, but is still legal to posess such bullets. Obama is calling on Congress to outlaw ownership and transfer of these bullets, instead of just the sale. Those who oppose any gun laws try to spin a ban on armor piercing bullets as a ban on deer hunting ammunition, but such ammo has the ability to penetrate bullet-proof vests, and is more colloquially known as “cop killer bullets.”

6. Funding police officers. Obama wants Congress to reverse its course of austerity for public employees by approving $4 billion to fund police enforcement around the country.

7. Strengthening gun tracking. In order to track weapons that are used for crimes, Obama will issue a memorandum mandating that all agencies trace back firearms. This means that any agency in the country must trace guns used in crimes back to their original owners, as a way to help collect data on where criminal weapons are coming from. Obama will also ask Congress to allow law enforcement to do background checks on guns seized during investigations.

8. Supporting research on gun violence. Obama hopes to be able to gather more information on gun violence and misuse of firearms, and use that data to inform the work of law enforcement. He also wants to restart research, which has been long blocked by the National Rifle Association, on how video games, the media, and violence affect violent gun crimes. The Centers for Disease Control will immediately begin these efforts, but Obama also is calling on Congress to add $10 million to the pot of funding for such research.

9. Encouraging mental health providers to get involved. In order to make sure that those with homicidal thoughts are unable to access the weapons with which to kill, Obama seeks to encourage mental health professionals to alert authorities to such people. He will clarify that doing so is not in violation of patient privacy laws. He also wants to dispel the idea that Obamacare prevents doctors from talking to patients about guns.

10. Promoting safe gun ownership. The administration will start a “responsible gun ownership” campaign to encourage gun owners to lock up their firearms. He will also work with the Consumer Product Safety Commission to make sure safes and gun locks on the market are effective. He’s also calling on the justice department to help him come up with new gun safety technology.

11. Funding school counseling. Obama is calling on Congress to fund the positions of 1,000 news school counselors. The funding will come both through the already-existent COPS Hiring Grant, and through a new Comprehensive School Safety program that Congress will need to sign off on. The latter would put #150 million into funding for new counselors and social workers in schools.

12. Encouraging safe, anti-bullying school environments. Over 8,000 schools could receive new funding — $50 million — under Obama’s plan to encourage safer school environments. Obama wants to help at-risk students by creating a “school climate survey” that will collect data on what services students need, and to remedy any problems by putting professionals into schools. The administration will also issue guidelines on school discipline policies.

13. Recognizing the mental health needs of low-income Americans.Medicaid recipients already qualify for some mental health services, but Obama would like to expand that service so that low-income Americans have the same access to professional help as those who have money to pay for it on their own. Obama will issue a directive to heads of state health programs, enforcing “mental health parity” — the idea that mental health should be treated as a priority as important as physical health.”

Emphasis Mine