Gun control blogger MikeB302000 believes that 10 percent of American gun owners are “gunloons”: people who are psychologically unfit for firearms ownership. MikeB bases his theory on anecdotal evidence: reckless, violent and/or unstable gun owners who shoot someone who doesn’t need shooting. God knows there’s plenty of grist for that gruesome mill. And if He doesn’t, He needs to read the anti-gun blogs, which chronicle the carnage with messianic zeal. Before I make the “What Me Worry?” case against gun control, gun rights proponents shouldn’t dismiss the horrific reality at which their enemies jab their collective metaphorical finger. So here’s a sample from the Violence Policy Center’s (VPC) Concealed Carry Killers December Update . . .
In December 2010, Florida concealed handgun permit holder and drug dealer Emanuel “Emma” Laboy Rivera, 26, [above] allegedly shot and killed Lekeefe Lee, 25, the result of a drug deal gone bad. According to news reports, Rivera, who dealt drugs out of his home, had agreed to sell Lee three ounces of marijuana for $900. Lee, who had no cash on him, took only two ounces, leaving his .380 handgun with Rivera as collateral. A half hour later Lee returned to Rivera’s home and took his handgun and the remaining ounce of marijuana without paying Rivera. As Lee attempted to leave, Rivera fired his Glock pistol into Lee’s car, hitting and killing him. Because of Florida’s Castle law, which allows the use of lethal force in cases of perceived threat, Rivera was not charged with homicide (even though the law does not apply to a person who is engaged in unlawful activity). Rivera was instead charged with two felony counts of delivery of drugs and use of a gun in the commission of a felony.
The VPC’s reliance on this anecdote to promote their pro-gun control agenda illustrates a few important points. First, people do bad things. Second, people with concealed carry weapons permits (CCW) do bad things. Third, there’s not a lot you can do about it. (Mr. Rivera was not a felon at the time of his permit application.) And fourth, without proper context, even the most horrific anecdotes are meaningless—at least from a public policy point of view.
There’s your trouble: gun control advocates’ blatant manipulation of context—most often via the sin of omission. They repeatedly and deliberately fail to provide a realistic framework for their anecdotal evidence. No surprise there. Any such intellectual exercise undermines their existence, their raison d’etre. To show you how this works, let’s take another look at the Rivera gun crime, starting with some extremely basic analysis:
Agreed: people do bad things. All the time. Some involving guns. Some not. That said, the total number of citizens (or undocumented guests) who engage in any criminal behavior is relatively insignificant. The vast majority of people living within our borders obey the law, whether that’s firearms regulations or anti-smoking provisions. Statistically speaking, Americans do not commit, nor become a victim of, gun crimes.
Agreed: people with concealed carry permits do bad things with guns. Obviously. But most don’t. Wikipedia reports that Florida has 767,739 licensed permit holders. In 2009, the Sunshine State had 1,017 murders. If you ascribed ALL of these killings to CCW licensees, “concealed carry killers” would still represent less than one percent of Florida’s total pistol-packing population. Strip out non-CCW-holder-related murders and the number could be as low as less than one half of one percent.
In other words, ANY story of a concealed carry killer in Florida is statistically irrelevant. As a group, Florida’s CCW holders don’t constitute a crime ripple, never mind a wave. Equally germane, the total number of murders in Florida is minuscule. A thousand killings out of a total state population of approximately 16 million proves that Florida’s existing laws and enforcement are close enough for rock and roll.
The numbers don’t lie. Gun control advocates do. Their efforts to convince people that gun crime presents a clear and present danger to society is generally, inherently misleading. Instead of dealing with public policy on a rational basis, they make their call for action based on a simple but effective premise: gun violence sucks. The VPC and its ilk rely on emotional revulsion to motivate voters and politicians to take that next, fateful step, to increase firearms regulation. Something must be done!
Because gun crime is ugly, we, as civilized people, must entrust out duly elected government to stop it (Constitutional rights be damned). Assuming, of course, that such a thing is possible. Which common sense and international experience (e.g., Britain, China and Australia) suggest it isn’t. Also assuming that individuals have more to fear from gun crime than a government powers to combat it. That’s an argument for another day. Suffice it to say, I reject the idea that America’s gun crime problem is significant, period.
Don’t get me wrong: gun crime is the most important thing in the world to people who’ve been shot, or know/love someone who was shot, or live in a community where gun crime is common. As the gun control folks love to point out, some 30,000 people die by gunshot each year. But American society shouldn’t get its knickers in a twist about gun violence (i.e. abridge citizens’ Second Amendment rights) because, relatively speaking, that’s a small number for a country of around 300 million people.
That’s a perspective that gun control advocates can’t abide, along with the anecdote-hungry mainstream media. To wit this, from politifact.com: Portland Mayor Sam Adams says “four out of 10 homicides in this city are committed by gun.”
Portland Mayor Sam Adams has thrown out a number of statistics in pitching his five-point plan to reduce gun and youth violence in the city. But this number stuck out: He said at a council session that “four out of 10 homicides in this city are committed by gun.” . . .
After checking the stats, the website concludes “We find the statement made by Adams to be True.” (True with a capital T, no less.) True yes, but what of its importance? If firearms account for “just” forty percent of Portland’s homicides, why did the City Council enact draconian, unconstitutional ordinances to combat it? Why not tackle the majority of murders—some sixty percent—instead?
More to the point, we’re talking about a total of 24 homicides this year, eleven of which involve firearms. Eleven fatal gun crimes in a city of 586,511 citizens. Is that a problem that needs addressing with laws that are more restrictive than those in force in the South Side of Chicago? Apparently, Portland’s pols think their gun crime stats make them a special case. In this, they’re not wrong.
Here’s the takeaway point: Portland is different from the rest of the country. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, firearms accounted for 67 percent of 13,636 homicides in 2009. Knives and other sharp cutting instruments accounted for 13 percent.
So Portland has less of a gun crime problem than the rest of the United States. What they have is a gun control problem. As in too much of it. Again, Portland’s new laws trample on civil liberties; creating “no go zones” for convicted felons who’ve served their time. On a practical level, the city’s adding enormous cost and complexity to local law enforcement—wasting precious resources combatting crimes which are, in all probability, unpreventable.
The City’s move panders to the widespread idea within the gun control community that there’s no such thing as acceptable gun crime. And that’s absolutely true—for them. Gun rights groups agree, publicly proclaiming that society needs better law enforcement, not tighter purchase or ownership requirements, to combat the killing. They’re afraid to tell non-gun–o-centric folk the truth: gun crime is unavoidable, inevitable collateral damage.
If we want to live in a society where citizens have the right to bear arms, we must accept the fact that some of those citizens will abuse that right. Maybe not ten percent, but some. And some of those will do so in spectacular fashion. And? Life is a messy business. Gun crime, especially so. Pretending we can “clean it up”—from either side of the gun control debate—puts us on the road to fascism.
Instead we should accept, indeed embrace the idea that freedom is not free. Never has been. Never will be. We should do our best to make society safe, but not at the expense of our individual right to armed self-defense, as guaranteed by our Founding Fathers, without “common sense” caveats or “public safety” restrictions.
And that’s 100 percent of the truth.