Antis, Once Again, Conveniently Using Their Own Facts

In a recent letter to the Concord Monitor, Bernard Ash of Concord (NH) writes:

What can the idiots in the Legislature be thinking about when they want to okay guns in schools?

The Second Amendment was written at a time when the United States was little more than jungle with bandits, savage Indians and wild animals that we needed to protect ourselves from. Yes, and to hunt food. We have long outgrown that kind of life. According to a recent survey, in Japan where guns are prohibited, there were 97 murders. In the same year here in the United States there were 163,000 murders. Go ahead! Justify that if you can.

Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan is reported to have once said: “You are entitled to your own opinion, but you are not entitled to your own facts,” but Mr. Ash (may I call you Bernard?) certainly seems to be providing his own facts in this piece. To start with, the New Hampshire legislature is not proposing to allow guns in elementary schools. In fact the bill (H.B. 334) is simply a statewide preemption law which basically states that rules regarding gun ownership, carrying, taxing, etc. will now be set by statute instead of (in the case of state colleges and universities) by bureaucratic fiat. This bill will have the effect of allowing law-abiding permit holders to carry on campus but that’s not its primary purpose.

Bernard, in also rolling out the tired old saw about the Second Amendment being outdated, presents an argument that has been hashed over and shredded repeatedly. But let me summarize: the Second Amendment no more applies only to flintlocks than the First only applies to quill pens.

That’s when Bernard starts making stuff up. A “recent survey” said “there were 97 murders” in Japan? Well according to this article from 3/2010 in Japan Today (a source that is perhaps a bit more credible than “a recent survey”) there were not ninety-seven but one-thousand and ninety-seven murders in Japan in 2009, down 200 from 2008. And according to this table (which tracks close to but does not exactly correspond with the CDC’s data) from The Disaster Center, in the U.S. there were 15,399 murders in 2009 and 16,442 in 2008.

So Bernard was off by two orders of magnitude; one low for Japan and one high for the U.S. (but I’m sure it was an honest mistake). Keep in mind, however, that these are raw numbers, not rates. To convert them to murder rates per 100,000 we’ll have to do a little math.

According to Google Facts, in 2008 and 2009 the population of Japan was 127,704,000 and 127,558,000 respectively, compared to the U.S.’s 304,375,000 and 307,007,000. So, doing a little averaging, we get populations of 127,631,000 for Japan and 305,691,000 for the U.S.. Next we divide by 100,000 and then divide the total number of homicides by that number to get the real rate. This yields homicide rates of about 0.94 for Japan and 5.21 for the U.S..

Wow, Bernard’s right, that’s pretty bad. But wait, don’t the antis generally include suicides in their gun violence numbers? Why yes, yes they do. According to Wikipedia, in 2009 there were 32,845 suicides in Japan which gives us a rate of 25.75 suicides per 100,000, and according to the CDC there were 34,598 suicides in the U.S. in 2008 which gives a rate of 11.37 suicides per 100,000. So putting those together, we get (roughly, I know, but still a heckuva lot closer than an order of magnitude or two) violent death rates of 26.69 for Japan and 16.58 for the U.S.

Wait, what? I thought evil guns made violent death rates go through the roof in the U.S. while Japan’s virtual ban on guns made it an oasis of peace and serenity. But here Japan has an overall violent death rate 1.6 times that of the U.S. I guess Bernard has it backwards, doesn’t he? He told us that the strict gun laws and low ownership rates (as in Japan) cause lower violent death rates, but it looks like the loose gun laws and high ownership rates here mean lower violent death rates.

Of course it could be that matters aren’t quite as simple (simplistic?) as Bernard would have us believe. That’s about when Bernard issues his call for civil war:

We need to outlaw firearms in the hands of all civilians and start to collect every one of them and melt them down for railroad track. Yes. It would be a big job, but the longest journey begins with but a single step, in the right direction. The military and the police are the only people who should have them. No more guns!

It might surprise Bernard to know he’s not the first to come up this idea. In fact, shortly after the VA Tech massacre, a piece espousing a similar view was published by the Toledo Blade. It’s no longer available on their website, but through the magic of the Wayback Machine I found a copy and posted it here.

Once you’ve read Dan Simpson’s piece, I’d commend this response to Dan’s Modest Proposal written by Sipsey Street Irregulars blogger and Fast & Furious investigator Mike Vanderboegh. Now some folks find Mike a bit controversial; heck, a lot of people find him bug$h!t crazy. But here, he’s reasonably articulate and manages to clearly express feelings that a lot of us (myself included) have difficulty getting across. Like his response to these confiscatory suggestions. Mike lays out just what sort of unintended consequences this country might face if Dan Simpson, Bernard and their ilk get their way.

Of course, stuff like this gets the VPC and their spiritual brethren all up in a lather, calling us hateriots and insurrectionists and all sorts of bad things. But here’s the thing: I don’t hate my country. I love the ideas of limited government and fundamental rights laid out in our Constitution and Bill of Rights. I am, however, less fond of the Leviathan that the federal government has become.

Furthermore, I will never rise up in rebellion against legitimate authorities. But if push ever comes to shove (and I pray that it doesn’t) I’ll have a choice: to meekly crouch down and lick the boots of my oppressors or to stiffen my sinews, summon up my blood and disguise my fair nature with hard-favored rage. I leave it to the reader to figure out which course of action I favor. But before that happens –  before letting slip the dogs of war – it behooves me to do everything in my power to warn those oppressors what may come of their oppression.

So to the Bernards and Dans of the world, be careful of what you ask for, you just might get it…along with a whole heapin’ helpin’ of unintended consequences.