Pardon the Interruption While We Feed the Troll(s) – Part 1


 I know that conventional internet wisdom says “don’t feed the trolls,” but sometimes ya just gotta. And – like him or not – mikeb isn’t really a troll. He just believes that the natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and Constitutional right to keep and bear arms should be reserved for only some people. Commenting on my essay about Mike Meckler and his unlawful arrest at La Guardia airport, mike said…

Oh, so he was wrongly arrested for being a gun owner. Just like so often happens to you poor persecuted and misunderstood guys.

Well I’m glad mike is finally starting to see that gun owners are indeed frequently misunderstood. In support of this thesis, all one really needs to do is listen to some comments from the antis:

Daily KOS – Gun owners have low self-esteem:

People own guns because they desperately want to feel important and powerful. There’s always the joke that gun owners are compensating for a small penis and there’s a bit of truth to that. They are compensating for something; they’re compensating for a low self-esteem.

As I approach 50, I have to say that my self-esteem issues are pretty well behind me. I have the respect of my family and friends and the love and respect of my wife. I can look back and see my modest contribution to the cause of civil (gun) rights. When I am carrying I do not “feel important and powerful” I mostly feel relaxed and calm.

The KOS article is correct in one respect: I am compensating for something. I am compensating for being almost 50, having a bad back and a bum shoulder (courtesy of my Naval service) and having had open heart surgery (and ongoing heart problems) which make me very vulnerable to physical attack. I’m also compensating for my wife who is 5’2″ with a bad back and almost blind in one eye. As for my penis, it works for me and whether or not it works for my wife (which really is none of your business) I still have ten fingers, a mouth, a tongue and some toys.

Crooks & Liars – Gun owners are paranoid:

Before Election Day, the NRA was doing what it always does: Raising the specter of the liberal bogeyman — you know, the Incipient Dictator Who Wants To Take Your Guns Away — in the person of Barack Obama. See, for instance, this ad. [Which you can't actually see because it is a bad link]

So it shouldn’t really be a big surprise that, after the election, one of the only segments of the retail economy that did well was in guns.

I actually addressed the “Why Are You Gun Nuts So Paranoid About Obama” accusation in this piece at TTAG, but I will reiterate briefly.

Obama had a long history of antipathy to gun owners’ rights in the Illinois legislature and continued that antipathy upon his elevation to the U.S. Senate. Once he became President there were further indications; the DoD’s change in once-fired brass policy, the reversal of a decision to import 800k historically important weapons from South Korea, the push to ratify C.I.F.T.A., the CDC ignoring restrictions on anti-gun research under the guise of “health problems”, Fast & Furious and the 90% lie . . . etc., etc..

Michael Moore – Gun owners are racist (video segment)

Mr. Moore claims that gun owners are racist because when we see ourselves defending against a home invasion, we don’t see “freckle-faced Jimmy from down the street,” which is true. I don’t expect my neighbor from down the street to be a home invader. When I picture home invaders I see Joshua Komisarjevsky and Steven Hayes of the Connecticut home invasion/rapes/arson/murders.

As for fearing/hating people of color, I could quote Gunny Hartman from Full Metal Jacket about hating everyone. But while amusing, that is simply not true. As a libertarian, I try very hard to see people not ethnicity or skin color and to judge individuals based on their actions not the actions of others who may look like them.

The Propaganda Professor – Gun owners are racist and unrealistic about self-defense.

Now this one may actually require an in-depth dissection:

They seem to be arriving in the Inbox more frequently these days, those reports of incidents in which a law-abiding citizen thwarts the intents of evildoers thanks to being armed. Passed on by one of the gun addicts we all know in an effort to rationalize their habit, these anecdotes are often accompanied by dubious statistics about how often this sort of thing occurs, and often by comments that defy all reason for anyone except a gun addict.

“n the first place, most of these incidents are bogus …

The Prof then goes on to give one example of a bogus self-defense story. Well I’ll see his bogus story and raise him 75 real ones from just the last 4 months:

• Robbery: Two charged with manslaughter after victim shoots their accomplices, police say (AK)
• Woman attacked by multiple dogs saved by Good Samaritans (AZ)
• Merrimack woman with gun thwarts home invasion (NH)
• Home invasion leads to melee, death (OR)
• Man shot after he follows another man home (TX)
• Homeowner Holds Suspect at Gunpoint (NC)
• Washington homeowner shoots intruder (WA)
• Homeowner Shoots Would-Be Robber (TN)
• Video: Storeowner shoots would-be robber (CT)
• Bad Law Enforcement Advice of the Day: Colorado Springs Edition (CO)
• Police: Phoenix mom kills backyard intruder (AZ)
• Retired Officer Fires Fatal Shot During Break-In (MI)
• MPD Says Burglar Shot and Wounded Friday (MS)
• Deputies: Suspect shot dead in home invasion (CA)
• After Bark Alerts Wife, Husband Kills Thanksgiving Intruder (PA)
• Second Man Arrested In Deadly Home Invasion (CO)
• Local resident captures midnight burglar (OK)
• Police: Stabbing at Saginaw Township apartment in self defense; man charged with torture of girlfriend (MI)
• Homeowner steps up: shoots suspected burglar in the back (TX)
• Homeowner wounds alleged burglar; Deputies: No charges expected in the shooting (LA)
• Police say 10-year-old boy fought off mother’s attacker with BB gun (WA)
• Virginia Avenue Shooting (NY)
• Store clerk shoots, kills robbery suspect (OH)
• Homeowner foils NW Harris County break-in (TX)
• Police identify man shot during attempted robbery (IN)
• Self-defense: Teen hunter kills mountain lion (NE)
• Victim Wounds Suspected Robber (TN)
• The 2nd Amendment in action (GA)
• Retired SBPD officer shoots suspect during attempted armed robbery (IN)
• Pub Employee Wounds Would-be Robber (OR)
• Mom with Ohio concealed handgun license fires gun to ward off sex offender’s violent attack (OH)
• Burglar avoids being shot while robbing SI mansion formerly owned by mobster (NY)
• Police: Man shot dead in Antioch threatened homeowner with knife (CA)
• Memphis pizza delivery guy shoots would-be robber (TN)
• 2 arrested for armed robbery at Max Muscle store (CA)
• Oakland Non-Occupant: I Rack, They Ran (CA)
• Shots Ring Out After Man Finds Intruder In Home (WV)
• Armed man tells Minneapolis police: I shot robber (MN)
• Redding Woman Kills Intruder (CA)
• Alleged burglar shot by Boone Co. resident charged (AR)
• Columbia County burglar flees in the face of gunfire (FL)
• Suspected burglar shot, killed in Cascade Valley (WA)
• Clerk in Fla. kills would be robber, saves baby (FL)
• Homeowner shoots, kills teen suspect in home invasion (TX)
• Burglary suspect picks the wrong home for break-in attempt (OR)
• Man Killed With Arrow In Stonycreek Township (PA)
• Ex-Boyfriend Shot During Alleged Home Invasion (WV)
• Cincy store clerk distracts armed robber long enough to pull own gun and shoot (OH)
• Shooter may have been acting in self-defense (AL)
• Man killed in Bay Point home threatened family with a screwdriver, authorities say (CA)
• Harrisonburg Police Make Arrest in Weekend Shooting Incident (VA)
• Elderly ND man hold intruder at bay with handgun (ND)
• Retired Police Officer Shoots and Kills Suspect in Attempted Robbery (NY)
• Woman says she’s alive because she bought a gun rather than counting on a protection order to stop her violent ex (OH)
• Another burglar shot inside a home (MO)
• Woman says she killed estranged boyfriend in self-defense (OH)
• Early Morning Shooting Leaves One Dead (OH)
• Police: Man Tries to Rob Bar, Then Gets Stabbed (TX)
• Dayton store clerk pulls concealed handgun on armed robber (video story)(OH)
• S.F. woman stabs home intruder to death (CA)
• Intruders shoot man; girlfriend fires back (OR)
• Employee with knife runs off would-be robber (OR)
• Grizzly bear kills hunter near Boundary County (ID)
• Homeowner: Shooting was self-defense after finding girlfriend with other man (TN)
• Irresponsible Gun Owner of the Day: Monica Rodriguez (TX)
• Homeowner shoots burglar (MO)
• Rogers County Homeowner Fed Up, Shoots Repeat Intruder In Leg (OK)
• Cleveland: Homeowner shoots, kills suspected burglar (OH)
• Man allegedly shoots would-be burglar (CA)
• Turnabout is fair (gun)play (PA)
• Woman Says Deadly Shooting Was Self-Defense (CA)
• Man pulls 90-year-old woman from alligator’s jaws (FL)
• Women took action against would-be assailants in separate incidents (MI)
• 70-year-old Detroit woman shoots at intruders (MI)
• Man who shot ex-wife slain by stepson in self-defense (FL)

The Prof also mentions “dubious statistics” without actually citing any, so I’m left to guess which defensive gun use statistics he finds dubious. My guess is (drum roll please) the classic 2.5 million DGUs a year. Now the Prof may find this number “dubious”, but it is based on a study by Dr. Gary Kleck (a source that even the Brady Campaign admits is authoritative) and Marc Gertz which is cited in “A Call For A Truce In The DGU War” found in the fall 1995 issue of The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology.

If you are unwilling to accept this number, let’s look at the same article where research by Philip J. Cook & Jens Ludwig (hardly raving gun nuts) shows 1.46 million DGUs per year. The Prof may be “dubious” about these numbers because of the National Crime Victimization Surveys results which typically show less than 100,000 DGUs per year, but the above linked article addresses the methodological flaws in the NCVS calculations (briefly, there are no direct questions about DGUs, merely indirect ones).

Let’s look a little more closely at those DGUs. According to Gun Facts, ver. 6.0, 15.6% of people who used guns defensively stated that they “almost certainly” would have been killed had they not used their weapon. Now this may seem high, but remember that most states require that you be in reasonable fear of death or great bodily harm, without the ability to safely retreat, before you can lawfully use deadly force in self-defense.

For the sake of argument, though, let’s say that 9 out of 10 of these people are mistaken, so only 1.56% of DGUs actually save someone’s life. Now let’s apply that to the annual number of DGUs. Even if we go with the lower number of 1.46 million, that still gives us more than 22,000 lives saved each year.

Now let’s look at the number of firearm homicides each year. According to the CDC’s WISQARS fatal injury reports, between 1999 and 2007 we averaged 11,792 homicides committed with firearms annually. In other words, going with the more pessimistic number of DGUs and discounting 9 out of 10 reports that a DGU saved a life we still find that guns “save” almost twice as many lives as they” take” each year.

Now let’s take a look at some of the Prof’s specific points which he makes in response to “gun addicts'” e-mails regarding DGUs:

2. ‘This [a criminal assault in Philadelphia] proves that gun control doesn’t work.’

How so? Firearm regulation, more pejoratively known as ‘gun control’, is not a single measure but a wide variety of measures, some more effective than others. The fact that one teenage hoodlum was able to get his hands on a weapon hardly proves that nobody else has ever been prevented from doing so.

Except that the antis claim that their anti-gun laws will prevent dangerous weapons from getting in the hands of dangerous people. And then when the laws don’t work they say we need to make them stricter or close some loophole or another. As for trying to prove the negative that criminals have been prevented from getting a gun because of “firearm regulation“, let’s ask the FBI. According to CalGunLaws.com:

Ed Davis, an FBI Criminal Investigative Instructor, … told the International Association of Chiefs of Police that none of these criminals who attacked police officers was ‘hindered by any law – federal, state or local – that has ever been established to prevent gun ownership. They just laughed at gun laws.’

As for the Prof’s statement that some gun-control measures are more effective than others, let’s look at the CDC’s 10/2003 report “First Reports Evaluating the Effectiveness of Strategies for Preventing Violence: Firearms Laws”, which found:

In summary, the Task Force found insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws reviewed for preventing violence.

Parenthetically, I must admit that I do have one serious quibble with one of the CDC report’s intermediate conclusions. They dismissed the Lott-Mustard study and follow-ups on the efficacy of ‘shall-issue’ laws reducing crime and because the results were “conceptually implausible” which, as far as I can tell, means the Task Force didn’t bother to look at the data or methodologies because they could not wrap their brains around the study’s conclusion that “more guns = less crime”.

Regardless, we have two government agencies (one with a history of anti-gun “research”) stating that “firearm regulationdoesn’t work. You read that correctly. Finally, if you want an even more authoritative source let’s go to mafia underboss Sammy “the Bull” Gravano. In a 9/1999 interview with Vanity Fair magazine Mr. Gravano stated:

Gun control? It’s the best thing you can do for crooks and gangsters. I want you to have nothing. If I’m a bad guy, I’m always gonna have a gun. Safety locks? You pull the trigger with a lock on, and I’ll pull the trigger. We’ll see who wins.

On to the Professor’s next point:

3. ‘This [criminal assault in Philadelphia] proves that it’s stupid to outlaw guns.’

It may make a strong case that it’s unwise to do so in some communities, but every community is different. However, the comment is mostly irrelevant. It’s not very common for a community to ban guns altogether (and it wasn’t common even before the ‘conservative’ Supreme Court rewrote the Second Amendment). That’s not what ‘gun control’ is all about: it’s about keeping guns away from people like the teen hoodlums rather than people like the Temple student. Many advocates of ‘gun control’ are themselves gun owners.

Now normally I wouldn’t bother addressing such an obvious straw-man, but there are a couple of things in the Prof’s reply that merit refutation. He says that “the ‘conservative’ Supreme Court rewrote the Second Amendment” which is false on its face. Perhaps he meant they interpreted it in a way he didn’t like. Like so many of his arguments, though, this one does not stand up to even cursory examination.

If you don’t bother to actually read the Court’s decision in District of Columbia v. Heller it’s easy to believe the media myth that the Court ruled 5 – 4 that the Second Amendment protects an individual right. If, however, you do read the decision (specifically Justice Stevens’ dissent, with which Justices Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer all concurred) you will discover that the “ruling” was 9 – 0 in favor of the individual rights argument. The opening paragraph of the dissent states it quite clearly:

The question presented by this case is not whether the Second Amendment protects a ‘collective right’ or an ‘individual right.’ Surely it protects a right that can be enforced by individuals. But a conclusion that the Second Amendment protects an individual right does not tell us anything about the scope of that right.

Briefly, they held that while the Second Amendment protects (not grants, protects) an individual right, the District’s complete ban on handguns and operable long guns did not infringe on that right. Now tell me who was trying to rewrite the Amendment.

As for the Prof’s statement that “[m]any advocates of ‘gun control’ are themselves gun owners” this is true. But most of that group isn’t really paying attention to the issue. I don’t blame them for that…dealing with our civil rights takes a lot of time, even if you limit your focus to specific areas like illegal searches or gun rights. The fact is, however, that they have no idea what the policies they are supporting actually entail.

One gun control policy that has recently been in the news is the supposed gun-show loophole. Illegal Mayors Against Guns crows that 85% of gun owners favor closing the “loophole”. Or maybe it’s 77% or 81% or 83%. Let’s agree that three-quarters of gun owners favor “closing the loophole.”

But how many of those gun owners are aware that (depending on which proposed bill you read) “closing the loophole” means they could go to prison for five years for letting a buddy shoot their gun at the range? Or that “closing the loophole” means gun show organizers and promoters could go to prison for two years if a single person at one of their shows hands a weapon to someone to look at?

There’s another factor at work here and that is most gun owners don’t believe stricter gun laws will affect them. For years the antis have been pushing the meme that their proposals “won’t affect law-abiding gun owners” and that only criminals need to worry about this or that new proposal. Unfortunately when the formerly “law-abiding” gun owner is bitten on his unsuspecting ass by an obscure regulation he didn’t even know existed it’s too late to change his mind about supporting these “common-sense, reasonable” mala prohibita laws.

Indeed there was a woman in Chicago a few years back (can’t find the link, sorry) who was some sort of wheel in the state Million Murdering Mothers or Brady Campaign to End Gun Ownership. Cops searched her house looking for a cousin (or maybe nephew) and found a “sawed-off” shotgun with an obliterated serial number. She was then arrested and charged with several felonies which left her absolutely gobsmacked.

In an interview after she got out on bail, she can be heard plaintively crying “But I didn’t do anything!” I guess she never realized the possible effects of the laws she’d been pushing, nor the fact that most of these laws are mala prohibita edicts and don’t require any sort of actus reus or even mens rea.

4. ‘This proves that more people should have guns.’

Seriously? You honestly believe that the Philadelphia episode would have turned out better if all three of the teens had opened fire instead of just one?

The Prof’s dismissal is essentially another straw-man. We’ve already established that criminals can get guns without any problems, so the fact that only one was armed in the Philly incident just shows that they didn’t think they were going to need more guns, otherwise they would have had them. And yes, I will concede that if more law-abiding people had guns, criminals might arm themselves more heavily. But I think it far more likely that the smart ones would quit being criminals and the dumb ones would be dead.

5. ‘Okay, but it proves that at least more law-abiding citizen should own guns.’

Ah, the classic John Wayne wet dream. Bad guy pulls his gun, good guy pulls his gun, and bang! good guy gets the drop on him, and rides off into the sunset.  The real world, however, isn’t nearly so pat.

The day after the shootout in Philly, a man rushed into a Nevada restaurant blazing away with an AK47, killing 3 people before turning the gun on himself. Two of the dead were National Guard members – meaning that they themselves were trained in the use of weapons. They probably weren’t armed at the time, but suppose they had been. Do you really believe that they would have taken note of what was happening, and looked up from their waffles and chat in time to prevent the shooter from doing his damage? Possibly, but not bloody likely.

Still, let’s indulge the fantasy. Imagine that the gun addict’s vision of Utopia had come to pass, and EVERYONE in the IHOP was packing heat. Imagine 50 diners slapping leather and opening fire from 50 directions. Imagine a dozen or two dozen bodies on the floor instead of 4. Do you truly consider that a preferred alternative?

John Wayne wet dream? Seriously? The Prof believes we think this way? The sad thing is that he probably does. And I say that because it’s not the first time I’ve run into this mindset from an anti.

The Prof also appears to be ignorant of the fact that in more than 80% of successful DGUs, the criminal threatened or used force first, so yes, gun owners obviously can and do “get the drop” on bad guys. But in more than 90% of DGUs there is no shooting of the bad guy involved. According to Dr. Kleck’s Targeting Guns, in less than 8% of DGUs is the attacker wounded and in less than 0.1% is the attacker killed (by the way, many of these facts and figures come by way of Gun Facts version 6.0).

In addition, very rarely does someone take another’s life and just “ride off into the sunset.” The emotional and legal problems that follow even the most well-justified of self-defense killings are well documented.

Next, the Professor invokes the Nevada IHOP shooting, asking:

Do you really believe that [the customers] would have taken note of what was happening, and looked up from their waffles and chat in time to prevent the shooter from doing his damage? Possibly, but not bloody likely.

It might surprise people to find out that I agree completely here. In this instance, the shooter came in already firing and shot for eight seconds before killing himself. Unless someone saw the shooter coming up to the front door, it is indeed not bloody likely that anyone could have reacted in time to stop the shooter.

But what about, say, the VA Tech massacre which took almost 10 minutes to unfold? If we “indulge the fantasy” of everyone being armed, how many lives could have been spared? Even if no one in Room 206 got the shooter[1], if everyone in Room 207 (according to this report, the second room the shooter entered) had been carrying weapons, surely the shooter would have been dropped the second he came in the door.

Or how about the massacre at Columbine? You can watch the security videos of the killers just strolling around taking pot-shots at people hiding under whatever inadequate cover was available. How many lives could have been saved if teacher Patti Nielson had been armed, so when she first saw the shooters outside she could have shot them? Or when the shooters walked past the desk she was hiding under in the library to fire out the windows she could have shot them in the back?

How about the Pearl, MS high school shooting? How many lives could have been saved if Joel Myrick hadn’t had to run three-quarters of a mile to his car to get his gun? How many lives were saved when he stopped the shooter from driving to the Junior High for another shooting spree?

How about the Appalachia Law School shootings? How many lives could have been saved if Officer Gross and Deputy Bridges hadn’t had to run to their cars to get their weapons? How many lives were saved by their capture of the shooter?

An even better question would be, how many lives could be spared if spree shooters knew that most anyone anywhere could be carrying a weapon? Surprisingly enough, that is a question we can answer. As Dr. John Lott points out here, with the exception of the Tucson shooting in January of 2011, “all the public shootings in which more than three people have been killed have occurred in places where civilians may not legally bring guns.” All but one.

This is not a phenomenon limited to the United States, as Dr. Lott points out here, mass casualty shootings have occurred in the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Switzerland, Norway and Australia, all in locations where guns were “banned”.

So, to address the Prof’s final sentence of Point 5, yes I would prefer the alternative of “a dozen or two bodies on the floor”[2] at an IHOP to the scores of people who die in “gun free zones” every year.

The Professor sums up:

There is no quick and easy solution to the problem of gun violence, particularly after so many years of Americans falsely believing they have a constitutional right to be armed. Even gun addicts themselves have been known to point this out – you may have seen, for example, bumper stickers that say ‘Gun Control – A Simple Solution for Simple Minds’. But there is nothing simple or simpleminded about ‘gun control’, which does not profess to be a magic bullet, as it were. What IS simpleminded and naive is the assumption that the problem will just take care of itself if we do nothing.

Well the Prof is starting off with a bad assumption so no wonder it leads him astray. There is no such thing as “gun violence.” There are people who do violent things with guns, but they also do violent things with knives, rocks, pointy sticks and fists.

Antis (not the Prof, I’m speaking more generally here) often bring up the firearm murder rates in other countries, pointing out how low they are compared to ours. What you won’t hear from them, however, is a comparison of non-firearm homicide rates or a comparison of overall violent crime rates. This is because between 1999 and 2007 (I wish the CDC would update their bloody tables, they’ve been stuck at 2007 for, like, three years now) the U.S. had a firearm homicide rate of 4.02 per 100,000 and a non-firearm homicide rate of 2.12.

In 1999/2000, the U.K had a firearm homicide rate of 0.12 and a non-firearm homicide rate of 1.33. So if evil guns cause all these homicides why is our non-firearm homicide rate so much higher than in the U.K.? Furthermore, if all our guns cause all this violent crime, why is it that, according to the Daily Mail, our overall violent crime rate is less than half of Canada’s and less than a quarter of the U.K.’s rate?

In fact, the overall violent crime rate in the U.S. is less than the U.K., Austria, South Africa, Sweden, Belgium, Canada, Finland, the Netherlands, Luxemburg and France. Are they serious? Luxemburg and Belgium have more violent crime than the U.S.? Perhaps there are more complicated socio-economic factors at work than the simplistic guns = bad; no guns = good!

Still with me? Good. Stay tuned because tomorrow I’ll present my “quick and easy” solutions to the gun violence problem. Won’t even charge the Bradys or MAIG for my time. Promise.

[1] I refuse to use the name of any mass shooter if at all possible. They want notoriety? I say let them rot in obscurity.

[2] Not that I actually consider that a realistic possibility, I’m just going along for arguments’ sake.