Ah the glories of the internet! It seems that TTAG has spread around the world (the truth often does that) and one of the AI in Israel is working on something. He’s asked for help for his effort to change Israel’s firearms laws from “may issue” to “shall issue.” Here’s his request and my reply.
I live in Israel, and I’m part of a group in the ruling party in Israel, the Likud Party, called Manhigut Yehudit (Jewish Leadership). Right now, I’m researching the possibility of changing the present law in Israel, in which everyone has to show the police that they have a need for a firearm in order to own it, to where they don’t need to show a need in order to get that permission . . .
The situation now in Israel is that if you live across the “green line” (the West Bank), the police will allow you to have a firearm, but if you don’t, they won’t. If you move from outside the green line to within it, you have to give in your gun. According to my proposed change, the police would still be authorized to deny issuing a gun – they simply could not use the reason that the person has no need for it.
Can you or some of your readers help me with some of the background issues and arguments that will help me make my case?
Israel faces very different security/self-defense issues than we do here in the United States, but some things are so basic they remain true across the world: Law-abiding people who seek firearms for defense of themselves, their loved ones and their community are not the people you need to worry about granting licenses.
Definitions of terms:
- Prohibited person: Someone who is barred from owning or possessing firearms, usually for life. Such people include felons, the mentally ill who have been adjudicated a threat to themselves or others and certain domestic violence offenders.
- Anti: The general term we gun nuts use for people who are opposed to the belief that the freedom to own and carry the weapon of your choice is a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and Constitutional right — subject neither to the democratic process nor to arguments grounded in social utility.
- OFWG (Old Fat White Guy): A term of art referring to the typical permit holder
- Unrestricted: States where, if you are not a prohibited person, you can carry a gun.
- May-issue: States where, if you meet certain criteria you may be issued a permit. In many may-issue locales the criteria are things like: “Are you the mayor’s brother-in-law” or “Is the sheriff your poker buddy.”
- Shall-issue: States where, if you meet certain objective criteria law enforcement is required to issue you a permit. Some of these states do have a bit of wiggle room: In Minnesota a sheriff may deny a permit if “there exists a substantial likelihood that the applicant is a danger to self or the public”.
- No-issue: Just what it sounds like, non-LEOs (Law Enforcement Officers) may not carry weapons. Like may-issue states though, big campaign donors can be “deputized” as “special officers” or some such folderol allowing the rich and politically connected to evade the law.
Over the last 25 years in the US we have gone from this 8 shall-issue and 1 unrestricted to 37 shall-issue and 4 unrestricted. Graphically we went from this:
(graphics courtesy of Radical Gun Nuttery – thanks guys!)
As a result we are familiar with the arguments for and against moving from may-issue to shall-issue. Those working against shall-issue typically base their opposition on emotional arguments, anecdotal evidence and irrelevant facts. Some of the arguments you may hear include:
- Law enforcement needs discretion because they are aware of criminals who just haven’t gotten caught yet.
- Minor disputes will turn into shootouts.
- More guns “on the streets” will lead to more shootings (variation of #2)
- More guns mean more accidents.
- Children and guns don’t mix, so guns don’t belong in schools (although I think Israel has learned her lesson there)
- Children and guns don’t mix, so guns don’t belong in parks, or playgrounds or day care centers or malls or . . .
- Alcohol and guns don’t mix, so guns don’t belong in bars
- Houses of worship are peaceful so you don’t need guns there
Answering these points logically is fairly simple, but be prepared to repeat your answers over and over because many of these people don’t care about logic. They know what they feel and will filter out any contrary facts. Fortunately, most LEOs and many legislators are logical and so can be swayed by facts. In order:
1) A “criminal who just hasn’t been caught yet” is known in most jurisdictions as an innocent person.
2, 3, 4) These are all variations of the same argument, to wit: regular people are too angry/careless/volatile to be trusted with guns. Fortunately we now have the numbers to show that permit-holders actually are some of the safest, most law-abiding individuals you can find. In 1987, Florida went from may-issue to shall-issue and started collecting data on permits issued and permits revoked. According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (which for some odd reason is the issuing authority in Florida) between October 1, 1987 and June 30, 2012 there were 2,206,324 permits issued and 6,932 revoked. Only 168 of those revocations resulted from criminal use of a firearm. In other words, in almost 25 years, 0.008% of permit-holders committed a crime with a firearm.
Despite these facts, the Violence Policy Center has started collecting stories about “concealed carry killers” and they make much of the characterization of permit-holders as “law-abiding citizens”. They say that their “statistics” prove that permit-holders are a menace and shall-issue laws should be repealed. In fact they don’t have statistics, what they have is a bunch of numbers devoid of context.
Now I could go ahead and deconstruct their numbers, pointing out that self-defense shooters like Cleveland Anthony Murdock (who shot a road rager trying to get in his vehicle), or Vincent Williams (who shot a would be carjacker after being shot first) are probably not the kind of people most folks would consider “killers.” I could look at the VPC’s highly questionable inclusion of the Tucson shooter as a “concealed carry killer” based on AZ’s Constitutional carry law (which prohibits concealed carry for criminal purposes). I could look at the number of suicides that they count as killings, despite the fact that multiple studies have shown that suicide rates are independent of method.
But I’m not going to do any of that. I am going to accept their ludicrously inflated numbers at face value because I can destroy their “argument” without A) pitching any of their dubious “killers” or B) breaking a sweat. Ready?
According to the VPC there have been 448 people killed by permit holders since May, 2007. According to LegallyArmed.com there are about 6.9 million permit holder in the U.S., so in the last 5 years we have averaged 1.3 murders per 100,000 permit holders annually.
According to DisasterCenter.com, between 2007 and 2010 we averaged 15,879.5 murders annually with an average population of 305,437,022. According to Wikipedia, in 2009 27.3% of the population was under 20 (we don’t count them because permit holders are all 21 or older) so the general population averaged 7.2 murders per 100,000.
Which means, even allowing VPC’s inflated numbers, a permit holder is still one-fifth as likely to be a murderer as the average Joe.
5, 6) “Children and guns don’t mix” sounds reasonable, but if you think about it the statement is nonsensical. If it means that children shouldn’t be allowed to play with loaded weapons I agree completely. If it means that children should not be exposed to guns and trained in gun safety at an early age I disagree completely.
My personal belief is that antis hope that this statement will make people think about how many children lose their lives in shootings every year. Many people, when asked about children killed by guns, will remember President Clinton and his statement that “13 children a day” are killed by gunfire. I am sure that there are more polite ways to say this, but I am a blunt kind of guy: That was a lie. The only way to get numbers that high is to include “children” up to 19 or 20 years old.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (commonly called the CDC) has a wonderful online application called WISQARS (Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System) which allows you to search their fatal and non-fatal injury databases. Using this tool you can discover that the actual number of children (ages 0 – 13) killed with guns is less than 1 a day. Between 1999 and 2009 we averaged a hair over 280.5 kids a year dying of gunshot (homicide, suicide and accidental). To provide some context, during that same period we averaged 768.9 accidental drownings annually and almost 800 non-firearm murders annually in that age group.
7) “Alcohol and guns don’t mix” is one of my favorite idiotic statements made by antis. Again it seems reasonable as long as you don’t think about it. I have several guns in my home and, except when showering or in bed, I am almost certain to be armed. I also have a half-dozen different Scotches, several kinds of rum, vodka, gin, wine and beer, yet somehow, every day, I manage not to get falling-down drunk and shoot little Timmy next door. The alcohol argument is another way for the antis to intimate (without ever actually saying) that permit-holders lack self-control and so must be controlled by restrictive laws.
In most states across the country it is legal for permit-holders to carry in a bar. Some states prohibit carriers from drinking but in Minnesota permit-holders are allowed to carry and allowed to drink, but we are limited to 0.04 BAC (or half of the drunken driving limit).
8) People making this argument have obviously never heard of the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, CO where a gunman was stopped by an armed parishioner, or the St. James Church in Kenilworth, Cape Town South Africa where a terrorist attack was stopped by an armed parishioner, or the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church where the attacker was stopped by unarmed parishioners. As Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus said: Si vis pacem, para bellum.
The question still remains, however, does expanding the right to carry cause an increase in crime, a reduction, or does it have no effect? Dr. John Lott, one of the authors of the seminal More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun-Control Laws published a list of peer-reviewed studies by economists and criminologists on that very question in the University of Maryland’s Law Review, Volume 71, Issue 4: What a Balancing Test Will Show for Right-to-Carry Laws.
Of those studies, 18 found that right-to-carry laws (or shall-issue) reduced violent crime, 10 found no change in violent crime and only one found an increase in violent crime (a temporary increase in aggravated assaults).
|Studies finding reduced violent crime:|
|1) Lott & Mustard, Journal of Legal Studies, 1997.|
|2) Bartley & Cohen, Economic Inquiry, 1998.|
|3) Lott, Journal of Legal Studies, 1998.|
|4) Bartley, Economics Letters, 1999.|
|5) Benson & Mast, Journal of Law and Economics, 2001.|
|6) Moody, Journal of Law and Economics, 2001.|
|7) Mustard, Journal of Law and Economics, 2001.|
|8) Olsen & Maltz, Journal of Law and Economics, 2001.|
|9) Plassmann & Tideman, Journal of Law And Economics, 2001.|
|10) Marvel, Journal Of Law And Economics, 2001.|
|11) Lott & Whitley, Journal Of Law And Economics, 2001.|
|12) Lott & Whitley, Journal Of Quantitative Criminology, 2003.|
|13) Helland & Tabarrok, Advances In Economic Analysis And Policy, 2004.|
|14) Wilson, National Academies Press, 2005.|
|15) Lott & Whitley, Economic Inquiry, 2007.|
|16) Moody & Marvel, Econ Watch, 2008.|
|17) Kendall & Tamura, Journal of Law and Economics, 2010.|
|18) Lott, University of Chicago, 2010.|
|Studies finding no change in violent crime:|
|1) Black & Nagin, Journal of Legal Studies, 1998.|
|2) Ludwig, Int’l Rev. of Law and Economics, 1998.|
|3) Donohue & Levitt, Quarterly Journal of Economics, 1999.|
|4) Hood & Neeley, Social Science Quarterly, 2000.|
|5) Duggan, Journal of Political Economy, 2001.|
|6) Duwe, Kovandzic & Moody, Homicide Studies, 2002.|
|7) Kovandzic & Marvell, Criminology and Public Policy, 2003.|
|8) Dezhbakhsh & Rubin, Int’l Rev. of Law and Economics, 2003.|
|9) National Research Council, National Academies Press, 2005.|
|10) Kovandzic, Marvell & Vieraiis, Homicide Studies, 2005.|
|Study finding increase in violent crime:|
|1) Aneja, Donohue & Zhang, American Law and Economics Review, 2011|
Crimes go down, crimes stay the same, all of this is very general; isn’t there some sort of specific, concrete number we can hang our hats on? Surprisingly, the answer is, “Yes.”
Back in the early 1990’s, Doctors Kleck and Gertz performed a study on defensive gun uses (DGUs) and determined that there are between 2.1 and 2.5 million DGUs annually. Now there are a lot of people out there who deride this number as ludicrous, unable or (more likely in my view) unwilling to accept that Dr. Kleck is not some sort of shill for the Eeevil Gun Lobby™. This, despite the good doctor disclosing in his 1997 book Targeting Guns (quote from GunCite.com):
The author is a member of the American Civil Liberties Union, Amnesty International USA, Independent Action, Democrats 2000, and Common Cause, among other politically liberal organizations He is a lifelong registered Democrat, as well as a contributor to liberal Democratic candidates. He is not now, nor has he ever been, a member of, or contributor to, the National Rifle Association, Handgun Control, Inc. nor any other advocacy organization, nor has he received funding for research from any such organization.
But skeptics will always be skeptical so let’s throw that 2+ million number out in favor of a more conservative one. Without questioning its validity, we will just agree not to use the Kleck-Gertz number in our DGU calculation. Instead, let’s use the numbers from the study which was commissioned by the Clinton Department of Justice shortly after the K-G study came out (the cynical among us think that its goal was to refute the K-G numbers: Oops.). That study, conducted by Dr.s Philip Cook and Jens Ludwig (very strong proponents of very strict gun control) concluded that there were 1.46 million DGUs per year.
I imagine that some may find even this lower number dubious, probably preferring to rely on the numbers from the National Crime Victimization Surveys which show between 50,000 and 100,000 DGUs per year. Unfortunately for those hopeful doubters, the way the NCVS is structured means that it seriously undercounts the number of DGUs. I’ll let Tom Smith explain:
First, it appears that the estimates of the NCVSs are too low. There are two chief reasons for this. First, only DGUs that are reported as part of a victim’s response to a specified crime are potentially covered. While most major felonies are covered by the NCVSs, a number of crimes such as trespassing, vandalism, and malicious mischief are not. DGUs in response to these and other events beyond the scope of the NCVSs are missed.
Second, the NCVSs do not directly inquire about DGUs. After a covered crime has been reported, the victim is asked if he or she “did or tried to do [anything] about the incident while it was going on.” Indirect questions that rely on a respondent volunteering a specific element as part of a broad and unfocused inquiry uniformly lead to undercounts of the particular of interest.
There is another problem with the failure to directly inquire about DGUs. To wit, the DGU question is only triggered by someone saying they were the victim of a crime. Now if someone came towards me with a knife saying “Gimme your wallet” and I put my hand on my weapon and replied “I don’t think so, Scooter” causing the assailant to retreat, was I actually the victim of a crime? Before I started researching these issues I would have told the NCVS interviewer that no, I hadn’t been the victim of a crime and so my DGU would never have come to light.
So back to the calculations; how do I come up with a number for lives saved from the simple number of DGUs? Simple, I bring in more numbers. In Kleck and Gertz’s article Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun in Northwestern University School of Law, Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, vol. 86, issue 1, 1995 they found that 15.7% of people involved in a DGU believed that they “almost certainly” saved their life of someone else’s.
That might strike some people as being an awfully large percentage, but if you take into account the fact that most states regard merely pulling a gun as a use of deadly force and combine it with the fact that most states also require someone to be in “reasonable fear of imminent death or great bodily harm” before they can lawfully use deadly force the number seems more feasible. Now, in addition to the “almost certainly” pool The K-G study also found that 14.6% of respondents believed that someone “probably would have” been killed if not for their DGU.
So 15.7% of respondents believed their DGU “almost certainly” saved a life, but because I want my numbers to be distinctly conservative let’s say that 9 out of 10 of these people were wrong, and let’s say that 99 out of 100 of the “probably” people were also incorrect. This means we can state with a fair degree of certainty that at least 1.716% of the 1.46 million DGUs saved a life. Doing the math that means slightly over 25,000 lives are saved annually by guns.
So we have determined that at least 25,000 lives per year are saved by DGUs, and according to the CDC, between 1999 and 2009 there were an average of 11,800 gun related homicides annually, which means that for every criminal homicide with a firearm there were more than two lives saved by DGUs.
Finally, as an additional resource I highly recommend Gun Facts version 6.1; an excellent resource chock full of information and sources.