Gun Control is Easy When You Pick Your Own Facts

Walker Bragman has weighed in on the gun control debate with a piece at (where else?) The Hufffington Post. Titled The Culture of Guns and Misinformation it is indeed full of “misinformation” (or what less polite people would call utter horse hockey). Par for the HuffPo course, Bragman makes sure to keep it classy by lumping those of us who distrust the mainstream media with slave-owners and Southern racists:

Mistrust of “mainstream media” is nothing new. It can be traced back to Civil War Era southern resentment towards snobby, educated, northeastern, liberal elites … These feelings were reaffirmed during the Civil Rights Movement when news cameras exposed the dark side of southern living … The South fought back against what they perceived as an attack on their cultural identity by developing their own media. …

Personally, I think that diversity of this sort is a good thing; more choices allow the consumer access to more information and different ways of thinking while giving a platform to those whose ideas may fall outside of the mainstream. Walker disagrees (and here I thought lefties supported diversity) stating:

Anyone can publish an opinion and disseminate it to an audience. As a result, a culture developed in which people have the option of picking facts based on their political beliefs, instead of the other way around. The current debate over gun control is a testament to this trend.

I hate to burst your bubble Walker, but people are always going to pick and choose their facts based on their beliefs. That’s been going on for centuries. As for what’s going on in the gun control debate, I plan to demonstrate that people (like you) living in glass houses shouldn’t shoot their mouths off.

The recent string of mass shootings … have put gun control at the forefront of the national dialogue. Unfortunately, there is no issue more bogged down by falsity. The situation is especially complicated because one side is decidedly more powerful than the other; the NRA outspends the entire gun control lobby by a ratio of 9.5-to-1.

Let’s look at some of that their “falsity,” shall we? Again and again we hear about how the Eee-vil Gun Lobby® buys Congresscritters and local legislators by massively outspending the poor underfunded antis. Wally even provides some links to OpenSecrets.org which proves that it’s true.

Wally’s links are to the 2010 numbers, but I prefer more recent ones so here are the Eee-vil Gun Lobby’s® numbers for 2012. And here are the same numbers for the poor undermanned, outspent plucky gun control underdogs. OMG! It’s even worse than Wally said; the Eee-vil Gun Lobby® outspent the selfless life-affirming gun controllers by more than 22-to-1! Oh the humanity! Is there nothing that can be done to save the children?

Okay, maybe that was a bit over the top, but the question still stands; does the NRA et al. really outspend gun controllers by that much? And the answer is: Oh hell no! There are a number of organizations and PACs that slip under the “gun controller” radar of OpenSecrets, but I’m just going to look at the Independence USA PAC in particular. I-PAC consists of Michael Bloomberg and 9,989,469 of his dollars. According to the National Journal, I-PAC’s raison d’etre is to be a “gun-control counterweight” to the NRA:

“There has never really been an effective counterweight to the NRA — at least in terms of dollars, cents and the ability to get a message out,” said Stefan Friedman, a spokesman for Bloomberg’s new super PAC, Independence USA.

So let’s look at those numbers again, shall we? The NRA et al. basically donated $1 for each NRA member for a total of $4,068,050 while I-PAC et al. spent $9,554,822. This gives us an actual ratio of 2.3-to-1 in favor of the gun banners. Given that I-PAC didn’t exist yet in 2010, some people might find sinister significance in Wally’s choice of comparison years, but I’m a firm believer in both Occam’s and Hanlon’s Razors, and feel the latter is applicable here.

So what falsehoods does Wally try to feed us next?

Through lobbying they’ve even managed to end federal funding for firearms research.

This is a common misconception amongst the antis, probably due to their culture of picking facts based on their political beliefs, rather than researching and thinking for themselves. Heck, Wally apparently can’t even read the source he linked to, which clearly states:

… legislation included the directive that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or promote gun control.”

This is very different from ending funding for research completely. In addition, despite gun grabbers’ claims elsewhere, this action wasn’t taken in a fit of pique after some contrary studies were issued. Rather, it was because the head of the CDC department which performed the studies had already made up his mind about guns and was using the department to gin up numbers to support his preconceptions. According to a Reason magazine article from April of 1997:

In 1993 Rolling Stone reported that Rosenberg “envisions a long term campaign, similar to [those concerning] tobacco use and auto safety, to convince Americans that guns are, first and foremost, a public health menace.” In 1994 he told The Washington Post, “We need to revolutionize the way we look at guns, like what we did with cigarettes. Now it [sic] is dirty, deadly, and banned.”

In addition, the vast majority of the research that I’ve seen presupposes that firearms impose societal costs and then only looks at them without investigating (or even acknowledging) the societal benefits that firearms provide.

Finally, if research has been so restricted why did it take me less than five minutes to pull up more than 40 articles (see here for the list) from researchers like David Hemenway and Jens Ludwig?

But Wally has more for us:

For these reasons the internet contains a virtual echo chamber of pro gun websites claiming that gun laws do not work; that more guns lead to lower crime rates as indicated by research from Professor Gary Kleck and author of More Guns, Less Crime, John Lott Jr.

Actually Wally, it isn’t just gun nuts who claim these laws don’t work. The CDC said there is insufficient evidence to show gun laws do work in their First Reports Evaluating the Effectiveness of Strategies for Preventing Violence: Firearms Laws. And the Brady Campaign, VPC, etc. also must believe current laws don’t work, otherwise they wouldn’t be clamoring to pass more laws and close “loopholes” in the current ones, right?

As for Dr. Lott’s work, since the publication of his book, there have been 29 additional peer-reviewed national studies by criminologists and economists. Eighteen of those supported his conclusions, ten found that shall-issue laws had no effect on violent crime and only one claimed an increase; a temporary increase of one single type of crime.

Then there’s the U.K.’s experience. Prior to 1987 the United Kingdom had significant gun control with licensing and registration. Then came the 1987 Hungerford massacre which prompted passage of the Firearms (Amendment) Act of 1988 in order to prevent future massacres. And the 1996 Dunblane massacre prompted passage of the Firearms (Amendment) Act of 1997 and the Firearms (Amendment) (No. 2) Act of 1997 to prevent future massacres. Then, on June 2, 2010, they suffered the Cumbria massacre. Are we seeing a pattern here Wally?

Finally, let’s look at spree shootings in this country. Did you know, Wally, that there was a single common factor in 61 out of 62 mass casualty shootings? I’m not talking about the shooter being on psychoactive medications or being puppets of the New One World Order of Black Helicopters. I’m talking about the fact that 98.4% of these shootings took place in “gun-free” zones. Keeping that in mind, you tell me if your precious laws are working?

What’s more, the pro gun echo chamber asserts, “legal gun owners are not the people committing crimes.”

I’m a little confused; Wally’s links lead to a page asking what we think of Obama’s gun control measures. As for legal gun owners committing crimes, the numbers tell the tale. The state of Florida has been keeping track of permits and permit-holders since they returned to “shall-issue” in 1987. According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services (which for some odd reason is the issuing authority for permits to carry in Florida) between October 1, 1987 and June 30, 2013(?) there were 2,325,231 permits issued and 6,543 revoked for criminal activity. Of those 6,543 revocations, however, only 168 were the result of the criminal use of a firearm. In other words, in almost 25 years only 0.281% of permit holders have had their permit revoked and 0.007% of permit-holders have committed a crime with a firearm.

So yeah, I think the “echo chamber” might be on to something when it says that law-abiding citizens aren’t the problem. But Wally continues:

These arguments have been thoroughly debunked. Peer review has refuted both Kleck and Lott’s research. Multiple studies including several by Harvard University found they both overestimate of defensive gun use.

See above for the 28 out of 29 peer-reviewed studies which support Dr. Lott’s research. As for the overestimation of DGUs, it’s fascinating that Philip Cook and Jens Ludwig were authors of several of them, because they actually did a DGU study themselves for the Clinton DoJ.

The study was commissioned shortly after the Kleck-Gertz study but I don’t see any mention of its results in the cited pieces, possibly because they concluded that there were approximately 1.46 million DGUs annually. So no matter how loudly they scream while energetically jumping up and down waving their arms trying to distract us, the fact of the matter is their own research supports the “ridiculously high” number of annual DGUs.

Battling this guy’s bullshit can be exhausting, but someone has to do it. So let’s press on, shall we?

Studies also indicate a direct corrolation (sic0 between high gun ownership and high levels of violence.

And in one of the very studies that Wally just cited, Myths about Defensive Gun Use … the authors state outright that correlation does not equal causation. As always, the antis want to have it both ways. They look at Dr. Lott’s work, which takes more than a dozen factors into account in reaching its conclusions, and claim that he can’t have taken everything into account and that correlation is not causation. But then they turn around and say that areas with high violent crime have high gun ownership (why would someone living in a high crime area want to own a gun?) or that New York’s tough gun laws have led to lower suicide rates.

Next:

The Washington Post revealed that since the late 1970s violent crime has been declining with gun ownership.

Yeah except that gun ownership hasn’t been declining. Talk about picking facts based on your political beliefs. NICS checks have been rising steadily for years, there are 8 million concealed carriers in the country and even Gallup reports rising ownership.

Mother Jones, the independent investigative journal found that the number of mass shootings has increased, most dramatically since 2007.

Yeah, again, no they haven’t, as James Alan Fox points out in this article and shows graphically with this table.

The majority of the guns used in these shootings have been legally purchased which speaks volumes about America’s “responsible gun owners.”

Hmm, well according to that Mother Jones report Wally cited, there have been 62 mass shootings since 1982 which gives us an average of 2 per year. Sorry Wally but two doesn’t represent a big percentage of America’s responsible gun owners.

So how does one measure? There are a few ways. One is to look at violence by region. Another is to see how the U.S. ranks when compared to all of Europe. These statistics paint a picture.

Indeed they do; just not the picture Wally wants to see. According to The Daily Mail, some of the violent crime rates in Europe (with South Africa and Canada thrown in for comparison) are:

Country Number of Violent Crimes Violent Crime Rate per 100,000
UK 1,158,957 2,034
Austria 133,546 1,677
South Africa 732,121 1,609
Sweden 108,004 1,123
Belgium 107,885 1,006
Canada 306,559 935
Finland 41,664 738
Netherlands 111,888 676
Luxembourg 3,233 565
France 324,765 504

 

And according to the FBI’s UCR for 2011 in the US we had 1,203,564 violent crimes for a violent crime rate of . . . 386.3 or somewhat less than one-fifth of that gun free utopia of the United Kingdom. For the more visual-minded:

Now are our firearm homicide rates much higher than Europe’s? You bet, but you know what Wally? Our non-firearm homicide rates are also significantly higher which says to me that there are social and economic factors other than our “easy access to guns” at work here.

So tell me Wally, just who is guilty of picking their facts to fit their politics here?