Firmin Debrander (courtesy youtube.com)

Gun control advocates have attacked John Lott’s More Guns, Less Crime since the work first appeared. None has taken it down. No surprise there. To do so would require an advanced degree in statistics. So Lott’s detractors have been left flailing about, countering his chart-laden conclusions with less well-researched though equally turgid (sorry John) studies. Surprisingly, Firmin Debrabander takes another whack at MGLC. In a salon.com article entitled The right’s big gun lie: Debunking the phony case that more guns will stop crime, Debrabander ends up promoting gun ownership [paragraph breaks added] . . .

The existence of gun-free zones has become a topic of debate. While they were conceived with good intentions, to safeguard our most vulnerable locations, gun rights advocates maintain that the effort has backfired: gun-free zones advertise themselves to would-be shooters as places where they will encounter little or no resistance. That’s why, the argument goes, Adam Lanza targeted Sandy Hook Elementary School— he knew he would not be hindered there.

Gun rights advocates point out that James Holmes, the Batman-obsessed shooter who targeted a packed midnight screening of the Batman film The Dark Knight Rises, could equally well have gone to six other theaters in Aurora, Colorado, that were showing the film that night. Why did he choose that one theater, when two other potential targets were actually closer to his home?

It turns out, John Fund writes in National Review, that the theater he chose was the only one of the seven that “posted signs saying it banned concealed handguns carried by law-abiding individuals.”  Fund suspects that was the deciding factor for Holmes.

The Sikh temple in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, attacked by shooter Wade Michael Page in August 2012 was also a gun-free zone, as gun rights groups reminded us at the time. The president of the temple was armed with only a butter knife, and heroically employed it to save others before he was shot and killed. If, however, the temple had permitted guns, some argued, members of this religious minority, often mistaken for Muslims and targeted for prejudice since 9/11, could have protected themselves better.

Thank you, Firmin. You’ve made a convincing case against gun-free zones. If Debrabander had quoted some of Lott’s stats on the subject, we could’ve all gone home and cleaned our carry guns.

Nope! Debrabander keeps going! He offer Salonistas two more epic paragraphs making the case that gun ownership reduces crime. Debrander even quotes pro-gun law professor Glenn Reynolds without contradictory commentary. And then Debrabander writes two more gigantic paragraphs explaining Lott’s thesis, again without arguing the pro-gun points. Seriously, it’s as good a pro-gun piece as one could ever imagine being published on the über liberal website.

When Debrabander finally gets around to rebutting all this pro-gun goodness, he stays aways from the sub-head’s promise: The NRA and some researchers claim we just need more good guys with guns. The math shows they’re all dead wrong. Avoiding math like the philosophy major he once was (hence the John Stuart Mill-like paragraphs), Debrabander focuses his rebuttal of Lott’s work on a case of self-defense quoted in MGLC, wherein a Baltimore native denied his gun rights suffers the consequences. Debrabander’s fisking is as toothless as a mollusk.

Yet this case also suggests that individual gun ownership is not an enduring solution for security and is quite flimsy even as a temporary solution. Clearly, other factors need to be addressed first if we would promote Scott’s safety and that of his neighbors—and the children on his street. Lott says that guns in the hands of private citizens cause criminals to flee an area. But Scott lived in a rough part of town: his home had been burgled repeatedly, and he was harassed outside his house. West Baltimore is notoriously dangerous, and his neighborhood is the kind that spawns criminal behavior. The dearth of viable employment options and the abundance of negative social factors lead residents into lives of crime—which, in Baltimore, principally means the drug trade. If Scott had had a gun, it would hardly inspire criminals to “leave the area.” In Baltimore, where gang members are already well armed, they will know sooner or later that they only require a more powerful weapon if they wish to invade the old man’s home. Mr. Scott’s gun would not deter any desperate drug addict from breaking into his home. Would he have saved himself on that fateful night if he had had a gun? Perhaps. But because his home was obviously a target in the neighborhood, he most likely would have been outgunned or outmaneuvered sooner or later. Hardened, resolved, well-armed criminals—or strung-out drug addicts—are hardly fearful of guns in the hands of private citizens. The latter are no more than an inconvenience, and no real obstacle to what criminals do or want. In Baltimore’s most desperate neighborhoods, where opportunity is bleak and social afflictions vicious, armed citizens will not suddenly cause criminals to wise up, get a job, or move out. If we would really aim for less crime, which Lott claims is the objective of his book, there are broader social conditions that must be addressed. Scott’s gun is no better than a tenuous and temporary salve. I don’t think for one second he would say it made his life safer, and evidence suggests the contrary. It was a last resort in a desperate situation.

As in Debrabander’s inane Atlantic Monthly article, the author presents a farrago of anti-firearms fail. But it’s the Baltimore native’s abject inability to tackle Lott’s overarching conclusion that stands out. He ignores Lott’s central premise, strings together flimsy conjecture and presents the result as if it had some basis in observable facts. Debrabander wants readers to believe guns are a salve not a solution. Yet he makes his case without providing any solid evidence to refute Lott — relying on a vague reference to two anti-gun researchers who rejected Lott’s analysis — or backing up his own opinions. Like this:

If we do not address the real drivers of crime, then individually owned guns are at best a stopgap solution. They may occasionally save some lives, but they do not on the whole make us safer. In a world where more and more people must walk the streets armed, I wager, they would hardly consider themselves safe. Guns are a sign of insecurity—at the very least, they are no deterrent to criminals who are resolved, ruthless, and well armed. If we do not address the underlying causes of crime, it is not hard to see that a plethora of guns is a toxic ingredient added to the mixture.

I draw your attention to Debrabander’s suggestion that armed Americans “hardly consider themselves safe.” Maybe that’s because they’re not. Even outside of the Baltimore’s rougher neighborhoods, the world is not a safe place. But Debrabander doesn’t understand or approve of the idea that armed Americans are safer. Not just because they can fight back against criminal attack but also because most (but not all) criminals prefer not to confront armed Americans. That’s not hard to see, either. Unless you refuse to consider the data. In other words, unless you’re willfully ignorant.

58 Responses to Salon’s Firmin Debrabander on Gun Control: More Opinions, Less Facts

  1. I would like to point out that anti gun articles as of late seem to be much softer overall and almost sympathetic to gun ownership to a point, even in hardcore anti gun places like salon. If that doesn’t scream winning then I am not sure what does.

    • You know that term “throw it up on the wall and see what sticks?” This is the spaghetti that stuck; a kinder, gentler appeal for gun control. To them it’s simply a game of offending fewer and fewer people until there is a bare majority for the most radical agenda possible. Handgun Control became CSGV, Million Moms became Moms Demand… next they will be “Your Poor Mother is Worried Sick About Guns, Young Man!” NRA is still NRA, though.

    • Any soft-balls are simply the consequence of coming to terms with their loss of power. The second they are back in power, the balls will harden, multiply, and do their damnedest to walk us, or just put us out of the game entirely.

    • I agree completely Vhyrus. Not only are the gun-grabbers softening, they are starting to look at (gasp!) the facts! You can only suppress the truth for so long. Progressives have been actively suppressing the truth since the 1960s. After 50 years, the truth is starting to come out — thanks in large part to the easy access to information via the … wait for it … Internet!

  2. a gun does not make me, or anyone ‘Feel’ safe, it allows us to do something when our lives are threatened, and give us the means to DO something, if necessary, to MAKE us safe in that instance. it’s that simple. feelings have nothing to do with it, it’s about the ABILITY to ACT. that’s what a firearm does. it allows one to ACT, under the greatest provocation and distressing circumstance, to DO something that REMOVES that particular and immediate threat which CAN MAKE us safe in that circumstance.

    • Well said vactor. I would also reiterate that firearms are not magic talismans as we have said on this site many times. Firearms have no magic power to guarantee that all of our problems go away. They are nothing more than a highly effective tool that provide a lot of “leverage” in desperate situations. Like any other tool, they have limitations.

  3. “there are broader social conditions that must be addressed.”

    Um, his political party has had unhindered control over Baltimore for decades. So, what “social conditions” has his political party been unable to address? What a hypocrite!

  4. Anti-freedom, articles are always opinion pieces, “stop with your icky facts, I know how I feel. ” sums it up from my perspective.

  5. That piece Debrander wrote in Atlantic Monthly is titled “How Gun Rights Harm the Rule of Law”. The piece froths with F.U.D.

    • Debrabander sounds like the name of a guy whose first sexual experience involved tying up his sister Debra.

  6. “Guns are a sign of insecurity—at the very least, they are no deterrent to criminals who are resolved, ruthless, and well armed.”

    So, are the “resolved, ruthless, and well armed” criminals also insecure? Good thing us lowly proles have our betters in the government and media to tell us how weak we all are for carrying firearms and how strong we will all be against “resolved, ruthless, and well armed” criminals when we see the light and turn in our guns.

    • “…they are no deterrent to criminals who are resolved, ruthless, and well armed….”

      This line struck me as well. I think this person gets far too much of his information about criminals from Hollywood movies and television. I would wager that the majority of the “resolved, ruthless, and well armed” activity, such as it is, is one street gang against another. Other than the crimes of actually selling drugs the greatest number of drug-related crimes are strung out addicts desperate to find anything they can sell for a few bucks for their next fix or hit. They are NOT master criminals and they very likely avoid any victim who seems able to put up any sort of resistance if at all possible.

      I also suspect he has spent little or no time on YouTube watching the numerous videos that show thugs peeing their pants and tripping over each other to get out of range at the first sight (or sound) of someone with a pistol ready and willing to shoot at them. Ruthless and armed, perhaps, resolved when it comes to maybe getting ventilated, not so much.

      • Naaah. Getting shot is only inconvenient: “Hardened, resolved, well-armed criminals—or strung-out drug addicts—are hardly fearful of guns in the hands of private citizens. The latter are no more than an inconvenience, and no real obstacle to what criminals do or want.”

    • Want to see “resolved, ruthless, and well armed”? Kill a cop and that’s what will come after you.

      Otherwise, you’re statistically very unlikely to encounter such opponents in real life.

    • “Guns are a sign of insecurity—at the very least, they are no deterrent to criminals who…”

      If so, one wonders, why do police officers carry guns? Simply because they’re insecure?

  7. Firmin is a member of the Sen. Robert ‘KKK’ Byrd(d) “Let’s not cloud the issue with facts.” club.

    “There is nothing more horrible than the murder
    of a beautiful theory by a brutal gang of facts.” ~ LaRochefoucauld

  8. Are there graduate schools somewhere that give degrees in stupid? Look, those criminals are going to kill you whether you have a gun or not, why not just lie back and enjoy it? What, precisely, are his credentials concerning armed self defense and the mindset of the drug-addled criminal? I doubt there are any, given his apparent fixation on “more powerful” guns. Right, dumbass, after I kill an assailant he’s just going to come back with a gun that’s more powerful than mine, so I won’t be able to kill him again. Sheesh. If he thought for only a few seconds, not even a minute, he would realize these guys only effective education has been on the pros and cons of various illegal drugs, they know squat about guns including what is “more powerful”, they carry what they have stolen without a clue what it is, and they are only successful when their opponent is unarmed.

    • “Are there graduate schools somewhere that give degrees in stupid?”

      Sadly, almost all of ’em offer such degrees. They may label them differently, but the end result is the same: the student comes out of their educational experience far dumber than they went in.

    • Are there graduate schools somewhere that give degrees in stupid? Absolutely most people call them ivy league schools.

  9. “Hardened, resolved, well-armed criminals—or strung-out drug addicts—are hardly fearful of guns in the hands of private citizens. ”

    20 words out of 21 are perfect. Just one word wrong. “Hardly.”

    Every commentary I’ve ever read from LEO, corrections officers, etc., has a common thread. Criminals they have interviewed almost to a person say they would rather break into a closed business than into a residence where they might face a a “gun in the hands of private citizens.” They also fear private citizens more than police officers, as private citizens have in general much looser rules of engagement for the use of deadly force.

    Interesting gentleman: excerpts from his website…
    “Firmin DeBrabander teaches Philosophy at the Maryland Institute College of Art in his hometown of Baltimore, Maryland. He studied at Boston College and the Catholic University of Louvain in Belgium before receiving his Ph.D. from Emory University in 2002. Firmin has taught at Morgan State University, Towson University, Notre Dame of Maryland University and was a Visiting Associate Professor at Boston College from 2005-7.

    Since 2007, Firmin has organized MICA’s popular Constitution Day Conference for many years, devoted to various significant and timely civil rights issues, including Freedom of Assembly, Marriage Equality, Free Speech in the Digital Age, and Surveillance. Speakers have included Ralph Nader, Helen Thomas, Jesse Jackson, John Waters, Andrew Sullivan, Amy Goodman, Angela Davis, Cornel West, David Simon, Daniel Ellsberg, and Melissa Harris Perry.”

    Interesting. He wants constitutional rights to be celebrated and protected. Most of them. Well, some of them at least. The right ones. The ones HE thinks are right.

    Sadly, “feels are right” is probably a better description that “thinks are right.” He might not even actually feel that way. But it sells books.

    • “…Speakers have included Ralph Nader, Helen Thomas, Jesse Jackson, John Waters, Andrew Sullivan, Amy Goodman, Angela Davis, Cornel West, David Simon, Daniel Ellsberg, and Melissa Harris Perry.”

      And THAT is all you need to know about this guy. Judge a man(?) by the company he keeps.

      • His sloppy thinking is sufficient for judgement. Think what you will, Daniel Ellsberg stood up to the most ruthless thugs in the world for the right reason.

  10. “None has taken it down. No surprise there. To do so would require an advanced degree in statistics.”

    It would require more than a fancy degree to legitimately take down Lott’s work. It would also require a whole new set of facts and figures that, in the real world, simply doesn’t exist.

  11. “Hardened, resolved, well-armed criminals—or strung-out drug addicts—are hardly fearful of guns in the hands of private citizens. ”

    When was the last time you saw a gang stacking up at the entrance to the house they are going to rob, all armed with machine guns, armored up?

    Oh yeah, that’s the SWAT teams.

    • I think you have found the four letter acronym for “resolved, ruthless and well-armed” home invaders.

  12. The author watches too many movies. While the criminals are armed, it isn’t as if they are, as others have said, “stacking up at the entrance to a house…”

    If you ever find yourself in a situation where a gang manages to get their s–t together to do such a thing, I’m willing to wager you maybe bought it upon yourself, i.e. you somehow were dealing with them on a business level.

    Most criminals are opportunists. They look for unlocked doors, open windows, disarmed individuals, and soft targets. They move on when they sense impending resistance or potential issues.

  13. I’mma let you finish, but I had to stop and comment at this point. FTA:

    Would he have saved himself on that fateful night if he had had a gun? Perhaps.

    This is some serious begging-the-question pretzel argument against the individual right to keep and bear arms, and the exercise of that right acting as a deterrent to crime.

    But because his home was obviously a target in the neighborhood, he most likely would have been outgunned or outmaneuvered sooner or later. Hardened, resolved, well-armed criminals—or strung-out drug addicts—are hardly fearful of guns in the hands of private citizens.

    And yet, when surveying actual criminals, guns in the hands of private citizens is exactly what criminals fear. In fact, it is what criminals most fear, even moreso than armed law enforcement (The Armed Criminal in America, DOJ 1985):

    https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/Photocopy/97099NCJRS.pdf

    • …and then there’s this gem FTA:

      Guns are a sign of insecurity—at the very least, they are no deterrent to criminals who are resolved, ruthless, and well armed.

      Right. Because your common criminal, or your average gang banger or druggie, is so well-known to be carrying high-quality firearms? The typical criminal in this group is armed with a handgun, usually an old and poorly maintained one. The nicer ones give too much return by being fenced, I guess?

  14. “Guns are a sign of insecurity…” That’s rich. Insecure is a 14 year old girl hoping she’s “pretty enough” to be accepted and loved by her friends. Security is achieved by strength of arms, and the ability to use them.

    My “stopgap” measure of concealed and open carry is much more than a “salve.” It’s either that or patrol the streets of South Central unarmed when I’m investigating this felony hit and run with a suspect who has a long criminal history.

    Further, criminals breaking into my home will find they are not in fact better armed or trained than this homeowner. If there is a better crime deterrent than a reliable $400-$2500 semi auto pistol / rifle / shotgun with spare ammo, I haven’t found it yet.

  15. How about “Hardened, resolved, well-armed” . . . private citizens? Our neighborhoods are filled with people with weapons skills, no small number of whom have direct combat experience. Like most other gun-controllers this guy is a cosmopolite, so disconnected from America’s cultural roots by his post-modern lifestyle that he simply cannot comprehend his own ignorance. What he doesn’t quite grasp is that America is becoming an armed camp populated by hardened, resolved, well-armed private citizens. This is why the gun-control movement is failing big-time.

    • “What he doesn’t quite grasp is that America is becoming an armed camp populated by hardened, resolved, well-armed private citizens.”

      I think the gun control advocates are starting to grasp that fact, and are fearfully realizing that they are the anvil that is being used to form that hardened weapon.

      “This is why the gun-control movement is failing big-time.” They are just regrouping. They are not failing by the laws that are being passed in other states. Yes, some states are gaining ground thankfully and coming back to The Constitutional Republic of America, but those citizens should never have to fight in order to defend a right that is specifically meant to be used when it is infringed upon. Eventually it will come down to if you don’t fight for your country, you deserve to lose it those who will.

  16. Possession of a firearm or concealed carry handgun does not make me safe, it makes me responsive in a positive way, stopping or diminishing the violence against myself, family or friends.

    • Without my EDC I tend to pay attention to egress points (exits) and potential areas of concealment that would provide some measure of safety against an armed criminal. Assuming the intention is to rob such protection may be enough. If the intention is to kill, whatever the twisted reasoning, hiding or running may not be sufficient.

      When I can and do have my EDC I am confident that at the very least I can put up some resistance, possibly enough to defeat or chase off any attacker. I spend my time looking for cover opportunities, not concealment, so I can as safely as possible return fire if necessary.

      It’s a question of which do you prefer, as a free citizen: looking for places to hide, or looking for places from which to fight?

  17. It’s Salon.com. A “news magazine” whose editor-in-chief called it a “smart tabloid”, apparently without seeing the inherent contradiction in terms. Fun fact, over it’s entire existence, Salon.com has never turned a profit and relies on ongoing injections of cash from its founders.

  18. Read the article and think my brain just stopped working. Those words represent a Failure of Logic of epic proportions. Stating criminals are more up gun than a law abiding citizen, therefore even if one has a gun, he should submit to criminals…WTF?

  19. Honestly, I just saw ‘Salon’ and tuned out.

    “Salon’s headquarters is located near downtown San Francisco, California”

    Figures.

  20. The canard about Holmes looking for gun-free theaters is not accurate, and I am surprised to see Lott defend it.

    I did the research myself when this claim came up as the address of Holmes apartment was publicly available. Yes, there were a few other theaters closer, but they weren’t showing the Dark Knight movie that day – one was a Hispanic theater, the other a discount theater. The Aurora theater he chose was the closest to his apartment, so the argument holds zero credibility.

  21. It’s been a while but some experience lingers. I did my time in the Republic of South Vietnam hunting and killing heavily armed men who were hell bent to do the same to me. A lot of those folks are gone, I’m still here. Criminals may come after me if they choose but even at my advanced stage of decay I remember how to deal with a threat from men who were a whole lot more formidable and dangerous opponents than the average gangbanger thug criminal moron.

    • Interesting except back in the day you had mutual fire support, artillery and air power against a determine enemy. Today one bears the burden of lawful self protection however yield that a modern criminal is no VC or NVA. One determine old guy with experience is more than a match against the replacements.

  22. >> Gun control advocates have attacked John Lott’s More Guns, Less Crime since the work first appeared. None has taken it down. No surprise there. To do so would require an advanced degree in statistics.

    There are plenty of counterarguments to Lott that are firmly based in statistics (specifically, disputing his methodology). Wikipedia page for the book lists a few, with references to the actual works.

    • Herein lies the problem with your argument. Lotts statement has been PROVEN many, many times over across the whole country, whereas the anti gun argument has proven itself false at every turn.

  23. Hardened, resolved, well-armed criminals

    Ah, yes. Who could forget, for example, the heroics of Baltimore’s 31st Crackhead Brigade at the Battle of the 8th Street Liquor Store? Wave after wave of valiant gangsters throwing themselves against the breech opened by the engineers, colors flying, the pipes and drums playing “High Road to Gairloch”?

    Oh, that’s right, that never f@$king happens.

  24. Short version of Mr. Debrabander’s article:

    Firearms can be highly effective BUT they are not perfect and have risks and do not solve crime all by themselves so we should ban them.

    Of course we could say the same about any number of things.

  25. Mr Debrabrander writes under the impression that most strung out junkies looking for a fix are tough and ruthless, when in reality the majority of them are rough and toothless.

  26. Every once in awhile, I catch myself looking at a sentence and wondering if those particular words have ever been strung together before.

    But this….!

    Debrabander’s fisking is as toothless as a mollusk.

    Take a bow, RF.

  27. I’m sorry, but the philosophers I know – and I do know several from my work in apologetics – are actually quite competent mathematicians. They both use the same rules of logic in their work.

    What you have hear is a case of bad philosophy. However, that shouldn’t be much of a surprise since logic and the observed facts do not support gun control.

  28. It is true, Mr. Debrabander, that guns will not solve the conditions that breed crime and criminal behavior, but let me ask you this, will they make us LESS safe? If not, why would you deny law abiding citizens the only effective means of protecting themselves? Assuming that guns are only successful some of the time, isn’t that enough?

    And in the final analysis, Mr. Debrabander, given thousands of years of human criminality, can you think of anything that will solve the problem of criminal misconduct? Since no one before you has solved that problem, why would you take away people’s ability to defend themselves from the inevitability of crime? A salve, Mr. Debrabander, is better than an open wound.

  29. You lost me at Salon.

    Salon is the “news” equivalent of a mentally disturbed first grader’s finger paintings.

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