Life is so much simpler once the science behind an issue is settled. Questions are not allowed needed any more! This time the purveyor of received wisdom is TheTrace.org and Vice.com’s Alex Yablon shilling for a study from one of the anti-gunners’ usual suspects, John J. Donohue III (above) and a couple of his hangers-on, PhD candidate Kyle D. Weber, and Abhay Aneja.
Before I go into all the ways that Yablon’s story is wrong or simply immaterial, and how Donohue’s research is fundamentally flawed or, again, immaterial, I need to get something off my chest:
The antis — specifically Donohue, are absolutely correct. The science is settled.
When I started narrowing my civil rights activism to Second Amendment issues back in 2003 (has it really been that long?) it never occurred to me that I’d find myself agreeing with any civilian disarmament advocates, much less dedicated anti-freedom mouthpieces like JJDIII, but there it is.
He has conclusively shown in his most recent study (which you can download here for the low, low price of only $5) that shall-issue laws (which he mistakenly identifies as right to carry laws) do not increase crime.
Okay, that isn’t how he phrases it. Nor is it how the various anti-gun media mouthpieces portray it. But the results are right there in his study.
The best claim he can make to bolster his anti-gun argument is that 10 years after passage of shall-issue laws, violent crime in these states failed to drop as quickly as it did in states with more restrictive laws. To squeeze even that much of an anti-2A conclusion from his data he had to use the so-called synthetic control technique (more on that later) to massage the results.
So, with that out of the way, let’s examine Mr. Yablon’s efforts to undermine the natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil and Constitutional right to own and carry the weapon of your choice.
In the four decades that the modern, militant gun rights movement has been around, one of its most significant victories occurred not at the ballot box, on a president’s special signing desk, or in the courtroom. Rather, one of the biggest battles pro-gun partisans have ever won took place in the minds of millions of Americans.
My math isn’t always the greatest, but I think “four decades” equals 40 years, meaning that the “modern, militant gun rights movement” started around 1977.
Alex is probably referring to what’s now known as the so-called Cincinnati Revolution, the NRA’s 1977 annual meeting where, as the Washington Post says, “true believers converted a marksmanship group into a mighty gun lobby.”
But Alex is completely ignoring the fact that even back in the early 1960s the “fundamentalist” view of the Second Amendment was held by, among others, John F. Kennedy, first as a Senator (from the April 1960 issue of Guns magazine):
… Although it is extremely unlikely that the fears of governmental tyranny which gave rise to the Second Amendment will ever be a major danger to our nation, the Amendment still remains an important declaration of our basic civilian-military relationships, in which every citizen must be ready to participate in the defense of his country. For that reason I believe the Second Amendment will always be important.
A view reiterated when Kennedy became the President of the United States (in a statement just days after his inauguration):
In my own native state of Massachusetts, the battle for American freedom was begun by the thousands of farmers and tradesmen who made up the Minute Men — citizens who were ready to defend their liberty at a moment’s notice. Today we need a nation of minute men; citizens who are not only prepared to take up arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as a basic purpose of their daily life and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom. The cause of liberty, the cause of America, cannot succeed with any lesser effort.
Nor did President Kennedy make this idea up out of whole cloth. Earlier Constitutional commentators and scholars held similar views, see GunCite.com for an excellent collection of them.
But in the very next sentence, Yablon makes clear what he thinks about the whole “right to keep and bear arms” thing:
Since the late 1970’s, the National Rifle Association and other firearm advocates have successfully fought to make armed self defense increasingly acceptable in everyday life.
So, Mr. Yablon, do you have a problem with the mainstreaming of any type of self-defense? Or is it just armed self-defense that you object to? Are you one of those who, like so many in the victim disarmament crowd, would rather see a woman dead in an alley, gang-raped and brutally beaten to death, than standing in that same alley explaining to police how her attackers got those bullet wounds?
Just to be clear, Mr. Yablon, if I’m accosted and threatened with grievous bodily harm or death by some 20-year-old thug, what should this 55-year-old, 300+ pound white guy with bad knees, heart disease, vertigo and limited range of motion in his right shoulder (can’t throw a ball or a punch due to injuries received in the Navy) do?
Should I “avoid the confrontation” and run away as I listen to him laugh (at least until I keel over from another heart attack)? Should I defend myself physically and wrestle him with my (essentially) non-functioning right arm and buggered up knees? Should I drop to those same buggered knees and beg for mercy? Which course of action meets your criteria for being “acceptable in everyday life”?
A wealth of survey data … shows that Americans have grown more comfortable with the toting of concealed guns in public.
That is a good thing, although I still maintain 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.
For the benefit of those like Yablon who might have trouble with the concept of individual freedom, that last little bit means that it doesn’t matter if 50.1 or 99.9 percent of Americans agree or disagree. My rights aren’t subject to their whims.
Self defense is now the most common reason cited for owning a firearm, leading handguns to become the most popular kind of weapon in the American arsenal. Those attitudes and behaviors mark major shifts: In the mid 1990s, Americans primarily owned guns for recreation, and as recently as 2005, a strong plurality thought only police officers should carry guns in public.
Yep, and if you follow that link and read the question, the three options are:
Only safety officials (44%)
Safety officials and private citizens with a clear need (26%)
Any private citizen (27%)
Given that “any private citizen” would include felons, drug addicts and lunatics, I am frankly astonished that the numbers were that high. But again, see above about my rights and your whims.
Now we come to the meat (or, thin watery broth as the case may be) of Yablon’s article:
At the heart of this campaign for the hearts, minds, and holsters of America has been an article of faith that the NRA and its allies have preached since at least the 1990s: that people enhance public safety by carrying guns to defend themselves. …
It’s a powerful, seductive idea, particularly to Americans who favor personal liberty over communitarian ideals. It’s also completely wrong, according to a new analysis of nearly 40 years’ worth of crime data.
Yablon (or his editor) then inserts the “money quote” as it is called:
For years, the question has been, is there any public safety benefit to right to carry laws? That is now settled. The answer is no.” —John Donohue, Stanford Law School
Uh-oh, flag on the play! The referee is calling Donohue for illegal goal post moving!
In other words, JJDIII is lying. In fact, he’s contradicting his own words. Thanks to the magic of date-specific search, the Interwebz pulls up the following:
“[t]he weight of the evidence is now firmly behind those who have found that right-to-carry [shall-issue] laws do not reduce, and may even increase, the overall level of crime,” according to a recent study by Stanford Economist John J. Donohue.
Because even permissive concealed-carry states require permit holders to meet minimum age requirements, any deterrent benefits from these laws should be concentrated among adults and, therefore, should be reflected in the gap between adult and juvenile victimization rates. My results suggest that shall-issue laws have resulted, if anything, in an increase in adult homicide rates.
Or how about John E. Shanks, associate director of law enforcement relations for Handgun Control Inc. when invited to debate Ohio’s pending “shall-issue” law:
What has happened in other states that have CCW laws? Has crime in those states increased or declined?
John Shanks, Coalition: We believe immediate access and availability enhances chances for firearms violence. A case in point is two ladies in a recent road-rage incident. One of them reached in her glove box and pulled out a gun and shot the other one. When you introduce firearms, a situation that would not normally result in deadly violence can be tragic.
Okay, enough beating the dead horse. For years civilian disarmament advocated have insisted — every time a state legislature started debating shall-issue — that the result would be road rage rampages, fender bender firefights and parking lot shoot-outs. When none of these threatened (hoped for?) outcomes came to pass — ever — they were forced to switch gears, saying that increased permits to carry failed to reduce crime.
Now, however, JJDIII is claiming that shall-issue carry law enactment means crime rates don’t fall as fast as if they hadn’t been passed. And just how exactly does one go about figuring that bit out?
No, seriously, you just have to make $hit up and call it “synthetic control technique.” With SCT (read the Urban Institute explanation of it here), JJDIII basically used certain “factors” associated with crime rates to look for states which were demographically similar to their test (right to carry) states.
According to an economist friend of mine (a PhD from the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management) this technique is extremely useful when you already know what you want your study to prove. Because cherry-picking which factors are “crucial” and which states to use as controls is, well, subjective. You just do data runs with different control groups until you get the results you want, then declare that your “synthetic control” is “substantially similar” to your experimental group. Convenient, no?
Not that I, of course, or anyone would ever intimate that JJDIII and his hoplophobic posse are engaging in any sort of academic fraud or chicanery. Perish the thought. Just because their “study” was never subjected to peer review before being published, and isn’t available to review without paying for it, we really shouldn’t conclude there’s anything untoward going on here.
Yablon goes on to explain:
In a new working paper … academics at Stanford Law School ran [nearly 40 years’ worth of crime] data through four different statistical models—including one developed by Lott for More Guns, Less Crime—and came back with an unambiguous conclusion: states that made it easier for their citizens to go armed in public had higher levels of non-fatal violent crime than those states that restricted the right to carry. The exception was the narrower category of murder; …
I have a better idea. Let’s look at the data from two countries, not just a few counties. Let’s look at the UK, which effectively has no right to gun ownership much less a right to carry. And, as JJDIII says, homicide rates were unaffected by loosening right to carry laws, so we’ll only look at violent crime, shall we?
According to NationMaster.com, between the US and UK:
|Type of Crime||USA||UK||Difference|
|Rape Victims (women only)||0.4%||0.9%||UK 2.25x more than US|
|Assault Victims||1.2%||2.8%||UK 2.3x more than US|
|Property Crime Victims||10%||12.2%||UK 1.2x more than US|
|Robbery Victims||0.6%||1.2%||UK 2x more than US|
|Total Crimes per 1000||41.29||109.96||UK 2.6x more than US|
So, on the one side you have a country with a long history of strict gun control, and on the other, a country with expanding freedom to own and carry the weapon of your choice. One has decades of falling crime rates and one has rising crime rates. One has less than 42 crimes per 1,000 people, the other has more than 2½ times that at rate.
Tell me one more time: which one is the better country in which to live?