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RF has already tackled Denis Hennigan’s Huffington Post post-Chardon shooting polemic. But as TTAG’s resident fact check guy, I couldn’t resist adding my .02 . . . As RF pointed out, the latest iteration of Hennigan’s “sky-is-falling” philosophy starts out reasonably enough. Denny actually raises a good point: in the rush to answer why did this kid do this horrible thing a lot of other “Why?” queries got lost in the shuffle. Let’s start with this: since emergency plans call for a ‘lockdown’ during a shooting; Why was there no lock on the teachers’ lounge door?

Since every mass shooting in the U.S. (with the sole exception of Tucson) has occurred in a so-called “gun-free” zone, Why are we continuing this manifestly failed policy?

Partly in response to the Ma’alot school massacre, Israel loosened their gun laws, teachers started carrying and parents volunteered as armed guards for the children. Since then the only spree shooting of Israeli schoolchildren occurred on the Island of Peace where the teachers had been asked to disarm. So Why aren’t we arming teachers to prevent these sorts of attacks?

And one last Why…Why do people like Denny and Sarah Brady and Josh Horwitz blame the gun?

Let’s face it. Chardon happened not because an Ohio teenager was so troubled that he became violent. Chardon happened because a troubled, violent Ohio teenager was able to get access to a gun.

Remove the gun from the equation and there may have been a violent incident involving T.J. Lane. But it is doubtful that three young people would have died and two been seriously injured. The nature and scope of the Chardon tragedy was determined by the nature and lethality of the weapon. It’s not just a question of “Why?” It’s also a question of “How?”

Really Dennis? That’s what you want to go with? You want to ignore the 10th worst school massacre, the Cologne school killings, where the perp used a homemade flamethrower, lance and mace? You are going to pretend the 2nd worst massacre, the Bath school bombings never happened? You think you can make believe the Columbine killers didn’t have scores of IEDs?

Dennis then goes on to give further notoriety to murderous scum by naming them (which I refuse to do…let them rot in obscurity) in the familiar, well-worn waving of the bloody shirt:

Take the gun from [the shooter] and 32 Virginia Tech students would not have died almost five years ago. Nor would 15 more have been injured. Take the guns from [the shooters] and 13 students and teachers would not have died at Columbine High School, nor would 21 others have been injured. Give these violent individuals baseball bats or knives instead of guns and everything changes. The problem is not just the people. The problem is also the guns.

Wait; up above Denny said that the problem was that a troubled teen was able to get access to a gun and now the problem is that guns exist? Well we all know that Mr. Henny-Penny would be much happier if guns didn’t exist but he’s not ready to come out of that particular closet yet so he still cloaks his ultimate agenda as “reasonable” and “common sense” measures.

But, back to the if only the guns had been taken from the killers’ hands then the rainbows would come down and we’d all ride unicorns to the Big Rock Candy Mountain. Okay, maybe I made that last bit up, but Denny is making $h!t up too if he thinks that some sort of gun ban will stop spree killers.

Look at the Dunblane massacre which happened in the U.K. with extremely strict gun laws. Then look at the Cumbria shootings which happened after they “fixed” the U.K.’s laws (well, something suffered an orchiectomy anyway) following Dunblane.

Then look at the Red Lake Reservation school shooting where the shooter murdered his cop grandfather then used his issue weapons to shoot up the school.

Then look at the Erfut Massacre which the killer planned for months and fully complied with Germany’s highly restrictive gun laws.

Then look at Ma’alot where terrorists/manmade-disaster-creators/freedom fighters brought their weapons in from outside the country thereby skirting Israel’s strict gun laws (a holdover from British rule).

Then, once you are done trying to figure out how even stricter anti-mass-murder-gun laws would have helped, answer me this: Beslan.

Beslan where several dozen purported RIF[1]s took more than a thousand school staff, children and parents hostage, executed a couple of fathers then killed another 15 or 20 men they thought looked like they could make trouble.

Beslan where the RIFs mined the school building and gymnasium (where the hostages were held) with IEDs and tripwires.

Beslan where hostages were tortured and killed for spite, where water was withheld until people were so thirsty they were drinking urine, where children were raped and sodomized in front of their parents and classmates.

Beslan where guns were banned (since it was a school) in a country where handguns are banned and long guns strictly regulated and extremely expensive.

But Denny continues with his ignorance and distortions…

It’s not just the mass killings where the gun makes the difference. In general, assaults with guns are 23 times more deadly than assaults with other weapons or bodily force.

Denny, Denny, Denny Henny-Penny. There is a logical hole in that study that you could drive a 747 through. You say that in intimate assaults someone is more likely to die if their assailant uses a gun instead of fists? That probably has something to do with the fact that the vast majority of intimate partner beatings are not intended to kill.

Denny does, however, expose a grain of truth in his first sentence; guns make a difference in self-defense, too.

According to figures (p. 20) from the British Home Office your chances of being injured in a crime when you defend yourself with a gun are one-fourth your chance of being injured by doing nothing, not quite one-seventh if using a knife and not quite one-eighth resisting non-violently.

Den then spews out a couple more trivial irrelevancies:

Suicide attempts with guns are far more likely to result in death than attempts using other means. Accidents with guns are more deadly than accidents with other dangerous objects.

Again, people who mean it are more likely to use a gun, but that is completely irrelevant since repeated studies both here and abroad have shown there is no correlation between availability of firearms and overall suicide rates. Changes in gun laws may change firearm suicide rates but have no effect on the total rate.

This is what happened in Canada when they started restricting handguns. The antis crowed over the fact that gun suicides went down but ignored the fact that non-gun suicides rose to make up more than the difference. Oops!

As for “deadly firearm accidents” over the 11 years from 1999 – 2009 the US averaged 703 a year or a little less than 2 a day. And that rate has been dropping even with the “gun supply” increasing by 5 million or more every year; from 2005 – 2009 the annual average dropped to 638 or slightly less than 1.75 a day. By way of contrast, here are some other accidental death rates over that same period:

Accident Type Annual Avg. Daily Avg.
Poisoning 21,895.2 60.0
Falling 18,701 51.2
Suffocation 5,778.7 15.8
Pedestrian v. Car 5,912.5 16.2
Drowning 3,456.5 9.5
Medical 2,769.2 7.6
Residential Fire 2,759.5 7.6
Firearms 703.0 1.9
Cut/Pierce 100.2 0.3

So I guess by other dangerous objects being less deadly than guns, he was not talking about poisons, heights, pillows, cars, pools lakes and rivers, doctors or fires. He was just talking about knives.

While we are trying to figure out how a young heart could become so hardened that it would lead to an act of unspeakable violence, can we not also have sensible policies to prevent hardened and violent kids from getting access to guns? I have no doubt the gun lobby welcomes our obsession with the “Why?” question. It deflects attention from the deadly role of the guns.

What sensible policies? “Safe storage” laws? “Child access prevention” laws? Gun bans? Purchase restrictions (including the prohibited person restriction)? Waiting periods? Licensing and Registration? According to the First Reports Evaluating the Effectiveness of Strategies for Preventing Violence: Firearms Laws not one of these strategies can be shown to have any affect.

I remember well the congressional debate on proposals to extend Brady background checks to all sales at gun shows in the wake of the Columbine massacre. It was undisputed that the Columbine killers exploited the “gun show loophole” to acquire their weapons.

No Den, it is most assuredly notundisputed“. Three of their weapons were purchased at a gun show but they were straw purchased so the fact that it was a private seller and the location of the actual transaction are completely immaterial. The fourth weapon, a 9mm pistol, was purchased by the shooters from a friend who knew he was selling it to them illegally.

Yet the strategy of the gun control opponents was to focus the discussion entirely on the question of “Why?” They talked about the destruction of American values, the erosion of morality, violent video games, and inattentive parenting. In response, Rep. Steve Rothman (D-NJ) acknowledged the relevance of many such factors, but added a compelling truth: “But when all is said and done, the main culprit was the easy accessibility of guns to the children.”

See my Whys above, but the primary Why, the biggest Why, the friggin’ elephant in the room Why is: Why are our teachers still helpless to defend our children?

“Easy accessibility?” All four of their weapons were acquired illegally. One of the sellers wound up in prison and the other, despite testifying before Congress that she committed several felonies (straw purchase, accomplice before the fact, etc.), never faced charges for her role in the killings.

There is speculation among some of us more conspiracy-minded gun-nuts that she was promised immunity if she testified that she wouldn’t have bought the guns if she’d had to go through a background check (which would indicate that she knew the shooters were planning something illegal).

We are repeatedly told, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” Clever, but tragically misleading. A gun enabled [nameless] to be an efficient and effective multiple killer.

No Dennis, not tragically misleading, completely on point. People kill and if [nameless] hadn’t had “access” to a gun he could have gone online and found out all about match head, sparkler, propane tank or aerosol can bombs (aka IEDs). Or learned about using lye, aluminum and distilled water to make hydrogen; you know what that can do don’t you Dennis? Or using a windshield washer pump to make a flamethrower. Or . . . but do I need to go on?

Denny finishes up with a little homily:

We lost three young people in Chardon. But we lose eight young people every day to gunfire. The problem is the guns.

Except I should probably call it a homilie. Since suicide rates are independent of method, we’ll just look at homicides and accidental deaths involving firearms. In order to attain Denny’s goal of 8 “young people killed by guns every day” we have to include not just children (13 children a day killed by guns!), not even the newer “children and teens” factoid.

To get eight firearms related homicides and accidental deaths a day we have to include 20 year-olds. Great Ghu what’s next? We have 21 children, teens, young people and 20-somethings killed every day by guns!

Denny has made a career out of dancing on the bodies of victims while waving a bloody shirt. But what he never mentions is the fact that more than twice as many lives are saved in Defensive Gun Uses (DGUs) than are taken by criminal firearms use.

According to the Kleck-Gertz study from the early 1990s 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) unwilling to accept that Dr. Kleck is not some sort of shill for the Gun Lobby™. This, despite the good doctor disclosing in his 1997 book Targeting Guns (quote from

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 and antis will always prefer their own “reality” so (without questioning its validity) let’s go ahead and throw the K-G number out in favor of a more conservative one. Let’s use the numbers from the study which was commissioned by the Clinton DoJ shortly after the K-G study came out (to refute the K-G numbers maybe? If so: 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.

Now, 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, Skippy” 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 so they never would have learned of my DGU.

So to try and figure out how many lives were saved I turn once again to Kleck and Gertz’s article Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense with a Gun[2]. They found that 15.7% of people involved in a DGU believed that they “almost certainly” saved their life of someone else’s.

Now that might strike some people as being an awfully large percentage, but if you take into account the fact that most states regard pulling a gun as using 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 you can lawfully use deadly force, the number seems more feasible. 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.

Because I want my numbers to be distinctly conservative let’s say that 9 out of 10 of the “almost certainly” folks were wrong, and lets say that 99 out of 100 of the “probably” people were also incorrect. That 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 translates to over 25,000 lives that are saved annually by guns.

So we’ve 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. So if we follow Denny’s advice and restrict firearms, there are going to be more robberies, more shootings, more deaths and more “sky is falling!” cries for gun control.

Instead, let’s look at what has worked in other places. Israel has armed their teachers and school shootings have virtually stopped. So let’s give that a try. And Denny Henny-Penny? His shrill shrieks to the contrary, the streets are not and will not be running red with blood, nor will the sky fall. It’s going to be all right. Really.

[1] Radical Islamic Fundamentalist

[2] Northwestern University School of Law, Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, vol. 86, issue 1, 1995

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  1. I have an obvious question: does Denny have armed guards protecting him and if so, why?

  2. Another school shooting but no kids were targeted.

    One flaw I find in arming teachers or allowing guns in school and I support dropping the no guns allowed is most teachers are libs who don’t like guns.
    Unlike in Isreal we are not under constent threat. Because of this I think we have an attitude of it won’t happen here or to me. And we look at these laws like they will stop these events. Even if allowed how many teachers or staff would carry?

    • most teachers are libs who don’t like guns

      This seems a duck responsibility versus take responsibility attitude; it’s also idealistic versus realistic.

      A “lib” might observe that we have no crime problems with Klingon disruptors because there are no Klingon disruptors outside of a Star Trek movie. Therefor if we eliminate all firearms we’d have no crime problems with them either. QED

      In the real world firearms have been around for hundreds of years and there are literally tens of millions of them in existence now. Facing that fact the lib will retreat to the ivory tower and sniff that their total gun ban approach is still the perfect and only solution.

      This absolves them of further responsibility. Whatever untoward things may happen with firearms, the important thing is that it’s not their fault because their plan is perfect. It’s the fault of everyone else who didn’t follow that perfect advice.

  3. Assume for a moment that Dennis Hennigan gets his way;firearms in civilian hands are scrapped and FFLs are shut down with 100% effectiveness. He may then make the statement that he has made a safer America,which is like stating that if we drain Lake Michigan boats will never sink again.

    The legal firearms market is just a visible tip of a large and sizeable iceberg of weapons trading.As I type this now a crook is probably negotiating a sale of a gun in an alley somewhere in America.There are enough weapons in circulation in the criminal society to become a self sustaining market no matter what law is passed on the civilian side of things.Gangs and scumbags trade weapons among themselves,buy them from family & pals,or steal them from various sources.Without gun stores to burglarize the police will be the target of choice for gun heists,assuming crooks can’t find one bent cop who won’t mind selling half the armory to the street dealers for the right amount of $$$.
    Mr. Hannigan should sit down at the nearest library and review the 1920s ,let he repeat the advancement of a mistake we have already made.

  4. Nice writeup. As someone who doesn’t have the time available to me, I really appreciate that you have the time and inclination to research and rebut the “accepted wisdom” from people like him.

  5. Bruce, when you start out saying Henigan is “running around screeching in terror,” you lose all credibility. That’s just like calling Colin a ghoul.

    Inflammatory language like that does not help you carry your message, which, as verbose as it is, is already hard to swallow.

    • Yeah,I understand it being hard to swallow for you, Mike. One of the hardest things to do in this world is admit you’re wrong. I wish you the best of luck with your shattering realization.

      • I think the fact it is based in logic is Mikeb302000’s biggest problem with your writing. Can’t we just save the children and stop arguing? @Chaz – Well said.

  6. Right mikeb because the language on your website referring to “gun loons” who want “to make up for their inadequacies elsewhere” is perfectly respectful.

    But because nobody really cares about the language, you didn’t address anything in the post. The evil guns havn’t been doing nearly as good a job at killing our children as the doctors, heights, or even water. And what about DGUs saving more people than guns killing even with conservative estimates?

  7. now, i recall that Beslan rape/sodomy claim being very thinly-sourced, so i have to admit that’s where you lose me.

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