the NRA’s six degrees of stupidity

Posted: January 20, 2013 in gun policy, Obama, politics
Tags: , ,


ONE. In 1989, in Stockton, California, a 26-year old man walked into a school yard carrying an ak-47 assault rifle and killed five children. Two months later George Bush Sr. took executive action and banned the importation of some semiautomatic weapons.

These are weapons, as we all know, that are built to kill the largest number of people in the shortest possible time. They are not built for hunting, or for target practice. They are designed for the battlefield.

Of course, the NRA fought Bush every step of the way. Because “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” And “we don’t ban cars, even though people die in cars.” (People don’t kill people. People with guns kill people. And people with assault rifles can kill a lot of people very quickly. And we don’t allow unsafe cars on the road, and we mandate seat belts, and we have speed limits, and we don’t allow drinking and driving, and we don’t allow texting and driving…I could go on.)

TWO. In 1995, one month after the Oklahoma City bombing, the NRA put out a fundraising letter calling federal law enforcement personnel “jack-booted 
thugs.” The next week President 
George H.W. Bush resigned his life membership in the NRA in protest.

THREE. The National Rifle Association spent much of President Obama’s first term touting increasingly paranoid claims that the United Nations is coming for everyone’s guns, and that President Obama’s non-existent record of new gun regulations is actually “a massive Obama conspiracy to deceive voters and hide his true intentions to destroy the Second Amendment in our country.” (Obama had done nothing regarding guns, except to make it legal to carry guns in national parks and on Amtrak.)

Wayne LaPierre

Wayne LaPierre of the NRA

FOUR. Last month, one week after the slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the National Rifle Association’s Wayne LaPierre took to a microphone to deliver a defensive, crackpot speech that didn’t come close to fully grasping the impact of the murder of 20 first-graders at the hands of a madman with an assault rifle. Everyone was to blame. The media and their corporate owners. The political class in Washington. Video games. Violent movies. The mentally ill. But at no point did he point the finger at the NRA…or at guns.

FIVE. Last week the NRA put out a video calling President Obama a hypocrite, because his children have armed protection while our children don’t. Apparently the NRA isn’t aware of the constant threat to the leader of the free world’s children and the necessity – for all our sakes – of protecting them.

SIX. This week the NRA stated that they are against any law that would improve the existing background check system. Let me repeat that…read this carefully. The NRA is against the creation of an effective background check system. The existing laws only require background checks for people buying guns at gun stores, but not for buyers at gun shows and after market sales, which account for 70% of guns used in crimes.

And, by the way, 92% of Americans believe that all potential gun buyers should be subject to background checks. 92% of Americans don’t agree an anything! 92% of Americans can’t agree on objective, proven scientific findings. 92% of Americans can’t agree that kittens are adorable. 92% of Americans don’t agree that 4 year-olds shouldn’t be in beauty pageants. Yet 92% of them agree on this. Hell, 88% of gun owners agree!! And yet…the NRA is going to fight this tooth and nail.

Here’s my question:

When will politicians stop pandering to the fringe, information-challenged right-wing faction of Americans who misinterpret the 2nd amendment, believing that it is somehow their God-given right as human beings to own weapons that were built for the battle field and designed for the explicit purpose of killing as many human beings as possible in as short a period of time as possible?

NEWS FLASH FOR POLITICIANS! Except for the fact that they might shoot you, the NRA is nothing to fear.

An analysis earlier this year by Paul Waldman found that the NRA has little actual ability to move the dial during an election. He writes that “the group had no role in delivering the White House to George W. Bush in 2000 or the House of Representatives to Republicans in 1994.”

“The NRA has virtually no impact on congressional elections. The NRA endorsement, so coveted by so many politicians, is almost meaningless. Nor does the money the organization spends have any demonstrable impact on the outcome of races,” Waldman wrote.

8367226159_86ced4224d_oThe National Rifle Association spent more than $17 million on the 2012 presidential and congressional contests. Their rate of return? 0.83%. Seriously. That’s the percentage of their spending that backed winning candidates. They were the least effective super PAC, by far, in the 2012 election cycle. 99.17% of that $17 million was thrown down the toilet.

In addition to about $9.3 million spent to elect Mitt Romney, the NRA’s top money-getter was Richard Mourdock — the Indiana U.S. Senate candidate who disqualified himself after suggesting that pregnancies resulting from rape are a “gift from God.” Other senate candidates who did not get elected despite the NRA’s best efforts include Ohio’s Josh Mandel, Virginia’s George Allen, Florida’s Connie Mack and Mourdock’s biologically challenged co-ideologue Todd Akin.

“It shows their influence over elections is a myth,” said Brian Malte of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

Politicians: Stop being afraid of the NRA. Do what’s right!

Before you believe the radical right’s rhetoric, let’s take a look at what Obama actually is proposing to congress and what his executive actions are all about*. Even though Obama is the third modern president to use executive orders in an attempt to make our country a safer, saner place to raise children by putting limits on assault rifles, his proposals are not the most 
aggressive gun regulation that we have ever seen in this country. However, he has proposed the most wide-ranging, most holistic, most comprehensive 
approach to the overall problem of gun violence that we have ever seen in this 

And the NRA has vowed to fight all of it…every step of the way.

President Obama’s plan is a mixture of executive orders and requests to Congress. For example, he`s 
calling for the department of justice to provide incentives under the 
existing cops program for police departments to hire school resource 
officers. That means officers who are specially trained. But at the same time, he’s also asking Congress for something. He’s asking Congress for $150 million for school districts and law
 enforcement agencies so that they can spend the money to hire resource
 officers and psychologists and counselors.images-11

*Proposed Congressional Actions

  • Requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales, including those by private sellers that currently are exempt.
  • Reinstating and strengthening the ban on assault weapons that was in place from 1994 to 2004.
  • Limiting ammunition magazines to 10 rounds.
  • Banning the possession of armor-piercing bullets by anyone other than members of the military and law enforcement.
  • Increasing criminal penalties for “straw purchasers,” people who pass the required background check to buy a gun on behalf of someone else.
  • Acting on a $4 billion administration proposal to help keep 15,000 police officers on the street.
  • Confirming President Obama’s nominee for director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
  • Eliminating a restriction that requires the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to allow the importation of weapons that are more than 50 years old.
  • Financing programs to train more police officers, first responders and school officials on how to respond to active armed attacks.
  • Provide additional $20 million to help expand the a system that tracks violent deaths across the nation from 18 states to 50 states.
  • Providing $30 million in grants to states to help schools develop emergency response plans.
  • Providing financing to expand mental health programs for young people.

Executive actions

  • Issuing a presidential memorandum to require federal agencies to make relevant data available to the federal background check system.
  • Addressing unnecessary legal barriers, particularly relating to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, that may prevent states from making information available to the background check system.
  • Improving incentives for states to share information with the background check system.
  • Directing the attorney general to review categories of individuals prohibited from having a gun to make sure dangerous people are not slipping through the cracks.
  • Proposing a rule making to give law enforcement authorities the ability to run a full background check on an individual before returning a seized gun.
  • Publishing a letter from the A.T.F. to federally licensed gun dealers providing guidance on how to run background checks for private sellers.
  • Starting a national safe and responsible gun ownership campaign.
  • Reviewing safety standards for gun locks and gun safes (Consumer Product Safety Commission).
  • Issuing a presidential memorandum to require federal law enforcement to trace guns recovered in criminal investigations.
  • Releasing a report analyzing information on lost and stolen guns and making it widely available to law enforcement authorities.
  • Nominating an A.T.F. director.
  • Providing law enforcement authorities, first responders and school officials with proper training for armed attacks situations.
  • Maximizing enforcement efforts to prevent gun violence and prosecute gun crime.
  • Issuing a presidential memorandum directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to research gun violence.
  • Directing the attorney general to issue a report on the availability and most effective use of new gun safety technologies and challenging the private sector to develop innovative technologies.
  • Clarify that the Affordable Care Act does not prohibit doctors asking their patients about guns in their homes.
  • Releasing a letter to health care providers clarifying that no federal law prohibits them from reporting threats of violence to law enforcement authorities.
  • Providing incentives for schools to hire school resource officers.
  • Developing model emergency response plans for schools, houses of worship and institutions of higher education.
  • Releasing a letter to state health officials clarifying the scope of mental health services that Medicaid plans must cover.
  • Finalizing regulations clarifying essential health benefits and parity requirements within insurance exchanges.
  • Committing to finalizing mental health parity regulations.
  • Starting a national dialogue on mental health led by Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, and Arne Duncan, the secretary of education.

FE_DA_121412_obama_Shooting425x283Of course, these executive actions by the president are being denounced as tyranny on the right. I’d like to ask those of you who agree with that assessment–which of Obama’s specific proposals/actions/requests do you disagree with, and why?

This is ground breaking. Obama has not gone farther than any other president toward restricting certain guns. Instead he has gone wider. It is the breath of what 
he has proposed – it’s his holistic approach. This is an historic moment.

Of course, the fringe element will fight and threaten and raise money and talk about guys in black helicopters coming to take all our guns. Ignore those people, please.

(sign up to receive blog posts via email…look over there to your left…c’mon…it’ll be fun.)

  1. LateNight says:

    ONE MORE THING… REMOVE THE TAX EXEMPTION FOR THE NRA, no matter what name they might use…

  2. Michael,

    You are an excellent example of something my mom told me many times growing up that I have found to be so prescient in recent years. “Liberals care about intentions, Conservatives care about results.”

    You throw out some anecdotal, heart-rending stories, complete with evil straw men, and lament the gun-crazy, extremist wackos who just can’t get past their ill-conceived misreading of the 2nd Amendment to save our children.


    Numbers are hard to estimate because not all gun manufactures break down sales data by model, but very generous estimates state that so-called “assault weapons” account for roughly 3% of all privately owned firearms. (The AR-15 platform models are the most common by far and the entire line, from multiple manufacturers, account for less than 4 million rifles, or less than 2%). Assault weapons are used in a fraction of gun-related violent crimes; far less than 1%. What, pray tell, do you hope to accomplish with an “assault weapons ban”?

    Why did Congress allow the 1994 assault weapons ban to lapse? Because it had no demonstrable record of effectiveness in deterring gun crime, that’s why.

    Since the ban sunsetted, so-called “assault weapons” have proliferated at an amazing rate. President Obama is certainly doing his part to help gun manufactures make a tidy fortune. You’d think with all of those guns spreading like wildfire and all of us gun-crazy, NRA-loving, fanatics there would be murder and mayhem everywhere wouldn’t you? Ah, but the murder by firearm rate continues to drop. 2011 was the lowest year on record since 1960. But I’m sorry, I realize that facts are simply inconvenient hindrances to your well thought-out stance that guns are evil, kids are dying, and how can we stand by and do nothing????? And who needs a weapon designed to kill as many people as possible anyway???

    I could point out that the 2nd Amendment says nothing whatsoever about hunting, target shooting, or sporting competitions. I could point out that the Federalist Papers and other founding-era documents are rife with assertions that the 2nd Amendment was a protection against tyranny. Of course, that wouldn’t matter because only crazy right-wing nuts still believe in the 2nd Amendment, or Liberty, or Original Intent. In fact, doesn’t that have something to do with racism? I mean, some of the founders owned slaves, right? I’m sure there’s some racist undertone you can find in there somewhere. Not to mention we don’t have aircraft, tanks, rocket launchers, and unmanned, heavily armed drones so it’s not like we could fend off the tyrannical government in a pinch anyway, so why bother?

    You start with a blatantly faulty premise and make that the hill you stand on. Banning guns from law-abiding citizens will somehow make us all safer, especially the children.

    Prove it. You can’t because you are dead wrong.

    Even the most skeptical research on defensive gun use (such as Harvard’s Hemenway, who claims approximately 100,000 cases per year), suggests that guns are used far more often for self-defense than for crime; an order of magnitude higher in fact. FBI and NIJ research shows that the ratio is actually going up as privately owned firearms become more common.

    Why do the cities and states with the most stringent gun laws have the highest rates of violent crime? Why is there a demonstrable link between less restrictive concealed-carry laws and lower crime rates?

    Instances of gun violence, including spree shootings, are drastically down, not up.

    Most importantly, to take the same anecdotal tact you favor, how many kids brutally murdered in CT could have been saved if just one person in the vicinity had been armed and had the training, ability, and most importantly the will to act?

    Every shooting where more than three people were killed since 1950 save one (Gabrielle Giffords) have occurred in “weapon free zones”. So how are those zones working out?

    Why don’t we just ban murder? And we should probably go ahead and ban poverty and hunger while we are at it. Don’t we want to stop those too?

    What I would recommend in all seriousness, is that you leave the straw men be, educate yourself, get past your irrational and emotional quagmire of willful ignorance and put your efforts into something that might actually help. Whatever that looks like, it isn’t going to be more restriction on legal gun ownership and a broader assault on the Constitution and liberty.

    • nash says:

      Thanks John – and to anyone who happens to be reading this (including those who have written me a sort of “WTF???” email about the tone of John’s post), DON’T fret. John and I debate like this. I’m ok with it!! In fact, I wrote him a note and encouraged him to respond.

      John – if I strip away all your sarcasm and defensiveness, and just isolate the actual content, you don’t have much to say at all, do you?

      First of all, regarding the weapons in question, virtually every major law enforcement organization in the country including the Fraternal Order of Police, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the National Troopers Coalition, the National Sheriffs Association, the National Association of Police Organizations, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the Police Executive Research Forum, and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association has endorsed a ban on certain assault weapons. Law enforcement officials argue that criminals often have more advanced weapons than the police and that officers are suffering because of these guns. They have stated that the TEC-9 assault gun is now “the weapon of preference for drug dealers.”

      John, your use of numbers and stats is embarrassing. Many studies (including Yale’s) offer statistics that strongly support the need for assault weapon laws. Assault weapons accounted for 30% of the 1,428 guns traced to “organized crime,” which includes drug cartels, arms traffickers and suspected terrorists. The increase in the number of assault weapons found from 1986 to 1989 is also telling. In 1986 and 1987, 5.6% and 5.5% of the guns traced were assault weapons. The figures increased to 9.8% in 1988 and to 10.5% for the first three months of 1989. Assault-type weapons used in crimes increased by 57% from 1986 to 1988, and continues to increase.

      So much more I could say…but let’s move on.

      Which provisions/laws are you against, by the way? Do you stand with the NRA in opposing all??? Are you in favor of strict registration laws? Background checks? Waiting periods? Keeping guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally ill? Banning imports? Or do all of these options somehow violate your personal rights? The argument (which, I admit, you haven’t tried to make…yet) that all of these are a violation of your rights are what cause NRA-types to lose all credibility with the vast majority of Americans. Why is it ok to ban unsafe cars? Or require seatbelts? Or outlaw driving under the influence? Aren’t these bans also a violation of people’s rights?

      Is it all about the 2nd amendment (that doesn’t mention cars)? I’m assuming that’s where you’re basing all these god-giving “rights” of yours to own military weapons. I am going to be writing about this soon, so I’m not going to blow my load here, but a couple thoughts:

      The 2nd amendment phrase: “A well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state” sets forth a collective right – it was to ensure that a standing state force would be armed. Consequently, assault weapon laws restricting individuals from possessing or transferring these weapons pose no constitutional problem. It is extreme and selective to find an “individual right” in here, even giving the phrase: “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.” In the Second Amendment “militia” is explicitly qualified by the words “well-regulated” and by the phrase “being necessary to the security of a free-State.” Therefore, when the word “militia” is used in the context of the Second Amendment, the relationship to organized military service is clear. It is undoubtedly true that the Framers envisioned men keeping weapons in their homes for use in the militia, but their 2nd amendment right to do so was conditioned upon service as part of a military force. As you stated, even staunch gun advocates concede that the 2nd amendment has nothing to do with hunting, target shooting, or any other non-militia purpose. But it certainly wasn’t about individuals not connected to organized militias having a constitutional right to own arms.

      A plain reading of the amendment demonstrates that were it not for the need to preserve a “well-regulated militia” for “the security of a free state” the amendment would not exist at all. The goal was the security of a free-state, and the way to achieve that was through a citizenry “enrolled for military discipline” equipped with their own weapons. It is difficult to support the claim that the amendment indicates that keeping and bearing arms by all people for all purposes leads to a free people rather than that a well-regulated militia leads to a free state.

      By the way, the amendment’s “well-regulated militia” was a comprised only of white men between the ages of 14 and 45. Do you believe that the amendment offers no protection to the rights of old people, non-whites, and women? And don’t go down the “no, it applies to all people who have been afforded all of the other constitutional rights” argument, because looking to modern interpretations work against your constitutional argument, since the militia envisioned by the framers no longer exists.

      In fact, an argument can be made that the 2nd amendment and the 3rd amendment (“No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law”) were enacted together as a response to the framers fear of federal standing armies and that the only goal of both amendments was to protect against that threat. It’s possible that the 2nd amendment and the “militia” referred to in it have as little relevance today as the 3rd amendment’s prohibition of quartering soldiers in any house.

      SO much more I could say!!!!

      And I’m not even going to get into your general gun argument, since, contrary to your black helicopter fearing colleagues, no one is trying to take your guns. No, wait. I HAVE to say something about this – your response is so completely devoid of facts in lieu of sarcasm and straw men (racism? Banning all guns?).

      With the exception of NRA-backed studies, EVERY STUDY YOU READ WILL TELL YOU that having a firearm in the home increases the risk of a violent death. Hundreds of studies show that persons with guns in the home were at greater risk than those without guns in the home of dying from a homicide in the home. They were also at greater risk of dying from a firearm homicide. The risk of dying from a suicide in the home was greater for males in homes with guns than for males without guns in the home. Persons with guns in the home were also more likely to have died from suicide committed with a firearm than from one committed by using a different method. Suicide attempts are FAR more likely to succeed when using a firearm than any other method. Results show that regardless of storage practice, type of gun, or number of firearms in the home, having a gun in the home was associated with an increased risk of firearm homicide and firearm suicide in the home.

      Over 50,000 homicides and suicides occur each year in the United States, making them among the leading causes of death, particularly for young people. In 2001, homicide was the second leading cause of death and suicide the third for persons 15–24 years of age. Approximately 60 percent of all homicides and suicides in the United States are committed with a firearm.

      Anyway, John, you are an ideologue, whom, as I’ve told you, I respect greatly. In this case, however, your ideology has blinded you to basic facts AND to basic common sense.

  3. Torger Helgeland says:

    Go Mike, and thanks, Torg

    • Torger Helgeland says:

      Gads, where do you guys find the ooomph to keep up on this stuff? I was about to write a “go John” comment to John’s post for skillfully responding, until I read Mike’s rebuttal (rebut/ respond…? I forget…). John’s argument can make sense on paper, but Mike’s contention that NRA backed studies are isolated from others got me thinking. (Good detectives always look at motive.) So I lean toward Mike’s argument.

      • Anonymous says:

        I’ve struggled with this thread for days. I’m neither anti- nor pro-gun. They are just tools. To elevate them to something else with sanctimonious fervor makes me suspicious of the proponent. When will the proponents offer a little self criticism or support mild measures such as closing loopholes in background checks?

        The culpable criminal in the Sandy Hook massacre was the owner of the guns. It’s risky to speak ill of the dead, but would any gun proponent suggest an enforcible solution that might have worked in that case?

        I’m resigned to the fact that it’s a crazy and dangerous world. I’m not at ease with arguments that appear to protest too much yet offer nothing more.

  4. Scott Church says:

    The following was also posted to the Point-Counterpoint repost of John’s comments above. A few typos have been corrected here.

    Wow… John’s comments above contain so many factual errors and non-sequiturs it’s difficult to know where to begin. It would take days to fully document and address all the errors and inconsistencies here, but I’ll offer what I can with the time I have…

    1) “Numbers are hard to estimate because not all gun manufactures break down sales data by model, but very generous estimates state that so-called “assault weapons” account for roughly 3% of all privately owned firearms…”

    This is irrelevant. The issue on the table is the lethality of these weapons—the fact that they are, by design, military weapons designed to kill very large numbers of people in a very short time with great efficiency. The percentage of gun owners who own them has no bearing on that question. Very few people own tactical nuclear howitzers either. Shocking as it may be to NRA extremists, there’s actually a reason for this. In the hands of a single paranoid fear-monger, one 203 mm M110 W33 nuclear howitzer round with a 40 kiloton yield could obliterate downtown Seattle or San Francisco and kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people. The fact that said weapons are not commonly owned by law-abiding citizens is beside the point. It only takes a single nutcase in possession of one to inflict an obscene amount of death and suffering on the general population. That, and that alone is why we don’t hand them out as party favors to just anyone on the street who wants one and believes that “liberals” or “tyranny” are threatening their “liberty.”

    2) “What, pray tell, do you hope to accomplish with an ‘assault weapons ban’?”

    He’s kidding, right? Hmmm, let’s see… Well, for starters, had the mentally ill psychopath who perpetrated the Sandy Hook Elementary massacre had a regular hunting or target rifle (like any of the ones I’ve owned and hunted with over many years)—with limited capacity magazines for which every round had to be manually chambered—instead of a 223-caliber Bushmaster XM-15 rifle, a 10mm Glock 20 SF, and a 9mm SIG Sauer semi-automatic handgun, all with high-capacity magazines and fragmentation rounds, he probably would’ve managed to slaughter a lot fewer than 20 children ages 6-7 and 7 adults. He would’ve had to reload after a standard hunting rifle clip was exhausted (anywhere from 4 to 12 rounds, say?) making him easier to overpower before doing so. It’s reasonable to conclude that without the assault weapons and semi-automatic handgun he had, at least 15-20 lives would’ve been saved.

    Now, I can’t speak for John, Wayne LaPierre, or any of the more vociferous NRA talking heads either for that matter, but as the father of a beautiful 10 year old girl, I, pray tell, DO consider saving the lives of 15-20 children an accomplishment. John is welcome to disagree if he wishes, but he won’t endear himself to parents who actually love their kids.

    3) “Ah, but the murder by firearm rate continues to drop. 2011 was the lowest year on record since 1960. But I’m sorry, I realize that facts are simply inconvenient hindrances to your well thought-out stance that guns are evil, kids are dying, and how can we stand by and do nothing?????”

    This is a straw man. Murder rates, firearm or otherwise, have been dropping for years for a variety of reasons including demographic changes, changes in law enforcement policy and manpower, variations in drug markets and availability, and more (Levitt, 2004; Effgen, 2001). None of this has anything whatsoever to do with whether easy access to highly lethal military weaponry is contributing to homicide rates to an unnecessary and preventable degree, especially mass killings like the Sandy Hook massacre. NRA propaganda aside, no one is saying guns are “evil”—only that they shouldn’t be easier to get than hamburgers regardless of their lethality.

    And as a matter of fact, kids ARE dying from handgun and assault weapon violence! Perhaps John should try reading a newspaper once in a while. If he does he might just learn a few of those facts that he believes are nothing more than “inconvenient hindrances” to the rest of us.

    4) “And who needs a weapon designed to kill as many people as possible anyway???”

    Good question… who DOES need one? As I’ve already said, such weapons are military weapons designed to kill very large numbers of people in a very short time with great efficiency. As such, it seems to me that apart from owning one as a collector (in which case there should be no issue with either disabling the firing mechanism or removing the semi-automatic functionality), there’s no point to wanting one unless you want to very efficiently kill large numbers of people in a very short time inflicting as much misery and suffering as possible. By my lights, the only people who would want to do this are either, a) Violent criminals; or b) Paranoid fear-mongers who believe that the government, the U.N. black helicopters and storm troopers, or “liberals” are coming to take their guns and ¼ acre of Nevada scrub land, and are convinced that violence is the only means of conflict resolution available to them. There’s no compelling reason for allowing people like these to have any weapons, much less the most lethal ones currently available to them.

    5) “I could point out that the 2nd Amendment says nothing whatsoever about hunting, target shooting, or sporting competitions.”

    Dare I ask what verbiage in the Second Amendment regarding hunting, target shooting, or sporting competitions has to do with the issue on the table—the lethality of semi-automatic and/or military weaponry and whether the general public should have free reign to them? Naturally, it has nothing whatsoever to do with it. NRA hysteria and cheap shots aside, no one is trying to get our hunting rifles and target pieces. They’re asking why anyone should have unrestricted access to the most lethal firearms on earth with virtually no adult, or moral responsibilities of any kind whatsoever to demonstrate (via background checks, licenses, etc.) their ability to be responsible with such weapons. Sorry, but by my lights that’s a good question. Why should anyone be allowed easy, responsibility-free access to lethal weapons without having to undergo stringent background checks? Could it be that many of those complaining loudest about such checks are secretly afraid of what one would reveal? 😉

    6) “I could point out that the Federalist Papers and other founding-era documents are rife with assertions that the 2nd Amendment was a protection against tyranny. Of course, that wouldn’t matter because only crazy right-wing nuts still believe in the 2nd Amendment, or Liberty, or Original Intent.”

    The Second Amendment was written at a time in our nation’s history when we had a much smaller population, limited standing armed forces compared to the present, and our government was still in its infancy. There were a lot fewer highly lethal weapons then as well. Today things are different. I believe in the Second Amendment, and I’m no “crazy right-wing nut” (if I were I’d be in full agreement with John). Over the years I’ve owned a number of firearms, including on semi-automatic 9mm Luger. But unlike the NRA, I’m man enough to have no problem with stepping up to the plate and demonstrating to society that I can be held responsible for said weapons via any background checks they want to subject me to. I figure this is part of doing whatever I can to help insure a safer society. What actually separates “crazy right-wing nuts” from the rest of us is their paranoia, and their belief that violence constitutes meaningful good conflict resolution. In the end, this is little more than fear-mongering and cowardice.

    7) “Even the most skeptical research on defensive gun use (such as Harvard’s Hemenway, who claims approximately 100,000 cases per year), suggests that guns are used far more often for self-defense than for crime; an order of magnitude higher in fact.”

    Other than a passing reference to a name, no sources are cited for this claim so it’s difficult to tell where he got them from. It’s strange that he would attempt to rely on Hemenway for his case. Hemenway and others have actually provided some of the best evidence to date that the frequency of use of guns for self-defense has been greatly OVER-estimated (Cook et al., 1997; Hemenway, 1997a; Hemenway, 1997b), and is much lower than some researchers have claimed (e.g. Kleck & Kates, 2001). The results on defensive gun use are actually mixed, as it’s difficult to discriminate between legitimate self-defense and so-called “self-defense” that results from undue provocation resulting at least in part because one or more assailants were emboldened by the knowledge they were “packing heat.” In 2004 the National Research Council arm of the National Academy of Sciences published one of the most extensive reviews of firearms used in self-defense in recent decades, and concluded that “There is no credible evidence that “right-to-carry” laws, which allow qualified adults to carry concealed handguns, either decrease or increase violent crime. To date, 34 states have enacted these laws” (NRC, 2004). The claim that arming ourselves to the teeth prevents anything at all is nothing more than an NRA myth.

    8) “Why do the cities and states with the most stringent gun laws have the highest rates of violent crime? Why is there a demonstrable link between less restrictive concealed-carry laws and lower crime rates?”

    Once again, no sources are cited for this claim either. However, this one is a standard, bread-and-butter NRA myth that’s easy to trace because it is most commonly defended with citations to John Lott’s 1998 book, “More Guns – Less Crime” (Lott, 2000). That work was riddled with statistical errors and poor controls when it came out and was widely discredited by further research within months of its original publication. Lott’s work was riddled with problems including sampling issues and data clustering of various sorts. Statistical “data clustering” occurs in multiple regression models like the one Lott used when careless sampling and/or variable selection leads to inadvertent correlations between variables that should be independent. This in turn causes artificially low variances that make some results appear to be statistically when they are in fact within the noise of the sampling methods used. Lott’s model was rife with this, and within a year of its original publication other researchers showed that even the slightest changes in his data caused his results to vanish (Zimring & Hawkins, 1998; Black & Nagin, 1998).

    For years Lott’s study has been a laughing stock among sociologists and statisticians and hasn’t been taken seriously since by anyone outside of the NRA. In fact, numerous studies have been done on gun control and crime rates and the results are equivocal. Some studies show crime increases, other decreases, and most are complicated by a number of factors that render clear answers hard to come by. The best data on such matters is available from sources like the FBI’s annual Uniform Crime Reports (FBI, 2011) and older, but still relevant research like the D.O.J. report “Guns Used in Crime” (DOJ, 1995) or the ATF’s year 2000 Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative Report (ATF, 2000).

    9) “Most importantly, to take the same anecdotal tact you favor, how many kids brutally murdered in CT could have been saved if just one person in the vicinity had been armed and had the training, ability, and most importantly the will to act?”

    See point 7) above.

    10) “Every shooting where more than three people were killed since 1950 save one (Gabrielle Giffords) have occurred in “weapon free zones”. So how are those zones working out?”

    Yet again, no sources whatsoever are cited leaving us to wonder where on earth this claim came from (for Heaven’s sake! What IS it with these people and their inability to document their statements properly…?). For starters, it’s unclear what he even means by “weapon free zone” (a Google search for the term returns only references to nuclear-free zones). Perhaps he’s referring to areas like courtrooms, schools where guns are forbidden on the premises? If so, this statement is so far out of touch with reality that it’s difficult to imagine what would lead anyone to make it. There have been at least 3 incidents in the last 6 weeks alone. Heavily armed gunmen killed 12 people in a movie theater in Colorado, 4 firefighters in Webster, NY (LA Times, 2012), and 2 in a shopping mall in Clackamas, OR just in the last month or so alone (granted, less than 3, in OR. but that doesn’t change anything). Movie theaters and shopping malls are hardly “weapon free zones” of the same sort as courtrooms or schools.

    7) “You start with a blatantly faulty premise and make that the hill you stand on. Banning guns from law-abiding citizens will somehow make us all safer, especially the children… Prove it. You can’t because you are dead wrong.”

    Prove it? I’d be happy to! With a little scientific literacy and due diligence rather than vociferous propaganda, it’s actually quite easy to prove.

    The standard NRA mantra that “If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns” presumes that criminals and law-abiding citizens get their weapons independent of each other from one or more pools separate to both. This is, of course, false. Over the last few decades or so the FBI and the Dept. of Justice have maintained large databases of information on the sale and history of many types of weapons. This data shows clearly the overwhelming majority of guns used in violent crimes originate as LEGAL purchases. Nearly all are obtained by criminals through a variety of channels such as regular sales for which the background checks prove inadequate, under-the-table gun show sales and third-party transactions that circumvent background checks, or via theft from law-abiding owners who fail to secure their weapons adequately (FBI, 2011; ATF, 2000; DOJ, 1995). It follows directly that more stringent background checks, crackdowns on gun show sales, careless third-party sales, and penalties of some sort for failure to properly secure weapons will translate directly into a reduced flow of guns to criminals. The only reason gun control laws have had such mixed results in the U.S. is that they’ve been haphazardly implemented on a county or state level. Gun control laws in one state or county are easily circumvented by making gun purchases in a neighboring county or state. If such laws were ever implemented across the board at a national level they absolutely WOULD have an impact on crime! Virtually every other country on earth that has done so has far lower homicide rates than the U.S. after correcting for other factors, the UK being one case in point (UNODC, 2011; U.K. Home Office, 2011).

    “You are an excellent example of something my mom told me many times growing up that I have found to be so prescient in recent years. “Liberals care about intentions, Conservatives care about results.”

    I won’t comment on “liberals” or “conservatives” per se (among the people I’ve run across, simplistic labels like these have been more popular among the latter than the former). But it’s been my experience over the years that those who truly care about results are those who are concerned first and foremost with the accuracy, thoroughness, and relevance of their information. At a bare minimum this means being both able and willing to invest the due diligence required to properly fact-check and document one’s claims. Results-oriented people stick to broadly based, well-characterized, and statistically significant data samples and published, peer-reviewed science—NOT raving op-ed, talk shows, or popular potboiler books based on studies that were widely discredited decades ago (e.g. John Lott’s “More Guns, Less Crime”)—and they provide proper citations to all sources used so as to allow them to be properly vetted by competent professionals.

    In all of the countless publications and forums I’ve followed over the last decade or so, I have yet to see even one pro-gun advocate do any of this to a degree that would even meet middle school scholarship standards… and this essay is no exception. Not only is it filled with basic factual errors and inconsistencies, even 10-15 minutes’ worth of due diligence should’ve been more than enough to correct most of them. But from where I stand, it looks as though no attempt whatsoever was made to do so, and not even one properly cited source was offered for any of the claims made. For that matter, I have yet to see a properly documented claim in any of the posts made by pro-gun advocates anywhere at this blog or in any other forum I’ve come across in recent years on the Internet.

    I’ll be more than happy to believe that “conservatives” care about results on the day that I meet one who actually displays an acceptable level of due diligence professionalism in his/her fact-checking and arguments. Until then I call them the way I see them… the same way my elementary school teachers did when they graded substandard work.

    U.S. Bureau of Alchohol, Tobacco & Firearms (ATF). 2000. “Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative Report 2000.” Online at Accessed 1/29/2013.

    Cook, P., Jens Ludwig, & David Hemenway. 1997. “The gun debate’s new mythical number: How many defensive uses per year?”. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 16: 463–469.

    U.S. Dept. of Justice (DOJ). 1995. “Guns Used in Crime” Zawitz, M.W. Online at Accessed 1/29/2013.

    Donohue, J. & Levitt, S. 2000. “The Impact in Legalized Abortion on Crime”. Berkeley Program in Law & Economics, Working Paper Series, 2000 (2): 69. Online at . Accessed 1/26/2013.

    Levitt, S. D. 2004. Understanding Why Crime Fell in the 1990s: Four Factors that Explain the Decline and Six that Do Not. J. Econ. Persp., 18. pp. 163–190. Online at Accessed 1/26/2013.

    Effgen, C. 2001. “FBI Uniform Crime Reports”. From Online at Accessed 1/26/2013.

    Federal Bureau of Inveswtigation (FBI). 2011. “Crime in the United States – 2011 (uniform Crime Report).” Online at Accessed 1/29/2013. Uniform Crime Reports for other years available at

    Hemenway, D. 1997a. “Survey research and self-defense gun use: An explanation of extreme overestimates.”. Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology 87: 1430–1445.

    Hemenway, D. 1997b. “The myth of millions of annual self-defense gun uses: A case study of survey overestimates of rare events”. Chance (American Statistical Association) 10: 6–10.
    Kleck, G, & Don B. Kates. 2001. Armed: new perspectives on gun control. Prometheus Books. pp. 229–267. ISBN 978-1-57392-883-0.

    Los Angeles Times (LA Times). 2012. “Illegally obtained assault rifles key in recent public shootings.” By Pearce, M. Online at Accessed 1/29/2013.

    Lott, J. (2000). More Guns, Less Crime: Understanding Crime and Gun Control Laws. University of Chicago Press, second edition with additional analyses.

    National Research Council (NRC). National Academy of Sciences (NAS). 2004. Firearms and Violence_ A Critical review. Charles F. Wellford, John V. Pepper, and Carol V. Petrie, eds. Online at Accessed 1/28/2013.

    U.K. Home Office. 2011. “Crime in England and Wales 2010/11.” Onine at Accessed 1/29/2013.

    United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). 2011. “2011 Global Study on Homicide.” Onine at Accessed 1/29/2013.

    Zimring, F. and Hawkins, G. (1997). “Concealed Handguns: The Counterfeit Deterrent,” The Responsive Community 7: 46-60.

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