I certainly understand that any responsible journalistic enterprise needs to present a wide spectrum of opinion, so it’s no surprise when a liberal-leaning newspaper like the Washington Post publishes a commentary on guns from the pro-gun point of view. But you would think that the editors would at least take the trouble to read what they publish, because in a recent column by Glenn Kessler, I’m not sure that beyond his own name I can find anything he says about Obama’s views on guns which happens to be true.
Kessler begins his litany of Obama’s “exaggerated” claims about guns by referencing the President’s remarks at Benedict College in South Carolina, on March 6, 2015. Among other things, Obama stated that we had the “highest” homicide rate in the industrialized world which, according to Kessler, just isn’t true. He’s right. Of the 34 OECD countries that are usually considered to be the most economically-advanced, we rank second only behind Mexico, although ‘industrialized’ and OECD aren’t the same thing. In fact, when we say ‘industrialized,’ we are usually referring to countries that experienced the classical industrial revolution between 1850 and 1890, which basically covers Western Europe and the United States. Kessler pushes his dumb criticism to the edge of reality by noting that the U.S. homicide rate is only “above average,” which is a funny way of characterizing a number that is 5 to 20 times higher than the average of every other industrialized European state.
Kessler then goes on to score Obama for saying that there were neighborhoods where it was easier to buy a gun than to buy fresh vegetables, but his snarky, CYA attempt falls completely flat when he notes that nowhere in the United States are background checks required in order to buy fresh food. The point is that Obama got it right when he drew attention to endemic violence in inner-city neighborhoods by comparing the availability of guns to the non-availability of fresh vegetables and fruit. It’s Kessler who’s doing his readers a disservice by pretending that the President’s verbal sleight-of-hand characterization of ghetto reality somehow calls into question the validity of his remarks.
I began reading Kessler’s column wondering why and how someone who usually writes about diplomacy and foreign policy all of a sudden gets interested in guns. Then a friend pointed out to me that none other than the gun industry’s most unabashed mouthpiece, John Lott, was taking credit for everything Kessler said. On his website yesterday, Lott claimed that he was the “reader” who asked Kessler to examine Obama’s quotes. Lott went on to add more ammunition to Kessler’s analysis, including challenging Obama’s call for comprehensive background checks by stating that “most gun purchases already go through background checks.”
I have to admit that the President and other NICS advocates create trouble for themselves by continuing to cite a 1994 study with a 40% NICS compliance rate when the entire NICS systems didn’t go operational until 1998. But the truth is that the value of background checks as a process for reducing gun violence has absolutely nothing to do with whether 10% or 40% or 90% of individuals with guns submitted their acquisition of guns to the NICS. The fact is that most people who commit serious crimes are legally ineligible to own a gun. Lott’s comment about the near-universality of background checks has nothing to do with whether the NICS system deters crime, and if Kessler wanted to really make a contribution to the gun debate, he should devote a blog to checking the exaggerations and outright falsehoods of his new friend John Lott.
Know what? I’m getting tired of digging up serious, peer-reviewed scholarship to refute the bromides of people like Kessler and Lott. They aren’t interested in a forthright, honest discussion about guns. Their only interest is in helping the gun industry sell more guns. And to show you how dumb they really are, I’ll bet that neither gets a commission from Smith&Wesson, Sturm, Ruger or Glock.