Readers who follow my column no doubt understand that I spend most of my time debunking what I consider to be mistakes, intended or otherwise, made by anyone and everyone who writes about guns. And while some organizations and writers on both sides get it right most of the time, there are others who virtually every day get it wrong. Topping that latter list is breitbart.com, which pushes out a comment on guns just about every day, and just about every day gets it wrong. Their latest is a comment about women and guns that was made by Moms Demand Action activist Kristen Moore, who was interviewed by Michigan Radio following Governor Rick Snyder’s decision to approve a new law which allows women to have their CCW applications expedited in situations where they face potential domestic violence.
Typically, the Breitbart story started off by falsely accusing the Moms group of stating that it was “wrong” for women to carry guns. But that’s not what Ms. Moore said at all. What she said very clearly was that if women were thinking about applying for a CCW and purchasing a gun for self-defense, that they needed to make an “informed” choice in the matter, which means understanding whether, in fact, having a gun around the home or in the pocketbook provides any real safety at all.
The gun industry has been going all out for the last twenty years trying to make us all believe that guns serve a positive social utility because when we own and carry one we are more safe. First we had the nonsense produced by Gary Kleck, who claimed on the basis of 213 telephone interviews that millions of crimes were thwarted by gun-carrying individuals each year. Then we had the bigger nonsense by John Lott, who basically said the same thing, even though it’s never been clear whether he had any real data at all. If the gun industry wants to promote the virtues of arming citizens in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary that’s fine. After all, they’re in the business of selling guns, not conducting research about gun risk. But the reason that so many people read Consumer Reports is that maybe, just maybe, the manufacturer’s claims aren’t always exactly true. That’s what the Moms group means when they talk about making an “informed” choice.
For me, the issue of whether anyone will be protected by carrying a gun, however, goes to something else. Because it’s not just a question of whether the statistics show that a gun makes you safer or not, it’s also whether someone who decides to carry a gun is trained so that their gun could even be used for self-defense. It turns out that Michigan requires that anyone applying for CCW must show that they have shot a gun a whole, big 30 times. Meanwhile, a 2006 FBI study of violent assaults on police officers concluded that criminals who used guns to attack cops practiced using their guns roughly two times every month!
If anyone thinks that raising the issue of “informed” choice about CCW is a back-door way of getting rid of all the guns, go right ahead and delude yourself as much as you can. The real reason that keeping a gun around for self-defense means first of all that the wrong person may get his hands on the gun, which is why, as Kristen Moore pointed out, women are five times more likely to get killed in domestic disputes when there’s a banger stuck in a drawer, a closet, or even a safe. But even if the gun can only end up in the ‘right’ hands in the event of an attack or a threat, does the person to whom those hands belong really know how to use that gun to protect themselves just because they spent a few evenings fooling around at the local range? As Ian Fleming says, “Shooting hell out of a piece of cardboard doesn’t prove a thing.”