If it weren’t for the fact that the NRA continues to make public statements that are at such variance with the truth, I would probably cease responding to their continued efforts to persuade America that more guns are good, less guns are bad. Because all their talk and all their noise hasn’t convinced an increasing share of Americans to own guns, even if public opinion polls indicate that a majority of Americans believe that gun ownership makes us safe. The NRA’s latest flight from reality is their response to Obama’s speech delivered in Chicago to the annual meeting of the IACP. As usual, the President lamented the failure of Congress to pass new gun-control laws, and since the NRA would prefer there were no laws regulating the sale or ownership of guns, if Obama says yes, they have to say no.
The NRA’s nay-saying began by actually agreeing with the President when he said that crime rates had fallen to historic lows. I suspect, incidentally, that when the crime numbers are published for 2015 (Obama was referring to crime stats for 2013), we will see the downward trend reversed. According to my friends at the Gun Violence Archive, the number of gun homicides this year has already surpassed all of 2014, and we have a couple of months still to go, plus the GVA has no choice but to understate the actual number given that it compiles real-time data from unofficial (i.e., media) reports.
Of course whatever the true gun violence number turns out to be, the NRA will remind us that the number would be much higher because the current downward trend is due to the ownership of all those guns. One can’t argue the fact that there has been a 50% reduction in violent crime over the last twenty years, a period that has also witnessed somewhere around 150 million new guns getting into civilian hands. But the NRA has never been one to caution its supporters that coincidence and causality are two very different words, and the Brennan Center’s very careful study of the causes for the decline in crime found “no evidence” that increased gun ownership or the issuance of concealed-carry licenses made any difference at all.
But I want to say something here that I have been saying to my GVP friends again and again; the effort to promote gun regulations both at the federal level and within individual states is grounded in the notion that public policies should flow from a commitment to evidence-based information, or what we call ‘facts.’ Not that both sides necessarily agree on the facts, but at least there should be some acknowledgement on both sides that facts are an indispensable component in any public-policy debate.
The problem is that, generally speaking, the NRA could care less about facts. After all, they are in the business of promoting gun ownership and as long as what they say about guns doesn’t create legal threats to their welfare, it really doesn’t matter whether what they say bears any relation to the truth. I’ll give you a couple of examples from this NRA-ILA screed.
The NRA states that the President insulted the intelligence of the American people by ‘ridiculously’ asserting that “it is easier for young people in some communities to find a gun than to find fresh vegetables at the supermarket.” What’s so insulting about that? Inner-city neighborhoods are notoriously devoid of fresh, nutritious foods; they are also notorious for the ease with which one can pick up an illegal gun. In contrast, according to the NRA, a law-abiding individual has to undergo a background check and fill out a “six-page federal form.” Actually, the buyer fills out one page, four of the remaining five pages are instructions and boilerplate always attached to all federal forms.
I’m not saying that the GVP community should detach itself from a commitment to facts. But they should not operate under any illusion that fact-based arguments will yield a fact-based response from the other side. Don’t worry – it won’t.