Thomas Gabor–The Myth of the Benefits of an Armed Citizenry.

Following the slaughter of elementary school children in Newtown (CT), Wayne LaPierre, CEO of the National Rifle Association, stated: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”  This statement was not only highly insensitive in removing the focus from the children and their grieving families, but was also cynical and dishonest, as LaPierre suggested that arming school staff was the only way to avoid such slaughters.  Every other advanced country has figured out a way to protect their children without turning schools into armed fortresses.

armedConsider the logic of arguing that more guns will reduce incidents of gun violence.  It is like saying that the best solution to opiate addiction is to make opiates more accessible or that our best means of tackling an influenza epidemic is to expose more people to the agent involved.

Following America’s worst church mass shooting in Sutherland Springs, Texas, much was made by gun rights advocates about the confrontation of the shooter by an armed resident as he left the church and the pursuit by truck of the shooter by the resident and another individual.  The church shooting was not stopped by the armed man but it has been claimed that the perpetrator may have harmed others had the armed citizen not intervened.  That is an unknown but the large-scale shooting (26 killed, 20 wounded) occurred before the armed resident became involved.

Previous incidents illustrate how infrequently armed private citizens intervene successfully to stop a shooting.   An FBI study of 160 active shooter incidents from 2000-2013 found that just one of these incidents was stopped by an armed civilian. By contrast, 21 incidents were resolved when unarmed individuals restrained or confronted the shooter.  Louis Klarevas, author of Rampage Nation, examined potential and actual mass shootings from 1966 to 2015 and found that just one twentieth of one percent (about one in every 2,000 cases) is successfully stopped by an armed civilian.

 

If arming civilians produced a net benefit with regard to public safety, we would expect places with more guns to have fewer crimes.  The US has about 90 civilian-owned guns per 100 people, the largest civilian arsenal on the planet.  At the same time, the US stands alone among high-income countries with a gun homicide rate that is 25 times that of the aggregated rate for other high-income countries. This pattern is repeated at the state level where states with higher levels of gun ownership tend to have more, not fewer, gun deaths.  In the five states with the highest gun death rates, half of all homes own a gun.  In the five states with the lowest gun death rates, just one in 7 homes owns a gun.

 

Each year, 90,000 US households are interviewed in the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS).  This survey, which does not cover homicides or suicides for obvious reasons, reveals about a half million gun crimes a year.  In addition, based on surveys of the prevalence of domestic violence, there are likely several hundred thousand gun threats each year against targeting domestic partners and other family members.  If the number is 200,000 (a conservative figure), the total number of harmful gun uses a year is in the 750,000 range.  The NCVS finds that the annual number of defensive gun uses against attackers is under 50,000.  Therefore, criminal and other harmful uses of guns likely outnumber defensive uses by a ratio of at least 15:1.

 

David Hemenway and Sara Solnick of Harvard used NCVS data to see examine the frequency and consequences of defensive gun uses in 14,000 personal contact crimes committed when the victim was present.  They found that fewer than one percent (.9%) used a gun in self-defense. They also found that using a gun for protection, as opposed to taking some other protective action, did not diminish the chances that a victim would incur an injury.

 

Genuine defensive gun uses are not just infrequent; gun carrying raises the risks of deadly mistakes and confusion during active-shooter incidents.  On July 7, 2016, an individual opened fire and killed five Dallas police officers.  The officers were on duty to provide security at a demonstration in which the killing of African-American men was being protested.  About 20-30 open-carry activists were also on the scene, carrying assault weapons and wearing fatigues and body armor.  Police Chief Brown stated that the armed individuals impeded the law enforcement response as they created confusion as to who the shooter was and whether there were multiple shooters.

 

Another side effect of an increase in gun carrying is more gun thefts from cars.  These thefts are skyrocketing—2-3.5 million firearms have been stolen in the last decade– and they are more commonplace in states in which more people carry firearms outside the home.  States in the South (e.g., Texas, Georgia, and Florida) with the most permissive gun laws are overrepresented among states with the largest number of guns stolen between 2012 and 2015.

 

Currently, 12 states do not require a permit to carry a firearm and this list has been growing.  Even in states requiring a permit, the vetting and training of permit applicants do not even approach the standards for law enforcement officers.  Since May 2007, concealed carry permit holders have killed more than 1100 people and have committed many other crimes, including 31 mass shootings and 19 police officer killings.

 

Joseph Vince is a former agent with the ATF for 27 years and is one of the leading experts on firearms and gun-related crime.  He and his associates state that for a citizen to carry a firearm, training should include mental preparation, knowledge of the law, judgment, as well as expertise and familiarity with firearms. They recommend basic initial training to receive a permit and biannual recertification to maintain the permit.  Both training and recertification should consist of decision-making during real-life scenarios, shooting accuracy in stressful situations, and firing range practice.

 

While half the states require some firearms training in relation to an application for a gun carry permit, most of the features emphasized by Vince et al. are seriously lacking in most states.  For example, Florida law does not specify the content of these courses, only the qualifications necessary for instructors.  There is no test for retention of the information covered about the law or the handling of a firearm, no test of marksmanship—a few shots are fired down the range or into a barrel—and no training with regard to judgment (when to shoot and not to shoot), no recertification, just an online renewal every 7 years.

 

Pete Blair trains law enforcement personnel to respond to active shooter situations.  Real-world scenarios prepare police officers for high-stress situations. Blair notes that one would expect people without training to “freeze up or not know what to do, and to have difficulty performing actions correctly.”  Research and police records show that even trained police officers miss their targets more often than they hit them during stressful combat situations.   Several analyses show that, in combat situations, trained officers miss the mark more than 80 % of the time.

 

Harmful and criminal uses of guns outnumber genuine defensive uses by a wide margin.  The average violent attack is over in 3 seconds.  Poor training makes it unlikely that a civilian without police or military training will use a gun successfully against an attacker and makes deadly mistakes more likely.  Poor vetting means that individuals who pose a serious risk to the public may gain access to arms through legal channels.  Yet the gun lobby and a certain segment of gun owners keeps trying to sell the fable of the armed citizen.  The evidence is clear that arming the average citizen seriously undermines public safety.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Concealed-Carry: The Latest Marketing Gimmick.

On August 25 – 27 you can go to Milwaukee and spend the better part of 3 days immersing yourself in the NRA’s new playland for gun owners, a.k.a. the first Carry Guard Expo which is being hyped as “an educational and interactive experience dedicated to Individuals interested in increasing their knowledge and skills within personal protection, concealed carry and defense tactics.”

clothing            This event has got to be the most infantile expression of arrested mental development ever put together by the gun industry and if this moronic and laughable shindig  portends the future direction of gun ownership in this country, nobody has to worry that the surge in guns during the Obama ‘regime’ will eventually result in every American walking around with a gun.

The NRA claims that this event features an exhibit hall with “hundreds of top companies” but the truth is that there are slightly less than 150 exhibitors, basically the usual suspects (Glock, Ruger, S&W) along with a quarter of the total exhibitor booth space occupied by various NRA programs, including the video-television group, the firearms museum and let’s never forget the ‘t-shirts and bumper stickers from the ‘official’ NRA store.

The NRA used to take itself seriously as a training organization, its revenues derived from membership dues, magazine advertising and some program dough from the annual show. Now the organization is becoming an aggressive vendor of goods and services, the goods being in the form of insurance and related products, the services being a new training initiative which like all training these days, relies heavily on digital instruction and internet demand.

In the process of transitioning from a training to a marketing organization, the boys from Fairfax have come to believe that the concealed-carry population represents a golden opportunity just waiting to be tapped. And if you go to the Carry Guard Expo, you’ll have an opportunity to see first-hand how American entrepreneurship is moving quickly and decisively into this new and exciting product realm.

Don’t miss the Femme Fatale booth at the western end of the hall. This company sells Elegant Concealed Carry Holsters for Women Created by a Woman. A few steps away we have another booth, Lady Conceal, which calls itself an In the Bag Boutique, and further down the hall stop in at Dene Adams, which carries Concealed Carry Solutions for Women – for $69.95 you can buy a ‘body shaping thigh holster’ which not only gives your thigh that svelte, 20-something look, but is the perfect spot to store your Glock.

Hey – I like that! ‘The perfect spot to store your Glock.’ Now all I need is a product to go with my slogan and I’m all set. In fact, there’s still plenty of exhibitor space available because according to the show management, “Tens of thousands of freedom-loving Americans will be walking the aisles, looking at the latest and greatest concealed carry guns and gear.” Know what? Even the ad copy being used to attract exhibitors is infantile, to say the least.

When I was 11 years old, my father bought me a Daisy Red Ryder so I could pretend to be John Wayne. Better than that, I took my Red Ryder into the back yard of our house in the middle of Washington, D.C. and now I was riding alongside George Armstrong Custer going through the Black Hills. I once was about the be scalped at The Little Big Horn when my mother stuck her head out the window and yelled that dinner was on the table.

If you think there’s any difference between my backyard fantasies and the fantasies promoted at the Carry Guard Expo, think again. Concealed-carry, armed citizen, self-protection and all that other messaging crap is just a new kind of marketing hype designed to create a consumer market which otherwise wouldn’t exist.

Next time you flick on your television watch how that Dodge Ram truck goes flying over those ruts and muddy curves and then think about the same, twenty- mile drive you do every day back and forth to work.

 

Does It Matter Whether Guns Protect Us From Crime? Not If You Want To Sell Guns.

Last week the pro-gun gang received a shot in the arm from a story out of Detroit where a legally-armed private citizen yanked out a gun and shot a man who was running away from a bank with a pile of cash. Actually, the armed citizen shot the bank robber in both arms, as well as the leg, shooter and robber doing just fine; the latter in the hospital under arrest, the former no doubt on his way to Fairfax, VA to be congratulated by Wayne-o for reminding us all about the true value of our 2nd Amendment rights.

Granted I’m indulging in a bit of hyperbole, but you would think that since groups like Everytown and Brady post interviews with victims of gun violence on their websites, the NRA would want to run stories about citizen-defenders to promote their point of view.  Actually, the NRA has been running such stories since 1978.  It’s something called the Armed Citizen, which is a monthly collection of press reports about good guys stopping the bad guys; for the current month there are four reports, including the incident in Detroit, which is slightly less than the average 6-7 reports published each month.

             Glock 21

Wait a minute!  Hold the presses!  In a country of 319 million people, in a country where civilians own more than 300 million guns, in a country in which at least 12 million good guys have concealed weapons permits, how in God’s name is it possible that only six or seven people use a gun each month to defend themselves or others from a crime?

To try to answer this vexing question, the first thing I did was turn to the Armed Citizen website, which bills itself as the place that “provides you with the news and resources you need to remain informed and active.” One of their latest examples of the work of an armed citizen has the following headline: “Car fleeing from police goes through park, nearly hits children.”  So I guess this website collects stories about citizens armed with cars.

Then there’s another outfit called GunPitt – Guns Saves Lives, which advertises itself as the “secure way to trade guns online” although the link is broken, also produces a series of gun podcasts, including a series called God and Guns, The Responsible Christian Gun Owners Interests (they must have been pretty busy this week given what Pope Francis told the Congress), and also collects stories about defensive gun uses which now totals 1,360 anecdotes about the work of armed citizens, although it’s not clear how many years are covered by this report.  In any case, I took a look at the latest DGU story out of my neighboring state of Connecticut, and here’s what the website says: “A woman in Waterbury, Connecticut had to grab a gun in order to capture a naked man who was allegedly raping the woman’s dog in her backyard.”

Here’s the bottom line: If the same bunch which assures us that guns are used to stop crimes “millions” of times each year tries to prove it by publishing stories about cars driving through playgrounds or man rapes dog, then the argument about good guys stopping bad guys bears no relationship to the truth.  And maybe it’s time to stop advancing cogent, reasoned and researched arguments against gun fantasists like Gary Kleck and John Lott, and step back to take another look.

Take a look, for example, at the marketing message of a company like Glock.  Under personal defense products, the website shows a tough, executive-type strapping on his gun: “Defense is personal, and it should be, it’s about invading your space.” Then off he runs to catch the 7:15, armed with his G42 pistol and the Wall Street Journal to confront another harrowing day.  Marketing isn’t reality; it’s about merging a product with a fantasy, in this case a lethal weapon which makes you feel that you’ll come out ahead.  Sells guns, doesn’t it?

Want To Know What It Really Costs To Protect Yourself With A Gun? A Lott More Than He Thinks.

Remember Al Pacino’s great line from Godfather II when he tells some mobster that, “my father always taught me to keep my friends close but keep my enemies closer.”  Which is why I listen to AM Talk Radio whenever I’m alone in my car.  Because when it comes to guns, I know what my friends are going to say.  It’s what the other side is saying that I need to hear.  In that respect I was listening the other day to Mark Walters whose show, Armed American Radio, is actually a running advertisement for a clever marketing scheme called U.S. Concealed Carry Association, but occasionally there’s a time-out from endless USCCA promotions for a brief interview with a guest.

And the guest just happened to be none other than John Lott who has become the poster-boy for the armed-citizen movement, or maybe sometimes he’s the poster-girl, depending on whether or not he’s pretending to be John Lott or Mary Rosh.  Either way, within a sentence or so after he begins, you can count on John to start mumbling about how safe people are when they carry a gun or keep a loaded gun in their homes.  And he cites all kinds of ‘studies’ and ‘research’ from various right-wing academics and pundits who share his point of view. The truth is he hasn’t done any serious research in more than twenty years.

John Lott

John Lott

Oh, I take that back.  In 1997 he allegedly conducted a telephone survey about defensive gun use but he couldn’t produce the data because his hard-drive crashed.  Then to prove that he wasn’t faking the loss of data he produced testimonials from a couple of people who thought they remembered answering questions over the phone.  You can read a very comprehensive analysis of Lott’s attempt to defend himself right here.  And what Tim Lambert’s article points out is that Lott has gone to great lengths to validate the idea that he suffered a hard-drive crash but his attempts to prove that this hard drive contained any kind of DGU survey falls far short of the mark.

In any case, it doesn’t really matter whether or not Lott’s telling the truth because his audience could care less about whether guns protect us from crime or protect us from anything else.  The bottom line is that there are simply plenty of people out there who believe that any attempt by the government to implement any kind of progressive social policies at all represents nothing more than the imposition of some kind of Islamo-Fascist-Socialist-Communist world order brought directly from Kenya to the U.S.  Think I’m kidding?  In 2010, Pew Research stated that 18% of Americans believed that Obama is a Muslim.  You going to argue gun control with them?  And this is John Lott’s audience, which is something that some of his critics, as well-intentioned as they may be, sometimes tend to forget.

Two of his most well-intentioned critics happen to be Evan DeFilippis and Devin Hughes, whose website, Armed With Reason, is sprinkled with endless articles which accurately capture both the misstatements and wrong-headed research of Mary Rosh, a.k.a.  John Lott. But I’ve decided to take a different tack towards Lott’s work and, for the sake of argument, pretend that everything he says is true.          Let’s quantify how much money is saved because bad guys breaking  into homes are stopped by good guys inside who happen to have guns.  This is CDC and DOJ data, not some phony telephone survey, and it looks like this.  Each year roughly 830,000 people are at home when someone tries to break in.  Of this number, roughly 8,000 used a gun to scare the bad guy away.

Know how much all those good guys saved by protecting their homes with guns?  Somewhere around two million dollars.  Know how much the victims of unintentional gun shootings cost in medical bills and lost wages?  More than one billion bucks.  And that’s what it costs us to let some misguided John Lott fans take their hero at his word. Oh well, maybe the world really is flat.

All Of A Sudden The NRA’S Armed Citizens Aren’t So Armed

Maryland was one of a number of states in 2013 that enacted gun control statutes in the wake of Sandy Hook, and last week a Federal District Court Judge upheld the state’s authority to ban most of the popular brands of assault-style rifles, along with limiting gun magazines to 10 rounds or less.  This is a very significant ruling for two reasons.  First, ,notwithstanding the fact that the NRA would like you to believe that armed citizens are the first line of defense against crime, the ruling affirms that government has a “compelling interest” in protecting public safety which allows for the regulation of guns.  Second, the ruling flies directly in the face of the gun industry’s effort to legitimize assault-style weapons as no different from any other type of gun that might be used for personal defense.  And while the 2008 Heller decision explicitly recognized the right of citizens to keep handguns in their homes for self-defense, it did not vacate the government’s right to regulate the types of weapons that might be used.

In their attempt to overturn the Maryland law, the plaintiffs, including the NSSF, argued two basic issues:  (1). Banning assault-style weapons was a violation of the 2nd Amendment because it deprived shooters of a product that was in common use; (2). Banning assault-style weapons and large-capacity magazines deprived individuals of a weapon that was frequently kept and used in the home for self-defense.  I found it interesting, incidentally, that the plaintiffs did not try to push the notion of AR-15s as “modern sporting rifles,” a totally phony nomenclature invented by the gun industry to overcome the resistance of big-box, chain stores like Wal-Mart who believed that such products interfered with their image as destinations for family shopping.

assault                As regards the argument that a ban on assault guns would deprive Maryland residents of an increasingly popular type of firearm, Judge Blake noted that while the total number of the banned guns was upwards of 8 million, this represented less than 3% of all firearms held by civilians.  Further, the Judge, using numbers from the NSSF, found that assault-style rifle ownership tended to be concentrated, with the average assault gun owner possessing more than 3 such weapons, meaning that less than 1% of the entire American population owned any assault weapons at all.  [Pages 19-20.]

As for the question of using an AR or AK rifle for self-defense, the ruling cited a report submitted by Lucy Allen, who has been called as an expert witness in other cases involving sales of assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.  This report, based on data from the NRA, found that assault weapons are rarely used in instances of armed self-defense, nor did persons discharge more than ten rounds when using their guns in instances of armed self-defense.  The plaintiffs, in arguing against Allen’s evidence, claimed that she did not “independently verify” the data on which her report was based, a claim rejected by the Court since the evidence came from the NRA, which although not a formal party to the case, certainly was in favor of a decision that would uphold the plaintiff’s suit.

The NRA has been promoting the idea that armed citizens protect themselves and others with guns for as long as I can remember.  They now have an online repository for these anecdotes and you can submit a self-defense story, real or imagined, which is then edited and republished for all to read.  And yes, even if you don’t have a story, the NRA will send you an armed citizen bumper sticker.  The NRA claims that millions of Americans use guns in self-defense every year, but when someone uses the evidence posted on their website to contradict their claims about the self-defense value of AR-15s, all of a sudden the data is no good.  I really can’t imagine how Judge Blake wrote that part of her decision with a straight face.