Why Does Everyone Hate John Lott?

I have just posted a detailed paper on SSRN with the above title and it is available for download right here.  This paper is an attempt not to exonerate Lott for any of his shortcomings, nor to play devil’s advocate for what he says or writes, and certainly not to push some backdoor kind of support for his work. I have previously written about him and by just mentioning his name without adding the usual gun violence prevention (GVP) sobriquet like the ‘discredited’ or ‘dangerous’ John Lott I have been accused not only of being his partner, but also of being a secret mole for the NRA.

People who make comment like that without bothering to read what I actually have said about Lott’s work are doing their best to make sure that no common ground between gun owners and non-gun owners will ever exist. What? Am I saying that the GVP isn’t interested in finding ways to communicate with ‘responsible’ gun owners who will support ‘reasonable’ policies to regulate guns? No. What I’m saying is that the gun-control community never refers to themselves as being ‘responsible;’ it’s always the other side which needs to meet some kind of responsibility test. And funny, when pro-GVP scholars ask gun owners what kinds of ‘reasonable’ public policies they would support, the list always seems to start and end with policies which reflect what GVP advocates feel should be supported, and never policies advocated by the other side.

This may come as a great shock to my GVP friends, but while there is clearly strong support among gun owners for background checks and the like, I’m willing to bet that if you asked the average gun owner what he’s doing to reduce gun violence, there’s a good chance he’ll tell you that he keeps a loaded handgun by his side. It may be kept at home, it may be dangling from his belt, but since more than 60% of Americans believe that a gun makes you safer than not having a gun, then the gun owner who tells you that the best way to protect yourself from violence is by owning a gun isn’t just whistling in the dark. And since guns are apparently found in only 40% of all American homes, this means that a lot of non-gun owners buy the ‘gun makes you safer’ line as well.

Lott’s an easy target because anyone who makes an occasional appearance on Fox or is interviewed by an AM talk-show jock is, by definition, an enemy of the folks who care about reducing the carnage America suffers from guns. But Lott has never (read: never) said anything about the extraordinary cultural shift which has moved us from 60% supporting a total handgun ban in 1960 to the current number which is below 25%. By the time Lott wrote his first paper, only one in three Americans supported a handgun ban, so Lott was able to capitalize on this shift in public opinion, but he didn’t make it up.

What we are looking at is an extraordinary case of cognitive dissonance in which the people who decide they need a gun to protect them, particularly if they want to walk around toting the damn thing, happen to be the people least likely to ever be victims of violent crime. Several years ago I was at a gun show in Lancaster, PA, which is a nice farming town about 60 miles due west of the Liberty Bell. Pennsylvania had just changed their right to carry (RTC) law from ‘may issue’ to ‘shall issue,’ and the sheriff’s office in Lancaster was overwhelmed with folks wanting to apply for their license to carry a gun. I happened to overhear several guys talking who had just spent four hours waiting on line, and when one of them laughed and said, “Well, there’s never any crime out here anyway,” the other responded in a very serious tone, “Yea, but they could come out from  Philly. You never know.”

What my paper really talks about is what we need to understand about this cultural shift in attitudes towards guns and how we need to incorporate this shift into the public narrative promoted by the GVP. Because we can sit around all day and shoot verbal arrows at John Lott but so what? The bottom line is that too many Americans have decided that the only thing between them and mayhem is owning and carrying a gun. The fact that their decision results in more mayhem somehow escapes from being said.

And despite what you may think, you simply can’t blame that attitude on John Lott.

 

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John Lott Meets The New York Times. A Win-Win For Both Sides.

What? The New York Times is carrying an op-ed by John Lott? The John Lott? The John Lott who is the bete noir of the entire gun violence prevention community because he has singlehandedly convinced a majority of Americans that keeping a gun around the house will make them safe? No, not The New York Times. Not the newspaper whose recent op-ed by Gail Collins begged the GVP community to ‘energize’ and not give up.

lott             John has been making arguments about the positive social utility of guns since 1998 when the first edition of More Guns, Less Crime, was published by the University of Chicago Press. I also happen to be a Chicago Press author, so I’m not about to say anything nasty about his book. But I don’t have to worry, because nasty and unkind comments about this book abound.

When John first published More Guns, roughly 35% of all Americans said that guns made their home a safer environment, while 50% said a gun at home made it a more dangerous place. The GVP will tell you that this shift in opinion is due to the power and financial clout of the NRA. And while the boys from Fairfax have certainly done their best to tilt the legislative field their way, the fact is that what the poll numbers indicate is that a lot of Americans have changed their minds about gun risk who don’t happen to own guns. Our friends at Harvard estimate that somewhere under 25% of American adults (most of them men) own guns, and that’s a much smaller percentage than the percentage of people who now say that a gun makes them safe.

There are two reasons why I am pleased to see Lott’s work show up in The New York Times. First, the shift towards guns for self-defense is not just a function of the decline in hunting, nor it can’t just be blamed on the NRA. Something else is going on in the United States which has caused a growth in what scholars like Alan Fiske, Tage Rai and Steven Pinker  call ‘virtuous violence;’ i.e., the use of violence to achieve positive ends. Lott’s research is an attempt to explain why this shift has occurred and needs to be acknowledged from that point of view.

Second, I am not terribly comfortable with using regression analysis to explain human affairs. Finding an ‘association’ between two trend lines is more a kind of statistical alchemy rather than a scientific method to establish causal facts. I agree with Richard Berk who refers to most regression analysis as a good way to describe patterns of data, but description and causal explanations are two, very different things. In that regard, Lott’s reliance on regression analysis doesn’t necessarily persuade me that his argument is true. But none of his critics seem willing to do anything beyond running his data through different statistical models which will always yield different results.

The problem with relying on public health research to explain gun violence is that most of this research usually follows the traditional, epidemiological approach to figuring out risk by defining the victims, figuring out how the risk enters and move through a particular population, and then coming up with protective strategies to protect everyone else. The result is that we know an awful lot about the victims of gun violence, but we know very little about why less than 5% of Americans who commit a serious injury each year, against themselves or someone else, do it by using a gun.

Until and unless the GVP figures out why people commit gun violence, condemning John Lott for offering an answer to that question which they don’t like is a strategy leading nowhere fast. If my GVP friends would examine their own arguments with the same degree of critical vigor that they use with Lott’s work, his appearance in The New York Times will be a positive event for helping to end the violence caused by guns.

 

 

Why Do So Many ‘Trafficked’ Guns Wind Up In New York?

Now that everyone has seemed to forget about what happened in Vegas on October 1st, the noise machine is gearing up on both sides about what appears to be the possibility that the national concealed-carry bill will get to the Senate floor for a debate. The law easily floated through the House in December, but any piece of NRA-backed legislation is guaranteed to get out of the lower chamber. The question for Republicans is whether they can not only secure every red Senate vote, but grab a bunch of Democrats from gun-rich states who might be feeling a little vulnerable going into the midterm vote.

trafficking             An interesting media piece about this issue surfaced last week in, of all places, The New York Post.  If there is one newspaper in the United States which has slavishly pumped up Trump, it’s the Fox-owned Post, whose fawning coverage of Trump has been going on for years. But instead of using the gossip space on what is called Page Six, the tabloid usually gives Trump the front-page headline, and goes out of its way to make the headline read as positive as it can.

So here’s a big story about concealed-carry but the headline is a quote from the NYPD Commissioner, Jim O’Neill, describing the national CCW as ‘insanity’ and “a disaster for major cities around the country.” The Manhattan DA, Cy Vance, also chimed in, saying that he wouldn’t presume to tell the residents of West Virginia what their gun laws should say, but neither should anyone take a law written for West Virginia and apply it to New York. Vance was referring to the narrative started by Mike Bloomberg who blamed high levels of gun violence on the movement of illegal guns up the I-95 “iron pipeline” from states with lax gun laws to more restrictive states like New York.

Thank you, Cy Vance, for that quick lesson in federalism.  But with all due respect to the idea that everything would be hunky-dory in gun land if we could just figure out a way to keep those guns from the South down in the South. Back laat May, the Brooklyn DA, Eric Gonzalez, announced the biggest gun “bust’” in the borough’s history, with indictments of 24 Virginia residents who had brought more than 200 guns into the Big Apple, including a Thompson sub-machine gun, you know, one of those rat-tat-tat bangers used by the Al Capone gang. Actually the so-called machine gun is actually a semi-automatic rifle but it looks like a machine gun.

The Brooklyn press conference was quite entertaining, because in addition to all the guns lying around, DA Gonzalez also played a taped conversation between two of the crooks, one of whom was bragging to the other about how he could walk around to 10 different gun shops, buy a legal gun in each one, bring the stash up to New York and unload the guns in the street.

If someone can buy a gun legally in Virginia, they were able to pass the FBI-NICS check. A legal gun purchase is a legal gun purchase no matter where it’s made. So how come all these ‘legal’ guns only seem to come to New York from Southern states? I’ll tell you why.

If you look at the number of federal dealer licenses in Southern states  and compare to the FFL numbers in states like New York and New Jersey, there are three times as many gun licenses per capita in the South as opposed to the North. Gee, what a surprise, given the fact that per-capita gun ownership is also three times higher in the South than in the North. The movement of legally-purchased guns from one section of the country to another is a perfect example of the way the market responds to an imbalance between supply and demand. It’s not the ‘lax’ gun laws which bring Southern guns up to New York; it’s unmet demand, and laws don’t prevent the market from responding to demand.

Thomas Gabor—Establishing a National Licensing System for Gun Owners

America has a grave gun violence problem.  Gun deaths are approaching 40,000 per year, mass shootings are occurring daily and they are becoming more lethal.  Three of the five deadliest mass shootings in modern American history (Las Vegas, Orlando, and Sutherland Springs (TX) have occurred over the last 18 months.  The Concealed Carry Reciprocity bill, currently making its way through Congress at the behest of the National Rifle Association, represents a complete disregard for public safety and the desire of the public for tighter gun laws.   This bill would make it lawful to carry guns across state lines, even if the state issuing a permit has very weak requirements for permit holders relative to the state the permit holder is visiting.

licenseThe US needs stronger not weaker national laws.  Studies show that states with more permissive laws tend to have higher, not lower, gun death rates than states with more stringent requirements.  Rather than concealed carry reciprocity we need another national law, but one that raises screening and training requirements for gun owners, rather than one that undermines public safety in states that have made more serious attempts to regulate in this area.

Many groups are proposing that we expand background checks so that all gun purchasers, including those buying at gun shows and online, are subject to a background check to ensure they do not fall in some prohibited category (e.g., convicted felons, the mentally ill, domestic abusers).   Such a reform is important as is the desire to close the “Charleston loophole”, which allowed the sale of a Glock pistol to the mass shooter Dylann Roof to proceed after 72 hours when the FBI could not find the drug conviction on his record even though there was a flag in the NICS system.  Other improvements to the background check system are also necessary, such as the need for the military to share the misconduct of one of its members with the FBI—something that might have prevented the recent church massacre in Sutherland Springs (TX).

Expanding and tinkering with our current system of background checks is the low-hanging fruit with regard to reform as 95% of Americans support such actions.  Unfortunately, the obsession of gun safety advocates with this system has led us to lose sight of fundamental flaws in the way we screen prospective gun buyers.

Virtually every other advanced country has a national licensing system that is substantially stronger in vetting gun owners than the standard checks undertaken in a matter of minutes in the US at the point of sale.  Just over a dozen states have some form of licensing requirement.  In addition to the current federal prohibitions on gun ownership for minors, felons, the mentally ill, domestic abusers, and those dishonorably discharged from the military, an effective national licensing system would involve the following:

  • A comprehensive screening process undertaken by a designated law enforcement agency, including an in-person interview. Currently, there is no licensing requirement at the federal level and the typical background check at the time of sale, appropriately referred to as an “Instant Background Check”, involves a search of three FBI databases and takes just minutes to complete.
  • Sign off by the applicant’s current or former domestic partner (where applicable) attesting to his stability and lack of violence.
  • Successful completion of gun safety training (through written and performance-based tests), including training in the operation, safe use, handling, and storage of firearms (including child access prevention) and in laws relating to the appropriate use of force;
  • Reference checks in which the applicant’s mental fitness and use of alcohol and drugs would be probed;
  • Certificate of mental aptitude from a psychologist or other accredited professional if he or she is under 26 years of age.
  • A waiting period of 10 business days for receipt of the license would allow those bent on harming others or themselves to let their anger or self-destructive feelings dissipate.
  • The license would be valid for 5 years.

Some readers will look at this proposal and think it represents government overreach or violates the Second Amendment.  It is neither.  Many other advanced countries have requirements that are at least as exacting, if not more so.  Aside from carefully screening the population, such a licensing system sends the message that handling lethal weapons is a serious matter.  Some will object using the tired argument that criminals will circumvent the licensing system and obtain weapons illegally.  Such an argument can be used to object to all laws and, is incorrect, as many license applicants and those undergoing background checks are denied each year in the US and other countries.

Such a licensing system would be consistent with the most recent judicial interpretations of the Second Amendment.  In the context of a Supreme Court ruling that for the first time recognized an individual’s right to possess a firearm unrelated to militia service, Justice Scalia wrote in District of Columbia v. Heller (2008) that the Second Amendment right was not unlimited and that the Court’s opinion did not cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by individuals at risk of firearm misuse or on laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the sale of guns.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dave Buchannon – Make A New Year’s Training Resolution.

I hope you had a wonderful, peaceful and joyous holiday.  Now that you’ve digested all of those wonderful holiday treats, you’re probably ready to make some resolutions for the new year and I, for one, would like to see every gun owner make a resolution to train more frequently.

training2Now I’ve heard the complaint that it is expensive to practice your shooting skills frequently, but before you pick out your first class seat on the complaint train, let’s put “expensive” into perspective.

Back a few years I used to golf every Saturday morning with the same three guys.  We’d travel to different courses in our region because we’d always heard that some course “over there” was better then where we played “over here,” actually we just enjoyed playing different courses.  We didn’t play highbrow courses, we sought mostly nice municipal and private courses that were open to the public.  The point is, we usually paid around $35 each for a round of golf, which didn’t include the lost balls or the round of beers at the 19th hole.  We all considered thirty-five bucks a reasonable price to pay for a half-day of fun in the sun.  More importantly, our wives were all willing to pay that much just to get our butts out of the house for a while.

Today I can run down to my local sporting goods store or gun shop and pick up a box of 50 rounds of pistol ammo for about $12, and I do not live in an inexpensive region.  So for right around what I used to pay for a single round of golf I can buy 150 rounds of pistol ammunition… without any coupons or discounts.  Of course that doesn’t include the cost of my rod & gun club membership but that’s a sunk cost, meaning if I joined the club I’m paying for it whether I train once a year or three times a week.

So for about the same cost as a weekly round of golf I can get in at least two hours of training, even more if I’m pacing myself correctly.  The reality is that most of us get bored after an hour on the range, so in the future I’ll share some drills to help keep your range time interesting while building important skills.

But what if your limiting factor is time instead of money?  Or what if it’s difficult for you to get to the range, or what if you belong to one of those clubs with a range that’s so busy the only slot available is next week are at 2:30 am on Wednesday?  Find another club. Really.  Not all training though, has to involve throwing real lead downrange, there are some serious training alternatives you can use right at home.

If you want to improve your skills, laser pistols are great for training when you can’t get to the range.  There are a number of options you could cash those holiday gift cards on at one of your favorite online retailers for a reasonable price.  Avoid the temptation to go cheap.  As with all things in the gun world, you get what you pay for.  A well built laser trainer will give you years of service and you can even set up your own laser range with targets that respond to ‘hits’ and ‘misses.’  There are laser trainers that replicate the size and weight of most carry weapons fairly well.

You can get the same effect with a ‘laser bullet’ inserted into the barrel of your carry weapon.  These are like tiny laser pointers that fit into the barrel of your pistol like a cartridge would.  When you pull the trigger, the firing pin presses on a little switch and ‘fires’ the laser so you can see it ‘hit’ your target.

Want to practice your holster work?  Most ranges won’t allow it.  So spend a few dollars on a blue gun replica of your carry weapon and you can practice your draw and re-holster to your heart’s content without even the remote possibility of an accidental discharge.

So for 2018 resolve to train more, you really can afford it.

Does Concealed-Carry Reduce Crime?

wreath

Today’s media will be carrying the story about NRA Board member and NASCAR team owner Dick Childress, who evidently frightened away three dopes who broke into his home by firing a gun at them, an event which Childress claims resulted in no loss of life to himself or his wife thanks to “the 2nd Amendment and God.” No doubt this story will be repeated when the Senate takes up a debate on the national concealed-carry reciprocity bill, with Childress becoming a poster-boy for the idea that we should all be going around armed.

If there is one cottage industry which has emerged and grown within the gun violence prevention (GVP) research community, it’s the continued effort to debunk the work of John Lott, whose book – More Guns Less Crime – has been the clarion-call for the concealed-carry (CCW) movement since it was first published in 1998. The book first appeared when the residents of nearly half the states still had to prove a need to walk around with a gun. As of today, only 8 states still give the authorities who issue CCW some discretion as to who shall and shall not be able to walk around armed; the rest of the country couldn’t care less.

Lott’s argument is based on statistical models which show that as the number of concealed-carry licenses increase in most jurisdictions, criminal activity shifts from in-person to anonymous crime; i.e., a decline in homicides but an increase in burglaries, his argument based on the assumption that criminals don’t want to confront potential crime victims who might be armed.

Lott’s thesis has been attacked by any number of GVP researchers, of whom perhaps the most prominent and prolific scholar is a law professor at Stanford, John Donohue, who has published two, very detailed critiques of Lott’s work.  The first paper was published in 2012, and basically argued that Lott’s argument was based on data which was, at best, incomplete. The second paper was released this year, and went further because it claimed that by using a more sophisticated modeling approach, the data actually showed that in CCW states that violent crime went up. Lott has replied in detail to both these critiques, so the battle wages on.

I recently began a study of murder from a forensic point of view, hence, I took the trouble to read Lott and Donohue again and find myself unable to subscribe to either point of view. The reason I am unpersuaded has nothing to do with the validity of statistical models employed in either approaches; rather, it is based on the assumptions that both Lott and Donohue make about the behavior of criminals versus the behavior of armed citizens, assumptions which I believe in both cases to be totally wrong.

Let’s go back to the three jerks who broke into the home where Dick Childress and his wife were asleep. Obviously, they didn’t do their homework in preparation for the attack because not only were the residents in their home, but the homeowner was certainly armed. I mean, a member of the NRA Board wouldn’t have been able to pull out a gun?

But let’s presume for the sake of argument that the burglary team’s collective IQ wasn’t below the standard of ‘dumb.’ The point is that anonymous crimes, crimes of stealth, usually involve some degree of thought and planning before the crime occurs.  On the other hand, what emerges from the brilliant, 1,000-page textbook on forensic homicide by Lester Adelson is the proven argument that of all crimes, murder is the one crime which is preceded by any planning or conscious thought at all.

Then there’s the question of the degree to which the population which commits the most violent crime – murder – has any degree of contact with the population that believes they need to protect themselves by walking around armed. Because if these two population groups don’t come into contact with one another, making some kind of causal connection between how the two groups behave regarding any issue is about as far away from reality as you can get.

Violent crime, particularly murder, is overwhelmingly an intra-racial affair. Blacks kill blacks, whites kill whites; for both races the intra-racial character is around 90 percent. And just as murder is segregated by race, it’s also segregated by income and where people live. Warren Buffet lives in Omaha, the only murder in Buffet’s neighborhood in the last couple of years was an elderly lady, living alone, who met some dope on the internet and then invited him to move in. He repaid her for her generosity and kindness by bopping her over the head and running off with her jewels. Meanwhile, a mile away from Buffet’s house is a small ghetto surrounding a ballfield and some swing sets known as Giffords Park. The neighborhood has about 5,000 residents but chalks up 8 or 9 shootings each year, the reason that most of the victims survive is because the park is located a block away from the Creighton University Medical Center and ER.

If we are really going to do something about the behavior caused by guns which will probably result in more than 12,000 murders this year, I think it’s time to stop indulging in arguments about statistics and statistical models and start paying attention to how, when and where these murders actually occur. And by the way, don’t make the mistake of assuming that the number of individuals who have concealed-carry licenses represents in any way, shape or form, how many Americans are walking around with guns.  Let me break it to you gently – in neighborhoods, both white and black, where most murders occur, everybody’s got a gun.

Have A Wonderful and Joyous Christmas Season.  

 

Todd Palin – GVP Man Of The Year.

Although I can only speak for myself, I think the gun violence prevention (GVP) community should start handing out an annual award to the person whose behavior best exemplifies what preventing gun violence is all about.  In that respect, I nominate Todd Palin for this year’s award based on the way he behaved in a confrontation this past weekend with his eldest son, a rather disturbed young man by the name of Track.

palin1 According to court papers, the kid showed up at Ma and Pa Palin’s residence, determined to have it out with the old man about something involving a truck.  Finding the front door locked, he began banging and yelling to be let in, at which point his father came to the front window holding a gun.  The story gets a little muddled at this point; none of the Palins has ever been accused of getting their facts straight. But the bottom line is that evidently Todd pointed a gun at Track who responded by breaking through a window, slamming the old man to the floor and proceeded to beat him up.

Even though Sarah Palin has been quoted endless times as saying that she’s always armed and ready to defend herself because self-defense is a God-given right, on this particular occasion she actually did what everyone should always do – she called the police. By the time the cops arrived both she and Todd were driving away in separate cars while Track was still inside the house.  The police report noted that Todd had “injuries to his face and head based on the visible blood running down his face.” Alaska’s former Governor was “visibly upset.” The kid is due back in court on December 27, facing charges of burglary, assault and criminal mischief, the last charge referring to the cost of the window that Track broke in order to gain entrance to the home.

The good news for Track Palin, as well as for his parents, is that the kid didn’t end up on a slab.  Which is the reason I want the GVP to give Todd Palin this award, because he could have done what many people do in a similar situation, namely, pull the trigger of his gun.  And what we find again and again in situations where an argument breaks out between two people, one of whom is armed, “if you walk around with a gun, it will go off sooner or later.” So says Walter Mosely.

I just took a random glance at the website of the Violence Policy Center which contains specific descriptions of instances in which people with concealed-carry licenses kill themselves or others with the gun they are supposed to be carrying for self-defense.  Here’s a description of a shooting that occurred in Maine: “On October 6, concealed handgun permit holder Merrill “Mike” Kimball, 70, shot and killed Leon Kelley, 63, following a confrontation at Brown’s Bee Farm, a beekeeping business in North Yarmouth.” They got into an argument about honey!  About honey, get it?  They got into an argument about nothing but one of them had a gun. To quote the brilliant Lester Adelson, “With its peculiar lethality, a gun converts a spat into a slaying and a quarrel into a killing.”

The FBI defines a home invasion as” the unlawful entry of a structure to commit a felony or theft.” It turns out that more than one-third of all home invasions which occur each year involve the behavior of someone who had legal or social access to that particular home.  Which creates a big problem for proponents of armed self-defense because if you fire a gun at a home invader, there’s a one out of three chance that you knew the person who might wind up dead.

And that’s the reason I want GVP to honor Todd Palin because he didn’t use his gun to protect himself against this particular home invader, who happened to be his son.

Tom Gabor – Concealed Carry Reciprocity.

In the aftermath of the two deadly mass shootings in Las Vegas and Sutherland Springs, Texas, Congress should be protecting Americans from gun violence by strengthening our gun laws, not weakening them. Instead, in a party line vote last week, the House Judiciary Committee passed the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act (H.R. 38), a National Rifle Association (NRA) priority.

CCW1If this bill is enacted into law, each state would be required to honor a concealed carry permit issued by another state, even if the permit holder’s state of residence has much lower standards or no permit requirement at all for those carrying concealed weapons. This would be a dangerous law, as it would allow people to seamlessly carry guns across state lines, regardless of the vetting and training required by the state issuing the permit.

It is ironic that during a period in which gun deaths have been increasing and mass shootings are claiming an unprecedented number of victims, our first national law in many years would prioritize the rights of gun owners rather than enhance public safety. It is also a paradox that we would have a national law that, rather than setting a high national standard for individuals who carry lethal weapons, would instead preserve a system of disparate state laws in which the lowest standard would be imposed on all states. The NRA and Republicans also violate conservative doctrine by undermining the right of states to protect their residents through the imposition of rigorous requirements on gun permit applicants.

Asserting federal authority in gun policy might be worth considering if there was compelling evidence that such an approach would improve public safety. However, research clearly shows that increasing gun carrying offers few advantages and imperils public safety. John Donohue at Stanford University has shown that right-to-carry laws have increased state violent crime rates by 15%. An FBI study of 160 active shooter incidents from 2000 to 2013 found that just one of these incidents was stopped by an armed civilian. Louis Klarevas, author of Rampage Nation, found that just one in every 2,000 potential or actual mass shootings is successfully stopped by an armed civilian. Meanwhile, the Violence Policy Center has documented over 1,100 killings by concealed carry permit holders since 2007.

Gun carrying also raises the risks of deadly mistakes and confusion in active-shooter incidents. In 2016, an individual shot five Dallas police officers as the officers were providing security at a rally attended by open-carry activists armed with assault weapons. The police chief stated that these activists impeded responding officers, creating confusion as to who the shooter was and whether there were additional shooters.

Gun carrying also raises the risks of deadly mistakes and confusion in active-shooter incidents. In 2016, an individual shot five Dallas police officers as the officers were providing security at a rally attended by open-carry activists armed with assault weapons. The police chief stated that these activists impeded responding officers, creating confusion as to who the shooter was and whether there were additional shooters.

Currently, 12 states do not require a permit to carry a firearm and about two dozen states require no training in the safe handling and use of firearms.  Even states requiring such training do not approach the standards recommended by experts.  Joseph Vince, a leading national expert,  states that training should include mental preparation, knowledge of the law, judgment, and expertise and familiarity with firearms.  Just a handful of states take training seriously and, under the proposed Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, they would be forced to allow individuals to bring in guns from states that require no training at all.

With gun violence and mass shootings presenting grave threats to Americans, this bill represents a retreat in standards governing the carrying of guns.  This retreat would ignore the shortcomings of civilian training, as well as polls showing the public’s increasing desire for stricter regulation of firearms.  Congress should reject this bill in favor of one that will actually keep America safe.

Thomas Gabor is author of Confronting Gun Violence in America.  This op-ed was originally published in Fortune Magazine.

Dave Buchannon – Why I Teach Gun Safety.

 

Don’t hate me, I teach people about guns.  More specifically I teach a state certified firearms safety course to people from all walks of life who want to own firearms legally and lawfully.  And I hope you won’t be offended, but the battle to protect “our Second Amendment rights”, politics, or gun violence prevention are not part of the curriculum – nor do I write about them.  Safety and responsible gun ownership are the primary rubric for this course, which everyone must take before applying for a License to Carry (LTC).

trainingIronically, in a state with some of the toughest gun laws in the country, students can pass the required safety course, get their LTC, buy a gun and walk around with it without ever having fired a single round.  Not in my class, where you have to fire five rounds at a target and I’m less concerned about your score than I am that you get a sense of what it feels like to actually establish a solid grip and stance, point the gun correctly, and pull the trigger to make it go BANG!  The sights, sounds, and smells aren’t for everyone, and that’s just fine.  But if you’re thinking of getting a gun, you need to know it feels like to shoot one.  A small handful of students have fired the first shot and put the gun down because they didn’t like it.  They didn’t like it one bit, and that’s okay.  At least they know what it feels like.

I teach, because I enjoy sharing my interest in guns with other people, especially those who are interested but haven’t been exposed to them.  On the other hand, I’ve been interested in guns since childhood – the first book I ever borrowed from my elementary school library was “Guns of the American West.”  Imagine that, a GUN book in a school library being checked-out to a second grader!  My father hunted with an old lever-action rifle but that and a snub-nosed 38 special were the only guns in the house until I got my Daisy BB gun on my 11th Christmas.  Despite being so sick I could barely get out of bed on Christmas morning I spent the next three days launching a whole milk carton full BB’s at a makeshift target set up in our garage.

Ten years later I was on the range in the Police Academy, for forty hours of extremely intense training and scoring.  What might sound like a lot of fun was really five days of grueling  work – ah, who am I kidding… it was a blast!  A ton of serious information that emphasized responsibility, skill building, instantaneous decision-making, focus, control, and responsibility, but it was also a lot of fun.  Yes, I did write “responsibility” twice, on purpose, because the responsibility for every round fired was emphasized constantly.  I still carry those lessons with me to this day, and I teach in hopes that every student leaves the classroom with a tiny sense of that same responsibility I felt after range week.

I also teach gun safety because a close friend of mine in junior high school accidentally shot his older brother while playing with the revolver their mother kept hidden in her nightstand.  The older brother died, the younger was horribly affected and lived a life haunted by that event.

I do not teach gun safety for the money, I worry a little bit about those who do.  Building a teaching practice sufficient to replace day-job income requires creating a sense of need. You “need” this training because it’s a dangerous world where attackers are lurking behind every tree and hiding around every corner.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Statistic after statistic and study after study have proven that you have a better chance of winning the lottery than having to defend yourself with a gun against a violent crime.  Want to protect yourself from a home invasion?  Don’t become a drug dealer… simple as that.  I cannot name a single time in 30 years when I needed to defend myself against violent attack, but if you think you’ll be safer with a gun, learn everything you can about the gun, and more importantly, the law.

I teach because I really enjoy teaching, and I really enjoy guns.

Be of good cheer!

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.