Do Armed Citizens Protect Us From Crime? The Cops Don’t Think So.

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If you want to check out one of the truly great internet marketing scams, take a look at the website of the Concealed Carry Association of America, an outfit started by a guy named Tim Schmidt who developed something called ‘tribal marketing’ which entices people to join (and spend money) on websites promoting the idea that membership is a very special kind of thing.  And what’s more special than believing you’re fulfilling God’s work by walking around armed? Tim’s CCAA website gets a membership ‘retention’ rate three times’ longer than the average membership website, and the longer the members hang around, the more they’ll spend.

tombstone              And believe me, there’s plenty to buy, including books, videos, clothing, gifts and novelty items, and all sorts of other stuff. Next month you can go down to Fort Worth and enjoy a fun-filled three days at the annual CCAA trade show, which includes a live-fire range where you can bang away with real guns and a guest appearance by none other than the prancing master, Colion Noir.

When I say that CCAA is a ‘scam,’ it’s not because you don’t get anything for your membership fee.  To the contrary, you get a slick magazine, a pretty decent personal liability insurance policy, a newsletter and, of course, a nice decal to stick on the window of your car. But no matter what CCAA gives you for joining, the real reason it’s a scam is because there’s simply no truth (as in none) that walking around with a gun makes you safe.  I didn’t say that you might be a little safer; I didn’t say there was a chance that carrying a gun made you safe, I said there is absolutely no proof whatsoever that you will be safe or safer if you carry a gun.

I know, I know, examples abound about all these armed citizens who pulled out a gun and chased the bad guy away. There’s only one little problem; all these armed citizens who engaged in what we call defense gun use (DGU) don’t really exist. Gun-nut Nation still cites Gary Kleck’s 1993 survey conducted which pegged yearly DGU’s at maybe 2 million and maybe more.  Funny, but the same folks who promote this survey never seem to mention the study Kleck published in 2004 where he couldn’t find any difference in outcomes for resisting crime by crime victims who didn’t use guns.

If you want to attempt a serious and honest look at whether guns keep us all that safe, I suggest you take a look at the article just published by Julie Mack, who interviewed law enforcement officials in Michigan’s 15 most populated counties asking them whether they knew of any DGUs in their jurisdictions, and “most officials could not cite a single incident in their jurisdiction within the past 12 months.” Now this doesn’t mean that the cops are necessarily opposed to concealed carry (CCW); in fact Detroit’s chief, James Craig, is an outspoken and ardent supporter both of CCW and of Donald Trump. But being in favor of CCW  and knowing that an armed citizen prevented a crime just aren’t the same.

Undaunted by their inability to actually validate the ‘widespread’ occurrence of DGUs, Gun-nut Nation has fallen back on the notion that the increase in CCW licenses, estimated at roughly 14 million nationwide, has been a significant factor in the continued decline of violent crime. Once again, the research shows that this rationale for spreading the gospel of concealed-carry simply isn’t true.

Want to play cowboy, walk around with a gun and pretend you’re in Dodge City, you go right ahead. But Dodge City experienced, at best, two murders each year and Dodge City banned guns in the 1870s, a law that was strictly enforced by lawmen like Wyatt Earp. I don’t know a single man, including myself, who didn’t have a Roy Rogers revolver when he was a kid. But I grew up and some of my Gun-nut friends might think of growing up too.

Shannon Watts Gets Attacked For The Usual Reason: Telling The Truth.

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Yesterday Shannon Watts got into a Twitter kerfuffle with home-school queen Dana Loesch and gun-toting enthusiast Kimberly Corban about whether guns could be carried into the NRA’s annual meeting in Nashville.  What set off the argument was Shannon’s tweet that guns weren’t allowed into the hall where Wayne-o gave his pep talk to the crowd: “@NRA fails to mention that its annual meeting was a ‘safe space’; no guns while their chief lobbyist spoke,” a comment that was branded a lie by the Gun-nut Nation noise machine, a judgement then seconded by Loesch who accused Shannon of ‘blocking and obsessing’ rather than telling the truth.

 

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Shannon Watts

The truth is that what Shannon said about the NRA show was absolutely true. If you were licensed to carry a gun in Nashville, you could bring your gun into the main exhibition hall.  But guns weren’t allowed into the auditorium where Wayne-o rallied the troops, ditto during the appearance of Trump.  Which is exactly what Shannon said; i.e., no guns when Wayne-o gave his speech.

What caught my eye, however, was not that Ms. Watts was criticized for saying something she didn’t say.  If Shannon had a nickel for every time she’s been accused of saying something that wasn’t true when what she said happened to be true, she could pay off the mortgage on her house.  So that kind of attack is hardly new news.

What I found interesting about this exchange was the statement by Kimberly Corban that carrying a gun around creates a ‘safe space.’ What space is she talking about?  I guess she’s referring to the space that was between her and the guy who came through a window into her apartment in 2006, held her against her will and then raped her; an attack that she immediately reported to the police and then followed through by testifying at the trial in which the creep was convicted of sexual assault. According to Kimberly, the situation would have been different if she had been able to grab a gun even though by the time she woke up the attacker was already standing next to her bed.

I’m not trying in any way to downplay the terrifying ordeal and subsequent emotional trauma suffered by Kimberly Corban or any other woman who is the victim of rape.  But a year after the attack she was training rape counselors at a local center, and now she’s morphed into a national celebrity, complete with the requisite appearances on Fox, as well as challenging President Obama during his CNN town hall gun debate.

So the woman who claims that she wants to “educate the public on sexual assault” now basically spends her time promoting 2nd-Amendment ‘rights.’  Which makes her a perfect pitchman for the NRA’s continuing effort to get a gun into every American home, because who’s going to argue with a woman who knows how it feels to be unable to defend herself from a rape?

There’s only one little problem.  Granted, Kimberly’s experience makes her testimony about rape a compelling and deeply-troubling description of this traumatic event.  But that terrible moment doesn’t make her an expert on how to defend herself or her kids. And it certainly doesn’t give her any expertise at all when it comes to defending herself or others with a gun.

Want to consult an expert on using a gun for self-defense?  Let’s start with Gary Kleck, the famed criminologist who invented the idea that Americans used guns to protect themselves from crimes more than two million times each year. And while Kleck doesn’t believe his own numbers any longer, leave it to ‘experts’ like Kimberly Corban to continue promoting the myth.  Contrary to that nonsense, Kleck published an article in 2004 which showed that resisting sexual assault with a gun was no more effective than using other self-defense measures, like yelling for help.

Hey Shannon, keep telling it like it is. Keep pushing back on self-promoters like Kimberly Corban and Dana Loesch. The worst result from your efforts is that people will learn the truth.

 

Here’s A New Chapter In The Great DGU War.

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The latest salvo in the DGU War has been shot off, and this barrage may go a long way to permanently cripple the argument that guns are used several million times each year (ergo, Defensive Gun Use)to prevent crimes.  DGU has been the rallying-cry of the ‘armed citizen’ and concealed-carry movements since the gun industry decided that personal protection would replace hunting as a way to sell guns.  And any time a politician wants to pander to a right-wing base (and there’s going to be lots of such pandering over the next 16 months), he can always prove his love of the 2nd Amendment by  insisting that gun ownership protects property and saves lives.

conference program pic                The idea that guns are used each year to prevent millions of crimes was invented by a criminologist, Gary Kleck, who published a survey in 1995 of 225 respondents that was immediately promoted by the pro-gun community and still remains the so-called proof that a gun in hand every day keeps the criminal away.  I say ‘invented’ not because of the significant analytical lapses that have been pointed out again and again, but for the very simple reason that he did not ask the respondents to describe in any way, shape or form the actual crime for which their access to a gun kept from taking place.  What Kleck only learned is that some 220 people thought they were going to be the victims of a crime, not that any crime could or did take place.

Now you would think that testing the ability of people who randomly answered their telephone to create a make-believe scenario about something that may or may not have happened would be dismissed out of hand as just so much intellectual junk.  But I don’t remember the last time pro-gun folks argued for an extension of concealed-carry onto college campuses or other public venues without citing Kleck or other proponents of DGU.

A long-time critic of Kleck has just published a new DGU study that uses as its inclusion criteria an admission by the survey respondent that an attempted or completed crime actually occurred.  And the survey data, drawn from the National Crime Victimization Survey, goes to great lengths to validate that what the respondent says about the criminal incident can more or less assumed to be true.  And this survey, based on interviews covering 14,000 criminal events, is that defensive gun use before or during the commission of a real crime is a pretty rare event.  Not only did a DGU occur in less than 1% of the total crimes (127 events) but the result when the victim used any kind of defensive action was basically the same as when the victim defended himself or herself with a gun.

You can get details of the study in today’s article in The Trace, written by the Armed With Reason duo, DeFilippis and Hughes, who tangled with Kleck earlier this year. They make a persuasive case for the strength of the analysis in this new piece, but I suspect that the pro-gun noise machine will reject their arguments, as well as defend Kleck’s DGU nonsense on the following grounds.  First, they will argue that since Kleck asked respondents about whether they used a gun to stop a crime before it occurred, comparing such behavior to situations when a gun was used after the crime began to take place is to make a comparison that simply isn’t fair.

The second and to me much more important reason why pro-gun and DGU proponents will dismiss this new work is that, when all is said and done, these folks have no interest in any discussion about guns that is rooted in evidence-based facts.  I don’t know what Kleck was thinking when he devised (and still defends) a survey which made no attempt whatsoever to validate what people said, but his work comes in handy when it comes to selling guns.

The Florida Movie Shooting: Why Back Down if You Have A Gun?

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This past Monday, a retired, 71 year-old Tampa policeman named Curtis Reeves, shot and killed another, younger man in a movie theater evidently because his victim would not stop texting during the Coming Attractions and in the argument which then ensued, hurled an “unknown object” at the cop which may have been deadly weapon known as a bag of popcorn. The victim, Chad Oulson, was sitting in the row in front of Reeves and was not making any effort to climb over the seat but a well-aimed bag of popcorn can, as is well known, be a dangerous thing.

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According to the FBI, there were  260 justifiable homicides committed by civilians in 2011, of which guns were used 75% of the time.  There were also 12,664 murders in 2011, of which roughly 8,800 were committed with guns.  Of the 12,664 felony homicides, about half started as arguments and then things got out of control.  Assuming that the ratio of murders to gun use stayed constant, between 3,000 and 4,000 gun murders occurred in 2011 that were no different from what happened in a Florida movie theater; a little yelling back and forth followed by a few fuck you’s, and then out comes the gun.

In this recent case, the shooter first complained to the theater management but nothing was done.  But the point is he knew there were other options which suddenly turned into non-options as the argument got out of hand.  The question that needs to be asked is what would Reeves had done if he hadn’t been armed with a gun?  His victim was younger, bigger and stronger.  Without a gun Reeves would have had no choice but to avoid a confrontation by walking away from the scene.

The next time that Wayne LaPierre or John Lott go on television to tell us how unsafe we are in gun-free zones, someone should ask them what they would have done had they been inside the theater where this tragic event took place. Would they have walked over during the argument and intervened? Would they have waited until Reeves pulled his weapon and then tried to shoot him down just in case the shooting of Oulson was the beginning of a rampage that had to be brought to an end?  I’m not asking these questions to be silly.  I’m asking them because this is what really happens when someone believes they can protect everyone around them because they are carrying a gun.

The problem with thinking of guns as defensive weapons is that the argument cuts both ways.  The guy who walks around carrying a gun may think he’s protecting himself and others against crime, but he also knows that if he gets into an argument he doesn’t have to back down. I find it interesting that proponents of defensive gun use cite all kinds of public surveys in which people are asked whether the fact that they were carrying a gun kept a crime from taking place.  But I haven’t seen any surveys where they interview guys in prison who pulled out a gun and shot someone because it was the “only” way they could settle an argument on favorable terms.

Maybe I’ve got it all wrong.  Maybe when it comes out that the bag of popcorn could have caused serious or fatal damage to Reeves that he’ll be lionized by the NRA as another ‘good guy with a gun.’  And maybe the people all over America who sent hundreds of thousands of dollars to George Zimmerman can now send their hard-earned money to Curtis Reeves because he really didn’t so anything wrong.

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