Of Course Hillary Wants To Make All Women Defenseless. That’s What happens When You Take Away The Guns.

Our good friend Tim Johnson, from Media Matters, has just released a story about the latest NRA advertising blitz which is a what-else-is-new argument about how HRC is going to take away all the guns. In this case the ad is specifically directed at women and starts off with a little spiel from a woman in Indianapolis who shot some guy after he attacked her with a knife. Now she’s a poster-person for Gun-nut Nation because, as she says, women have the ‘right’ to defend themselves with a gun.

hillary3            That’s right Kristi (she’s the lady in the ad) you certainly do have the ‘right’ to defend yourself with a gun.  You also have the right to defend yourself by calling 911, running away from the scene, using your fists or just using your mouth.  And while Gun-nut Nation wants you to believe that guns are a much more effective, in fact the only effective way to protect yourself from crime, the truth is that guns don’t, in fact, provide an extra measure of safety against crime.

Now of course Gun-nut Nation members who are reading this column will immediately jump up and say that any such study was no doubt put together by some gun-grabbing group, so it shouldn’t be taken as meaning anything at all.  But in fact, the study which shows that guns don’t provide an extra measure of protection is doesn’t come from the gun-grabbing cabal, it was conducted and published, in fact, by none other than Gary Kleck, whose 1995 study which estimated that gun-carrying civilians prevented 2 ½ million crimes from being committed every year. And this estimate, which has been debunked by just about every serious scholar who has ever bothered to review Kleck’s work, remains the non plus ultra argument within Gun-nut Nation for concealed-carry up to the present day.

Kleck’s study on how victims resist crime compared various self-protection (SP) strategies, including using guns or other weapons, running away, yelling or calling attention to the problem, calling the police or hiding away.  And with many caveats about the difficulty of analyzing this kind of data, Kleck’s conclusion is this: Using a gun to defend against a violent crime appears to be somewhat more useful in preventing injury, but the difference wasn’t “statistically significant.” And complicating the analysis even further was the fact, according to Kleck, that the very limited number of defensive gun uses made it difficult to determine the value of using a gun as a protective strategy at all.

Hey – wait a minute.  I thought that Kleck said there were millions of defensive gun uses every year. And didn’t Mr. Trump say that if someone had brought a gun into the Pulse that the horrible shooting in Orlando wouldn’t have taken place?  Now you would think that when the Grand Master of all defensive gun uses says that he really can’t prove that guns make any real difference in providing protection from crime that maybe, just maybe, Gun-nut Nation would pull back a bit, reconsider one of its most cherished ideas and perhaps, God forbid, admit that their attempt to get everyone to go out and buy a gun is based on nothing other than what they want rather than what really is.

But let’s go back to the issue that provoked this column, namely, Tim Johnson’s report on the new HRC attack ad being mounted by the NRA.  Their main man, Donald Shlump-o, is beginning to fall behind in PA.  All of sudden the great surge in Ohio appears to have come to an end.  The Florida polls don’t look all that great.  These are three big gun states and these are states which if they don’t go red, the main actor in the Fox News reality show known as the Republican Presidential campaign is toast.  So why not push an argument about defensive gun use that has no basis in truth?  Hasn’t this been the Trump-o strategy from Day One?

 

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We Have A Choice: Get Rid Of Violence Or Get Rid Of Guns.

I want to follow up the blog I just posted with a comment about the nature of gun violence – what it is and what it isn’t.  And I want to write this as a response to another Big Lie promoted endlessly by Gun Nation, namely, the idea that guns don’t kill people, it’s people who kill people.  And the way that Gun Nation promotes and justifies this Big Lie is to just as endlessly promote the notion that just about everyone who gets killed with a gun is either shot by a maniac, a home-grown terrorist or the favorite shooter-personality of all, the ‘street thug.’

conference-program-pic              It’s the caricature of guns always being used by drug dealers and gang-bangers which shows up again and again in attempts by Gun Nation to spread the gospel of the ‘armed citizen’ as our first line of defense against crime. This started with the discredited nonsense created by Gary Kleck, moved into high gear with the even more-discredited work of John Lott, and has now become the standard talking-points of 2nd-Amendment enamorate like Rubio and Trump.  And frankly, I think it’s time for GVP advocates to stop paying any attention at all to occasional attempts by pro-gun sycophants who pretend they do ‘research’ which justifies the human carnage caused by guns. It’s not science, it’s not honest, it’s nothing more than pure, unadulterated junk.

Want to really understand gun violence?  Read the remarkable commentary by the late Lester Adelson, who was Cuyahoga County Coroner from 1950 until he retired in 1987 at the age of 73.  During his extraordinary career he wrote and published 117 articles, along with a classic textbook, The Pathology of Homicide, which remains a seminal work of forensic medicine up through today. The textbook runs about 1,000 pages so I wouldn’t recommend it for a quick, casual read.  But what you might do is take a look at his 1992 article on gun violence which, to my mind, remains the most brilliant and comprehensive approach to understanding the problem that you will ever read.

I’ll get right to the point of this article by quoting what Adelson has to say: “The most reasonable explanation for the use of firearms in the majority of culpable homicides is that a gun, illegally used, is a coward’s weapon. This is true whether the killing is committed in connection with a family argument, political terrorism, an armed robbery, a drunken quarrel between friends, or a skulking assassination. With its peculiar lethality, a gun converts a spat into a slaying and a quarrel into a killing.” The reasoning (based on great experience) behind this statement is very simple, namely, that guns achieve their intended use most easily when the perpetrator and victim come face-to-face. And the implication of this statement, which Adelson details in his textbook, is that gun violence is overwhelmingly an event which takes place between people who know one another and not, as Gun Nation would like us to believe, between a victim and some unknown, anonymous ‘thug’ who accosts his victim in the street.

All of the data on gun violence from the FBI-UCR, NVDRS and the NCVS bears him out.  Homicide data published by the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicates that upwards of 80% of all murders, including gun murders, occurred between perpetrators and victim who knew each other; this percentage zooms to nearly 100% when the victims are females (who represent 20% of all homicide victims) because those episodes invariably rise out of domestic disputes. For that matter, even though FBI data shows that 15% of all homicides occurred during other felonies (robbery, burglary, etc.,) more than one-third of home ‘invasions’ occurred in homes where the ‘invader’ knew the people living in the home.

We could end gun violence tomorrow by developing magical elixir that would modify the behavior of people who express anger or violence by picking up a gun.  But that’s not going to happen tomorrow or any other time, so why not just get rid of the guns?

Crime Rates Go Down And Of Course It’s Because Of All Those Guns.

Ever since the gun industry realized back in the 1990s that hunting was becoming a relic of the past, we have been inundated with the message that guns are necessary because they protect us from crime.  The ‘research’ which allegedly showed this to be the case was published in 1995 by Gary Kleck, who used telephone interviews with 213 respondents to argue that people walking around with guns were preventing two to three million crimes from being committed every year.

conference program pic              Kleck has recently admitted that even though his estimate of defensive gun use (DGU) may be too high, nobody else has come up with better numbers, so we might as well accept his numbers anyway.  In fact, David Hemenway and Sara Solnick have come up with better numbers because their research was based on 90,000 interviews, and what they found was that DGUs accounted for less than 1% of all victims protecting themselves from crimes, on the order of perhaps 70,000 instances every year. But Hemenway, like Obama, is from Harvard, so we know what he’s saying can’t be true.

The good news for the gun industry is that coincident with the idea that more guns equals less crime, beginning in the mid-90s, violent crime rates began to fall.  And they fell so dramatically that the national crime rate today is roughly half of what it was back in 1994.  Meanwhile, over the same twenty years, the size of the civilian gun arsenal has increased by somewhere around 50 percent.  And leave it to another pro-gun mouthpiece posing as a scholar – John Lott – to ‘prove’ that as gun ownership and concealed-carry go up, crime rates go down.

Everything else being equal, whenever I substitute a salad for a banana split at the dinner table, my weight goes down. But that’s because there is a proven connection between the number of calories I ingest each day and what then happens when I step on a scale.  There has never been any such connection ever demonstrated between crime rates and the legal ownership of guns.  But that doesn’t stop the gun industry from pretending otherwise, even if they have to misstate the data they use to support their case.

My father used to say that figures don’t lie but liars sure can figure, and here’s the latest example of that adage direct from the NRA. According to the FBI, violent crime in 2014 dropped another 0.9%.  This included a 1% decrease in murder and a 6% decline in robbery, the two of four violent crime categories in which guns are “more likely to be used.”   Assault increased 1.3%, but guns are less likely to be used in assaults, according to the NRA.  And not only are murders down, but the percentage of murders committed with guns also fell by 1.6%.

Actually, not only did aggravated assault go up, but so did the percentage of assaults committed with guns.  And the real reason that murder went down is because trauma centers are increasingly adept at saving the lives of gun-shot victims who previously would have ended up dead.  If the percentage of aggravated assault and the percentage of aggravated assaults with guns both go up, which they did, then the way in which trauma teams deal with gunshots is a much more compelling way to explain why gun murders go down.

The NRA and the NSSF can celebrate the alleged link between decreases in crime decline and increases in gun ownership all they like, but the real truth is that 95% of the drop in violent crime occurred between 1994 and 2003.  Since that time there has been a slight continuing downward trend, but it is also over the past decade that gun sales have soared.  Which means there may not be any necessary connection between gun ownership and protection from crime. But why let facts get in the way of a story that continues to sell?

 

 

 

Guess What? With Your Help There’s A Chance That CDC-Funded Gun Research Might See The Light Of Day.

Friday is usually a quiet day when it comes to gun news, for that matter it’s usually a quiet day for all news, particularly as we enter the Holiday season and office parties usually trump any real work.  But a news item out of DC caught my eye this morning and rocked me back on my heels.  I am referring to the fact that CDC funding for gun violence research might actually survive the House budget negotiations and get into the bill.

conference program pic              What?  A federal budget that actually contains money for CDC-funded research on guns?  How is this possible in today’s political climate?  How is it possible that one of the NRA’s most sacred totems, i.e., the defunding of gun research, could be overcome when every Republican Presidential candidate has followed Trump’s lead in calling for more, not less access to guns? Even the police unions and various chiefs are saying that we all need to be armed.  And wasn’t it CDC-funded research back in the 90’s which found that the notion that guns can protect us just wasn’t true?

The NRA has been claiming that armed citizens prevent millions of crimes each year.  And this claim, which has been repeated by right-wing think tanks and right-wing politicians again and again, is bandied about by gun-rights supporters hither and yon.  If you want the latest and slickest version of this canard, just tune into Wayne-o mouthing the same bromide to all his video fans. And what is this entire claim based on?  A telephone survey published in 1994 by Gary Kleck in which a few folks working for him allegedly spoke to 213 people who claimed they had used a gun to prevent a crime. If I had a nickel for every time this so-called research has been debunked, I wouldn’t have to work for a living, and even Kleck himself recently backed down from his own claim.  But if serious researchers can’t get financial support to validate anything that Kleck said, it doesn’t matter whether it’s true or not.

The problem with public health research is that, by definition, either it’s evidence-based or it doesn’t get published and read at all. Which means you need money to dig up and analyze the evidence  before you can contribute to the debate at all. Which is exactly why the NRA managed to defund CDC gun research after 1996, and is exactly why the spurious claims made by Kleck and his followers have taken on a life of their own. Because as a country whose legal system rests on due process, the law in most jurisdictions requires that any legislation must first be debated in a public forum, which means you have to hear from both sides.  And if one side presents arguments that are nothing more than opinions and marketing claptrap, while the other side can’t respond because they can’t conduct research to elucidate the facts, guess who wins the public debate?

This has been the sorry state of affairs for the past twenty years, and this is the state of affairs that might actually change in the budget negotiations on Capitol Hill.  I have to assume, incidentally, that there’s some connection between the idea of refunding CDC-sponsored gun research and the spate of mass killings which appears now to be totally out of control.  The good news for Trump, et. al., in the latest mass slaughter iteration was that the moment the shooters were linked to some kind of terrorist something, the fact they had acquired their guns and ammo legally just went by the board.

Here’s the bottom line, folks.  Anyone who believes that 100,000+ gun deaths and injuries each year doesn’t constitute a public health issue can go lay brick.  As for everyone else, here’s a link to a little app put online by Doctors for America that get you onto the phone to make a call to DC.  Needs to be done today.  Needs to be done now.

A New VPC Report Helps Demolish The Argument That Guns Protect Us From Crime.

The Violence Policy Center has just released its latest report that covers shootings by concealed-carry licensees since 2007. And while it’s impossible to come up with any kind of comprehensive number that tells us how many times legally-armed citizens yank out a piece and shoot themselves or someone else, the bottom line is that this project is a welcome antidote to the NRA-inspired nonsense about how people walking around with guns protect us from violence and crime.

If it were just the case that the pro-gun gang used the armed citizen la-la to sell more guns, it certainly wouldn’t upset me very much.  After all, every legal product deserves a good marketing scheme, even if it’s a scheme developed out of whole cloth.  But this year the virtue of an armed citizenry has been elevated to a new, almost sanctified level by the entire field of Republican Presidential candidates who are using the ‘more guns = less crime’ argument to make sure that sensible reforms like expanded background checks never get discussed at all.  “New laws won’t do anything at all,“ Donald Shlump tells us, while he preens about having a concealed-gun permit even though he won’t reveal if he actually carries or ever practices shooting a gun.

VPC cropped                According to the VPC report, at least 763 people have been shot to death by legally-armed citizens over the last eight years.  Now this is a pretty puny number when compared to the millions of crimes that are allegedly prevented because so many people are walking around with guns.  But if you think we have no idea about the accuracy of the VPC data, let me hasten to assure you that the pro-gun gang bases their claims about the value of an armed citizenry on no data at all.  The only thing they can point to is the 1994 article by Gary Kleck which has been discredited so many times that even the criticisms are getting a little stale.  And when Kleck went online earlier this year to defend his numbers, he backed away from his original claims.

Now you would think that if a national political party has designated  concealed-carry as its wedge issue in a Presidential year, the least they would do is conduct a survey to see if what they are claiming is really true.  If it turns out that the Kleck research is as bogus as I suspect, they just don’t have to tell anyone about a new poll.  On the other hand, were Kleck or someone else to do an updated study which shows that concealed-carry really was an effective and efficient way to defend against crime, just imagine what this would do for the Republicans if this information was injected into the Presidential campaign.  After all, the Democrats have clearly decided to use gun control as their wedge issue in the coming months, so all the more reason why the Republicans should try to outflank the opposition by proving once and for all that being armed is a good thing.

There’s only one little problem.  Armed citizens don’t protect us from crime.  And the reason is because crime and concealed-carry have nothing to do with each other.  Has there been a significant increase in CCW over the last few years?  Yes.  Do all these new CCW-holders live in localities where most crime occurs?  No.  The increase in concealed-carry applications has been most noticeable in places where legal gun-owners live which are, for the most part, white, small-town or smaller city localities – places where very little violent crime ever takes place.

In defending the recent spate of Republican gun-nuttery, the half-baked intellectual Thomas Sowell insisted it was reasonable to own a 30-shot rifle magazine in order to repel home invasions by three or more thugs.  Sowell might qualify his remarkable flight from reality by looking at what the BJS says are the odds of such events happening in neighborhoods where people own guns.  The odds are zero to none.

 

Do More Guns Equal Less Crime? The Lone Star State Says ‘No.’

An article has just appeared which may prove to be one of the most significant contributions by public health research to the ongoing debate about gun violence.  Not that there is much of a debate about the fact that guns kill 30,000+ yearly, injure at least 60,000 others, the total costs of which amount to more than $200 billion each year.  But the response of the pro-gun gang to this state of affairs is to deny the negative effects of gun violence when compared to the positive role that guns play in keeping us safe from crime.  And to bolster this rather disingenuous way of getting as far away from the evidence as possible, the gun gang invariably rolls out Kleck’s phony telephone survey which found that gun owners prevented millions of crimes each year, or they listen to John  Lott on some red-meat radio station promoting his discredited thesis that ‘more guns equals less crime.’

Unfortunately, most of the research on whether gun ownership does or doesn’t prevent crime suffers from the admitted failure by public health researchers to construct a research model that can really explain to what degree a coincidence (i.e., concealed-carry licenses going up, crime rates going down) is actually a causality or not. What the research team which published this study did to sharpen the focus of this question was to look at county-level issuances of CCW in 4 states (Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Texas) and compare this date against county-level arrest data in the same 4 states for, and here’s the important point, ten years following the issuance of CCW, or what is also referred to as CHL.

        Gov. Rick Perry

Gov. Rick Perry

Before getting to the results of this study, I should mention one very important distinction between the research team that was responsible for this work, as opposed to public health researchers who have been active in this particular field.  For the most part, the work that has debunked the ‘more guns = less crime’ argument has come out of either elite, Ivy League institutions like Harvard or Yale, or has been the product of the Center for Gun Policy and Research at the Johns Hopkins University School of Public Health.  And since everybody knows that the anti-gun monster Bloomberg funded the Hopkins School of Public Health, everyone knows that their work is only published when it supports something that is anti-gun.  And if you think I’m overstating the degree to which the pro-gun gang dismisses public health gun violence research through the shabbiest form of academic character assassination, take a look at what Gary Kleck recently said about criticisms of his work.

The group that researched and wrote the referenced article aren’t faculty from Hopkins, Stanford, Harvard or Yale.  They are from the Department of Health Policy and Management at Texas A&M. Whoa!  Texas A&M?  A school located in the state where the previous Governor claims he carries a gun for self-protection against prairie dogs when he’s out for his morning jog? But Texas, on the other hand, is not only the state for guns, but next January the Lone Star State will roll back a 140-year old law and let its good citizens carry guns openly just about anywhere they choose.

That all being said, exactly what did this team of Texans discover about the relationship between concealed-carry and crime?   They discovered that there’s no relationship at all.  Between 1998 and 2010, the personal crime rate in Florida dropped by 9%, it was flat even in Michigan, and went up slightly in Texas and Pennsylvania.  The property crime rate declined in Florida and Texas, murders increased slightly in Pennsylvania and the Sunshine State.  The burglary rate in all 4 states decreased, even though a major portion of Lott’s book was devoted to ‘proving’ that non-personal crimes would increase after CCWs were issued because criminals were afraid that more citizens would have guns.

I’ll end this comment by quoting the researchers themselves: “Is CHL licensing in any way related to crime rates? The results of this research indicate that no such relationships exist.” As my grandmother would say, “and that’s that.”

Do Armed Citizens Know How To Protect Themselves With Guns? I Doubt It.

For all the childish, macho crap the NRA keeps spreading about the use of guns for self-defense, the truth is that the gun industry and its supporters have never (never means not once), ever done a single study that tests, never mind validates the idea that a good guy can stop a bad guy with a gun.  And even though Gary Kleck, who first promoted the bogus idea that millions of crimes each year were prevented because people used guns for self-defense, has backed off from his nonsensical claims, the pro-gun lobby continues to tell us again and again that guns and gun owners protect us from crime.

The “evidence” that supports this nonsense isn’t really evidence at all.  It consists of a few anecdotal references to people who used guns to protect themselves or others, something which does happen from time to time.  But in a country whose civilian population owns somewhere above 300 million guns, the 80-90 armed citizen stories carried each year by the NRA doesn’t really count for very much.  The Washington Times, which slavishly follows the NRA game plan in virtually everything it publishes about guns, has several times run a feature about armed citizens protecting us from crime, a story based on eleven incidents that have taken place over the past seven years.

gun victims                I’m not saying that people don’t use guns to protect themselves.  Usually they back off, try to talk the attacker out of his plan, or dial 911.  What I am saying is that if we can believe that a majority of Americans now think they are safer with than without a gun, there might be an increasing number of people walking around with guns who have absolutely no idea of what to do if they actually had to pull out the banger and use it in self-defense.

We now have for the very first time a real-life test of whether or not an average gun owner knows what to do or how to do it when he or she finds themselves in a situation where being able to use a handgun might make the difference between an outcome that is good or bad.  This test was conducted by the National Gun Victims Action Council (NGVAC) which compared armed responses by police to armed responses by civilians in three training simulations that took place in the training simulator of the Prince George’s County Police.  You can read a summary of the results in The Washington Post, or watch the entire video which is based on a simulated carjacking, convenience store holdup and possible larceny caught in the act.  The bottom line in all three simulations is that the cops responded properly, the civilians gun owners either got shot, or used the gun when they shouldn’t have, or did nothing at all because they didn’t know what to do.

In addition to the video, the NGVAC has also released a very detailed study on self-defense training which basically finds that individuals who want to walk around armed should possess “a minimum skill with the use of a firearm in a stressful situation of self-defense.”  There are presently nine states that require any kind of tactical training for CCW, and none of these training requirements come close to meeting what professional law enforcement training experts consider the minimum training for police officers whose work, by definition, requires them to be able to protect themselves and others from dangerous crime.

And why do only 9 states have what is basically worthless self-defense training requirements and the other 41 states have nothing at all?  Here’s a little hint: it’s a three-letter acronym, the first letter is an ‘N’ and the last letter is an ‘A.’ I wouldn’t be so pissed off at the gun industry, the NRA or its self-appointed armed-citizen zealots if they would have the honesty to at least call for serious training before someone can walk around a gun.  But that would require passing another gun law and we all know that ‘good guys’ don’t need laws, they just need more guns.

 

The NSSF Believes That Walking Around With A Gun Is A Natural And Normal Thing.

It’s getting to the point that the slow but steady decline in the number of Americans who own guns appears to be provoking the gun industry and its advocates not just to promote the idea that a gun is the best and safest way for people to protect themselves, but to present concealed-carry as a natural and normal way to use guns.  The normalization of CCW can be found in a new online publication from the NSSF called First Shot News, The Newsletter for Beginning Shooters.  It contains seven articles, and five of the seven articles or videos focus on tactical shooting, which is a polite way of saying that you are going to use a gun to shoot someone else.

nssf                Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m not saying that anybody who subscribes to any NSSF online newsletter is thinking of using a gun in an unsafe or illegal way.  And I’m also not saying that they will ever use a gun except to have an enjoyable afternoon on the range with some friends.  What I am saying, however, is that consumers are told that this particular consumer product is the best way to protect themselves and society at large from any kind of physical threat.  So you’re not just buying a gun to protect yourself, buying and carrying a gun is a civic good.

And here’s how that message is conveyed to new shooters by the NSSF.  David Dolbee begins his article on choosing a holster like this: “One of the primary reasons people begin shopping for a holster is because they’re planning to carry a firearm concealed.”  Another article on short-barreled pistols advises new shooters that short-barreled guns are necessary in order to carry-concealed, but because of their compactness they aren’t much fun to shoot.  There’s a “First Shoot Shooting Drill” presented by Claude Werner, the tactical professor, whose website includes a link to “Gun Battles to be Remembered,” and the featured article is by the First Shots manager, Tisma Juett, who has put together some 60 shooting “seminars” even though most of them will be held at just 6 or 7 different sites.

Tisma’s article starts off with the usual bromides about the importance of safe storage, but she gets right down to the nitty-gritty when she asks her readers “Have you considered how you safely store your firearm when carrying concealed?” And if you need a bit more help to understand the point of her remarks, she concludes her safety advice to new shooters by stating that “When time is of the essence, you need to know where your firearm is and how to draw it out of the holster and into a position to shoot safely and even quickly.”

When time is of the essence for what?  For defending yourself against the possibility that you might be the victim of a criminal attack?  I don’t care how many times John Lott, Gary Kleck and the other self-defense fetishists continue to re-invent the sick idea that guns prevent millions of crimes from taking place.  It’s sick because those arguments appeal to fear, have no basis in fact and increase risk.  The last time Lott trotted out that stupid argument he couldn’t make any real connection between CCW and rates of crime, ending up whining that the two trends were “associated” with one another, whatever that means.

It’s time for my friends in the gun-sense community to say it loud and clear: You can’t call for CCW on the one hand and call for gun safety on the other.  It’s a contradiction in terms and pro-gun organizations promoting such nonsense should be called to account for what they are really trying to do, namely, make concealed-carry a normal and natural activity so that people will buy more guns. But the truth is that walking around with a gun isn’t normal and natural unless you also happen to be wearing a law-enforcement shield.  And anyone who thinks otherwise should go back to the O.K. Corral.

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

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.

Want To Learn Nothing About Public health And Guns? Listen To The DRGO.

There are a couple of loud-mouth fools out there masquerading as physicians who run something called Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership (DRGO).  Actually, what they run is a website that is sponsored by the 2nd Amendment Foundation, and these characters have been pandering to the NRA and the gun-nut audience since medical research on guns became verboten thanks to defunding of the CDC.

Their latest screed is an all-out attack on the decision by the major medical societies, along with the American Bar Association, to take a more aggressive stance on gun violence, something which has been defined as a public health issue since 1981.  And by the way, in case you’ve forgotten, the President that year happened to be a fairly-conservative guy named Reagan, not some gun-grabbing liberal like Clinton or you-know-who.

Gun violence was and is considered a public health issue for one simple reason, namely, that shootings result in the deaths and injuries of more than 100,000 human beings each year.  And it doesn’t matter whether these human beings are mostly old, White men living in small towns who impulsively stick a gun in their mouths and pull the trigger, or young, minority males who just as impulsively settle arguments with guns rather than their fists, the bottom line is that much of this damage wouldn’t occur if it wasn’t so easy to get one’s hands on a gun.

emt                I wouldn’t have any argument with the DRGO gang except for the fact that what they claim to be the mission and method of public health is so far removed from the truth.  In fact, not only do they misrepresent public health, they don’t even remotely or accurately convey what the public health community thinks about guns.  Instead, they pretend there’s no difference between the strategies promoted by advocacy groups like Brady or VPC, as opposed to peer-reviewed research conducted by experts in public health.

The fact is that gun-safety advocacy relies on public health research for many of the arguments that they promote in the public domain, but advocacy still drives public opinion, evidence-based or not.  The late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “We are all entitled to our own opinions, but we’re not entitled to our own facts.”  Public health research on any issue is an exercise in fact-building, how those facts are then used or not used by advocacy doesn’t invalidate the research itself. On the other hand, the pro-gun community not only eschews reliance on evidence-based research in forming and promoting their point of view, they often distort or wholly lie about the little bit of research which they claim proves what they say to be true.

And the most flagrant example of such lying is found in the attack on public health by DRGO.  Here’s the DRGO verdict on public health and guns: “Today the phrase ‘public health perspective’ as applied to gun violence only takes into account the harmful results of gunfire. It ignores the variety of reasons guns are valued. Most significantly, it ignores people using guns defensively at least 760,000 times per year (90% of the time not even needing to fire them) and the disincentive for criminality that promotes.”

Even if it were true that guns prevent 760,000 crimes each year, the idea that this transforms the 100,000 gun deaths and injuries each year into something other than a public health issue is absurd, and no physician who takes medicine seriously would advance such a stupid state of affairs.  But worse, the 760,000 figure wasn’t derived from any research at all; it was “estimated” by Gary Kleck in a Politico piece attacking critics of his research not because of what they said, but because their criticism was ‘proof’ they are part of the gun-grabbing cabal.

I’m going to send a note to DRGO that I’m willing to debate them any time, any place, on the issue of public health and guns.  They won’t agree to such a debate because they’re all about denying gun risk, not about truth.  Whatever happened to the Hippocratic Oath?