Why Do People Believe In Armed, Self-Defense?

              There’s a guy out in Gun-nut Nation named Chris Bird, who is regarded as one of the patron saints of the concealed-carry movement, and I have just finished reading his book, The Concealed Handgun Manual, which is considered a must-read book by all the noisemakers who believe that we are a safer country because we have access to guns. And since Chris may think that some of the things I’m going to say about his book aren’t all that positive or nice, I’ll give the book a plug because you can buy it right here.

              As a matter of fact, I strongly urge my friends in Gun-control Nation to read this book, because if there’s one thing that strikes me about activists who want to see us reduce the violence and injuries caused by guns, it’s the degree to which they seem to have little, if any awareness of what is said or believed by the other side. Ask the average gun-control true-believer to explain the difference between an ‘internet’ sale and a ‘personal, sale of a gun and you’ll get the deer-in-the-headlights look. Then ask the same person to explain the difference between an assault rifle and a semi-auto long gun and you’ll probably get much the same look.

              I wouldn’t recommend Bird’s book were it not for the fact that the issue of concealed-carry basically defines the entire gun debate. Why? Because everyone (except me) seems to believe that the 2nd Amendment gives Americans the ‘right’ to own a gun. But where the break occurs between the two sides is explaining why someone should or shouldn’t own a gun. And the gun industry has been selling its products for the last thirty or so years by telling customers that a gun is an essential ‘tool’ for self-defense, even though there is absolutely no valid research which shows this argument to be true.

              So what we get down to here is a mind-set in the heads of many Americans who as a group form the market for continued gun sales. And Chris Bird happens to write books which appeal directly to that mind-set, whether there’s any reality behind it or not. If my friends in Gun-control are really serious about coming up with ‘reasonable’ gun restrictions which will appeal to ‘reasonable’ people on the other side, reading Bird’s book might give them some insights into why those gun owners believe they should own guns. 

              Bird begins the book with a lecture on ‘situational awareness,’ a self-defense concept first developed by Jeff Cooper (whose widow passed away yesterday at the age of 99) back in the 1970’s, which is when, thanks to Glock, the idea of owning and carrying a small, concealable, hi-powered and hi-capacity handgun first took hold. The argument made by Bird is both simple-stupid, namely, that all of us are at all times possible targets of predators who can only be repulsed with personal armed force because the cops never arrive on time.

              The book then goes through a whole series of episodes where armed citizens saved themselves from a criminal attack; it then covers how to choose a handgun, how to practice with your gun, and how to ‘win a gunfight’ with references all the way back to the OK Corral. If you’re a bone-fide member of Gun-control Nation and read this book, you’ll quickly decide that it represents nothing more than a marketing scam designed to mislead delusional people into believing they really need to own a gun.

I disagree. I know many of the folks who take seriously what Bird has to say, and their views might run counter to the prevailing liberal orthodoxy on gun violence, but there’s no reason to believe that what they think about armed, self-defense should simply be considered the product of deranged minds. These folks choose to be gun owners with the same degree of diligence that many of my friends believe that gluten-free foods will prevent chronic fatigue syndrome or worse.

Want to reduce gun violence? At least try to understand what the other side thinks.

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Do Gun Owners Carrying Around A Gun Represent A Threat?

              One of Gun-control Nation’s most respected researchers, John Donahue,  has just published a new and very detailed study which allegedly proves that the more people who walk around with legally-accessed guns, i.e., folks with the legal right to carry (RTC) a gun on their person, the result is more violent crime. Donahue has made his reputation in the gun-control debate by being a no-nonsense opponent of John Lott and the Lott ‘more guns equals less crime’ thesis, as well as by analyzing public-access data from the CDC within a new regression methodology known as synthetic controls.

              Before we get to the substance of Donahue’s argument, a brief comment about whether regression analysis of open-source data is a sufficient method to explain how and why gun violence occurs at different rates in different places and at different times. In defense of this methodology, Donahue and his co-authors state that “synthetic control approach uniformly supports the conclusion that RTC laws lead to substantial increases in violent crime.” But when the authors attempt to make a cause-and-effect connection between crime rates and RTC, they always fall back on a vague reference of one trend being ‘associated’ with the other, which basically is a polite way of admitting that there’s no substantive cause-and-effect connection at all.

              I wouldn’t even consider this article to merit any attention on my part if it were simply an argument based on an analysis of data, whether the data is used or abused. But the larger part of the article doesn’t focus on data analysis. Instead, it’s a discussion of how and why  RTC-holders constitute a threat to public safety based on numerous examples of guys with RTC who committed violent crimes, usually gun assaults, by using their legally-owned guns. 

              The fact that out of 125,000+ gun injuries each year that less than one-tenth of one percent involve RTC-holders says nothing about the risks of RTC. Worse, the assumption made by Donahue about RTC behavior on which this entire article is based, is so far away from reality that I simply don’t understand how such shabby research gets published at all. The assumption proceeds from an article published by two psychologists in 2016 which found that gun owners tended to overestimate their ability to use a gun safely, thus leading to criminal misconduct, accidents, and lost or stolen guns. Donahue and his co-authors then go on to place the onus for more gun violence in RTC states on the assumption that the more people who have an RTC license, the more guns are being carried around. Do they have one, single bit of evidence to determine whether RTC actually results in more legally-owned guns are being carried by owners who don’t know how to use their guns?  No. Not any evidence at all.

              But these researchers don’t need data to say whatever they want to say. They can just take one trend, tie it to another trend and A must certainly explain B.  So, for example, they note a study which found that guns were stolen from roughly 1 percent of gun owners, and if there are now 16 million RTC holders, this amounts to more than 100,000 guns entering the illegal market each year. But the cited study did not differentiate between people who owned guns and gun-owners who also had RTC. Did it ever occur to Donahue and his colleagues that maybe RTC-holders might be a little more careful with how they stored and protected their guns?  Why bother to question their own totally-flawed assumption? After all, they got the answer they wanted to get.

              This research simply cannot stand against an even cursory analysis of its content, argument or scope. So how does it get published in a major academic journal and then ballyhooed all over the place? Because sad to say, some gun-violence researchers do not understand the difference between research and advocacy; they pretend to be engaged in the former but they really just practice the latter. And they want the CDC to pony up $50 million for their ‘research?’  Give me a break.