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.

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In their never-ending campaign to rid America of gun violence by blaming it on people who want to control guns, the NRA has unleashed its latest weapon in the form of Emily Miller, previously a staffer with Tom DeLay and Rick Lazio, and now a writer for the Washington Times.  Miller has just published a book detailing the extraordinary difficulties she encountered in trying to get a license to purchase a gun in Washington, D.C., a decision she claims to have made after being the victim of a home invasion.

According to an interview in Politico, it took poor Emily four months and 17 “steps” to get her license, a process which not only made her the latest self-appointed expert on gun violence, but convinced her that gun control does nothing to reduce crime.  In fact, Emily told Politico, gun ownership is at its highest level ever, yet crime has been going down “every year” since 1991.  She made the same point in her recent Times column in which she noted that the gun homicide rate has dropped from 6.62 in 1993 to 3.27 in 2012.

Furthermore, according to Miller, it’s the President who’s really to blame for gun violence because he “selectively” talks about mass shootings but never draws attention to the daily killings in his own home town: “Why do you never hear him talk about the children who are killed on the streets of Chicago?” she asked during her Politico interview.

I’ll give the NRA credit for foisting Miller’s nonsense on the American public; this time they’re not even waiting for a debate to break out in Congress before beginning their barrage of untruths and half-truths designed to stifle any meaningful public debate.  And I guarantee you going forward that the sui generis script being used this week by Emily Miller will find its way into every public comment made by anyone else who enlists to do battle on behalf of the NRA.

The only problem is that what Miller is saying simply isn’t true.  And what is so disheartening about her false claims is that nobody – Politico, Anderson Cooper, anyone else – wants to even take the trouble to check her blatantly false recitation of the “facts.”

The truth is that the entire decline in gun homicide rates that began in 1993 ended in 1999. According to the Department of Justice, 18,253 people were killed by guns in 1993, falling to 10,828 in 1999, and rising back to 11,101 in 2011.  The unprecedented increase in gun sales and concealed-carry licensing has occurred since Obama’s first election in 2004.  There has been no diminution in gun violence since that date.

As for the President’s alleged failure to mention gun violence in Chicago, the truth is he explicitly referred to the shootings in his home town not once but twice in the last week alone.  First he mentioned it in the memorial service at the Marine Barracks (“And these mass shootings occur against a backdrop of daily tragedies, as an epidemic of gun violence tears apart communities across America — from the streets of Chicago to neighborhoods not far from here.”) and then again at a speech Wednesday night before the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (“Just two days ago, in my hometown of Chicago, 13 people were shot during a pickup basketball game, including a 3-year-old girl.”)

Miller’s an experienced journalist based in Washington, D.C.  She had to know that Obama made these statements and she had to have looked at the DOJ data before she made her comments about crime rates and guns.  The reason she and other members of the NRA noise machine get away with such egregious lying is because nobody’s bothering to respond from the other side.  The pro-gun folks are waging a continuous and effective campaign; the gun control folks are busy talking to themselves.