David Frum, in an article published in the Atlantic on 23 May, takes considerable liberties with facts and the truth. The article is under the "politics" section, so it should be a bit more concerned with facts than a typical opinion piece. But disarmists seldom let reality interfere with their fantasies. Frum makes a number of assertions as fact that are not true. He selectively ignores other facts that invalidate his thesis. Here are some of the more egregious errors.
He claims that mass killing with firearms is a distinctly American phenomena. That is simply false, an echoing of President Obama's sentiment. It is debunked here by politifact:
The data shows that it clearly happens in other countries, and in at least three of them, there’s evidence that the rate of killings in mass-shooting events occurred at a higher per-capita rate than in the United States between 2000 and 2014. The only partial support for Obama’s claim is that the per-capita gun-incident fatality rate in the United States does rank in the top one-third of the list of 11 countries studied. On balance, we rate the claim Mostly False.Then Frum compounds the error by selecting only certain countries to compare mass shootings, managing to exclude those who have had recent mass shootings and ignoring mass shootings in the countries that he mentions. Frum writes:
The fact that Americans are regularly gunned down in large numbers by lone gunmen—and that Britons, Germans, French, Italians, Canadians, Japanese, Australians, New Zealanders, South Koreans, Danes, Swiss, Poles, and Spaniards are not—is just one of those unfathomable mysteries, like the fate of the crew of the Mary Celeste.Frum conveniently ignores Norway and Finland, which Politifact notes had more mass shooting per capita than the United States in the last 15 years. He ignores the Charlie Hebdo attack in France, while including the Ft. Hood attack in the United States. He includes Switzerland, which has a higher rate per capita than the United States, as per Politifact. He may be forgiven for not including the mass shooting in Tunisia shortly after his article was written, where a single gunman, in a country with extremely strict gun control, killed 38 or more before he was stopped. Still, the incident serves to invalidate his "fact".
Frum casually mentions that the crime rate in the U.S. has declined enormously in the last 20 years, yet fails to mention that the number of guns in the United States increased by 50% over the same period.
Then he tells this whopper:
As guns proliferate (perhaps 270 million of them in the United States comparted to just 9.5 million in Canada)—and as handguns displace hunting pieces—so do gun accidents and suicides.It simply is not true. Fatal gun accidents have dropped to the lowest level in about a hundred years in the United States, while the number of guns per capita have at least tripled and the population tripled as well. Here is confirmation from politifact.com, hardly a conservative site:
According to council data, the total number of unintentional deaths from firearms sank to 554 in 2009 -- easily the lowest of any year back to 1903.Certainly, in the United States, people, particularly older white men, tend to commit suicide with guns. But as one of many methods available, it is unlikely to change with any of the modifications that Frum suggests. It is simply irrelevant. Countries with extremely restrictive gun control laws still manage to have suicide rates much higher than the United States.
In fact, it took from 1903 all the way until 1997 for the number of unintentional gunfire deaths to drop below 1,000. The all-time highs came in 1929 and 1930, when the number of such deaths reached 3,200 for two consecutive years.
This decline is all the more striking considering the increase in population over this period. In 1904, there were 3.4 unintentional firearm deaths per 100,000 people. By 2009, that rate had fallen to 0.2 deaths per 100,000 in people.
However, the data for unintentional gun deaths ticked up modestly in 2010, to 606, and then fell slightly to 600 in 2011.
Frum then directs a calumny at gun dealers. He notes that of guns that are traced, 57 percent found at crime scenes come from 1 percent of gun dealers. I believe that is a true, if misleading statement. Then he jumps to this:
By holding these rogue gun dealers to account, it might be possible to significantly diminish the flow of guns into criminal hands. Instead, Congress chose to protect rogue gun dealers from scrutiny and sanction. In 2003, Congress passed a law forbidding government agencies to disclose tracing data that might link a particular dealer to a criminal purchaser. It’s hard to hold gun dealers responsible for selling to unlawful buyers if nobody is allowed to know where an unlawful buyer purchased his weapons.But, these are not "rogue gun dealers". These dealers just happen to be the ones at a the statistical conflation of two events. They are very large gun dealers who operate in close proximity to high crime areas. Consequently, they sell lots of guns, and a percentage ends up at crime scenes. Many are stolen from the people they sell to. If a stolen gun is recovered, it counts as a "gun at a crime scene". Some are bought by undetectable straw purchasers for sale to criminals. If the dealer refused to sell to likely criminals based on demographics (young, male, and black), they would be accused of racism and discrimination. Being a large dealer near a high crime area is what produces the statistical artefact. These dealers are repeatedly investigated by the ATF. They keep meticulous records. They have to, or they would be shut down.
Frum is simply telling an untruth when he says "nobody is allowed to know where an unlawful buyer purchased his weapons" The implication is, that nobody is allowed to know, but that is false. Any legitimate investigation by law enforcement is allowed to know, and can find out those facts on particular cases.
Frum cites the Trayvon Martin/George Zimmerman case as an example of a "good guy with a gun" who "tracked and killed Trayvon Martin". It is irresponsible and incendiary to make that claim when exhaustive investigation and a court trial all concluded that Zimmerman was fully justified in protecting his life from the attack by Trayvon Martin.
Frum conveniently ignores voluminous evidence that concealed carry license holders are far less likely to commit crimes than average citizens, or even police officers. He fantasizes about concealed carry weapons permit holders shooting innocents during an attempt to intervene in a mass shooting. He does not offer one concrete example, and ignores over a dozen where armed citizens stopped mass attacks without shooting any innocents.
Frum trots out the usual disarmist prescriptions, often described as "first steps" or "common sense". Some, such as requiring insurance to exercise a constitutional right, are clear infringements meant to chill the exercise of that right. Other infringements, such as "universal background checks", are designed as stepping stones to more stringent restrictions. Legislation that would have allowed for "universal background checks", without collecting data that could be used for a gun registration system, was opposed by proponents of the "background checks".
In order to make these policies plausible, he has to trot out the disinformation and misdirection shown above.
Frum is allowed his fantasies and false assumptions about reality, but he is not allowed to fabricate his own facts.
Definition of disarmist
©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.
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