Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Guns Do Not Kill People

Valerie Caldwell used her rifle to kill this mountain lion that stalked her in New Mexico in 2014.  It was less than a car length away, ready to spring. She was 12.

It is a staple of disarmists that the phrase "Guns kill people" is a truism. But a more valid truism holds: "It isn't what we don't know that gives us trouble, it's what we know that ain't so."  The maxim that "guns kill people" is simply false.   As true believers in the maxim, disarmists have attempted to craft studies to show that it is true.  The "studies" are little more than thinly veiled attempts to validate a previously arrived at conclusion.  Any study, for example, that only looks at "gun violence" can immediately be discarded.   It is total homicides, accidents, and to stretch a point to the breaking, suicides that must be counted, not simply ones committed with guns.  If homicides with guns are reduced, but all other forms of homicides increase to more than make up the reduction, society has not gained, but has lost.    Any study that tries to answer the question must examine the evidence that guns have beneficial effects.  Guns can be used to save lives as well as take them.   If the cost to benefit ratio is not included in a study, it is worthless.

In this article, I won't consider the long term consequences of citizen disarmament on governmentally caused deaths, and whether democidal governments are deterred by armed citizens.  Nor will I attempt to answer whether disarming a society would have malignant or beneficial results several generations in the future.  I will not dwell on the grammatical error of granting volition to inanimate objects.

A number of criminologists and economists have attempted to answer the question of whether guns have a net benefit or cost in contemporary America.  Gary Kleck is the best known criminologist; his book, Point Blank, has become the classic among criminologists.  His studies make it clear that in American society, guns are used to protect and save lives more often than they are used to take them.

John Lott is the foremost economist who has studied the issues.  His research goes a bit further.  His studies use the most detailed data that I have seen, down to the county level.   He claims, in his famous book, that "More Guns, Less Crime", that an increase in the legal carry of guns decreases violent crime.   Nearly all other economic studies have either agreed with him or found that more guns did not have a measurable effect.   The only studies that show a very limited increase in certain crimes with an increase in the availability of guns, show it in very limited areas and time frames, for very specific crimes.  The authors were not economists, but partisans in favor of more controls.

The echo chamber of elite media reinforces the discredited idea that guns kill people.  Michael Bloomberg funded a workshop for journalists about how to report on gun issues.  It was held in Phoenix in 2015.  It was run by the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma.  The director at Dart, Bruce Shapiro, was interviewed by Ray Stern, a reporter for the Phoenix New Times.  Ray asked why no academics who showed beneficial effects of gun ownership were included.  From phoenixnewtimes.com:

But why doesn't the lineup include any scholar who's researched the idea that guns, or at least the defense display of guns, may often save lives?

Shapiro guffawed: "Look, guns kill people, right?" he said.

Um, okay, professor. Sorry we asked.
Stern goes on to reveal more indications of a world view antagonistic to anything positive about guns or gun ownership:
Reporters at the seminar will receive an education in how guns work, too, Shapiro confirmed. So which of the many gunsmiths or firearms dealers in Arizona did the Dart Center invite to go over that material? Maybe someone from the Ruger manufacturing plant in Prescott?

Nope -- serving as the seminar's gun-hardware expert, Shapiro said, will be journalist Marc Cooper, who wrote in 2013 that he'd subscribe to Guns & Ammo magazine after one its columnists (now fired) advocated for gun-control measures.
There are a number of studies from health care journals.  They typically do not acknowledge the criminological or economic studies.   I have yet to see one that attempts to measure the benefits of gun ownership; that eliminates them as  serious contenders to answer the question of "do guns kill people?".  Would these health care professionals test a drug for cancer, and only look at the people who have side effects of lack of appetite, or hair loss in a few patients, while ignoring the cancer cures that occur? That would be ethically wrong, and frowned upon.   That is exactly the approach that health care journals apply to gun ownership.

To believe the health care journals you have to believe that a high level of gun ownership causes a moderate level of suicide in old white men, but has nothing to do with their low level of homicide; while simultaneously believing that a low level of gun ownership causes a high level of homicide in young black men, while having nothing to do with a relatively low level of suicide for them!

The evidence is clear that the number of guns in society has little effect on the number of homicides, suicides and accidents.  There is no credible study that shows that "guns kill people", and there are some credible studies that indicate that more guns in America reduce crime a statistically significant amount. 

The "Guns kill people" meme is a convenient shortcut to avoid serious thought on the subject.  But some people do not care if "Guns kill people" or not.  They simply want the common people disarmed. Writing of disarmist Professor and sociologist, Laurence Ross, Don Kates provides insight into this view From guncite.com:
Ross does not deny (though neither does he dwell on) the fact that handguns save far more innocent lives than criminals misusing them take each year. However, Ross asserts that "despite the masses of data and the cleverness of his analysis and argument, Kleck has missed the point." According to Ross, Kleck
[E]mbrace[s] a society based on an internal as well as an external balance of terror. The social order is seen to rest adequately on masses of potential victims using the threat of gun violence to deter masses of potential armed criminals. [This] spectacle is one that ought to disgust rather than cheer the civilized observer.[15]
Advocates like Ross commonly assert that gun control is "worth it" if it saves even one life. But Ross' remarks show that this argument means less than otherwise appears. For, when it turns out that it is defensive gun ownership that saves lives, it also turns out that saving lives is not "worth it"--at least not to Ross who is very candid about this observation. Ross approvingly notes that the tragic "fate of James Brady" provided the "impetus for attempts at broader gun control." He actually welcomes "more [such shooting] incidents, more heinous ones with more tragic or more important victims, [as the impetus for us] to develop the necessary determination" to move beyond "narrow controls" to the desired goal of banning and confiscating all guns.[16]
Ross' attitude demonstrates why so many who push for more and more infringements on Second Amendment rights are not swayed by logic or facts.  Logic and facts are irrelevant to their desire to rid society of guns in the hands of those who are not in the government or elite.  But they cannot reach that goal by stating it clearly.  They have to obfuscateThe cause, "Ban Guns Because they are Icky" does not have any moral punch.  The vast majority of people will recoil from the idea of gun control, if it costs lives, just to satisfy the desires of an elite few.

There is no evidence that "Guns Kill People", no matter how much the phrase is thrown about.  In nearly all cases, when strict gun controls were imposed, the homicide rate increased.  Australia is an outlier.  When strict controls were imposed, the homicide rate momentarily went up, then continued down at the same rate that it was declining before the controls were put into effect.  In New Zealand, which did not implement the Australian level of controls, the homicide rate continued to fall at a greater rate than Australia.  The controls, overall, had no measurable effect.  They did not even measurably affect the rate of decline of gun homicides.

"Guns Kill People" is not a phrase used by serious academics, because there is no serious evidence to support it. It is an emotional slogan to support a desired political end.

Definition of  disarmist

©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.
Link to Gun Watch


Jerry The Geek said...

Nicely said, sir. Thank you for inserting some balance into the controversy

Anonymous said...

This young lady resembles my daughter. My daughter has been shooting since she was 8 years old. she was very excited the day she turned 18 and could legally buy her own rifle. She stepped up and paid cash and seemed to float out of the store. She is an avid bird hunter and handles a 20 gauge semi auto very well. Her .22 rifle is her prize possession. At todays prices she only has about a 1,000 dollars worth of .22 ammo. we bought plenty when the price was low.