Monday, July 14, 2008

Unloading the PC D.C. gun ban

Did it work - the Washington, D.C., gun ban, that is? The Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, struck down the ban, holding that 1) the Second Amendment gives individuals the right to keep and bear arms, and 2) while the government may regulate the boundaries of the Second Amendment, the D.C. ban goes too far. The New York Times, in an editorial condemning the Supreme Court case, says: "Thirty-thousand Americans are killed by guns every year - on the job, walking to school, at the shopping mall. The Supreme Court on Thursday all but ensured that even more Americans will die senselessly." Really?

The 30,000 number includes 17,000 suicides. But a person intent on suicide finds a way - gun or no gun. In Japan, for example, more than twice as many people per capita kill themselves, yet that country bans handguns.

The hand-wringing New York Times editorial fails to ask the following questions: How many Americans use guns to defend themselves? Of that number, how many believe that but for their ability to use their guns in self-defense, they would be dead? "When a robbery victim does not defend himself," former assistant district attorney and firearms expert David Kopel writes, "the robber succeeds 88 percent of the time, and the victim is injured 25 percent of the time. When a victim resists with a gun, the robbery success rate falls to 30 percent, and the victim injury rate falls to 17 percent. No other response to a robbery - from drawing a knife to shouting for help to fleeing - produces such low rates of victim injury and robbery success."

Criminologist and researcher Gary Kleck, using his own commissioned phone surveys and number extrapolation, estimates that 2.5 million Americans use guns for defensive purposes each year. One in six of that number, or 400,000, believe someone would have been dead but for their ability to resort to their defensive use of firearms. Kleck points out that if only one-tenth of the people are right about saving a life, the number of people saved annually by guns would still be 40,000.

The Department of Justice's own National Institute of Justice study entitled "Guns in America: National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms" estimates that 1.5 million Americans use guns for defensive purposes every year. Although the government's figure estimates a million fewer people defensively using guns, the NIJ calls its figure "directly comparable" to Kleck's, noting, "It is statistically plausible that the difference is due to sampling error." Furthermore, the NIJ reports that half of its respondents who said they used guns defensively also admitted having done so multiple times a year - making the number of estimated uses of self-defense with a gun 4.7 million times annually.

UCLA Professor Emeritus James Q. Wilson, a respected expert on crime, police practices and guns, says: "We know from Census Bureau surveys that something beyond 100,000 uses of guns for self-defense occur every year. We know from smaller surveys of a commercial nature that the number may be as high as 2.5 or 3 million. We don't know what the right number is, but whatever the right number is, it's not a trivial number."

But what of the Washington, D.C., gun ban? In the five years preceding the 1976 ban, the per capita murder rate in Washington, D.C., fell. At the time the law passed, the murder and non-negligent manslaughter rate was 26.8 per 100,000 people. By 1991, the rate rose to 80.6. In 2006, the number stood at 29.1, almost 9 percent higher than the 1976 rate. D.C.'s per capita murder rate remains higher than surrounding states.

A "hot burglary" occurs when the bad guy enters a home knowing it is occupied. The hot burglary rate in the United States is about 10 percent, while the hot burglary rate in the UK - which banned handguns in 1997 - is around 50 percent.

Why not ask the real experts - criminals? The U.S. Department of Justice's National Institute of Justice surveyed 2,000 felons in state prisons. It asked whether "one reason burglars avoid houses when people are at home is that they fear being shot during the crime." Seventy-four percent of the felons said yes. The survey also asked these felons whether they had abandoned at least one crime because they feared the intended suspect might be armed. Thirty-nine percent said they abandoned at least one crime; 8 percent had abandoned such a crime "many" times; 34 percent admitted being "scared off, shot at, wounded or captured by an armed victim"; and nearly 70 percent knew a "colleague" who had abandoned a crime, been scared off, been shot at, wounded or captured by a victim packing heat. So, did the Washington, D.C., gun ban "work"?

As the city's former Mayor Marion Barry once put it, "Outside of the killings, Washington has one of the lowest crime rates in the country."


Son shoots father. Both survive: "A man who shot his father after the two got into a fight has been cleared of an assault charge against him. The Loveland Police Department's investigation of the shooting, which took place about 11:30 p.m. June 22, found Joshua Valek was defending himself from his father, 42-year-old Joseph Valek, after Joseph Valek had threatened to kill his wife, Tawnya Valek, and his son, a release from the District Attorney's Office said. "In an effort to stop the assault and prevent any further assault on either himself or Tawnya Valek, Joshua Valek armed himself with a handgun," the release said. Police arrested Joshua Valek at the Lincoln Hotel Apartments, 365 N. Lincoln Ave., where he and his parents lived, after he admittted shooting his father once in the neck after the two got into an argument. Joseph Valek was taken to Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland for treatment for the gunshot, which hit him in the neck and went through his back. He was released Monday. The press release from the district attorney's office said, under Colorado law, a person may "use a degree of force he believes to be reasonably necessary to defend himself" if he believes he's threatened by a person who may assault him unlawfully. After reviewing the case, the District Attorney's Office said Joshua Valek's actions fell in line with that law, meaning they could not successfully prosecute him."

Public comment extended for national parks gun rule change: "The period for public comment on a controversial rule change that would allow loaded guns in national parks has been extended to August 8 after pressure from congressional leaders. . The comment period was scheduled to end on June 30, but the chairs of the Senate and House national park subcommittees sent a letter to the Secretary of the Interior days before the deadline requesting an extension . The letter . stated that `the Department's proposal is ardently opposed by current and former park ranger professionals .' The letter also mentioned that the public needed time to analyze the Supreme Court's decision in support of an individual's right to bear arms against a Washington D.C. gun ban."

NV: ACLU backs gun rights: "The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada has declared its support for an individual's right to bear arms, apparently making it the first state affiliate to buck the national ACLU's position on the Second Amendment. The state board of directors reached the decision following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that the Second Amendment protects the rights of individuals to own handguns. The Nevada ACLU respects the individual's right to bear arms subject to constitutionally permissible regulations,' a statement on the organization's Web site said. `The ACLU of Nevada will defend this right as it defends other constitutional rights."

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