Dallas, guns and crime

After the tragic shootings in Dallas last week, the anti-gun forces are (yet again) in full cry, trying to imply that the ready availability of guns is the root cause of that crime.  Here’s a typical example from the New Yorker, alarmingly (and erroneously) titled ‘The Horrific, Predictable Result of a Widely Armed Citizenry’.

The killings in Dallas are one more reminder that guns are central, not accessory, to the American plague of violence.

. . .

We don’t yet know exactly by whom and for what deranged “reason” or mutant “cause” five police officers were murdered last night, but, as the President rightly suggested, we do know how—and the how is a huge part of what happened. By having a widely armed citizenry, we create a situation in which gun violence becomes a common occurrence, not the rarity it ought to be and is everywhere else in the civilized world. That this happened amid a general decline in violence throughout the Western world only serves to make the crisis more acute; America’s gun-violence problem remains the great and terrible outlier.

Weapons empower extremes. Allowing members of any fringe of any movement to get their hands on military weapons guarantees that any normal dispute—political or, for that matter, domestic—can quickly lead to a massacre. Our guns have outraced our restrictions, but not our imaginations. Sometime in the not-too-distant past, annihilation replaced street theatre and demonstrations as the central possibility of the enraged American imagination. Guns allow the fringe to occupy the center.

. . .

Once again, it needs stating because it can’t be stated too often: despite the desperate efforts of the National Rifle Association to prevent research on gun violence, the research has gone on, and shows conclusively what common sense already suggests. Guns are not merely the instrument; guns are the issue. The more guns there are, the more gun violence happens.

There’s more at the link, as well as many other similar articles from other sources.  None of them are worth reading, but if you want to, go for it.

The thing is, that article’s arguments completely contradict known facts – facts derived from sources such as the FBI, the Centers for Disease Control, and other sources.  These facts are not in dispute.  They are incontrovertible.  For example, here’s how CNS News reported them recently.

According to data retrieved from the Centers for Disease Control, there were 7 firearm-related homicides for every 100,000 Americans in 1993 (see light blue line in chart). By 2013 (most recent year available), the gun homicide rate had fallen by nearly 50 percent to only 3.6 homicides per 100,000 population.

Ehrenfreund says that “Even as a certain type of mass shooting is apparently becoming more frequent, America has become a much less violent place. Much of the decline in violence is still unexplained, but researchers have identified several reasons for the shift.” He then points to factors explaining the decline in violent crime in general and gun homicides in particular, including more police officers on the beat making greater use of computers, a decline in alcohol consumption, less lead exposure, and an improving economy.

But there’s another possible reason for the decline in gun violence overlooked by Ehrenfreund – the significant increase in the number of guns in America, illustrated above by the dark blue line in the chart.

Based on data from a 2012 Congressional Research Service (CRS) report (and additional data from another Wonkblog article “There are now more guns than people in the United States”), the number of privately owned firearms in U.S. increased from about 185 million in 1993 to 357 million in 2013.

Adjusted for the U.S. population, the number of guns per American increased from 0.93 per person in 1993 to 1.45 in 2013, which is a 56 percent increase in the number of guns per person that occurred during the same period when gun violence decreased by 49 percent … Of course, that significant correlation doesn’t necessarily imply causation, but it’s logical to believe that those two trends are related. After all, armed citizens frequently prevent crimes from happening, including gun-related homicides, see hundreds of examples here of law-abiding gun owners defending themselves and their families and homes.

In a December 2013 Breitbart article, “Congressional Study: Murder Rate Plummets as Gun Ownership Soars,” Awr Hawkins referred to the CRS report referenced above and connected the two trends:

“So after all the pro-gun control grandstanding and the relentless focus on how the so-called easy availability of guns drives up crime, the CRS report shows that more guns–especially more concealable guns–has actually correlated with less crime.”

Bottom Line: Even if you’re not convinced that increased gun ownership reduces violent crime and gun homicides, you should be totally convinced of this indisputable fact: Gun violence has been decreasing significantly over time, not increasing as you’ll frequently hear from anti-gun politicians and progressives. The gun-related homicide rate of 3.6 deaths per 100,000 population in each of the years 2010, 2011 and 2013 makes those recent years the safest in at least 20 years, and possibly the safest in modern U.S. history, since “older data [before 1993] suggest that gun violence might have been even more widespread previously,” according to Ehrenfreund.

Again, more at the link.

This is not to imply that there are not additional causes for the decline in gun violence.  You can read more about other possible factors here.  Nevertheless, the central premise of the New Yorker article is this:  “The more guns there are, the more gun violence happens.”  That is a lie.  It’s simply not true.  The facts, as shown in the second article cited above, completely demolish that premise – yet the anti-gun lobby continues to spout it.  Why?

The answer was uncovered in 2013.

Stung by years of the public’s rejection of their gun control and anti-freedom agenda, the gun control movement has resorted to paid consultants to develop a new playbook they hope with will be able to shift the debate in their favor. Completed in 2012, and titled, Preventing Gun Violence Through Effective Messaging, the guide is the result of opinion research done by the firms OMB, Greenberg Quinlan Rosner, and KNP Communications. The authors portray the document as a manual for gun control activists on how to better frame their positions for legislative success, by providing the reader with anti-gun talking points, language guidance, and “back of the envelope facts.”

. . .

Under a section labeled “Overall Messaging Guidance,” the guide lists as its number one “Key Messaging Principle,” to “[a]lways focus on emotional and value-driven arguments about gun violence, not the political food fight in Washington or wonky statistics.” This is further explained with, “It’s critical that you ground your messaging around gun violence in prevention by making that emotional connection.” Following in this appeal is key principle number two, “Tell stories with images and feelings,” which informs activists that, “Our first task is to draw a vivid portrait and make an emotional connection. We should rely on emotionally powerful language, feelings and images to bring home the terrible impact of gun violence.”

This plea to emotion over facts and logic was evident throughout the recent debate, as well-meaning victims of tragedy were shuttled throughout the country, Congressional office buildings and even into the Senate gallery, to push legislation irrelevant to their experience. Similarly, in a widely derided spectacle, the White House saw fit to exploit the emotional pull of children, when, in January, President Obama recited excerpts from letters from a group of children that were invited to be on stage with the president during a speech in favor of sweeping new gun controls.

Some members of Congress also seem to be following the guide’s advice. On the topic of semi-auto rifles, the guide urges reader to emphasize that “Powerful assault weapons have only one use–to kill as many people as possible in as short a period of time as possible.” In a March 14 press release, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is quoted as saying, “Assault weapons and large-capacity magazines have a single purpose–to kill as many people as possible, as quickly as possible.” Sen. Harry Reid echoed this sentiment in an April 17 press release that claimed, “Assault weapons have one purpose and one purpose only: to kill a large number of people in a short amount of time.”

Similarly, in a section on how to combat a federal Right-to-Carry reciprocity law, the guide recommends using an example of where a person could carry under the proposed law, explicitly citing “Times Square.” When a Right-to-Carry reciprocity amendment was put forward for the gun control bill voted on in April, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) exclaimed, “This legislation could change Times Square into the OK Corral.”

To the extent the guide’s advice recognizes the validity of statistics at all, it is only to “reinforce the emotional argument, not replace it.”

More at the link.

I’ll let the late, great Robert A. Heinlein have the last word.

What are the facts? Again and again and again – what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars foretell,” avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable “verdict of history” – what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!

That applies to the gun control debate as surely as it does to anything and everything else.



  1. "Assault weapons have one purpose and one purpose only: to kill a large number of people in a short amount of time."

    Harry knows when to stop talking. Imagine the rest of the above lines…

    "Which is why we give them to the police and try to keep them from the populace. The police after all work for the government and the peasants don't. Only about half of them can be counted on to defend the government when it counts: on election day."

  2. Curiously, the more the left rants and foams and rages, the more convinced people are to keep their arms.

  3. "When you have the facts, pound the facts. When you have the law, pound the law. When you have neither, pound the table."

  4. Hey Peter;

    If we removed the democrats killing democrats in all these major cities where lawful gun ownership is extraordinarily difficult, the statistics would show us as one of the safest countries in the world..

  5. Remember that. They don't want the facts, because they are inconvenient to the emotion-laden narrative they wish to drive. So, with people suffering from that sort of limited mental capacity, don't use the fact. Use rhetoric.

    "Why do you want my parents, who are elderly and frail and very recoil-sensitive by limiting the methods they can use to defend themselves? Do you want to see them defenseless against strong young aggressive men? WHY DO YOU HAVE MY PARENTS?!"

    "Why do you hate collapsible stocks? I use them to train people of diminutive stature, such as women and minorities who were nutritionally malnourished when they were young. I also use them to teach youngsters proper safety? WHY DO YOU HATE WOMEN AND CHILDREN AND MINORITIES?"

    "IF an AR-15 has only one purpose, why do you think it's OK for the police or any other government agency out of the military have them? WHY DO YOU SUPPORT GOVERNMENT AGENTS USING ASSAULT RIFLES AGAINST US CIVILIANS?"

    etc. You get the idea. Defenestrate logic and attack with leaps that would make Malaprop Man blush.

  6. Gun control advocates have to lie because the truth simply does not support their narrative.
    They depend on low information voters used to getting their news in 30 second sound bites who can reliably be depended on to switch channels should a serious factual discussion be conducted.
    At best they cherry pick data to support the cause.
    At worst they either simply make shit up, or continually resurrect false assumptions that have long since been proven bogus.

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