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Gun control advocates are all about appearances, using words and phrases that appear to make their argument the only logical one. Fully semiautomatic high capacity high power assault weapon, which sounds scary to the general public, but to those of us with knowledge of firearms this only illustrates how ignorant they are. Their biggest case of this is their strategy of renaming their cause from "gun control" to the less threatening, more altruistic "common sense firearm safety". Let that sink in for a minute, they took away the overbearing word of control, added in common sense, and made it about safety. The name changed but the ideas they are pushing has remained the same. So let's look at some of their proposed safety measures and talking points to see how they actually stack up, and maybe even offer some alternatives. We'll be taking information directly from several prominent gun control groups, all of our numbers will be from the FBI, DHS, or other government sources.
UNIVERSAL BACKGROUND CHECKS
"Approximately 40% of gun sales are made without any background check—giving convicted felons, the dangerously mentally ill and others unchecked access to firearms. It’s long past time to require a background check on every gun sale in America."
The Brady Campaign cites to different numbers in claiming bad gun dealers are primary source of guns used in crimes.
This is the header from the "Coalition to Stop Gun Violence" section on background checks. While yes most NRA members said they supported background checks this is something different. It is already required to run background checks on all firearms sold through dealers (yes even at gun shows). The exceptions being certain accepted Carry licenses (as specified in the Brady Act) or law enforcement agency purchases (a cop who want a new personal firearm must still pass these checks). That makes sense to most people. Their push is instead for background checks for individual private sales. While one would argue that would prevent criminals from getting access to firearms, most of those are already committing several other crimes in the process; receipt of stolen property, felon in possession of a firearm to name a 2. I highly doubt breaking the law by not doing the requisite individual background check is a law that they will suddenly follow. Not to mention this would require massive changes to the background check system, as it requires a license to get access to the NICS system. This in reality is an attempt to limit, or eliminate private sales all together. So don't even talk to me about this until you start requiring individuals to even check if a buyer has a driver’s license before selling them a car. These same people who push for further restrictions on your Second Amendment rights are the same people who argue requiring a photo id is an undue burden in exercising your right to vote, and I'd argue your vote can have much further reaching effects then your purchase of a buddies used Glock. The issue isn’t that there aren’t enough background checks it’s that the information required to deny someone isn’t always put into the system in a timely fashion. Meaning someone who should otherwise not be allowed to possess firearms by law is able to get passed the Federal system.
UNFAIR PROTECTION OF GUN MAKERS AND DEALERS
One of Hillary’s biggest campaign talking points was her desire to remove to PLCAA (Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act of 2005 8 *1). Saying gun manufacturers need to be held liable for their products. She and many anti-gun activist claim it gives the gun industry protection that no other industry has. The issue here is why the law was even needed in the first place. All product manufacturers in the US have standard product liability, meaning if their product caused harm through a defect of the product. You look down at your phone while driving and hit a tree, that isn’t Ford’s fault. However if while driving your steering wheel comes off due to an improper piece of mounting hardware, guess what you can sue, and will likely win. When someone is killed by a gun it isn’t by defect of the product, nor is it if you are stabbed by a knife, but instead it is due to the illegal action of an individual who has no connection to the manufacturer of the tool they used. Between the late 90’s and 2005 there were numerous lawsuits filed against gun manufacturers in an attempt to affect the gun industry by financially draining them through pointless court battles. In 2005 congress passed legislation that protected manufacturers and dealers from being sued due to the actions of a 3rd party. NPR surprisingly enough describe it well:
“In other words: If you aim and fire a gun at an attacker, it's doing what it was intended to do. If it explodes while you shoot and hurts you, though, then you can sue the manufacturer. Likewise, if you had told the gun-store owner you planned to commit a crime with that gun, your victim could potentially sue.” (*2).
There are two goals from these lawsuits, financial gain by going after large companies like Remington or Bushmaster (both owned by Freedom group but that’s another story) and closing down small operations that can’t afford repeated lawsuits regardless of the outcomes (lawyers aren’t cheap). This is both disingenuous and downright unethical use of the court system
GUN VIOLENCE TRENDS
From Everytown for Gun safety's website: "Although the violent crime rate in the U.S. has generally decreased over the past 15 years, the gun murder rate has hardly changed—and there is some evidence that non-fatal shootings may have actually increased."
First of all saying a statistic "may" have increased is a nonstarter. Numbers go up, down, or stay the same. It's very binary. Secondly the United States leads the developing world in lots of deaths. Car deaths, we double that of Australia, Austria, and Germany. More than triple many as the UK, Sweden Switzerland, Denmark and Spain, The only countries with higher rates of traffic fatalities are China and Russia. (*3). We are also lead Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Russia, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK in obesity, we're twice as obese as those in China (*4 ), and heart disease kills 610,000 people per year (literally 1 out of every 4 deaths. (http://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm) so you are 50 times more likely to die from heart failure than being shot, maybe we should ban assault burgers. You’re 3 times as likely to die in a car wreck then to be murdered by a firearm, and if you take into account suicide it’s a 50/50 between guns and cars.
Everytown.org infographic comparing US deaths to other “High-Income” countries
Out of the approximately 32,000 annual gun related deaths in the US 2/3rds of those are suicide. Now while they argue suicide is an impulse decision and that firearms are the most effective method they do not mention that just as many people per year kill themselves by other means (*5). Not to mention there is no data to suggest that those guns were purchased shortly before the death, but could very well have been in their possession months or years before they ever even considered taking their own live. The Violence Policy Center in their own analysis agrees that Defensive gun use occurs around 47,000 per year. There are much higher estimates out there but for the sake of argument we’ll use theirs. So let’s do the math 10,500 non suicide related firearms deaths compared to 47,000 defensive gun uses, which totals 57,500 times a year when a firearm is used during a crime, however 81% of the time it is the victim who has the firearm. Now where some of the more far reaching laws put into effect nationwide (I’m looking at you California, New York, and DC) those numbers would likely be reversed. I hate using talking point but it is shoddy logic to assume that those willing to break the law in order to commit violent acts are for some reason going to follow laws.
In the last 20 years there have been an average of 27 aviation crashes (with 2 being fatal accidents) resulting in an average 60 deaths per year with 98% fatalities (these stats are just for the US, and do not include 2001 to exclude September 11th so as to show we weren’t trying to skew the numbers. Source: http://www.ntsb.gov/investigations/data/pages/aviation_stats.aspx). While yes that is not that many people per year, per fatal accident an average of 33 people are killed. I mention this as in the argument against assault weapons because while they are used very infrequently in crime, when they are the number of people killed is higher than other types of weapons. Of course that doesn’t take into account the 32 killed at Virginia Tech (no “assault rifle”) the 13 at Fort Hood (again handguns) or the numerous gang relates mass shootings committed with handguns.
In fact all rifles make up less than 2% of all homicides, compared to 46.5% of handguns, 3.6% by blunt object, or 13% by knives (*6). So what does all these numbers, the planes, the knives, have to do with each other? This is what is known as the anecdotal fallacy (also called misleading vividness). It’s when an event is so vivid, or in other words disheartening it makes you feel it is a much more prevalent. That’s why people are afraid to fly even though fatal accidents only occur at a rate of 1.33 per 100,000 flight hours (or 0.49 per 100,000 passengers *7 and *8) whereas car deaths occur at a rate of 11.1 (or 24 times that of aviation). This year, even with the worst mass shooting in the US there have been 71 deaths attributed to mass shootings, which according the this tracker (*9) is 2nd to last amongst deaths this year, half as many as falling trees, 1.6% of the number dying from malnutrition. There are 3,269 time as many deaths this year from medical errors as mass shootings. But those deaths don’t make for good TV so those aren’t the deaths you see over and over again. It’s so important for them to show another mass shooting that when Abdul Razak Ali Artan drove his car into a crowd of students and then began to attack them with a knife, all across the media it was “Shooting at Ohio State” or “Active Shooter Situation at Ohio State”. Even today as I write this google auto filled shooting when I typed in Ohio State.
Google search auto suggesting shooting when searching Ohio State
If there was a way to guarantee that some new law would eliminate all gun deaths I would be hard pressed to deny that validity, but none of the actions or views pushed by the anti-gun groups can even realistically prove it would prevent little to any gun related deaths. Expanding background checks would not have prevented Fort Hood, San Bernardino, or Orlando. An even with an assault weapon ban the killers in California and Florida could have easily used handguns, or improvised explosives. Gun deaths by and large are on a downward trend, and in fact in 2008 were at the lowest during the period of this report, as is all violent crime. (*10). Despite all this there is still so much money being poured into the fight against guns, when there are much more dangerous things the money could be used to combat.
*1: GovTrack Website https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/109/s397/text
*3: World Health Organization http://apps.who.int/gho/data/node.main.A99
*4: World Health Organization http://apps.who.int/gho/data/node.main.A897A?lang=en
*9: Romans322.com http://www.romans322.com/daily-death-rate-statistics.php
*10: Bureau of Justice Statistics http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/htus8008.pdf#page=27