ANALYSIS OF A GUN CONTROL ADVOCACY GROUP

rev. 01 Jan 2013
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There is a gun control advocacy organization called the Santa Barbara Coalition Against Gun Violence.  It considers itself a Santa Barbara County (California) organization.  It started out as the Santa Barbara Women Against Gun Violence, but changed its name when other than women wanted to join.  As of 2000, the organization bills itself as a project of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, an ultra-leftwing rich (and secretive) bunch who mostly live in and around Montecito.  One of the founding members of the Women Against Gun Violence is attorney Hannah-Beth Jackson, in her first term as an assemblyperson in 2000--a democrat, naturally.  She is a state senator as of Jan 2013.

The coalition's web site and their brochure have some "principles" and some material about gun "myths."  They put out a quarterly newsletter, which is available in ".pdf" format at their site.  The site also has a page about the Second Amendment of the Constitution, which could as well not exist for all they make of it.  See the separate evaluation of that information.  Evaluation of their principles and the material about "myths" follow.

COALITION PRINCIPLES

One of the coalition's principles is:
"Freedom from fear is a basic human right. Everyone has the right to be free of firearm violence in.." [everywhere]

The next principle says basically the same thing, but in terms of rights for various categories of people.

This sounds good, but is stupid and incorrect.  Humans have no right to be "free of fear" or to be free of "firearm violence," any more than they have a right to be free of any kind of violence, because:

(1)A perfectly safe world, or even one with no serious hazards, is an impossible state.

(2)Fear is as much a result of the person as of the world around the person.  If you were in a perfectly safe world but you felt fearful, that would be your own fault.  If we share a world that is reasonably safe but you have an irrational fear, you do not have a right to force the rest of the people on the planet to "do something" so you'll feel safe.

What we have a right to is to do things to increase our own safety as long as that does not make others less safe.  For example, we can move to a safer place where good people are allowed to carry concealed weapons, or we can work toward changing our own area to be such a place.  Most of what gun control advocates push would actually make most of us less safe.

"MYTHS"

The pamphlet and web site also have a section on "myths about guns."

A.  Myth #1:  "Guns make us safer."

The coalition's argument is that the US has a lot of guns and a lot of gun dealers, but "[y]et our country has the highest rate of gun deaths among industrialized nations."  They try to impress the ignorant by comparing the number of gun dealers to the numbers of grocery stores, gas stations, high schools, libraries or McDonald's restaurants, as though the comparison meant anything.  So, what is wrong with their claims?

1.  Rates of "gun deaths" is not an indication of safety.  Total deaths would be.  If there were no guns, there would obviously be no "gun deaths," but there would still be deaths--so we would not be safe.  "Safety" can rightfully include deaths from both homicide and accident.  Focusing on "gun deaths" rather than deaths in general pemit the gun control advocate to ignore the fact that if something is done to reduce deaths from a given cause or by use of a given instrument, it may increase one or more other kinds of deaths even more.  A measure of safety really should also include injuries, not just death, and it should include attempted murder, robbery and attempted robbery.

Because the gun control advocacy groups insist on including suicides and accidents in what they call "gun violence," should we not also include suicide and accident deaths in the number of deaths we look at when comparing countries?  Not really.  Their lumping together homicides, suicides and accidents is dishonest and intended to mislead the public.  We don't need to be dishonest, too, because the facts support our view.  That is, the truth is on our side.

2.  By use of the term "among industrialized nations" they avoid being specific so that nobody can check their claim.  Taken as stated, this means all "industrialized nations."  But this should raise, in the minds of the intelligent, the question of what it takes for a nation to be considered an "industrialized nation."  Just which nations are the coalition referring to?  Being ambiguous allows them to pick and choose what nations they want to compare us against.  The truth is that the study they base this statement upon is one that includes Hong Kong, for example, as an "industrialized nation."  The truth is that much of the US is not "industrialized."  So, why compare those parts with places that are?

3.  Comparisons with other nations regarding crime and violence are simply not valid.  The reason for this is that there are many, many differences between our nation and other nations, and many of these differences greatly affect the rates of violence, accidents, and suicide.  The comparisons spouted by gun control advocates never account for any of these significant differences.  Professional criminologists and students of violence (the people qualified to analyze the violence differences between countries) have never even attempted to account for all the significant differences primarily because most countries don't keep the kinds of records that would permit one to make a valid analysis.

The studies that have accounted for even a few significant factors have all found that the evidence does not support the conclusion that firearm prevalence causes increased violence.  Because the US has better records on factors that should be considered in a comparison, it is more valid to compare different states rather than compare the US with other countries.  The most valid and comprehensive analysis ever performed determined that places where more people have guns also have less violent crime, and that places where the government starts to allow good people to carry concealed guns experience greater/faster reduction in violent crime than other places.

The fact is that our states are more like most other nations than our nation as a whole is, mostly because the sizes of our states are more like the sizes of the other countries.  Our states include some that are similar to some other countries in many significant ways.  It would be more valid to compare the US or some states to some very similar countries or parts of countries.

Even without controlling for significant factors there have been some comparisons of crime and violence that are somewhat valid only because of social similarity (though, not perfect) between the areas compared.  For example, there is a very valid and comprehensive recent government comparison of crime rates of the US and England/Wales.  It found that practically all categories of violence are more common in England and Wales than in the US as a whole, and that the moderately lower murder rate there has been steadily climbing for many years although ours has returned to lower levels--so the gap in murder rates is narrowing.  The analysis did not even try to analyse things that might have been responsible for these violence differences.

There is also a comparison of murder rates between neighboring US states and Canadian provinces.  It showed basically that the murder rates were a little more frequently lower in the US state than in the neighboring Canadian province.

Also, the gun controller comparisons with other countries generally ignore the facts that:

  1. The other countries with low violent crime rates, or murder rates (or whatever rates) had lower rates than ours even before they reduced the prevalence of firearms in their countries.  Indeed, they had lower rates when they had more guns than they have now when they have few guns.  If it were the gun control that minimized violence, the violence would drop after gun control began.  [And, as here, the governments of those countries have generally insisted on imposing increasingly restrictive gun control, even when opposed by the citizens, without ever having to demonstrate that any of the existing controls had actually reduced crime or violence.]
  2. People in the US from countries with low violent crime rates, and first-generation decendants from those people, have low violent crime rates here even though these people are immersed in our society that has a lot of guns.  It's their culture that's responsible, not the guns around them.
  3. Even if the gun related portions of the US violence rates are deleted, the remaining (non-gun) violence rates are still higher than the total violence rates for the other countries to which the gun controllers like to compare us.  The reasons for our non-gun violence are the same as the reasons for our violence (general), whether or not guns are involved.  That is, it's not the guns!

4.   The claim that "guns make us safer" is not a claim that guns make us absolutely safe.  The claim is that, with guns, we are safer than we would be without them.  The fact that some people die from incidents in which the instrument used is a gun does not mean that, overall, we are not safer than if we had no guns.  To evaluate whether or not we are safer, we must also consider how many deaths, assaults, and attempted murders are prevented as a result of some people having guns.  We would also have to take into account the fact that nearly all people who commit suicide using a gun would simply commit suicide in some other way if guns were not available (proven fact) and that many people who are murdered with a gun would simply be murdered in another way if guns were not available.  That is, the current gun murders and gun suicides would not "go away" if guns went away, they would just convert to some other kinds of murder and suicide.

B. Myth #2:  "Firearm ownership is a constitutional right"

The coalition claims that the Second Amendment to the Constitution is not about a right for the individual.  Their statement partially quotes a 1939 decision of the US Supreme Court (US v. Miller).  Specifically, they say:

The...[court]....stated that the 2nd Amendment's "obvious purpose" was "to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness" of state militias and that it "must be applied and interpreted with that end in view."

Note that part of the statement is not quotation of the court decision.  Any time you see a quote in gun control advocacy propaganda and some part of the statement is outside the quotation, you can be sure that the unquoted part is a lie.  The fact is that the court said nothing about state militias.  Instead, it referred to "such forces" which it later described as "the militia."  There is a very good reason for this.  There has never been such a thing as "state militias."  There has only been one militia--the militia in the terms of the Second Amendment and the court.  The constitution reserved for the states the rights to appoint officers for, equip and train those parts of the militia made up by the citizens of their states.

One thing the coalition avoids saying is that the court decision also described the militia as being, essentially, the armed male citizenry.  The actual final decision was that the case should go back to the lower court to determine whether or not the particular type of firearm involved was of a type used significantly by the military and that the individuals were indeed protected by the Second Amendment if the possession of the firearm had any benefit for maintaining forces such as described.

The coalition tries to discredit the idea that the Second Amendment guarantees an individual right by saying no court has ever overturned a gun control law on Second Amendment grounds and that "[e]ven the N.R.A. refuses to attack gun control laws on 2nd Amendment grounds."  Their statements are inconsistent with the reality of fighting in US courts.  First, there are many judges who basically know nothing about the Second Amendment other than the offhand statement of a law professor or author who also knew nothing about it.  Second, there have generally been any number of valid legal bases for arguing against poor laws.  Lawyers select their approaches based on their own familiarity with the legal areas and upon their perceptions of what will work easiest and most reliably in the court they expect to argue in.

Finally, all the above being said, it truly is a myth that firearm ownership is a constitutional right if, by that, one means a right granted by the constitution.  The truth is that the Bill of Rights was not a granting by the government of rights to the citizen.  The truth is that it was an affirmation of pre-existing rights.  This was so both in the sense that those rights already existed for the citizens of the federated countries that had once been English colonies, and in the sense that the statesmen considered that the people had the rights even before the colonies broke from England.  When the new over-riding government was formed, the statesmen believed that men had the rights.  Some of those statesmen insisted that the federal government guarantee that citizens would continue to have those rights.  They thought it necessary to have those guarantees in the Constitution because they foresaw the possibility that the government being created would become an all-powerful, all-encompassing enslaver of the people it was supposed to serve.  [They thought this because they had studied history and were smart.]  See the separate analysis of the coalition's page about the Second Amendment.

C.  Myth #3:  "Handguns are a good means of self-defense"

Let's look at their statements individually.

"...keeping a handgun in the home places the gun owner and his/her family in great jeopardy."

That statement is true if someone in the family is violent, unstable, on drugs, stupid, or maybe otherwise disfunctional and has no knowledge of proper handling of firearms.  Gun control advocates should certainly not have firearms (even though we've occasionally found that some do).

"Residents of homes where a gun is present are three times more likely to experience a homicide and five times more likely to experience a suicide."

This is false generalization based on two faulty "studies" performed several years ago by some doctors looking for justification to demonize guns.  Besides the fact that the study methods were not valid, the statement by the coalition is misrepresentation of the results of the study.

The coalition does what the gun control advocates always do:  overstate the results.  The studies involved found something about a few places and a limited time frame.  It is not valid to claim that the results from one study are fact.  Another way in which they overstate the results is that they round the numbers up.  The studies involved actual found 2.7-times and 4.8-times ratios.

Why were the studies not valid?  There are several reasons, but primarily because the studies relied upon determining, for households that did not have a gun murder or gun suicide, the portion of those homes that had firearms.  Whereas the doctors doing the studies could count on the correctness of answers to a "firearm in the home" question for the homes of the people who had died, because the household members would know that the doctors had or could get the information from the police investigators, they could not count on such honesty from people who had not had police investigations in their homes.  It is a fact that a large portion of people deny possession or ownership of firearms if they are asked about it--simply because they don't trust their government--and because many of them fear that their firearm or the possession of it may not be "legal" where they live.

See the separate pages on these studies for a more complete explanation of the reasons why the studies were not valid.

Finally, although the coalition claim doesn't specifically say so, the statement is obviously an attempt to make the reader think (by implication) that the presense of the firearms must have caused the deaths and suicides, and even that the firearms in the homes were the ones that were used in the murders and homicides.  The truth is that the studies made no determination as to whether or not the firearm used for the killing was that firearm that was kept in the home.  The truth is that, in most cases, it was not.

The truth is also that the analysis methods used by the doctors cannot determine whether the "chicken caused the egg, or the egg caused the chicken," or that something altogether different might have caused both.  If a higher proportion of homes where people are killed (or kill themselves) using guns actually have guns than those homes where people are not killed, it would most probably be because people who live in high-risk circumstances are more likely to acquire firearms for protection and are more likely to be killed or commit suicide because of the dreadful circumstances in which they find themselves.  In other words, it is likely the risks of death and other violence that causes gun possession rather than vice versa.

Now, to their final statement:

"A gun kept in the home is 43 times more likely to be used against a member of the household or a friend, than against an intruder."

Again, the actual figure was 42.7.  Again, a "study" performed by the same anti-gun doctor.  Again, the results are misrepresented.  What the study found was not about "be used against."  It was about someone being killed or killing themselves.  It was not about "a member of the household or a friend."  It was about "someone known by the victim," like the rival gang member, the man who was beating his wife again, or the drug dealer that had not been paid.  And, most of that 42.7 was suicides in which the person would almost certainly have found another way, and tried repeatedly if necessary until they got it "right,"  if they had not had a gun available.

Although the actual "study" was only about gun deaths, it ignores the fact that the huge majority of instances in which a person uses a gun for defense do not involve death--or even shooting the assailant.  You can find more detail about the problems with the "43 times" myth at the same page as mentioned above.

D.   Myth #4:  "Gun control won't reduce gun violence or crime"

The coalition states that "[m]ost criminals acquire their handguns through legal channels--only 27% get them from the black market.  Juveniles obtain 55% of their guns from friends, home or a gunshop.

The truth is that nobody can legitimately say that certain portions of this or that group get their guns in this or that way.  There have been several surveys that have yielded moderately different results.  Yet, the general idea of what the coalition says here is true, although the specific distinctions are not valid.  For example, if you consider a person 18 years old to be a juvenile but the law in a certain state permits 18-year-olds to buy long guns, should it be considered some failing that some aged 18-20 buy such guns from gunshops?  Gun control advocates pick their words to avoid being specific while implying the worst.

That said, if a large number of people believe that "gun control won't reduce gun violence or crime," this would be a myth.  There are some things one could call "gun control" that could be done to reduce the extent to which criminals and juveniles can obtain firearms.  The problem is that gun control advocate organizations don't limit themselves to doing such things while avoiding restriction of the law-abiding.  "Gun control" is not a single, distinct thing for which truths may be found and stated.  Gun control is a large number of laws and proposed laws, each of which must be separately evaluated.

CONCLUSION

This gun control organization is composed mostly of women, and its members are predominantly ignorant, stupid, dishonest, or some combination of these.  This observation is also characteristic of Handgun Control, Inc., as described in this GunsAndCrime.org analysis of how well the '94 federal "assault" weapon ban worked, and in the analysis about gun controller studies supposedly about unsafe gun storage.  So these appear to be typical traits of the members of such organizations.

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