from the Congress Action newsletter

The louder the anti-gun crowd gets the more they call attention to the facts about firearm deaths and crime. Now rational people are beginning to demand accountability from the gun control extremists and credible, scholarly research is exposing their emotional sham for what it is... outright lies. – TYSK

Gun Banners Pound On The Table

by: Kim Weissman
August 6, 2000

There is a joke among lawyers:
"When the facts are against you, argue the law; when the law is against you, argue the facts; when both the facts and the law are against you, pound on the table." Which is why we see quite a bit of table-pounding from the gun control crowd. They hope that if they are shrill enough, shamelessly exploiting occasional tragedy to whip up hysteria, they will be able to hide the reality that the facts, the Constitution, and logic, are against them. And their shrill table-pounding is accompanied by a liberal dose of statistical slight-of-hand and disinformation.

[Note: Full links for reference at the end.]

Gun banners love to selectively compare the United States with foreign nations, hoping for the day when the U.S. will follow the lead of countries like Great Britain, Australia, and Canada in virtually outlawing privately owned firearms. They conveniently ignore countries like Switzerland, where shooting clubs proliferate, assault weapons are kept in virtually every home, and yet where gun-crimes are extremely rare. The latest comparison touted by the gun ban crowd is with Australia. Following a particularly egregious shooting in 1996, Australia enacted draconian gun ban laws, and according to Handgun Control, the restrictions have been a total success in reducing crime.

The HCI line: "… if you're an American who has seen the infamous NRA infomercial, you may think that Australia also has a surging crime rate. About 660,000 firearms were handed in to the government in return for more than 400 million Australian dollars, financed by a one-time add-on to the income tax. And in 1998, the rate at which firearms were used in murder, attempted murder, assault, sexual assault and armed robbery went down. In that year, the last for which statistics are available, the number of murders involving a firearm declined to its lowest point in four years."

The facts: Note the clever qualifications. According to an analysis by the Australian Institute of Criminology, the rate in which guns were used in various violent crimes has been declining steadily since 1991, 5 years before the new gun bans were enacted, from 634 per 100,000 in 1991 to 480 per 100,000 in 1995. The decline touted by HCI had nothing to do with gun bans, but was merely the continuation of an ongoing trend. In addition, the implication of HCI's statement is that the overall rate of violent crime has declined. In fact, all they are really discussing are "the number of murders involving a firearm".

The HCI website goes on to advise, "The next time a credulous friend or acquaintance tells you that Australia actually suffered more crime when they got tougher on guns...offer him a Foster's, and tell him the facts." Right. Here are the facts, from the Australian Bureau of Statistics: "While the use of firearms decreased or remained steady for most offences in 1998, the use of other weapons in the commission of offences increased for all offences…with the exception of murder." Those other offenses included assault, sexual assault, kidnapping, and armed robbery, in which gun use has declined while the use of other weapons has increased.

The Center to Prevent Handgun Violence (CPHV) touts a "Firearms Facts" page containing the following: "In 1997, there were only 190 justifiable handgun homicides by private citizens in the United States." Which only proves, if it proves anything, that private handgun owners are extraordinarily cautious about discharging a weapon to deter a crime. The vast majority of crimes deterred by private people with guns do not involve shooting, let alone killing, the would-be criminal perpetrator. Also excluded from CPHV's carefully limited (handguns only) statistic are the times shotguns or long guns were used to deter crime. Left unstated is the real story, from a 1994 report by the Clinton-Reno "Justice" Department: "On average in 1987-92 about 83,000 crime victims per year used a firearm to defend themselves or their property." And a 1997 study from the National Institute of Justice of the U.S. Justice Department concluded, "On the basis of data from the Bureau of Justice Statistics' National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS) data, one would conclude that defensive uses are rare indeed, about 108,000 per year." The NIJ may deem 108,000 crimes deterred every year "rare", but that's quite a bit more than the CPHV's "190 justifiable handgun homicides".

More from the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence "Firearms Facts" page: "In 1994, the firearm injury death rate among males 15-24 years of age was 32% higher than the motor vehicle traffic injury death rate." Why the CPHV decided to limit their statistics to males (don't females count?) is unclear, but this so-called fact is more of the same sort of slippery selectivity. According to the Centers for Disease Control, deaths associated with firearms — including intentional homicides and suicides — for all males was 30,724 (firearms accidents accounted for only 1367 of those males in that year); the deaths associated with motor vehicles for all males was 29,257. More recently, and more rationally, the National Safety Council listed the deaths of all people aged 15-24 from motor vehicle accidents at 9900, while the accidental firearms related deaths in the same age group was only 450.

Notice how, in all these numbers, the gun banners like to blur the lines between intentional and accidental firearms deaths. And for good reason. Gun banners like to portray firearms as innately evil objects that act all by themselves as though possessed by the devil, without any human conduct required. As the numbers make clear, however, the vast majority of firearms deaths are intentional shootings, that is, intentional criminal conduct.

If the gun banners wanted to actually address that fact in a rational fashion, they would have to demand that more criminals be put in jail for longer periods of time. But actually punishing criminals is not what this is all about. Actually punishing criminals is the last thing left-wing gun banners want to do. After all, some of the heroes celebrated by the left are criminals who commit crimes with guns. There is, for example, a killer now sitting on death row who was convicted of killing a police officer with a gun. That convicted killer is such a hero to the left that he is an honored speaker (via videotape from death row) at graduation ceremonies of so-called "progressive" college campuses.

If the gun banners really cared about gun violence, they would insist on swift and severe punishment for people who actually commit criminal violence, and they certainly would not treat those criminals as heroes. That they don't demand such punishment makes their real motives clear. They don't really care about gun violence or accidental gun deaths, what they long for is more government power, and less individual freedom.


But the more the gun banners pound on the table, and the more they call attention to the issue of firearm deaths and crime, the more that thoughtful people will take time to think about the issues; and the more people think about the issues, the less likely they are to react hysterically in knee-jerk fashion to the proposed "solutions" from the radicals in the gun ban crowd. And rational people might, perhaps, even begin to demand accountability from the gun control extremists, for the increases in crime that their "solutions" have led to.

Some of the biggest boosters of increasingly draconian gun control laws are physicians. Doctors and their official national organizations have adopted the attitude that gun violence is an epidemic; and guns being a "disease" as they claim, they, as physicians, proclaim themselves uniquely qualified to pontificate to the rest of us uneducated dolts on the "proper" ways to combat the epidemic. One might think that doctors would prefer to adopt a lower profile on the issue of "accidental deaths", since a recent study by the National Academies' Institute for Medicine, and figures from the National Safety Council regarding accidental firearms deaths, show that the medical community is between nearly 50 times and more than 100 times deadlier than guns. According to those figures, about 900 people of all ages and both genders died from firearms accidents in 1998 (a drop of nearly 20% from the previous year); while on average the medical community kills at least 44,000 — and maybe as many as 98,000 — people by medical accidents every year. Even using the low-end figures from the Institute for Medicine's study, for every one person accidentally killed by a gun, nearly fifty people are accidentally killed by the medical community. But then again, humility was never a characteristic normally attributed to physicians.

But one might assume that doctors, practitioners of medical science as they are, would have at least a passing interest in facts. And the facts keep proving them wrong. Just a few months ago, JAMA, the Journal of the American Medical Association, published a study purporting to show that a ban on carrying firearms led to a drop in homicide rates. As indicated above regarding international comparisons, however, making comparisons with other countries — even highly selective comparisons that ignore the low crime rate in such heavily armed countries as Switzerland and Israel — is, to quote Al Gore, a "risky scheme". In that JAMA study purporting to show the drop in homicide rates, JAMA compared the nation of Columbia(!) with the United States. That Columbia is involved in a massive, ongoing drug war that makes American drug and gang wars look like garden parties; and that Columbia is involved in a virtual civil war between leftist guerrillas and militias, are both circumstances that are simply ignored by the JAMA study.

Of more relevance is another JAMA study published this month, examining the effect of the Brady Act gun control regime on homicide and suicide rates right here in the United States. That, at least, is a relevant study to undertake. After all, we are endlessly told how successful the Brady Act has been in reducing gun crimes and deaths. So if the Brady Act actually reduced the rate at which criminals obtained and used firearms (rather than simply rendering law abiding citizens increasingly defenseless to criminal depredation), it might be worth taking a second look at laws designed to keep guns out of the hands of criminals.

Unfortunately for the hysterical gun banners, however, the JAMA study shows no such thing.

According to the new JAMA study, "…implementation of the Brady Act appears to have been associated with reductions in the firearm suicide rate for persons aged 55 years or older but not with reductions in homicide rates or overall suicide rates." Comparing states that were forced by Brady to implement background checks and 5-day waiting periods (called "treatment states") with states that already had background checks and waiting periods (called "control states"), the JAMA study concluded that "Changes in rates of homicide and suicide for treatment and control states were not significantly different…".

JAMA summed up the findings: "Our analyses provide no evidence that implementation of the Brady Act was associated with a reduction in homicide rates. In particular, we find no differences in homicide or firearm homicide rates to adult victims in the 32 treatment states directly subject to the Brady Act provisions compared with the remaining control states."

The JAMA report also cited previous studies, concluding that "Our findings are generally consistent with most of the previous evaluations of state-level background-check and waiting-period laws." Particularly stunning, JAMA apparently confirmed one prior study that found "…the association between homicide and the national Brady Act found a statistically insignificant reduction in the murder rate…and statistically significant increases in rape and aggravated assault...".

Translation: Gun control laws DO NOT reduce gun killings, but gun control laws DO increase the helplessness of potential victims, and thereby increase the rate at which criminals attack innocent people.

Conclusion: GUN CONTROL LAWS INCREASE CRIME! The misery of innocent victims cries out for justice.



The National Academies:

Book ("To Err Is Human: Building a Safer Health System"):

National Safety Council:

Centers for Disease Control:

CDC's U.S. National Center for Health Statistics:

Journal of the American Medical Association:

Brady Act study:

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6 aug 2000