Monday, September 29, 2014


Foundation Problems

I don't dislike Nick Kristof as I dislike real hacks like Friedman and Krugman. But Kristof seems to be willfully ignorant about guns and his well crafted piece in the NYT today founders because he does not see what's right in front of his face.

I'll paraphrase the bulk of his piece. He went to a sketchy house to retrieve his "lost" phone and people though he was crazy to do that. He says we're crazy to be used to confrontations that could go violent and wouldn't it be nice if people didn't shoot other people with guns. Or something like that. Here are some key parts that slant the piece off the square, off the true.

About one-third of American households have guns, according to a Pew survey (a bit more, Gallup says), and these firearms kill 32,000 Americans a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

So if there are as many guns out there as people (and there are, even according to Kristof in the piece) then the average gun-holding household has three guns. I have a lot more than that but I'm a quirky, eclectic collector. Oh, and of the 32k killed by gunshots to the body each year in America, about 20k are suicides. Suicide is a shame and a sin but it's not the sort of gun violence that causes Kristof and his ilk to want to gut the 2nd Amendment and make guns only legal in government hands. There is no burning desire in even a small subset of the left for preventing suicides. Tilt one.

We turn to guns in the belief that they will make us safer. Nonsense!
Sure, there are cases where guns are successfully used for self-defense, but a study in the journal Injury Prevention found that the purchase of a handgun was associated with 2.4 times the risk of being murdered and 6.8 times the risk of suicide. Several other studies confirm that a gun in the house significantly increases the risk that a person in the home will be murdered or commit suicide.

Let's just take the first sentence. Nonsense? Wasn't the second victim of the beheader of women in Oklahoma recently saved because someone right there on the scene had a gun? Why, yes, I believe that's true. So perhaps not completely nonsense. Oh, and Kristof admits the bleeding obvious in his next sentence. There are, in fact, hundreds of thousands of cases where the revelation of the mere presence of a gun ends the crime or violence right there, without any involvement of the police or any shot fired. Some people say it's about a million such incidences each year here in America, where the presence of a gun in the hands of good people prevent assault and murder. Could be, but even just hundreds of thousands is a bigger number than the 11,000 murdered by guns, usually hand guns, each year here. The rest of the second paragraph is the nonsense in that it conflates correlation with causation. It's not the mythical siren song of the gun to the new, innocent owner to commit violence that causes a higher incidence of murder in households with guns, it's the soul of the person purchasing the gun. The intent of the purchaser--is he or she intending to use the gun for a bad end-- is the important factor to what happens to the gun owner. Bad intentions in a unforgiving landscape are more likely to end in tears than good intentions anywhere. Tilt two.

Then there's this journalistic sleight-of-hand.

It’s also fair to note that any single gun is not much of a danger (statistically, a child is more likely to die from a swimming pool at a house than from a gun in the house).
But, with so many guns, often kept loaded without trigger locks, the collective toll is enormous. Just since 1968, it has been calculated, more Americans have died from gunfire than have died in all the wars in our
He mentions the extreme rarity of children accidentally shot and then talks trigger guards (used primarily to stop children from using the gun) and then says the gun death toll is more than 900,000 since 1968. Yes, but very few of those were children and fewer still would have been saved by a trigger guard. Tilt three.

Then the big finish and his partial "solution" to the problem.

The simplest baby step forward would be to institute universal background
Hold on there, kitty cat. Would instant universal background checks actually prevent sales to criminals? How many criminals try to buy a gun from a federal firearm license holder or at a gun show where background checks are required of non FFL holders as well? And of the fools who try, how many are arrested and prosecuted for the federal crime of trying to buy a gun which one can't legally own? Less than 100 each year. And what about the guy purchasing a gun who has very evil intentions but no prior arrests or anything at all preventing him from buying it? We know there are many of those just from the long list of recent mass murderers who legally purchased their murder weapons. The same problem plagues this so-called baby step as plagues all gun legislation--it only effects those inclined to follow the law. The criminal out to get a gun he can no longer legally own after a felony conviction doesn't go to the gun show or the gun store, he goes to other criminals or he steals a gun.

Kristof's proffered solution is not a baby step towards preventing gun sales to criminals but it is a big step in injecting the federal government into non-interstate commerce and the gift giving and private sales between family members, hunting buddies and friends, all without even slowing down the ability of the criminal to be illegally armed. It's the thin end of the fascist wedge (and except possibly for Spain under Franco, all the fascist governments I know about were lefty, were socialists). Kristof, indeed, all the gun control expansion enthusiasts, are lefties. We who take the Constitution, as amended, seriously think that Kristof's "solution" would make life in the United States worse because it would diminish freedom. We think that's a bad idea.

The fact that we would get absolutely no benefit from that curtailment of freedom makes it a stupid, bad idea.


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