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Guns & gun control: First get the facts straight

Post by Patrick O'Callahan on Jan. 13, 2011 at 12:26 pm with 45 Comments »
January 14, 2011 1:18 pm

A problem with some gun control advocates is that they discredit themselves the moment they open their mouths. As we say in the trade, you’re entitled to your own opinions, but you don’t get to make up your own facts.

Roger Lowenstein here at least doesn’t confuse semi-automatic guns with automatic guns, a common self-discrediting mistake. But he wants even semi-automatic guns “banned, for good,” apparently believing they aren’t legitimate hunting weapons.

That would come as a surprise to virtually every hunter in the world.

His discussion of the Constitution and the Second Amendment completely ignores the Supreme Court’s contrary rulings on the matter. When the high court majority has pointedly rejected your legal views, you should at least acknowledge that they are not beyond dispute.

“Its doubtful the framers envisioned people possessing private weapons or taking weapons to their individual homes, as that would have detracted from a militia’s effectiveness.” Three whopping blunders in a single sentence – possibly a record for the English language.

The 18th century militias relied on the muskets and rifles citizens brought to the battle. They also relied on the citizens’ proficiency with them, which they couldn’t acquire if all the muskets were locked up in an armory. Of course the framers envisioned “people possessing private weapons.”

“No sportsman deserving of the term hunts with an assault weapon.” In fact, the .223 caliber semi-automatic rifles commonly described as assault weapons are less powerful than deer rifles; they aren’t lethal enough for large game, and are commonly used to shoot smaller animals, coyotes, jackrabbits and other “varmints.”

I’m not a hunter – I don’t even squish spiders – nor am I an “assault rifle” owner. But I am a target shooter and recognize absolute ignorance about firearms and American history when I see it. I’m also an opinion writer and know it’s hard to persuade readers of anything when you’re shooting yourself in the foot every step of the way.

Leave a comment Comments → 45
  1. NineInchNachosII says:

    not sure what you’re arguing here. How about we focus on not allowing mentally insane people to get guns? What legislation has the NRA supported to limit gun accessibility to deranged persons? Why do they focus their efforts lobbying to make gun tracing data secret ? What is the matter with you?

  2. hortonpeak says:

    Well, Patrick, that is certainly a great way to begin an editorial by calling many of those with whom you disagree ignorant. Good to see the “news” tribune continues its editorial brilliance.

  3. TSkidmore says:

    Well said “hortonpeak” – “brilliance” is not a word that pops into ones mind as we read the ramblings of a group whose thinking runs an inch deep and a mile wide. And one does gets to the end of that ….whatever it was….and wonder “what the h*ll is that all about!”

  4. Patrick is just calling a spade a spade. If you think the Founding Fathers didn’t want the citizenry to be armed then you would be ignorant. Being called ignorant isn’t necessarily an insult, sometimes it’s just an observation.

    “The Constitution of most of our states (and of the United States) assert that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves;… that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed and that they are entitled to freedom of person, freedom of religion, freedom of property, and freedom of press.” -Thomas Jefferson

    Also, the militias at the time had the same kind of weapons the military had and there is every reason to believe that is the way they wanted it. I’m not talking about nukes of course (I wish they were never invented) but if our troops or cops are issued M4A1s then I should be able to have one as well.

    “The militia, who are in fact the effective part of the people at large, will render many troops quite unnecessary. They will form a powerful check upon the regular troops, and will generally be sufficient to over-awe them.”
    Tench Coxe, Delegate to Continental Congress, Oct. 21, 1787.

    End the drug war, help the mentally ill, and cherish the Constitution and everyone will be better off.

  5. How many criminals threatening someones life have been stopped
    by a firearm compared to the ‘secondary victims’ in our society?

  6. Next time someone pulls a gun on you, tell them you’re gonna give them a “TIMEOUT” and make them stand in the corner if they don’t behave…, you GUN CONTROL IDIOTS !!!

  7. Pass the ammo please !!!

  8. hortonpeak says:

    Tummier, I could not agree more with your last sentence and most of what you said. My point is that Patrick essentially said gun control advocates lose credibility because they confuse automatic with semiautomatic blah, blah, blah. And then we get the same education about automatic vice semi blah, blah, blah. That is not the issue. The issue is the pervasive influence of guns in our society. If as you said, the military has certain types of weapons we too should have them – then why not nukes? Additionally, for all, a “history” question (since Patrick says we do not know American history) – what did the Civil War have to do with idea that we all need to be armed? With that, Tummier, your comments are well received and advance the debate unlike the professional opinion piece writer. Cheers.

  9. elmerfudd says:

    “not sure what you’re arguing here. How about we focus on not allowing mentally insane people to get guns? What legislation has the NRA supported to limit gun accessibility to deranged persons?”

    That would have been the NICS Improvement Act of 2007.
    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/06/13/politics/main2923101.shtml

    Just goes to prove O’Callahan’s point, doesn’t it?

  10. pazzo242 says:

    Here, if for no other reason, is why we need to continue to have an armed society—-Japan was a VERY powerful empire prior and during WW 2 and they displayed that on December 7th, 1941. Despite that fact they feared attacking the mainland of the United States. Their fear was not because they feared the US Military machine but they feared the citizenry as they were well aware that a huge number of the population was armed and new that the military would be backed by the heaviest armed citizenry on the planet. They knew that they could not take on such overwhelming odds.

    An armed society is a free society–Niccolò Machiavelli
    An armed society is a polite society–Robert A. Heinlein

  11. FreeAmerica says:

    NineInchNachosII says:
    How about we focus on not allowing mentally insane people to get guns?

    Gun control act of 1968…. It is a Federal law the mentally unstable can’t own or purchase a firearm.

    We don’t need new laws creating a society of law abiding criminals…. We need enforcement of current regulation.

    Two minutes research would have provided this information before a knee jerk reaction… take a deep breath and relax.

  12. FreeAmerica says:

    Alinup says:
    January 13, 2011 at 7:07 pm
    How many criminals threatening someones life have been stopped
    by a firearm compared to the ‘secondary victims’ in our society?

    How many laws need to be passed before one realizes criminals don’t abide by the law?
    If guns were illegal would criminals still have them?
    They are illegal for criminals currently.

  13. t_Johnson says:

    Shoot back!

  14. hortonpeak says:
    JANUARY 13, 2011 AT 7:44 PM
    “Additionally, for all, a “history” question (since Patrick says we do not know American history) – what did the Civil War have to do with idea that we all need to be armed?”

    I just love the way people use a straw man to deflect attention from the subject at hand, they formulate a very board question without relationship to the issue, then present it as though it’s pertinent to the discussion.

  15. Patrick O'Callahan says:

    Roger Lowenstein, the author of the piece I criticized, is a distinguished financial journalist. I should have mentioned that. My comment about ignorance applied only to him, and only to his knowledge of firearms.

    I’m ignorant of many subjects, including sports, Wall Street finance, engineering, Chinese history, rap music and the appeal of Lindsay Lohan (very ignorant on that last one). I do my utmost to avoid writing about those subjects.

    My post was not a defense of the NRA, a handgun-saturated society, private possession of machine guns or nuclear weapons, gun ownership for mentally ill, etc.

    The sole point was that advocates for gun control had best know something about firearms before they open their mouths, because advocates of gun rights have the technical details down cold and tend to know the issue inside and out.

    When one debater looks weak on the specifics and the other debater pokes holes in his factual assertions, guess who wins the debate.

  16. BlaineCGarver says:

    Ah, that pesky Bill of Rights. Tell ya what, gun haters: You have more of a chance getting Blacks in the back of the bus, and women back in the kitchen barefoot and pregnant than you do of taking away Second Amendment Rights.

  17. The state of Wisconsin has gone an entire deer hunting season without someone getting killed.

    That’s great.

    There were over 600,000 hunters.

    Allow me to restate that number.

    Over the last two months, the eighth largest army in the world – more men under arms than Iran; more than France and Germany combined – deployed to the woods of a single American state to help keep the deer menace at bay.

    But that pales in comparison to the 750,000 who are in the woods of Pennsylvania this week.

    Michigan ‘s 700,000 hunters have now returned home.

    Toss in a quarter million hunters in West Virginia, and it is literally the case that the hunters of those four states alone would comprise the largest army in the world.

    With that kind of home-grown firepower, America will forever be safe from a foreign invasion of troops.

    Hunting – it’s not just a way to fill the freezer. It’s a matter of national security!

    Now you know why the liberal anti-gun group wants to take the guns away.

  18. LibertyBell says:

    One must wonder what people are actually taught at a Washington State School District.

    “The very atmosphere of firearms anywhere and everywhere restrains evil interference – they deserve a place of honor with all that’s good”

    — George Washington

  19. TheOutlawJoseyWhales says:

    Just keep one thing in mind: Thirty million legal gun owners deliberately choose NOT to shoot up rallies, every day of the week, week after week, year after year. For those of you with a math attendance trophy, that’s lots and lots.

  20. Great article, great commentary! NorthSC, especially enjoyed your facts you brought to the table. An armed America is a safer America. I would be honored to have been present at the Tacoma Mall shooting, I now won’t shop at it or SouthCenter, private property that does have the right to restrict a law-abiding, concealed weapons permit carrying citizen from carrying a weapon. They create hotspots where there won’t be any good guys with guns.

  21. lovethemountains says:

    Good point, TMell. I wonder if the anti’s actually believe gang bangers and others who thumb their noses at laws and rules have actually stopped packing at the mall. Heads in the sand.

  22. More guns = more gun deaths. The data are clear worldwide. A gun in a private home will more likely kill an occupant of that home than any other person. Hunters do not need a semi-auto weapon to be effective. Semi- auto handguns are made for one primary purpose and the multi-round magazine intensifies that purpose. The suspect was not stopped by current law because current law does not go far enough. The recent 2nd Amendment ruling was 5-4. That means there are 4 Supreme Court Justices who think otherwise about the meaning intended. It is not cut and dried and nearly any expert on the English language would take exception to the majority’s interpretation of the words and grammatical structure. It is ripe for being overturned just as they overturned decades of so-called settled law.
    The framers wrote their words when the society was much different from what we have today. Invasion by a recently involved foreign power was a real possibility. Guns, powder and shot were hard to come by. Technology was far different from what we have today regarding guns and their capabilities.
    Finally, they did not have near the flaky conspiracy theories we have today that the government is lurking behind every tall weed, which is the driving force for many of the so-called gun nuts.
    The next time a republican politician is shot after being specifically “targeted” by a notable democrat I will loudly protest and accuse the democrat.

  23. Are 30,000 gun deaths in the US each year not enough? It is a national health crisis. It is a National disgrace.

  24. tacomaguy30 says:

    I never thought I would say this, but…

    I am in 100% agreement with Mr. O’Callahan.

    That being said, I do believe there is more to the argument.

    Some in the media have openly questioned “why?”

    Why does someone need a high capacity magazine? Why does someone need a rifle? Why does someone “need” a handgun?

    Or, as they like to portray it “No one needs (these things)”

    Is that so?

    Allow me to point you to the Supreme Court case that is Castle Rock v. Gonzales…

    which points out, among other things, that the “state” (i.e. the police, et al) have no responsibility to protect you

    when seconds count, the police are just minutes away…

  25. For those interested in more information, I suggest this link:
    http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/01/the-geography-of-gun-deaths/69354/

  26. Frankly123 says:

    There seem to be the normally debated points in the comments here. I certainly value wisdom from George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. I also value the notion of evolution as a civilization and while I regard Justices of the Supreme court to be educated and knowledgeable, surely we can all agree that any given Judge has their own personal interpretation of any law or intent of a law past or present. I don’t think for an instant that these high profile subjects like “gun control” and “abortion” are being judged 100% fairly but rather are carefully and politically controlled. Each party careful and afraid to change radically the status quo for fear of losing an election.

    I think Guns and/or control has two aspects: Practical and philosophical. Neither support having guns. Why wouldn’t any reasonable person acknowledge that “yes, it would be a nicer, overall safer world without guns…all guns.”

    We don’t NEED guns to feed ourselves or society. We don’t NEED guns to protect ourselves on the whole. Do we LIKE to hunt, shoot for sport, collect? Sure, but we won’t die as a race without guns. Especially if NO ONE has any guns.

    Still, in the year 2011, we’re no closer to that than they were in Tombstone in 1881 although at least we’re not walking around with guns strapped around our waist even though I’m sure some would LOVE that. I think many ardent gun supporters think the movie “Red Dawn” is a documentary and swear that’s our destiny.

    elmerfudd sites the “Improvement Act of 2007″ involving the NRA but don’t let that fool you, the NRA received concessions for their “support” of the “improvement” of an already existing NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System). The NRA exists for one reason only, to promote and prolong gun rights. I’m okay with that if they would just take the paranoid, fear ridden mentality out of their thinking and work on the notion that society should be working towards a common goal and that you don’t have to stash your guns and ammo for when the revolution/invasion starts.

  27. In a perfect world Frankly123, there wouldn’t be any means of destroying each other. Unfortunately, we live in a very different world and you can’t magically get rid of all the guns and knifes already in existance through any kind of wishful thinking or well-intentioned legislation. Criminals will find ways to hurt and power tends to corrupt because we are human. We will one day evolve toward greater love and understanding but not if we let the demons run amok.

  28. Frankly123 says:

    Woah Tummler, I’m not suggesting we’ll ever have a perfect world, just that for sake of the debate, on one subject (guns), that even the most ardent gun nut might…, for just a second…, not paranoid about government control, politics or “us against them”, concede that humanity in general would be better off without guns. Not whether you’d “miss the thrill of the hunt” or the challenge of the marksmanship, but that the saving of lives and the “more level/fair field of living” is better off with no guns. You see, one great problem is that guns have the advantage of killing from a distance, not allowing the victim to defend themselves or engage the attacker. Not to mention children and other various accidental injuries and deaths due to guns. btw, I’m an adult, raised and schooled with guns and have the NRA patches and medals to prove it. I don’t dismiss guns outright, I just concede there’s a better “other side” of the debate.

  29. elmerfudd says:

    “Are 30,000 gun deaths in the US each year not enough? It is a national health crisis. It is a National disgrace.”

    Mostly suicides. The annual homicide rate using firearms is around 11,000 and there are around 650 accidental deaths involving firearms.

    Frankly, I don’t care about the method used by people to commit suicide. If someone is really suicidal, they’ll find a way to kill themself. In fact, there may even come a time where I want to have that option available myself.

  30. elmerfudd says:

    “Woah Tummler, I’m not suggesting we’ll ever have a perfect world, just that for sake of the debate, on one subject (guns), that even the most ardent gun nut might…, for just a second…, not paranoid about government control, politics or “us against them”, concede that humanity in general would be better off without guns.”

    This was actually the case for 1000’s of years and the world wasn’t a better place. Order was mostly kept by violence or the threat thereof and by and large might made right.

    Violence predates both guns and mankind and it will likely be around long after humans pass from the scene. The nice thing about guns is that they enable the weak to defend themselves against the strong. Without a gun, there is very little most women or older people can do to defend themselves against a healthy, armed young man. With a gun you can stand a fighting chance even against a group of felons.

  31. Nice attitude Mr. Fudd. We don’t really need your insight if that is what it is going to be.

  32. Violence will always be with us he says. And it is so nice that guns make it really easy and really nasty.
    Where do these people come from?

  33. Sagacious says:

    The world is a very violent place. Life is fragile and often ends violently. There are earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes, floods, volcanoes, wars, guns, knives, baseball bats, wild beasts and etc.

    Even those attempting to help us often end our lives. In fact, according to the JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) over 50,000 die annually of medical errors in hospitals (http://www.drgrisanti.com/medical3.htm ) – Publico take note, that far exceeds gunshot deaths.

    Guns, will not deter earthquakes or other natural disasters, of course, but can deter the looters and pillagers that often follow. Violence and death are part of nature. If you’re religious and subscribe to the story of Adam and Eve, you’ll find that the second man on earth killed his own brother; murder and mayhem have been rife ever since
    .
    If you think that somehow banning and removing all guns will make the world safe, forget it. You and I WILL die someday, maybe even soon, maybe later and maybe a gun will make the difference either way.

  34. elmerfudd says:

    “Nice attitude Mr. Fudd. We don’t really need your insight if that is what it is going to be.”

    Perhaps what we really don’t need are your doctored statistics. Bad statistics, emotional appeals, ad hominem attacks, notice a pattern here folks?

  35. TheOutlawJoseyWhales says:

    Fact number one: 30 million legal, law-abiding gun owners did not shoot up a rally again today. Fact number two: You don’t need any other facts.

  36. elmerfudd says:

    Anyone who examines the actual truth of gun control will discover that it’s largely a non-issue.

    Law abiding, orderly societies have very low violent crime rates regardless of their gun laws. Japan, Switzerland and Finland are all very safe places to live, but of the three only Japan has strict gun control. The Swiss literally keep machineguns in every house.

    Dangerous countries with high crime rates on the other hand arguably aren’t made any safer by gun control laws. Russia, South Africa and Mexico all have strict gun control laws and they’re all much more dangerous than the US.

    We as Americans are somewhere in between. We have large ethnic ghettos, immigrant populations and an individualist streak a mile wide. On the other hand, we have been able to maintain a functioning government and justice system and we aren’t terribly corrupt relative to the rest of the world. If you were to magically take away our guns tomorrow we’d still be a much more violent society than those of Western Europe or Canada.

  37. I do not doctor statistics. The Swiss have very strict gun control laws and that is why their system works. 30,000 gun deaths a year is not an emotional appeal nor is it made up. About 81 persons a day are killed by guns in the US. The reasons are many. The ease of killing someone with a gun is the reason why there are so many. Medical deaths are errors and accidents and did not start out to be killings in the first place. Gun deaths are meant to be killings in the first place. Cannot anyone understand the simple logic here?
    Mr. fudd would have us believe that gun control is a non-issue. That flies in the face of intelligent, caring individuals who have done the research and who are able to show, to those who are willing to listen, that more guns means more gun deaths, period. Ignore the data and the outcome will only be continued sadness and grief. Of course everyone can tell their congressmen and women to step up enforcement of the current laws, but that would require spending some money. Does that sound like a catch-22 to anyone who is familair with the conservatives’ mantra to cut spending.
    These people are close to having the same thinking abilities of the accused shooter in Tucson.
    God help us!

  38. Frankly123 says:

    I see some of the confusion here, it’s semantics over the word “better”. Is it a “better” place or just safer. Well can we concede it would be “safer”? Then, all things being equal, is a safer society a “better” society despite the continued existence of crime and violence without the gun? I say yes.

    Mr. Fudd, once again I’m merely seeking a concession by gun enthusiasts that the world would be a better, safer place without guns and the subset of violence that gun brings. Naturally we are not concerned with law abiding, responsible gun owners but they do lose guns, get them stolen, and even flip out themselves once in a while so the scenario is that ALL guns would be removed. I’m not suggesting we roll back time to a period where transportation took weeks, months for law enforcement – if it existed – to reach a territory to address crime. Or return us to a Lord – servitude structure or any other form of warlord, blue blood or unchallenged ruler existed.

    But in 2011, with existing law enforcement, laws, societal norms, education, cultural awareness and acceptance, even door locks and security systems; we are capable of co-existing in a peaceful and honorable way. Yes, there will still be crime and violence but that particular element of gun violence would be missing and that’s huge. You’d say then “well knife assaults would dominate then” and perhaps, but maybe hand-to-hand self defense would become a curriculum in all schools because you can defend against a knife assault but you can’t dodge a bullet or thirty bullets.

    It’s frustrating when, in a debate, we stray off topic by introducing irrelevant elements and/or compare apples to oranges. But If I stay with your reasoning, it only confirms my point…..because for 1000’s of years there was never a recorded case of a gun assault, gun death or accidental death by gun which supports the case of a better, safer society without guns.

  39. Excellent peice Patrick. I appreciate you pointing out the ignorance of Roger Lowenstein. I would extend that to some of the posters here as well.
    Some are plain ignorant, some are intentionally obtuse, and others are disingenuous.

  40. One cannot legislate away emotion.

    When slotted screwdrivers are outlawed…only outlaws will have slotted screwdrivers…..law abiding citizens will rebound with phillips heads.

    One cannot legislate away felonious behavior/mental illness.

    When pencils are outlawed…only outlaws will have pencils…law abiding citizens will rebound with ball point pens.

    Are we really about to register all carpenters and accountants?

    Then criminals will get the idea to carry more than one screwdriver and a pocket full of semi-automatic writing utensils…oh my!
    An unarmed citizenry welcomes tyranny and perpetual victimhood…

  41. Well…. the state of Wa. is re-registering all accountants…

    …a dependant citizenry will vote to raise taxes on the earners for their own benefit… every time.

  42. Sagacious says:

    @Publico

    Half again as many are killed in auto accidents as by guns and well over twice as many in other accidents. More are killed by medical mistreatments meant to heal than guns.

    To make the country really safe, ban cars, doctors and hospitals and all manner of tools and activities as well as guns. Where do you want to stop the asinine attempts to make the world completely safe. And, pray tell, who the hell wants to live in such a boring, but semi-safe, world? I say semi-safe because, rail all you want, many more thousands are going to die in natural disasters and, in the end, we all die anyway.

    In nearly seventy years, I have never been shot but I have been run into by drunks, fallen on by horses and bitten by dogs. Obviously, I have never been killed, however, I do expect to die before too long. But, then, that is life and I have thoroughly enjoyed it, unsafe as it is.

  43. blakeshouse says:

    Gun control is using both hands!!!!!!!!!

  44. Excellent editorial Patrick, a breath of fresh air from the knee-jerk reactionaries that have been all too common these days.

  45. BlaineCGarver says:

    With PC running amok you are already seeing extreme suppression of the first amendment. With the Patriot Act and Homeland Security, you are seeing the trampling of many other rights. At what point will you fight for your rights? An armed man is a citizen, an unarmed man is a slave. Check with the Jews on that one…they know the real deal.

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