By Chris Knox and Jeff Knox
Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under Bill Clinton, turned ubiquitous talking head on left-leaning cable news and radio, recently published five talking points that he claims shoot holes in the NRA’s (here meaning all gun-rights supporters’) arguments. The points are not at all unique to Mr. Reich, so we thought it would be worthwhile to take a closer look.
Reich’s Point Number 1: Gun laws save lives. Consider the federal assault weapons ban. After it became law in 1994, gun massacres – defined as instances of gun violence in which six or more people were shot and killed – fell by 37 percent. The number of people dying from mass shootings fell by 43 percent. But when Republicans in Congress let the ban lapse in 2004, gun massacres more than doubled.
Reich doesn’t cite a source for his claims because there is no credible source drawing that conclusion. Start with his definition of “gun massacres” being shootings resulting in 6 or more deaths. Despite a rash of those horrible events, massacres, by any definition, remain rare. But because of their horrific nature, they draw media, following the ancient newspaper adage, “If it bleeds, it leads.” As a result a the nation fixes its gaze on a single-digit percentage of all crime involving guns, and a fraction of a percent of overall deaths.
With such a small sample size, a difference of one or two incidents has a dramatic impact when presented as a percentage. Thirty-seven percent of 10,000 would be a significant result, but 37% of 3 would be one more – meaningless statistical anomaly. There’s no way of knowing exactly what Reich’s percentages are based on though, because he provides no source, and most tellingly, no real numbers. In short, Reich’s first point is just short of a total fabrication.
Reich’s Point Number 2: The Second Amendment was never intended to permit mass slaughter. When the Constitution was written more than 200 years ago, the framers’ goal was [to] permit a “well-regulated militia,” not to enable Americans to terrorize their communities.
The First Amendment was written more than 200 years ago and the founders’ goal was to protect people’s right to assemble in person, and protect the press – newspapers printed on paper, not to enable the mass propagation of fake news by internet trolls. But few today would argue that the First Amendment does not apply to online communications. The rights recognized by the Bill of Rights are not dependent on technology.
It is also worth noting that during the framers’ time, it was common for private citizens who could afford them to own canons, and even fully-armed warships. The right to arms does not “permit mass slaughter,” and restricting that right does not prevent mass slaughter. Every day over 100 million lawful gunowners don’t kill anyone or terrorize their communities. Restricting their rights will not prevent evil people from doing evil things.
Reich’s Point Number 3: More guns have not, and will not, make us safer. More than 30 studies show that guns are linked to an increased risk for violence and homicide. In 1996, Australia initiated a mandatory buyback program to reduce `the number of guns in private ownership. Their firearm homicide rate fell 42 percent in the seven years that followed.
Once again, Mr. Reich throws around “studies” but fails to mention which ones. We can easily present more than 30 studies that show that gun control laws don’t reduce risks of violence. In fact, in the late 1970s Wright and Rossi produced a study funded by the Carter Justice Department of the available literature in order to determine which “gun control” programs were most effective. They found none. In the mid-2000s, both the Centers for Disease Control and the National Science Foundation did independent reviews with the same objective. Both reviews reached the same conclusion as Wright and Rossi: that there is no clear evidence that any gun control laws have effectively reduced crime.
Not surprisingly, Mr. Reich also fails to mention that murder rates in Australia were declining prior to the massacre that triggered their gun ban and confiscation. The rates went up slightly in the year right after the ban, then resumed their downward trend at a slower pace than previously, and slower than the rate enjoyed in the U.S., where gun laws were being liberalized, and gun ownership was skyrocketing.
Reich’s Point Number 4: The vast majority of Americans want stronger gun safety laws. According to Gallup, 96 percent of Americans support universal background checks, 75 percent support a 30-day waiting period for all gun sales, and 70 percent favor requiring all privately owned guns to be registered with the police. Even the vast majority of gun owners are in favor of common-sense gun safety laws.
Poll results depend on how questions are phrased and asked. A good many Americans support some of the general ideas around gun control, but absolutely reject specific proposals. Rephrase the question about “universal” (sic) background checks to ask whether it should be a felony for you to lend your gun to a friend for target practice, and different answers answers come back, as they did in Nevada and Maine when such proposals were put to voters.
According to Gallup’s polling, Hillary Clinton won in November 2016. But their poll does not count.
Reich’s Point Number 5: The National Rifle Association is a special interest group with a stranglehold on the Republican Party. In 2016, the group spent a record (for them) $55 million on elections. Their real goal is to protect a few big gun manufacturers who want to enlarge their profits.
America is better than the NRA. America is the young people from Parkland, Florida, who are telling legislators to act like adults. It’s time all of us listen.
Gun prohibitionists routinely target the NRA instead of ordinary American gun owners. It’s certainly easier to stir fear and uncertainty about a large organization funded by a faceless industry than to risk humanizing the opposition. Even so, the NRA’s power does not arise from industry money, it comes from millions of individuals who freely choose to defend their rights with their voices, their votes, and their dollars.
Something else worth mentioning is that while Reich and other media accuse NRA of buying politicians with their $55 million in election spending in 2016, labor unions reportedly spent $1.7 billion on those elections.
If those talking points are the strongest assault an Ivy League lawyer can launch against the unfettered right to arms for defense of self, family, home, and homeland, then the Second Amendment should be safe for a while longer. Unfortunately, these and similar points rarely get any sort of honest scrutiny in the media shouting matches, so it’s up to you to call them out every time they pop up again.