Promises on Gun Control

Deconstructing the NY Times Unthoughtful Calls for Unconstitutional Action

               The New York Times might contain “all the news fit to print,” but it also contains bias, distortion, and outright lies supporting failed policies and irrational fears.

On Black Friday, as Americans were setting another record in single-day firearm purchases, the Times editorial board was decrying the lack of action in Congress on gun control, and calling for President Obama to keep his promises to pursue gun control legislation.

In typical, disingenuous Times fashion, they denigrated gun owners for taking Obama’s “tepid remark” about gun control during the presidential debates as a threat, and then characterized these same remarks from Obama as “promises” to pursue a new “assault weapons” ban and to go after “cheap handguns.”

So which is it, Times?  Are Americans crazy to think that Obama might impose restrictions on the firearms they want to own, or did Obama “promise” to do just that?

The Times editors then repeat the common lie that “in his first term Mr. Obama did nothing to cross the gun lobby, ” and cite, as proof of his conciliatory attitude toward gun owners, the fact that he signed legislation requiring that national parks follow the gun laws of the states in which they are located.  Never mind that the pro-rights legislation was attached to a credit card bill that Obama desperately wanted.  Never mind Obama’s active support of an anti-gun UN arms trade treaty.  Never mind his requiring registration of semi-auto rifles in southern border states.  Never mind the whole Fast and Furious debacle which his administration used as proof of the need for the registration scheme.  And never mind the administration blocking the re-importation of thousands of historical M1 Garands and Carbines, and Obama’s proposed 2013 budget which included several anti-gun provisions.

The Times editors suggest that politicians, cowed by “the gun lobby,” are afraid to take action to prevent firearm-related tragedies.  They complain that these politicians “refuse to say much about the 30,000 American lives that are lost each year because of shootings.”

Both assertions are intentionally misleading.  Certainly many politicians take care to avoid incurring the wrath of GunVoters.  Eighty million gun owners represent a lot of political clout.  As to the 30,000 statistic, first, those lives are not lost “because of shootings.”  They are lost because of people’s actions.  Over half of all firearm-related deaths are suicides.  In the US, firearms are the favored method for suicide because they are quick and effective, but they are not the cause, nor would the vast majority of suicides be prevented even if firearms were not available at all.  Japan has a suicide rate much higher than that of the US, but guns are almost never used.  Switzerland has lots of guns, but their suicide rate mirrors their gun-restricted neighbors.  Once a person commits to ending their life, they generally find a means for accomplishing that goal, guns or no guns.  Of the remaining annual firearm deaths, a few are accidents, some are justifiable homicides, and the vast majority of the rest involve known criminals killing each other.

The Times editorial says that “mass shootings… seem to happen ever more frequently,” but the number of multiple-victim shootings has dropped from 150 in 2009 to about 25 in 2012.  Prior to that, Gary Kleck, professor of Criminology at Florida State University, says “It would be misleading to suggest that there was some long-term upward trend in mass shootings since 1976.  The exact numbers are highly unstable, but ignoring small year-to-year fluctuations, there was no trend one way or the other from 1976 to 2009.  Further, if these figures were computed on a per-capita basis, taking into account population increases, the long-term trend in the rate would be downward.”

So either the editorial board at the Times ignored the obvious in their incredibly sloppy and biased “research,” or they intentionally misrepresented the data.  The only reason these tragedies might “seem to happen ever more frequently” is bias and distortion from people like the editorial board of the Times.

This agitprop piece from the Times wraps up with more standard Brady, anti-gun rhetoric, but they suggest no effective solutions.  They mention bans on “assault weapons,” large capacity magazines, and private transfers, but all of those things have been tried and proven to be ineffective at reducing crime, suicide, and accidents.

Crime, violence, and suicide are social problems, not tool problems.  According to Kleck, guns are used in self-defense some 2.5 million times a year.  Increasing restrictions on firearms is more likely to result in more crime, not less.  As a matter of fact, recent studies show that violent crime, including “gun crime,” has been steadily going down over the past 20 years while the number of guns and their easy access has gone up dramatically.

While there is reasoned debate over whether more guns result in less crime, as economist John Lott has famously claimed, the idea that more guns result in more crime has been thoroughly debunked, as have claims that any gun control law actually reduces crime.  Suggestions to the contrary are based solely on emotion and irrational fear.

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