Debunking the Five Most Common Myths About Gun Control
Posted On January 14, 2014 armedwithreson.com
1. More Guns, Less Crime In response to John R. Lott’s book “More Guns, Less Crime,” a sixteen-member panel of the United States Research Council convened in 2004 and 2010 to address the relationship between right-to-carry laws and crime rates. They found, at best, gun availability has a negligible effect on crime rates and, at worse, causes an increase in aggravated assault rates. Two Yale professors, Ayres and Donohue, further reviewed Lott’s findings, and discovered that his data contained numerous coding and econometric errors that, when corrected, led to the opposite conclusion—RTC laws only increase crime. This was the second time Lott presented findings with coding errors, and the embarrassment after Ayres and Donohue’s devastating response led Lott to remove his name from the final paper.
One of the most recent and largest studies to date on gun violence in America concludes that widespread gun ownership is the driving force behind gun violence in the United States. The study compiled data from 50 states between 1981-2010 to examine the relationship between gun ownership and homicide. Because no good data exists on national rates of gun ownership, the study used the best available proxy for gun ownership, the percentage of suicides involving a firearm. After accounting for national trends in violent crime as well as 18 control variables, the study concluded the following: “for each percentage point increase in gun ownership the firearm homicide rate increased by 0.9%”
2. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people
Lawnmowers don’t mow lawns, people do, but if want to be exceedingly efficient about it with very little effort or time, you will need a lawnmower. The obvious problem with the “guns don’t kill people” argument is that it confuses proximate and root causes. We can acknowledge that the root cause of maladaptive behavior is human decision-making, but that says nothing about how proximate causes, such as firearms, exacerbates the effect of bad decisions.
Compared to other high-income countries, for example, the United States has a firearm homicide rate that is 6.9 times higher than other high-income countries, a firearm suicide rate that is 5.8 times higher than other high-income countries, and an unintentional firearm death rate that is 5.2 times higher than other countries. In fact, 80% of all firearm deaths in the developed world occur in the United States.
In response to this overwhelming evidence, gun advocates argue that the problem can be solved simply with even more guns. 3. Criminals don’t follow laws Criminals, definitionally, do not follow laws; this is an uninteresting tautology, not a meaningful statement about social realities. Serial rapists, murderers, and thieves rarely follow laws prohibiting rape, murder, and theft, but that clearly doesn’t mean we should abandon laws that ban such activity. Just because a criminal doesn’t obey one law does not mean they don’t obey any laws.
Law enforcement, rather obviously, can prevent law-abiding citizens from becoming criminals by forcing people to internalize the cost of breaking laws. One survey asked prison inmates who did not use a gun to carry out their crime why they chose not to: 79 percent chose “get a stiffer sentence” and 59 percent chose “Against the Law.”
Contrary to the gun lobby’s claim that “when guns are outlawed, only the outlaws have guns,” the experience in both Great Britain and Japan has instead been “When guns are outlawed, very few outlaws will have guns.” Indeed, gun crime in Japan and England is virtually nonexistent compared to American standards. In fact, 60% of the time when a ‘”firearm” is used in England, the firearm is a dummy replica or a bluff.
4. Armed populations prevent tyranny
Even a cursory reading of history finds that militias, especially unregulated ones, are overwhelmingly inimical to the functioning of a free society. In Vietnam, Afghanistan, Cuba, Somalia, Iraq, and southern Lebanon, even while fighting against foreign rule, these countries’ militias actively worked against the establishment of a free state. Finding developed country analogs for these examples is impossible, as there are simply no wealthy countries, with the exception of Costa Rica, that use militias for self-defense. For examples closer to home, we can look to how miserably the Ku Klux Klan, the Black Panthers, and Neo-Nazi factions (all examples of real militias) failed to promote a free society.
It is also demonstrably false, as gun advocates argue, that armed populations are never given the opportunity to stop tyranny because they are disarmed first. Yemen, for example, is the second most heavily armed country in the world (per capita), and is currently embroiled in a civil war between a Western dictatorship and Jihadist groups. Saddam Hussein, by any definition a tyrant, invigilated over a brutal regime despite the fact that Iraqi people were heavily armed.
The most common form of “armed populations prevent tyranny” is “Hitler took the guns.” First, the idea that a small group of heavily armed Jews could have succeeded where the Polish and French armies failed is laughable. Second, the argument fails to recognize that most strict gun control implemented in the Wiemar Republic was implemented to prevent armed coups from materializing by the Nazis or the Communists. It failed. When Hitler seized power, he implemented policy in 1938 that actually loosened restrictions on gun ownership.
Intimidation: A study of battered women in California found that, if a gun was in the home, it was used to threaten and harm women in 66% of cases. Fewer than 7% of these women had used the gun in self-defense. A national random survey found that hostile uses of guns for intimidation, such as brandishing the firearm during argument, or going outside to shoot the gun during an altercation, occurred more frequently than self-defense uses.
Accidents: Death certificate data from 2003 to 2007 finds that 680 Americans per year were killed through accidental firearm use. Data from the National Violent Death Reporting System finds that half of these deaths occurred in the home, half of the victims were under 25, and half of all deaths were inflicted by someone other than the owner of the gun (e.g. friend, family member).
Suicides: More Americans kill themselves with guns than all other methods combined. Over ten case-controlled studies find that guns increase the risk of suicide occurring at the home for all members of the household. It is also not the case that gun owners are inherently more suicidal—this has been tested by numerous studies, and the relationship between gun ownership and suicide appears causal. Because most suicide attempts occur during transient risk periods of impulsivity, lasting less than five minutes, reducing the availability of firearms is one of the most effective methods of suicide reduction.
Homicides: From 2003 to 2007, 33 Americans per day were murdered with guns. A very small minority of these homicides were planned, with a large proportion of them occurring during hostile arguments over domestic problems. These arguments escalate and, in the presence of a gun, often lead to fatal consequences. One of the most cited studies examining homicide in the home compares 400 homicide victims killed in their home throughout 3 metropolitan areas. After controlling for multiple variables, the study found that the presence of a gun was a strong risk factor for homicide in the home. This association was driven almost exclusively by homicide committed at the hands of a family member of intimate acquaintance.
The data are clear: a gun in the home does not make you any safer.
London After Midnight / Sean Brennan
Is 'Polar Vortex' Attributable to Climate Change? Yes.
As temperatures plummet, a reminder: 'Every weather event in the modern world is attributable to climate change.'
- Jon Queally, staff writer
A man wears a face mask and heavy clothes while walking through downtown Springfield, Ill., in blowing and falling snow as a strong winter storm moves through the Midwest Sunday, Jan. 5, 2014. (AP/Seth Perlman)Weather isn't climate and the climate isn't weather, but if someone asks whether the 'polar vortex' now being experience by tens of millions of people across the country is driven by climate change, you don't have to wait for the next wave of scientific research to come out. The answer is 'Yes.'
Sadly and predictably, however—as much of the nation faces the coldest temperatures seen in nearly two decades on Monday and into Tuesday— the push of bone-chilling arctic air into southern Canada and much of the United States has the climate change denialists pushing their familiar falsehoods about how near-record lows nationwide somehow disproves global warming.
In just one example, multi-millionaire and political pundit Donald Trump took to Fox News on Monday morning to say that the freezing temperatures help prove that there is a great "hoax" around climate change. "You know," Tump said when asked to explain, "I think the scientists are having a lot of fun."
On Monday, federal and state agencies issued dire warnings about freezing temperatures that have blanketed the midwest, saying that millions of Americans are under threat by windchill temperatures today and tomorrow that could be life-threatening. Temperature readings, factoring in windchill effect, were reported as low as -63°F in Montana and -50°F in places in North Dakota and Minnesota.
But the effort by Trump and others to portray the phenomenon known as the "arctic vortex" as some an event that discredits the international scientific consensus on the relationship between industrial society's relationship to planetary climate change, however, is being met with a firm rebuke of its own by climate activists, weather experts, and scientists.
As climate justice campaigner Jamie Henn of 350.org tweeted Monday:
The article referenced by Henn, wrriten by Greg Landen at ScienceBlogs.com, says that the "apparent contrast between extreme cold and global warming is actually an illusion."
In what way? Landen continues:
The Polar Vortex, a huge system of moving swirling air that normally contains the polar cold air, has shifted so it is not sitting right on the pole as it usually does. We are not seeing an expansion of cold, an ice age, or an anti-global warming phenomenon. We are seeing the usual cold polar air taking an excursion.
So, this cold weather we are having does not disprove global warming.
In fact, it may be because of global warming. The Polar Vortex can go off center any given winter, but we have been having some strange large scale weather activity over the last few years that is thought to be related to global warming that may have contributed to this particular weather event (explained here). This may be an effect of this strangeness, though the jury is still probably out on this particular weather event.
According to Dr. Dim Coumou, a senior scientist at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) near Berlin, who spoke to Agence France-Presse, what drives the polar vortex is the difference in temperature between the Arctic region and those in the mid-latitudes closer to the equator.
"The reason why we see these strong meanderings is still not fully settled," Coumou told AFP, "but it's clear that the Arctic has been warming very rapidly. We have good data on this. Arctic temperatures have risen much more than other parts of the globe."
The idea that any particular "weather event" is or is not climate change, however, belies the deeper fact that all weather events are complex results of underlying climate conditions. As Jim Naureckas, a journalist at the media watchdog group FAIR, explained to his readers in the aftermath of Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines last year, "attributing particular weather events to climate change is ridiculously easy."
The reason for that, he continues, is because (emphasis his):
"Every weather event in the modern world is attributable to climate change. This is because weather is a chaotic system, which is to say it varies wildly based on initial conditions. Once we raised global temperature by a degree Celsius—which is an enormous intervention in the physical world—we irrevocably changed all weather, producing an entirely different set of events than the ones that would have otherwise occurred."
In other words, the whole debate about whether this hurricane, that tornado, or the current 'polar vortex' is or isn't climate change misses the point.
Writing about the climate dynamics that are driving the current 'polar vortex' event Jeff Masters, meteorologist and founder of the popular Wunderground blog, explains:
In the winter, the 24-hour darkness over the snow and ice-covered polar regions allows a huge dome of cold air to form. This cold air increases the difference in temperature between the pole and the Equator, and leads to an intensification of the strong upper-level winds of the jet stream. The strong jet stream winds act to isolate the polar regions from intrusions of warmer air, creating a "polar vortex" of frigid counter-clockwise swirling air over the Arctic. The chaotic flow of the air in the polar vortex sometimes allows a large dip (a sharp trough of low pressure) to form in the jet stream over North America, allowing the Arctic air that had been steadily cooling in the northern reaches of Canada in areas with 24-hour darkness to spill southwards deep into the United States. In theory, the 1.5°F increase in global surface temperatures that Earth has experienced since 1880 due to global warming should reduce the frequency of 1-in-20 year extreme cold weather events like the current one. However, it is possible that climate change could alter jet stream circulation patterns in a way that could increase the incidence of unusual jet stream "kinks" that allow cold air to spill southwards over the Eastern U.S., a topic I have blogged about extensively, and plan to say more about later this week.
Lastly, this video posted at the Mother Nature Network and featuring Masters as well as Rutgers University professor Jennifer Francis, helps explain the dynamics by which a warming planet can result in freezing cold weather patterns and extremes of all kinds:
London After Midnight / Sean Brennan