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Of Short Memories

Approximately 1.5 million children died during the Holocaust.

In 1938, just after the German pogrom against the Jews known as Kristallnacht, Great Britain eased its visa requirements to allow children under the age of 17 from Nazi Germany, or from any of its annexed territories, to enter the country on temporary travel visas. From December 2, 1938 until May 14, 1940 between 9,000 to 10,000 children – about 7,500 of them Jewish – were rescued from Germany, Austria, Poland, and Czechoslovakia. This was done even though Great Britain was also experiencing the severe effects of the Great Depression – the value of British exports was halved, industrial output had fallen by a third, unemployment rose to 20% (with some areas reaching 70% unemployment). While some areas of the economy around London still prospered, poverty and unemployment devastated Northern England and Wales; and still they took in 10,000 children in need.

Between 1934 – 1945, in the United States 1,400 mostly Jewish children were rescued from Europe and the Nazi’s atrocities. Why did Great Britain wind up rescuing more than seven times as many children in just 1 and a half years than the United States did in 11 years?

  •  Great Britain’s program was well known (the Refugee Children’s Movement or kindertransport) and promoted. The American One Thousand Children effort was kept quiet and low key so as not to antagonize the isolationists and anti-Semitists in this country.
  •  Great Britain loosened the laws on immigration to allow these children to enter and stay. The United States did not, instead maintaining strict quotas even after the events of Kristallnacht made it clear the Nazi’s intentions towards Jews. Legislation was proposed, the Wagner-Rogers Bill, that would have admitted 20,000 Jewish refuges under the age of 14 to enter the United States. It failed to pass.

 

Of Ignorance

Guatemala – Due to crime cartels and gangs (often consisting of retired generals and police officers) there are 52 murders per 100,000 people every year. In the United States is it only five per 100,000, and only one per 100,000 for England. In 2009 6be84fda5cf0dc80a7c6b782ad45be3c_XLthe number of people shot, beaten, and knifed to death in Guatemala outnumbered Iraqi’s who died in the war zone in Iraq. More than 2/3 of homicides in Guatemala are unsolved. Police are both ineffective and corrupt.

Guatemala also has the fourth highest rate of chronic malnutrition in the world. According to a study by the US based research institute The Fund for Peace, this will get worse.

Gangs in Guatemala force children to join, usually young teens. The average age of those recruited has been going down and as of 2012 was close to 12 years old. Girls are recruited to be “girlfriends” (although last year two girls – age 13 and 15 were arrested for assassinating a 20 year old man). Boys to be soldiers. Even some kindergarteners have been recruited. Schools are often just as much recruiting grounds as educational institutions. Refusal to be recruited often results in beatings at first, and then escalates from there. Extreme poverty also eases the decision, even in the face of unwillingness and fear for what they might have to do.

Honduras – In addition to being the poorest country in Latin America, the Honduras also are region’s most violent and crime ridden. It also has one of the most corrupt police forces in Latin America. Often the political and economic elites of this country are the ones directing the activities of the drug cartels and crime syndicates.

Gangs in Hondura force children to join, usually young teens. The average age of those recruited has been going down and as of 2012 was close to 12 years old. Girls are recruited to be “girlfriends”. Boys to be soldiers. Even some kindergarteners have been recruited. Schools are often just as much recruiting grounds as educational institutions. Refusal to be recruited often results in beatings at first, and then escalates from there.  Extreme poverty also eases the decision, even in the face of 1unwillingness and fear for what they might have to do.

El Salvador – According to the United Nations office on Drugs and crime, El Salvador is one of the most dangerous places in the world, having a homicide rate of 69.2 per 100,000 in 2011. Again, corruption among public officials and police is rampant.
Gangs in El Salvador force children to join, usually young teens. The average age of those recruited has been going down and as of 2012 was close to 12 years old. Girls are recruited to be “girlfriends”. Boys to be soldiers. Even some kindergarteners have been recruited. Schools are often just as much recruiting grounds as educational institutions. Refusal to be recruited often results in beatings at first, and then escalates from there. Extreme poverty also eases the decision, even in the face of unwillingness and fear for what they might have to do.

According to the Border Patrol, 3 out of 4 current unaccompanied children are from the Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador.

In 2008 the William Wilberforce Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act was voted on and passed by both chambers of Congress without issue or objection. This law was one of the last law signed by President George W. Bush before leaving office. Its purpose was to fight against human trafficking, including sex traffic of children.
Towards that end, any child entering the country alone who was not from Canada or Mexico was to be given the opportunity to appear at an immigration hearing to determine their status. It was also recommended in this law that they have access to counsel. Further, these children were to be turned over to the care of the Department of Health and Human Services, placed “in the least restrictive setting that is in the best interest of the child” and to explore reuniting these children with their family members.

This law was originally pushed by a bipartisan group of lawmakers as well as by evangelical associations concerned with sex trafficking. It passed unanimously.

Health – Despite the rumors, illegal immigrant children pose a very low health risk to the United States. Despite the rumor, they do not have the Ebola virus, which is an African disease and not one found in Latin America. Despite the rumors, dengue is spread by mosquitoes, not people.

679aa550c461b354cef4c5f72fe8c7ab_XLWhat these children do have are illnesses related to long journeys – diarrhea and respiratory illnesses – that do not pose a risk to Americans. In fact, although the U.S. has a 92% vaccination rate for our children, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras have a 93% vaccination rate for theirs. There is no danger of plague being unleashed upon American citizens by these children.

Gangmember Infiltration of US – Yes, there are gangs in the countries these children are fleeing from. That is why they are running after all. And yes, 16 children have been found with links to gangs. Sixteen out of over 50,000. And are these children trying to hook up to gangs here (unlikely) or are they trying to get out of the gangs by moving far away?

Here is a good article from Insight Crime on this.

Nevertheless, it is still possible that some of the youths are active gang members, but this is unlikely to pose a serious security threat to the United States.

Latin street gangs, especially the MS13, already have a presence in the United States and there is ample evidence that they coordinate criminal activities with counterparts in Central America, in particular in El Salvador. Gangs on both sides of the border likely have access to established networks for the movement of arms, drugs, people and money. It is therefore unlikely they would utilize the routes of common migrants, which are arduous, dangerous and risky, for any important gang operations.

The numbers support this; while the US authorities have discovered 16 gang members so far, if Townhall.com’s account is accurate, this is a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of children crossing the border.

Border Security – If they are being stopped and detained, then we are securing our borders at the entry point. What more would you have them do – shoot on sight? More boots on the ground would not hurt, but that is not the problem. The problem is that we have this massive flood coming in and we ARE stopping them. Now we have to figure out how to handle them after we have stopped them.

 

Of Illegal Immigrant Children

Today – July 15, 2014 – there are protestors in Tucson Arizona. They are protesting the bussing of 40 immigrant children to a nearby academy for troubled youths. Holding signs reading “Return to sender” “Take them away from here” and “Go home non-Yankees”, they plan to physically block the buses. Just as did:

July 1, 2014. Murrieta California. There protestors shouting “Go back home”, “Nobody wants you”, and “USA” physically blocked three buses carrying illegal immigrant children.Protesters-block-immigration-bus-jpg

July 14, 2014. Vassar Michigan. Protestors waving American flags, holding signs, and praying together protested the possible arrival of 120 illegal immigrant children to be temporarily housed there while they receive their vaccinations and basic education before either being re-united with relatives or going into foster care. The process is supposed to take 2-4 weeks. Hence the adjective “temporarily”. Yet even this temporary is seemingly too long.

Today I see too many voices yelling at children. I see too many people displaying hatred to children. Today I see too many Americans following in the mindset of the 1930’s. No, these children are not fleeing a holocaust. But they are fleeing for their lives. Dead is dead whether in a Nazi gas chamber or beaten to death by a syndicate crime soldier. The crisis is the same, the lives of refugee children.

I hear many asking why are these children sent alone. They point out, quite rightly, that it is a long and dangerous journey from El Salvador, from Guatemala, from Honduras. However they and their family know that dangerous as that journey is it is still safer than staying in an impoverished home and being recruited for a gang. Just as the mother of Moses launched him to an uncertain fate in a basket upon the waters of the Nile, so too have these parents launched their children fate in the US, knowing too well what their fate will be should they stay.

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras — Twelve-year-old Maynor Serrano points to the rows of houses where his friends and neighbors used to live. All are gone — many fleeing to the U.S.

Two of his friends were killed as 10-year-olds, their bodies chopped to pieces in a suspected gang vendetta.
He saw homes reduced to crumbling wrecks, their walls pockmarked with bullet holes. Entire neighborhoods were abandoned in hours — the result of monstrous gang violence.

Some houses became casas locas, crazy homes, for torturing families in this macabre city, which has the highest homicide rate in the world. Daily newspapers are filled with graphic photographs of bodies.

Like many, Maynor Serrano yearns to escape to the U.S., where he has relatives.

“It’s tough to live without hope,” he said. “If it’s not there, you go look for it.”

fu_children_detention123_140606_16x9_992Some call me a bleeding heart. It is a label that I willingly, proudly, and loudly embrace. After all, for atheists, isn’t empathy for others’ pain, suffering and problems an essential part of what we are? Isn’t this an essential part of why we create societies? Without empathy, without our acting on these impulses, we, eventually, lose what makes us human. Bleeding hearts help set goals that reason and logic then find ways to best achieve.

For the Jews and Christians, I have already mentioned Moses. For Christians, remember also that Joseph and Mary and baby Jesus were refugees too at one time. Remember to love one another. Remember your Bible and Jesus’ words in Matthew 25: 37-40:

“37 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’
40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

For all those who are religious, isn’t concern for the unfortunate, the poor and suffering, the needy an essential part of your religion? From what I have read, whether Buddhist or Jew, whether Muslim or Sikh, almost all religions require one to help the other, to treat those in need as us and not them.

I am not saying that we should make all of these children citizens. No. What I am saying is that we have a law and a process set up to determine whether these children are refugees and in need of protection and shelter. Fund it so that those organizations set to implement this law and these processes can do their job quickly, efficiently, and effectively. And then if need be, if they would be in danger if returned, then we find homes for them here – just as we have for so many in danger and need, and just as we did not do for the Jewish children.

I am saying that they should have legal counsel during these proceedings to ensure that they do not become merely window dressings for a rubber stamp saying “Go Away”.

I am saying that while here, while waiting for the process to work itself out, they need to receive medical care, food, and a proper place to live.

I am saying that we should not let our bigotry, fear, hatred, uncertainty get the better of us and display our lack of humanity by picketing children and shouting hateful words towards them. They are not the source of your frustration and disagreements. They are merely seeking shelter from a harsh world. Treat them as children in need.

I am saying that we should find solutions that are true to what makes us human.

I am saying that instead of ignoring our bleeding heart, denying its existence, or killing it we should be healing that which causes it to bleed.

hA66C1918

 

While I am not normally a fan of those who use worldviews to explain all the conflicts and problems in the world, it can, at times, when used judiciously, be a useful concept. This is one of those times.

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While Mr. Correia and I both have the same goals – reducing the number of shootings along with the number of innocents killed, and protecting our Constitutional rights – our ideas about how best to do this differs radically. And a great part of the reason they do is because of our differing view of our society and of how the world works.

This difference lies in how we answer two questions:

“Are we just individuals who happen to live close to each other, or are we part of a community and society?”

“How dangerous is this world that both Mr. Correia and I live; specifically the United States? “

The answer to the first question has a large subjective element, although there are relevant objective facts that should inform that subjective value judgment.

The answer to the second question is largely an objective one, although one that may be at odds with subjective evaluations.

Also, both questions are linked.

However, before going on to how Mr. Correia and I differ in our answers to those two questions, let me first point out the flaws in arguments and reasoning that Mr. Correia shares with the NRA and their allies.

1. When considering whether guns are a benefit or a bane, you need to look at total deaths and injuries from guns versus how many lives have been saved from death or injury. Too often they focus on just crime, and even then only on those instances when criminals are stopped or at mass shootings. What they do not consider are:

052011_WEB_a1_SHOOTING_2_v_t618A) Accidental shootings such as the one June 14th this year in a Jasper IN Walmart, where a man’s handgun went off as he was reaching in his pocket for something else. Or, more tragically, when a 19 month old boy was accidently shot and killed by his four year old sibling on April 29th of this year in Wichita Kansas.

B) They always make it sound as if only criminals shoot people, when the reality is that neighbors, family members, friends,  pissed off non-criminal strangers also shoot people. So far this year there has been several shootings of this sort.

2. From 2005 through 2010, over 1.4 million firearms were stolen from homes and other properties. That averages out to 232,400 guns every year according to the Justice Department of Justice Statistics. The problems and risks posed by these stolen guns needs to be considered when evaluating gun policies.

3. Almost always they either argue against the banning of all guns – something very few are proposing – or they slide the argument that way. This allows them to avoid the fact that if we are not proposing to ban all guns that people can still buy and carry guns if they feel they need them for self-defense, thus rendering that argument of their moot: law abiding citizens will still be able to purchase guns.

4. Argue that guns are needed for protection from the government. To that, I will refer you to my blog point 5 of my blog “Of Knives and Guns and….Fruit

5. If any proposal other than more guns and freer access to them is shown to have even just one failure in stopping a shooting,VT_April_16_memorial then the whole idea is fatally flawed and should be scrapped. The reality though is that perfection is not a reasonable standard as there are no policies which achieve that exalted status. A more rational and reasonable standard is does the new policy do better at reducing gun deaths and injuries than the previous one, without harming our constitutional rights.

Returning now to the two questions –the first of which was are we a people who happen to live near each other, or are we part of a society.

Mr. Correia makes much of individual actions and equipping individuals to take care of themselves. He downplays, mocks, and denigrates any societal attempt to solve this problem as not only being worthless, but being actually harmful. His view is summed up nicely by the NRA’s “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun”.

My view is that societal attempts to control gun violence are better and most likely to be effective. This includes such things as relying on the police and justice system and making them more effective, comprehensive background checks, dealing more effectively with issues of mental health, anti-bullying programs, comprehensive gun control laws, providing quality education, a strong economy, and more. It is the totality of these actions that have more to do with reducing violence than individuals armed with guns do.green2

Here are a few quotes that, I believe, illustrate Mr. Correia’s views about society and about how dangerous it is to live in our society.

The gun culture is who protects our country. Sure, there are plenty of soldiers and cops who are issued a gun and who use it as part of their job who could care less. However, the people who build the guns, really understand the guns, actually enjoy using the guns, and usually end up being picked to teach everybody else how to use the guns are the gun culture.

I find it interesting here that it is not our laws and justice system, it is not our culture and society, our shared values amid the differing ones that protect us and our country, but the gun culture. And what does this gun culture consist of? He says regular people, but I think this captures more who he is really talking about:

But for the sake of math, let’s say that there are only 80 million gun owners, and let’s say that the government decides to round up all those pesky guns once and for all. Let’s be generous and say that 90% of the gun owners don’t really believe in the 2ndAmendment, and their guns are just for duck hunting.
….

So ten percent refuse to turn their guns in. That is 8 million instantaneous felons. Let’s say that 90% of them are not wanting to comply out of sheer stubbornness. Let’s be super generous and say that 90% of them would still just roll over and turn their guns when pressed or legally threatened. That leaves 800,000 Americans who are not turning their guns in, no matter what. To put that in perspective there are only about 700,000 police officers in the whole country.

Let’s say that these hypothetical 10% of 10% are willing to actually fight to keep their guns. Even if my hypothetical estimate of 800,000 gun nuts willing to fight for their guns is correct, it is still 97% higher than the number of insurgents we faced at any one time in Iraq, a country about the size of Texas.

So, the gun culture consists of 10% of 10% of 80 million gun owners (out of a country with a population over 300 million). Mr. Correia is not talking everyday people. This is especially true when you look at the trends over the years and see that the number of people who own guns is declining.

The gun culture that Mr. Correia is referring to is a minority group, one that believes strongly in total self-reliance. However, that is not the way homo sapiens was meant to live. Alone, we are easy prey. As a society, we are a huge success (so far).

Which now leads me into the next question, since the two questions are actually related. Are we living in violent times, violent enough to make carrying guns a sensible precaution? The reasons I say these two questions – are we individuals or part of a society, and how violent are our times – are related is discussed in Steven Pinker’s book The Better Angels of Our Nature.

In this book he documents how through the ages there has been a downward trend in violence of all sorts – murders, wars, cruelty, etc. It has not been a smooth and even trend, but it is there.
And one of the reasons for this trend is, from the NY Times book review:

Pinker sees this decline as part of the “civilizing process,” a term he borrows from the sociologist Norbert Elias, who attributes it to the consolidation of the power of the state above feudal loyalties, and to the effect of the spread of commerce. (Consistent with this view, Pinker argues that at least part of the reason for the regional differences in American homicide rates is that people in the South are less likely to accept the state’s monopoly on force. Instead, a tradition of self-help justice and a “culture of honor” sanctions retaliation when one is insulted or mistreated. Statistics bear this out — the higher homicide rate in the South is due to quarrels that turn lethal, not to more killings during armed robberies — and experiments show that even today Southerners respond more strongly to insults than Northerners.)

Pinker also identifies five historical forces which have lead to the declines in violence. Although all are relevant, let me just mention that one that has the most direct relevance to the issue of gun violence and its reduction. And that force would be the rise of the modern nation state with its accompanying judiciary.

With the rise of a judicial system and the modern nation state, the legitimate use of force by individuals was instead shifted to the state. Instead of each individual having to use force to defend themselves and to solve problems, the judicial system and he state took over. This defuses the individual’s “temptation of exploitative attack, inhibit the impulse for revenge, and circumvent…self-serving biases”.

As for the other four forces, let me just say that they largely have to do with bringing us together as people by allowing us to see the others as like us in important ways. Societal changes in other words.

The reality of this can be readily seen in our own country and its crime statistics.

While living in the US, can be deadly dangerous at times, it is only so at times. For the most part life in the US does not consist of deadly dangers. I know that in my own life, during my 58 years of living, I have investigated child abuse in which I often went to the worst areas of Fort Worth and my wife and I have lived in some of those worst areas for a time. During all of this I never owned or carried a gun, and was never the victim of violence.

And for most Americans, this is true. Which is one of the reasons that violent acts take up a significant part of the news, especially those that result in multiple deaths. If they were common, they would not be nearly so well covered. Or consider this, according to FBI statistics, in a nation with over 310 million people:

  •   In 2011, an estimated 1,203,564 violent crimes occurred nationwide, a decrease of 3.8 percent from the 2010 estimate.
  •   When considering 5- and 10-year trends, the 2011 estimated violent crime total was 15.4 percent below the 2007 level and 15.5 percent below the 2002 level.
  •   There were an estimated 386.3 violent crimes per 100,000 inhabitants in 2011.
  •   Aggravated assaults accounted for the highest number of violent crimes reported to law enforcement at 62.4 percent. Robbery comprised 29.4 percent of violent crimes, forcible rape accounted for 6.9 percent, and murder accounted for 1.2 percent of estimated violent crimes in 2011.
  •   Information collected regarding type of weapon showed that firearms were used in 67.7 percent of the nation’s murders, 41.3 percent of robberies, and 21.2 percent of aggravated assaults.

While too many were the victims of violent crime, even more people were not. And, in that same report, you will find that the number of violent crimes is going down – from over 1.4 million in 2007 to a bit over 1.2 million in 2011.

And remember above where I said that it is societal institutions that have more to do with reducing violence than individuals armed with guns? While the crime rate is decreasing so too is the number of people who own guns (who have constituted less than half of the population for many decades). If guns were the reason for the drop in crime rate I would expect to see the number of people owning guns increasing and not decreasing.

In my view of the world we should be striving to continue this trend of making the world, and our country, a less violent place, a place where people do not feel the need to have guns for protection and instead can focus on those things that make life worth living and enjoying.

Mr. Correia seems to harken back to the day when friends and families were the source of protection and justice – a day of Second-Amendment-militiasfeuds such as the Hatfields and McCoys in American history. Rather like the man in Montana who, tiring of having stuff stolen from his garage, installed sensors outside his garage, a video monitoring system inside his garage, and then left the garage door open and waited.

This man could have had the motion detector turn the lights on, used the monitor system to take a picture, and called the police and given them the picture of the boy. And, if he was worried that the boy was going to break in, stand by the kitchen door and if the boy tries to turn the locked doorknob to open the door then warn him “I have a gun and will shoot”.

Instead he decides to forgo societal solutions for an individualist one. He goes out and shoots into the garage, blindly, arguing that it is his right to defend his home. As a result, a 17 year old foreign exchange student doing a stupid teenage prank is now dead. A dumb prank, but not one deserving the death penalty.

Now, I am not saying that this is what Mr. Correia wants – I am sure he does not. But his way, nonetheless, is a step back towards that world and will result in only more violence.

Is this the sort of society we want to create – one in which each of us has to totally look out for ourselves against everyone? And in which those who do face no consequences. At one time, perhaps, this sort of self-sufficiency made sense. Today though it does not, and our moving beyond this has led to less murders and a safer society than in times past. I do not wish to take any step that leads backwards, which is where I fear that Mr. Correia’s policies would. Maybe not totally, but at least part way down that path.

I see the American world as having dangerous moments, but largely able to be navigated by people in peaceful means. I would continue that trend seen in the FBI statistics and in Pinker’s book. And I believe that it can be done – that we can create a more peaceful society without giving up our rights to vote, to believe, to speak out, to associate. I believe that a more equal and just world can be created (not a perfect just and equal world, but one more so than today).

Instead of arming everyone and having people openly carrying heat , I believe that we would be better off focusing on preventive measures – mental health, anti-bullying programs, better protections for the poor and powerless, etc – and on establishing better controls on that most destructive of weapons, guns. Controls that apply equally to all states and cities and parts of the United States. These controls would include:
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- The continued highly effective ban on automatic weapons.

- The banning of large ammunition clips.

- The requirement that all gun owners attend a class on gun laws and gun safety.

- All guns must be registered at time of purchase.

- All guns must be re-registered every year.

- If sold, that transaction must be reported immediately.

- Persons buying guns must pass a thorough background check.

- We need to create a more effective network that includes criminal history, mental health issues, and restraining orders that can be accessed by those selling guns.

- Ammunition logs should be kept of all ammo purchased.

While many in the NRA, and I am sure Mr. Correia himself, would loudly protest this, they would be wrong to do so. Note, I do not ban semi-automatic weapons, concealed or open carry, private ownership of guns. People can still buy them for self-defense or sport. Also note how many of these requirements are the same ones we have for driving and owning cars. Last I checked, car ownership is doing just fine even with these restrictions.

One last point to make. There have been many studies done on various aspects of gun ownership and gun violence,. Often they conflict – for example, gun ownership, two studies show less than half the population owns guns and that their numbers are decreasing, a third though shows that over 60% of Americans own guns.worldviews

The reason for this is a lack of data. Records of everything related to guns and gun violence, from gun ownership to how often they are used in self-defense to how many are killed accidentally and more are lacking.

Now, I believe, and the majority of experts, believe that gun controls are needed to reduce gun violence, and that the US has a huge problem in regards to guns. I am perfectly willing to put this to the test by providing money and support for universities and agencies to gather the needed information and do good comprehensive studies that would definitively prove one way of the other which side is correct (or whether either side is totally correct).

However, those opposed to any gun control and whose every answer to these vexing problems it freer access for more and more people to guns oppose any and all such research. It is the NRA and the gun culture people who have blocked agencies such as the CDC from gathering information related to guns, blocked money being given as grants to universities for such studies, blocked setting up agencies and organizations that could gather this information. Even for established background checks, they block attempts to provide the information needed to make them more effective.

I find it telling that the NRA and its political supporters are on the side of ignorance in this case, while those for gun control are all for finding out what is happening. In my experience, those who promote and desire ignorance – whether in regards to evolution, climate change, the Holocaust, etc – are invariably wrong.

Continuing on in my discussion of Mr. Correia’s blog about why gun control is a useless and worse than useless idea, his next section is titled You crazy gun nuts and your 2nd Amendment. We should just confiscate all the guns. His first two paragraphs give you the gist of his argument.

Many of you may truly believe that. You may think that the 2nd Amendment is archaic, outdated, and totally pointless. However, approximately half of the country disagrees with you, and of them, a pretty large portion is fully willing to shoot somebody in defense of it.

We’ve already seen that your partial bans are stupid and don’t do anything, so unless you are merely a hypocrite more interested in style rather than results, the only way to achieve your goal is to come and take the guns away. So let’s talk about confiscation.

second-amendment

Basically, he is saying that most gun owners are like Charlton Heston – “you can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead fingers”. He then goes on to figure out how many gun owners there are and then pulls numbers out of the air to figure out how many gun owners would not turn in their guns if required by law:

But for the sake of math, let’s say that there are only 80 million gun owners, and let’s say that the government decides to round up all those pesky guns once and for all. Let’s be generous and say that 90% of the gun owners don’t really believe in the 2ndAmendment, and their guns are just for duck hunting. Which is what politicians keep telling us, but is actually rather hilarious when you think about how the most commonly sold guns in America are the same detachable magazine semiautomatic rifles I talked about earlier.

From there he discusses how these 10% would violently resist any attempt to take away their guns and at how many in the gun and military would support them.

MY RESPONSE
First, let me point out that I am not for banning all or even most guns. I am for continuing the highly effective ban on automatic weapons that has been in place since 1934 (see Gun Violence Part 3) and for banning large capacity magazines. I could also possibly be OK with banning some types of semi-automatic assault weapons once a good working definition had been developed. However, please note that the vast majority of guns would still be legal. Let me also note then that law abiding people would still be able to buy guns for protection of their homes and persons, making the NRA and their follower’s rants about guns being needed for protection totally moot. If you want one, you can get one.

As for what else I am for, that is for my last blog, which is coming up after this one. For now, let me just focus on his brandishing of the 2nd Amendment, again.  I found an article in Politico a good place to start. This article, “How the NRA Rewrote the Second Amendment” starts with a very telling observation.

Today at the NRA’s headquarters in Fairfax, Virginia, oversized letters on the facade no longer refer to “marksmanship” and “safety.” Instead, the Second Amendment is emblazoned on a wall of the building’s lobby. Visitors might not notice that the text is incomplete. It reads:

“.. the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”

The first half—the part about the well regulated militia—has been edited out.

The complete and un-infringed Second Amendment reads – “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Apparently the NRA did not want to clutter up the issue of what the Second Amendment means by giving the people the complete amendment.

2ndAmendment

There are two schools of thought on how to understand this amendment. One is that this delineates and protects an individual right. That is the one that the NRA strongly promotes and one that, with the District of Columbia v. Heller ruling, which overturned established precedent, has now become the established understanding of the 2nd Amendment.

The other school of thought on the 2nd Amendment notes that the “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State” was not put there just to make the amendment look pretty, but had real meaning and impact on the understanding of this one sentence. Given that, a look at history shows several things that are helpful in understanding this amendment.

First, our founders did not trust standing armies. Standing armies were most often the tool of the king and used against the people. This is one reason our Constitution put the power to raise an army and to fund it within our legislative branch, the one of the people. They also required that the legislature can fund it for no longer than two years – again giving a way for the people to control the military and to prevent the executive branch from misusing it.

This distrust of the military was also why the great majority of our founders strongly supported militias. Problem is that if you are going to use a militia instead of an army you had to ensure that the militia was armed – hence the wording of the second amendment.

protection-from-tyranny-the-second-amendment--L-R8XOioMilitias, being under the control of the states, was also seen as another way to help limit the power of the federal government. Given that many of our founders were highly skeptical of any sort of federal government that would be strong enough to actually work, keeping this institution enshrined in the Constitution was a way to help ensure that these skeptics would hold their noses and vote for the Constitution.

Now, people were expected to own guns at the time in order to hunt and protect their home if on the frontier (although most often not military grade ones since they were more expensive – in fact, governments had to help many citizens buy those guns in order to allow them to be part of a militia). However, this amendment does not seem to apply to this private ownership of guns for hunting and such – the word “bear arms” had a distinct military meaning at the time and in the many notes Madison (the man who wrote and brought these amendments to the floor) made there is no mention of guns for self-defense or a right to use guns. Nor was there any note of such at the Constitutional convention.

And for many years this, a state rights view or collective view, was the way that the courts and most people understood this the-second-amendment-in-art-L-Tx7L4Hamendment. Gun control laws were quite common during the years from the founding of the Constitution to today, even in the old west. And yet no one thought them to be unconstitutional or even much questioned them.

However, something very interesting happened over the years since this amendment was crafted – militias became extinct.We no longer have state militias, or government militias. It is, as I said, an extinct institution. So, we now have an amendment for something that no longer exists. This amendment, though, was still being interpreted in the ways that the founders wrote it – a good originalist way of doing things, which makes the Supreme Court ruling in 2008 rather ironic given that it was done in the name of being a literalist, originalist interpretation of the Constitution.

In fact, in 1939 when the Supreme Court considered the issue of the Second Amendment in United States v. Miller (about the federal government being able to regulate the sale of sawed off shotguns) they took this state rights view.

After reciting the original provisions of the Constitution dealing with the militia, the Court observed that “[w]ith obvious purpose to assure the continuation and render possible the effectiveness of such forces the declaration and guarantee of the Second Amendment were made. It must be interpreted with that end in view.”5 The significance of the militia, the Court continued, was that it was composed of “civilians primarily, soldiers on occasion.” It was upon this force that the States could rely for defense and securing of the laws, on a force that “comprised all males physically capable of acting in concert for the common defense,” who, “when called for service . . . were expected to appear bearing arms supplied by themselves and of the kind in common use at the time.”6 Therefore, “[i]n the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a ‘shotgun having a barrel of less than 18 inches in length’ at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well– regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument. Certainly it is not within judicial notice that this weapon is any part of the ordinary military equipment or that its use could contribute to the common defense.”

Until 2008, this was the established legal understanding of the 2nd Amendment. Even the conservative Justice Warren Second-Amendment-militiasBurger, in 1991, responding to the idea that the 2nd Amendment refers to an individual right to own a gun states “”[The Second Amendment] has been the subject of one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud,’ on the American public by special interest groups that I have ever seen in my lifetime.”

However, in 2008, this legal understanding of the Second Amendment, along with all its precedents, was overturned in District of Columbia v. Heller. In this case, the Supreme Court on a 5-4 decision found that it did not refer to militias but, instead, meant that individuals have a right to own guns. In other words, instead of referring to a state or collective right, the Second Amendment referred to individual rights, just as did the rights for free speech, press, association, and religion.
Before I go over what I think of this ruling, let me mention something about this new view of the Second Amendment. Despite what Justice Scalia and others state, it is not a literalist or origonalist viewpoint they are using. The vast majority of historians have not changed their conclusions on why the Second Amendment came about. Instead, it is some legal scholars who have made these changes. As the Pulitzer Prize winning historian of Original Meaning, Jack Rakove, states:

It is one thing to ransack the sources for a set of useful quotations, and another to weigh their interpretive authority. Originalism is first and foremost a theory of law and constitutional interpretation, but its viability depends upon its approach to history and its uses of historical evidence….

In fact only a handful of sources from the period of constitutional formation bear directly at the heart of our current controversies about the regulation of private firearms. If Americans had indeed been concerned with the impact of the Constitution on this right, and had addressed the subject directly, the proponents of the individual rights theory would not have recycled the same handful of references to the dissenters in the Pennsylvania ratification convention and the protests of several Massachusetts towns against their state’s proposed constitution, or to rip promising snippets of quotations from the texts and speeches in which they are embedded.

As Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law, notes in his book The Second Amendment: A Biography, “The revisionist wave came not from historians but from lawyers, and law professors. “Law office history” describes the practice of plucking facts or quotes out of times or out of context to fit a legal argument.”

It is ironic that in the name of original intent the Supreme Court, the NRA, and those who support unrestricted access to guns have, instead, wound up embodying the judicial views of Justice Wendell Holmes:

When we are dealing with words that also are a constituent act, like the Constitution of the United States, we must realize that they have called into life a being the development of which could not have been foreseen completely by the most gifted of its begetters. It was enough for them to realize or to hope that they had created an organism; it has taken a century and has cost their successors much sweat and blood to prove that they created a nation. The case before us must be considered in light of our whole experience, and not merely in that of what was said a hundred years ago….we must decide what the country has become.

Now, for a surprise twist here, all due to me being in agreement with Justice Wendell Holmes’ views of how to understand the Constitution. While I believe that we should understand and take the intents of the writers of the Constitution into consideration, such intents should not be the deciding factors in reaching a decision. Our country today is not the same as then, the world today is not the same as then. Technology, cultural changes, societal changes, and many more separate us from those times and must be taken into account if we are to keep the Constitution relevant.

Supreme_Court_US_2006

Given this, and given that the original institution for which this amendment was created, I am not going to challenge the idea that the right for individuals to own a gun is constitutional. I will, however, argue that just like all constitutional rights – free press, free speech, religion, etc. – there are limits to this right. Even Justice Scalia, who wrote the majority opinion for the District of Columbia v. Heller acknowledged that this right is not an unlimited one in his summary of District of Columbia v. Heller.

Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.

In fact, since this ruling in 2008 the Supreme Court has refused to hear several gun control cases, letting stand lower court rulings in favor of some types of gun control. They let stand New York’s strict gun control laws, and New Jersey’s stance of showing “justifiable need” in order to get a license to carry a handgun in public.

For myself, I think the idea that of all of our rights, that of owning and carrying a gun is the only one that has no restrictions is deadly wrong. And yet, that is what the NRA and its supporters are arguing for.

 

 

The next, and last, blog in this series will deal with what I feel are the basic differences underlying Mr. Correia’s and mine disagreement on the issue of guns and gun control.

 

Once again, life has intruded into my writing; apologies for the delay. However, at least one good thing has come out of one of these life intrusions – I now have a new computer due to my old one going through a rather rapid process of zombification over the last two weeks and finally arriving at a complete state of putrification a few days ago.

Before I start up on Mr. Correia’s blog some more, I thought I should mention some recent gun news relevant to the subject of these blogs.

0941a4600895092bA shooting in Las Vegas that left two policemen eating at a CiCi’s Pizza, a bystander trying to stop the two shooters, and the shooters dead. In my first blog of this series, “Gun Violence Part 1: Armed Teachers”, I discussed why arming teachers was a bad idea. One of those reasons is because the shooters will always have the element of surprise going for them. Two trained police officers were attacked and killed before they could effectively fight back. I don’t think a teacher would do any better. Further, a bystander armed with a gun tried to stop them. And died. Seems to bring into question the saying that the only thing that will stop a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun.

Continuing on with my look at Mr. Correia’s blog about Gun Control from a gun proponent perspective. My last blog dealt with his subdivision starting on You don’t need assault weapons for hunting!. This one starts with:

Doesn’t matter. I don’t like them. We should ban them and take them all away like a civilized country.

In this part Mr. Correia deals with the claim that gun control has worked in other countries.

Australia had a mass shooting and instituted a massive gun ban and confiscation (a program which would not work here, which I’ll get to, but let’s run with it anyway.). As was pointed out to me on Facebook, they haven’t had any mass shootings since. However, they fail to realize that they didn’t really have any mass shootings before either. You need to keep in mind that mass shooting are horrific headline grabbing statistical anomalies. You are far more likely to get your head caved in by a local thug while he’s trying to steal your wallet, and that probably won’t even make the evening news.

And violent crime is up in Australia. A cursory Google search will show articles about the increase in violent crime and theft, but then other articles pooh-pooing these stats as being insignificant and totally not related to the guns.

So then we’ve got England, where they reacted swiftly after a mass shooting, banned and confiscated guns, and their violent crime has since skyrocketed. Their stats are far worse than Australia, and they are now one of the more dangerous countries to live in the EU. Once again, cursory Google search will show articles with the stats, and other articles saying that those rises like totally have nothing to do with regular folks no longer being able to defend themselves… Sensing a trend yet?

….
And then we’ve got South Africa, which instituted some really hard core gun bans and some extremely strict controls, and their crime is now so high that it is basically either no longer tracked or simply not countable. But obviously, the totally unbiased news says that has absolutely nothing to do with people no longer being able to legally defend themselves.

Then you’ve got countries like Norway, with extremely strict gun control. Their gun control laws are simply incomprehensible to half of Americans. Not only that, they are an ethnically and socially homogenous, tiny population, well off country, without our gang violence or drug problems. Their gun control laws are draconian by our standards. They make Chicago look like Boise. Surely that level of gun control will stop school shootings! Except of course for 2011 when a maniac killed 77 and injured 242 people, a body count which is absurdly high compared to anything which has happened America.

Now, after going through these countries he then goes on to the second part of his argument – if guns are not available, then criminals will use bombs or whatever else they can get their hands on.

The biggest mass killings in US history have used bombs (like Bath, Michigan), fire (like Happyland Nightclub) or airliners. There is no law you can pass, nothing you can say or do, which will make some not be evil.

And all of this is irrelevant, because banning and confiscating all the scary guns in America will be national suicide.

 

MY RESPONSE

Before I start going into the facts about each of the countries he has mentioned, I want to point out Mr. Correia’s double standard. He caustically dismisses any arguments that the supposed increases in crime and violence in England and Australia are the result of anything other than gun laws, but then dismisses Norway’s success (before mentioning their one catastrophic failure) as being the result of “an ethnically and socially homogenous, tiny population, well off country, without our gang violence or drug problems”. Double standard indeed.

Guns in America

Australia

Let me just provide a quote from a study, “Australia’s 1996 gun law reforms: faster falls in firearm deaths, firearm suicides, and a decade without mass shootings” published in the peer reviewed journal Injury Prevention:

Results: In the 18 years before the gun law reforms, there were 13 mass shootings in Australia, and none in the 10.5 years afterwards. Declines in firearm-related deaths before the law reforms accelerated after the reforms for total firearm deaths (p = 0.04), firearm suicides (p = 0.007) and firearm homicides (p = 0.15), but not for the smallest category of unintentional firearm deaths, which increased. No evidence of substitution effect for suicides or homicides was observed. The rates per 100 000 of total firearm deaths, firearm homicides and firearm suicides all at least doubled their existing rates of decline after the revised gun laws.

Conclusions: Australia’s 1996 gun law reforms were followed by more than a decade free of fatal mass shootings, and accelerated declines in firearm deaths, particularly suicides. Total homicide rates followed the same pattern. Removing large numbers of rapid-firing firearms from civilians may be an effective way of reducing mass shootings, firearm homicides and firearm suicides.

Please note that, contrary to Mr. Correia’s claim that Australia never had a mass shooting before the one that was the impetus for their new gun laws, there were in reality 13 mass shootings over the previous 18 years. Since the 1996 gun reform laws, there have been no mass shooting, as well as “accelerated declines in firearm deaths, particularly suicides. Total homicide rates followed the same pattern”.

Now, Mr. Correia does have a point about an increase in crime in Australia since the 1996 gun reform. However, he both greatly overstates it and does not provide any information showing that the increases that did occur are due to banning guns. From the Australian Institute of Criminology

• Recorded assault increased again in 2007, to 840 per 100,000, compared with 623 per 100,000 in 1996. The 2007 rate was the highest recorded since 1996.
• The rate for robbery peaked in 2001. Rates have declined by 38 percent since 2001, to 86 per 100,000 per year.
• The rate of kidnapping remained between three and four per 100,000 per year from 1996 to 2007.
• The homicide rate was 1.9 per 100,000 in 1996 (which includes the 35 victims of the Port Arthur massacre) and was at its highest in 1999, at 2.0 per 100,000. In 2007, the rate was 1.3 per 100,000, the lowest recorded (since 1996).
• The rate of recorded sexual assault increased between 1997 and 2007, from 78 to 94 persons per 100,000 per year.

Looking at the above we can see that rates of assault and sexual assaults have increased since 1996. However, robberies peaked in 2001 and have been declining since then, kidnapping remains constant, and homicide rate has decreased.

How much of those increases and decreases were due to the new gun laws? Hard to say with just this information. For example, sexual assaults; there has been a systematic effort to better deal with rape which can and has led to an increase in reports of these crimes. So, how much of this increase is the result of this push for greater openness in dealing with rape and how much of this is a result of an actual increase in rapes? What is not questionable though is that there has been a substantial decrease in gun homicides without an increase in other types of homicides.

For more on this, here is a link to a Factcheck article

In 1996, the government banned some types of guns, instituted a buyback program and imposed stricter licensing and registration requirements. Gun ownership rates in Australia declined from 7 percent to 5 percent. Another law in 2002 tightened restrictions a bit more, restricting caliber, barrel length and capacity for sport shooting handguns.

Have murders increased since the gun law change, as claimed? Actually, Australian crime statistics show a marked decrease in homicides since the gun law change. According to the Australian Institute of Criminology, a government agency, the number of homicides in Australia did increase slightly in 1997 and peaked in 1999, but has since declined to the lowest number on record in 2007, the most recent year for which official figures are available.

Furthermore, murders using firearms have declined even more sharply than murders in general since the 1996 gun law. In the seven years prior to 1997, firearms were used in 24 percent of all Australian homicides. But most recently, firearms were used in only 11 percent of Australian homicides, according to figures for the 12 months ending July 1, 2007. That’s a decline of more than half since enactment of the gun law to which this message refers.

 

England

In regards to Mr. Correia’s statements about England’s increase in violent crime, does this look like an increase?
Violent-crime-rates-UK-1981-to-2007

 

This graph is based upon the one from the Office for National Statistics, “UK’s largest independent producer of official statistics and is the recognized national statistical institute for the UK. It is responsible for collecting and publishing statistics related to the economy, population and society at national, regional and local levels.

• Between the 1995 and the 2001/02 surveys, the number of violent crime incidents fell, from 4.2 million in 1995 to 2.7 million in 2001/02. Since then there has been a general trend where the CSEW has seen a period of modest annual decreases (though often not large enough to be statistically significant year on year). The estimated number of violent incidents decreased by 13% between the 2007/08 survey and the 2012/13 survey. The CSEW showed a non-statistically significant 6% decrease in 2012/13 compared with the previous year.

• In 1995 (when crime was at its peak) 5.3% of adults aged 16 and over were a victim of violent crime compared with the 2012/13 CSEW where the victimisation rate was less than half the rate in 1995 (2.6%).

• Over recent years, the number of currently recorded homicides has shown a generally downward trend and the numbers for 2012/13 (551) and 2011/12 (530) were the lowest since 1989 (521).

• In 2012/13, the police recorded 8,135 offences in which firearms were used, a 15% decrease compared with 2011/12. Offences involving knives or sharp instruments also fell by 15% between 2011/12 and 2012/13 (to 26,340). For context, overall police recorded crime fell by 7% over the same period.

As for why there are so many claiming there was an increase in violent crime in England – well, it was due to one of those “other articles saying that those rises like totally have nothing to do with regular folks no longer being able to defend themselves”.  Again. from the Office of National Statistics:

…there have been changes to the way that police record crime, including a major change in April 2002 with the introduction of the National Crime Recording Standard (NCRS). This change was thought to have resulted in a rise in the volume of offences recorded by the police,

Whether Mr. Correia likes it or not, such factors affect how accurate numbers are, and if you are truly interested in what the reality is instead of just finding what fits your beliefs and prejudices, then you need to seriously take them into account. Of course, as I pointed out at the beginning of this blog, when it suits him, Mr. Correia can take account of some of those other factors as he tried to do with Norway.

Norway

Gun ownership is common in Norway. Not as common as in the United States with its 88.82 firearms per 100 people, but at guns-131.32 firearms per 100 people its citizens own guns at a higher rate than most European countries. And this in a country with very strict gun control laws – showing that gun control does not mean taking away the right to own guns. Gun ownership and gun control are not contradictory ideas.

As for the mass shooting in Norway that left 76 people, most of them teens, dead, it is a tragedy and one that, hopefully, we can learn enough from to prevent it from occurring again. However, there is a peculiar mindset among many of those advocating no or weak gun laws. If the laws cannot prevent all shootings, murders, mass killings, and so forth then it has failed and should be scrapped. I do not know what world they live in, but in mine there are very, very few perfect solutions.

A more valid way to look at this is to look at the number of deaths by guns without such laws and with such laws. If there is a large difference in the two cases – as there is – then even though there will be failures at times, the solution is still good. Look to improve the solution when a failure happens, do not get rid of it and go back to something worse.

South Africa

Yes, South Africa does have a huge problem with crime. And, again, Mr. Correia dismisses any analysis of why if it doesn’t fit his bias against gun controls. Not only that, but he doesn’t even get his facts right.  There has been a decrease in murders and “contact crimes” since the enactment of South Africa’s gun control law, not an increase as he insinuates. The actual numbers, from the Law Library of the Library of Congress, “Firearms-Control Legislation and Policy: South Africa”.

Before the FCA took effect, firearms-related crimes were very high. In 1994, 26,832 murders were committed, 11,134 of which involved firearms.[122] While the country saw a decline in overall murders from 1994 through 2000, there was an 8% increase in the number of firearms-related murders, from 41% of all murders in 1994 to 49% in 2000.[123] The number of crimes committed with firearms, which had accounted for 48% of all crimes in 1995–96, jumped to 63% by 1998.[124]

Accurate information on the distribution of and crimes committed with firearms after the FCA took effect in 2004 is difficult to obtain. This is in large part because the South African Police Service (SAPS) reportedly stopped releasing data on the subject in the early 2000s.[125] In addition, it appears that South Africa is still fine-tuning its firearms regulatory regime; the FCA has been implemented incrementally, and various key amendments made to it in 2006 took effect only recently, with more yet to come.[126]

Nevertheless, the limited number of sources located for this report suggest that there has been a general decline in firearms-related crimes since 2004. A recent statistical report issued by SAPS showed cases of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition exhibiting a slight decline. In 2004–2005, 15,497 cases of illegal possession of firearms and ammunition were reported, while in 2011–2012 the number of similar cases was down to 14,461.[127] Recent SAPS data also shows an overall decline in the prevalence of contact crimes (murder, attempted murder, sexual offenses, assault, robbery with aggravated circumstances, and common robbery) since 2004.[128] For instance, from 2003–2010, there was a marked downward trend in murders (with an 8.6% decrease) and attempted murders (which declined by 6.1%).[129] Since the FCA took effect, firearms-related offenses are said to have fallen by 21%.[130]

While a causal link cannot be firmly established between the gun laws and a decrease in fire-arm related homicides (and homicides overall), there was no explosion of gun deaths as a result of the incremental implementation of these laws as Mr. Correia seems to believe.

I would also point out the many social, political, cultural, and historical forces that are behind this problem. Until the mid 1990s South Africa was a state in which the minority whites ruled over the majority blacks, and did so brutally. This is a country coming out of a violent history filled with repression and injustice and revolution. And yet Mr. Correia does not seem to believe that these factors have any relevance here.

In 2010 the Centre for the Study of Violence and Reconciliation came out with a report on crime and violence in South Africa. From its Executive Summary:

Noting the distinction between acquaintance violence and stranger violence, the report finds that “the core of the problem of violent crime in South Africa is a culture of violence and criminality, associated with a strong emphasis on the use of weapons, in which these two forms of violence coalesce”.

Specific factors which sustain this culture are:

• Inequality, poverty, unemployment, and social exclusion and marginalisation.

• Perceptions and values relating to violence and crime.

• The vulnerability of young people, linked to inadequate child rearing and inappropriate youth socialisation.

• Weaknesses of the criminal justice system and aligned systems.

• The availability of firearms and widespread use of other weapons, the role of alcohol, attitudes of male sexual entitlement and the domestic, regional and local criminal economy.

Let me also mention that, among its many other recommendations, they include that of gun and weapon free zones.

Finally, here is a look at what the worldwide data does show about gun control and violence. From Vox:

How does this relate to homicide rates? Not simply. For instance, the United States has over 12 times as many guns per person as Honduras, but the 2012 US gun homicide rate per 100,000 people (2.97) is 1/22 of Honduras’ (68.43). That’s because, while guns make murder easier, wealthy industrialized countries generally have significantly lower rates of violent crime than comparatively impoverished ones.

But when you compare the United States to nations like Britain and Japan, it becomes clear that firearm ownership contributes to America’s murder problem. The American firearm homicide rate is about 20 times the average among Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries (excluding Mexico).

Harvard researchers Daniel Hemenway and Matthew Miller examined 26 developed countries, and checked whether gun ownership correlated with murder rates. They found that “a highly significant positive correlation between total homicide rates and both proxies for gun availability.” They also didn’t find much evidence that a higher rate of gun murders led to lower rates of other kinds of murder (i.e., stabbings).

Interestingly, these results tended to hold true even when you exclude the United States and its super-high homicide and gun-ownership rates. “More guns are associated with more homicides across industrialized countries,” Hemenway and Miller conclude.

Data from inside the United States suggests the same thing. A recent, highly sophisticated study found that, once you control for general crime rates and other confounding factors, “each 1 percentage point increase in proportion of household gun ownership” translated to a 0.9 percent increase in homicides. A meta-analysis — study of studies — found a strong consensus among researchers that access to guns correlated with higher homicide rates in the United States.

Taylor Street Triple ShootingAs for Mr. Correia’s second argument, let me state that his argument that killers will find other ways to kill is flawed on two counts. First, there has been no data supporting the idea that a decrease in gun deaths resulted in an increase of other types of deaths.

Second, he is only looking at murders and mass killings here. However a more valid comparison is to look at total gun deaths – including those by accidents, when the criminal takes the gun away from a victim and kills them with it (as happened with a priest in Arizona a few weeks ago), and other gun deaths.

And let me add a third. This smacks of an all or nothing approach that I mentioned earlier in this blog. I agree, that we are not going to eliminate all murders, mass killings, terrorist acts, accidental deaths, and so on. However, being able to greatly reduce them seems to me to be a goal that is worthwhile, and much better than putting up with what we have now.

 

 

I can now say definitely that there are two more blogs left. The next one will deal with the Second Amendment and the last with what I feel are our basic differences are on this issue. Between the two, I will wind up dealing with the rest of Mr. Correia’s subsections.

 

Continuing on with my look at Mr. Correia’s blog about Gun Control from a gun proponent’s perspective, my last blog dealt with his subdivision on We should ban magazines over X number of shots!. This one starts with:

You don’t need an assault weapon for hunting

Mr. Correia’s argument here is fairly short, so here it is in its entirety.

Who said anything about hunting? That whole thing about the 2nd Amendment being for sportsmen is hogwash. The 2nd Amendment is about bearing arms to protect yourself from threats, up to and including a tyrannical government.

Spare me the whole, “You won’t be happy until everybody has nuclear weapons” reductio ad absurdum. It says arms, as in things that were man portable. And as for the founding fathers not being able to see foresee our modern arms, you forget that many of them were inventors, and multi shot weapons were already in service. Not to mention that in that day, arms included cannon, since most of the original artillery of the Continental Army was privately owned. Besides, the Supreme Court agrees with me. See DC v. Heller.

 

Umm, yeah. I’ll be going into the 2nd amendment a bit more later when Mr. Correia again brings it up.  Let me point out that any multi-shot weapons in existence then consisted of two barrels lashed side by side.  The fact that such weapons were not much used, not even by the standing armies, is a testament to their ineffectiveness. Not the same with today’s automatic and semi-automatic weapons, not to mention missiles and aircraft.  And I would love to see the reference for most cannon being privately owned. They were not. Most cannon were owned by the individual militias and not private individuals. Let me also point out that he contradicts himsele within just one short paragraph: “It says arms, as in things that were man portable” and then later in the same paragraph, “arms included cannon”.  Cannon were not and are not man portable.

Also, since he brings up the argument that the freedom to own weapons is a safeguard from tyrannical governments let me post a bit of how I dealt with that argument in my blog “Of Knives and Guns and …Fruit”.

To think that a disparate bunch of people armed with guns is going to be able to take on an organized and well trained military that can coordinate its various units and groups and which are equipped with advance communication equipment, advance weapons that include various types of missiles, cannons, aircraft, and other things that cause other things to go boom, have a strong logistics structure,  medical support and various and sundry other things that make for a modern, effective, and deadly military is delusional at best.

 

herkimer.oriskanyLet me also clue you in on a little known fact about our War of Independence that is so often used as an example of how a civilian militia can successfully take on a professional army.  Although our militia accomplished great things, that militia did not win the war; the French did. Without the French supplying the arms and the training to use them, we would have lost the war. Even with those arms and training, if the French army had not been there during the Siege of Yorktown, we would, again have lost.

In other words, without the help of a professional army, our civilian soldiers would have lost the war of Independence and we would be singing God Save the Queen today.  With the advances in technology, logistics, and military science that have been made since the Revolutionary War days, I really have a hard time seeing how anyone can argue that owning guns is going to deter any tyrannical government.

Before moving on, let me mention just one thing about the District of Columbia v. Heller ruling, and that something is a quote from Justice Scalia who wrote the majority opinion for this decision.

Like most rights, the Second Amendment right is not unlimited. It is not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose: For example, concealed weapons prohibitions have been upheld under the Amendment or state analogues. The Court’s opinion should not be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms. [United States v.] Miller’s holding that the sorts of weapons protected are those “in common use at the time” finds support in the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.

 

Well we should just ban ALL guns then! You only need them to murder people!

First off, this is not one of my arguments. I acknowledge that there are legitimate reasons for owning guns and do not advocate banning all guns.

His main argument here is based on how many times guns are used for self defense.

So how often are guns actually used in self-defense in America?http://www.guncite.com/gun_control_gcdguse.html

On the high side the estimate runs around 2.5 million defensive gun uses a year, Jesus-Holding-A-Gun-Christians-and-Gunswhich dwarfs our approximately 16,000 homicides in any recent year, only 10k of which are with guns.  http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/homicide.htm Of those with guns, only a couple hundred are with rifles. So basically, the guns that the anti-gunners are the most spun up about only account for a tiny fraction of all our murders.

But let’s not go with the high estimate. Let’s go with some smaller ones instead. Let’s use the far more conservative 800,000 number which is arrived at in multiple studies. That still dwarfs the number of illegal shootings. Heck, let’s even run with the number once put out by the people who want to ban guns, the Brady Center, which was still around 108,000, which still is an awesome ratio of good vs. bad.

So even if you use the worst number provided by people who are just as biased as me but in the opposite direction, gun use is a huge net positive. Or to put it another way, the Brady Center hates guns so much that they are totally cool with the population of a decent sized city getting raped and murdered every year as collateral damage in order to get what they want.

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MY RESPONSE

I have already discussed about defensive gun use in my previous blogs, Gun Violence Part 3 and Part 5.

Specifically, in Part 3, starting at the point where I discuss Dr. Kleck’s study on defensive gun use, which is where Mr. Correia gets his 2.5 million uses from. Take a moment to think about this and really consider it. Are there really that many people defending themselves with guns?  The answer is no.

I provided the reasons why this is not so, but let me provide the link again to the Virginia Center for Public Safety which provides not only a critique of Dr. Kleck’s study, but also other relevant information.

The 2.5 million figure would lead us to conclude that, in a serious crime, the victim is three to four times more likely than the offender to have and use a gun. Although the criminal determines when and where a crime occurs, although pro-gun advocates claim that criminals can always get guns, although few potential victims carry guns away from home, the criminal, according to Kleck’s survey, is usually outgunned by the individual he is trying to assault, burglarize, rob or rape.

Kleck’s survey also included gun uses against animals and did not distinguish civilian uses from military of police uses.  Kleck’s Interviewers do not appear to have questioned a random individual at a given telephone number, but rather asked to speak to the male head of the household.  Males from the South and West were oversampled.  The results imply that many hundreds of thousands of murders should have been occurring when a private gun was not available for protection. Yet guns are rarely carried, less than a third of adult Americans personally own guns, and only 27,000 homicides occurred in 1992.

 

I am glad, though, that Mr. Correia did mention other studies and their numbers.  The question gun-in-the-face-1024x529then, comes up on why is there so much variance between different studies supposedly studying the same thing?  In 2004 the National Research Council of the National Academy published a book, Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review that, among a great deal of useful information about gun violence, also includes information about why this is so (this is something that can be read on–line by the way without purchasing).

A primary cause of this uncertainty is the disagreement over the definition of defensive gun use—in particular, whether it should be defined as a response to victimization or as a means to prevent victimization from occurring in the first place. There is also uncertainty regarding the accuracy of survey responses to sensitive questions and the related problems of how to effectively measure defensive gun use, the types of questions that should be asked, and the methods of data collection. These disagreements over definition and measurement have resulted in prevalence rates that differ by a factor of 22 or more. While even the smallest of the estimates indicates that there are hundreds of defensive uses every day, there is much contention over the magnitude and the details.

In other words, there are disagreements on what is and is not a defensive gun use (DGU); problems with accurate reporting (most of these studies rely on self reporting which are notoriously difficult and prone to error) and measurements, and in the statistical treatment of what is given.  However, what I found of extreme interest is the part about “External Validity”; in other words do the numbers of DGUs in these various studies make sense in light of what is seen in other areas.

A number of scholars have suggested that results from the NSDS and other firearms use surveys are difficult to reconcile with analogous statistics on crime and injury found in other data. For example, Hemenway (1997a) points out that results from the NSDS imply that firearms are used defensively in every burglary committed in occupied households and in nearly 60 percent of rapes and sexual assaults committed against persons over 18 years of age; that defensive gun users thought they wounded or killed offenders in 207,000 incidents, yet only 100,000 people are treated in emergency rooms for nonfatal firearms injuries; and that hundreds of thousands of persons almost certainly would have been killed if they had not used a firearm defensively, implying that nearly all potentially fatal attacks are successfully defended against (Cook and Ludwig, 1998). Cook and Ludwig (1998), Hemenway (1997a), and others argue that these and other similar comparisons lead to “completely implausible conclusions” and go on to suggest that these inconsistencies “only buttress the presumption of massive overestimation” of defensive gun uses in the NSDS (Hemenway, 1997a:1444).

Of course, it could be, as pointed out in this book, that the comparison statistic may be in error too; for example the number of rapes and rape attempts. However, this is interesting and indicates that the number of DGUs might be overestimated.

self-defense-with-gunLet me also, again, point out that in order to truly evaluate the impact of gun ownership all gun deaths – whether accidental, done in heat of argument, by spouse and friend, and suicide – have to be considered and compared against all lives saved and crimes stopped.  Otherwise you are only looking at part of the picture, and by so doing any risk analysis made is fatally flawed.  Further, any comprehensive and accurate risk analysis should also look at alternatives to guns that would achieve the same positive results without the drawbacks of guns. Something the NRA and its allies have been loathe to do.

Again, from the third blog in this series:

By the way, the above article [Virginia Center for Public Safety] also cites studies showing that guns in the home, far from decreasing the risk of being murdered actually increases it.  Also, the same article mentions several Department of Justice studies that should give those who advocate unrestricted gun rights some pause:

As for the notion that those using firearms to fend off attackers were more effective in avoiding injury than those using other weapons or no weapons, the DOJ study makes the following exclaimer: “Care should be used in interpreting these data because many aspects of crimes–including victim and offender characteristics, crime circumstances, and offender intent–contribute to victims’ injury outcomes.”

What is also interesting is that the study notes that “In most cases victims who used firearms to defend themselves or their property were confronted by offenders who were either unarmed or armed with weapons other than firearms.” Specifically, only 35% of those who used a firearm in self-defense actually faced an offender who had a gun. DOJ makes no judgments in this study on whether the level of force employed by these individuals was appropriate or consonant with the threat they faced. It may very well be that the presence of firearms in many of these incidents escalated what otherwise might have been non-violent (or non-fatal) encounters.

According to the DOJ study, gun owners also provided criminals with ample opportunities to arm themselves through firearm theft: “From 1987-1992 victims reported an annual average of about 341,000 incidents of firearm theft. Because the NCVS asks for types but not a count of items stolen, the annual total of firearms stolen probably exceeds the number of incidents.” It should also be noted that there is no federal law requiring the reporting of lost and stolen firearms, and almost no state laws in this regard. There are undoubtedly thousands of stolen firearms that go entirely unreported every year.

While on this subject, here are links to some of the studies showing problems with unrestricted gun ownership and use. The first is from the Harvard Injury Control Center.

This site briefly mentions four findings about gun and gun violence, and provides the study that supports that finding. The findings are:

1)      Where there are more guns, there is more homicide. This is true both within the U.S. and across high income nations.

2)      Across high income nations more guns means more homicides.

3)      and 4) Across states, more guns means more homicides. They broke this into two parts because two different studies using different methodology were used, and both came to the same conclusion.

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Let me close this by noting two things.

First, I am not advocating that all guns be banned. Although most people do not feel the need for them, and their numbers are increasing, I cannot speak for everyone.  While I do believe the large capacity magazines should be banned, and possibly some types of guns, mainly what I am advocating is that we have a system set up to ensure that the criminals and mentally ill do not get guns, that we have programs set up to ensure that those who do get guns are properly trained in their safe usage, and that we have a way to track guns similar to the way we do cars. Controlled, but not banned.  A good analogy would be our car control through licensing both of the car and of drivers. Despite this moderately tight control, cars are plentiful and used by most in the US.

The next thing I would note is how much information is lacking, which is why we have so many studies that give us varied results. From Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review:

Nevertheless, many of the shortcomings described in this report stem from the lack of reliable data itself rather than the weakness of methods. In some instances—firearms violence prevention, for example—there are no data at all. Even the best methods cannot overcome inadequate data and, because the lack of relevant data colors much of the literature in this field, it also colors the committee’s assessment of that literature.

 

DATA RECOMMENDATIONS

If policy makers are to have a solid empirical and research base for decisions about firearms and violence, the federal government needs to support a systematic program of data collection and research that specifically addresses that issue. Adverse outcomes associated with firearms, although large in absolute numbers, are statistically rare events and therefore are not observed with great frequency, if at all, in many ongoing national probability samples (i.e., on crime victimization or health outcomes). The existing data on gun ownership, so necessary in the committee’s view to answering policy questions about firearms and violence, are limited primarily to a few questions in the General Social Survey. There are virtually no ongoing, systematic data series on firearms markets. Aggregate data on injury and ownership can only demonstrate associations of varying strength between firearms and adverse outcomes of interest. Without improvements in this situation, the substantive questions in the field about the role of guns in suicide, homicide and other crimes, and accidental injury are likely to continue to be debated on the basis of conflicting empirical findings.

 

And yet, the NRA and its political allies keep blocking all attempts to provide this much needed information. In fact, just a couple of days ago the House voted against the passage of HR4660, which would have raised from $58.5 million to $78 million to help states increase their supply of information on felons and the mentally ill to the National Instant Criminal Background Check system for gun purchases.

The above paragraph is a theme that I have been hitting at through this whole series and will continue to do through the rest.  My last blog on this will go over this in a bit more detail.

 

I believe that another two blogs will take care of this. If not, then it will be three.  There will be an end, I promise – I only have another three subsections left. However, to do justice to the actual data and arguments I found myself having to turn what I had thought to be just a three or four blog series into an eight or nine blog one (and I truly pray, not longer: which for an atheist is saying a log).

Continuing on with my look at Mr. Correia’s blog about Gun Control from a gun proponent perspective, my last blog dealt with his subdivision on We should ban Assault Rifles!. This one starts with:

gun_control

We Should ban magazines over X number of shots!

Mr. Correia basically presents two arguments against limiting magazine size. The first is that larger magazines are needed for self-defense.

First off, why do gun owners want magazines that hold more rounds? Because sometimes you miss. Because usually—contrary to the movies—you have to hit an opponent multiple times in order to make them stop. Because sometimes you may have multiple assailants. We don’t have more rounds in the magazine so we can shoot more, we have more rounds in the magazine so we are forced to manipulate our gun less if we have to shoot more.

The last assault weapons ban capped capacities at ten rounds. You quickly realize ten rounds sucks when you take a wound ballistics class like I have and go over case after case after case after case of enraged, drug addled, prison hardened, perpetrators who soaked up five, seven, nine, even fifteen bullets and still walked under their own power to the ambulance. That isn’t uncommon at all. Legally, you can shoot them until they cease to be a threat, and keep in mind that what normally causes a person to stop is loss of blood pressure, so I used to tell my students that anybody worth shooting once was worth shooting five or seven times. You shoot them until they leave you alone.

 

The second is that banning larger magazines is not effective and can never be effective.

 

imagesFinally, let’s look at the logistical ramifications of another magazine ban. The AWB banned the production of all magazines over ten rounds except those marked for military or law enforcement use, and it was a felony to possess those.

Over the ten years of the ban, we never ran out. Not even close. Magazines are cheap and basic. Most of them are pieces of sheet metal with some wire. That’s it. Magazines are considered disposable so most gun people accumulate a ton of them. All it did was make magazines more expensive, ticked off law abiding citizens, and didn’t so much as inconvenience a single criminal.

Meanwhile, bad guys didn’t run out either. And if they did, like I said, they are cheap and basic, so you just get or make more.

 

MY RESPONSE

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In regards to Mr. Correia’s first argument for having large capacity magazines, that of needing it for self defense, I tried  to find out information on how many shots were fired in typical self defense situations. However, such information is, not surprisingly, hard to find.  I did though find this on a strong pro-gun site, “The Armed Citizen” by Claude Werner. This an analysis of five years of self reported armed self defense encounters. Before going into the numbers from this analysis, though, a couple of caveats.

First, it is not a controlled study and has two possible biases that, seem to me, could cause it to be off. Although in which direction is very uncertain.

The first bias; this is based solely on incidents reported in “The Armed Citizen” columns of NRA publications (from 1997 to 2001). One way this could bias the study is that, to me, this group is more likely to use guns and to shoot than those who are not NRA members and/or subscribe to NRA publications. Those who are not prepared mentally to use guns (the non-NRA members) might not fire at all, or miss and so be overwhelmed and killed. Conversely this non-NRA group might not be as inclined to fire at all and still scare off the attackers while those with a more assertive mindset would have opened fire first when it was not needed. Or they could have fired even more shots than someone who has more familiarity. Arguments could go many different directions on this, and there is no way to answer them with the information we currently have.

The other bias is that this reports only successful outcomes. If the shootings failed to stop the attack then there would be no column as it would not have been reported in the Armed Citizen column.  Conversely, if they did not have to shoot at all to scare the intruder off, then there would probably be less likelihood for that person to bother to send it in.

However, it does cover 482 incidents, so although it is to be taken cautiously, it does provide some indications.  And this is what I found interesting in regards to magazine size.

Overall, shots were fired by the defender in 72% of incidents. The average and median number of shots fired was 2. When more than 2 shots were fired, it generally appeared that the defender’s initial response was to fire until empty.

In other words, only two shots were needed in the great majority of these cases for a person toUS-Gun-Control-Laws-85835243137 successfully defend themselves. Further, in most of the times when more than 2 shots were fired, it was not necessarily because they were needed, but out of a reflex to, once started, continue to shoot until out of ammunition. This does not fit Mr. Correia’s assertion that it” isn’t uncommon at all” for assailants to soak up several rounds and still keep coming. Instead, that seems to be a rare event, and in those rare cases I would then ask how often does this actually happen to civilians as opposed to police officers.

Now, while finding reports about rounds used in self defense shootings are hard to find, this is not the same as a total absence of any useful information. For example, looking at a Department of Justice Report from 1994, it shows that only 38% of those defending themselves with a firearm actually used it – a very different number from the 72% mentioned from Armed Citizen analysis above. This indicates that my concern about bias in the numbers is justified, and that this bias leans towards inflating the actual number of times people use guns in self defense. I will admit though that this is only indicative and not conclusive – more research is needed to reach a conclusive conclusion.

In addition to the number of shots fired, though, is the question of how often do people use guns in self defense.  As with many aspects of gun violence and gun control, the information and studies are often conflicting – not surprising given the hard and successful push to deny funding for all research related to gun violence by the NRA and their political allies.  However, here is something I found of interest from the peer reviewed journal Injury Prevention, “Gun use in the United States: results from two national surveys

Lets start with their conclusion – “Guns are used to threaten and intimidate far more often than they are used in self defense. Most self defense gun uses may well be illegal and against the interests of society”.

Here are some examples of what this conclusion is referring to when stating that the use of guns for self defense may be against the interests of society:

Three examples of hostile gun displays against respondents from the 1999 survey are:

• “I’m a cattle farmer and he’s a cattle farmer. He was putting his bulls and heifers up near the fence and my bull broke out and he got mad”.

• “I was on a date. He pulled the gun when I mentioned breaking up with him”.

• “I was mugged in New York”.

Two examples from the 1999 survey of incidents that were unanimously deemed probably illegal were:

• A 62 year old male said that at 6 pm “the police called. My alarm at my business went off so I went there to shut it off. Two men were outside my building, so from my car I shot at the ground near them”. The respondent said the men were trespassing.

• A 58 year old male was inside his home at 2 pm. “I was watching a movie and [an acquaintance] interrupted me. I yelled that I was going to shoot him and he ran to his car”. The respondent said his acquaintance was committing a verbal assault. The respondent’s gun, a .44 Magnum, was located “in my holster on me”.

Of all the above, the mugging in New York is the only real and responsible use of a gun for protection. The others could well have shot and either injured or killed non-criminals and innocent people. In fact, you can usually find examples of this happening weekly if not daily in this country. Any valid judgment on how effective guns are are going to have to also take into account when things go wrong with guns and not just when they go right; something that the NRA and their political allies are not very good at.

Also of interest in reading this study is the story of each person reporting an encounter – going through those gives one some insight into why some studies promoted by the NRA give such high numbers on people using guns for self defense. In addition to cases like the above, it includes people who just witnessed a gun being used and those who were police, military or security (all of whom would be expected to be drawing out their guns for self defense more often than most citizens). It was interesting how, when this study weeded out these people the numbers of those who used guns for self defense decreased significantly.

I thought this statement from this report also of interest: “While it is sometimes presumed that self defense gun use is beneficial for society, that notion has been viewed with increasing skepticism. It is noteworthy that in prison surveys, about half of convicted felons who have fired a gun claim to have done so in self defense. Take a moment to think about this one.

And finally, there is this:

Certainly some self defense gun uses are legal and in the public interest. But many are not. The possibility of using a gun in a socially useful manner—against a criminal during the commission of a crime—will rarely, if ever, occur for the average gun owner.

 

This takes care of the first part of Mr. Correia’s reasons for why there should not be a limit on magazine capacity. Now, what about his other argument, that it is impossible to do so.

I have already discussed this a bit in my previous blog (part 4) about Assault Weapons.

Mr. Correia cites the 10 year ban on assault weapons that also included banning large capacity magazines as evidence that such bans do not work. However, that is not what the 2004 commission report, “An Updated Assessment of the Federal Assault Weapon Ban: Impacts on Gun Markets and Gun Violence, 1994 – 2003”,concluded.  From that report (and in my previous blog):

It is Premature to Make Definitive Assessments of the Ban’s Impact on Gun Crime

• Because the ban has not yet reduced the use of LCMs in crime, we cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence. However, the ban’s exemption of millions of pre-ban AWs and LCMs ensured that the effects of the law would occur only gradually. Those effects are still unfolding and may not be fully felt for several years into the future, particularly if foreign, pre-ban LCMs continue to be imported into the U.S. in large numbers.

……..

  • Nonetheless, reducing criminal use of AWs and especially LCMs could have non-trivial effects on gunshot victimizations. The few available studies suggest that attacks with semiautomatics – including AWs and other semiautomatics equipped with LCMs – result in more shots fired, more persons hit, and more wounds inflicted per victim than do attacks with other firearms. Further, a study of handgun attacks in one city found that 3% of the gunfire incidents resulted in more than 10 shots fired, and those attacks produced almost 5% of the gunshot victims.

Also, Christopher Koper, the lead researcher for this report, in a presentation given to John Hopkins University in January of 2005 had this to say:

So, using that as a very tentative guide, that’s high enough to suggest that eliminating or greatly reducing crimes with these magazines could produce a small reduction in shootings, likely something less than 5 percent. Now, we should note that effects of this magnitude could be hard to ever measure in any very definitive way, but they nonetheless could have nontrivial, notable benefits for society. Consider, for example, at our current level of gun violence, achieving a 1 percent reduction in fatal and non-fatal criminal shootings would prevent approximately 650 shootings annually…And, of course having these sorts of guns and particularly magazines less accessible to offenders could make it more difficult for them to commit the sorts of mass shootings that we’ve seen in recent years.

….

a new ban on large capacity magazines and assault weapons would certainly not be a panacea for gun crime, but it may help to prevent further spread of particularly dangerous weaponry and eventually bring small reductions in some of the most serious and costly gun crimes.

Several things can be done to increase the effectiveness of a ban on high capacity magazines: make their importation from other countries illegal, institute buyback programs, and, possibly, the creation of ammunition logs. Also, various laws could be crafted to encourage those who own high capacity magazines to turn them in – laws such as fining those caught with such magazines (as well as confiscating those magazines) and adding to the severity of a crime when a high capacity magazine is used.

wusa_momsrising_130315a-615x345So, in summary then, in regards to high capacity magazines, Mr. Correia’s arguments do not seem to hold up.  And let me make one other point here.  I do not believe banning such magazines will result in zero incidents and killings with them. Perfection and the real world are not meant for each other. But, from what I have presented here, we can realistically expect improvement, and significant ones at that.  And, when talking about human lives, that is worth a lot.

Continuing on with Mr. Correia’s blog, the next subdivision is:

We Should Ban Assault Rifles!

The gist of his argument here is that there is no good definition of what an assault rifle is, “politically, the term is loaded nonsense”.

To gun experts, an assault rifle is a very specific type of weapon which originated (for the most part) in the 1940s. It is a magazine fed, select fire (meaning capable of full auto), intermediate cartridge (as in, actually not that powerful, but I’ll come back to that later) infantry weapon.

The thing is, real assault rifles in the US have been heavily regulated since before they were invented. The thing that the media and politicians like to refer to as assault rifles is basically a catch all term for any gun which looks scary.

anatomy

Mr. Correia then goes on to point out that assault rifles, however poorly defined, were banned for a decade, from 1994 to 2004.  And accomplished absolutely nothing. This is just not his opinion, but also, according to Mr. Correia, “the special commission to study it said that it accomplished absolutely nothing”.

He then goes on to list the features used to define what an assault weapon is in this piece of legislation that he labels as “arbitrary” and “silly”, and which did not make “the gun functionally any different or somehow more lethal or better from any other run of the mill firearm”.

Guns AR 15 hunting hello kitty pinkAfter showing why the definition of assault rifle as used in this legislation and by many people is vague, arbitrary, and useless, the then goes on to discuss why “semi-automatic, magazine fed, intermediate caliber rifles are the single most popular type of gun in America”  The reason?  Not because they are “fun” nor for use in “hunting or sports”.

No, the reason this sort of rifle is so popular is because “they are excellent for shooting bad people who are trying to hurt you, in order to make them stop trying to hurt you. These types of guns are superb for defending your home”.

 

MY RESPONSE
assaultweaponFirst off, let me say that I agree with Mr. Correia that there is no good definition of whatconstitutes an assault weapon.  Because of this, and because Congress, when they crafted the Federal Assault Weapon Ban, did not want to ban all semiautomatic guns, which would have meant the majority of guns in the US. Instead they banned 18 specific models and then banned certain military features.  The law also banned large capacity magazines defined as those holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition.

Now, while I agree with Mr. Correia about the vagueness of this definition, I realize something about this that he seems to ignore. This sort of definition means that there are numerous loopholes that allow for the purchase of guns that are meant to be banned – a slight modification of a banned gun, for example, would mean that it is no longer banned and could be purchased legally. For example, while semiautomatic rifles with pistol grips and bayonet mountings were banned, the same rifle with a pistol grip and no bayonet mounting could be purchased.

As if this were not bad enough, any weapons banned by this law that were manufactured before the law went into effect in 1994 were still legal, both to own and to resell. This meant that there were approximately 1.5 million of assault weapons still available after the law passed.  And it meant that there were an even larger number of large capacity magazines floating around.

So, it is not surprising that there is no clear evidence that during the 10 years this ban was in effect that it had any impact on reducing gun crimes. However, while there is no clear evidence, that does not mean there is no evidence of such a reduction, or that the ban would have been at least somewhat effective had it been continued.  Mr. Correia greatly overstates the findings of the commission to study the effects of this ban when he states “the special commission to study it said that it accomplished absolutely nothing”.

Although Mr. Correia does not specifically state which commission he is referring to, the most talked about and referenced one, by both sides of this debate, is the 2004 study led by Christopher Koper, “An Updated Assessment of the Federal Assault Weapon Ban: Impacts on Gun Markets and Gun Violence, 1994 – 2003”.

At over 100 pages, this report is rather long, so for a short and nicely done and objective summary of it, here is a link to FactCheck.org’s article, “Did the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban Work?”.  It is shorter and a very easy and quick read.  More importantly, it is accurate; and yes, I did read the longer original report to make sure that the FactCheck article is correct.

Now, here are some of the conclusions of the original report that were ignored by Mr. Correia.  First though, let me go over the two acronyms used in this quote – AW for assault weapons and LCM for large capacity magazines.

 

The Ban’s Success in Reducing Criminal Use of the Banned Guns and Magazines Has Been Mixed

• Following implementation of the ban, the share of gun crimes involving AWs declined by 17% to 72% across the localities examined for this study (Baltimore, Miami, Milwaukee, Boston, St. Louis, and Anchorage), based on data covering all or portions of the 1995-2003 post-ban period. This is consistent with patterns found in national data on guns recovered by police and reported to ATF.

• The decline in the use of AWs has been due primarily to a reduction in the use of assault pistols (APs), which are used in crime more commonly than assault rifles (ARs). There has not been a clear decline in the use of ARs, though assessments are complicated by the rarity of crimes with these weapons and by substitution of post-ban rifles that are very similar to the banned AR models.

• However, the decline in AW use was offset throughout at least the late 1990s by steady or rising use of other guns equipped with LCMs in jurisdictions studied (Baltimore, Milwaukee, Louisville, and Anchorage). The failure to reduce LCM use has likely been due to the immense stock of exempted pre-ban magazines, which has been enhanced by recent imports.

It is Premature to Make Definitive Assessments of the Ban’s Impact on Gun Crime

• Because the ban has not yet reduced the use of LCMs in crime, we cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence. However, the ban’s exemption of millions of pre-ban AWs and LCMs ensured that the effects of the law would occur only gradually. Those effects are still unfolding and may not be fully felt for several years into the future, particularly if foreign, pre-ban LCMs continue to be imported into the U.S. in large numbers.

The Ban’s Reauthorization or Expiration Could Affect Gunshot Victimizations, But Predictions are Tenuous

  • Should it be renewed, the ban’s effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement. AWs were rarely used in gun crimes even before the ban. LCMs are involved in a more substantial share of gun crimes, but it is not clear how often the outcomes of gun attacks depend on the ability of offenders to fire more than ten shots (the current magazine capacity limit) without reloading.
  • Nonetheless, reducing criminal use of AWs and especially LCMs could have non-trivial effects on gunshot victimizations. The few available studies suggest that attacks with semiautomatics – including AWs and other semiautomatics equipped with LCMs – result in more shots fired, more persons hit, and more wounds inflicted per victim than do attacks with other firearms. Further, a study of handgun attacks in one city found that 3% of the gunfire incidents resulted in more than 10 shots fired, and those attacks produced almost 5% of the gunshot victims.

Some things to note from this summary:

First, the report states that “It is Premature to Make Definitive Assessments of the Ban’s Impact on Gun Crime”.  The reason why it is premature – the many exemptions that still allowed the purchase of assault weapons and  large capacity magazines. This slowed the effect of this law and meant that a true result would take several more years to become clearly apparent.

Second, “should it be renewed, the ban’s effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement”. The reason for this is that assault weapons were rarely used in crimes before the ban, and the effects of large magazine capacity are still unclear.

Third, despite the above uncertainty in measurement, “reducing criminal use of AWs and especially LCMs could have non-trivial effects on gunshot victimizations”.  In the FactCheck.org article, it quotes Christopher Koper, from a presentation he made in January 14 and 15 at John Hopkins University.

So, using that as a very tentative guide, that’s high enough to suggest that eliminating or greatly reducing crimes with these magazines could produce a small reduction in shootings, likely something less than 5 percent. Now, we should note that effects of this magnitude could be hard to ever measure in any very definitive way, but they nonetheless could have nontrivial, notable benefits for society. Consider, for example, at our current level of gun violence, achieving a 1 percent reduction in fatal and non-fatal criminal shootings would prevent approximately 650 shootings annually…And, of course having these sorts of guns and particularly magazines less accessible to offenders could make it more difficult for them to commit the sorts of mass shootings that we’ve seen in recent years.

This same article then goes on to state:

Koper concluded by saying that “a new ban on large capacity magazines and assault weapons would certainly not be a panacea for gun crime, but it may help to prevent further spread of particularly dangerous weaponry and eventually bring small reductions in some of the most serious and costly gun crimes.

This is all very different from Mr. Correia’s inaccurate summation of this commission’s findings that the Federal Assault Weapon Ban “ accomplished absolutely nothing”.

Let me also draw your attention to the many instances in which this report emphasized the importance and impact of banning large capacity magazines.  That is something that Mr. Correia, and thus myself, will be addressing later.

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As for his stated reasons for why people need assault weapons with large capacity magazines, I will address that in a later blog too. Let me just say though that he and I have a different view of society and risk, something I have already alluded to in my previous blogs.

 

As I noted in my last blog, for various reasons I am running behind in writing these blogs. Because of this I am still not sure how many more are left.  I do though now have a range – between two and three more.

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