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Do the Facts Matter?

I graduated from the University of Southern California in 1993. The year before, final exams were canceled because the school couldn’t guarantee the safety of its students in the midst of the Rodney King riots. My friends and I holed up in my aunt and uncle’s house in Bel Air for three days as we watched the city burn on television.

During my senior year at SC, I lived in a house on the corner of Hoover and 32nd Street, an area where armed gang members outnumber armed policemen by a ratio of 20 to 1. The sound of gunfire was a nightly occurrence, and I remember the one night I actually saw the sound of the blasts accompanied by tiny little flecks of light right outside my window. I realized that that gun held at a slightly different angle would’ve put me directly in the path of those bullets. A sobering moment, indeed.

A fellow student told me she used to call the police every time she heard gunshots. Finally, the officer on duty one night said to her, “Look, don’t you know where you are? Call me when you find a body.”

Still, despite the obvious dangers, I did not own a gun personally, nor did I have any desire to do so. A guy like me who spends an average of 30 minutes a day looking for his keys isn’t the kind of dude you want to entrust with an object designed to kill people. I don’t like guns. If banning them would prevent or even decrease the incidence of carnage and murder, I’d be the first in line to make it happen, Second Amendment be damned.

So when one monster after another unleashes hell on earth and slaughters innocents, I find myself very uncomfortable defending gun rights. Unfortunately, the facts don’t leave me any other choice.

A 2007 research study conducted at Harvard University, hardly the center of the right-wing conspiracy, concluded that most popular assumptions about the correlation between gun availability and gun violence are predicated on false premises. From the study:

There is a compound assertion that (a) guns are uniquely available in the United States compared with other modern developed nations, which is why (b) the United States has by far the highest murder rate. Though these assertions have been endlessly repeated, statement (b) is, in fact, false and statement (a) is substantially so.

The researchers conclude that there is a correlation between gun ownership and murder, but it’s precisely the opposite of what the conventional wisdom would have you believe. Where gun ownership increases, violence and murder decrease. It seems those who are stymied by gun laws are not the ones who willfully slaughter children. In addition, monsters tend to thrive in so-called “gun-free zones” because they know they will not encounter any opposition from the law-abiding.

My brother-in-law wrote a column on this subject in today’s Deseret News. I quote him at length:

I am not a gun owner or a hunter, but I have friends who are members of the American gun culture in good standing. These are people who gleefully take a buck home every season, raise their children to use firearms, own handguns for self-defense and pledge symbolic allegiance to the Second Amendment and an armed citizenry ready to violently resist tyranny. They have been raised in a world of guns, and they live in a world of guns.

These also are not the kind of people who start shooting innocent children, nor does their culture encourage such things. They imagine the gun owner as a defender of the weak and a provider for the family. They do not exalt the nihilistic tough guy mowing down innocents with automatic weapons. The soil from which that cultural image springs lies elsewhere.

All of this is true, but none of it is emotionally satisfying. We all saw horror, and we all want the horror squashed, destroyed, and vanquished forever. That’s why banning guns feels good. It feels like it will make guns go away and save lives. But feelings aren’t facts. Gun bans don’t save lives. They exacerbate the very problem they are designed to solve.

I wish it were otherwise. But it isn’t. Shouldn’t that make a difference in how we approach this problem?

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  1. How’s that saying go from one of Obama’s mentors…..”Never let a tragedy go to waste.”

    Excellent opportunity to go after those bitter clingers. You know, the ones who would resist tyranny.

    • I’ve been saying this exact thing all week, and every time I say it people look at me like I’m crazy. I’m happy to hear I’m not alone.

      I find the entire discussion about gun control to be hypocritical for this very reason … everyone is happy to place further restrictions on guns in an effort to save lives, but nobody is willing to place further restrictions on alcohol in an effort to save lives. Yet the parallels are startling. Both guns and alcohol are usually used responsibly. The irresponsible use of each results in thousands of deaths each year in this country (including children). When guns are misused and cause death, everyone calls for further gun control … yet when alcohol is misused and causes death, not even a peep.

      I’m not saying I am for or against additional restrictions on guns, or that I am for or against further restrictions on access to alcohol. I’m just saying that the lopsided treatment between the two makes it difficult for me to take gun control advocates seriously. They can’t really be sincere in their desire to save lives if they aren’t willing to limit unnecessary deaths caused by alcohol.

      This issue was made very salient a few weeks ago (even before the Connecticut shooting) with two episodes involving NFL players. On Saturday, December 1st a Kansas City Chiefs player shot and killed his girlfriend before killing himself. The immediate reaction was to call for more gun control, because if this player didn’t have such quick access to a gun, both he and his girlfriend would surely be alive today. Bob Costas made a public (and somewhat controversial) plea for more gun control during halftime of NBC’s Sunday Night Football. Fair enough.

      The very next Friday night, a Dallas Cowboys player got drunk and crashed his vehicle, killing his friend and passenger (from the same team). Certainly if this player didn’t have such quick access to alcohol his teammate would be alive today. But did Bob Costas make a public plea for more restrictions on alcohol? Did the media? Did anyone? The answer is no. And the hypocrisy is startling.

      Do we have a gun culture in this country? Absolutely. But we also have an alcohol culture. Both guns and alcohol can be used responsibly. But both are sometimes misused, and the results are tragic. Focusing all our attention on guns and ignoring the issue as it relates to alcohol is ridiculous and illustrates just how strong our alcohol culture really is.

      • I know this thread is dead. But in light of the comments above from Strike Eagle and I, I couldn’t resist posting the news that an autopsy has revealed that Jovan Belcher (the KC Chiefs player who killed his girlfriend and then committed suicide … all with a gun) was drunk at the time of the murder-suicide.

        It turns out that one of the events that helped bring the issue of gun violence to the forefront of the national conversation was as much of an alcohol issue as a gun issue.

        But let’s just keep our collective heads buried in the sand and continue to show disgust at all the lives that our gun culture costs us while completely ignoring all the lives that our alcohol culture costs us. The hypocrisy is startling.


    Stallion, have you seen this one? The defense for gun ownership in this article is well stated. Yet, the author doesn’t even attempt to reference supporting studies as you had. His whole premise is that the framers of the constitution didn’t need a study to support what they already know — that gun ownership reduces crime; particularly crimes of tyranny.