Lethal Logic: Chapter 2

See Notes on Lethal Logic for links to all my posts on Dennis Henigan’s book Lethal Logic.

Chapter 2 of Lethal Logic is titled: “When Guns Are Outlawed Only Outlaws Will Have Guns.

In response to this “bumper-sticker” Henigan, page 38, claims this:

… seems unresponsive to most proposals for strengthening our guns laws that have dominated the gun debate for at least the last two decades. Instead, the argument often functions as a classic “red herring”.

The basis for this claim is there is virtually no support in public polls or the legislatures of the states or the Federal government for a ban on handguns. But notice, pages 37 and 38, how he words this in terms of handguns. Then he goes on to day (page 38), “This is not to say that the proposal to ban handguns, or even all guns, is not worthy of public debate.”

What about “assault weapons” Mr. Henigan? Or “.50 caliber sniper rifles?” Or “Saturday Night Specials”? Or the support for banning the future sale of guns which don’t met their criteria for safety? Or depriving people of their specific enumerated right to keep and bear arms without due process (they call it the “Terror Gap“)? And don’t forget their support the the “safe handgun lists” of California and Massachusetts. And furthermore he doesn’t mention the Brady Campaign supported the D.C. ban on handguns. With all the bans which he and his organization do support it can hardly be considered a “red herring”. How many guns types would have to be remaining before it would stop being a “red herring”?

It stops being a red herring the instant he proposes the banning of just one gun. And we are way past that threshold. Yet he words things very carefully to try and make it sound as if his claim is still valid. He says the following in discussing the Heller decision (page 40):

If a handgun ban is “off the table,” this may make it more difficult for the pro-gun advocate to change the subject when the issue is reasonable gun laws, like background checks at gun shows, that fall far short of a handgun ban. How can the gun lobby argue as if the issue is whether to allow guns for self-defense, if the issue now cannot be whether to allow guns for self-defense? If the argument is, “When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns,” now a new response is possible: “Not only are we not talking about outlawing guns, but guns cannot be outlawed. So let’s talk about ways of strengthening our laws to keep guns out of the wrong hands, while abiding by the new Constitutional right created in Heller.”

When all the anti-gun organizations give up bans of all types of guns, and making law abiding people jump through oppressive registration, licensing, and training requirements then we can talk about dropping the “When Guns Are Outlawed Only Outlaws Will Have Guns” slogan.

And what is this about “the new Constitutional right created in Heller”? We have quotes, papers, and even state constitutions that go back to the founding of this republic all saying it was the right of individuals to keep and bear arms. It was just in the last few decades that some people started claiming it was a “collective right”. We have been telling them all this time it was an individual right. Now that all nine justices on the Supreme Court agreed with us they act as if it’s a surprise to them.

Even ignoring outright bans Henigan acknowledges the slogan has wider application (page 41):

The core of the argument is that because gun control laws, by their very nature, are obeyed only by the law abiding, they cannot possibly be effective in curbing violent behavior by criminals. “Criminals will always break the law and obtain firearms illegally,” says NRA President Sandra Froman.

The success of gun control laws in curbing access to guns by dangerous people is not at all dependent on the willingness of hardened criminals to obey them.

Were it not for gun control laws barring gun possession by certain categories of high-risk people, the police would not have this enforcement tool at their disposal.

What it boils down to is that Henigan is a proponent of creating numerous victim-less crimes that can be used by the police to arrest and prosecute people. Usefulness to the police is not a criteria that should be entertained when we are speaking of a specific enumerated right. Do we want to create categories of “high-risk people” that should be denied access to religious materials? Or certain categories of “high-risk people” who do not enjoy a right to trial by jury, or the right not to incriminate themselves? Wouldn’t those too be useful law enforcement tools?

I don’t have the time to go through all the half-truths and mistaken conclusions and proposed violations of an inalienable right in this chapter but here is a slightly expanded version of my notes on the chapter

Page 45. Figure 2.1 baseline is not 0.

Time to crime is greater than zero.

By using a baseline very close to the average value changes that small effects appear to be amplified. The effect he exaggerates is the drop in crime rates after passage of the Brady Act. The same Brady Act that the CDC says insufficient evidence exists to credit it with a drop in crime. Furthermore the “time to crime” for a gun is greater than zero but his graph shows a drop nearly exactly coincident with the Brady Act. And even that is misleading because the crime rate actually started dropping in 1992 before the Brady Act was passed. If there was a correlation between the crime rate and the Brady Act any causation must be that the crime rate caused the Brady Act rather than the other way around.

Page 46. Iron Pipeline.
Strong gun law states will probably have their laws thrown out. Strong law argument can be used against cell phones and cars.

The laws against gun ownership/recreational-drugs/alcohol/pornography/whatever create black markets. The just because a black market exists does not mean it is in the best interest of society to expand those bans. There would exist a black market in cars and cell phones if some states made it expensive and/or difficult to acquire those tools. Cars and cell phones are used in crimes all the time too but that doesn’t mean they should be banned or heavily restricted.

One gun a month requires some sort of registration.

Page 52. Registration fails The Jews in the Attic Test. People will not register. 100s of millions unregistered in Europe and Canada.

Page 58. Machine guns legal.

Henigan claims the low use of machine guns in violent crime shows that strict registration and licensing work. No. His base assumption that machine guns give “an enormous advantage in a gunfight with police” is wrong. I’ve fired machine guns, I’ve seen other people fire machine guns. When it comes to putting rounds on a few targets quickly a semi-auto is a far better tool. Even Jeff Cooper said, “As I have often stated, if someone wants to shoot at me, I sure hope he does it on full-auto.” (Jeff Cooper’s Commentaries Vol. 1, No. 9 October 1993). If criminals have any gun experience at all they will arrive at the same conclusion and realize that there are no advantages for the types of uses they have for firearms and don’t bother to acquire one. Even the police who have legal access to full auto firearms do not carry them on a regular basis and do not have much, if any, training with them. The absence of full auto firearms in crime does not mean the highly restrictive laws reduced violent crime or had any other benefit to society.

Page 63. Suicide reduced by waiting periods.
A right delayed is a right denied. How many lives lost because of waiting periods and storage laws?

Page 65. Accidental shooting data is old.

He does not use data past 2000. The accidental shooting rate continued to drop despite vastly more guns being in circulation.

Page 68. Ten states. Six states.

By “cherry picking” his data (ten states the highest rates of death by gunshot versus the six with the lowest rate of death gunshot) he skews things to support his conclusions. Furthermore this measure “death by gunshot” is of little interest to people like me who care more about “violent crime”. By choosing the metric he did he can ignore things like the high violent crime rates in jurisdictions where people do not have ready access to guns to defend themselves. It also lumps justified and praiseworthy homicide where the good guy used a gun in with criminal homicide with a gun. He may be giving accurate numbers but he is very selective in how he present them such that he can conclude “gun restrictions are good”.

Regardless of which point Henigan attempts to make he completely fails to “explode the myth”. The best that can be said about Henigan in this chapter is that figures don’t lie but this liar does know how to figure.


6 thoughts on “Lethal Logic: Chapter 2

  1. “And don’t forget their support the the “safe handgun lists” of California and Maryland.”

    My favorite example is Massachusetts as you can’t get a CZ-75 or any variant of it. A pistol carried by police forces and has NATO approval with the P-01 variant. All under the auspices of keeping people safe from “junk” handguns.


  2. Hennigan and his ilk are the high-risk individuals. They represent a — dare I say — clear and present danger to the liberty of American citizens.

    Also: The existence of a black market is a strong, democratic indicator that government policies with respect to contraband and/or taxes are mistaken.


  3. Joe, you weren’t wrong about Maryland. They have an approval list too. I just tossed out the MA example because I’m more familiar with it.

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