Brady Campaign board member Joan Peterson, posting under the name “japete”, recently asked 20 questions of gun rights activists. Sebastian answered with a post of his own as did many others in the comments.
I have been very busy with work and other things the last few days so I haven’t said anything until this morning.
When you let other people do the asking of the questions they get to avoid their weak spots and strike at your weak spots. In general this isn’t the best long term strategy. You can’t really win. At best you won’t lose and most likely you will just lose more slowly than if you did nothing. To make progress (Hey! I’m a progressive!) you must make them defend.
I don’t have 20 questions for the Brady’s. I’m afraid I’m outnumbered 20 to 1.
I have Just One Question for you:
Can you demonstrate one time or place, throughout all history, where the average person was made safer by restricting access to handheld weapons?
I have to get to work right now but I should have time to answer your questions tonight.
I figure that at 20:1 my odds are better than that 50:50.
Update (September 23, 2010 1200):
Joe-probably all of those domestic homicides, restricting gangs and criminals from guns would save lots of live; I could go on and on. What is your point? So you think that restricting felons, domestic abusers, dangerously mentally ill people, terrorist would not have or won’t save lives? That’s hard to believe.
juan commented (and japete chastised him for making such a comment):
We should require an IQ test for gun ownership, that way none of the current crop of gun owning whackos would qualify to even own a gun. Problem solved!
Please read the question and the post at the link carefully. I am asking which of those tens of thousands of laws, already in existence, restricting handheld weapons have demonstrated their effectiveness in making people safer. The CDC study concluded there is no evidence to support such a conclusion.
I am interested in actualities not potentialities. My point is that we should, and probably can, agree on replicating laws that produce clear, measurable, results that make societies safer with no appreciable risk and low cost.
If the goal of anti-gun activists is to improve public safety then they should agree, and would get agreement from the pro-gun side, that if a law cannot be shown to provide benefits with low risk and reasonable cost it should not be replicated and in fact should be repealed.
Because it has been repeatedly shown that gun laws do not measurably improve public safety, and have non-zero risk and cost yet anti-gun activists do not agree to repeal ineffective laws we question the claimed motive to improve public safety. There must be some other motive for increasing restrictions on weapons.
You want to require an I.Q. test for gun ownership? Okay, so anyone that takes the test gets to own a firearm. Then anyone capability of sitting still long enough and answering the questions, rightly or wrongly, would be eligible to exercise their specifically enumerate right to keep and bear arms. If all anti-gun activists would go silent with that concession I would concede, even though I disagreed with it on principle and spend my time on other activities. But that surely isn’t what you meant. Presumably you had some minimum score which the prospective gun owner had to achieve on their I.Q. test before they could exercise their rights. Aside from the legal issue of requiring a test to exercise a fundamental right I have to wonder what you think the minimum threshold for gun ownership would be such that “none of the current gun owning whackos would qualify”. And are you smart enough to properly determine that threshold?
My I.Q. is about 150. What is yours?
I’m outnumbered 20:1. I think I’m holding my own so far.
Update (September 24, 2010 1415):
No bragging, Joe. Gun laws in most other industrialized countries are more strict than ours. Gun deaths per 100,000 in these countries don’t even come close to the number in this country. That is proof that some restrictions lead to lower percentages of gun deaths per population.
You are avoiding the question again. The question is whether such laws made them safer. Not whether such laws reduced the “gun deaths”. This has been pointed out before here, if in response to firearms restrictions the criminal homicide using a firearm goes to zero but the total homicide and violent crime rate doubles then society has not been made safer.
If more innocent life is taken or permanently injured I take no consolation in the fact that no firearms was involved.
So again, where is the data that shows any restriction on person weapon ownership has made the average person safer?
Update (September 24, 2010 1600):
Joe- this is a new one. So, reduced gun deaths isn’t safer from the public? Please explain.
I’m beginning to feel some frustration because I don’t know how to explain it much more clearly. Correct, just because there are fewer criminal uses of firearms does not mean the public is safer. Violent crime may increase even though firearms are not involved. The hypothesis to explain this unexpected (by some) results is that restrictions on the access of firearms may in fact enable crime because the victims are less able to defend themselves.
To the best of my knowledge there are zero peer reviewed studies that clearly show increasing restrictions on firearms has resulted in decreased violent crime. There are indications that criminal use of firearms has decreased but violent crime without a weapon or the substituting of different weapons increased to at least equal the benefits of the decrease in the crimes enabled by the firearms.
Hence, a decrease in the criminal use of firearms does not result in an increase in public safety.
I have read many books, countless peer reviewed studies without finding a satisfactory answer to my Just One Question. There are a few studies that show some hints that there were improvements but critics quickly found holes in them. If you follow the link to the CDC review of the dozens of papers on the topic you will find they conclude just what I am telling you. There is no clear evidence that any firearm restriction improves public safety. It may be that some law has improved public safety but the effect was so small that it was lost in the noise of all the other factors affecting violent crime such as poverty, changing demographic (large numbers of unemployed young men are bad for violent crime statistics), etc. But if the effect is that small then what is the justification for the costs of enforcement, the creation of a black market, and infringing upon a specific enumerated right?
Update (September 24, 2010 2015):
I, too, am frustrated with this thread. We do know that the Brady Law has prevented about 1.7 prohibited purchasers from buying guns. I have heard every argument possible about why that doesn’t prove anything. To me it proves that if we require background checks on all gun sales, we can prohibit people who shouldn’t have guns from getting them. Yes, they could go to the black market but they have been stopped in the first place. Some gun deaths are spur of the moment or when someone is quite angry. This is not at all scientific, but it seems logical to me that if you can stop people from buying guns, you may stop some gun injuries and deaths. We don’t know this since we have not tried it yet on a federal level. That’s the only way to make it work since then people couldn’t go to another state to get their gun from a private seller. So if there isn’t a gun around, one could say you have prevented a death in some cases. And since guns account for the highest number of homicides, it seems logical to me. For instance, I believe that my sister would be alive today if her estranged husband hadn’t had a lot of guns around his house when she stopped by to deliver some papers. He knew she was coming-she called him. He got ready with his gun and surprised her. Maybe a knife? She was more athletic than he and would have likely outrun him. A candlestick? Maybe but not likely. A hammer? Unlikely as well. Guns are more deadly- it’s that simple. Facts show that.
Sean D Sorrentino responded…
“Joe- this is a new one. So, reduced gun deaths isn’t safer from the public? Please explain.”
he already did. Let’s do a thought experiment. there is a room with 100 people. in one room there is a gun, and one person will be killed with it. 1 death per hundred, 1 “gun death” per hundred. in another room there are no guns, just a knife. 2 people will be killed. 2 deaths per hundred, but 0 “gun deaths.” which is “safer?”
Using the metric “gun death” doesn’t tell you the total rate.
Huh? totally missed this logic. I don’t think there is any there.
Since you cannot understand Seand D Sorrentino’s explanation of my case it is clear there is no further point in me saying anything. You are unwilling or incapable of understanding anything I (or any criminologist, or statistician) have to say on the topic. We simply do not have enough shared concepts to make communication possible.
I have recorded this thread on my blog here. It will be a shining example of the mindset of a board member of the Brady Campaign for years if not decades.
Thanks for playing.
Update (September 25, 2010 0830):
My most recent response was not posted. She did reply with “Reasoned Discourse”:
There were so many comments to this thread that it’s not possible to answer them in the time I have available. From what I can tell, what you are all saying is that guns are not the problem. I see it differently. I have provided facts to show that gun deaths take more lives than any other means in the U.S. I am concentrating on the U.S. and what is going on here. It is still true that gun deaths per 100,000 are higher in the U.S. than other industrialized countries. You have shown me your own graphs and your own facts. We will have to agree to disagree about this. It is futile to keep going with this thread.