Quote of the day—Thomas Sowell

Statistics on murder are among the most widely available statistics, and among the most accurate, since no one ignores a dead body. With so many facts available from so many places and times, why is gun control still a heated issue? The short answer is that most gun control zealots do not even discuss the issue in terms of hard facts.

The zealots act as if they just know — somehow — that bullets will be flying hither and yon if you allow ordinary people to have guns. Among the many facts this ignores is that gun sales were going up by the millions in late 20th century America, and the murder rate was going down at the same time.

Thomas Sowell
October 14, 2014
SOWELL: The ‘gun control’ farce
[As usual, Sowell expresses things succinctly and powerfully. Nearly every paragraph in this article is worthy of being QOTD here.

What Sowell doesn’t say, no surprise since it’s out of scope for his article, is that increased gun ownership increases the distribution of hard facts to the population at large. And since hard facts are detrimental to the objectives of the anti-gun crowd anything they do which increases gun ownership in either the short term or long term decreases the odds of them achieving their goals. Hence when politicians start talk about restricting gun ownership, and gun sales dramatically increase, they are indirectly their own worst enemy.

Instead of doing “battle” with those who advocate on social media for the restriction of our right to keep and bear arms maybe we should thank them for increasing gun sales and exposing more people to the hard facts of gun ownership.—Joe]


122 thoughts on “Quote of the day—Thomas Sowell

  1. It is interesting to see per capita firearms production plotted alongside per capita crime for the last few decades: https://goo.gl/thz94y. The facts are as you say.

    Of course, as the adage says, “guns don’t kill people, people do.” More pertinent than how many guns are owned (Sowell’s “gun sales”) is data on how many people own guns. The two are not the same. An individual may increase the number of guns they own.

    Data on that point are as readily available as the others. Even the most conservative dataset (the outlier) indicates the ratio of people owning guns has declined since the 1980s. The biggest datasets indicate the decline has been from about a half to a third, a decline that parallels the crime rate and matches the correlation observed in other nations.

    • You would have to be an idiot to answer questions from someone calling you asking how many guns you have in your home. Anyone believing those poll numbers is also an idiot.

      • This blog tends to disparage liberal name-callers and head-in-the-sand’ers. What do data without derision say? They (cited in my other comment) say that when you poll people known to have a gun, at least 94% are honest about it. Even if there was dishonesty, the relative decline in reported ownership still indicates a real decline, doesn’t it?

        • No, because in the early 80’s I was not only not a gun owner, I was a Democrat. By the late 90’s both had been corrected. Not that I would tell anyone about the former.

        • Jason,
          Not answering polls about gun ownership is not a matter of dishonesty. What on earth made you claim such a thing?
          First of all, a lot of people (such as my family) don’t answer any polls, ever, as a matter of principle.
          Second, any gun owner who pays attention knows that it’s the goal of the Democratic party to take his guns away. So telling some random anonymous caller that you own guns would be a reckless act. What are the motivations of the caller? Just a harmless poll? Possibly. But just as possibly, the motivation is theft or robbery — whether under color of authority or not.
          Since gun owners have come to understand that these are the goals of the democratic socialist party, they are nowadays far less likely to say they own guns than they would have been a decade or two ago.

          • Paul Koning: Declining to answer isn’t dishonest. Poll results indicate the tiny percentage who decline to answer certain questions. And they obviously exclude those who didn’t answer at all. Is it better if I call “inaccurate” answers that are given, that misstate the truth?

            The purpose of seeding surveys with groups whose gun ownership answer is already known is precisely to test how accurate people tend to be about it. We don’t have to guess. The answer is over 90% answer accurately.

    • The statistics have no bearing on whether a basic human right should be acknowledged and respected, or violated.

      If every other gun owner on the planet tried to murder someone last night, and I had nothing to do with any of it, then leave me alone. See how that works” I have done nothing wrong, nor have I advocated for doing anything wrong, and so I cannot by any moral standard be punished in any way.

      The problem in all of this arises in the Progressive habit of assigning group guilt, group victim status and group entitlement, assuming the moral imperative to shape, mold and direct society, and then using the coercive power of government to make “corrections” according to assigned group status– That’s the basic definition of bigotry and self-superiority right there, and I reject all of it out-of-hand. But Progressives use the term “Social Justice” to describe it. I reject the entire Progressive dogma and everything upon which it is based.

      All of this can be distilled down to the following question; What part of “liberty and justice for all” do you oppose?

      Well, if you’re opposed to any of it (which all leftists are to some extent) you’ll set right out to re-define “liberty” as the right to violate rights, and you’ll re-define “justice” as coercive redistribution or etc., so as always to make something horrible appear as something wonderful or at least legitimate and necessary. The American system was set up specifically to say “No—You can’t do that. The purpose of government is secure Mankind’s God-given rights, and not to meddle with society otherwise.

      People on both sides love to site statistics, but although they may at times be interesting, they are at best secondary to the issue of the protection of human rights. “I am a man, not a number” and so on.

      • Lyle: None of our rights is absolute. All are limited by the equal rights of others. My right to life, for example, wouldn’t justify mowing down a crowd of nuns to defend myself against an aggressor hiding among them. My safety (right to life) doesn’t trump their safety.

        On this basis, the balance of rights, we place restrictions around liberties that would pose an imminent risk to others. My liberties should not risk your life. Data are useful to objectively measure risk and properly adjudicate this balance of rights.

        • This argument is both common and ridiculous. If I intentionally kill nuns (or anyone else) to get at one bad guy, I have violated the nuns’ rights, and so you’re presenting a false choice. I’ll say this one more time for you;

          THERE IS NO RIGHT TO VIOLATE THE RIGHTS OF OTHERS. I said it in a previous comment, but maybe you didn’t understand the words. The Southern Democrats claimed a “right” to their slaves as property too, and then claimed the “right” to self-determination in keeping their slave ecomony, but they too had themselves fooled because THERE IS NO RIGHT TO VIOLATE THE RIGHTS OF OTHERS. Democrats and Progressives just cannot get this through their skulls, because if they do, then their whole system must be rejected.

          How else shall I put it? The oft-used example for Progressives is a supposed “limit” on the right of “free speech” which says you “can’t yell ‘Fire’ in a crowded theatre”.

          Again that’s a false choice, because it doesn’t address whether or not there’s actually a fire. If there’s not a fire, and you know it, then you’re committing a fraud by yelling “fire!”, and no one ever said there is an inherent human right to commit fraud. See? False choice. False argument. Keep trying; set up another T-ball and I’ll give it a whack for you.

          • Lyle: “There is no right to violate the rights of others,” you say. I don’t what the vitriol is about since that seems to be what I also said. One person’s safety (right to life) doesn’t trump another person’s safety. Risk and safety are sometimes obvious; other times data analysis is needed. That’s all — no ball whacking or theater fires required.

          • Go ahead and “risk” all you want. There isn’t a problem until something actually happens.

          • “There is no right to violate the rights of others,” you say. I don’t what the vitriol is about since that seems to be what I also said. One person’s safety (right to life) doesn’t trump another person’s safety. Risk and safety are sometimes obvious; other times data analysis is needed. That’s all — no ball whacking or theater fires required.

            So now we’re talking about safety, and not about rights anymore? I see what you did there. It’s an old trick, isn’t it?

          • Lyle: Perhaps you would elaborate on what seems to be the trick. We have a right to life, yes? Does “risk” not describe activities that threaten life? Does “safety” not describe measures that preserve life, that secure your right?

            Is that not the rationale of many gun owners? The right of self-defense, of safety, justifies gun possession. How, then, is talk of safety a trick?

          • Well, yes. But “risk” and “safety” are completely different things than “a feeling of danger” and “a feeling of not being safe”.
            The right to life — the right to protect oneself from danger and to strive for safety — is precisely the moral justification for the right to be armed.
            Conversely, the effect (and often, though unstated, the goal) of the gun ban movement is to REDUCE safety and INCREASE risk, by denying the people the tools that are theirs by natural right. And it’s particularly nasty when this sort of thing is done with the argument that “it makes me feel safe”.

          • Paul Koning: I wrote of risk and safety as things that either “threaten” or “preserve” life — empirical circumstances. I said nothing of feelings. What you do to preserve your life, “to strive for safety,” as you say, should only be limited, I believe, if it diminishes the empirical safety of others. Until then, do anything you like.

    • Perhaps even more pertinent is how many people carry guns in public now as opposed to when violent crime was at its peak. After all, owning gun that is unloaded and hidden and/or locked away really doesn’t have any impact on anything.

      I really don’t have any time to go looking right now but the number of concealed carry licenses would be a reasonable first approximation for those numbers and should be too difficult to find for most states.

      • Joe: We are in luck. A large study on the effect of permitting concealed carry was just published in the Journal of Criminology.* It’s misleading to simply cite lower crime afterwards if that was already the trend. So the study considers ten years of data around the law’s enactment in 388 counties of Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Texas to identify the existing crime trend and allow concealed carry time to affect the trend.

        The conclusion? Quite simply, concealed-carry “licensing rates did not have a significant, negative or positive, effect on subsequent crime rates.” Some counties saw increases of violent or property crime and some saw decreases.
        * Journal of Criminology, “Concealed Handgun Licensing and Crime in Four States”: http://downloads.hindawi.com/journals/jcrim/2015/803742.pdf

        • Then we have a resolution to the discussion over gun control don’t we?

          If carrying guns in public results in no significant increase in violent crime then there is no valid justification to infringe upon the specific enumerated right to keep and bear arms, correct? Anyone advocating for restrictions must therefore be ignorant, stupid, and/or evil, right?

          • Joe: These data only tell us that giving gun owners a legal concealed carry option doesn’t change the crime trend. They don’t address the effect of household gun ownership on gun mortality. Other data suggest mortality increases with ownership, as it would with increased exposure to any lethal device. (Chainsaw mortality would rise if more homes had chainsaws.)

            How much impingement against others’ right to life is acceptable and whether gun access crosses that threshold seem to remain open questions.

          • Well, I just saw this one Mr. Abbott!

            As the line goes: “It seems here, what we have is a failure to communicate.”

            It again seems you’re unable to elucidate what point you’re trying to make.

            Let me assist.

            All I see is that you are trying to make a parabolic argument that the “right to safety” is impinged by a “right to keep and bear arms”.

            Am I right? Yes? No?

            Just so you know, I started hearing that anti-gun line being spouted about 5 to 6 years ago. You must have actually believed the propaganda that gun owners are 99.44% stupid, knuckle dragging, beer bellied, red necked, Neanderthals to think that no one here would figure out what point you were trying to make. I was simply hoping you would “get off the dime” and finally screw up the courage to MAKE IT.

            Here’s why you’re a anti-gun bigot who tried to do it in disguise and are, in my estimation, a classic fail.

            Now , the only thing I could determine from all your preceding comments was Risk v. Reward of the people being armed (in whatever increasing, or decreasing per capita numbers), and your concern over whether or not it affected the CRIME rate.

            Now, after that’s been put to rest, you divert to “guns in the home” safety.

            Why Mr. Abbott? Why take another tack when your previous point of concern has been shown, by your own commentary, to be unnecessary?

            Again, what I see, and you’re making it easy to is nothing more than an anti-gun bigot who’s trying to do some “rope-a-dope”.

            MY “safety” in my home is MY concern, as is my safety in public. Each person’s own concern also. Specific to if someone doesn’t want to have a gun in their premises, that’s THEIR decision. It’s not up to some government, or anyone else to decide for ME or anyone else. The Supreme Court ALREADY put that train of argument to rest with the Heller and McDonald decisions. IT’S A FUNDAMENTAL RIGHT! Exercise it at your discretion.

            So if SCOTUS has already have stated that, possession of guns, ESPECIALLY in the home, is a protected, enumerated right, advocating for restrictions is completely antithetical to our freedom and is also ignorant, stupid, and/or evil, right?

            SO, How much impingement against others’ right to life is acceptable and whether gun access crosses that threshold IS NO LONGER an open question.

            It’s answered. It’s no “impingement” by a law abiding citizen on anyone else, except possibly in their fevered imagination of some simpering daffodil, scared of their own shadow and seeing the boogieman around every corner . And, since a criminal, by definition, doesn’t obey laws, infringing on a citizen is UNacceptable.

            Even as I am disabled, walk with the aid of a cane, arthritic, often vertiginous, and retired early from my federal service. I fear no man, see no risk, even from those who may be heavily armed, unless and until they present with Ability, Opportunity and Jeopardy. Then events will proceed as I deem fit to exercise my right of self defense.

          • We have already determined guns outside the home have no detrimental effects on violent crime. Guns in one’s home can only affect “gun mortality” within or relatively short distances outside the home. I find it very telling you express an interest in “gun mortality” instead of violent crime.

            While, strictly speaking, your statement is true I find it difficult to imagine anyone seriously believes whatever effect guns in people’s homes have can be of any significance when guns outside the home are known to be of no significance. I have to conclude you are searching for a plausible reason to restrict our specific enumerated right to keep and bear arms. And that leads to the further conclusions which I have already enumerated.

          • Miles: You seem interested in arguing with (yelling at?) those who trade in insults. “Stupid,” “knuckle dragging,” “evil,” “bigot,” whatever. I have no interest in that. The degree to which guns, like any lethal device, risk others’ right to life is an empirical, not emotional matter.

            The Court has confirmed the right to bear arms, yes, but in the same breath allowed for its regulation. Existing gun restrictions cite the imminent risk to others I’ve described. Our right to life is decisive. Empirical data can help us decide what additional regulations, if any, would reduce gun morality.

            You wonder if I’m arguing “that the ‘right to safety’ is impinged by a ‘right to keep and bear arms.’” No. We have no right to safety (from injury or hurt feelings), per se. We have a right to life. Bearing arms doesn’t automatically infringe that right. But it’s possible some kinds of arms and the way in which they’re borne does threaten others right to life. And that’s where the Court permits regulation, where data and rational discourse can guide us.

          • All you can seem to say is in the indeterminate.

            “We have a right to life. Bearing arms doesn’t automatically infringe that right. But it’s possible some kinds of arms and the way in which they’re borne does threaten others right to life.”

            Bull, Horse and other domestic manure.

            What you’ve not gone to promoting is “Prior-Restraint”. Just another anti-gun idea that has gone nowhere.

            With RKBA being a fundamental protected individual right, we already have the answer.

            The increase in gun purchases at the same time as there has been a decrease in crime has been very embarrassing for anti-gun advocates, and the “fewer and fewer people are owning more and more guns” is your way of trying to explain it.

            This statement is to meant to convey that fewer gun owners are stockpiling more guns and that they are some sort of militant types that need more regulation.

            However, it has also been a longstanding talking point of anti-gun advocates that ownership of many guns by one individual is a bad thing, requiring some sort of limit. But now, according to their own propaganda, there has been an big increase in the number of guns owned by many gunowners — at the same time as there has been a decrease in crime!

            Also any “possession” numbers, increasing, or decreasing is irrelevant from the standpoint of a given person desiring to retain the right to have effective means of defense against violence. In every jurisdiction that adopts a “shall issue” law, permit applications go through the roof. Now, I don’t think that fewer and fewer people are applying for more and more permits.

            You can twist in the wind all you want about who and how many, and what types someone may be carrying around, but it has nothing to do with the right to do so, or the perceived need by citizens to partake of those rights.

            Liberty haters, and I put you right in the middle of that group, are trying to use some nonsensical proxy for reduced need, when nothing could be further from the truth. The person caught in a deadly situation with a violent criminal has maximal need to be capable of resisting. Even if that’s just one single citizen each year, that’s sufficient justification for the viability of the right to be armed overriding any concern of “risk”.

            IMO, no such hunting for data to thwart lies and deceit in this regard is necessary. The mere fact that not all gun ownership is known, not all gun transactions are documented, and not all violent crime against citizens is reported means one thing, primarily: That it’s practically impossible to come up with the actual, correct statistics related to the question.

            More ‘study’ won’t actually determine anything, but if it will make you feel better, you go right ahead and study it the more all you want.

            All propaganda to the contrary, gun control is a losing argument.

            Or are you simply trying to score points by bringing your other anti-gun friends by so you can point to us indomitable, obdurate, savage gun owners and say “See?”

            I’m rolling.

          • Joe: I doubt the effect of legalized concealed carry is equivalent to “guns outside the home” in general. You couldn’t write software mixing variables that way. I’ve carried a gun outside the home plenty. That used to be the only thing we thought of doing with them. There was no concealed carry.

            Guns outside homes may well increase crime even if how they’re carried doesn’t alter that effect. Again, different variables. Other studies detail the crime and mortality implications of gun ownership. The fact that concealed carry adds nothing to safety seems interesting on its own.

          • Well, since CC is neither a + or a -, the answer about what to do has already been given you hasn’t it?

            And the response to those who would attempt interfering with it has been given as well, hasn’t it.

            Do we need a repetition?

          • Miles: The need to squeeze rivals into prejudged, pejorative boxes is symptomatic of the recent political culture, mired in its own dogmatism. It seems one may be castigated as a “liberty hater” or “bigot” and assigned motivations disconnected with anything they’ve actually said.

            Knowledge is often defined as believing what is true and truth as a description of the way the world really is. Studies measure the world so we can understand how it really is, so we can believe what is true. I think we all want our beliefs to be true.

            Calling the studies names, even throwing rocks at them, won’t be very productive. I’ve cited them. You can read them in full, in the Founders’ spirit of “reason and free enquiry,” to expose methodological flaws, if such exist. Otherwise, let’s strive to believe what is true.

          • You’ve cited “studies”.
            So what does (even if true) your cited studies mean to the right?
            Not one damn thing.
            SO LEAVE IT ALONE
            We all agree that CC, probably even OC, doesn’t affect crime.
            So what does mean to the right?
            Not one damn thing.
            SO LEAVE IT ALONE

            This is very kindly advice.

            You keep going on continually that there’s some ‘need’, some necessity to examine gun rights.

            “Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.”

            It’s your argument.

          • Joe: I suppose you realize those sentiments are contrary to the Courts’ clear rulings? “Challenged and ignored” would have to describe insurrection more than litigation.

            Your recent post alludes to a Second Circuit ruling* that rests on District of Columbia v. Heller. We read there, “‘the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.’ Heller emphasized that ‘the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose’” (p. 19).

            “Heller explicitly identified as ‘presumptively lawful’ such ‘regulatory measures’ as … ‘laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, [and] laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.’ Most importantly here, Heller also endorsed the ‘historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons’” (20).

            * NY State Rifle & Pistol Ass’n v. Cuomo; Connecticut Citizens’ Defense League v. Malloy (2nd Cir. 2014): http://www.ca2.uscourts.gov/decisions/isysquery/7541c52a-9924-4ba1-af2b-59f16bbeb2a5/3/doc/14-36_14-319_opn.pdf

          • @Jason Abbott, Would you have followed court rulings saying fugitive slaves must be returned to their owners? Or what if very popular books such as Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the Bible, Mein Kampf, or The Communistic Manefesto were banned?

            You should read the entire Heller ruling. Pay careful attention to the part about guns “in common use” being protected.

          • Joe: It sounds like you are talking of “insurrection more than litigation.”

            I have read the Heller ruling. In upholding the New York and Connecticut restrictions, the Appellate Court, from which I was quoting, dealt at length with Heller’s concept of common use (§ V). Which elements of their “analytical rubric,” as they call it, seem faulty?

          • Please answer the question about what you would do in regards to actual (and suggested) laws that are currently unpopular.

            1) Their definition of “in common use” regarded tens of millions of guns and magazines owned by tens of millions of people as insufficient to qualify.
            2) Their inability to determine whether these guns were “typically possessed by law‐abiding citizens for lawful purposes” even though there are a few hundred crimes committed with them each year.

            They then went on to assume the guns were in common use and “”typically possessed by law‐abiding citizens for lawful purposes”. What they failed to do is apply the proper level of scrutiny. Dave Kopel says he will explain this soon. While you wait for his explanation read his take on the decision. He is a much better authority than I.

          • Joe: I am not a fan of certain taxes. I still pay them. There are places where the speed limit seems too slow. I obey it if other people are around, otherwise I speed. There are places the law says I can’t ride my motorcycle. I obey those. I’m not supposed to have firecrackers but sometimes I do.

            I would avoid laws requiring that I harm someone. Other than that, it’s like my examples. I’m generally content to oblige. If a law seems especially dumb, I might join groups lobbying against it. I wouldn’t threaten insurrection over it or consider its supporters idiots and bigots.

            I agree the level of scrutiny (discussed in § V.d) seems the crux of the Appellate Court issue. That Court again cites Heller (fn. 74) to demonstrate “standards of scrutiny” are the appropriate rubric but which standard? I’m eager to read further analysis.

          • @Jason Abbott,

            Please answer these specific questions:

            1) Would you have followed court rulings saying fugitive slaves must be returned to their owners?
            2) Would you have followed court rulings saying the ban of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn was constitutional?
            3) Would you follow court rulings saying the ban of The Bible was constitutional?
            4) Would you follow court rulings saying the ban of Mein Kampf was constitutional?
            5) Would you follow court rulings saying the ban of The Communistic Manifesto was constitutional?

            The ban on certain firearms in common use is entirely analogous to the last four items so consider your words carefully.

          • Joe: My answer to each of your questions is no. I would quietly retain copies of any banned books I happened to own. And I would offer no aid to enslavement — just as I sometimes break the speed limit.

            I am not sure those questions represent the closest analogy to New York’s and Connecticut’s upheld gun restrictions. May I propose another?

            A couple of us “knew a guy” who could make small explosives for us when we were young, up to a quarter-stick of dynamite or so. We were always far away from others when we lit them. We had fun making a canon and blasting down whole trees in our back woods.

            If that was 1965, how should I have felt about the law outlawing those explosives in 1966? Sure, others might use them to cause harm but I doubt it was common and certainly not our purpose. We sometimes needed them to break apart large logs we couldn’t pound a maul through.

            Would you openly defy the ban on small explosives?

          • Was that actually ignorance, or just something else?
            You do happen to know what Joe is well noted for, don’t you?

          • I’m opposed to all victimless crimes. The bans on normal capacity magazines and “assault weapons” as well as your recreational use of explosives* falls into this category.

            Even though I believe the manufacture and use of explosives should without restrictions I obey the law for the same reason I obey the stupid laws in regards to being searched by TSA prior to boarding a flight. The hassle of ignoring the law isn’t worth making the point of principle.

            I chose those particular books for a specific reason. The Communist Manifesto contributed to far more deaths in the 20th century than the private ownership firearms did. It can be argued the Bible contributed to slavery in the U.S. and the deaths of many innocents throughout history. It isn’t as dangerous a book as The Communist Manifesto, but it does have the potential for harm to innocent people even in the present day (exorcism deaths, refusal medical care on religious grounds, etc.).

            The First Amendment protects books and religion even though they have potential for great harm. The Second Amendment does the same for weapons. A potentiality is not an actuality. In a free society only actual harm, not potential harm, can be a crime.

            * I assume the trees you destroyed were your property and not the property of someone else. If you were destroying the property of others then that would have been a crime but wouldn’t justify the banning the recreational use of explosives in general.

          • Joe: Most agree that behaviors incapable of directly harming others (e.g. reading books) should not be criminalized while behaviors that do constitute harm should be. But what about the vast majority of behaviors that lie in between these obvious cases?

            If “only actual harm, not potential harm” should be criminalized then you must allow drinking and driving. You must repeal speed limits and permit hunting with any weapon, anytime. Private pilots must be allowed to fly at any altitude, in any air space they like. I could go on and on. Is that really what you mean?

            P.S. Yes, the trees were ours.

          • Mr Abbott; rights, especially those specifically enumerated by people who demanded they be, literally, spelled out, or they wouldn’t ratify the constitution have a sanctity to them that makes your quibbling about possible ‘bad effects’ a kabuki theater.

            You write: “But what about the vast majority of behaviors that lie in between these obvious cases?”

            If the behaviors result in harm, punish those who commit the harm.
            One of your premises is that possessing guns that someone, someplace has decided is “dangerous” is similar to the argument of equating them to “shouting fire in a theatre” is against the law because it’s dangerous.
            But here’s a problem:
            If there IS a fire, it’s not wrong, or against the law to shout. The person doing so when there is no fire can, and should be punished for his actions, not required to wear a gag simply because he ‘might’ raise a false alarm.
            This is the same principle of any prior restraint on a right, including keeping and bearing arms of a person’s own choosing.

            I have a couple of quotes for you that I strongly agree with:

            “Liberty is an inherently offensive lifestyle. Living in a free society guarantees that each one of us will see our most cherished principles and beliefs questioned and in some cases mocked. That psychic discomfort is the price we pay for basic civic peace. It’s worth it. It’s a pragmatic principle. Defend everyone else’s rights, because if you don’t there is no one to defend yours.” — MaxedOutMama

            “I don’t just want gun rights… I want individual liberty, a culture of self-reliance….I want the whole bloody thing.” — Kim du Toit

            and to end the quotes, a question:

            “What do we do with these people, who can’t even accurately frame the situation…….?”

            I’ve never yet gotten a good answer from you about what your problem actually is, other than, apparently, your idea that lots of people being armed, out and about and all over the place, seems to somehow gravely concern you.

          • Joe: Criminalizing only “actual harm” would return us to a pre-societal state of nature governed only by the Wiccan Rede, “An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will.” Or at best, make us a third world nation of strictly retributive justice in which we must endure life threatening traffic and building practices (à la Bangladesh or India).

            Salus populi suprema lex esto (“health of the people should be the highest law”) has been the basis for democratic governments from the time of the Roman Republic. Today we call it the “compelling state interest” as invoked in many laws and judicial rulings.

            Compelling state interests are not based on what “someone, someplace has decided is ‘dangerous,’” as you say. To the contrary, I’ve argued repeatedly (a dozen times by my count) that such distinctions should have an empirical basis, just as Kopel lately explained of “intermediate scrutiny.”*

            You might say my interest (not a “problem” or “grave concern” as I experience it) is rational discourse in the service of salus populi suprema lex esto, as mentioned before.
            * David Kopel, The Washington Post, “The 2nd Circuit’s second-class Second Amendment intermediate scrutiny

          • 1, I’m not Joe.

            I have said, in the past, and I repeat, all you post is derived from utilitarianism, and your latest “compelling state interest” angle is also a prime indicator that the utility should be to the state, being “Big Daddy”.

            But none of that above matters.

            Why you bring up Kopel’s article, when the article is a denunciation is telling.

            You see, one of the alternative ideas I had rolling around in my mind has just that much more confirmation.
            You finally, thank you, finally, answered the question I’ve been trying to drag out of you for several days: “Why are you here?”

            Since there is no compatibility between the philosophies of the anti-gunners and us, compromise is actually impossible, so all we can do is disagree.

            But when you wrote:
            “You might say my interest (not a “problem” or “grave concern” as I experience it) is rational discourse….” I finally understood, as I’ve seen similar before.

            You, personally, don’t have a belief, one way or the other. Whether you actually care is quite immaterial. It’s doubtful you even own a firearm, so it really doesn’t matter to you, one way, or the other, as you believe none of this will ever actually affect you. All this banal ‘discourse’ is nothing more than your desire to simply “yak” about something and you think that’s all we are doing here too.

            But you see, I reject “reasoned discourse” as necessary before exercising a fundamental right. As I have no need, or desire to engage in continual pointless yakking, I’m through with you, other than to make a “diplomatic” point that some people really have no idea what they’re asking for.

          • Miles: “I reject ‘reasoned discourse’ as necessary,” you say, “before exercising a fundamental right.” It’s that political illiteracy that must be challenged, that’s inimical to a safe and orderly society.

            You will notice that is not Kopel’s argument.* He doesn’t argue that a compelling state interest, salus populi suprema lex esto, can’t limit enumerated rights. Rather, he argues the limitation should be minimized and based on good evidence. In other words, the product of “reasoned discourse.”

            For what it’s worth, I hardly think I’ve been vague about my belief that gun access may reduce (empirical matter) the public health and safety that is government’s chief concern (philosophical matter). I find I’ve written of goals and objectives on these occasions:

            October 16: 11:23 ᴀᴍ, 12:05 ᴘᴍ, 6:03 ᴘᴍ
            October 17: 5:11 ᴀᴍ, 5:51 ᴀᴍ, 7:17 ᴀᴍ
            October 18: 7:59 ᴀᴍ
            October 19: 9:13 ᴀᴍ, 10:02 ᴀᴍ, 5:24 ᴘᴍ, 6:09 ᴘᴍ, 7:29 ᴘᴍ
            October 21: 11:06 ᴀᴍ, 12:35 ᴘᴍ, 12:47 ᴘᴍ, 1:26 ᴘᴍ
            October 24: 1:11 ᴀᴍ
            * David Kopel, The Washington Post, “The 2nd Circuit’s second-class Second Amendment intermediate scrutiny

          • Just too bad.
            Like I said, and you’ve never denied it. All you do and want is ‘yak’.
            It’s your ‘thing’, I get it.

            If Mr. Huffman desires further conversation with you, it’s his blog.
            But, if you’ve read his many statements on the subject, he keeps saying that there are lines that must not be crossed.
            As for me, and as you can see, almost everyone else already did so much earlier, I’m done talking to a brick wall.

          • Miles: Although an apparent source of frustration to you, I’m grateful for the ideas you’ve shared. It is helpful to realize your ideology goes not just to the facts but deeper, to the very notion of limiting individual rights for the sake of others, the very notion of a “compelling state interest.”*

            I hope, like Joe, you’re out enjoying the beautiful Autumn somewhere.
            * Stephen Seigel, American Journal of Legal History, “The Origin of the Compelling State Interest Test and Strict Scrutiny

          • @Jason, You said, ‘Criminalizing only “actual harm” would return us to a pre-societal state of nature governed only by the Wiccan Rede, “An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will.”’

            No. There is an alternative. People agree to certain standards all the time without making it a criminal offense to violate those standards. We have standards for bolt sizes and threads, ammunition sizes and pressures, good hygiene when working in a office environment, honesty in our relationship, etc.

            I know of no reason why rules of the road, air, and hundreds of thousands of other things which are currently criminal offenses can’t be “agreed upon standards” that have no criminal consequences if they are violated and no one is harmed. However, if those standards are violated and someone is harmed I would propose the penalties be greater than if the same injury occurred while someone was in compliance with the “agreed upon standards”.

          • Joe: Your Utah hike looked amazing. I’m sure you and your wife loved it. We get just a hint of that in our Idaho Owyhees but nothing like Bryce Canyon.

            When I try to imagine the legal system you propose, that doesn’t regulate gun or other safety, I’m reminded of places like India and Bangladesh which seem little concerned with traffic, food or building safety but may severely punish those who actually cause harm. Do you have better examples?

            Agreements and laws both trade in benefits and sanctions. It’s fair to say laws are a set of agreements comprising a social contract.* To prefer agreements to laws, then, seems like a distinction without a difference.

            If I pay a fine for violating my agreement not to speed, how is that different from a speeding ticket? Or if there are no safety agreements, only agreements against harm, then why have the agreements at all? Even on your account, we would still have laws to punish those who do harm. What does an agreement add?

            Finally, could you describe how voluntary agreements would address the Tragedy of the Commons, situations that pit individual and group benefits against each other? Most believe laws are the only solution.
            * Constitution Society, “The Social Contract and Constitutional Republics

  2. I wouldn’t trust the ownership polls too much. I suspect that reflects a mistrust of pollsters, news organizations, and government in general, rather than actual ownership. After all, I no longer own any guns; after I lost them all in that stupid canoe accident, I couldn’t bring myself to replace them.

    • Even if ownership is under-reported, a decline is still indicated, right? If instead of 50 to 33% the real numbers are 60 to 43%, that’s still a decline.

      If you consider data as carefully as this blog entry suggests, we needn’t resort to what we “trust” or “suspect.” Under-reporting biases have been well studied. We know, for example, 94% of randomly selected concealed carry permittees will acknowledge having a gun when asked in typical survey fashion.¹ Hunting licenses and gun registrations have been used in the same way to cross-check answers,² demonstrating respondents are honest about gun ownership.
      ¹ Tom Smith, Journal of Quantitative Criminology, “A Seeded Sample of Concealed-Carry Permit Holders,” 2003, vol. 19, no. 4, p. 441: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/B:JOQC.0000005443.90669.4b
      ² National Library of Medicine Public Health Reports, “Validity of a Household Gun Question in a Telephone Survey”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1382119/pdf/pubhealthrep00054-0052.pdf

      • “They (cited in my other comment) say that when you poll people known to have a gun, at least 94% are honest about it.”

        “Even if ownership is under-reported, a decline is still indicated, right? If instead of 50 to 33% the real numbers are 60 to 43%, that’s still a decline.”

        You just go on and keep believing those two items since it seems to make you feel all warm and fuzzy.

        • This blog often trumps facts and data against “liberal” name-calling and hype. It is ironic, therefore, that citing data here should make one “an idiot” (JuryRig) hoping to “feel all warm and fuzzy.”

          The data are simple. Call up a random bunch of people from concealed carry permit records and present them with what seems a random demographic survey. Ninety-four percent acknowledge their gun ownership. Why do you think that’s incorrect?

          • Hey, even get that double-plus goodthink that you’re winning some sort of internal self-actualized argument.

          • Miles: “With so many facts available from so many places and times, why is gun control still a heated issue? The short answer is that most gun … zealots do not even discuss the issue in terms of hard facts” (Thomas Sowell, quoted above). Sowell could add that epithets and insults are often more self-assuring, more satisfying, than facts.

          • This thread is hysterical. When faced with actual statistics and data that doesn’t confirm their beliefs, the gunnies have to fall back on anecdotes and “I suspect” or “I believe.”

      • We know, for example, 94% of randomly selected concealed carry permittees will acknowledge having a gun when asked in typical survey fashion.

        Of course they will. When your sample is limited to concealed carry permit holders, and you tell them that’s how they were selected, they’ll say they own guns.

        Most of them (say, 94%?) might conclude — given their CCW permit status is known to the pollster — that it’s assumed they own guns already. Why have a CCW permit, after all, if not to carry a gun they own?

        It may be reasonable or it may be a mistake to extrapolate that to the non-CCW-permitted gun owning population in general. You can’t tell for sure. Blindly assuming such extrapolation is reasonable, however, is a mistake.

        • Your assumptions are mistaken. Under-reporting bias studies are predicated on having respondents unaware the truth is already known. In the study I cited, even “the interviewers were not aware that … additional numbers were inserted for households with known holders of concealed-carry permits.”*

          The concealed-carry respondents did not know their gun ownership answer could be validated but 94% still answered honestly, implying that declining ownership is a reality.
          * Tom Smith, Journal of Quantitative Criminology, “A Seeded Sample of Concealed-Carry Permit Holders,” 2003, vol. 19, no. 4, p. 441: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/B:JOQC.0000005443.90669.4b

          • But the sample was not of all gun owners. It was only the subset of gun owners that had concealed carry licenses. I know many gun owners that will not get a license (or even join the NRA) because they don’t want to be on a list of gun owners.

            By sampling only licensed gun owners you are only measuring the honesty of those who are already “out of the closet”.

            Imagine you were doing random polling in 1950 of people to determine the percentage of people who are homosexual. You went through the list of people who were openly gay and 94% of them answer truthfully. Do you really believe that anything close to that percentage of all homosexuals would have answered honestly?

            You might even find a significant discrepancy today between those in same sex marriages and the full set of homosexuals.

          • Joe: Statistics, even those lauded by Sowell, have error bars to acknowledge small uncertainties. Some people hunt (ownership has also been cross-checked with hunting licenses) and purchase handguns illegally, yes. Do you think that’s a substantial number or more like ±2 percent?

            Even if hunting license, gun registration (where it’s required) and CCW permit cross-checks haven’t fully captured the under-reporting bias, it doesn’t change the fact of ownership decline. If instead of 50 to 30% the reality is a 60 to 40% drop, that’s still a decline.

          • The conclusion that gun ownership has declined is only true if the underreporting bias is the same over time. In the 1950 and early 1960 people were very open about gun ownership. People “went into the closet” when they became more and more persecuted. The “closeted” gun owners could account for the apparent decline in gun ownership. To the best of my knowledge, and you certainly haven’t conclusive demonstrated otherwise here, there is no way to distinguish actual decline from people being less likely to self-identify as a gun owner.

          • Joe: I am reminded of Coeur d’Alene pastor Warren Campbell’s rally against gun control.¹ Pastor Campbell happens to believe the earth is at the center of the solar system. Even the sun orbits the earth.²

            With decades of probes and satellites, how is such a belief possible? It almost boggles the mind. It turns out any belief can be made to fit the data if enough assumptions (about optics, physics, attitudes) are piled on.

            Similarly, repeatedly cross-checked gun surveys can be questioned by assuming a growing degree of clandestine ownership, assuming the long-time correlation between hunting rates, urbanization and gun ownership has reversed.

            A principle of rational inquiry is to begin with the interpretation requiring the fewest assumptions. In this case it’s to acknowledge the decline survey respondents are reporting and hunting and urbanization rates are indicating. Don’t be a geocentrist.
            ¹ Coeur d’Alene Press, “Speaker: Return to ‘patriot pulpit’”: http://www.cdapress.com/news/political/article_37605b91-751d-5417-993b-3689c3ed1636.html
            ² YouTube, “Geocentricity with Warren Luke Campbell”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1R6MeIUGfiU

        • The CCW argument might hold in benighted places where CCW permit holder names are public information. But I question whether it’s valid in states like NH, which refuse even to disclose the number of CCW permit holders on the grounds that the law requires CCW permit information to be confidential.

      • “Even if ownership is under-reported, a decline is still indicated, right? If instead of 50 to 33% the real numbers are 60 to 43%, that’s still a decline.”

        No. This is an assumption. The real numbers might be 50% to 33%. Or they might be 60% to 43%. Or they might be 55% to 50%. Or they might be 43% to 70%. Or they might be 23% to 90%. The fact is, a self-reporting poll like this is utterly unreliable.

        And then when have then brain-damaged ubu with her nonsensical twisting: “When faced with actual statistics and data that doesn’t confirm their beliefs…..”

        No, that is not what is happening here. This is a SELF-REPORTING poll, not crime statistics, which are provable and verifiable. This is why my reply to gun prohibitionists is now, “No, fuck off.” You will not understand facts. You will not understand the difference between polls and statistics, and you will not understand settled law. You want to see irony ubu? How about the ObamaCare supporters who have screeched, “IT’S THE LAW!!!! IT’S THE LAW!!!!” after the Supreme Court rulings supporting it, but many of these same brain damaged jackasses will not accept the rulings of McDonald v. Chicago or Heller v. Washing, D.C.

        No. Fuck off from my firearms.

        • chiefjaybob: The accuracy of gun ownership responses has been validated at 94% by including those already known to possess a gun (because of a concealed-carry permit, hunting license or firearm registration) among the surveyed population.

          If your desire is, as you say, to “understand facts,” you may read much more about the empirical methodology at the citations I shared.

          • Your notion of “validation” relies on two theories: (a) that this subset of the gun owning population is representative, and (b) that the subset of the states where you can even do this survey is representative.
            For example, you can’t do a survey of CC holders in NH because you can’t get a list of CC holders.

          • Paul Koning: The reliability of any survey depends on finding a sample that represents the whole. As you can imagine, there are mountains of data on the subject. All the studies I’ve read have a methodology section to document credibility in that and other regards.

            The study cross-checking gun responses against hunting licenses and handgun registrations was conducted in Michigan.¹ The population cross-checked against concealed-carry permits were sampled from Arkansas, Florida, Indiana, Louisiana, and Montana.²

            Extrapolations from those studies are controlled for ethnicity, income, age, gender, political affiliation and other factors, based on decades of analysis.
            ¹ National Library of Medicine Public Health Reports, “Validity of a Household Gun Question in a Telephone Survey”: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1382119/pdf/pubhealthrep00054-0052.pdf
            ² Tom Smith, Journal of Quantitative Criminology, “A Seeded Sample of Concealed-Carry Permit Holders,” 2003, vol. 19, no. 4, p. 441: http://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/B:JOQC.0000005443.90669.4b

  3. Since I-594 passed, it is harder to legally educate new shooters, which I suppose was the point of it. I don’t have an “established shooting range authorized by the governing body” in my area, so going out to plink with new shooters is unlawful unless they are under 18 years of age. I am willing to break that stupid law unless the potential new shooter voted for I-594, in which case I say I can’t help them.

  4. Serious question Mr. Abbott;
    Why is a purported reduction in the number of people who own/possess firearms in the U.S. of such importance to you?
    What does it personally mean to you?

    • Since a person can only carry a finite number of firearms at a time, it allows him to claim that the decline in crime is to an effective decline in the number of guns. And that the confiscation of all guns will therefore eliminate crime.

      • I appreciate *your* response, but actually wanted Abbott to state his reasons personally.
        Of course, all we have since yesterday afternoon is crickets.
        IMO, he’s doing the pigeon crapping on the chessboard routine, like UBU is noted for doing.

        Personally, all I see the vast majority of anti-gunners doing is trolling via some made up argumentation. I see this in several other venues of Atheist v. Theist comments where an Atheist sees a “win” by being able to brow beat a less skilled writer, and everyone else merely sees confirmation bias.

      • Akatsukami: I don’t know if declining crime is related to the declining number of people with guns. Many other factors are at work. What I do know is that declining crime is not caused by an increase in the number of people with guns since all datasets agree there has been no such increase.

    • Miles: It is hard to have a productive conversation with incompatible “facts.” Getting the data right seems a necessary first step to consensus.

      My personal motivations are probably the same as yours. I want to maximize my children’s freedom and happiness. I don’t think gun possession is a large factor in that equation but it does seem to focus larger social issues of evidence, rights and policy that I do think will have lasting importance.

      • I’m wondering what the connection is between your children’s freedom and happiness — worthy goals, indeed — and the numbers found in surveys of gun ownership.
        The fact that you seem to be making a connection between these unrelated points is what raises red flags among a number of us.
        Along those lines: you say that you don’t think gun possession is a significant factor in your children’s freedom and happiness. Very well, you are entitled to that view, and to the consequences of acting on it. I hope you will find them positive.
        Do you believe that your belief that gun possession isn’t a significant factor in your children’s freedom and happiness affects the rights of others to possess guns? If not, then there is no concern. If yes, why? You can’t argue such a position from survey numbers; they are of no relevance whatsoever when civil rights are at issue.

        • Paul Koning: Good (and gracious) questions. My underlying concern, “the connection,” is the polarizing tendency to eschew data for ear-tickling pundits (2Ti 4:3). The gun debate is just a conspicuous example. I think the spread of poor belief standards* endangers a society predicated on reason and self-restraint. It could affect my kids.

          In answer to your last question, no, I wouldn’t think my perspective on any matter affects another person’s right. Their right should be limited only by my equivalent right. My right to preserve my life shouldn’t diminish the preservation of your life.
          * See Paul Helm, Belief Policies, as reviewed by John Frame: http://www.frame-poythress.org/review-of-paul-helms-belief-policies/

          • Fine. But that leaves me with the question: why does it matter whether gun ownership is going up, down, or nowhere? You’re saying the evidence is that it’s going down, while others are not convinced. But since, as you have clearly agreed, those statistics have nothing do with the right to bear arms, why does it matter which way the statistics point?
            To put it the way Lyle might: if I’m the only one in the US who is interested in owning guns, that fact has no bearing on my right to do so.

          • Paul Koning: A few seem to suggest there’s no point in correcting data underlying a conclusion if I don’t mean to assert an alternate conclusion. I don’t agree. If you’ll indulge a motorcycle metaphor, I’ve several times seen “data” indicating I was on the wrong trail. That doesn’t mean I immediately know the correct alternative. Often I have to stop a while to check maps and consider the terrain — to collect data.

            It matters which way “statistics point” because, even if they prove no particular answer, they place constraints around the set of legitimate answers. Knowing I should be gaining altitude on a trail may not give me an exact direction but it limits my choices. Statistics are part of the evidence that eventual gun regulation recommendations should account for. Getting the data right is important.

      • I still have a problem then understanding where you’re coming from.

        The point you’re trying to make.

        If crime, as a whole, is diminishing, and if firearm possession isn’t (to you ) a large factor either way, what difference does that make to you?

        If the number of people is increasing (sorry, my personal anecdotal evidence from seeing first time, especially women, buyers & CC classes is contrary to your surveys), or decreasing, so what?

        Points you need to understand are this.
        1, My personal possession of any deadly instrumentality, guns or otherwise, isn’t contingent on how you feel about it. If it disturbs, or frightens you, I, more or less, say “deal with it”, I’m not a problem to you, unless you, personally, become a problem to me. Sort of like “My rights end at your nose and vice-versa”.

        2, For the last ~50 years or so, the “people of the gun” for lack of a better term, have had to deal with two-faced politicians and outright adversaries who espouse an antigun doctrine. This has, for the most part, made gunowners skeptical, if not completely distrustful of anyone coming around with a view that can be seen as a ploy from the anti-gun playbook.

        Sorry, if that comes across as “You’re just someone else, full of ‘it’ “, but we deal with ‘it’ every day.

        Further down you comment: “Self-defense is about preserving my right to life, isn’t it? And in this context, risks are things that would threaten my life. Is that fair?”

        I commented there.

        • Miles: Whether software engineering or public policy, committing to a solution before all the facts are on the table doesn’t produce great outcomes. I’m not sure what a gun violence solution will look like but I am sure of the need for complete data.

          Ironically, the same technology that makes primary data so accessible also stupefies us with outrage peddling, self-affirming media outlets that would have us satisfied with intellectual incest in place of free enquiry.

          Although gun access is eclipsed by global issues of culture and economics as predictors of crime, it’s not inconsequential. It’s affect on crime isn’t strictly known but I think can be known and can help form policies to promote freedom and happiness.

          Like Mr. Koning, you’ve made some remarks on feelings. I imagine that derives from past encounters more than this conversation. I feel the same way about a gun as I do a rake.

          I leave you with this remark of Thomas Jefferson: “The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbour to say there are twenty gods, or no god. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg … Reason and free enquiry are the only effectual agents against error.”
          * Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, p. 285 (emphasis added): http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=JefVirg.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public&part=all

          • “I’m not sure what a gun violence solution will look like but I am sure of the need for complete data.”

            You’re already operating from a false premise: “Gun violence” is not a problem in need of a specific solution, because it is a surrogate measurement that does not reflect on a valid endpoint. What we need is a solution to all violence. As a bonus, reducing overall violence should naturally reduce gun violence as well.

  5. Jason Abbott: I believe you are citing ONE survey, which purports to show a decline in gun ownership. Based on that one survey, you have repeatedly declared declining gun ownership to be a “fact”.

    What others here are telling you — some with greater degrees of politeness than others, to be sure — is that there are multiple reasons to suspect this result.

    Frankly, you had lost me in your first comment, when you said “Data on that point are as readily available as the others.” Data on gun ownership is quite difficult to come by; we have statistics on Federal checks at the time of gun purchases, but these do not correlate one-to-one with actual gun purchases. The widely-cited number, roughly 310 million privately-owned guns in America, is an estimate, and a rough one.

    You see such estimates all the time. When Connecticut demanded that certain types of firearms be turned in, because they had been made illegal ex post facto, stories about it cited estimates of how many such guns were owned by Connecticut residents. (All such estimates were considerably higher than the number that were turned in, but that’s another story.) The same thing happened a few years ago in New York State. Other firearm statistics, such as the number of times per year that firearms are used by ordinary citizens to defend themselves or to prevent commission of a crime, are even harder to come by, since such incidents are heavily under-reported.

    As others here have pointed out, it is not enough to claim that people are “usually honest” in response to surveys asking about gun ownership. Again, you’re pointing to one study — and plausible explanations have been given to you as to why this could well have changed over the past several decades. (I, like others here, suspect that, for a great many Americans, the correct answer to “do you own guns?” is “none of your business”.)

    In the opposite direction, there is a great deal of anecdotal evidence — not as solid as statistics, to be sure, but neither should it be dismissed — about increased gun ownership, about increased sales of guns to first-time buyers, of dramatic increases in firearm ownership by women, and so on. This also makes logical sense. Guns sales in the United States went through the roof after Newtown CT, and sales stayed high for years; does it really make sense to attribute the vast majority of these sales to Bubba buying another dozen rifles? Similarly, in the past couple of decades, the legal trend has been for States to relax their gun-control laws, sometimes dramatically (e.g. Wisconsin). Not long ago, the majority of States were may-issue; now the majority are shall-issue. Not long ago, most States had laws against concealed carry; now concealed carry is legal in all 50 States. Do you really think that those who took advantage of these legal changes were none of them first-time gun buyers?

    Perhaps it is comforting to think that the number of gun-owning Americans HAS gone down in recent years, and that this could account for reductions in violent crime. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

    • He’s citing several surveys. If you click on the chart he posted above, you can see what they all are.

      • ubu, do you understand the difference between a SURVEY and STATISTICS?

        Do you understand that SURVEYS are only as reliable as the people asking and answering them? Do you understand that SURVEYS can be manipulated by the takers to obtain a certain result by phrasing the questions in a certain way?

        Do you understand that criminal statistics come from government reporting, and can be verified and checked?

        To grab Joe’s line of questioning, How do you determine truth from falsity?

        Either you are trolling, or you really are falling into Peterson Syndrome.

        • chiefjaybob,

          This might be hard for you but follow along with me.

          Daniel wrote ” I believe you are citing ONE survey, which purports to show a decline in gun ownership.”

          I was responding to THAT SENTENCE. I do not see the word “statistics” in it at all. He wrote “SURVEY.”

          Do you get it now?

    • Daniel in Brookline: There are at least five surveys showing a decline in the number of households with guns: Gallup,¹ GSS,² Pew,³ ABC/Washington Post⁴ and Economist/YouGov.⁵ The first three have been conducted for decades. The last two are new within the last fifteen years.

      Those going back far enough agree on peak ownership rates around 50% in both the early 80s and again in the early 90s. The Gallup number is now down to 42% while GSS, Pew and The Economist’s latest numbers are 32, 33 and 36%.

      Not only are these data easy to come by, they make sense. We know hunting is declining. We know most gun ownership has been rural and America is become less rural. These changes imply reduced ownership, at least among some population segments, which fits the data.

      If we turn to anecdotes then yes, “Bubba buying another dozen rifles” as opposed to first-time buyers seems perfectly plausible. I’ve run into “Bubba” many times online, flouting his huge armory. Some in my extended family have basement armories. I never saw that as a kid in the Idaho countryside. Nobody needed more than a shotgun and a couple rifles. As the data show, things have changed. There are more guns, not more gun owners.
      ¹ Gallup, “Guns”: http://www.gallup.com/poll/1645/guns.aspx
      ² General Social Survey, “Have Gun in Home”: http://www3.norc.org/GSS+Website/Browse+GSS+Variables/Subject+Index/
      ³ Pew Research Center, “Gun Ownership Trends and Demographics”: http://www.people-press.org/2013/03/12/section-3-gun-ownership-trends-and-demographics/
      ⁴ PollingReport.com, ABC/Washington Post: http://www.pollingreport.com/guns.htm
      ⁵ The Economist/YouGov, “Personal Gun Ownership”: http://cdn.yougov.com/cumulus_uploads/document/1q3se7sjy6/tabs_OPI_guns_20140324.pdf

      • So, again;
        (Lets dispense with the “yes, it is” vs. “no, it isn’t”.)
        What does the significance of a declining % of people possessing guns in the U.S. mean to you?
        What’s so important about it, to you?
        Some of here are trying to figure out why you’re making the point.

        • Miles: It seems to me the appropriate time to be concerned with getting the right facts on the table is before committing to a solution. I don’t know what policies increasing or decreasing household gun ownership might suggest but I doubt good policy will come from bad data.

          The concern, I suppose, is that appeals to empiricism are a ruse to eventually impose prejudices, to usurp rights with feelings. I believe hewing closely to the sentiments of Benjamin Franklin will guard against guile:

          “I intend to offer you nothing but plain reasoning, devoid of art and ornament; unsupported by the authority of any books or men how sacred soever; because I know that no authority is more convincing to men of reason than the authority of reason itself.”*
          * Benjamin Franklin, “On the Providence of God in the Government of the World”: http://teachingamericanhistory.org/library/document/on-the-providence-of-god-in-the-government-of-the-world/

  6. While he doesn’t say so explicitly, Mr Abbott seems to want to imply a causal relationship between declining gun ownership rates and declining crime rates. several reasons to be skeptical about the reliability of gun ownership statistics have been pointed out. I would also note that the wild fluctuations in the raw data from the various sources tends to cast even more doubt on their reliability.

    I would also note that the demographics of gun owners and the types of guns owned has changed drastically over time. Fifty years ago nearly every family I knew had firearms. All of those were hunting rifles and hunting shotguns. Now, a smaller percentage of the families I know have firearms, but a large percentage of the firearms they own are of types better suited to self defense or defense of the home. Drawing useful conclusions about the relationship between firearm ownership and crime would require an analysis of the changes in type and distribution of firearms. Even then, causation is much harder to discern.

    Correlation does not prove causation. Neither does it justify restricting basic human rights.

    • One can see that even if overall ownership has declined, the number of people legally carrying has increased dramatically.

      Much of that is because of the dramatic spread of permisive legal carry.

      • CC has spread in the last 25 years from literally a number of states that could be counted on one hand to, now (even if in I’d some it’s still near impossible unless politically connected) to all 50.

        As has been pointed out before, “Correlation does not prove causation”, but, at least in the medical world, if something seemed to be efficacious in reducing disease, it was continued. Case in point: Hand washing and carbonic acid (antiseptic) misting became more and more commonplace in the 19th century, even before germ transmission was completely understood, merely because infection and septicemia rates started declining.

    • fast richard: I don’t know if declining crime is related to (let alone caused by) the declining number of people with guns. Many other factors are at work. What I do know is that declining crime is not caused by an increase in the number of people with guns since all datasets agree there has been no such increase.

      You mention the same change in gun ownership I’ve observed. Used to be, everyone I knew had a shotgun and a couple rifles. They were tools in a closet. They came out a few times each year — little reason to talk about them. Now I hear many talk of owning a dozen, even two-dozen guns, making it easy to understand why sales are up but gun-owning households is down.

      • If you would look past your obsession with simplistic aggregate statistics, you might find a more thoughtful way of looking at these issues. What are the demographic changes in gun ownership? Are more women choosing to own guns for self defense? Are more people in general choosing to own the types of guns that are best suited for defense rather than hunting? Are the hunting guns of yesterday becoming the collectibles of today, leading to those types of guns being concentrated in fewer hands.

        All guns are not the same. All gun owners are not the same. The hunting guns I remember from fifty years ago, when I was a pre-teen, have almost all changed hands. Many have become family keepsakes, or have been sold into the collector market. It makes no sense to aggregate these with guns that are owned primarily for current uses.

        Without looking at the current purposes for which firearms are owned, just looking a these raw aggregate numbers obscures more information than it reveals. You can’t claim that increased ownership of firearms for self defense is unrelated to declines in violent crime, because the data you are looking at simply does not address the issue. Even if you were looking at relevant data, it would be at best suggestive. Your claim that “What I do know is that declining crime is not caused by an increase in the number of people with guns” is essentially meaningless.

        • fast richard: I meant to demonstrate “declining crime is not caused by an increase in the number of people with guns” to address Sowell’s implication: “Gun sales were going up by millions … and the murder rate was going down.” We seem to agree, in your words, that these “simplistic” data points are “essentially meaningless.”

          So we agree to draw no crime correlations with gun sales?

          • No, we do not agree. The increasing gun sales are less simplistic data that what you seem to want to focus on. Statistical correlations can be informative, even though they cannot in themselves prove causation.

            Gun sales are more relevant than your preferred survey of reported households with guns. Current sales reflect current behavior and attitudes. A breakdown of current sales by firearm type and intended use would be more informative than just the raw numbers.

            For total numbers of households owning guns, it would also be necessary to have information on types and intended use of the guns owned, in order for that information to be relevant to the question of whether there is any influence on crime rates. Guns which are owned primarily as collectors items, keepsakes, or even for hunting have less relevance to crime than guns owned for self defense or home defense purposes.

          • fast richard: We are saying the same thing. Household gun ownership data suggest there’s more to gun sales then just more people having guns — which is exactly what you’re describing. Some may be collectors, others hunters some interested in self-defense. Contrary to Sowell, proper conclusions depend on knowing such details.

  7. I’m not sure why everyone is arguing about surveys, statistics and risk. The core issue is that self defense is an inherent unalienable right of all human beings. And while Mr Sowell is correct that the 2nd Amendment could be repealed (since the Constitution is really just words on paper); it does not change the fact that these natural rights exist and are subject to natural enforcement.

    If the 2nd Amendment (or 1st or 4th or…) were ever actually repealed, this would cease to be America and the politicians responsible would experience that natural enforcement. I pray this never happens, because I believe a second American Revolution would more closely resemble the French Revolution than the original.

    • As Madison pointed out, the whole Bill of Rights is redundant, because none of the things it prohibits to the federal government were authorized to the federal government in the first place.
      In other words, if you delete the 2nd amendment, the 9th would still protect the natural right to self defense. If you delete the whole Bill of Rights, the limited powers in Article 1 Section 8 still say that the federal government has no authority to mess with that right.
      The 2nd amendment is significant for two reasons. One is that the 14th amendment explicitly makes it binding on the states. (Of course, a plain reading of the original words makes it binding on the states even without the 14th, as the Texas supreme court recognized back around 1850.) The other is that it expressly states the right, making it somewhat harder for dishonest judges to pretend otherwise.

    • Jason: Self-defense is about preserving my right to life, isn’t it? And in this context, risks are things that would threaten my life. Is that fair?

      • So, is the point you’re making that another person’s possession of a firearm(s) for self defense is less about their defense and more about your risk because, to you, the firearm may possibly be more dangerous to you than be useful in self defense to them? Or, am I missing something?

        • Miles: There is tension between life and liberty. A basic function of government is to preserve citizens’ equal right to life which means some liberties — those that would create an imminent risk to the lives of others — are proscribed.

          If all life-risking behaviors were outlawed, however, little liberty would remain. I can drive a ten ton truck on the freeway even if it adds to my safety at the expense of yours. Some risks to life are the culturally acceptable price of liberty. We don’t want a “nanny state.”

          Identifying the line between tolerable and intolerable risks to the lives of others is, I think, one of the challenges before us. Another, as I’ve tried to suggest, is finding good data on how much net risk, if any, gun ownership adds to society. Good policy depends on robust philosophical and empirical discussion.

          • Now you’re being coy.

            You were asked several times to make your point.

            From what I, and probably others here, see is, all that you’re doing is swirling around on the perimeter, making a smokescreen while you attempt nothing more than argue from utilitarian philosophy.

            “Identifying the line between tolerable and intolerable risks to the lives of others is, I think, one of the challenges before us.”

            Well, I think the challenge is that trail biking is more inherently dangerous not only to the riders, but more so to the environment. I think we should investigate whether trail biking and all motorcycling in general, should either be eliminated or more severely restricted and controlled because the risk, as I see it is very high.

          • Miles: It is hard to win if having an agenda is a “ploy” and not having an agenda is “coy.”

            My point is just what I wrote in my first comment here: Sowell’s gun ownership implication contradicts the data. (And yes, I’m open to considering whether my own activities unfairly risk others’ rights.)

          • I don’t personally care whether you think you’re “winning”, I’m “losing” or the opposites.

            Just so you’ll understand. All appearances are that you’re just another anti-gun propagandist who’s come up with what they think is a ‘new’ angle on the issue.
            And your (I paraphrase) “I haven’t made my mind up yet” from a person who appears to be a family man in their early to mid 30s, rather than the expected late teenager in college, is damned suspicious as well.

            That all may be incorrect, so it induces me to ask one of Joe’s questions:

            Can you demonstrate one time or place, throughout all history, where the average person was made safer by restricting access to handheld weapons?

          • Miles: I meant “win” in the colloquial sense of “just can’t win.” I don’t really think conversations are the sorts of things to be won. I should have been more careful with my words. I hope we all benefit.

            I don’t think I’m the only one saying I’m unsure of the best solution to gun violence. While acknowledging its incompleteness, I do stand by data suggesting a correlation between gun availability and violence. At the same time, and like many of you, I value our culture because it does allow risk. Nobody tells me I can’t tear off into the mountains on my motorcycle and ride like a nut (except my wife).

            I would want to know that gun access is creating a definite and disproportionate risk to the lives of others before proposing legal interventions — the same as I would want for liberties I enjoy. If data show no such risk, I’m satisfied. I have no negative feeling about guns or their owners.

            To address your last question, I’m sure “demonstrate” will be the tricky bit. We can talk about the effect of gun restrictions on crime trends in Australia or the U.K., that to me seem indicative, but that won’t be news to you.

          • I know what you’d meant, and how you’d meant it.

            I’ll have to take that whole response as “I don’t know.”

            Primarily I take it that way because you’ve brought up things, mutually exclusive.

            1, I do stand by data suggesting a correlation between gun availability and violence
            2, ……Quite simply, concealed-carry “licensing rates did not have a significant, negative or positive, effect on subsequent crime rates.” Some counties saw increases of violent or property crime and some saw decreases.

            I’ll add that the Centers for Disease Control’s 2000-2003 study on “gun control” basically pointed out that the study was unable to determine that any gun control law makes a real difference.


            So, if we have some pretty good studies that show anti-gun laws, or pro-gun laws, don’t make a difference in our crime rate. What difference does it make whether or not your belief that gun possession is ‘declining’ actually factual?
            It seems it’s not germane at all.

            So, come back when you can answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.

          • Miles: You seem to insist I jump to some conclusion, yes or no, if I’m to participate in the conversation. But I think that’s precisely what creates polarization and halts ideological progress. I’d rather focus first on getting the data right even if they don’t obviously support one predetermined conclusion or another.

            Your citation indicates a 2001 “review of the existing literature on firearms laws found insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of these laws.”* That calls for better data, not jumping to conclusions.

            It is a complex issue. There are many interacting variables. The effect of gun owners obtaining concealed carry permits, for example, may differ from that of ownership rates. Concealment and ownership aren’t the same variable. They may have different consequences.

            Thank you for your thought provoking remarks.
            * CDC, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (Oct 3, 2003): http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5214a2.htm

          • “You seem to insist I jump to some conclusion, yes or no, if I’m to participate in the conversation.”

            No…sir. You need to bring that point up with Mr. Huffman. Please converse with everyone here when YOU have studied enough to make cogent, non repetitive, non-vacuous statements.

            “But I think that’s precisely what creates polarization and halts ideological progress.”

            I have a solution for polarization, and polemics too.

            “The effect of gun owners obtaining concealed carry permits, for example, may differ from that of ownership rates. Concealment and ownership aren’t the same variable. They may have different consequences.”

            I’ll repeat. What’s your point? All I can see is repetitive, vacuous commentary. Is your plan to make us waste our time responding to your slightly differently worded replies? Hell, I’m retired. If I feel like it, I’ll sit here all day and waste YOUR time.

      • You’re just damned eager to live in that police state, aren’t you?

        Life is risk. You risk your life every time you get in a car. Trying to desperately reduce those risks to zero is a fool’s game and a lawyer’s dream.

        Combine this with the consistent pattern gun control shows; it invariably targets the law abiding. There have been attempts to impose stiffer penalties for criminals, but curiously, those federal charges never seem to get filed in court, or get plea bargained down.

        Which is why we’re at where we are now: people who are tired of being tarred with the same brush, over and over, by two faced liars. And our response to you is thus: ‘Go to hell.’

        • Toastrider: Accepting, even enjoying, risk isn’t the same as tolerating any risk. I don’t suppose your attitude about risk is all-or-nothing any more than mine is.

      • Obviously we need to ban tall buildings. After all, you might slip and fall down the stairs, and that’s a risk.


  8. So I just did a random survey of people in my area, and 50% said they don’t answer telephone surveys, 75% said they would refuse to answer any personal questions, and 100% said if someone asked them if they owned firearms, they would tell them to “mind their own business,” and asked me “what do I look like, an idiot?” Also, my survey shows a 33% increase in gun ownership in the last ten years. Maybe I should get a government grant and publish.

    Just because a PhD in Chicago says that they did a survey that proves that the sun rises in the south, doesn’t mean I believe it.

  9. Given the number of firearms I sold to first-time buyers, myself, in just the few short months I worked at a Big Box Outdoor Store, I look upon any “poll” proclaiming a decrease in firearm ownership with… shall-we-say “doubt”. And, no, my experiences are purely anecdotal, but when they echo the experiences of firearm retailers across the country… well.

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