I’ve been writing recently about the mainstream media’s propaganda efforts to push the gun control agenda, the lies and deceptions they are employing to this end: how the Washington Post lies that it is a “myth” that the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was intended to protect Americans from a tyrannical federal government; how Mark Nuckols in The Atlantic argues in a slightly different vein that the Founding Fathers’ purpose for including that Amendment was “the Worst Pro-Gun Argument Ever”; how New York Times columnist Charles M. Blow wants to reframe the terms of debate with newspeak; how the Journal News published a map of individuals in two New York counties who legally own a firearm only to then, in response to the outrage over their reckless action, hypocritically hired armed guards to protect their offices; how the Chicago Tribune lies that the U.S. has the highest rate of violent crime in the industrialized world; and how the New York Times deliberately deceives readers by cherry-picking only those data points that support their agenda while willfully ignoring those that contradict it. (See also my video montage, “A Culture of Violence: Rethinking the Gun Control Agenda” which puts the debate into a little perspective, and my post “The Correlation Between an Armed Populace and Less Violent Crime”.)
Here’s another example of the dishonest means by which this agenda is being advanced: In an editorial titled “Dangerous Gun Myths”, the New York Times states that:
[T]here is a more fundamental problem with the idea that guns actually protect the hearth and home. Guns rarely get used that way. In the 1990s, a team headed by Arthur Kellermann of Emory University looked at all injuries involving guns kept in the home in Memphis, Seattle and Galveston, Tex. They found that these weapons were fired far more often in accidents, criminal assaults, homicides or suicide attempts than in self-defense. For every instance in which a gun in the home was shot in self-defense, there were seven criminal assaults or homicides, four accidental shootings, and 11 attempted or successful suicides.
So it is mostly a “myth”, according to the Times, that guns actually protect people, that they actually have a purpose for legitimate self-defense. “Guns are rarely used that way”, the Times editors tell us, but are rather almost always used for violence and crime. To support this assertion, they cite a study from the ‘90s.
In 1993, the New England Journal of Medicine published the paper “Gun Ownership as a Risk Factor for Homicide in the Home”, by Kellerman, et al, which concluded that “guns kept in the home are associated with an increase in the risk of homicide by a family member or intimate acquaintance”. What should jump out at anyone who actually reads this study is the fact that it suffers from some rather serious problems.
First of all, the study only looked at cases where individuals were murdered in or near their home. Thus, any cases in which, for example, an individual successfully defended themselves or their property with a firearm were excluded from the outset. Looking only at cases where homicides were actually committed also completely excludes, for example, cases in which the commission of a crime was deterred because a would-be perpetrator knew a homeowner owned a gun or believed there might be a gun in the house. In short, any defensive use of a firearm that didn’t result in the gun owner being killed was excluded from the outset. That fact alone pretty much illustrates how this study is scientific fraud. It was founded on a petitio principii fallacy; it begs the question. It is little wonder that they “found no evidence of a protective benefit from gun ownership”, given the fact that they excluded from the outset any case in which the gun owner wasn’t killed. This is just absurd.
Other problems with the study abound. For another, it found a correlation between homicide in the home and a member of the household who was an illicit drug user, had prior arrests, or had a history of domestic violence. Why attribute the increased risk of homicide to the ownership of a gun rather than to such behaviors as these? It is not, after all, as though simply owning a gun makes a person have violent tendencies. Guns don’t cause people to commit murder. As the study I looked at in this post notes, “[A]lmost all murderers are extremely aberrant individuals with life histories of violence, psychopathology, substance abuse, and other dangerous behaviors.”
Yet another problem with the study is that it doesn’t actually determine whether the homicides that occurred were actually committed with the same guns owned by the victims. It is obviously absurd to argue that if an armed robber breaks into the home of an individual who owns a firearm, and that if that burglar then shoots and kills that individual in their home, that the individual’s ownership of a gun is something that had increased the chances that he might become a victim of homicide. And yet this kind of ridiculous reasoning seems to be exactly the kind employed by Kellermann, et al, given the fact that they make no effort to distinguish, in the cases of homicide included in their study, whether or not the victim was actually killed with their own weapon or not. Again, a prima facie case can rather easily be made for scientific fraud here. I find it remarkable that a journal would actually publish such a fundamentally flawed study, riddled with such glaring fallacies and flawed methodology.
Another problem: The study obviously also doesn’t consider cases where firearms are used in self-defense outside of one’s home. And so on.
Moreover, the New York Times is once again selecting a study that it can use to support its agenda while ignoring others that belie the claim it makes that guns are rarely used for defensive purposes.
For example, the paper “Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense With a Gun” by Gary Kleck, et al, published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology (1995) (available free here and here) points out that according to the National Crime Victimization Survey (NCVS), there are “about 68,000 defensive uses of guns in connection with assaults and robberies, or about 80,000 to 82,000 if one adds in uses linked with household burglaries.” However, “The NCVS was not designed to estimate how often people resist crime using a gun” and the numbers it suggests “are less than one ninth of the estimates implied by the results of at least thirteen other surveys”. The Kleck, et al, study was, the authors noted, the first ever conducted designed to look specifically at the use of firearms for self-defense. And what they found was that “each year in the U.S. there are about 2.2 to 2.5 million DGUs [defensive gun uses] of all types by civilians against humans”. The paper asks:
Are these estimates plausible? Could it really be true that Americans use guns for self-protection as often as 2.1 to 2.5 million times a year? The estimate may seem remarkable in comparison to expectations based on conventional wisdom, but it is not implausibly large in comparison to various gun-related phenomena. There are probably over 220 million guns in private hands in the U.S., implying that only about 1% of them are used for defensive purposes in any one year—not an impossibly high fraction. In a December 1993 Gallup survey, 49% of U.S. households reported owning a gun, and 31% of adults reported personally owning one. These figures indicate that there are about 47.6 million households with a gun, with perhaps 93 million, or 49% of the adult U.S. population living in households with guns, and about 59.1 million adults personally owning a gun. Again, it hardly seems implausible that 3% (2.5 million/93 million) of the people with immediate access to a gun could have used one defensively in a given year.
While Kellermann, et al, excluded the possibility of DGU outside of the home, Kleck, et al, observe that
About 37% of these incidents occurred in the defender’s home, with another 36% near the defender’s home. This implies that the remaining 27% occurred in locations where the defender must have carried a gun through public spaces.
The Kleck study also notes that:
Guns were most commonly used for defense against burglary, assault, and robbery.
…[T]here seems little legitimate scholarly reason to doubt that defensive gun use is very common in the U.S., and that it probably is substantially more common than criminal gun use.
Since as many as 400,000 people a year use guns in situations where the defenders claim that they “almost certainly” saved a life by doing so, this result cannot be dismissed as trivial. If even one-tenth of these people are accurate in their stated perceptions, the number of lives saved by victim use of guns would still exceed the total number of lives taken with guns. It is not possible to know how many lives are actually saved this way, for the simple reason that no one can be certain how crime incidents would have turned out had the participants acted differently than they actually did. But surely this is too serious a matter to simply assume that practically everyone who says he believes he saved a life by using a gun was wrong.
And here are some excerpts from another paper by Kleck, “What Are the Risks and Benefits of Keeping a Gun in the Home?” published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) in 1998 (available free here), to be contrasted with the assertions made by Kellermann, et al:
[T]he vast majority of both harmful and beneficial uses of guns occur outside the home.
…[M]ost killings in the home involve killers who do not live in that home and who, if they used a gun, usually would use their own guns, brought in from elsewhere.
…[I]t is quite uncommon for people to be killed with guns by members of their own household.
…Based on national victim surveys conducted by the US Bureau of the Census, gun-using victims are less likely to be injured or to lose property than otherwise similar victims in similar circumstances using any other self-protection strategy, including not resisting at all. It is rare that gun-using victims are injured, and when they are, the injury was usually inflicted before they used the gun.
…Current evidence suggests that DGU is effective in preventing injury, and that defensive uses of guns in the home are substantially more numerous than criminal-aggressive uses in the home.
…Probably less than 5% of US homicides are committed in the victim’s home by killers using guns kept in that home. Further, the slight risk of such an event occurring is almost completely confined to unusually high-risk subsets of the population, since contrary to widespread belief, gun violence is largely confined to persons with a prior history of criminal behavior.
…Defensive uses of guns are both effective in preventing injury and more common than aggressive uses, in the home or outside it. The average American household is unlikely to experience a serious gun victimization or to use a gun defensively, but the latter is far more likely than the former.
A survey conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice in 1997 also sought to determine DGUs. It noted that 46% of gun owners possessed firearms primarily for reasons of self-defense; 41% among males and 67% among females. It states:
Private citizens sometimes use their guns to scare off trespassers and fend off assaults. On the basis of National Crime…. Victimization Survey (NCVS) data, one would conclude that defensive uses are rare indeed, about 108,000 per year. But other surveys yield far higher estimates of the number of DGUs. Most notable has been a much publicized estimate of 2.5 million DGUs, based on data from a 1994 telephone survey conducted by Florida State University professors Gary Kleck and Mark Gertz…. The NSPOF [National Survey of Private Ownership of Firearms] survey is quite similar to the Kleck and Gertz instrument and provides a basis for replicating their estimate.
The NSPOF result was that there were 1.5 million DGUs in 1994. It then cast doubt on its own findings and those of Kleck, et al, and concludes that “DGU estimates are not informative” in regard to the question of “whether the widespread ownership of firearms deters crime or makes it more deadly”.
Which brings me back to my main point, which is that for the New York Times to declare that it is a “dangerous” “myth” that firearms are useful for self-defense and to suggest as fact that guns are “rarely” used for such purposes in order to advance the agenda of disarming law-abiding citizens in violation of the Second Amendment is irresponsible and dishonest.
To illustrate the point further, I again refer to the study I posted about discussing the correlation between gun ownership and lower rates of violent crime. There is also a book called More Guns, Less Crime by John R. Lott, Jr., which I haven’t yet read; but David Alan Coia reviews it and cites some of the statistics it presents in Human Events:
From the time states passed right-to-carry concealed handgun laws, the average murder rate dropped from 6.3 per 100,000 to 5.2 per 100,000 nine-to-ten years later—“about a 1.7% drop in the murder rate per year for ten years.”
Overall violent crime rates similarly dropped from 475 crimes per 100,000 people to a range of 415-440 after the second full year that concealed-carry laws were passed. Rapes dropped from 40.2 per 100,000 people to 35.7 per 100,000 nine to 10 years later (a 12% drop).
“Of all the methods studied so far by economists, the carrying of concealed handguns appears to be the most cost-effective method for reducing crime,” Lott wrote in the second edition of his book.
…Lott demonstrates that not only does the presence of concealed handgun carriers—just more than 2% of American adults—lower rates of violent crime, but where gun bans are imposed, violent crime has consistently risen—in the United States and abroad.
“Great Britain banned handguns in January 1997. But the number of deaths and injuries from gun crime in England and Wales increased an incredible 340% in seven years from 1998 to 2005,” Lott writes, identifying detrimental effects of gun bans in many other countries including India, Jamaica, Germany, Finland, and Greece.
…A national survey conducted by Lott in 2002 “indicates that about 95% of the time that people use guns defensively, they merely have to brandish a weapon to break off an attack.”
…Lott shows that “concealed handgun permit holders are extremely law-abiding.” For example, “Permit holders committed murder at 1/182 of the rate of the general public.” And permit revocation rates are typically well below one-half of one percent, with the revocations almost never relating to the use or misuse of a gun.
There is plenty of room for debate about statistics and how to best interpret them, but the bottom line is that the facts just do not support the Times propagandistic claims that guns are mostly used for violence and crime and “rarely” serve defensive purposes.