When Newsweek published an opinion piece by a couple of researchers from Boston University that seemed to promote gun control, readers reacted with blistering comments.
The article had originally appeared a couple of days before in The Conversation.com.
The authors wrote that in 2014 and 2015, the United States “its largest annual increase in firearm deaths over the past 35 years, a 7.8 percent upturn in a single year.”
But many readers took that claim to task, complaining that the article did not separate suicides and accidents from homicides. It is true that the number of homicides did go up in 2015 (9,616) from the previous year (8,124), but those figures are below the 10,225 logged in 2006, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report. A further check of FBI data, all the way back to 1996 – which was not 35 years ago – showed there were 11,453 gun-related homicides in 1996, followed in 1997 by 10,729 gun homicides, 9,257 slayings in 1998 and 8,480 firearms-involved murders in 1999.
It’s a numbers game, and the numbers bounce up and down.
But something the authors said at the end of their piece raised an eyebrow or two.
“In our view,” they wrote, “legislators must balance the protection of the constitutional right to possess a firearm for self-defense with the responsibility to reduce firearm-related injury and death. To do this, they need to distinguish policies that effectively reduce firearm violence from those that are ineffective and therefore superfluous. Reliable longitudinal data can help them find ways to mitigate the impact that gun violence has on the lives of thousands of Americans each year.”
At this point, gun rights advocates might concur with part of that: distinguishing effective policies from ineffective ones, and get rid of the “superfluous” measures.
For example, it can easily be argued that so-called “universal background checks” do not appear to have prevented any violent crimes, since criminals rarely get firearms through legitimate channels where a check might be involved. Restrictive concealed carry laws have never prevented criminals from packing guns illegally. But such laws do inconvenience law-abiding citizens.
The article also intimated that closing the so-called “gun show loophole” that allows private sales between individuals without a background check is a good idea. But as reported previously in Conservative Firing Line, a 1997 Justice Department survey of more than 18,000 federal and state prison inmates revealed that less than 1 (0.7) percent got their guns at a gun show. Most got their firearms from friends, family members or an “illegal source” on the street. Here’s what the Daily Caller noted in 2013:
A 1997 Justice Department survey of more than 18,000 state and federal convicts revealed the truth:
- 39.6% of criminals obtained a gun from a friend or family member
- 39.2% of criminals obtained a gun on the street or from an illegal source
- 0.7% of criminals purchased a gun at a gun show
- 1% of criminals purchased a gun at a flea market
- 3.8% of criminals purchased a gun from a pawn shop
- 8.3% of criminals actually bought their guns from retail outlets
The authors are also concerned with modern common sense self-defense laws.
“States are increasingly enacting laws that allow people to shoot other people as a first resort in public,” they wrote, “instead of retreating when threatened. If a person perceives a threat of serious bodily harm, so-called ‘stand your ground’ laws allow them to fire their gun with immunity from prosecution, as long as they are in a place they have a legal right to be. Between 2004 and 2017, 24 states enacted a ‘stand your ground’ law.”
What is wrong with defending one’s self or family, or other innocents “in a place they have a legal right to be?” If a person is faced with an imminent threat of serious bodily harm, or death, why shouldn’t that individual be able to act with whatever force necessary to prevent the injury or death?
This does not mean people can simply kill another person without justification and get away with it, as the article seems to imply.
Guns and gun control laws are invariably sensitive subjects that tend to polarize people quickly. And there are all kinds of data available to justify nearly any position. Just be prepared to have it challenged.
- Bomber identified, ‘known to Brit authorities,’ says CBS News
- Anti-gun bias or lack of knowledge at CNN?
- Burglary Guns Fuel Chicago Violent Crime, Says Newspaper
- Gun-related background checks stay near record levels