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Guns, Glory and Facts

Gun advocates' statements don't hold up under objective scrutiny.

Newtown, Connecticut, December 14th, 2012. We all know what happened that day. A severely mentally ill man walked into a school and gunned down 20 innocent children and six adults with a Bushmaster XM-15 rifle. This followed closely on the heels of the mass shooting in Aurora Colorado inside a public  movie theater. It marked the 30th mass shooting since Columbine, and puts the total mass shooting count in the US somewhere over 60 in the last 30 years.

Since Newtown, public outrage about gun violence  has swelled, the issue has exploded on social media, and one can’t buy a latte at the local coffee shop without being drawn into a discussion or debate on the topic. Perhaps you’ve gotten into an argument on Facebook about it, or even had fights with friends and family members, each more impassioned than the last.

One thing has become clear in the public discussion: Gun advocates seem as though they don’t really like discussing numbers, data and facts, unless those numbers, data and facts center around crime statistics unrelated to mass shootings, such as the number of knife attacks or the incidence of unspecified violent crime in a given country.

For example, gun advocate and radio talk show host Alex Jones was interviewed on Piers Morgan’s show recently and the two were supposed to have a debate on gun control. Jones was so seemingly unhinged that the segment turned into more of a rant, complete with Jones’ conspiracy theories about the Bush administration orchestrating 9/11. At one point, Jones adopted a British accent in an attempt to mock Piers Morgan, leaving one wondering about Jones’ rate of intellectual development and maturity. 

He turned very lucid suddenly though, and had plenty of rational facts at his fingertips when discussing rates of crimes unrelated to mass shootings, such as the recent gang rape in India. After going on for awhile about  “people burning down cities and beating old women’s brains out out every day” in Britain (none of which is true or relates to mass shootings,) he was asked how many gun murders there were in Britain last year. His immediate counter question was “how many chimpanzees can dance on the head of a pin?” and then called the statistic “a little factoid.” Morgan went on to inform him that the answer is 35 people, as opposed to over 11,000 murdered by guns in the US.

It is clear that the tactic of gun advocates is to dismiss mass gun murders as insignificant, and then attempt to shift the attention to the amount of people who are killed by other things each year. Facebook comments to this end include: “More people are killed by knives than by guns, so should we be banning knives?” “The woman in India was assaulted with an iron rod, so should iron rods be banned?”  “let’s ban all things that are dangerous” and “statistically, mass shootings are not significant.”

Let’s get one thing clear with the gun advocates: Proponents of gun control don’t care about knives, guns, rocks or cleavers at this time. We’re not discussing those objects, and those objects have no bearing whatsoever  on the incidence of mass shootings. Hopefully, this is not too difficult for gun advocates to understand. We are discussing mass shooting in public places, and gun
homicides
, and how to prevent them. Therefore, bringing up anything other than mass shootings and gun homicides and how to prevent them is a complete waste of time and does nothing to solve the problem.

We also are not discussing the overall rate of murder in the world as it correlates to guns. We know that a Harvard University paper theorized no correlation between overall rate of murders/suicides in the  world and gun ownership. We also realize that the study takes into account people murdered by other objects, suicides, accidents, gang related murders, domestic crimes, etc. and so forth. While all of those things are terrible, they are not what we are discussing right now. Again, we’re discussing mass shootings in public places and gun homicides, so bringing up those statistics is also a big waste of time. Gun advocates ought to be commended on this point though, since it is one of the few by which they attempt to inject facts into the debate by citing an actual paper written by folks from Harvard. When you read the paper though, you will see that a good analogy to it would be: “There is no proven correlation between car ownership and overall manslaughter rates, so therefore, drunk driving should be legal.”

There are many other studies that show more guns = more homicide. The World Health Organization also asserts that “evidence emerging suggests that limiting access to firearms and pesticides can prevent homicides” and recommends “limiting exposure to guns.” It further explains that “There is some evidence, for example, to suggest that jurisdictions with restrictive firearms legislation and lower firearms ownership tend to have lower levels of gun violence. Restrictive firearm licensing and purchasing policies – including bans, licensing schemes, minimum ages for buyers, background checks – have been implemented and appear to be effective in countries such as Australia, Austria, Brazil and New Zealand. Studies in Colombia and El Salvador indicate that enforced bans on carrying firearms in public may reduce homicide rates.”

The second tactic gun advocates use to muddy the discussion is just manufacturing outright fake information, such as saying “gun bans don’t work to curb mass shootings in other countries” and many other pieces of information which can easily be proven false.  Even though gun advocates seem very adverse to facts in this area, we’re going to lay out some common statements perpetuated by gun advocates in the United States in the news media and social media, and the corresponding facts provided by reputable evidence. For the purposes of this article, “reputable evidence” will include: 1. actual governmental websites of the countries in question, and data from those official websites  2. published, peer-reviewed studies 3. reputable international news sources 4. expert opinion  and 5. large, widely respected organizations’ findings. After each section, ask yourself which piece of information comes from a more believable source. Keep in mind, the gun advocate statements have been collected from people on social media, bloggers and in some cases, op-eds on news outlets:

American gun advocate says: Since the 1996 ban on guns in Australia, there’s been a “massive crime increase” there.

Reputable evidence suggests: In 1996 there was a horrible mass shooting in Australia. Instead of kowtowing to gun advocates, the Australian government took immediate action by tightening their gun laws. Since then, the homicide rate has gone down steadily, “the overall use of firearms has declined” and there have been no similar shootings. You can see  from this chart, that “firearm use has declined by more than half since 1989-90 as a proportion of homicide methods” and this chart shows a very steady decline in overall homicides.  Both charts appear on the website of the  Australian Government’s Australian Institute of Criminology, whose job is to track crime statistics for Australia.

American gun advocate says: “More guns will solve the problem! Look at Isreal and Switzerland as examples! Everyone owns a gun there, and they have no problem with gun violence. Arm everyone!”

Reputable evidence suggests: According to a study by the US Library of Medicine, “Swiss and Israeli laws limit firearm ownership and require permit renewal one to four times annually. ICVS analysis finds the United States has more firearms per capita and per household than either country. Switzerland and Israel curtail off-duty soldiers' firearm access to prevent firearm deaths. Suicide among soldiers decreased by 40 per cent after the Israeli army's 2006 reforms. Compared with the United States, Switzerland and Israel have lower gun ownership and stricter gun laws, and their policies discourage personal gun ownership.” Experts who have researched this topic agree with this assessment.

American gun advocate says: Crime in Britain has increased drastically since the gun ban.

Reputable evidence suggests: Gun control works very well in Britain. Here, you can read for yourself, from the homeoffice.gov.uk website, about how  “over recent years, the number of currently recorded homicides has shown a generally downward trend” and the very low number of homicides by gun (just 60 in 2010-2011) compared to the US (around 11,000-19,000 per year).

To put this in better perspective, you can view charts showing the rather drastic downward trend of all crime in Britain from 2002-2012, prepared by respected British newspaper, The Guardian.

Furthermore, mass shootings in Britain are extremely rare, with only three shootings of this type cited by the BBC in the last several decades.

American gun advocate says: “Gun laws don’t help in Canada”

Reputable evidence suggests: Canada has tighter gun restrictions than the US, and making it more difficult to obtain a gun works to control gun violence there. Statistics Canada, the official national register of Canadian statistics, shows that there were 158 homicides by shooting in 2011 as compared to the many thousands in the US each year.

American gun advocate says: “Gun bans don’t work. Just look at what happened in China. That guy killed 22 children with a knife!”

Reputable evidence suggests: Citizens in China are not allowed to own guns, and the ban works very well there. No children were killed in the knife attack referenced.

American gun advocate says: “If guns are banned, only criminals will have guns.”

Reputable evidence suggests: There is no evidence to support this theory, and there are other countries we can look to which have complete gun bans and very little problems with gun violence. Japan is just one example.

American gun advocate says:
They want to take away our guns!

Reputable evidence suggests: No. Most gun control advocates don’t want to come and take all of your guns. We simply want tighter laws on who can own a gun, and a ban on assault weapons that is not retroactive. We want stable, sane and rational people to be able to own guns. You’ll still be able to hunt, collect guns and sit admiring your collection. You’ll also be able to keep all of your guns! Isn’t that wonderful? So why don’t you calm down? Seriously. Calm down.

The statements flying about on social media and the Internet are based on opinion instead of facts. But, as evidenced above, there are facts we can look to, and facts matter. Before the debate here begins, I’d like to stress that I am very interested in data, graphs, charts, statistics and figures, and won’t have time to re-address points already covered in the article above unless you present some new reputable evidence, adhering to the definition guidelines above, that we can discuss.

When I was about six years old, my own mother warded off a potential intruder by showing him a gun she kept in the house for protection. Am I glad she brandished it? Yes. Do I think she has a right to own it? You bet. In researching this article, had I found a scintilla of reputable evidence that suggested more assault guns would solve the problem or that any of the gun advocate statements were true, I would have presented that evidence and called for everyone to be armed immediately. However, that is not what I found.

I call upon you to think critically here. Don’t read a random person's letter or a meme going around Facebook and take it as fact. Do your own research. Wade through government Websites, read studies. Think more deeply and in a more linear fashion, because we’ve got to stop mass shootings and we have to come together to do so.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Tom Bates January 22, 2013 at 05:26 PM
Ahhh, there we see it...Erik feels no obligation to his fellow citizens. He comes first and only.
Tom Bates January 22, 2013 at 05:27 PM
You guys should form a club.
Erik Musick January 22, 2013 at 05:45 PM
I Love Delco and Yikes!, If you two are indicative of the Kool-Aid guzzlers and willfully ignorant who voted for Obama, our country is indeed in dire straits. Hey, how's that rise in payroll tax working out for you? D'oh! But, but, but, didn't your Dear Leader say he was going after the richie rich whites and was going to leave the middle class alone? LOL!! Ignorant sheep, the whole lot of you.
Yikes! January 22, 2013 at 06:53 PM
WoW - you two are extra cranky today. Take a chill pill. Not every day is The-inauguration-of-the-president-you-didn't-want day! You'll get through it...
Rebecca Savastio January 22, 2013 at 07:27 PM
@Erik M: You do realize that the payroll tax holiday we were all enjoying was never permanent, right? Republicans forced Obama to let it expire. Obama didn't "raise" taxes.
Donkey Tales January 22, 2013 at 07:56 PM
Erik, Rebecca lies. While the holiday was meant to be temporary, an increase in your taxes is AN INCREASE. Obama and the Democrats let taxes increase on all working Americans! So Becca tell us how Repubs were able to force Obama to "let it expire" when they couldn't force spending cuts, deficit reduction, a budget or even no tax increases or "force" any other legislation? It's amazing how they have such power when liberals need a convenient excuse. Why couldn't they stop Obamacare? Of all things they should have wielded their power on and yet today we have too much spending, no budget, tax increases and Obamacare. Wow, with power like that Republicans have about as much success as the Eagles! You do know Dems control the Senate right? Harry Reid, the crook. Where's the budget? Where's the bill supporting the payroll tax cut. Show us any evidence of any Dem or Obama fighting for the payroll holiday to continue. In all of Obama's speeches and campaigning, produce some video where he asks to extend it. Obama raised taxes on everyone! FACT http://cnsnews.com/news/article/first-term-obama-increased-debt-50521-household-more-first-42-presidents-53-terms
Rebecca Savastio January 22, 2013 at 08:31 PM
Donkey Tales: I suggest you tread very carefully in calling me a liar. Did you ever hear of something called "libel?" You just said that the holiday was meant to be temporary, which is exactly what I said. The Patch terms of use specifically state to refrain from attacking someone personally. If you can't abide by the terms of use I will have to report you to my editor.
sue domin January 22, 2013 at 08:35 PM
@Erik M,Your statement here is very insensitive. I to know what a unborn fetus looks like, when I miscarried my first child at 4 months. I also know what the face of a very scared young girl looks like when shes about to take on the biggest job in her life with no support what so ever, i've seen the sad faces of the happy couple patiently waiting for that baby they wanted, only to find out the last minute it would not be theirs. I don't live my life in my own shoes, I try other shoes on to see how comfortable they are.
sue domin January 22, 2013 at 08:36 PM
Call me whatever political name you want, I know in my life I don't cry about MY injustices, I don't believe what the media tells me to, I live through others lives to gain compassion. Same with guns my friend. I personally hate guns, i'm not going to tell you can't have them to protect yourself , but your crazy if you don't agree with trying to make sure they get in the right hands, however that will happen, we need to try and start somewhere. So, I respect my friends who are pro life, I respect the responsible gun owners. I don't respect people who claim their rights trump everyone else, you could try to put yourself in other peoples positions before you scream about your freedoms. And for the record, guns will never be taken away from our society, and anyone on here who actually believes that is what our president will do is living in a dream world, it's the most impossible thing that could ever be done in our life time, so please stop worrying, and worrying everyone else. Our counrty is in dire straights because of people like you!
Rebecca Savastio January 22, 2013 at 08:41 PM
Donkey Tales: Obama pushes to extend payroll tax holiday for middle class: http://huelskamp.house.gov/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=3776 Obama fights for middle class tax cuts: http://tndp.org/blog/2012/12/05/tndp-chairman-applauds-president-obamas-fight-for-middle-class-tax-cuts/ Obama to push for middle class tax cuts: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303343404577516313033019898.html Obama campaigns for middle-class tax cuts: http://articles.latimes.com/2012/nov/27/news/la-pn-obama-middle-class-tax-cuts-20121127 GOP holds middle class tax cuts "hostage" to try to force Obama's hand for fiscal cliff deal: http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/politics/2012/12/obama-accuses-house-gop-of-holding-middle-class-tax-cuts-hostage/ And the final word from Forbes: "Your Higher Payroll Taxes are not the Result of a Tax Increase" http://www.forbes.com/sites/anthonynitti/2013/01/14/dear-america-your-higher-payroll-taxes-are-not-the-result-of-a-tax-increase/ Don't call me a liar again.
Donkey Tales January 22, 2013 at 08:45 PM
LOL!! Go for it!! Everything Obama says and writes is a lie. You should have him arrested!!! Then you can round up all the others on Patch posting lies all the time. You wrote. " Republicans forced Obama to let it expire. Obama didn't "raise" taxes." You cannot prove anyone forced him and he did raise taxes - 2% on everyone, well at least those who work. You should report yourself for posting "false or misleading information" I'm gonna report you to my editor. HAHAHAHAHAHA Come on, where's the proof of Obama being "forced" to do anything?
Donkey Tales January 22, 2013 at 08:51 PM
LOL. A bunch of articles is proof of nothing!! Show me a bill or something the Congress introduced - date, time and bill #? Obama LIES all the time. Where's the bill? Where's Harry Reid? Where are the vote Amendments? Amazing that Repubs have this much power but only on certain things. Not a tax increase? Hey everyone who is paying 2% more. Good news. No one raised your taxes. It just happened magically!! In March 2006, then-Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., found the notion of raising the debt ceiling quite distasteful. “The fact that we are here today to debate raising America’s debt limit is a sign of leadership failure,” he said. “It is a sign that the U.S. Government can’t pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government’s reckless fiscal policies. … Leadership means that ‘the buck stops here.’ Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better. I therefore intend to oppose the effort to increase America’s debt limit.” He did. It passed narrowly – by a vote of 52-48.
James DeLizzio January 22, 2013 at 08:52 PM
Delco we are in a club. It's called Patriots. But you wouldn't understand that.
Erik Musick January 22, 2013 at 08:56 PM
Donkey, One of my fave Obama speeches. He loves talking about himself, doesn't he?
Erik Musick January 22, 2013 at 09:03 PM
If you're in the government, and you support the Second Amendment (like Obama says), then why do you fear a privately armed citizenry?
Rebecca Savastio January 22, 2013 at 09:26 PM
Erik M: Anyone can express their opinion freely and nothing you said violates Patch's Terms of Use, so no, I won't be blocking you or anything of that nature :)
Donkey Tales January 22, 2013 at 09:30 PM
The Immaculate Payroll Tax Increase http://thehill.com/homenews/senate/239111-senate-democrats-not-in-favor-of-extending-payroll-tax-holiday-because-of-social-security-concerns AARP opposed the payroll tax holiday saying "Further extension of the payroll tax holiday would undermine confidence in Social Security and put at risk the program’s dedicated funding stream and the hard-earned benefits of millions of Americans and their families." http://www.aarp.org/about-aarp/press-center/info-10-2012/AARP-No-Further-Extension-of-Payroll-Tax-Holiday.html Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner, while supporting the initial tax holiday and the 10-month extension as a way to shore up the wobbly economy, told Congress earlier this year there was no reason to extend it beyond 2012. Those dang Republicans "forcing" Obama to do stuff!!! On a positive note, at least SS won't add MORE the debt. In liberal terms, the SS tax holiday was an UNFUNDED TAX CUT!! LOL! "Extending the payroll tax holiday for another year would cost an estimated $120 billion. The loss of revenue to the Social Security trust fund has been replaced with general treasury funds, adding to the federal debt."
sue domin January 22, 2013 at 09:37 PM
So paranoid that Erik:)
sue domin January 22, 2013 at 09:58 PM
I'm sorry but how am I victim? Erik, your continue name calling and bullying is so amusing, and I'm pretty sure you just described yourself:)
Erik Musick January 22, 2013 at 10:01 PM
sue, by calling me a 'bully', you are only cementing your victimhood status. Congratulations! I'm glad to see you are finally being honest with yourself. And it helps your cause if you actually 'reply' to comments I make, and not on random postings. Shall I offer you a tutorial on how to comment on Patch?
Rebecca Savastio January 22, 2013 at 10:38 PM
Erik, there are 369 comments on here, and very few of them agree with my stance. There is no banning or censoring UNLESS someone violates the Terms of Use. That includes name-calling. As I mentioned, nothing you've said to me violates the Terms of Use, so you have nothing to worry about. Just follow the Terms of Use and you will be able to continue to participate in the discussion. We want everyone to be able to participate.
Rebecca Savastio January 22, 2013 at 10:46 PM
Here is the requested Bill with # and date introduced, as requested as proof of the attempt to extend the middle class tax cuts: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/s3412
Rebecca Savastio January 22, 2013 at 11:27 PM
Here is the bill you've requested: http://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/112/s3412
Donkey Tales January 22, 2013 at 11:58 PM
Becca, well good for you to locate and post that. Unfortunately, after reviewing it, I don't see mention of the payroll tax ie FICA ie Social Security tax mentioned also known as the 2% tax increase. It could be the hot wing sauce affecting my vision so please point out the applicable sections dealing with the payroll tax component. I also found it interesting that it passed 51-48. I wonder who the Dem was who voted NO.
Yikes! January 23, 2013 at 12:55 AM
Rebecca - No name-calling - are you serious?? I beg to differ, here's a partial list: "Liar", "Kool Aid Guzzler", "willfully ignorant", "Ignorant sheep", "some obese nude guy hunkered down behind a computer in his mother's basement, sweating and eating cheese crackers", "mouth-breathers who are better suited for trailer park living instead of being capable of rational thought.", " the stupidest person on this thread, or completely drunk on Kool Aid", "hateful, racist, homophobic, vitriolic" Looks pretty much like name-calling to me.
Yikes! January 23, 2013 at 02:32 AM
You just don't get it do you?? No one wants to degrade themselves to your level. It has nothing to do with being a victim. I don't care that you can say whatever you like - I can too, but I choose not to treat others with that level of disregard.
Erik Musick January 23, 2013 at 02:48 AM
Do all those babies you and your kind abort, (in the name of convenience, mind you, oh and 'women's health'), know you feel this way? You want to be portrayed as so kind and caring and above the fray, but you have blood all over your hands. Talk about treating others with disregard. Yeesh.
Adrian Seltzer January 23, 2013 at 03:02 AM
let he who is without sin cast the first stone.
Erik Musick January 23, 2013 at 03:33 AM
Adrian, LOL! You probably can't even tell me who said that and where it can be found! How delicious!
Bettina January 23, 2013 at 04:10 AM
. In the United States, the right to keep and bear arms is also an enumerated right specifically protected by the US Constitution such that people have a personal right to own arms for individual use, and a collective right to bear arms in a militia. So be it.

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