I. DOG ATTACK STATISTICS
There exists fairly reliable data on dog injuries. There were about 68 Million dogs in 2001, and according to the APPMA there were 74.8 million dogs in the USA in 2006, approximately a 2% increase per year.
In 1994, there occurred 4.7 million dog attacks with injuries (Sacks 1996), this is approximately one attack with injuries per 15 dogs and per year. There seems to be an increasing trend. According to [www.dogbitelaw.com], there was a 36% increase in medically attended bites from 1986 to 1994. Furthermore, an average of 1000 Americans per day are treated in emergency rooms as a result of dog bites. (local copy)
Children are particularly at risk. Getting bitten by a dog is the fifth most frequent cause of visits to emergency rooms caused by activities common among children (Weiss 1998). More details about dog injuries by age group can be found at [www.medscape.com] and are shown in the figure to the right (click on figure for the full-size image).
In spite of these staggering numbers, is it really necessary to ban dogs? Read on.
The idea to ban dogs from regular citizen’s homes is easily conceived in analogy to the idea to ban firearms from regular citizen’s hands. The idea that “allowing people to have access to guns is bad in itself” (Eric Holder) is probably not unknown to you.
In short, politicians and special-interest groups want to ban firearms because they are dangerous, so why wouldn’t they ban dogs because they are dangerous?
You say dogs are less dangerous? There were 4.7 million dog injuries in 1994 compared to 0.54 million gun-related violent crime incidents in the same year. That is less than one eighth (statistics are given in more detail below). Furthermore: dog injuries show a rising trend whereas firearm victim numbers show a falling trend. In fact, 1993 and 1994 were years with peak incidence in firearm-related crimes, steadily falling to less than 50% of the 1994 levels by the year 2005. We see a trend towards more than ten times more dog attacks than firearm-related violent crimes. Later we will take a closer look at the statistics. The primary question we need to ask first is:
How dangerous are firearms in civilian hands really?
The reason why we need to ask this question is a matter of perception. A perception that has been artificially cultured by media, politicians, special-interest groups, and educators (the reasons for this bias needs to be analyzed, too). In short, my comparison above (4.7 million dog injuries versus one million crime-related gun injuries) is wrong and invalid. Why? Those who want to disarm law-abiding citizens try to establish the association
GUNS = CRIME
Consequently, by association, one has to conclude about gun owners:
GUN OWNERS = CRIMINALS
This is, of course, fundamentally wrong. Let’s look at the fallacy step by step. First, this simple equation does not consider the heritage and tradition of firearm ownership, its use for self-defense, for hunting, and even the use of firearms in Olympic competitions such as the biathlon. Therefore, we should rather consider the equations:
GUNS = HUNTING SPORTS
GUNS = OLYMPIC COMPETITION
GUNS = RECREATION
GUNS = PROTECTION AND SELF-DEFENSE
GUN OWNERS = PEACEFUL PEOPLE LIKE YOU AND ME
Second, would you consider that the same negative connotations that are fed by the press and by anti-freedom advocates about gun owners can be applied to dogs and dog owners – backed by staggering numbers of dog attacks? A connotation that would let you think
DOG OWNER = HOMICIDAL MANIAC
Of course not. Because the dog owners are law-abiding citizens just like the legal gun owners. With my comparison above, I was actually comparing dog-related accidents to illegal gun activity. This is not a fair comparison. A fair comparison would be to juxtapose the number of dog attacks with the number of non-criminal firearm accidents. So, once again, how dangerous are firearms in civilian hands really?
Let us first take a look at firearm distribution among the population. The source for these figures is the Small Arms Survey (2001). In it, the total number of firearms in the US is estimated at 550 million (other estimates exist and will be presented below). 41% are held by the military, 3% by police and law enforcement, 55.8% by civilians, and finally 0.16% by criminals. We are talking about legally owned and acquired firearms here. So for every firearm legally acquired by a criminal there are almost 350 firearms owned by a non-criminal civilian; 625 if you count military and police as well. In other words, there are 308 million firearms in civilian hands that are not used in crimes. About one firearm per US citizen. If each firearm was indeed used to kill, as freedom-hater groups claim, the US population would be extinct.
GUN OWNERS = PEACEFUL PEOPLE LIKE YOU AND ME
In fact, I have observed gun owners to be highly responsible people, strictly adhering to the firearm safety rules. I can tell out of my own experience: I have seen sloppiness such as letting a dog off leash although city ordinance forbids it. As a jogger, I have been chased by dogs more often that I care to count. But I have seen shooters at the range, checking and double-checking that their guns were unloaded before anybody stepped forward to set up a target. You may not like this, but I feel a lot safer on the range than in the park where I run. Bullets fly towards the paper targets. Dogs fly at me.
II. CRIME STATISTICS
It is unavoidable. Since the negative connotation that guns are crime instruments exists, we need to examine gun-related crime statistics. Violent crime is defined as rape, robbery, aggravated assault, and homicide. The source for the figures in this section is the Bureau of Justice Statistics, here and here. We observe a level of about three to four million criminal acts in the 1970s and 1980s, followed by a steep decline in the 1990s and a leveling-off at historical lows in the 2000s with less than 2 million criminal acts in average between 2000 and 2007. In average, firearms are involved in 13% of violent crimes. This means that only one out of eight violent crimes are committed with a firearm.
For comparison, property crimes are also included (on a different scale, because these are reported per 1000 households). Both violent crimes and property crimes show a strong and significant declining long-term trend (average reduction by 60,000 incidents per year for violent crime and 14 property crime incidents per year and 1000 households; P<0.0001 in both cases). Firearm-related crime shows no long-term statistical trend (P=0.190). From a statistical perspective, firearm involvement in violent crime stays constant with 390,000 criminal acts per year. On a side note, homicide rates recently declined to levels last seen in the mid-1960s with about 7 per 100,000.
Firearm ownership can only be estimated. The previously-cited Small Arms Survey, an anti-gun group, most likely exaggerated the number of 308 million privately owned firearms. The BATFE estimated gun ownership at 215 million privately owned firearms in 1999 with an annual 2% increase. A book published by National Academy of Sciences (Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review, National Academies Press, 2005) places gun ownership at 258 million. NICS statistics showed an increase of transactions of 3.2% in 2004, and 2.4% in 2005. An interesting side note is the low and steadily declining NICS rejection rate that averaged 2.4% between 1994 and 1998, and fell to 1.6% in 2003, 2004 and 2005. For the sake of statistical analysis, we will assume private firearm ownership to be the average of all three estimates, that is, 260 million privately owned firearms. We also assume an increasing trend of about 2-3% per year. Compare this to the approximately 75 million dogs that are responsible for almost 5 million attacks.
In summary, we observe a declining violent crime rate, a steady firearm-related violent crime rate, and increasing firearm ownership.
Interestingly, average decline in violent crime and average increase of firearm ownership are oddly similar – around 2% per year, but anti-correlated. With these numbers, we can clearly reject the hypothesis that more privately and legally owned firearms mean more violent crime. This is the underlying hypothesis of anti-gun interest groups and the media, and it is clearly wrong.
MORE GUNS = MORE CRIME ? WRONG HYPOTHESIS
Two cases from other countries corroborate that more guns do not equal more crime. In a study by D.B. Kates and G. Mauser published in the renowned Harvard Journal of Law (Kates DB, Mauser G. Would banning firearms reduce murder and suicide? Harv J Law Pub Pol 2006; 30: 649-665), murder rate and gun ownership in European countries are examined. Comparisons between countries are difficult, but a few observations can be made. Most European countries have a markedly lower murder rate than the USA, and superficially, this could be attributed to tighter gun control in Europe. However, this opens the question why Luxembourg with virtually no privately owned firearms has a higher murder rate than the US, why Russia has three times of the US murder rate with extremely tight gun control, and why South Africa has seven times the US murder rate, likewise with tight gun control. Conversely, why does Finland with a firearm ownership that is higher than in the US have virtually no murder? Likewise Switzerland, where each male citizen has a fully automatic assault rifle at home?
If the two outliers Russia and Luxembourg are not taken into account, a slight anti-correlation between gun ownership and murder rate in Europe can be seen (figure to the right). This trend is not statistically significant, though. The trend would be amplified by Russia and Luxembourg (high murder rate, low gun ownership).
Another peer-reviewed publication concerns Australia. In the British Journal of Criminology, J. Baker and S. McPhedran examined the effect of the 1996 gun ban on crime trends (Baker J, McPhedran S. Gun laws and sudden death. Br.J.Crim 2006: 1-15.). With the exception of suicide, where a shift to non-firearm methods was observed, the 1996 gun ban had no effect on the homicide rate. The Australians traded their freedom to keep and bear arms for — nothing. And the Australian government burdened the taxpayer with half a Billion Dollars for — nothing.
We can safely and with certainty conclude:
MORE GUNS DOES NOT MEAN MORE CRIME
III. GUNS IN THE PREVENTION OF CRIME
In this controversy, pro-gun advocates claim that more guns mean less crime. While we established that more guns do not mean more crime, the positive assertion more guns = less crime deserves a separate analysis.
One indication that firearms might actually act in a crime-deterring manner can be gleaned from the increasing prevalence of states that allow its citizens to carry concealed handguns (right-to-carry or RTC states). While in 1987 only 10 states had RTC laws, there are 38 states with RTC laws today. This coincides with the long-term declining trend in violent crime as seen in the figure above. The FBI has released state-by-state crime statistics from which we can determine that RTC states had lower violent crime by 21% compared to non-RTC states (2004 data). Specifically, murder was lower by 28%, robbery by 43%, and aggravated assault by 13%. While a regional comparison is difficult, these are at least trends that must be acknowledged. In addition, the same FBI report lists about 550 so-called “justifiable homicides” per year. These are defined as either “the killing of a felon by a peace officer in the line of duty” (accounts for about 300 justifiable homicides) or “the killing of a felon, during the commission of a felony, by a private citizen” (accounts for about 250 justifiable homicides). This number means that criminals are actually stopped from committing a crime by armed citizens. Although the total number of “justifiable homicides” is not high, it is another indication that self-defense by armed citizens is possible. Furthermore, there are many more encounters that do not have a deadly outcome. Often, just presenting a firearm is sufficient to deter a criminal. For a comprehensive list of reports involving armed citizens acting in self defense, click here.
Another indication that firearms in private hands help reduce crime comes from statistics about gun owners who are licensed to carry concealed weapons (CCW). Is CCW going to lead to wild shoot-outs as anti-gun groups claim? Some states release crime statistics. Most recently, Texas provided an analysis of the percentage of convicted CCW holders. Access the statistics here. In 2006, 140 out of a total of 61,539 offenses were committed by CCW holders. This corresponds to 0.23 percent. This percentage is consistently low (0.25% in 2005, 0.16% in 2004, 0.12% in 2003, 0.13% in 2002 – numbers well within statistical uncertainty range). Considering that 2% to 4% of the population (depending on the source) carry a concealed weapon, the low percentage of criminal involvement proves that CCW holders are ten to twenty times less likely to commit criminal acts than the average population. Clearly, those groups who predicted murder and rampage as a consequence of RTC/CCW have been proven wrong.
While the exact numbers of citizens acting in self-defense, thereby preventing a crime, is unknown and varies strongly between reports, I’d like to highlight four cases.
Case in point:
|The outgunned Mexican law enforcement authorities face armed criminal attacks from platoon-sized units employing night vision goggles, electronic intercept collection, encrypted communications, fairly sophisticated information operations, sea-going submersibles, helicopters and modern transport aviation, [fully] automatic weapons, RPG’s, Anti-Tank 66mm rockets, mines and booby traps, heavy machine guns, 50 cal sniper rifles, massive use of military hand grenades, and the most modern models of 40mm grenade machine guns.|
Please allow me to list the staggering weaponry of those gangs again:
- Fully automatic weapons
- Heavy machine guns
- Rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs)
- Anti-Tank 66mm rockets
- Explosives (mines, booby traps, hand grenades)
- Machine guns with mounted 40mm grenade launchers
Maybe you have noticed, but none of the above military weapons are legal for civilians. Needless to say, these weapons have been obtained on the black market.
Question: How would a ban of civilian-legal semi-automatic firearms and sporting guns reduce the crimes committed by those gangs?
Take-home point: A criminal can always get almost any type of firearm on the black market, and no gun law can prevent that.
Case in point:
Mumbai, December 2008. Ten terrorists brought Mumbai to its knees in a 60-hour killing spree. We read in the Wall Street Journal (12-1-2008, page A8):
|…the three policemen armed with guns drew them. The nine others waved their bamboo sticks…|
Three armed policemen out of twelve. The others waved their bamboo sticks. And their opponents were armed with fully automatic weapons and grenades. No wonder ten terrorists could paralyze a city. Even more, there exist reports that even armed police did not return fire. For whatever reasons, lack of training or lack of courage, police failed to perform their duty. No wonder the reporter said:
|“I told some policemen the gunmen had moved towards the rear of the station, but they refused to follow them. I only wish I had a gun rather than a camera|
I only wish I had a gun… a citizen who might have had the courage to face the heavily armed terrorists, likely facing death in the process. With even one terrorist down, he might have saved many lives. But India has a culture of non-violence. Now, the violence came to them, and they were unprepared. Si Vis Pacem, Para Bellum. Couldn’t happen in the US? No, not this situation. However, please keep in mind that the police has no legal obligation to keep you safe. The job of the police is law enforcement. If they save you from criminals, this is just a coincidental by-product of their obligation to uphold the laws. Have you heard about the book Dial 911 And Die? It gives examples that police may – even with best efforts – take too long to come to your aid.
Question: If police cannot help you, who can?
Take-home point: Your self-defense is up to you. Are you up to it?
Case in point:
Alabama Gunman Kills 10 People – March 11, 2009 (local copy). One of those tragic events that occur from time to time, yet still too often. Can gun control prevent such an event? Details are sketchy, but the killer carried a fully automatic weapon – an illegal weapon. How would additional gun control have prevented this individual from obtaining such a weapon?
Let’s take a look over the Ocean. Germany, same day. Victims killed by carefully aimed head shots – Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 03-11-09 (local copy – German only, sorry). A 17-year-old schoolboy took a weapon from his father’s safe and killed 15 people in an amok run. The father of the killer was a member of a target shooting club, and as such was allowed to own guns under strict regulation and ownership laws. It should be obvious that the USA is not the only country with weapon- wielding killers who just snapped. There was a similar event in Erfurt, Germany on April 26, 2002. A former student entered his school armed and killed 16 people, then committed suicide. Please bear in mind, Germany is a country with strict gun ownership laws and a gun ownership rate of less than one third of that in the USA. In spite of lower gun ownership, gun registration, and strict gun licensing schemes, these amok runs happen none the less:
- Albertville, Germany, 03-11-09 – see above.
- Emsdetten, Germany, 11-22-06. An armed individual injures several people with gunfire before taking his own life.
- Coburg, Germany, 07-02-03. A 16-year-old schoolboy shoots at a teacher, injures a school psychologist, and commits suicide.
- Erfurt, Germany, 04-26-02. An ex-student entered his old school. Armed with a pistol and a shotgun, he killed 16 people, then took his own life (see above)
- Freising, Germany, 02-19-02. A schoolboy shoots three people and himself to death.
- Brannenburg, Germany, 03-16-2000. A 16-year old schoolboy injures the director of his school and himself with gunshots. The director died six days later.
- Meissen, Germany, 11-09-1999. A 15-year-old schoolboy stabs a teacher to death.
The list is frightening, and not even complete. Yet, as even politicians concede, these are isolated cases. With or without gun control laws, there would be no stopping them. Germany already has strict gun control, therefore politicians, always feeling pressured to do something, are discussing a ban on video games. More frighteningly, Chancellor Merkel called for warrantless home searches by the police – Germany has no Fourth Amendment, did you know that? Rather than looking at the tools of murder, it would be advisable to look into the root causes for people to “snap”.
Question: What makes people “snap” and go on a killing spree?
Take-home point: Gun control, while obviously not effective in stopping this type of crime, gives politicians opportunity for populist alibi action.
Case in point:
Slasher runs amok in creche. (local copy). A man went on a rampage in a Belgian day-care on Jan 23, 2009, stabbing two toddlers and a woman worker… No gun, just a knife. Let me guess. If this tragedy had happened with a gun, we’d see it all over the news, together with calls for a stricter gun control.
We can learn two things from this tragedy. First, if the perpetrator does not have a gun, he can still use a knife. Of course, this would work only in countries where the victims are not armed, like in Belgium. Or in the UK, where knife crime (and airgun crime and gun crime, too) is on the rise since the people have been disarmed. Second…
Question: How many fatalities would have happened if this woman worker had been armed? Probably one… the slasher.
Take-home point: Gun control did not prevent this crime. To the contrary. Without gun control, this crime might have been prevented.
A few more examples of crimes that were stopped by armed civilians and that made headlines in 2007 or 2008 are the Colorado church shooting on December 9, 2007. The shooting was stopped by a woman, a regular churchgoer with a concealed-carry permit, who was armed at that time. Her courageous act probably saved many lives. Also in December of 2007, a 19-year old entered West Roads Mall (local copy) in Omaha, Nebraska. Eight people were killed in that tragedy. Unfortunately, West Roads Mall is a “gun free zone” – and in this case, nobody carried a firearm to stop the killer who obviously didn’t care about the “no guns” sign. A similar situation occurred at the Trolley Square Mall in Utah in February, 2007. Trolley Square Mall is also a “gun free zone”. Fortunately for many shoppers, there was an off-duty police officer in the mall at the same time. Strictly, the off-duty officer violated the ban by taking his gun in with him when he went shopping. But, being armed, he was able to stop the attack, thus saving lives. I wonder how many victims of the Virginia Tech shooting, in their last moments of their lives, were praying that somebody, somebody, had broken the law and carried a defensive firearm. Of course, none of the law-abiding people did.
A possible retort to these considerations might be the notion that with fewer guns in private hands, there would be a lower incidence of this type of amok shootings. What evidence exists to support this notion? Remember the drug gangs in the example above. The black market offers everything a psychopath might need. A criminal who wanted to avoid the black market still has options. Knives (see above), even bombs. A high-profile knife murder case in the UK was recently reported in Times Online ( local copy). Unrepentant Weatherman terrorist William Ayers ( local copy) and his gang of co-terrorists managed to build bombs at home, in spite of their low level of technology education. Bombs powerful enough for Diana Oughton and two other terrorists to blow themselves up in their Greenwich Village town house when they tried to build a bomb intended to kill a large numbers of soldiers and their families. Bombs are low-tech. Teenagers can build a pipe bomb (such as the one detonated on 1-17-07 in a school in Leipzig, Germany, a country with strict gun control laws). On 01-05-09, an 18-year-old threatened his father with an axe and a homemade pipe bomb in Neckarsulm, Germany. The pipe bomb, which was later detonated by authorities, was found to have the power of a hand grenade. How would a gun ban stop these people?
Another good example is Great Britain with its 1998 gun prohibition. Scientific studies analyzing the full impact of the gun ban have not yet been published to our knowledge. However, a rise in crime can be seen as reported in the Times (local copy). The gun laws in Great britain did nothing to remove three million illegally owned firearms from the country. On the black market, fully automatic weapons can be bought for as little as $350. Obviously, gun laws do nothing to reduce this number of illegal guns, and with declining ability of the British poulation to defend themselves, crime is on the rise. Conversely, the last decades saw increased firearm ownership in the USA with declining crime rates.
I think we can safely claim that a reduction of the number of firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens would not reduce the number of crimes.
More guns do not mean more crime. The positive claim that more guns mean less crime cannot be substantiated with the present statistical material. However, indications exist that an armed population can effectively prevent crime. More research should be performed to analyze this question. Those of you interested in guns and crime prevention should read the book ARMED by G. Kleck and D.B. Kates (Prometheus Books, 2001). It contains a very detailed analysis of the question how well firearms in the hands of private citizens can help reduce and prevent crime.
IV. ASSAULT WEAPONS
Sen. Carl Levin, (D-Mich.), said on January 29, 2009 on the floor of the Senate that “assault weapons” are “capable of firing up to 600 rounds per minute” and that they are “once again pervading our streets and neighborhoods”. Sen. Levin is right on the first and may even be right on the second. Assault weapons, that is, weapons capable of full-automatic fire, are indeed capable of firing up to 600 rounds per minute. Sen. Levin did not say, however, that semi-automatic civilian-legal weapons are not capable of this high rate of fire. See this article for a comprehensive definition and history of the assault rifle. Sen. Levin may be right about fully automatic weapons “again pervading our streets” – however, being illegal, those weapons won’t be found in the hands of law-abiding citizens. Fully automatic assault weapons are rather characteristic of gang crime. This tells us one important fact: gun laws won’t take the assault weapons off the streets, because legal firearm owners don’t have them, and gang criminals won’t be deterred by new or old laws.
Did I mention that assault weapons already are illegal?
So why the hype about assault weapons? Why does Congress want to re-introduce the assault weapons ban if this law does not change anything? Maybe it does? Look at the trends in the figure above that shows crime trends over time. Can you identify the year the federal assault weapons ban was instated? 1994? Correct – the year violent crime started dropping dramatically. So the assault weapons ban helped reduce crime, right? OK, the law was set to expire, and it did. Look at the graph again – when did the ban expire? It expired in 2005, and what happened? Nothing. Therefore, we may or may not be looking at a coincidental effect in 1994. Let us analyze the issue of assault weapons in more detail. First, please check your own knowledge.
Two types of rifle are shown above. Which one is an assault weapon?
- (A), the left rifle, is an assault weapon.
- (B), the right rifle, is an assault weapon.
- Both are assault weapons.
- Neither is an assault weapon.
So what do you think? Is 1, 2, 3, or 4 the correct answer?
To answer the question, let us examine what the definition of an assault weapon has become. As mentioned above, the prerequisite for an assault weapon is fully automatic fire, and neither of the weapons above are assault weapons. Furthermore, we must consider a semi-automatic assault weapon a contradiction in terms. However, H.R. 3355 uses a different (and “innovative”) definition where a semi-automatic assault weapon suddenly springs into existence for purposes of gun control. First, there are blanket definitions. Any AR-15 style rifle – a favorite hunting and target match rifle – becomes an assault weapon under H.R. 3355. H.R. 3355 furthermore defines as an assault rifle:
|(B) a semiautomatic rifle that has an ability to accept a detachable magazine and has at least 2 of:
(i) a folding or telescoping stock;
(ii) a pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon;
(iii) a bayonet mount;
(iv) a flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor; and
(v) a grenade launcher;
Equipped with this definition, let’s look at the figure above again. It is immediately clear that (B) is not an assault rifle. But (A) has a conspicuous pistol grip! And the stock also looks like it could be folded or removed. And what about that ominous thing at the muzzle? Couldn’t that be a flash suppressor? We conclude, (A) must be an evil, menacing assault weapon. Any normal person who gets a hold of such a weapon instantly turns into a homicidal maniac with the irresistible urge to go on a murderous rampage!
Or maybe not?
Let me tell you what the above figure shows. (B) is a Ruger Mini-14 chambered for .223, and (A) is a Ruger 10-22 chambered for 22LR. You may possibly not know what this means. To the right is a photo of a 22LR (A) and a .223 (B) cartridge. The 22LR rimfire cartridge is considered low-velocity (i.e., weak). Interestingly, the law becomes ambiguous at this point. The 22LR is excluded from the definition of large-capacity magazines, but not from assault rifles or pistols. In the strictest sense, therefore, we must conclude that the Ruger 10-22 as depicted here has been classified as assault weapon by H.R. 3355, although its low-velocity bullet could be stopped by any leather jacket, while the .223 cartridge, fired by the non-assault Ruger Mini-14, is powerful enough to be used in game hunting see comment (2) below. Interestingly, the “assault rifle” definition implicitly includes 22LR cartridges, but large-capacity magazines with 22LR are allowed. Why the inconsistency? Look at the image below. That picture shows the same Ruger 10-22 rifle shown in photo A above, with only cosmetic differences: wood stock, no pistol grip, no flash suppressor (as if a 22LR pea-shooter cardridge had any noticeable muzzle flash, anyway!). Other than that, both Ruger 10-22 fire the same low-velocity 22LR cartridge in the same semi-automatic fashion.
Question: How can cosmetic changes like a pistol grip or a telescopic stock turn a rifle into an assault rifle? Do you believe the Ruger 10-22 becomes more dangerous because it is black, has a curved magazine, a pistol grip and a detachable stock? Do you believe the Ruger Mini-14 does? No, they wouldn’t. With these cosmetic features, you can’t shoot faster, you can’t shoot more accurately, and you shoot the same ammunition at the same velocity with the same kinetic energy. In short, you can’t do anything with an “assault weapon” that a non-assault weapon couldn’t do (except maybe stabbing with the bayonet, but I think that is prohibited anyway since stabbing is illegal, too).
The analogy here would be the definition of an assault dog. An assault dog would be any Rottweiler, Doberman, German Shepherd, or Pitbull. In addition, an assault dog would be:
(B) any dog that has an ability to open its jaws in preparation to bite and has at least 2 of:
(i) four legs to jump at the victim;
(ii) a larynx to emit a menacing growl;
(iii) black or conspicuously dark-colored fur;
(iv) one or more eyes which help spotting a victim; and
(v) a rear orifice that could eject biohazardous materials (“feces launcher”)
Would that make sense to you? Of course not. And neither does the highly arbitrary definition of an assault weapon.
|[Assault weapons] were used in only a small fraction of gun crimes prior to the ban: about 2% according to most studies and no more than 8%. Most of the AWs used in crime are assault pistols rather than assault rifles.
It is Premature to Make Definitive Assessments of the Ban’s Impact on Gun Crime
A document prepared by anti-gun interest groups cannot find more conclusive evidence for the efficacy of the “assault weapon” ban ten years after it went into effect? Good decision to let a law expire that has no measurable effect.
Remember the possibly coincidental drop in violent crime in 1994, the same year that the assault weapons ban went into effect? According to the same report, the so-called “assault weapons” account for only 2% of crimes (other estimates are as low as 0.5%), so it is absolutely impossible that H.R. 3355 has had any influence on the 1994 drop in crime seen above. We found above that only 13% of violent crimes were committed with a firearm. Of these 13%, only 2% were committed with an “assault weapon”. In the most idealistic case, the maximum mathematically possible violent crime reduction would have been 0.26% – too low to be measurable. It is more likely that the increasing right-to-carry laws start having a deterrent effect.
Actually, the above-cited document is interesting to read as it reveals the struggle to justify the ban in spite of its total lack of scientific evidence of the ban’s efficacy. Even more revealing is this passage of the same document:
|In the long term, we can expect prices of the banned guns and magazines to gradually rise as supplies dwindle. As prices rise, more would-be criminal users of [assault weapons] and [large-capacity magazines] will be unable or unwilling to pay the higher prices.|
Would-be criminal users? With weapons that are used in maybe 0.26% of violent crimes? Clearly, the intention is a criminalization of firearm owners and the introduction of yet another hassle for law-abiding gun owners. The criminals would simply use a non-“assault” weapon. Even more, the author’s “logical framework” clearly points at the desired outcome: higher prices, fewer buyers. It is not that a small reduction of crimes committed with a seldom-used type of gun would make the population safer. Any effect would be unmeasurable (as the document admits), but when the end goal is a disarmed population, every baby step helps.
Let us analyze the document even more closely. If you have downloaded it, please turn to Pages 7 and 8. You’ll find a picture of an Intratec TEC-9 pistol and an AK-47 rifle. Both guns exist in a restricted fully automatic version and a civilian-legal semi-automatic version. On the same pages, you’ll also find a justification why specific features characterize an “assault weapon” and are therefore to be considered evil. Let us analyze those features item by item, following the sequence of H.R. 3355 for the “assault rifle”:
- (i) Folding or telescoping stock. In a rifle, the barrel is at least 16 Inches long. Add to that the receiver and the stock mount. Do you really believe that a folding stock makes a difference in concealability? A typical gun that is considered “concealable” is the Glock 26 pistol with an overall length of 6 Inches. Conversely, the Intratec pistol depicted on Page 7 has a magazine that is atypically positioned in front of the trigger mechanism. This makes a pistol unnecessarily long and less concealable. I wonder what the authors thought when they were considering the question of “concealable”.
- (ii) A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon. Again, Page 8: “Allows the weapon to be spray fired from the hip”. Yes, but only if you have a fully automatic weapon, not a semi-auto gun. Semi-automatic guns cannot spray-fire. In fact, I encourage you to go to your local gun shop, take a rifle and hold it in this position “from the hip”. You will notice two things. First, a pistol grip and a regular stock do not make any difference when holding the rifle in a hip position, and second, firing “from the hip” is abysmally inaccurate. Therefore, you’ll find “firing from the hip” in Hollywood movies, but no real hunter or target shooter would ever fire from the hip. Ridiculous.
- (iii) A bayonet mount. Would the prohibition of bayonet mounts reduce bayonet stabbings? Ever heard of a bayonet stabbing crime? Maybe a drive-by bayonetting? No? Neither have I. So who would care about a bayonet mount?
- (iv) A flash suppressor or threaded barrel designed to accommodate a flash suppressor. The authors claim that the flash suppressor “allows the shooter to remain concealed when shooting at night”. This describes a tactical situation, and I find it hard to see anybody firing the notoriously inaccurate AK-47 at a distance where hiding the muzzle flash would make a difference see comment (1) below. In addition, it would be really easy to build a makeshift flash suppressor from parts obtainable at a home improvement store. A dedicated criminal who plans a night assassination with the necessary equipment (night vision telescope) could easily add this feature to any non-assault rifle. For anybody else… who’d care?
- (v) A grenade launcher. I can see the grenade launcher prohibition justified; although – once again – grenades are already prohibited, so a grenade launcher would be kind of pointless — unless you are an expert with the black market, and then we can no longer consider you a law-abiding citizen. And when a criminal has black-market grenades, who can prevent him from obtaining a grenade launcher through the same channels? Conversely, a rifle with a grenade launcher is not illegal under this bill if it is the only feature in this list. That is, if my rifle has no pistol grip, no folding stock, no bayonet mount, and not flash suppressor, then the grenade launcher does not make this firearm an assault rifle. Isn’t this interesting?
As for the “assault pistol”, let us go over the provisions, too.
- (i) An ammunition magazine that attaches to the pistol outside of the pistol grip. This is depicted on Page 7. As I mentioned, this makes no sense for concealability. The report states: “Characteristic of an assault weapon, not a sporting handgun”. Says who? This is a really weak argument. This configuration increases the size of the pistol while keeping the barrel length short (longer barrel = more accuracy). This configuration makes sense in a fully automatic weapon, but not in a semi-automatic pistol. And fully automatic weapons are restricted, anyway. Pointless.
- (ii) A threaded barrel capable of accepting a barrel extender, flash suppressor, forward handgrip, or silencer. Please see my discussion of the flash suppressor above. A forward handgrip makes the pistol even more bulky, not interesting for criminals. If you need a longer barrel, why not use a much more accurate carbine in the first place? And for the silencer — those are restricted, too. Once again, whether a pistol has a threaded barrel makes no difference.
- (iii) A shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel and that permits the shooter to hold the firearm with the nontrigger hand without being burned. Hm. Interesting. I think we should look at the original text: “Cools the barrel of the weapon so it will not overheat during rapid firing”. First: a shroud does not cool a barrel. If it did cool the barrel, it would get hot itself. Simple thermodynamics. Second: a barrel gets hot even during normal competition-style slow firing. Third, if you hold a pistol in a two-handed stance where the support hand supports the barrel, you have quite a long and bulky pistol. Such a pistol is hard to conceal, and hard to bring into fast action. It is more a pistol suitable for slow long-distance target sports shooting, definitively not the choice of a criminal. Maybe this is the reason why so few “assault weapons” were used in crimes?
- (iv) A manufactured weight of 50 ounces or more when the pistol is unloaded. What pistol is that? Fifty ounces – more than 1.4 kilograms – is pretty heavy. Again, I guess that this would not be a criminal’s choice. If somebody wants to combine shooting with weight-lifting, why not?
- (v) a semiautomatic version of an automatic firearm. This is revealing. Let’s discuss this item in more general terms below.
You may have noticed that the entire bill is a muddle of semi-automatic and fully-automatic features, as if somebody involved in writing the bill was too ignorant to tell the difference. My guess is that the exact opposite is true. Whoever designed the bill knew the facts about semi-automatic and fully automatic firearms very well. And the entire bill is intended to create the wrong impression that fully automatic assault weapons were targeted (which are restricted anyway). Those cosmetic features, on a semi-automatic gun, do not increase the danger potential that a criminal would find desirable. Again, semi-automatic “assault weapons” were hardly used in crimes. However, some features improve accuracy for slow-fire competition shooting.
Why the ban, then? The ban was intended to mislead those members of the public less familiar with firearms. The ban was intended to create the impression that something was done for increased safety (which wasn’t). And the ban was stealthily intended to increase prices and provide a new level of bureaucratic interference without the public noticing. I’d call this intentional deception. Had the public accepted the “assault weapons” ban in 2004, the floor would have been ready for the next step towards total gun control.
We conclude: The “assault weapon” ban is the product of ideology, not scientific fact.
|Note: We would like to thank readers for submitting comments that clarify inaccurate statements in this section.
(1) One reader points out that “the purpose of a flash suppressor is to prevent blinding the shooter at night rather than making the location of the shooter less visible from a distance.” We find this reader’s comment particularly interesting because it further highlights the error of the authors of the bill who claim that the flash suppressor “allows the shooter to remain concealed when shooting at night” – apparently, this is not even the point of a flash suppressor.
V. THE MEDIA AND FIREARMS IN THE NEWS
Continuing with the same topic: In Spring of 2003, CNN broadcast a feature on “assault weapons”. In 2004, H.R. 3355 was set to expire, and CNN intended to support the renewal of H.R. 3355 by showcasing the dangers of the banned firearms. You can see the transcript here and here (local copy). In a videotaped demonstration, two AK-47 rifles were fired into a cinder block. The first one, a semi-automatic version of the AK-47, showed no apparent damage. The second, a fully automatic AK-47 (hence, a true assault weapon) demolished the cinder block. It also penetrated a bullet-proof vest. This was commented by CNN:
|And the holes that have been literally drilled through that bullet-proof vest that’s designed to protect police officers is riddled.|
What CNN did not tell its audience:
First, they were showing a fully automatic military AK-47 that had nothing to do with H.R. 3355 – fully automatic weapons were restricted since 1934. Apparently, CNN simply assumed that the audience was too ignorant to notice that they were deliberately misled.
Second, both AK-47 fired the same type of ammunition. Why was there no damage of the cinder block in the first demonstration? It took pressure from the NRA to get CNN to admit that the first set of rounds was deliberately aimed low. The first AK-47 was intentionally fired into the ground as to not break the cinder block. This is outright deception.
Third, that bullet-proof vest was only pistol-rated and never intended to stop rifle rounds. No surprise that the rifle rounds penetrated it, yet CNN omitted to mention this fact. Among many responses we present a rebuttal by the National Review Online (local copy).
Gary Kleck reports in his book Armed about a glaring example of distortion by the media:
|In December of 1989, I gave an interview lasting about an hour to a reporter from the National Public Radio (NPR) affiliate in St. Paul, Minnesota. The interview was done as part of a national effort by NPR affiliates to explore the gun issue, and the resulting reports were distributed to NPR member stations. The bulk of my remarks concerned the considerable evidence indicating the utility of guns for self-defense, as well as evidence that most existing gun laws appear to be ineffective in reducing violence. I also very briefly (for a minute or two) noted the risks of keeping guns for defense in homes with children, and remarked that most crime victimizations occurred in circumstances that do not permit effective defensive use of a gun. When WETA-WM, the NPR affiliate in Washington, DC, broadcast an excerpt of about thirty seconds from my interview, it was entirely taken from my brief remarks noting the limits and risks of keeping guns for self-defense. None of my extensive (and unrebutted) remarks noting the defensive effectiveness of guns were included. Further, the brief excerpts were placed in a section of the broadcast devoted to arguing a proposition – that keeping guns for defensive purposes is irrational – that was clearly contradicted by both the bulk of my remarks and by the overwhelming weight of scholarly evidence.|
Media bias does not always have to employ blatant deception as in the CNN example. Simple omission is sufficient. We discussed shopping mall shootings. Regularly, the press omitted to mention the fact that these shopping malls were “gun free zones”.
Another example where the media can manipulate the numbers is the unclear definition of homicide. In many statistics, you’ll find suicide and murder combined, raising the number of firearm fatalities by approximately a factor of two. When it comes to children killed with firearms, the age group of 16-18 years is included (usually without the fact being explicitly mentioned). This way, the child death statistic includes gang crime victims and shows correspondingly higher numbers. In fact, if you read articles that cite numbers from gun-control special-interest groups, you’ll find that the statistics strongly differ from the ones presented in this article. Who is right? They or me? I have disclosed my sources. It is up to you to make up your mind. For the media, there appears to be a strong bias. Again from the book Armed:
|…using a “net bias” score that measured the excess of procontrol bias over anitcontrol bias, Etten’s results indicated that 71 percent of the stories contained net bias in one direction or another, and that among stories with some net bias, 81 percent were biased in favor of gun control. Thus, stories biased in favor of the procontrol side outnumbered stories favoring the anticontrol side by a margin of four to one.|
And – have you ever heard complaints about media bias by gun control special-interest groups? Probably not, and this fact is quite telling.
With this bias, can we still trust the main-stream media? Whenever we read about crimes, particularly gun-related crime, we need to be wary. Are there omissions? False information? Sarcasm against “bitter clingers”? It is our duty to follow the statistics to their source, to check their trustworthiness, and to make our own observations. This also means that each individual should read the arguments put forth by both sides (and in this article, you find sources from both sides). It is our duty to use our own mind, rather than emotions, to examine the news we are presented with. Unless we heed this advice, we decide blindfolded.
As for the press, reporters should never forget that freedom, even the freedom of the First Amendment, must be defended. Those who give too much power to the government may unexpectedly face censorship – or worse. Reporters should remember that the first official act of the German Nazis, of Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao was to disarm the population. It was only then that freedom of speech was destroyed. Are you aware of the recent fate of several “inconvenient” reporters in present-day Russia? Their authorities deserve your trust, da?
We conclude: The media’s bias against Second-Amendment freedoms may be understandable considering their liberal-utopist agenda. But by fighting the freedom granted by the Second Amendment, they stand a good chance to lose their freedoms under the First Amendment. They dig their own grave.
VI. THE AGENDA OF THE FREEDOM HATERS
The press article cited initially states:
|Animal rights activists insist no [dog] breed is inherently vicious.|
Indeed. Neither are firearms. It is the owner who decides its use. Dogs are pets, guards, companions. But dogs can injure, maim, and kill. Firearms are tools – for hunting, sports, competition, and recreation. But firearms can injure and kill. Nobody calls for a dog ban. Nor for a car ban. Or, for that matter, for a water ban (since death by drowning is eight times more likely to occur to a child under 14 than death by shooting). We have established that private firearm ownership does not increase crime, and that it likely even helps reduce crime. Why are there so many people opposed to private firearm ownership?
Arguably, the vast majority of those who would want firearm ownership restricted are those who have been intentionally misled by the media; who have been fed biased or even falsified statistics provided by the freedom haters of the anti-gun special interest groups. People who failed in their duty to obtain unbiased information. We have to hold in their favor that unbiased information is very difficult to obtain and requires dedication and perseverance. A lot of effort went into this article to obtain, analyze, and concentrate the data. None the less, it is incumbent upon each of us to do our own research to counter the misleading influence of the media who provide us with biased, deliberately incomplete or plain falsified information. A responsible voter is also a person who responsibly collects and processes information. A responsible voter is also capable of looking behind the media’s veil of deceit.
Many proponents of gun control have never been on a range, never fired a gun. It is safe to assume that this group of people does not have the knowledge to back their belief. What is worse, many are actually afraid to even touch a firearm. With a firearm comes responsibility. Those who are frightened by firearms and the responsibility that firearm ownership brings are likely put under considerable stress by the mere thought that a law-abiding citizen may own or carry a gun. This is a weakness that is not easy to face. It is arguably easier to join the anti-gun movement and hope the problem just goes away. In fact, those who are irrationally frightened by firearms may well feel strong by joining like-minded people who assert moral “superiority” over those who are willing to use guns in self-defense (“we live in a civilized world – why would we need guns that are intended to kill?”). I can imagine that many of these individuals harbor envy and resentment toward anyone with the means, skill, and will to successfully stand up to criminal aggression.
If you have never fired a gun – and you are open-minded – try to find somebody who would be willing to take you to a range. You’d be surprised how many shooters would be happy to give you an introduction. In recent years, I have invited about two handful of individuals who were new to shooting sports. I strictly discussed gun safety, then we shot silhouette and paper targets. Interestingly, the reaction was unanimous (yes, 100% of my guests said that) – wow – I did not know that this was so much fun!.
The arguably worst group of freedom haters are those who want to wield power over other people. Their power is challenged by individuals who think for themselves, who decide for themselves, and who defend themselves. The powerful elite likes to think themselves superior to the “common people”, and consequently they expect special rights for themselves that don’t apply to the regular people. Often, those in power are protected by bodyguards or special branches of police, and they don’t need to think about guns for self-defense. An easy position from which to legislate a gun grab. This power elite can be expected to harbor a deep resentment toward free and independent thinkers. Of course they would not want firearms in the hands of the general population as this constitutes a major obstacle to fulfilling their desire to control people. And since those people are in power, they have the means to influence people and bend them to their will.
Maybe there is one group even worse than the power elite – the utopists. Those people frequently think that the wealthy are wealthy by a random quirk of nature, of birth. Therefore, it would be justified to take away from their wealth and redistribute it. For them, the Law of Diminished Returns does not exist. All people should be equal, not in opportunity, but in income. Unfortunately, the utopia conceived by Karl Marx does not work, because it assumes some sort of robot, not a human being, making up society. With similar naïveté, they envision that a society free of guns is a society free of crime. Of course, this assumes an unrealistic vision of man. Utopia and common sense are not reconcilable, and criminals don’t disappear just because some utopians want it so. Utopians are often found in circles of people who live a sheltered life. To them, tyranny and crime are things that happen in other places far removed from their “civilized” universe. Also, they do not understand the value of private property and why some people would fight for theirs. Many in this group can be found in academia and the press.
Two groups play a lesser role in these considerations. It is obvious that criminals favor strict gun laws as it gives them an advantage to victimize a disarmed population with their illegaly obtained weapons. And private security companies would likely have more customers when the population was disarmed, giving security to those with the means to pay for it. Social justice?
In conclusion, there are three important groups of freedom haters. An uninformed and deliberately hoodwinked population, the power elite who feel threatened by guns in their aspirations for more control, and the utopists who dream of an ideal society that cannot exist. The latter two groups have the means to influence the first group, which then constitutes the majority of the voters. It is this group to whom this article is dedicated.
VII. THE SECOND AMENDMENT
So what is it about this Second Amendment? It plainly states:
|A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.|
The Second Amendment is part of the ten-amendment Bill of Rights. If this is news to you, you have some work to do. The Bill of Rights defines a number of individual rights, and provides protection of the individual from unreasonable actions by the Government. As such, the Second Amendment also constitutes an individual right, a fact just now reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in its DC versus Heller decision. The individual right to own a firearm for self-protection and to form a militia is covered by the Second Amendment. We have seen that good reasons exist for private citizens to keep and bear arms. Sporting and hunting is one good reason. Self-defense is another.
Now let us finally compare apples with apples. That is, dog accidents with hunting accidents. Just to give you an idea how safe gun owners are. Juxtapose 4.7 million dog injuries with less than 1000 hunting accidents (1997 data) in the United States, of which roughly 10% were fatal. Ban guns? Where is the justification?
Mr. Obama has promised during his campaign to “protect the right of hunters and other law-abiding Americans to purchase, transport, own, and use guns”. Rumors have it that Mr. Biden himself is a gun owner. Perhaps he likes shooting sports? Yet, both have an extreme anti-gun voting record. Mr. Obama has surrounded himself with a number of freedom-haters such as Eric Holden and Rahm Emmanuel. A new version of the “assault weapon” bill is already on the floor. Don’t expect assault weapons to be defined as fully automatic military weapons as it should. Rather, expect hunting rifles to be redefined as “sniper rifles” and similar Orwellian naming schemes designed to mislead the public. Expect new laws that have no measurable effect on crime, but pose a major harassment for law-abiding gun owners. Those in power are, after all, the elite and we the people are the peons to be ruled from day one. If I remember my history, the last person to “rule” the American people was King George III, and maybe we should keep a close watch on our new ruler Barack I. Remeber the questionnaire that applicants for a job in his administration had to fill out? Here is Question 59:
|59. Do you or any members of your immediate family own a gun? If so, provide complete ownership and registration information. Has the registration ever lapsed? Please also describe how and by whom it is used and whether it has been the cause of any personal injuries or property damage.|
Now, is this discrimination or what?
If you consider that stricter gun laws are needed, here is an interesting quiz that gives you some information about gun laws. Furthermore, it is important to distinguish between criminal activity and legal activity. No law-abiding gun owner means any harm to you. To the contrary, such a person is more likely than not going to help you in distress. If you chose not to own a gun it is your decision, but please respect the diversity of the gun owners.
Benjamin Franklin is attributed to have said:
|Anyone who trades liberty for security deserves neither liberty nor security.
Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.
This reflects the spirit of the Second Amendment. It is a freedom. A freedom that all of us have a duty to defend. Let’s face it. Nobody would call for a dog ban because the benefits far outweigh the risks and dangers posed by dogs. It makes much less sense to call for even stricter gun laws where even more benefits far outweigh even lower risks.
VIII. LINKS AND FURTHER READING
- An in-depth analysis of the efficacy of “gun control” published by the Cato institute
- Raging Against Self Defense – an article with an in-depth analysis of the psychology and mindset of those opposing self-defense
- A very interesting video about gun rights and the Second Amendment
- A most impressive demonstration of the difference between an assault rifle anda civilian-legal semi-automatic rifle: click here.
- Not convinced about gun-free zones? Watch video here.
- Who would want to support a total gun ban? A video shows a representative of the gun-ban lobby presenting his arguments
- A Human Right (website)
- The Second Amendment Foundation (website)
- Also, check out the new Million Gun Owner March
Acknowledgement: Several illustrations were published at http://www.a-human-right.com, a site well worth visiting. Two more pictures were published by [www.jpfo.org]. The considerations in Part VI are based on two articles here and here.