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Catalonia Shows the Danger of Disarming Civilians – Article by Laura Williams

Catalonia Shows the Danger of Disarming Civilians – Article by Laura Williams

The New Renaissance Hat
Laura Williams
October 28, 2017
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Since the tragic murder of 59 peaceful concertgoers in Las Vegas on Sunday, October 1, 2017, I’ve heard well-intentioned Americans from all political corners echoing heartbroken and tempting refrains:

Can’t we just ban guns?

Surely we can all get together on the rocket launchers.

Things like this would happen less often.

We have enough military.

While victims were still in surgery, some took to television and social media to criticize the “outdated” and “dangerous” Second Amendment to the Constitution. They have lived so long in a safe, stable society that they falsely believe armed citizens are a threat to life and liberty for everyone.

Those who claim to see no necessity or benefits of individual gun ownership need only look to the rolling hills of Catalonia, where a live social experiment is currently unfolding.

Unarmed Patriots

Just hours before an alleged lone gunman opened fire from the Mandalay Bay casino, the citizens of a small region surrounding Barcelona, Spain, cast a vote for their regional independence. Catalonia’s citizens have a unique language, culture, and history, and consider Spain a neighboring power, not their rightful rulers. So as America’s Continental Congress heroically did (and as Texans and Californians occasionally threaten to do) Catalonia wished to declare independence and secede.

Polling stations in Catalonia were attacked by heavily armed agents of the Spanish government with riot gear and pointed rifles. Spanish National Police fired rubber bullets and unleashed tear gas canisters on voters, broke down polling center doors, disrupted the vote, and destroyed enough ballots to throw results into serious doubt.

Exceedingly few of those would-be patriots were armed.

In Spain, firearm ownership is not a protected individual right. Civilian firearms licenses are restricted to “cases of extreme necessity” if the government finds “genuine reason.” Background checks, medical exams, and license restrictions further restrict access. Licenses are granted individually by caliber and model, with automatic weapons strictly forbidden to civilians. Police can demand a citizen produce a firearm at any time for inspection or confiscation. Spain has enacted, it would seem, the kind of “common sense restrictions” American gun-control advocates crave.

But of course, that doesn’t mean that Spanish citizens don’t buy guns. In fact, Spanish taxpayers maintain an enormous arsenal of weapons, which are all in the hands “professional armed police forces within the administration of the state, who are the persons in charge of providing security to the population.”

Those agents of the Spanish government weren’t “providing security to the population” of Catalonia on Sunday — they were pointing guns at would-be founding patriots who had challenged the rule of their oppressors.

“If somebody tries to declare the independence of part of the territory — something that cannot be done — we will have to do everything possible to apply the law,” Spain’s justice minister said in a public address.  While many polling places were closed or barricaded, 2.3 million voters (90% in favor of independence) were permitted to vote, he claimed, “because the security forces decided that it wasn’t worth using force because of the consequences that it could have.”

The consequences of a government using force to control those it is sworn to protect must be high. When citizens are armed, the consequences for tyranny rise and its likelihood falls.

Armed Tyrants

Americans have grown too trustful of the federal government, too ready to assume its bureaucrats have only our best interests at heart. Even with a maniacal man-child in the Oval Office, many are seemingly eager to turn over individual liberty to those who promise to manage our lives for us. The United States was designed to be the smallest government in the history of the world, with no standing army, and little right to intrude in the private activities of its citizens. Instead, we have the most powerful and intrusive government in human history, with 800 permanent military bases in 70 countries, unfathomable firepower, and staggering surveillance capabilities. Unchecked abuses of power are routine and tolerated.

67 federal agencies, including the IRS and the FDA, have military weapons, according to the OpenTheBooks Oversight Report “The Militarization of America“. Among the most intrusive programs, including the Department of Homeland Security and the Transportation Safety Agency, do not disclose their weaponry budget.

The number of armed government officials with arrest and firearm authority has doubled since 1996. The US now has more armed “civilian” federal officers (200,000+) than US Marines (182,000). The IRS spends millions of taxpayer dollars annually on pump-action shotguns, AR-15 rifles, riot gear, and Special Forces contractors to train thousands of “special agents” in targeting American citizens.

Local police, sheriffs, and state troopers have also been armed to wage war against American citizens.  Battlefield weapons are being given to state and local police, allegedly to combat drug trafficking and fight terrorist threats at local pumpkin festivals. Military SWAT-style raids are used to serve search warrants for low-level drug possession, not hostage situations. Relatives and neighbors of alleged criminals have had government guns held to their children’s heads. Violations of civil rights, including illegal searches and the seizure of money and property without evidence of any crime, are commonplace.

Law enforcement requests military equipment directly from the Pentagon’s war-fighting machine: tanks, machine guns, rocket launchers, tear gas, camouflage, shields, and gas masks.  Military equipment is often purchased with civil asset forfeiture slush funds to bypass legislative appropriations challenges.

The high percentage of civilian law enforcement who are military veterans (one in five, by some estimates) compounds the cultural risks of treating average Americans like enemy combatants.

Showdowns between civilians and heavily armed agents of the state in FergusonBaltimore, the Oregon Wildlife Refuge, and at various other political protests across the country should remind us that gun-control advocates won’t be reducing the number of guns so much as shifting them all into either federal or criminal hands.

The senseless murder in Las Vegas is a frighteningly familiar tragedy. But don’t say “Americans shouldn’t be allowed to buy guns” when what you mean is “citizens should only be allowed to buy guns for their rulers.”

Dr. Laura Williams teaches communication strategy to undergraduates and executives. She is a passionate advocate for critical thinking, individual liberties, and the Oxford Comma.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author. Read the original article.

4 Ways to Misuse Gun Statistics – Article by Daniel Bier

4 Ways to Misuse Gun Statistics – Article by Daniel Bier

The New Renaissance HatDaniel Bier
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There are a lot of false, misleading, or irrelevant numbers being thrown around about guns and crime, so here’s a brief guide to four potentially misleading types of statistics.

1. “The United States has a gun for every person.”

It’s practically a rule that every report about guns has to mention some version of this statistic. There are “300 million guns in the United States,” “one gun for every person,” “more guns than people.”

This number is problematic not just because the estimates are dodgy (nobody really knows how many guns there are — estimates range from 250–350 million) but also because of the way guns per capita is used interchangeably with the rate of gun ownership.

Confusing the two is a common mistake. Reported increases in guns per capita often makes it appear that a tidal wave of guns is washing over the country. The Washington Post’s Wonkblog sounds the alarm that there are now “more guns than people.” Sounds scary — we’re outnumbered!

But the General Social Survey finds that 2014 actually marked an all-time low for gun ownership in the United States. (Gallup finds different numbers, but recent surveys by Pew and YouGov essentially confirm the GSS estimate.)

Yes, maybe if you collected all the guns in the country, you could give one to each man, woman, and child, and maybe there’d even be some left over. But this isn’t how gun ownership works. Just because there’s “one gun for everyone” doesn’t mean everyone has a gun. (Easy way to check this: look around you — see any guns? No? Okay then.)

The “one gun for every person” factoid is ubiquitous because it’s easy to remember and hammers home just how many guns there are. There’s some value in pointing out the huge total number of firearms in the United States — it captures the sheer scale of the issue when people are talking about trying to regulate, control, or confiscate them.

But it’s misleading to use the per capita figure to measure the kind of prevalence of guns that matters: how many people actually have firearms?

According to the GSS, just 31 percent of Americans live in a household with a gun — down from over 50 percent in the late 1970s — and only 22 percent personally own a gun. How can this be? Because most gun owners have more than one (and stores and collectors have a whole bunch).

 2. “The US has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world.”

Kinda, sorta, probly, maybe? This again is based on the number of guns per capita. This, at least, is unequivocally clear: whatever estimate you use, the United States has more guns per person than anywhere else.

But that doesn’t necessarily mean that the rate of ownership is higher here than in other countries, even countries with a lot fewer guns per capita.

How could that be? First, survey data for a lot of countries (particularly poor or repressed countries) is dodgy, hard to collect, outdated, and there are lot of unreported or illegal firearms. But more important, again, is the issue with conflating guns per capita with the rate of gun ownership.

Depending on the year and the estimate, the US has between 79 and 113 guns per 100 people. (Note the difficulty of getting an accurate figure, even in a developed country like the United States.)

For simplicity’s sake, let’s use the most commonly cited estimate from the 2007 international Small Arms Survey (SAS): about 88 guns per 100 people.

In the same SAS, Yemen comes second with an average estimate of about 55 guns per 100 people (low estimate: 29; high estimate: 81).

Yet this doesn’t necessarily mean that the US has a higher rate of gun ownership. Remember, in the US, only one third of people live in households with guns, and only about one fifth personally own guns.

There are several ways that Yemen could have a higher rate of gun ownership.

First, guns could be more evenly distributed: Yemen is poor, and guns are expensive, so it might be that in poor countries, more families have guns, but each owns fewer on average. (For instance, some sources claim, even under Saddam Hussein, most Iraqi households had a gun.)

Second, the average American household has 2.6 people; Yemen has 6.7 — meaning that if someone owns a gun, three times more people live in that household in Yemen than in the US, on average, meaning that the household gun ownership rate could be a lot higher.

Third, the median age in Yemen is 18.6 years; in the US, it’s 37.6 years. Relative to population, Yemen has a lot more children than the US, so the rate of gun ownership among adults could be higher than in the US.

Serbia is also sometimes cited as having the second most guns per capita, but it’s hard to know because estimates vary so widely. According a report from Radio Free Europe, “Some 15 percent of Serbia’s citizens legally own firearms.” Serbs have 1.2 million legally registered firearms, but some estimates of illegal firearms more than double that figure to 2.7 million guns.

Assuming that the legal gun owners don’t also own all of the illegal guns, illegal weapons could easily make the actual rate of gun ownership among Serbia’s seven million people higher than the US rate of 22 percent.

The same could also be true in developed countries like Switzerland and Finland (each with an estimated 45 guns per 100 people).

It’s definitely true that the US has the most guns in the world, but it isn’t certain that it has the highest rate of gun ownership.

What does this imply? I suspect it means very little — making uncontrolled international comparisons is generally deceptive — but given the ubiquity of the claim, a lot of people seem to think it matters a great deal to their argument. That it isn’t clear this claim even is a fact should, perhaps, give them pause.

3. Conflating suicides with homicides

The Washington Post’s Fact Checker gave President Obama “two pinocchios” (signifying “significant omissions and/or exaggerations”) for his claim that “states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths.”

Setting aside the ambiguity of what it means to have the “most gun laws,” let’s pay attention to that last phrase. You’ll hear “gun deaths” or “gun-related deaths” referenced a lot when discussing statistics on shootings and gun control.

But, as Reason’s Jacob Sullum points out, about two-thirds of gun deaths are suicides.

While suicide is an important issue, it has nothing to do with crime, murder, or mass shootings. (And the research is mixed about whether restricting gun ownership reduces suicide.) Lumping suicide in with murder roughly triples the number of “gun deaths,” but it’s a deceptive way to look at the problem of violence committed with guns.

Both Sullum and WaPo’s fact checkers found that when you only look at states’ rate of gun homicides, excluding suicides, it makes a huge difference:

Alaska, ranked 50th [the highest in rate of gun deaths] … moved up to 25th place. Utah, 31st on the list, jumped to 8th place. Hawaii remains in 1st place, but the top six now include Vermont, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Iowa and Maine. Indeed, half of the 10 states with the lowest gun-death rates turn out to be states with less-restrictive gun laws.

Meanwhile, Maryland — a more urban state — fell from 15th place to 45th, even though it has very tough gun laws. Illinois dropped from 11th place to 38th, and New York fell from 3rd to 15th.

Suicide and murder have very different causes, consequences, and solutions, and they should always be discussed separately. When they aren’t, it’s a good time to be skeptical.

4. Juxtaposing two random numbers

This is a popular genre of pseudo-statistics, in which people throw together two totally unrelated numbers to try to inflate or downplay one of them.

For instance, the New York Times’s Nicholas Kristof claims, “In America, more preschoolers are shot dead each year (82 in 2013) than police officers are in the line of duty (27 in 2013).”

This is so irrelevant and so meaningless that I’m at a loss as to how it even occurred to Kristof to make this comparison. It serves no purpose at all but to emotionally rig the conversation.

There are maybe several hundred thousand police officers in the United States. There are 20 million children under age five.

What on earth could it mean that there are more preschoolers who die from guns than police killed in the line of duty? Do we have some reason to expect there should be a relationship, higher or lower or parity, between those numbers?

Or is it just that any number of tragedies above zero is going to churn up people’s emotions?

We’re not even comparing the same things: 27 felony murders of police with 82 gun-related deaths of children under five. According to the CDC, 30 of the gun-related deaths were accidents and one was “undetermined intent,” so there were actually 51 felony shooting deaths (typically, stray bullets from other crimes).

Kristof also used the 2013 figure for police murders, but 2013 was an aberrantly low year for cop killings. In 2014, 51 officers were killed in the line of duty; in 2011, it was 72. Presumably he thought it made a better comparison, but it’s just false to say 27 police are killed “each year.” Since 1980, the average is 64 officers killed each year.

What does this prove about the risk of gun violence? Absolutely nothing. And it is precisely as meaningful as Kristof’s comparison, or the common refrain that “more Americans have been murdered with guns in the last X years than in X wars.” There’s not even a suggestion about how these numbers should be related.

In America today, there are more preschoolers who drown (416 in 2013) than firefighters who die in the line of duty (97 in 2013).

What does this mean for the debate about water-related activities? Less than nothing.

Numbers don’t tell us what to do; at best, they tell us what we can do.

There’s no denying America has a lot of guns and a lot of gun crime (although much less than it used to). But numbers won’t tell us what to make of these facts. First, the raw facts of our situation are not as clear as we think, and to the extent we understand them, they don’t tell us much about our policy options. They won’t tell us what we should do about gun crime, or if there’s anything we constitutionally can do (with respect to gun ownership), or if those things sacrifice other important values.

Yet, too often, the debate consists of flinging random numbers and dubious statistics around and then emoting about them. Noting these problematic figures doesn’t prove anything one way or another about any particular policy; instead, let’s first clear out the rubbish so we can actually see the ground we’re fighting over.


Daniel Bier

Daniel Bier is the editor of FEE.org. He writes on issues relating to science, civil liberties, and economic freedom.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

This article was published by The Foundation for Economic Education and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

Banning “Assault Weapons” Will Not Save Lives – Article by Corey Iacono

Banning “Assault Weapons” Will Not Save Lives – Article by Corey Iacono

The New Renaissance HatCorey Iacono
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Last weekend, America regrettably witnessed one of the deadliest mass shootings in the country’s history at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in which 49 people were murdered and over 50 injured. The atrocity was carried out by a fanatic who pledged allegiance to the Islamic State, using a civilian semi-automatic rifle, the Sig Sauer MCX. (Early reports that it was an AR-15 were mistaken.)

In the wake of this attack, many people have laid the blame on America’s relatively lax gun laws, arguing that so-called “assault weapons” (more appropriately known as semi-automatic rifles) and high-capacity magazines should be banned from civilian use.

They note that many of the deadliest shootings in American history have involved rifles like the AR-15, and they propose that such rifles should be banned to prevent heinous crimes like the Orlando massacre from occurring in the future.

Homicides Dehomogenized

But while it may be true that many mass shootings involved semi-automatic rifles, these events are rare. In fact, the latest data (2014) from the FBI show that all types of rifles were only confirmed to have been used in 248 homicides, down from 351 in 2009. Given the total number of homicides (11,961), rifles were confirmed to have been used in only two percent of murders.

You’re more likely to be stabbed, strangled, or beaten to death with bare hands than killed by someone with a rifle.

It’s impossible to know the true number of murders involving “assault weapons,” because the term is so nebulous, and because the FBI only looks at the categories of rifle, shotgun, and handgun. There are also nearly 2,000 gun murders in which the type of firearm used is unknown. But a rough estimate of 328 homicides with all rifles (extrapolated from rifle’s share of gun murders where the type of weapon is known) is probably close to the truth.

To be very generous to the assault weapon ban argument, let’s assume that all of these 328 murders were done with assault weapons. That would imply that such weapons were involved in less than three percent of all homicides in the United States, at most.

Such deaths are as terrible as any murder, but it is also true that knives, blunt objects, and hands/feet were confirmed to have been used in 1,567, 435, and 660 murders respectively. You are much more likely to be stabbed, strangled, or beaten to death with bare hands than killed by someone with a rifle, and the chances of being killed with an “assault-type rifle” are necessarily lesser still.

Bans Don’t Work

There is also little evidence that these weapons bans have worked in the past. From 1994 to 2004, Congress banned the manufacture, sale, or transfer of a large number of “assault weapons” (including some handguns and high-capacity magazines). An assessment study commissioned by the Department of Justice in 2004 found no evidence that the ban had had any effect on gun violence and concluded that “should it be renewed, the ban’s effects on gun violence are likely to be small at best and perhaps too small for reliable measurement.”

Violent ideologues will not be deterred from their paths of destruction by minor inconveniences.

Research by economist Mark Guis of Quinnipiac University revealed no evidence that either state or federal “assault weapons” bans reduced firearm-homicide rates. Carlisle E. Moody of the College of William and Mary found no evidence that the federal ban on high-capacity magazines had any effect on homicide rates.

Regarding terrorist attacks like the one in Orlando, it’s not clear, even in retrospect, that they would be prevented by more restrictive gun control measures. Stringent gun laws in California and France failed to prevent the recent massacres in San Bernardino and Paris. People driven to violence by ideology will not be easily deterred from their paths of destruction by minor inconveniences; it is simply naïve to believe that smaller magazines or not having a folding stock would have stopped them.

In any event, keeping in mind the horrors that mass shootings entail, “assault weapons” are not even connected to a significant amount of crime in the United States. Even if confiscating and banning them completely erased homicides with committed with them, and the perpetrators didn’t substitute them with other legally available firearms, the effect on homicide rates would be statistically very small.

Many Americans simply don’t believe that some of the most popular rifles in America (overwhelmingly owned for legal and peaceful reasons) should be banned or that tens of millions of Americans’ rights should be infringed upon for so little to show for it. If you care about violence in America, you shouldn’t waste your time on the red herring of “assault weapons.”


Corey Iacono

Corey Iacono is a student at the University of Rhode Island majoring in pharmaceutical science and minoring in economics. He is a Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) 2016 Thorpe Fellow.

This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

The Follies of Gun Control – Video by G. Stolyarov II

The Follies of Gun Control – Video by G. Stolyarov II


A satirical commentary by Mr. Stolyarov on the wildly unrealistic assumptions made by those who wish to restrict private individuals’ gun-ownership rights.

This video is based on Mr. Stolyarov’s essay, “The Follies of Gun Control“.

Remember to LIKE, FAVORITE, and SHARE this video in order to spread rational discourse on this issue.

Support these video-creation efforts by donating at The Rational Argumentator.