PolitiFact calls Everytown’s “school shooting” map “mostly false”

From “Have there been 74 school shootings since Sandy Hook? A closer look at a tricky statistic

A statistic calculated by Everytown for Gun Safety, and shared widely on social media, said that there have been 74 “school shootings in America since Sandy Hook.”

The group’s figure is accurate only if you use a broad definition of “school shooting” that includes such incidents as suicides, accidents and spillover from adjacent criminal activity. The figure has some value in quantifying the proximity of guns to school campuses, but the group makes a significant stretch by tying the statistic so closely to the mass shooting at Sandy Hook. By doing this, the group closely associates the statistic with planned mass shootings targeting students and school staff — a category that, using a more strict definition, accounts for only 10 of the 74 incidents.

The statement contains some element of truth but ignores critical facts that would give a different impression. We rate it Mostly False.

Ouch. Between that and CNN’s debunking of the map, that’s gotta hurt.

Sen. Reid proposes more gun control, time to contact your Senators/Representatives

From Guns.com:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid challenged lawmakers on Capitol Hill Monday to expand mandates on background checks for guns, citing the recent murder of two police officers and a concealed-carry permit holder in Las Vegas.

Reid, senior Senator of Nevada’s delegation in that chamber, voiced sadness for the loss of life in the incident, and then called for additional gun control laws.

“We in Congress, we do need to put in place legislation that helps prevent these deranged, these weird, these evil people who carry out such savage acts of violence,” said Reid Monday.

The legislative solution proposed by the Senator?

“Background checks so that people who are criminals, who are deranged can’t buy a gun,” explained Reid. “The American people are depending on us to pass legislation to prevent gun violence and safeguard communities, schools, and families.”

According to the senator, future incidents such as the Las Vegas attack could be mitigated by a move to require all firearms transfers, even those between two otherwise law-abiding citizens, be subject to a background check. At least one of the suspected murderers from this weekend’s violence is known to have a criminal record, although it is currently not known how he obtained the weapons used in the ambush.

“A step in the right direction would be universal background checks, so that people who are criminals, who are deranged, can’t buy a gun,” contends Reid.

It’s probably a good idea to contact your Congresscritters and let them know you oppose such ineffective, feel-good measures. It probably wouldn’t hurt to contact Sen. Reid and let him know too. (I tried contacting him via the website, but the contact form seems unresponsive. Awesome.)

From his own words, it’s clear Sen. Reid (and no doubt others, like Sens. Feinstein and Schumer, not to mention the various gun-control groups) considers banning private sales and mandating all sales be conducted via a licensed dealer as only a “step” towards even more restrictive policies. Better to keep that camel’s nose out of the tent entirely.

Taking a couple minutes to call and express your opinion carries a lot more weight than an email, and sending a brief, polite letter or postcard is also an improvement.

In my case, Sen. Flake of AZ is solidly in the pro-gun-rights camp. McCain is a bit iffy. The senators representing my extended family in California and Massachusetts are essentially lost causes.

As usual, keep up the pressure and let them know that we want “Not One More” gun control law.

On going back in time

NPR had a recent article discussing the dangers of stray bullets, something which I agree is a problem.

Unusually, a few sentences in the comments section attracted my interest; I typically don’t participate in comment threads on news articles and try to avoid them where possible. However, a comment by an individual going by the name “Sean Gay” attracted my attention. This comment starts with,

Yet another reason to go back to the pre-2008 second amendment and allowing the implementation of gun laws to restrict access.

In a separate respond to some other commenter, Mr. Gay says:

Right, but all decisions prior to 2007 included the full text of the second amendment as a right for state-sanctioned militia. The decision of 2007 fundamentally rewrote the second amendment and the McDonald v Chicago decision exacerbated the situation. By striking down a completely reasonable restriction in 2007 it opened the gate for other reasonable controls to be broken down. It was a bad decision that went against the Constitution, precedent, law, and common sense.

I’ve seen a few articles and comments of this type recently, no doubt spurred on by media coverage of some recent, high-profile crimes. (As an aside, I note how individuals and the media basically ignore more routine crimes in places like Chicago.)

Some have gone to the extreme of comparing the Heller and McDonald cases to Dred Scott and other cases where the Supreme Court got things very, very wrong and suggest that the court ought to change their rulings on Heller and McDonald. Of course, such comparisons are absurd: Dred Scott and other similar cases are clear examples of the court ruling to explicitly deny or restrict people’s human rights (which is objectively wrong), while Heller and McDonald serve to protect people’s rights.

However, most of the comments avoid such explicit comparisons and are of a “Why can’t things be like they were before?” nature. They always seem to ignore the case law and historical context of the Second Amendment, which is well-cited by the Supreme Court in the Heller case, and erroneously assume that Heller made things up out of whole cloth.

They seem to think that if only Heller and McDonald were undone, the Second Amendment would be no obstacle to restricting guns. Perhaps they’re right, but it seems unlikely that they’d gather much traction: in addition to state constitutions protecting the right to keep and bear arms, the right to self-defense is an inherent one, and that right exists absent the protections of the Second Amendment or particular court rulings. Firearms have a long tradition of being used for defensive purposes, both in the US and abroad, and there’s certainly a lot of legal precedent that does not rely upon the Second Amendment and which supports the right to own firearms for self-protection and other lawful purposes.

Nevertheless, it’s important to keep in mind that there are ordinary people out there who think that a complete ban on handguns (in the case of Heller) is a “reasonable restriction”. Such a position is both unreasonable and extreme, and serves only to restrict the rights of ordinary people. Readers would do well to remind their legislators of that fact, and to keep that in mind when voting in upcoming elections.

Update: I foolishly forgot to include a title in this post before publishing it. This has since been corrected.

Because Vermont has such a crime problem

Supporters of increased controls over guns in Vermont accepted the fact that legislation was going nowhere in 2014.

When lawmakers declined to vote this year on gun-control charter changes passed by Burlington voters in March, gun control supporters opted against raising a ruckus.

Next year will be different, they said Tuesday.

“2015 will be the year,” Ann Braden, president of Gun Sense Vermont, at a Statehouse news conference. The group’s singular focus next legislative session will be to pass a law requiring criminal background checks for all gun transactions, she said.

- Burlington Free Press, via Jeff Soyer.

Obviously, with its lax gun laws Vermont is a violence-infested hellhole. Oh, wait. It’s not. At all.

Considering the blowback that politicians get whenever they propose gun control and its unpopularity among the public, it’s no surprise that this group wants to wait until after the midterm elections before pushing their extreme agenda.

Pretty much any group that says “Everyone loves us and the ideas we espouse, but we’re going to wait until after the election to push those ideas.” is a group you want to avoid. If it’s a good idea and you think you have public support, why put it off until later?

No surprise – Hillary Clinton dislikes freedom

Yesterday, Politico ran an article about Hillary Clinton commenting, in detail, on domestic policy. No surprise, she was pushing for more gun control:

“We have to rein in what has become [an] almost article of faith, that anybody can own a gun anywhere, anytime. And I don’t believe that,” [Hillary Clinton] said.

Why? If people are peaceful, non-violent people, why does it matter if they have guns or not?

Should violent criminals and the dangerously mentally ill be blocked from possessing firearms? Certainly, but considering that the vast, vast majority of people are ordinary, responsible, peaceful people it seems silly to worry about them responsibly owning and carrying arms.

Clinton, who argued it was possible to hold her position and still support the right to gun ownership, warned that unfettered access to guns could have dangerous consequences. She called the country’s approach to guns “way out of balance,” and referred to cases in which gun violence has erupted over minor issues.

I fail to see how overturning restrictive, unconstitutional laws and restoring liberty is somehow “way out of balance”.

I’m not sure what sort of cognitive gymnastics are needed to simultaneously think that restricting the right to keep and bear arms is somehow also supporting that right, but such a performance would be worthy of an Olympic-level gymnast.

And yes, while violence involving firearms has arisen over minor issues, overall gun violence is way, way down since the time her husband was in office, even though the number of guns in private hands has dramatically increased and gun laws have been liberalized.

She painted a dark picture, warning that, “At the rate we’re going, we’re going to have so many people with guns everywhere, fully licensed, fully validated, in settings where [one] could be in a movie theater, and they don’t like someone chewing gum loudly or talking on their cell phone and decide they have the perfect right to defend themselves against the gum chewer or cell phone user by shooting.”

Clinton continued, “That’s what happens in the countries I’ve visited where there’s no rule of law.”

So people who undergo the training and checks needed to get a carry permit — that is, they’re following the law — are somehow more apt to fits of violence? Seems unlikely to me. Certainly, such incidents have happened but they are the exception rather than the rule, and the people who committed such acts are either in jail or facing criminal charges.

It’s nonsensical to compare people who obey the law, get training, background checks, and permits with people in lawless countries.

The proliferation of guns combined with few restrictions on where they can be carried can “give someone the means to respond in the moment in a way that he wouldn’t if a few minutes passed and there was no means to inflict harm … We really have got to get our arms around this,” she said.

I agree with her but not in the way she intends.

I wholeheartedly agree that widespread carriage of arms by the public “give[s] someone the means to respond” that they would otherwise lack if they had “no means to inflict harm”. I think that’s a good thing, because honest people can defend themselves from violent criminals. Without a gun, the honest person is considerably less able to offer meaningful resistance.

While it was always obvious that Mrs. Clinton was never a friend of the Second Amendment or legal gun owners, this is pretty clear-cut evidence that she’s opposed to gun rights.

Bloomberg’s 5 Strategic Blunders

From Guns.com comes this excellent piece regarding Bloomberg’s recent announcement. Here’s the quick summary and some commentary:

1. New name, same stink
You can’t polish a turd. In other words, they can call it whatever they like, but as long as Bloomberg is at the helm of the organization they’re going to encounter heavy opposition to their cause.

I genuinely think he doesn’t get that outside of the Northeast and anti-gun places like Chicago, people aren’t so keen on him. Pretty much nobody likes out-of-town billionaires telling them how they should do things.

2. Timing is everything
If it’s true that timing is everything, then one has to question why Everytown chose to announce this move approximately two weeks before the National Rifle Association’s annual show and convention, which is the gun lobby’s one weekend during the year in which they are certain to garner mainstream media coverage and reach millions of Americans.

Yeah, that’s weird.

3. The real objective to background checks
Various polls show that there is widespread public support for universal background checks yet many gun owners are opposed to a law mandating them. Why is this?

The reason gun owners object to universal background checks is not over the notion that private transfers shouldn’t be subject to background checks, but over the implementation of the measures lawmakers proposed.

The article goes on to suggest that rather than mandating that all purchases go through an FFL, where a record of sale is kept, private individuals should have access to NICS (or at least a basic version that says “Proceed” or “Consult FFL”) in the form of a smartphone app or something otherwise easily accessible. They also mention a useful thing that’s often overlooked: having the app be able to save and print out a receipt/record of sale, so the seller could have a record Just In Case.

I, for one, would be totally fine with a law opening up NICS as an option for private sellers, so long as (a) it’s optional and (b) that’s all the law does. No registration, no data retention, no mandated FFL transfers, etc.

If I’m going to sell a gun to a buddy I’ve known since I was a kid, there’s no need for me to do a NICS check — I know he’s good, but if I were to sell to someone from Armslist, someone who responded to a classifieds ad, or someone I met at the range it’d be nice to check to make sure they’re not a prohibited person. Criminals will, as usual, simply ignore the law so it makes no sense to mandate the checks.

4. Why go to war, when compromise is possible?
It appears that Everytown is gearing up for war when it’s quite possible that they could have cut a deal with gun owners and saved Bloomberg millions of dollars.

Suppose [...] Bloomberg’s being sincere in his remarks1, I bet most gun owners would readily sign a deal that established national, ‘shall-issue’ concealed carry reciprocity laws in all 50 states and created a federal law banning bans [AZR: emphasis mine] on ‘assault weapons’ and ‘high capacity’ magazines in exchange for an improved background check system, tougher laws cracking down on domestic abusers and increased funding for suicide prevention and the safe storage of firearms.

Easy: For Bloomberg it’s not about the guns, it’s about control. He doesn’t want a deal, he wants to win. If he actually gave a damn about increasing public safety there’s about a zillion other things he could with $50 million that would be enormously more effective.

Lest anyone think his “nobody is going to take anyone’s gun” remarks are sincere, look at the history of gun control activists: they always say they don’t want to take anyone’s guns, then they ratchet the restrictions tighter when they can.

One need look no further than Sunnyvale, California, where they recently banned even the possession of grandfathered “high-capacity” magazines and require that people turn them into the police. It should be obvious that “universal background checks” is a stepping stone. Indeed, MAIG and MDA, both funded by Bloomberg, have explicitly stated that they want to ban “assault weapons” (which are, of course, the most popular guns owned by ordinary people and some of the least-likely types of guns to be used in crimes) , restrict magazine capacities, and work to eliminate the “gun culture”.

5. All this for what?

Before one wages a $50 million war, they ought to know what they stand to gain if they win. And in this particular instance, what’s achieved by expanding background checks to cover private transfers is not quite clear, meaning that there’s no statistically significant evidence to suggest that universal background checks would have a positive effect on crime rates.

Again, Bloomberg wants to win. He knows that “universal background checks” aren’t going to do squat against criminals, and probably so do the people at MDA, the Brady Campaign, etc., unless they’ve all been drinking the kool-aid. It’s just the camel’s nose in the tent and a point of leverage for future encroachments; baby steps, if you will.

They realized that asking for the whole pie isn’t going to work, so they’re asking for just a teensy-tiny slice. Then, in the future, they’ll ask for another and another until eventually they get where they want. We have to counter them at each step lest they gain a new foothold.

Edit: Minor corrections to grammar. I really need to proofread before posting.

  1. “Nobody is going to take anyone’s gun. Nobody is going to keep you from hunting or target practice or protecting yourself,” said Bloomberg on Wednesday during an appearance on the Today Show. “Just making sure that a handful of people, who we all agree shouldn’t have guns, don’t get their hands on them.” []

Bill Maher: “Why Doesn’t The Democratic Party Come Out Against The Second Amendment?”

From Real Clear Politics, National Review, and Sebastian comes this gem:

ELLISON (D-MN): I mean, 27 children were mowed down. Isn’t that enough for us? One of our colleagues, [former Congresswoman] Gabby Giffords, shot in the face.

MAHER: Then why doesn’t your party come out against the Second Amendment? It’s the problem.

ELLISON: I sure wish they would. I sure wish they would.

MAHER: Really? Because I never hear anybody in the Democratic party say that. But they say, ‘I am also a strong supporter.’

I expect Maher to say something like that, but I’m surprised that a US Representative who has taken the Oath of Office to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States” would be so forthright.

Immediately following the above exchange, Rep. Ellison encourages Maher (and the audience) to “[c]heck out the progressive caucus. We have come out very strong for common-sense gun safety rules.” to which Maher replies, “Common-sense gun safety is bullshit.”

For once, I agree with Maher as he defines “common-sense gun safety” as, “It means there are 3,000 types of guns available in the U.S. and you want to ban about 200 of them. [...] It’s not going to change anything.”

Rep. Ellison replies, “No, what it means is that if you want to have grandpa’s shotgun, have it, but get rid of those crazy military-style assault weapons. [...] You can’t solve the problem with just one little thing. You’ve got to make sure that the CDC can issue reports on gun killings and hand gun violence. You’ve got to make sure that we can get rid of assault weapons. You’ve got to close the loophole at gun shows.”

Wow.

If you are interested in seeing your blood pressure rise, click the links and see the video.

Skepticism on Anti-Gun Studies

I’m a bit skeptical on a new study. The BBC says,

Researchers claim a new study provides some of the most compelling evidence yet for tighter gun controls in the US.

The team followed the consequences of the State of Missouri repealing its permit-to-purchase handgun law in 2007.

The law had required purchasers to be vetted by the local sheriff and to receive a licence before buying a gun.

Reporting soon in the Journal of Urban Health, the researchers will say that the repeal resulted in an immediate spike in gun violence and murders.

The study links the abandonment of the background check to an additional 60 or so murders occurring per year in Missouri between 2008 and 2012.

This seems a bit strange to me: gun buyers are still required to undergo a NICS check at the gun dealer (even if they don’t need to get a permit from the sheriff, who also presumably runs the buyer through NICS), so how would doing away with a duplicate check and permit from the local sheriff result in an increase in gun murders?

The team said it took account of changes that occurred in policing levels and incarceration rates, trends in burglaries, and statistically controlled for other possible confounding factors such as shifts in unemployment and poverty.

The team counted a doubling of handguns shortly after sale being recovered from scenes of crimes or from criminals.

Interesting, though I wonder how they define “shortly after sale”. The article does not mention if the handguns being traced were originally purchased in Missouri or brought in from other states. Also, it doesn’t mention how they were able to get access to trace data in the first place, what with the Tiahrt Amendment still being in effect.

According to the article, the study was conducted by “Prof Daniel Webster, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research.” I note that they forgot a key part of the research center’s name: the proper name is the “Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Center for Gun Policy and Research”.

Being a scientist myself I’m a big fan of science, but I’m skeptical of research produced by think-tanks, particularly those with major funding from a heavily-biased source.

Either way, the study is irrelevant: owning a gun is a Constitutionally-protected right. Requiring a permit or license to exercise any right, even if such permit or license is routinely granted, is wrong, period.

America currently has more than 300 million handguns in circulation. But the issue of gun control remains a hugely contentious one.

I was under the impression that the US had somewhat more than 300 million guns of all types, not just handguns. This was probably just an editing error on the part of the BBC.