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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Using Gun Rights Haters Own Research Against Them

Easy to do with Robert Muggah, among many things the coauthor of “We Need Better Data for a Serious Gun Control Debate”, an article in which he advocates gun control despite the fact that he claims there isn't enough good data on the subject to even have a debate about it. A tad bias, wouldn't you agree? Could that be why gun rights advocates don't want such people doing research on crime and violence? But I digress, on October 8, 2014 he gave a talk at TEDGlobal 2014: South! in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil titled “How To Protect Fast-Growing Cities From Failing”:

In his talk he says a number of things that make clear that guns aren't the drivers of a high murder rate. Most importantly, he directly contradicts that major gun rights haters' argument when Dr. Muggah says that, “...when it comes to cities, the conversation is dominated by the North, that is, North America, Western Europe, Australia and Japan, where violence is actually at historic lows.”. He then drives home the point with:

What's more, we're seeing a dramatic reduction in homicide. Manuel Eisner and others have shown that for centuries, we've seen this incredible drop in murder, especially in the West. Most Northern cities today are 100 times safer than they were just 100 years ago.

These two facts -- the decline in armed conflict and the decline in murder -- are amongst the most extraordinary, if unheralded, accomplishments of human history, and we should be really excited, right?
That drop in murder rates includes the United States with all its guns. The slide from his presentation below clearly shows the US to be in the same low murder rate category as western Europe. So much for the lie that the US is a very dangerous place!

Dr. Muggah goes on to talk about social and demographic factors that that drive violence, all the while making the gun rights advocates' case for us. Not once does he say that the availability of guns is the cause of the violence. He ends his talk with this:

There is nothing inevitable about lethal violence, and we can make our cities safer. Folks, we have the opportunity of a lifetime to drop homicidal violence in half within our lifetime. So I have just one question: What are we waiting for?
Yes, gun rights haters, what are you waiting for to stop worshiping the false god of gun control and start facing the real causes of the violence problem?

Monday, January 5, 2015

Gun Rights Versus Anecdotes

Which side wins depends on whether one can reason or simply react emotionally.

Letters and an ad from gun rights hating groups

For a while back in the Winter, a retired philosophy professor (who wants to remain anonymous) and I exchanged a few emails and, from him, snail mail, discussing gun rights. After not hearing from him for several months he very unexpectedly mailed me a large envelope containing forty-nine newspaper clippings with many reports of shootings and a few anti-gun rights op-eds (and, strangely, a pro-gun op-ed by John Lott). He also included a fund raising letter from the Brady Campaign, another one from the Children's Defense Fund Action Counsel, a magazine ad from the Center to Prevent Handgun Violence, and a hand written note. Especially surprising for their absence were any articles from scholarly source. Are there no scholarly articles in favor of gun control? He sent almost all anecdotes from mass media sources leaning heavily towards the New York Times and the Philadelphia Inquirer. One would expect better from university professor.

Some of the anecdotes are easily debunked as challenging gun rights. For example the New York Times' article, “In Youth’s Death, Some See a Montana Law Gone Wrong”. A tragic and unnecessary death for which the shooter has been convicted of murder, but what does it say about guns in Montana? Not much. The article states that “...Montana...has one of the country’s highest rates of gun ownership...”. Yet its murder rate is only 2.2 per 100,000, less than half of the national average. If anything Montana proves gun rights haters wrong, more guns don't mean more murder.

Another easily debunked article is the Wall Street Journal's “Mass Shootings on the Rise, FBI Says”. The idea that mass shootings are on the rise was debunked previous to the publication of the FBI report here. The FBI's report is directly debunked in John Lott's “The FBI’s bogus report on mass shootings”.

The professor also sent an editorial from the New York Times titled “The Court: Ignoring the Reality of Guns”. This editorial attempts to justify banning hand guns but fails. First, it gets wrong the practical matter of thinking that the availability of guns is the problem. Second, it fails to present constitutional grounds justifying a ban on hand guns. In the end it is really advocating ignoring the Constitution. So much for the rule of law. 

I could go on debunking but I feel I've made my point. The gun rights haters' case is all smoke and mirrors. It also ignores the fact that guns in private hands prevent 2.5 million crimes each year.

Part of the hand written note mentioned above reads as follows:

I have selected newspaper articles to send you. I think almost all of them challenge your position.

I take your position to be that the more guns there are in the hands of private citizens , and the less government regulates or restricts them, the better off we all are.
These articles are full of horror stories stories about the harms guns do in the hands of private citizens.
True that “... the less government regulates or restricts them [guns], the better off we all are.” As to what the right number of guns in society is I'll leave that to the market. I'm surprised that the professor sees my view as so shallow since he saw my presentation “There Is No Case for Gun Control”. I've written much on my blog on the subject of gun rights, let me quote from it in rebuttal: with any issue, we have to start with basic principles and moral implications. That means talking about the one moral imperative that guides us in all human relationships, the non-aggression principle [NAP]...It is immoral to initiate the use of force or the threat of force against peaceful people. In other words, a person has to be actually engaging in aggression or credibly threatening to do so before it is morally justifiable to use force in retaliation. What does that have to do with guns? The mere possession of an inanimate object such a gun aggresses against no one. There is no moral justification for taking guns away from people who adhere to the non-aggression principle since this involves initiating the use of force to separate them from their weapons.
From “Progressivism’s Violent World
It is violation of the NAP that leads to society becoming more unstable and unsafe. The more society is ruled by force the worse the results. As Frederick Bastiat, wrote in his book “The Law” in 1850:
Is there any need to offer proof that this odious perversion of the law is a perpetual source of hatred and discord; that it tends to destroy society itself? If such proof is needed, look at the United States. There is no country in the world where the law is kept more within its proper domain: the protection of every person's liberty and property. As a consequence of this, there appears to be no country in the world where the social order rests on a firmer foundation.
This is the source of the problem, violation of the NAP and the social dynamics that unleashes, not the availability of guns. This is reinforced by modern research such as that of Randolph Roth, a professor at Ohio State University and the author of “American Homicide”. In a presentation at the National Institute for Justice titled “Why Is The United States The Most Homicidal Nation In The Affluent World?” Prof. Roth sums up the drivers of the murder rate on slide 4: 

Again showing that it's not the availability of guns that drives the murder rate. Deal with the social dynamics that are the real problem and, when it comes to crime, guns become irrelevant. That begs the question, why do so many advocate gun control as a solution when guns obviously aren't the cause of the problem? Because it's their beloved big government that has caused the problem. To again quote from “Progressivism’s Violent World”:

Progressivism has failed to achieve its lofty ideals. Instead it has created our present situation of crime and murder, war and empire. It is this failure that the advocates of gun control want to cover up. Instead of facing reality they want to blame guns for the problems the implementation of their ideas has created. Before anyone gets too smug, let me emphasize that both political parties have adopted the progressive ideology. Today’s so-called liberals and conservatives advocate different degrees and different aspects of it, but advocate it they do...It’s past time for both sides to realize that the killing will only end, society will only heal by turning it away from being ruled by force and toward voluntary interaction between its members. Liberty is the answer. Implementing it means change at the institutional level, disarming the government and keeping the people not only armed but also organized to defend themselves.
Compassion is what motivates us to feel outrage about senseless murders. Gun rights advocates share that feeling with gun rights haters. The difference is that we, gun rights advocates, realize that reason is what must guide us not compassion. Unthinking, emotional reactions to horrible events will only make things worse. Let's stop trying to add the force of more gun control to the force that's already damaging our society. Freedom from force, liberty, is the only reasonable way forward.
                    Some suggested reading to gain insight into why we need guns in civilian hands. Not pictured but also recommended is "Guns and Violence: The English Experience".

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Gun Laws and Murder Rates

Two of many guns carried at an open carry rally. To the surprise of many gun rights haters no one was shot that day.
Notice that the title isn't gun laws and gun death rates. Unlike the sleazy spinmeisters at the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence and the Brady Campaign I'm not cherry picking data to make a false point. In their 2013 State Scorecard Why Gun Laws Matter they claim that gun control works because there is allegedly a 70% overlap of strict gun control and low gun death rates. Reality looks a little different.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center's numbers the 10 states with the highest murder rates are:

1. Louisiana
2. Alabama
3. Mississippi
4. Maryland
5. Michigan
6. South Carolina
7. Missouri
8. New Mexico
9. Nevada
10. Georgia
According to the Mercatus Center at George Mason University the 10 states with the most respect for gun rights are:

1. Arizona
2. Alaska
3. Wyoming
4. Kentucky
5. Vermont
6. New Hampshire
7. Kansas
8. Nevada
9. South Dakota
10. Idaho

There's only one state, Nevada, on both lists. That's only 10% overlap. It should also be noted that Nevada is near the bottom of both lists further weakening the argument that gun control reduces murder rates.

Let's look at the situation from the other end of the spectrum:

According to the Death Penalty Information Center's numbers the 10 states with the lowest murder rates are:

50. Iowa
49. Hawaii
48. Vermont
47. Utah
46. New Hampshire
45. Idaho
44. Maine
43. Oregon
42. Massachusetts
41. Minnesota
According to the Mercatus Center at George Mason University the 10 states with the least respect for gun rights are:

50. California
49. Massachusetts
48. New York
47. Hawaii
46. New Jersey
45. Illinois
44, Maryland
43. Rhode Island
42. Connecticut
41. Michigan

Once again there is little correlation. Only two states appear on both lists, Hawaii and Massachusetts. Weakening the argument that gun control works is the fact that three states that appear on the list of low murder rate states, New Hampshire, Idaho, and Vermont, also appear on the list of states most respecting gun rights.

It does no good to implement gun control if the murder rate remains high. Since it is social factors that drive the murder rate up and down focusing on guns and gun laws kills people since it doesn't address the root causes of the violence. It's past time for gun rights haters to face the facts and stop barking up the wrong tree.

Saturday, November 15, 2014


This article was originally published at the Nolan Chart on November 2, 2008. With Obama now ramping the Iraq war back up by sending 1500 more troops there I'm republishing this article on this blog.

Many have said that there isn’t much difference between Sens. McCain and Obama and taken to calling them McBama. I’d like to offer a prediction about how things will go under the next President, who at this point looks like it will be Sen. Obama, and suggest that there will be a strong parallel with Pres. Richard Nixon’s administration, hence the name Obixon.

In 1968 while campaigning Nixon said he would “end the war and win the peace in Vietnam.” After posturing as a peace candidate he went on to escalate the war in many ways, not concluding it until 1973. During the five years that the war continued under his administration Nixon ordered stepped up bombing of North Vietnam and Cambodia, and ground attacks into Cambodia and Laos. In this author’s opinion there is no other conclusion to come to but that Nixon lied during his campaign and had no intention of ending the Vietnam War quickly.

In 2008 Sen. Obama is running as a peace candidate, promising to end the war in Iraq in sixteen months or perhaps less. His website states, “Immediately upon taking office, Obama will give his Secretary of Defense and military commanders a new mission in Iraq: successfully ending the war. The removal of our troops will be responsible and phased.” More can be read on the subject here,[link edited for length]

Perhaps he will end the war in Iraq quickly, but with history as a guide there’s little reason for optimism. Just like in Vietnam, the local forces the US is supporting in Iraq are doing poorly, the political and economic situations are unstable, and the enemy is committed to a long war of attrition. No doubt there will be surprises from Al Qaeda and the Iraqi insurgents that Pres. Obama will have to deal with. Pres. Bush has already escalated the war by attacking into Pakistan and Syria. No doubt Pres. Obama will do the same. As pressure to end the war increases his administration will become more aggressive, hoping that will defeat the enemy. If Pakistan becomes unstable or is taken over by an anti-American regime how else will an Obama administration react but violently?

Therein lies the parallel with the Nixon administration. The peace promises mean nothing. Guerrilla wars such as these carry their own momentum that no administration committed to maintaining the American empire can overcome. As Ayn Rand said, “There is no proper solution for the war in Vietnam, it is a war we should never have entered. We are caught in a trap: it is senseless to continue, and it is now impossible to withdraw”. So it now seems the political class views the occupation of Iraq.

The only way out is to renounce foreign intervention and begin bringing home all American troops and intelligence operatives from around the world. This way we will not be seen as having been defeated, but as having learned to live at peace with the world. Unfortunately, Sen. Obama doesn’t see things this way. We’re in for a long war.


Feb. 8, 2009 update: Associated Press published an article entitled “Obama considering at least 2 Iraq withdrawal plans”. To quote from the article, “At the White House’s request, top military officials recently offered an assessment of the risks associated with the 16-, 19- and 23-month withdrawal timetables, without saying which is preferred. Obama’s top two defense advisers, Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen, have not yet provided a formal recommendation to the president on a timetable, an official said.” Is Obama backing away from his campaign promise to end the war quickly? It would seem so.

May 11, 2009 update: Andrew Bacevich said on Democracy Now! “…I think its worth noting the comment that General Odierno in Iraq made over the weekend at a press conference. I think the question was something to the effect that, ‘Hey, how about the continuation of violence in Baghdad after the success of the surge?’ And Odierno, I think rather petulantly, said, ‘Hey, look. This insurgency is going to go on for another five, ten or fifteen years.’ I agree with that assessment in Iraq.”

Sept. 1, 2009 update: Looks like the same comparison is now being used about Afghanistan. Gene Healy wrote “Afghanistan may be Obama’s Vietnam”.

January 26, 2010 update: Ivan Eland is predicting a restarting of the fighting in Iraq in “The Next Crisis for Obama?“.

July 5, 2011 update: Ivan Eland compares Obama & Nixon, “Like Nixon, Obama Will Waste Lives to Get Reelected

Monday, July 28, 2014

FirearmsTalk Discussion About Guns

On July 24, 2014 I took part in this FirarmsTalk discussion with the 3 hosts of the podcast. We covered a number of subjects including libertarianism, gun control, some gun facts, & what really drives the murder rate up or down.