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Myths of the Washington Post

Any time you see a major newspaper talking about myths and gun control, you can bet there’s going to be a lot of uneducated crap in the article. This one from Washington Post is no exception. Let me just talk briefly, or perhaps not so briefly, about some of their major points.

1. Guns don’t kill people, people kill people.

This anti-gun-control slogan, a perfect fit for bumper stickers, has infected the public imagination with the mistaken belief that it’s just criminals, not weapons, that lead to deadly violence. The key question is, really, whether guns make violent events more lethal.

This is the argument the media likes to throw at us every time, acting like it’s the only argument we’ve ever floated when arguing against the effectiveness of gun control in fighting crime. You have to wonder if the authors on this article have ever actually had to argue with someone who is an opponent of gun control, because they argue a point no one makes. Our primary argument has never been that guns don’t make criminals more dangerous. We acknowledge that. The argument is that criminals will find ways to get guns. It’s the criminal you have to get off the streets, not the gun. By myopically focusing on guns, which is a favorite of many inner city politicians, the bigger issue of getting criminals off the street falls by the wayside. It’s easy to see why. Prisons are overcrowded, and many big cities have a revolving door justice system. For big city politicians, gun control is a way to act like they are doing something, without actually doing anything.

2. Gun laws affect only law-abiding citizens.

Teenagers and convicted felons can’t buy guns — that’s against the law already — so the only people affected by firearm regulations are the “good guys” who just want a weapon for self defense. At least that’s one line of reasoning against gun control. But law enforcement benefits from stronger gun laws across the board. Records on gun transactions can help solve crimes and track potentially dangerous individuals. Illinois law requires that all gun owners have a state ID card and that transactions be recorded, allowing police to potentially link a gun used in a crime to its owner.

This is all rank speculation, with no data to back it up. If this were true, we’d see a correlation here, but we don’t. We’d also have lists of crimes that the Canadian Gun Registry has solved for the Canadian police, but they don’t. Then you have Maryland, which keeps a ballistic database. You’d think that ballistic database would be great for solving crimes, yet the Maryland State Police want it disbanded because it’s useless. Some “myth” eh? I think their statement here is the myth.

3. When more households have guns for self-defense, crime goes down.

[…] The key question is whether the self-defense benefits of owning a gun outweigh the costs of having more guns in circulation. And the costs can be high: more and cheaper guns available to criminals in the “secondary market” — including gun shows and online sales — which is almost totally unregulated under federal laws, and increased risk of a child or a spouse misusing a gun at home. Our research suggests that as many as 500,000 guns are stolen each year in the United States, going directly into the hands of people who are, by definition, criminals.

Wow… I did not know that online sales were totally unregulated under federal law. I could swear that shipping a gun in interstate commerce without an FFL was a felony. I’m also surprised to find gun shows totally unregulated! I guess all the regulations that apply to FFLs somehow disappear at a gun show. I’m glad the Washington Post is on top of these things. And of course they drag out the notion that your spouse is an idiot, and kids are too. No possibility your spouse could also know what he or she is doing. But to me the implication here is that you can’t trust women with guns.

In the next myth, they claim guns are actually pretty hard to get in Chicago, despite the fact that the City of Chicago has one of the highest murder rates in the country. Compare it to other big cities without much gun control. Phoenix, Arizona? Almost half the murder rate of Chicago. Houston, Texas? Surely Texas has out of control gun crime in its largest city. Nope. About 30% lower than Chicago. Same for Dallas, Texas. But what about Los Angeles? If it’s actually hard for criminals in Chicago to get guns, it doesn’t play out in the crime statistics.

5. Repealing Chicago’s handgun ban will dramatically increase gun crimes.

[…] Local officials from Dodge City to Chicago have understood that some regulation of firearms within city limits is in the public’s interest, and that regulation and law enforcement are important complements in the effort to reduce gun violence.

Dodge City. Ah yes. But how much do these two authors actually know about Dodge City? You see, guns were not prohibited within all of Dodge City. In the ordinary parts of town, you could carry a gun strapped to your hip just fine. No licenses in those days either. The only part of Dodge City you couldn’t carry a gun was past the “deadline.” north of the railroad tracks. This just happened to be where all the saloons, whorehouses, and gambling establishments were located in town. It should also be noted that if you were a cowboy coming into town after a long cattle drive up from Texas, and you wanted to go get liquored up, you could check your gun. So Dodge City’s gun prohibition, in only one part of town, was really to deal with the problem of drinking and carrying, which most of us understand the state has an interest in regulating. Personally, if every red light and saloon district had law enforcement willing to accept checked firearms, few of us would have a problem.

This is a terrible article. Poorly researched and easily challenged. If academic types want to make arguments for Chicago’s gun prohibition, they are going to have to do better than nonsense like this. The sad part is, an editor at the Washington Post was willing to go along with this. There are myths in this article all right, but they are not of our making.

7 Responses to “Myths of the Washington Post”

  1. This is a terrible article. Poorly researched and easily challenged.

    This is all true, but to be fair, they did have this in the opinion section.

  2. JD says:

    Gun sales have been at a record pace since 2008 AND YET violent crime continues to decline http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/prelimsem2009/index.html

    More guns=less crime, end of story.

  3. Rustmeister says:

    I’m waiting for the Commercial Appeal to reprint that piece verbatim. I wish WaPo had the guts to enable comments on crap like this.

  4. WallPhone says:

    Phillip J. Cook.

    Its funny that you ask this question:

    > The key question is, really, whether guns make violent events more lethal.

    Because you have already answered it.

    http://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=1734&dat=19770117&id=PlAcAAAAIBAJ&sjid=olEEAAAAIBAJ&pg=4936,1281379

    Here you claim that gun control puts more, weaker people at higher risk of violent injury–why have you since changed your mind?

    How can you claim, in the same paragraph, that the GCA of 1968 both “works” and doesn’t stop the ninety percent of murders committed by known criminals with guns?

  5. Ronnie says:

    The number one “myth” from this Washington Post article ends with this quote from Ozzy Osbourne, of all people:

    “I keep hearing this [expletive] thing that guns don’t kill people, but people kill people. If that’s the case, why do we give people guns when they go to war? Why not just send the people?”

    NOTE TO OZZY: There were wars long before there were guns, and other weapons were given to people in those ancient times. What has not changed about wars since those ancient times is that people still are doing the killing of other people. Weapons of any sort cannot kill anybody without other people wielding them, hence the “perfect fit for bumper stickers” slogan that still resonates today.

    Any newspaper “article” that has to be quote aging rock stars with drug-addled brains to drive its lame message home really needs to be put in a place worthy of its own validity – at the bottom of parrot’s cage, for instance.

  6. Weer'd Beard says:

    Also the corrilary disproves Ozzy’s statement. If GUNS kill people, not people, then why don’t we just airdrop crates of AR-15s, AK-47s, and M3 Grease guns into Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iran and keep our men and women safe at home sitting on the couch watching TV?

    Yeah, he didn’t think that one through, did he? Nor did the moron author, or editor who published this turd.

  7. Ronnie says:

    Oops, I really ought to rephrase my last paragraph above for clarity’s sake:

    “Any newspaper “article” that has to include a quote from an aging rock star with a drug-addled brain, just to drive its lame and logically flawed message home, really needs to be put in a place worthy of its own validity – such as at the bottom of parrot’s cage, for instance.”

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