The Senate has, for now, turned down any new federal gun control legislation. Still, Democratic politicians say they will try again later this year. Discussions on this issue are frustratingly fact-free. People who support gun control appear unable to muster any actual evidence or logic. Their arguments are based on dubious assertions of fact (read on) and illogical emotional appeals. This post will try to take on some of these assertions. Feel free to pass this on to your logic-free gun control supporting friends, but don’t expect them to actually consider your arguments dispassionately. Sadly, gun control advocates are all about passion, not reason.
1)40 percent of guns are bought without background checks. False by every possible measurement. Even the Washington Post has repeatedly given the president three Pinocchios. This assertion is based on a two-decade old survey that showed that 35.7 percent of people did not get guns from a licensed gun dealer. So, the 40 percent number is rounded up from 35.7 percent. The survey size was tiny, and the questions asked were vague. The Post comes to the conclusion that the real number is somewhere in the teens.
But even this number is high. Check out a survey of prison inmates, the presumed bad guys we want to prevent from getting guns. They say they get guns from the following sources:
Friends or family members: 39.5%
Street or black market suppliers: 37.5%
Licensed gun dealers: 11.4%
Gun shows or flea markets: 1.7%
Remember that the Senate legislation would exempt most of the people in the first category, family and friends. It is aimed at the supposed “gun show loophole.” So, in effect, the Senate legislation is really aimed at less than 2 percent of the cases.
And it is even worse than this. Anybody who has gone to a gun show knows that the vast majority of actual sales at gun shows involve licensed dealers, who *already must perform background checks.* So the 1.7 percent number already includes people who are buying guns with a background check. The truth is that the legislation is aimed at a tiny number of potential sales.
2)Background checks are not burdensome to buyers and catch a lot of potential bad guys. False and false. First, we must consider how the background check system actually works (an amazing amount of people seem to have no idea). You go to a licensed dealer or to a gun show. You say you want to buy a gun. You fill out a very long form and show your ID. The gun dealer then sends in your form to a national database, which checks to make sure you are not a criminal, mentally ill, drug user, an abuser, etc. This process is supposed to take less than three days, but in reality it often takes weeks (this has happened to me twice).
The first point is that this type of system is like the federal no-fly list, which is filled with errors. The late Ted Kennedy (the former senator) was prevented from flying several times. Innocent people with common names (Robert Jones, Edward Kennedy, Jose Ramirez) often get confused with bad guys and cannot fly. The exact same things happens with the national background check system, i.e. innocent people who have done nothing wrong often get prevented from buying guns because of errors. You may think this is not a big deal, but what if you are a woman being stalked by an abusive ex-husband who says he is coming to your house tomorrow to kill you? Don’t you think there are times when people should be able to buy guns quickly for protection?
Studies show that more than 94 percent of people denied guns by background checks are “false positives,” meaning they are law-abiding people who should be able to get guns. Yes, you read that correctly: more than 94 percent.
But it gets worse. We have already shown that actual bad guys don’t usually get guns legally. They get them from friends or family members, by stealing the guns or “the street,” meaning the black market. Universal background checks would do nothing to stop these types of purchases.
3)Banning scary guns will make them more scarce. I have to emphasize this point because it is so obvious that nobody should ever have to write it or say it, but apparently gun control advocates abandon all logic when it comes to the issue of guns. Let’s try the most basic logical test, ie regarding drugs. Are drugs illegal? Yes. Are drugs illegal at schools? Yes. Have we been fighting a “war on drugs?” Yes, for 40 years. Are there more drugs or fewer drugs now compared to 40 years ago? More. Is it easier or more difficult for kids to get drugs at schools compared to 40 years ago? Easier.
So, let’s apply this to logic to guns. What would happen if we made guns illegal? Let’s think about semi-automatic weapons. There are tens of millions of semi-automatic weapons in the United States today, everything from semi-automatic pistols to semi-automatic shotguns to semi-automatic rifles. What would happen if we banned or tried to restrict them? Logic says that if you try to decrease the supply of something, the price will go up. Anybody who has tried to buy an AR-15 lately knows that the cost has doubled. So, when you make something illegal (or the market perceives that something is about to become illegal), you actually make it more valuable and make it more attractive for people to sell it illegally.
We already know from above that bad guys get guns either from “the street” or from stealing the guns nearly half of the time. So, clearly, bad guys are already having no problem getting illegal guns. Imagine if the guns were even more valuable. Would this increase or decrease the availability of guns to bad guys?
So, basic logic indicates that making scary guns illegal will do nothing to decrease the supply of these guns and may actually increase the supply for bad guys. Banning such guns will achieve the exact opposite of what gun control advocates claim they want.
4)90 percent of people support universal background checks. This is an extremely misleading statistic. First of all, current law includes background checks in the vast majority of cases. So a large number of people are simply saying they support current law and don’t want bad guys, the mentally ill and drug users to be able to get guns. So, here is a more honest way of approaching the issue. What if we were to ask, “A very small number of bad guys get guns legally. They usually get them from friends or family, by stealing or on the street. Do you support making law-abiding people go through background checks to theoretically stop a small number of bad guns from getting guns?” If that were the way the question was asked, support for background checks would likely be minimal.
In reality, polls after the Senate rejected the background check legislation, only 47 percent of people said they were disappointed and 39 percent of people said they were relieved. So by any objective measurement, the 90 percent number is pure fantasy.
5)Support for gun control is increasing and politicians who oppose it will lose future elections. This is the favorite meme du jour on Huffington Post. The truth is much more complicated. The reality is that more states have loosened gun restrictions this year than have increased gun control.
In addition, support for gun control has dropped significantly since a brief spike after the Newtown tragedy. It is worth noting that pro-gun voters are much more motivated than anti-gun voters. I predict that more gun control politicians will lose their jobs in 2014 than opponents of gun control.
To sum up, I really hope that this discussion will concentrate on the facts rather than emotion. Based on many, many conversations with pro gun control people, I doubt they will ever be swayed by facts. But I hold out some optimism for logical people in the middle who, when calmly confronted with reason, will turn in the right direction.