Ultimately, liberal, anti-gun zealots lost in nearly every arena in which they attempted to force new restrictions: whether it was a national assaults weapon ban that died in the Senate or gun control measures that stalled in state legislatures.
Gun control advocates made at least five significant mistakes in the gun control debate in 2013:
1 Colorado recall
Though at first, it seemed the anti-gun lobby won in Colorado, they ended up suffering a significant loss in the state. Initially, state Democrats successfully pushed through two gun control measures. But the people of Colorado responded by recalling the two state lawmakers that spearheaded the legislation. The Colorado recall election garnered attention, money, and input nationally as a broad referendum on gun control. The special elections were widely seen as a test of whether swing-state voters would accept gun restrictions. Particularly noteworthy is that anti-gun organizations outspent pro-gun groups by a margin of 6-to-1 ($3 million by anti-gun activists compared to $540,000 by recall proponents) and still lost the recall. The Colorado Republican Party said the vote sends “a loud and clear message to out-of-touch Democrats across the nation.” The recall results seem to confirm that assessment.
If the recall effort is truly a referendum nationally, then the message is that gun control is a losing policy for liberals. Colorado Democrats arrogantly pushed their own agenda, in defiance of strong opposition from the people they represent, and from the Colorado Sheriff’s association warning that the bill was not enforceable. They paid for their mistake with their seats in the legislature.
2 Throwing a Fit about Good Guys with Guns
The NRA’s response to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown was to recommend more armed good guys at schools – whether police officers or teachers and other school staff. Liberal politicians, media and school officials went ballistic over the suggestion. The executive director of the Connecticut Association of Schools and the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, said the NRA comments hit her “like a punch in the stomach.” Talking heads had a heyday, trying to spin the NRA as insensitive monsters ‘out of touch’ with the rest of America. Wasn’t it obvious, they mused, that the last thing we need was more guns near children?
It turns out the NRA’s critics were the ones out of touch.
America already makes ample use of armed good guys in schools. According to the Department of Justice, nearly 17,000 officers from police and sheriff departments serve as School Resource Officers (SRO’s) in roughly half of all schools. Following the tragedy at Columbine High School in 1999, President Clinton signed a bill that provided millions in additional funding through the ‘COPS in Schools’ program to do exactly as the NRA suggested following Sandy Hook.
And it turns out, these armed good guys do in fact stop and minimize harm to our children. In February, a 14 year old student was non-fatally shot in the back of the neck at an Atlanta Middle School. However, “an armed guard disarmed the shooter moments after the shooting,” resulting in zero loss of life. Had there been no armed guard able to respond within moments, the incident could have been very different. Likewise, in December, an armed SRO stopped a school shooting at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, CO, where one student was shot and later died. Arapahoe County Sheriff Grayson Robinson said: “The rampage might have resulted in many more casualties had it not been for the quick response of a deputy sheriff who was working as a school resource officer at the school.” The officer’s quick response meant the incident was over “in less than 80 seconds.” By contrast, the Columbine incident lasted almost an hour. The shooter, a student, clearly intended more harm, bringing a pump-action shotgun, 125 shotgun shells, a machete, and three molotov cocktails with him. It likely would have been much worse without an ‘armed good guy’ to respond.
These real-life stories drive home the point to regular people whose children attend public schools It makes a difference in policy. Following Newtown, some districts have also allowed for school staff to be armed while at school as well. Even Newtown’s school board unanimously voted for more armed security, clearly demonstrating the public believes the anti-gun lobby is on the wrong side of this issue.
3 Background checks falsehoods
President Obama and others falsely claimed “40% of guns were bought without a background check at gun shows”. He was given three Pinocchio’s by the Washington Post Fact Checker, meaning there are “significant factual errors and/or obvious contradictions” The measures, which reportedly enjoyed support of 90% Americans, failed to get out of the Democrat-controlled Senate. They would have surely failed in the Republican-controlled House even if they had passed in the Senate.
The President’s claim rested on falsely citing a 20 year old study of 251 people that was taken from before Federal law even required dealers to run background checks on all sales. Even the study’s authors confirmed the range President Obama cited is false. Department of Justice studies show that less than 1% of criminals obtain guns from gun shows.
Second, it was a myth that 90% of Americans supported “universal” background checks. Multiple articles in the Washington Post cited this as though it were ‘fact’. Given that the public was misled about the truth about the percentage of guns bought at gun shows “without background checks”, this response might have been understandable. But digging into the survey questions revealed that people were only asked if they would support background checks “at gun shows” – not universally. So the surveys didn’t show what they were claimed to show. This was ultimately evident in the failure to get the amendment out of committee in the Senate.
Finally, there are actually no gun show or online gun sale loopholes. According to the ATF, Federal law requires FFL’s to run background checks on all sales, even at gun shows. Online sales are subject to all Federal law requirements as well. Any firearm shipped over state lines must ship to a FFL who must then run a background check. It is pure myth that one can go to “GunsRUs.com” and have a gun shipped to their doorstep.
The fact that anti-gun advocates lost so decisively – even on this issue that was supposedly had almost total public support, shows what a mistake it was to pursue this grossly misguided policy.
4 Obsessing on the “evil” AR-15
Liberal anti-gun organizations, politicians and media love the ‘evil’ AR-15 narrative; that the AR-15 is a “weapon of war”, meant only for soldiers and mass killing. Any news story featuring an AR-15 gets ample airtime; shootings without one quickly fade from headlines. For example, following the Navy Yard shooting, media immediately exploited the supposed role of the AR-15 rifle, prominently displaying images of AR-15 rifles on the front page, and showing computer simulations of how the shooter reportedly “used” an AR-15 – until the FBI confirmed there was no AR-15 used in the shooting.
Anti-gun politicians routinely lie about the AR-15′s capabilities, calling it a a military weapon (it isn’t), designed for close-quarters combat (it’s not), and claiming it can fire “.30 caliber clip in a half-second”, which isn’t even a grammatically – much less technically – accurate sentence. The AR-15 rifle has similar cosmetic appearance to the military M4 rifle. This makes it easy for unscrupulous agenda-pushers to make sound scary to the general public who may be unfamiliar with them.
Appearances aside, the facts reported by the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports show that rifles are used to kill very little in the U.S. – just over 300 out of nearly 13,000 murders in both 2011 and 2012, and so-called “assault rifles” are a subset within that category. Even if these anti-gun bullies were to get their way on this issue, there would be almost no reduction in our murder rate. Handguns, not rifles, are used far more often in homicides, accounting for nearly 70% of murders in 2011 and 2012. Mass murder, though sensational, is responsible for less than 100 out nearly 13,000 annual homicides. Focusing on “evil” rifles may be sensational, drive ratings and sell media advertising, but they aren’t responsible for very much homicide in the U.S. Ultimately, anti-gun politicians and lobbyists lost on their renewed push for a so-called “assault weapons ban”, which didn’t even make it out of committee in Congress.
5 Lying to inflate “gun deaths”
Lying is key to the liberal anti-gun agenda, which including lying about the number of “gun deaths” that occur each year. Mainstream media outlets, politicians, and anti-gun organizations all routinely cite “30,000 annual U.S. gun deaths.” when hyping the dangers of guns and the need for more gun control. The truth is 20,000 of these “gun deaths” are self-inflicted suicides with a gun (approximately half of the 40,000 annual suicides). While gun homicides are less than 9,000 in each of the last 3 years, which represents nearly an all time low in the U.S. murder rate.
Suicide is a genuine public health issue, but it is not related to crime, homicide and gun control policy. Magazine capacity, banning certain models of guns (particularly rifles), gun shows and background checks have no bearing on suicides. Mental health professionals confirm a person determined to die will find a way. A Harvard-published study of 36 developed nations by professors Don Kates and Gary Mauser found that gun availability had no effect on suicide rates. Many nations with low gun availability have higher suicide rates than nations with higher gun availability. Many nations with strict gun control and almost no legal guns available have significantly higher suicide rates than the U.S. Does. In fact, though gun sales are setting records in the U.S., the suicide rate is declining and is lower today than it was in the 1950′s, 60′s, 70′s or 80′s.
Anti-gun zealots conveniently leave out the truth that a full two-thirds of the deaths they cite have nothing to do with murder and crime. More importantly, the gun control legislation they propose does nothing to address suicide deaths. They resort to conflating suicide data with homicide crime data to make the case for gun control seem like it’s a bigger problem than it really is.
So what does this all mean?
These five mistakes share some common factors: they almost all involve lies and deception to sell the problem. In the lone exception – Colorado – they skipped selling it altogether and went straight to instituting policy without popular support. This is the second shared characteristic: they all involve attempts to push policy without broad support from ‘We the People’. Finally, each of the proposed policies do nothing to make people legitimately safer. While outside the scope of this article, they all, in fact, are counter-productive. Professors Kates and Mauser’s study found that gun control was counter-productive to reducing crime, homicide and suicide.
But in short, good guys with guns do stop bad guys, background checks at gun shows might stop less than 1% of criminal purchases at best, AR-15 rifles are rarely used in murder, and our murder rate is near an all-time low. Any public policy must be subject to interest-balancing: is the cost of adopting the policy worth the benefit received from doing so. All of these measures fail this test miserably.
By Matt MacBradaigh. Matt is a Christian, Husband, Father, Patriot, and Conservative from the Pacific Northwest. Matt writes about the Second Amendment, Gun Control, Gun Rights, and Gun Policy issues and is published on The Bell Towers, The Brenner Brief, PolicyMic. TavernKeepers, and Vocativ.
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