I have been paying attention to the debate about guns and gun violence since I read the research published by Art Kellerman and Fred Rivara published in 1993, research which found that access to guns represented a risk to health.  This argument inaugurated a debate about the social utility of guns which is still going on.

              On the one side we have Gary Kleck, who published a study in 1995 claiming that individuals who brandished or occasionally fired guns, prevented several million crimes every year.

              On the other side, we have David Hemenway, who found that America’s fatal violence was 7 to 20 times higher than other advanced countries because Americans own so many guns.

              What we end up with is that guns are ‘good’ because they are used to prevent crime, versus guns are ‘bad’ because their presence results in more crime.

              It goes without saying that the two schools of research – ‘good’ guns versus ‘bad’ guns – are used to create and bolster the narratives of the organizations which advocate for more (ex. NRA) or fewer (ex. Brady) guns.

I believe both narratives are wrong to the point of being delusional because neither argument is based on a valid analysis of the data they cite, and both arguments end up telling the two, respective sides what these researchers want them to hear, which makes the arguments delusional, at best.

The tone of this brief essay may sound both arrogant and unyielding, but over the past 60 years I have been a retailer, wholesaler, certified trainer, importer, and manufacturer of guns. I have discussed guns with thousands of gun owners, including the twelve thousand who were students in the required gun-safety course I taught from 2003 until 2014. So, when it comes to guns, I know what I’m talking about. Now, back to how both sides in the gun debate get it wrong.

              Guns are good:  Kleck looked at how guns allegedly prevent crime by conducting several thousand telephone interviews, then took the percentage of gun-owning respondents who claimed they used a gun in self-defense, extrapolated to an estimate of how many gun owners were alive in the 1990’s, and came up with his results.

              People who were interviewed by Kleck’s team were asked all the usual questions about who they were, where they lived, when were they forced to use a gun in self-defense, and what happened as a result. They had to provide their age, their gender, their race, all the usual demographic stuff.

              But there was one question they weren’t asked: In the confrontation with the attacker, were they using a legally owned gun?

              How can you understand how people behave with guns if you don’t differentiate between legal and illegal guns? You can’t.

              Actually, you can, but your results will be meaningless for a very simple reason, namely, because it’s the guys walking around with illegal guns who are the guys that get into situations where they either are attacked or believe they are about to be attacked by someone else.

              Guns are bad:  Hemenway’s says the United States has so much fatal violence is because we own so many guns. No other country has a per-capita rate of gun ownership which exceeds more than one gun per person.

Except what Hemenway glosses over is that a large majority of those hundreds of millions of guns in the hands of American gun owners are never used in violent events. They are rifles used to shoot Bambi or shotguns used to knock a bird out of a tree.

              So how do you make an argument which correlates the number of guns with the number of fatal assaults when the number you are using to represent the available guns is probably three or four times higher than it should be? You can make that argument all you want, except the argument is simply wrong.

              The reason we have gun violence is that we are the only country in the entire world which gives residents free access to the kinds of guns designed specifically to be used in person-to-person assaults. Semi-automatic, bottom-loading pistols made by companies like Glock, Sig, Springfield Armory, Ruger, Smith & Wesson, et. al., aren’t ‘sporting’ guns. They are ‘weapons of war,’ and are carried by tactical and military personnel worldwide.

              And by the way, for all the talk about how Americans have a ‘right’ to own such guns thanks to the 2nd-Amendment decision written by Tony Scalia in 2008, his opinion specifically denied Constitutional protections for ‘weapons of war.’

              Want to get rid of gun violence? It’s very simple. Limit the carrying the guns used to commit gun violence to police and others who are required to carry a gun as part of their job.

              The day that any one of the gun-control groups says this out loud, we’ll actually have a chance to reduce the violence caused by using guns.

              That was a tough one, wasn’t it?