Want Some Facts About Gun Violence? You Won’t Get Them From David Kopel Or The Cato Institute.


Greg Ridgeway is a statistician turned criminologist who was Associate Director of the National Institute of Justice from 2013 to 2014.  During his tenure he authored what has become something of a cult piece for the pro-gun community, namely, a memo called Summary of Select Firearm Violence Prevention Strategies, which keeps turning up in various pro-gun commentaries as a basic ‘proof’ that gun-control programs don’t work.  The latest broadside to cite Ridgeway’s document in approving fashion is a report by David Kopel published by the Cato Institute, a right-wing think tank that has been promoting the pro-gun agenda for years.

gv              I was going to respond to Kopel’s propaganda until I realized that Ridgeway’s little missive deserves some attention all its own. Because, when all is said and done, we know that Kopel is going to dismiss any and all GVP programs because as a researcher for Cato, that’s what he is paid to do. On the other hand, Ridgeway’s memo was written while he was employed by the National Institute of Justice, which happens to be the research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, which happens to be responsible for enforcing all those gun regulations that people like Kopel tell us shouldn’t exist, never mind enforced.  So if the DOJ is sending out a memo on gun control strategies that is acceptable to pro-gun schmucks like Kopel, this is something that needs to be investigated and better understood.

In his section on why extending background checks is a bad idea, Kopel says that, according to Ridgeway, “a system requiring background checks for gun sales by non-FFLs is utterly unenforceable without a system of universal gun registration.” To begin, there is no such statement anywhere in Ridgeway’s memo.  Kopel’s entire argument about the efficacy of background checks is predicated on an alleged statement by Ridgeway that does not exist.  What Ridgeway does say is that recovering guns from individuals who purchased them legally but then commit behaviors that disqualify them from gun ownership (e.g., involuntary commitment, domestic abuse), is more difficult without knowing whether such individuals own guns.  That doesn’t support Kopel’s anti-registration argument at all.

I opened up Ridgeway’s memo expecting to find a document that would support most, if not all the pro-gun arguments made by gun fantasists like Kopel.  I refer to Kopel as a ‘fanstasist’ because his basic argument for gun ownership is based on a fantasy that has nothing to do with reality at all.  And the fantasy is that guns are a positive social factor in our lives because they protect us from crime.  In fact, the conclusion of Kopel’s entire essay says that “the most effective paths to preventing mass shootings are improving access to mental care and removing impediments to lawful self-defense and defense of others.” Here we go again – Donald Trump telling us that shooters are crazy and we should all follow his example and walk around with a gun.

But you won’t find any of that crap in Ridgeway’s memo; indeed, it’s a very balanced piece of work.  For example, the memo claims that gun buybacks don’t work.  But the buybacks discussed in the memo only involved national, country-wide efforts, whereas buybacks conducted in targeted venues have, as might be expected, varying degrees of success. Another sacred cow of the pro-gun community, hi-capacity magazines, is also treated honestly and in balanced fashion by Ridgeway who says that a hi-cap ban could only be effective when or if extant hi-caps disappeared, but he also notes that “there is reason to believe that reducing the availability of large capacity magazines could have an effect on the total number of homicides.”

When the DOJ or any government agency issues a statement about guns, the GVP community needs to evaluate it not on the basis of whether it says what we want it to say, but whether it is based on reason and facts.  We certainly won’t get either from Cato or David Kopel.

SCOTUS Reaffirms The 2nd Amendment – In The Home.

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Even though there are a lot of people lining up for concealed-carry permits in California, Illinois and other places where more lenient guidelines for issuing CCW is no longer the exception but has become the rule, the Supreme Court on Monday let stand a federal appellate decision in New Jersey which upheld the state’s restrictive guidelines for carrying a concealed weapon outside the home.  The case had been brought by the owner of a string of ATM kiosks, who argued that the necessity to carry large amounts of cash to run his business met the state’s requirement that he show an “urgent necessity” for self-protection, even though the New Jersey law doesn’t specifically mention that protection should extend to cover a business rather than a personal need for self defense.

The plaintiff’s case, of course, drew support and briefs from the usual 2nd Amendment suspects, including the Cato Institute, the 2nd Amendment Foundation and, of course, the NRA.  I didn’t notice, incidentally, that the NRA’s website that carries daily stories about laws and legislation of interest to gun owners went out of its way to discuss this case.  In fact, today’s headline on the website was all about the “weakness” of the anti-gun movement, while the failure of the SCOTUS to extend 2nd Amendment protections to CCW was barely mentioned on an inside page.  Frankly, I don’t blame the NRA for doing its best to ignore the Court’s action; if I were in the business of trying to convince America that carrying a gun around outside the home is as patriotic as can be, I’d also try to ignore court rulings to the contrary, particularly rulings that fly directly in the face of an expansive fantasy about what the 2nd Amendment really means.

scaliaThis fantasy is expressed most clearly by a comment about the SCOTUS denial found on the Cato website, which states that: “regarding the right to self defense, the Supreme Court in Heller declared that the Second Amendment protects an individual constitutional right.” But that’s not exactly what the Court said.  What Scalia said was this:  “In sum, we hold that the District’s ban on handgun possession in the home violates the Second Amendment , as does its prohibition against rendering any lawful firearm in the home operable for the purpose of immediate self-defense.”

Now I don’t know about you, but it seems to me that if the Supreme Court states that the 2nd Amendment grants the right of using a gun for self defense within the home, and bases this decision both on legal precedent and historical references, then you may not like it, you may want to see it changed, but the definition of the 2nd Amendment as giving people the right to self-defense with a gun in their home is what the Constitution allows you to do.  There is nothing in the New Jersey law that SCOTUS upheld that makes it difficult for any resident of New Jersey to buy a gun and keep it ready for use in their home. To state that the Constitution gives us the ‘right’ to gun ownership without any strings attached is a cynical and deliberate twisting of what the the Supreme Court and Antonin Scalia actually said.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not against concealed carry and I have trained more than 2,000 residents in my state in the required safety course which allows them to apply (and usually receive) CCW without having to justify it on any special grounds.  But the attempt by the NRA and its friends like Cato to pretend that Americans have a non-existent ‘right’ to walk around with a gun is made up of whole cloth.  But creating a good argument out of nothing more than what you want to believe is hardly a novel exercise on both sides of the gun debate.  After all, why should facts ever get in the way of a strongly-held opinion, right?

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