Base laws on facts, not emotions

Research made this gun-control advocate think twice

Gun owners and Second Amendment supporters aren’t heartless. But don’t expect them to be brainless, either.

 

In particular, don’t expect them to mindlessly accept gun control and gun bans that neither make a difference nor make sense.

It’s never a good idea to debate public policy in the heated aftermath of a tragedy, but that’s what we do. So let’s talk.

A Department of Justice-commissioned study in 2004 found that the then just-ended 10-year “assault rifle” ban could not be credited for any decrease in gun crime or gun deaths.

In 2015, UCLA School of Law professor Adam Winkler added that assault weapon bans, such as those in eight states, “are largely ineffectual. Because these guns are really just ordinary rifles, it is hard for legislators to effectively regulate them without banning half the handguns in the country (those that are semiautomatic and/or have detachable magazines) and many hunting rifles as well.”

While lamenting extreme positions on both sides of the debate, Winkler noted, “gun control advocates who push for bans on one kind of rifle primarily because it looks scary also contribute to the problem. Such bans don’t reduce gun crime, but they do stimulate passionate opposition from law-abiding gun owners: Gun control advocates ridicule the NRA’s claim that the government is coming to take away people’s guns, then try to outlaw perhaps the most popular rifle in the country.”

According to National Review, legal fully-automatic weapons have been used in crimes just three times since 1934.

But most persuasively, Leah Libresco, a statistician and former newswriter at left-leaning FiveThirtyEight.com., writes in a Washington Post column this week headlined “I used to think gun control was the answer. My research told me otherwise,” that traditional gun control just doesn’t work.

Once a proponent of “common-sense gun-control reforms such as banning assault weapons, restricting silencers, shrinking magazine sizes and all the other measures that could make guns less deadly,” her research told her otherwise.

“My colleagues and I at FiveThirtyEight spent three months analyzing all 33,000 lives ended by guns each year in the United States, and I wound up frustrated in a whole new way,” she wrote. “We looked at what interventions might have saved those people, and the case for the policies I’d lobbied for crumbled when I examined the evidence.”

She learned that:

“Assault weapon” is “an invented classification that includes any semi-automatic” with two or more features that “any hobbyist can easily add … at home, just as if they were snapping together Legos.”

“Silencers” exist only in movies; “In real life, silencers limit hearing damage for shooters but don’t make gunfire dangerously quiet. An AR-15 with a silencer is about as loud as a jackhammer.”

Limits on magazines are “a little more promising, but a practiced shooter could still change magazines so fast as to make the limit meaningless.”

“Two-thirds of gun deaths in the United States every year are suicides.”

“By the time we published our project,” Libresco wrote, “I didn’t believe in many of the interventions I’d heard politicians tout. … Policies that often seem as if they were drafted by people who have encountered guns only as a figure in a briefing book or an image on the news.”

And this is why laws must be based on facts, not emotions.

 

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