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10 Need-to-Know Gun Control Myths

by Kyle Wintersteen   |  May 1st, 2013 37


Those who favor a society without gun rights seem to be prone to spreading false information. At best, anti-gun leaders unknowingly spread baseless accusations; at worst, they willingly to lie to achieve their objectives. Regardless, it is my observation that a host of gun control myths began circulating during the 1960s and continue today.

For instance, how many times have you heard President Barack Obama pushing the Manchin-Toomey gun control bill because, according to the him, 90 percent of Americans support so-called universal background checks? Well, a Pew Research poll was conducted after the Senate defeated the bill. Turns out only 47 percent of Americans are disappointed the bill failed, while 32 percent describe themselves as “very happy” or “relieved.” So, Mr. President, you can quit arguing that the country is behind you on this.

If we can spread the truth about this myth now, maybe it will die. But there are other, older myths that have festered for years. Unfortunately, as the saying goes, if a lie is spread enough, it becomes the truth. Even some gun owners can start to believe the nonsense, which is particularly dangerous in the current political environment. So the next time you hear a gun-control advocate rattling off one of these myths, shock him with the truth.

Myth No. 1: A gun in the home is more likely to kill a family member than an intruder.
This is probably the most widely circulated gun control myth ever. It’s been argued that a gun in the home is 43 times more likely to kill a family than an intruder. You’re actually safer, argue anti-gun folks, in a gun-free home. That may help them sleep at night, but it isn’t true.

Despite this myth’s popularity, have you ever noticed politicians and journalists never cite a source to go along with it? Perhaps that’s because it’s derived from a seriously flawed 1986 report in the New England Journal of Medicine, “Protection or Peril?: An Analysis of Firearm-Related Deaths in the Home.”

Most notably, the study only accounted for cases of self-defense with firearms in which the criminal was killed. If the bad guy was wounded, held at gunpoint for police or ran away, it was not included in the data. That is a rather incredible oversight since, according to Florida State criminologist Gary Kleck, criminals are only shot dead in about 1 percent of firearm-defense incidents. Fact is, according to Kleck’s exhaustive research, a gun in the home is three to five times more likely to help stop a crime than commit one.

Myth No. 2: Forty percent of guns are purchased without a background check.
In pushing for “universal” background checks, Obama has repeatedly said, “As many as 40 percent of guns are purchased without a background check.” Vice President Joe Biden has also pushed the stat, and their lapdogs at The New York Times, USA Today and other media outlets have reported the stat as fact without questioning the source. As professor John Lott demonstrates, the number is actually closer to 10 percent.

To reach the 40-percent number, one must count family inheritances and gifts as “purchases.” The number is also based on a Clinton administration survey in which many respondents erroneously indicated they had not undergone a background check to buy a gun.

Myth No. 3: Fewer people own guns today.
Given the spate of gun buying over the last few years, it’s hard to believe anyone could perpetuate this myth with a straight face. According to FBI data, there have been a rather incredible 70,291,049 background checks for gun purchases since Obama took office. Gun control advocates argue it’s merely existing gun owners making all the purchasing. However, according to a 2011 Gallup poll, at least 47 percent of Americans own guns, compared to 41 percent in 1993. By most indications, gun ownership is on the rise.

Myth No. 4: Criminals obtain their weapons at gun shows.
The Brady Campaign and others have fought hard to convince us that criminals and even terrorists purchase their wares at gun shows. But what do the facts say? A Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) study from November 2001, “Firearms Use by Offenders,” found only 1 percent of criminals obtained their firearms at gun shows. An earlier BJS study found that only 1.7 percent of federal inmates made their purchases at gun shows. The numbers are backed up by a National Institute of Justice survey, which found only about 2-percent of criminals bought at gun shows.

So how do most bad guys obtain their guns? They’re forced to steal them.

Myth No. 5: People hardly ever use guns for self-defense.
If gun control advocates can convince the public that guns are rarely used for self-defense, then they can portray those who keep them for protection as misguided or paranoid. Fact is, according to a study by Kleck, guns are used up to 2.5 million times per year annually in the United States for armed self-defense. Often these incidents are unreported to the police or the media.

Why? In many cases the would-be victim draws a gun, the criminal immediately runs away and the event is never reported. Gun control advocates should keep in mind that self-defense doesn’t necessarily involve actually shooting a criminal, as this is gun owners’ last resort. There is also, of course, media bias that influences under-reporting of self-defense incidents, but we’ll save that topic for another feature.

Myth No. 6: Your gun is more likely to be used against you by an attacker.
According to Kleck’s book, Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America, attackers only disarm armed citizens in fewer than 1 percent of cases. This is especially true in cases of concealed carry, because the attacker often didn’t realize the target was armed, had no plan to disarm him or her, and flees in search of easier prey. By contrast, according to U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics data, armed resistance against an attacker—especially with a firearm—is the most effective means to prevent injury, or to thwart robbery or assault. In other words, “just doing whatever the bad guy says,” is often poor advice.

Myth No. 7: We can’t trust people with concealed carry.
Those who often perpetuate this myth don’t realize their state allows concealed carry—unless the individual is a citizen of Illinois. Criminals, on the other hand, do seem to notice the freedom by which the law-abiding residents of their locale can carry guns. Research by Lott, for instance, found that when shall-issue concealed carry is introduced, there are decreases in the rates of murder by 8.5 percent, rape by 5 percent and aggravated assault by 5 percent. While some academics dispute Lott’s findings, most concede that concealed carry—at the very least—has not resulted in the “blood in the streets” predictions of anti-gun groups. In his story, “‘More Guns, Less Crime’ Thesis Rests on a Flawed Statistical Design, Scholars Argue,” author David Glenn concludes: “Mr. Lott’s research has convinced his peers of at least one point: No scholars now claim that legalizing concealed weapons causes a major increase in crime.”

Myth No. 8: Urban areas especially need gun control.
There tend to be differing views on gun control in rural areas compared to urban centers, but it is wrong to suggest—as Obama has sometimes done—that gun control can be more effective in cities. To suggest honest American citizens living in metropolitan areas cannot be trusted with Second Amendment rights is not only misguided, but in some cases, may have racial undertones.

According to research by Lott for his book, More Guns, Less Crime, when the gun rights of a given population are restored, violent crime actually goes down. This is especially true, Lott found, for high-crime urban areas and neighborhoods with large minority populations. The greatest reduction in violent crime occurs when law-abiding citizens of the population are allowed to carry concealed handguns.

Myth No. 9: Guns teach kids to be violent.
Anyone who grew up in a gun-friendly household knows firearms teach discipline and other positive attributes. But how do we quantify that when our opponents are so willing to spread mistruths?

Well, we have studies to cite. Arguably the best is, “Patterns of Adolescent Firearms Ownership and Use,” by Terence P. Thornberry, Alan J. Lizotte and James M. Tesoriero. Among other findings, the researchers found that children taught about firearms and their legitimate uses by family members have much lower rates of delinquency than children in households without guns. Additionally, R. Tonso—head of the Department of Sociology, Criminal Justice and Anthropology at the University of Evansville in Indiana—found that children introduced to guns associate them with freedom, security and recreation—not violence.

Myth No. 10: Gun control prevents crime.
We’ve saved the ultimate myth for last. Here are but a few examples of failed gun control policies in action:

  • Washington, D.C.’s ban on handguns (since repealed, sort of) took effect in 1977 and the city’s murder rate tripled by the 1990’s. According to D.C.’s own police department, every firearm murder was committed with a handgun
  • Chicago copied D.C.’s handgun ban in 1982 and, according to city data, within 10 years its handgun-related murders doubled.
  • Maryland and California have both imposed waiting periods for gun purchases and restricted sales of handguns and semi-auto rifles. Yet according to FBI Uniform Crime Reports, their murder and robbery rates that far exceed the rest of the country.

There are plenty more cases in which gun control has backfired, even as nationwide gun ownership has increased and crime has decreased.

  • JD

    I bought a gun from a gun show in NC in 2004 and I had a background check done.

    • Eric Kelly

      I’ve had a background check done with every firearm I have ever purchased, even when I was told one wasn’t needed. I insisted…

  • Ramshovel

    My wife and I have purchase several firearms at gun shows and on-line within the past few years, all received after having submitted to the required back ground check.

  • Matthew Jasinski

    None of the measures proposed today or EVER proposed would have stopped any of the mass shootings in recent history. Improve the mental health system, and make parents and owners responsible for not securing their firearms. If the laws change then only criminals will have the firearms. Don’t make me a criminal because I would rather be a law abiding citizen.

    • Joshua Lewis Miles

      The only issue I see with this is that if we are going to hold firearms owners responsible for unsecured stolen weapons then high quality gun safes(Real safes not the secure storage containers that are marketed as safes but can be broken into by an untrained person with minimal tools in less than 60 seconds) need to be made more easily available to the general public, I don’t know many people who want to own a pistol or shotgun for personal security who can afford to buy the gun and then pay $1,000-$2,000 for a high quality gun safe. (You can get the cheap ones for between $300 and $800 but they unfortunately aren’t actual safes, they are just made to look like a safe and called gun safes but someone with no safe cracking training can get into one of them with a screw driver and about 45 seconds of work)

      • LeftShooter

        How about tax credits supporting the purchase of gun safes? It costs money to save lives.

        • Joshua Lewis Miles

          Tax credits are a step in the right direction but still not really a good answer for someone who wants to be able to have a shotgun for home defense in a bad neighborhood but cant afford to buy a $300 shotgun and a $1,000 safe to put it in, giving a tax credit is great but it doesn’t solve the problem of not being able to afford it in the first place.

  • rycsailor

    Let’s face it, the only (ONLY) reason for gun control programs is to disarm the general public. The current rage about various killing and massacres are only shadow arguments to cover the real purpose. If out legislators were truly interested in maintaining the 2nd amendment, they would establish an politically independent commission to examine all FACTS and present conclusions. They won’t do this for the simple reason that all their falsehoods and imaginary scenarios would be dis-proven………

  • James Gerondakis

    Maryland’s Governor Martin O’Malley signed yesterday (5/1/13) into law (takes effect 10/1/13) the banning of all high capacity rifle and pistol magazines and limiting new ones to 10 rounds. Maryland already had a 20 round capacity limitation. The new Law also bans the manufacture, import, sale or transfer of AR-15 assault-type weapons (except ones registered prior to 10/1/13). A legislator from the western part of the state has begun legal proceedings to challenge the new Law in court under the premise that banning an entire class of weapons is unconstitutional. Also, new handgun purchasers would have to be fingerprinted as part of the registration process. This was all due to a knee-jerk reaction by liberal legislators to the tragedies that occurred in Colorado and Connecticut. Beretta USA has already said they are leaving Maryland as a result of the new firearm laws.

    • Steven Allred

      Register nothing. Turn-over nothing. Do not give in. Do not comply.

  • I work for my money

    The Obmama administration motto “Tell them the lie often enough and it will become the truth”

    • Tran Quilize

      Ironically, this was Adolph Hitlers mantra.

  • NH

    ask the little girl killed in KY yesterday by her 5 year old brother with a gun he received as a gift that was stored unsecured in their home if she is a believer in your so called “Fact” #1.

    • TheWisdomJournal

      There was no “Fact #1″ there is a Myth #1 though. The myth is that guns in the home are more likely to kill you or a loved one … and it’s pure BS.

      Don’t let the emotions of a rare tragic event dictate how you create policy. The only thing gun control does is take guns from the hands of law abiding citizens.

    • Alan Gray

      As unfortunate as that is you could cherry pick a conflicting example to any rule, again even a broken clock is right twice a day. Get a life and learn to rationally think through facts with some critical thinking not mindless left wing parroting or singling out single instances to conflict an overwhelming majority example.
      Good intentions don’t necessarily make good laws. Most laws are overloaded with red tape and conflicting laws. No laws get taken off the books, it’s job security for the politicians that feel they have to prove their worth as misguided as it is.

      • NH

        Interesting to note that the US bans KinderSurprise eggs as a danger to children yet there is opposition to gun control. That must be the “good intentions” of which you speak.

    • Tran Quilize

      Alan, there is no opposition to laws that keep criminals away from guns! Libs always name a law, just the opposite of what it really is.. and this so called gun-control law was no different. There are already ENOUGH laws on the books that are NOT enforced.
      Tell me Alan, why, in 2012, were 45,000 felons STOPPED from purchasing a gun, BUT only 44 criminal charges filed?

      • Alan Gray

        I would have to say because they don’t enforce the laws already on the books. Exactly my point, there are too many laws, they don’t enforce those on the books and laws are only made for us law abiding citizens not those who would intend to purchase with bad intent. Although the left could of passed a law getting tough on gun runners, instead they pouted because the grabber bill failed and took their ball and ran home ignoring a sensible law out of spite. Liberals are only after control.

  • Facebook User

    that lil boy should have never had acess to that gun alone, that is the parents fault…

  • Robert Martin

    An ongoing poll by PBS (yes, the government funded liberal Public Broadcasting System, THAT PBS,) in their Need To Know section, has an ongoing poll indicating 95% of respondents believe gun laws should be kept as they are. The 90% lie has been thoroughly debunked a thousand ways until Sunday, anyone still spouting that nonsense drivel is automatically disqualified of any credibility.

    • Libby Femina

      I’d love to see more info on this; do you have any links or whatever? I know too many people who do buy into the 90% myth…

      • Tran Quilize

        Did you even read this article? Click the red letters in the 2nd paragraph.. then find informed people to befriend.

    • Keith Pinster

      Funny that people insist that PBS is somehow “liberal”. Everything that I have ever heard on PBS is by far and way MUCH more fair and balanced that ANY other news, or even talk shows that I have ever listened to. I’m betting people that claim this have never even listened to it even once. If they have a show that is dealing with a subject that is controversial, more often than not, they have guests that represents both sides of the issue. The problem is, they tend to be calm and respectful instead of having people that blow up and just yell over each other. Not as “entertaining”, but certainly more insightful, if what you are looking for in real data.

  • Libby Femina

    I just wish that the people who NEED to read this article would do so. How to get them to listen??

    • Nolan Harris

      By not sounding like an echo chamber? Both sides are guilty of cherry picking their sources. Condemning anyone in favor of any kind of gun control legislation (Be it of banning, limiting, registering, checking, training or any other variety) as a”liberal” immediately pushes the number mentioned above (47%) away from you and you can no longer have a discussion because you are condemning their entire political philosophy and calling nearly 50% of americans “unamerican”.

      Example, the president mentions 90% support universal background checks. The gunsandammo counter:

      “Turns out only 47 percent of Americans are disappointed the bill failed, while 32 percent describe themselves as “very happy” or “relieved.”

      Which as you can plainly see only speaks to the specific piece of legislation and not the desire for background checks. Both sides are guilty of misrepresenting themselves and the legislation. The sooner everyone stop thinking their own crap smells like roses, the sooner they can stop trying to convince everyone else to take a whiff.

      • Tran Quilize

        Again, I will point out there is no opposition to laws that keep criminals
        away from guns! Chicago, with some of the toughest ‘gun-control’ laws, has the second highest gun related crime rate in the country. WHY! There are already ENOUGH laws on the books, that are NOT enforced.
        Tell me why, in 2012, there were 45,000 felons STOPPED from purchasing guns.. BUT only 44 criminal charges were filed?

        The Lib agenda is all about creating a screwed-up, pork filled law, and then putting a ‘sensible’ name on it. It’s designed SOLEY to make the other party look hard-lined, and unreasonable.

        EG: The ‘Stop Violence Against Women’ law, designed SOLEY to estrange the womens vote from the Republicans. How? THIS law added ‘harsh language’ to the existing list.. meaning if someone JUST called their spouse a name.. they become a felon, and loses the right to own or posses a gun.
        Now the Dems label any [sensable] Republican who voted against it, a ‘woman hater’.. reaching their main agenda – turning the people against Republicans. This is the way Dems work, so pay attention to how they name Bills!

    • Kurt S.

      Well that’s a tough challenge since most libs are as open minded as… Joseph Stalin. In all seriousness, I would memorize the stats and sources from this article and when people spew worthless propaganda crap stats (like Obama and Biden) arm yourself with the knowledge to refute their phony claims.

  • The Shredder

    Every gun show that I’ve been to requires a background check before purchase. Th e outright lies that these clowns spew to the public is disgusting.

  • John Hart

    Most people never stop to realize that proposed increased mental health background check procedure would be designed by anti-gun staff, and would serve the same purpose as Canada’s seemingly reasonable requirement for all firearms owners to pass a hunter safety course. That course is expensive (Shouldn’t applicants bear the cost of the governmental procedure?), complex enough that about one third of the people who attended the course with me failed the exam. Nest step is to apply for the governmental permit through the police chief, who will send a policeman to your home to ask all your family members if it is OK with them if you have a gun…and then all of your neighbors. One rejection, and your quest is over! You must list three character witnesses of prominent standing in the community, none of whom can be family…all will be interviewed. If you pass all, the Chief will endorse the application and send it to the Federal government, and you will receive your permit within six months. That is why Canada’s hunters are dying out… Don’t start that here!

  • stringman

    Just FYI, more children (actual children, not 17 year-old gangbangers) are killed every year on schools busses than from guns. More than that drown in 5-gallon paint cans left unattended. Or so I’ve heard from places I respect. And why in all the congressional testimony do we never hear from people who are alive today because they or a loved one had a gun when it was needed? Or from the armed citizens who stopped mass murderers? There’s a simple fact” the laws and the country are the way they are because those in Washington, on all sides, WANT IT THIS WAY! And we’re too damned lazy, stupid, or ignorant to force change.Our gov, is not “progressive” it’s regressive: returning to the time when an elite ruled the serfs and controlled the power. America needs to reclaim her revolutionary roots and standards. Then dethrone the plundering rulers!

  • Joe

    No 1. gun control truth: Criminals love gun control- it makes a safer working environment for them.

  • Tim McCann

    “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. Joseph Goebbels “The Poison Dwarf”

  • Rob Morse

    The truth is so powerful that the ant-gun bigots should be ashamed to lie.
    Thank you, Kyle Wintersteen.

  • ashmanit

    I too don’t buy the control prepositions..Guns are of course sophisticated and dangerous weapons but so are knifes axes..etc and everyone including children knows that..However the case with gun specific accidents and violence is can be controlled in a similar way like of road traffic accidents..One cannot control who is non licensed or rash driving can instill the law and discipline of sober driving..One cannot control who is drunk or maniac but one can control to keep keys at distance from him/her..My idea may not be new but it doesn’t seems to be the society
    Car gun safe

  • xteeth

    You don’t like Kellerman’s statistics, no one likes Klecks. As long as the NRA prevents the collection on information these questions will continue to be a matter of conjecture. The Cantservative’s opposition to science and statistics is understandable. It is the flip side of the coin that says guns don’t kill people, people kill people. Keep saying stupid things like that and we will never have the reliable statistics to answer these questions. Your opposition to the collection of data gives the presumption to the argument that gun control is effective at preventing bodily harm.

  • Rick Calhoun

    Myth 1 takes suicide rates into account. Having a gun in the house makes suicide easier and is more common than using a gun in a home defense shooting.

    • Glenn Eric Johnson

      did you know that guns are practically banned in japan, and yet their suicide rate is higher, i can’t stand people that use suicide as a gun control argument

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