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10 Need-to-Know Gun Control Myths

by Kyle Wintersteen   |  May 1st, 2013 43

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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.

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