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Counterpoints: Statistics, Part 2

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The purpose of the Return Fire series is to model constructive debate methods to help prepare you to make the case for freedom. Gun rights are constantly on trial in the court of public opinion, and you must be equipped to identify and paralyze gun-control-debate tactics. This time around, I will run you through the most common misleading statements on gun policy. They sound legitimate on their faces, they are presented with authority, and they are often included in quick lists of “indisputable facts.” Because of how they’re presented, they are often simply accepted as reality when, in fact, they are ultimately statistical smoke and mirrors.

Apples-to-Oranges

Illustration By: Brian Fairrington

“Isolated island nations with exceptionally high gross-domestic-product-to-population ratios, little history of criminal violence, near-total ability to control the flow of contraband, and criminal justice, mental health and education systems that are entirely different from ours have less gun violence.1 We should follow their lead.”

They usually don’t word it quite like that, but they should.

Any time you hear a comparison to Australia, Japan or the United Kingdom in a gun argument, you know that person isn’t being intellectually honest with you. Those countries have near-total bans, not just the tiny “common-sense” incremental bans most advocates in the U.S. are pushing for. Moreover, they also have about a thousand variables across their societies that differ from ours and impact their crime stats. To help shine a light on that, you might simply ask: So since we aren’t an island, how are you going to control just the external flow of contraband weapons? Are you going to build a wall?

Galloping Through Topics

Gun-controllers tend to race through topics and statistics — from mass murder to mass shootings to gun-related crime to violent crime to violent death to suicide. They exploit the shock and horror of mass murders to advance their policy objectives. Note, however, that they will bring up mass murder but then quickly pivot to general “gun crime.” Stop them and ask them why they made the leap but chose not to leap to “violent crime.” When they jump again to gun deaths, which includes suicide, ask them again why they are jumping off-topic and also why they are suddenly including suicide by gun but strangely excluding other forms of suicide, such as hangings and falls. Don’t let them jump topics without accountability.

Irrelevant Statistics

“A gun in your home makes you less safe.” This isn’t a statistical argument; it’s just dumb. Having a hot tub or a chainsaw or a flight of stairs in my home makes me “less safe.” But that is my risk decision to make, not yours. Perhaps there are other factors at play in a statistic that general? Could it be that someone seeking a gun may be seeking it for a good reason, such as his or her perception of an actual threat to his or her safety? That would raise the numbers. Similarly, are we including suicides in the aforementioned statistic? I think I am a pretty low risk for that, thanks.

Manipulating the Statistical Landscape

“The numbers on guns are bad because the CDC isn’t allowed to study them.”

If the gun-control proponents had a strong case, they would have made it already. If the 1994-2004 Clinton “Assault Weapons Ban” had been effective at preventing crime and preserving innocent life, we should see some clear evidence that it was. The best gun grabbers can offer is a “well, maybe, but we can’t tell for sure because the CDC isn’t allowed to study gun violence.” The CDC is, in fact, allowed to engage in research … just not advocacy. Why must the CDC conduct advocacy on a hot political issue, and what does that have to do with our statistical understanding of the issue at hand? The CDC argument is bad faith because it is inappropriate to approach a right like gun ownership as you would approach a disease. You may not like guns, but psychologically pathologizing whatever you don’t like isn’t helping anything.

If the 1994-2004 Clinton “Assault Weapons Ban” had been effective at preventing crime and preserving innocent life, we should see some clear evidence that it was.

One of the reasons the numbers are “bad” is that rifles are used so rarely in crimes that it is tough to generate meaningful conclusions from a sample size that small. Everytown for Gun Safety has real money to fund real studies, and if the studies are good enough, they will stand up to scrutiny even from someone like me. Michael Bloomberg wrote a big enough check to Johns Hopkins University to get his name put on its school for public health and create the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg Center for Gun Policy and Research. We have an entire government agency, the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Statistics, dedicated to researching criminal violence. Why isn’t that enough? And why would they never treat the desire to exercise other rights — speaking or voting come to mind — as diseases?

The Numbers Aren’t Lying, the People Are

You’ll notice that these points and counterpoints barely scratch the surface of the actual statistics. It isn’t about numbers and math. The gun-control crowd is not interested in confidence intervals or linear regression. They are trying to sound like they have an airtight factual argument using specific tactics designed to tug at emotions and gloss over details.

When someone puts your rights on trial, they owe you evidence, and it is your responsibility to expose false evidence and crush the false claims.

Jim is a concerned citizen and gun-rights advocate. His opinions are his alone and do not reflect the official policy or position of his or any other agency. References and links to other gun advocacy sites do not imply endorsement of those organizations. He can be reached at Jim@tacticaltangents.com.

Endnotes

(1) Notice they always cite “gun violence” and never total violence.

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