Saturday, February 6, 2010

Safety "Experts" vs Gun Safety

I came across some safety brochures by LAW Publications today and thought they might be useful in my gun safety classes. However, upon closer examination, I found flawed information that casts doubt on the credibility of these publications. Here are some examples in only one brochure:

Myth: Their We Can Work Together To Stop Violence brochure says, on page 2, "Think especially hard about having a weapon of any kind in your home. A firearm is more than forty times as likely to kill or injure a family member than it is to prevent a crime from being committed."

Fact: Their "more than forty" number is a cherry-picked and flawed fact from a single flawed and cherry-picked study (Arthur L. Kellerman, Protection or Peril: An Analysis of Firearm-Related Deaths in the Home, New England Journal of Medicine, 1557-60 1986). That study's sample is so small it cannot be correlated to the nation as a whole with any meaninful significance. Of the 43 deaths reported in this study, 37 (86%) were suicides -- people who, lacking a gun, would likely have picked another means of exit. Other deaths involved criminal activity between family members (ie drug deals gone bad). Kellerman admits that his study did "not include cases in which burglars or intruders are wounded or frightened away by the use or display of a firearm." He also admitted his study did not look at situations in which intruders "purposely avoided a home known to be armed." This is a classic case of a “study” conducted to achieve a desired result -- make guns look evil.

Fact: In his critique of Kellerman's “study”, Dr. Gary Kleck (Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America, 1991), a Criminologist at Florida State University, notes that the estimation of gun ownership rates were “inaccurate”, and that the total population came from a non-random selection of only two cities. According to Kleck's analysis of FBI, CDC and other major violence studies and databases, the presence of a gun in the home is much more likely to prevent a crime without bloodshed than hurt a family member.

Fact: In another book, Targeting Guns (1997), Dr. Kleck, reported that guns prevent an estimated 2.5 million crimes a year -- that's 6,849 every day! Often the gun is never fired and no blood (including the criminal’s) is shed.

Fact: Every day, 550 rapes, 1,100 murders, and 5,200 other violent crimes are prevented just by showing a gun. In less than 0.9% of these instances is the gun ever actually fired. (Source: National Crime Victimization Survey, 2000, Bureau of Justice Statistics, BATF estimates on handgun supply).

Fact: You are far more likely to survive a violent assault if you defend yourself with a gun. In episodes where a robbery victim was injured, the injury/defense rates were: Resisting with a gun, 6%; Did nothing at all, 25%; Resisted with a knife, 40%; Non-violent resistance, 45%. (Source: British Home Office – not a “pro-gun” organization by any means).

Fact: Of the 2,500,000 annual self-defense cases using guns, more than 7.7% (192,500) are by women defending themselves against sexual abuse. When a woman was armed with a gun or knife, only 3% of rape attacks are completed, compared to 32% when unarmed. The probability of serious injury from an attack is 2.5 times greater for women offering no resistance than for women resisting with a gun. (Sources: Department of Justice's National Crime Victimization Survey and Smith, T: 2001National Gun Policy Survey of the National Opinion Research Center: Research Findings. National Opinion Research Center, University of Chicago, Dec 2001)

Myth: LAW Publication's We Can Work Together To Stop Violence brochure says, on page 2, "If you absolutely believe in owning a firearm of any kind, make sure that they are properly and safely stored away. They should be unloaded, trigger-locked, and put in a protective gun case with the ammunition stored separately."

Fact: A personal protection firearm is useless if unloaded, locked and separate from its ammunition. Perhaps that is LAW's intention -- to make it useless.

Fact: 15 states that passed "safe storage" laws saw 300 more murders, 3,860 more rapes, 24,650 more robberies, and over 25,000 more aggravated assaults in the first five years. On average, the annual costs borne by victims averaged over $2.6 billion as a result of lost productivity, out-of-pocket expenses, medical bills, and property losses. "The problem is, you see no decrease in either juvenile accidental gun deaths or suicides when such laws are enacted, but you do see an increase in crime rates." (Source: Prof. John Lott, Safe Storage Gun Laws: Accidental Deaths, Suicides, and Crime, Yale School of Law, Mar 2000)

Fact: Only five American children under the age of 10 died of accidents involving handguns in 1997. Thus, the need for “safe storage” laws appears to be low. (Source: Prof. John Lott, Safe Storage Gun Laws: Accidental Deaths, Suicides, and Crime, Yale School of Law, Mar 2000).

Fact: In Merced, California, an intruder stabbed three children to death with a pitchfork. The oldest child had been trained by her father in firearms use, but could not save her siblings from the attacker because the gun was locked away to comply with the state's "safe storage" law. (Source: Sierra Times and various wire services, Sep 2000).

Fact: California has a trigger lock law and saw a 12% increase in fatal firearm accidents in 1994. Texas doesn't have one and experienced a 28% decrease in the same year. (Source: National Center for Health Statistics, 1995)

Fact: Trigger locks are perhaps the worst possible way to secure a firearm! A safe gun owner and user never allows anything inside the trigger guard or near the trigger unless his sights are on the target and he has made the decision to fire -- and then, only his finger goes in there. Even with a trigger lock properly installed most firearms can still be loaded and cocked. The simple act of removing a trigger lock from such a loaded and cocked firearm can bump the trigger with disastrous results. No one should ever suggest or recommend the use of a trigger lock! Ever! There are far safer ways to secure a gun such as free cable locks distributed by Project Child Safe.

Fact: Legitimate gun safety experts and shooting organizations, including the National Rifle Association (NRA), teach that all firearms must be kept out of the hands of unsupervised children and irresponsible persons such as criminals and addicts. That objective can be safely accomplished in many cases without locks. Although he kept them out of reach of small children, my father never locked up his rifles. His guns never hurt anyone because he taught his family proper respect and handling of firearms.

Fact: While seldom-used arms such as a hunting rifle should, indeed be stored separately from its ammunition, a personal-defense firearm must be readily usable if it is to be of any use at all. Most violent encounters are, by definition, vilolent -- they occur with little warning and are over in seconds. There is rarely time to fumble around in a darkened bedroom looking for keys and locks and ammo. That very insanity, imposed by the District of Columbia, resulted in last year's landmark "Heller" Supreme Court decision.

Myth: On page 4 of We Can Work Together To Stop Violence, LAW Publications suggests to, "Organize a community weapons exchange or drop off program...."

Fact: According to the federal government, gun "buy-backs" have "no effect" on crime or gun accidents. (Source: Preventing Crime: What Works, What Doesn't, What's Promising, National Institute of Justice, July 1998)

Fact: "Buy-backs" remove no more than 2% of the firearms within a community. The firearms that are removed do not resemble guns used in crimes. "There has never been any effect on crime results seen". (Source: Garen Wintemute, Violence Prevention Research Program, University of California, Davis, 1997)

Fact: Up to 62% of people trading in a firearm still have another at home, and 27% said they would or might buy another within a year. (Source: Jon Vernick, John Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research, Sacramento and St. Louis studies)

Fact: More than 50% of the weapons bought via a gun "buy-back" program were over 15 years old. Most guns turned in are simply inoperative junk. On the other hand, almost half of firearms seized from juveniles are less than three years old -- new, working guns that are very unlikely to be turned in on one of those so-called "buy-back" programs. (Source: District of Columbia buyback program).

Fact: Forensic testing on guns that are turned in have found some to be crime guns and, because these "buy-back" programs usually trade a gift card or a toaster for guns with no questions asked, the person who committed the crime with that gun is never caught. That's a mighty fine crime prevention plan, eh?

Fact: "They [gun "buy-backs"] do very little good. Guns arriving at buy backs are simply not the same guns that would otherwise have been used in crime. If you look at the people who are turning in firearms, they are consistently the least crime-prone [ed: least likely to commit crimes]: older people and women." (Source: David Kennedy, Senior Researcher, Harvard University Kennedy School Program in Criminal Justice, in an appearance on Fox News, 22 Nov 2000)

Fact: According to a variety of sources, the actual effect of gun "buy-back" programs is to: Disarm future crime victims, creating new social costs; Give criminals an easy way to dispose of evidence; Cause guns to be stolen and sold to the police, creating more crime; Encourage people who are most vulnerable yet unlikely to commit crimes (elderly, women, etc.) to sell their guns; Encourage people to buy cheap guns or worthless and sell them to the government for a profit; Keep stolen guns from being returned to their rightful owners.

Myth: On page 4 of We Can Work Together To Stop Violence: "Youth organizations and schools need your support in keeping guns an dother harmful weapons out of the lives of children and teens...."

Fact: The shooting sports can be a wholesome and perfectly safe activity for youth and their families. Several youth organizations (4-H, Boy Scouts, countless schools, etc.) conduct shooting sports activities wherein participants learn safety, leadership, personal responsibility, equipment maintenance skills, etiquite, marksmanship, and physical and mental discipline unmatched in nearly any other sport.

Fact: The shooting sports are among the safest. Most other popular sports for children and teens result in a higher rate of hospitalizing injuries than do the shooting sports. (Source: American Sports Data, Inc.)

Fact: Boys who own legal firearms have much lower rates of delinquency and drug use and are even less delinquent than non-owners of guns. (Source: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, NCJ-143454, Urban Delinquency and Substance Abuse, Aug 1995)

Fact: Instead of turning "guns and other harmful weapons" (ie archery equipment) into forbidden fruit, why not advocate youth programs that are effective in teaching the responsible use of these technologies. It is my opinion that firearm training is as important for the safety of our youth as is sex education. Both programs should be responsibly taught in our schools.

Fact: The brochure does have some good information. I commend their recommendation, on page 2, to get firearm safety training from a certified instructor and to ensure that children know "what to do to if they should come in contact with a firearm or other dangerous weapon..." Training is the key to safety -- not locks and bans.

Recommended book (free download):

Gun Facts

1 comment:

  1. Last week, I wrote an email to LAW Publications with content similar to this blog entry. Today, I received an email from them stating that the brochure I commented on will be revised "to present the information on gun safety without the obvious bias".