THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 355, February 19, 2006
Farewell, Wendy, we will miss you!
The Lies Are Worth A Shot
Special to TLE
When you live in mortal fear of something like many gun control advocates do, it seems that nothing is off the table where debate (I use the term loosely) techniques are concerned. Even when there's little for them to use in the way of argument fodder, they'll take what there is and fold, bend, spindle and mutilate it to suit their needs at the time. On some occasions, when there's nothing at all to use they'll simply fabricate their "evidence." And, like so many falsehoods or misrepresentations, the more the lies are repeated, the more believable they become to the credulous members of the public.
Perhaps the best example of a lie turning accepted truth is the so-called Kellerman study. In limited research first published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine in 1986, Dr. Arthur Kellerman co-authored a study that claimed to have shown that having a gun in the home dramatically increased the likelihood that someone in the house would be shot with that gun. In fact, the report said it was 43 times more likely a gun owner would shoot and kill a family member than that he'd shoot and kill anybody else. Unfortunately for Dr. Kellerman and for ecstatic gun control advocates everywhere, the study has been thoroughly debunkedrepeatedlysince then.
This didn't stop Dr. Kellerman from conducting more studies all of which showed that guns are bad, bad, bad (the fact that Kellerman is a staunch gun control advocate, of course, had nothing to do with his conclusions, and his refusal in the past to share data with other researchers for review is also meaningless where his motivations, methodology, and conclusions are concerned). And it certainly hasn't stopped gun control advocacy groups from continuing to quote one or another of Kellerman's dubious conclusions (among them: the Violence Policy Center, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, and even the handy Gun Safety Guide published by About.com.).
Anti-gun media memberswho often also clearly have an axe to grindcontinue to cite Kellerman's work including the original thoroughly bogus study (The Japan Times used the "43 times more likely" quote as recently as January 9 of this year, and a February 3 editorial in National Catholic Reporter not only claims the "more likely" notion but says self defense instances are "statistically insignificant."). The more we read such thingsand the the more supposedly authoritative the sourcethe more too many are inclined to buy whatever it is they're selling.
Author Michael Bellesiles became a hero to the anti-gun movement when he published a book detailing the research that "proved" guns were far less common in Colonial times than gun proponents would have everybody believe. The only problem with Bellesiles research was that the results were constructed from fabricated data. Bellesiles resigned from his job as a history professor at Emory University (coincidentally, that's the same University where Dr. Kellerman hangs his gun banning hat), lost a prize he'd won for his work, and was roundly spanked by an academic committee that pronounced him guilty of fraud (Bellesiles denies any such thing, denial apparently a hallmark of anti-gunners of all education levels and social strata).
Despite Bellesiles' very public fall from grace, the book remains available online and is still classified as non-fiction (his original and reputable publisher dropped him, but the book was snapped up by a smaller publishing company and promptly reprinted; Soft Skull also offers a multi-page response from Bellesiles to the many charges levied against him which, regardless of all of the evidence to the contrary, he continues to deny). If you don't bother to read the scathing reviews published at Amazon.com, you'd never know the book was questionable at best; at Powells.com, all of the reviews cited are glowing citations published prior to the revelations of fraud.
The point I'm making here is that, by repetition combined with a refusal to believe anything other than that which they'd prefer to believe, anti-gun advocates continue to forcefully press their case (and the more vocifierously they do so, the more uninformed followers they capture). It is their iron-willed stance that making guns illegal will solve all of our problems, and they're sticking to it. Not surprisingly, it turns out there's still more evidence they're wrong even in their overall fantasy that all will be well if only guns are banned.
A favorite piece of anecdotal "evidence" often offered up in favor of gun control has to do with Great Britain. We're told that crime rates are lower there than in America and that guns are illegal. Of course, it's entirely inappropriate to follow that up with the classic (and grievously mistaken) QED: Make guns illegal, and crime rates will be lower, but that's what they do. In the past, it was possible to argue that point with simple matters of statistics (of course there are fewer murders there; there are fewer people!) or methodology (nobody normed the numbers for lower European crime rates in general).
But now there's definitive and clear evidence that the suppositions are wrong. Just this month, a report out of England offered police statistics that cited rapidly increasing rates of violent crime, most particularly gun crimes. This in a place where guns are essentially banned! I'd be willing to bet you that this won't stop the anti-gun advocates from making the claims concerning outright gun bans that they always have, but it certainly offers an excellent refutation. And that refutation is going to be more necessary than ever thanks to some recent incidents of gun violence.
In California, a woman entered a Post Office processing center and started shooting. When she finished shooting former co-workers, she turned the gun on herself. Although police have yet to announce any motive, the one consistent story that's come out of the tragedy is that Jennifer San Marco had mental health problems. The gun that she used was, according to police, not hers. It was legally purchased and owned by someone else who police say isn't suspected of wrongdoing. Although they've not said more than that, it sounds very much like they believe San Marco stole the weapon.
There will be those who say that, if guns were illegal, the Goleta, California shootings wouldn't have occurred. They're wrong. It was illegal for San Marco to own a gun (because of her mental disability); it's illegal to steal. Yet San Marco broke both laws without a thought, and headed out to kill (which, by the way, is also illegal in most states). The law was immaterial to the shooter.
The law was, unfortunately, obeyed all too well by her victims. It's not legal to have firearms on US Post Office grounds. Yet if one person had been armed and been able to offer some protection to other employees, this tragic story could have proved less tragic. Making guns illegal, or even harder to obtain, will cause more incidents like this one not less. By ensuring criminals are safe to wreak havoc, they'll be more likely to do so. That's something the British know all too well, but that too many Americans can't or won't grasp.
In Massachusettsanother state, by the way, where guns are difficult to obtain legallyanother violent crime was recently committed. In this case, a young man walked into a gay bar with a hatchet, a machete, and a handgun. After having a couple of drinks, he proceeded to launch an attack on several patrons. Eventually, he was captured by police in Arkansas, but not before he shot and killed an Arkansas State Highway Patrolman and a woman who was a passenger in his car, and engaged cops in a shoot-out during which he was critically wounded (he has since died from his wounds).
At the end of his rampage in the bar, Jacob Robida pointed the gun at the bartender and pulled the trigger (the gun didn't go off). But prior to that moment, the bar tender would likely have been able to stop Robida if he'd had the wherewithal to do so. Sadly, he wasn't carrying a handgun, nor did he have a shotgun handily stored beneath the bar. If he had, a West Virginia woman and an Arkansas man would still be alive today. As the gun control activists like to say, "If it saves just one life..." Well, a Massachusetts bartender might have saved two.
I can already hear the calls for more gun control in Massachusetts, for more laws that would stop things like this from happening. But consider: Robida was too young to drink legally, yet he walked into a bar and did so. It's illegal to have a gun in a bar, but he did. It's also against the law to attack people with hatchets or machetes, and he did that, too. It's a crime to assault anyone for hateful (based on race, sexual orientation, or other specified criteria) reasons in Massachusetts, yet that didn't stop Robida, either. Ask yourself: would one more law have mattered? The answer is obviously no, yet the anti-gun contingent will almost certainly come to another conclusion not because it's either correct or sensible, but because that's result they most want.
There is nothing that can be done to change the minds of the most rabid of the gun control advocates. They've made up their minds, and don't wish to be confused with the facts. But those who have been confused by misused, misstated, or manufactured "facts" are another story.
If we don't want still more blood shed, we need to ensure that the good guys have the opportunity for an effective defense should they choose to exercise it either on their own behalf or on the behalf of other innocents. If we intend to tend to our own safety and to preserve the crucial element of freedom that is offered by the guarantees of the Second Amendment, those of us concerned with the truth need to trouble ourselves to find it behind the obstacles anti-gun activists and media members are so good at constructing. And then, most importantly of all, it's up to us to spread it.
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