Email Ken Stallings   The Truth About Gun Control

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In the year 2018, it is perhaps most valuable to first look at what gun control groups do not believe in, regardless of their rhetoric.  Because an objective, statistically based analysis will conclude that gun control groups are not advocating for the following:

1.  Reduction of violent crime:  at first glance that may seem like an outrageous proposition -- that gun control advocates are not seeking a reduction of violent crime, especially violent gun crime.  That's what they keep saying they are advocating for, but the reality long ago passed them by. 

Decades in the past, in the 1970's, there was a legitimate national debate about whether increased firearms possession among citizens would reduce or increase violent crime rates.  Both sides of the debate offered principled arguments, and as a result, we experienced a period of twenty years where various municipalities and states decided individually to pursue vastly different philosophies.

Among the most noteworthy of these divergent paths was between Richmond, Virginia and Washington DC.  Richmond's municipal leaders chose to enact tough firearms laws with mandatory sentencing, and combined with the state of Virginia to encourage citizens to own and possess firearms.  Virginia enacted so-called "shall issue" laws for concealed carry of weapons (CCW) permits.  "Shall issue" means that unless there is some overriding fact, the permit is issued.  Contrarily, so-called "may issue" laws give local governments wide ranging authority to deny permit applications as they wish. 

At the same time, Washington DC adopted the most stringent gun control laws in America, making it virtually impossible for a private citizen to own, much less publicly possess, any firearm.

The results were hard to argue with.  Richmond saw a sharp reduction in violent crimes, particularly crimes by firearm, while DC saw -- and continues to see -- sharp increases.  Given that these two metropolitan areas border each other, erasing any significant demographic differences, the stark differences opened many eyes in the debate.

This is no statistical outlier either, as consistently municipal and state governments that adopted similar solutions as Richmond, saw sharp reductions in violent crimes.  In fact, the further a local or state government went to encourage private citizens to own and publicly possess firearms, the sharper the reductions in violent crime became.

Consequently, it is now the case than nearly all US states have adopted "shall issue" CCW permit laws, and consequently all these states saw significant reductions in violent crimes.  This is why statistically, the truth is that homicides, even by firearm, are not up, but in fact are significantly below rates that existed decades past.

Consider these federal crime statistic facts:

Washington DC's murder rate is 56.9 per 100,000 while across the Potomac River, Arlington, VA has a murder rate of just 1.6 per 100,000. 

Sixty percent of convicted felons reported that the fear of someone carrying a concealed handgun represented a sharp deterrent to carry out their crimes.

Each year, hundreds of thousands of life-threatening crimes are prevented by a private citizen using their own firearm.

Kennesaw, GA passed a law that actually "required" heads of households to keep at least one firearm in their home.  Despite the Constitutionally dubious nature of this municipal ordinance, the residential burglary rate in Kennesaw, GA plummeted 89% the year after the law was adopted!

Finally, citizens who apply for a CCW permit are proven to be vastly less likely to be arrested for any crimes, especially violent crimes.

2.  Reduction of criminals owning firearms.  This is another strange but true fact.  As law-abiding citizens are encouraged to own firearms, crime goes down but firearms acquisitions by criminals is not aided.

One of the dominant arguments by gun control advocates is that the so-called "gun show loophole" in the national background check allows criminals to obtain firearms.  This is refuted by the statistical reality.

BATF reports that 39.2% of firearms obtained by criminals are obtained through already illegal street transfers.  Another 39.6% were obtained from family members, and to a lesser extent personal friends.  These family members and friends chose to break existing laws by conducting "straw man purchases."  This is where someone who can legally purchase a firearm does so with the intent to give it to a criminal.  Together, those two processes account for nearly 80% of the firearms criminals use in their crimes!  The key fact for both of these sources, is that the actions carried out already violate existing federal, state, and municipal laws!  If a criminal violates existing laws, what logic is there in saying passing more laws will deter them!

This is further proven by the reality that nearly all the straw man firearms purchases were by family members of gang members, which makes these family members effectively willing members of these criminal gangs.

Further, only 0.7% of convicts obtained their firearms used in their crimes from gun shows.  A whopping 93% of firearms used by criminals are obtained illegally.  The majority of the additional 13% over the 80% previously discussed were the result of break-in's of private homes.

Finally, nearly all dealers who operate at gun shows are federally licensed dealers, who are already required to use the instant background check system for all of their sales, even those at gun shows.  The NRA's objection to the so-called "universal background check" is that it would require private citizens to hand over their firearms to a licensed dealer before a weapon could be transferred even to a blood relative.  It would be ridiculous to erect a barrier in a father handing down his firearm to his son, and that's the main objection of the NRA.  And again, there are already laws on the books in all fifty states that make it a crime to give or sell a firearm to a convicted felon.

3.  Reducing the chance of mentally ill people owning firearms.  It is logically impossible to argue in favor of mentally ill people owning firearms, provided of course one is referencing people who are truly mentally ill, meaning they are a demonstrated danger to themselves and to society.  Clearly, society is endangered when mentally ill people possess firearms.

The NRA has for decades championed the adoption of tough laws that criminally sanction medical personnel and government employees who fail to add court approved information to the FBI's Instant Background Check database.  Information, that if added, would flag during the instant background check.  Currently, there are only a few municipal and state laws that would sanction someone failing to input such information, either through negligence or other malfeasance.

Given that the pattern of mass shooters is mental illness, it's no surprise that nearly all recent shooters had significant information known to immediate family members, law enforcement, schools, and mental health clinics.  In these many cases, had these people with the knowledge done their public duty, these shooters would have been unable to carry out their mass murders.  The recent mass shooting at the Parkland school is noteworthy in that principled citizens DID warn law enforcement -- at county and federal levels -- and their repeated warnings were outrageously ignored!

It is controversial, but the ACLU during the 1980's worked to strip away laws that allowed for mentally ill people to be involuntarily committed to mental health care facilities.  Popular movies such as "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" inflamed public passions.

Until we are willing to have honest discussions about mental health care, it is specious to argue about toughening gun ownership laws.  Let's first get serious about putting known mental illness and criminal conviction data into the existing FBI national background check database.

4.  Get violent criminals off the streets.  Again, who can logically argue against this!  And yet, the very municipal governments with the worst murder rates, such as Chicago, feature outrageously lenient judges, who erect a revolving door policy on gang members.  Gangs are by far the single greatest source of violent crime, especially murder. 

The NRA has championed what it calls "Project Exile" which Richmond, Virginia adopted decades ago with considerable success.  The idea is to adopt mandatory tough sentences to apply against violent criminals who use firearms.  This takes these criminals off the streets, and sharply reduces violent crimes.  The overriding truth is that violent criminals are a recidivist bunch!  Only a very small portion of citizens are violent criminals, but those few are responsible for the vast majority of violent crime.  Violent criminals must be sentenced to very long prison sentences, and serve out their full measure.

Again, quoting federal crime statistics, 67.5% of convicted violent criminals are arrested again for additional violent crimes!  About 45% of violent crimes are carried out by people who are under some form of probation or early release from prison.  Finally, in 1991, 13,200 homicides were carried out by felons on parole or probation from previous violent crime convictions -- roughly half of all national homicides carried out in that year!  This is not an outlier, but validated by analysis of other years.

In summary, the statistics clearly show that what gun control advocates call for would increase violent crimes, not reduce them.  One must then ask what they are really for.  Cynically, many are actually in favor of control over private citizens.

The Second Amendment puts the primary responsibility for law and order, and the protection of liberty, on the citizens of the United States.  Yes, law enforcement and the military remain necessary.  But, for America to remain free, it must enjoy a robust citizenry who champions liberty, and remains willing to defend it, both from violent criminals, but also from corrupt people, who's real goal is the diminishment of that liberty.

-- Ken Stallings

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