Why Would People Oppose Firearm Safety?

Gun laws will not eradicate mass shootings. But making crime a little bit harder to commit can make it much rarer. That's a good thing, right?

The reasoning behind opposition to gun safety laws baffles me.

 For nearly a century after its founding the National Rifle Association was among America's foremost pro-gun control organizations.[1] I just don't get it. In order to more fairly represent the position of the NRA, I'll let it speak for itself.  Wayne
LaPierre, Executive Vice President and CEO of the National Rifle Association
(NRA)  said on January 22, 2013

He [the President] wants to put every private, personal firearms transaction right under the thumb of the federal government. He wants to keep all of those names in a massive federal registry.  There's only two reasons for a federal list on gun owners: to either tax 'em or take 'em.  That's the only reasons.  And anyone who says that's excessive, President Obama says that's an absolutist."[2]

On Oct. 5, 2012 when LaPierre announced the NRA Victory Fund's endorsement of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney he asked,

Does anyone trust an Obama Administration in the second term to be anywhere near negotiating with a club of governments called the United Nations on our freedom?  ... That U.N. plan is about global agencies monitoring, surveillance, supervision, lists, all institutionalized within the bureaucracy of the United Nations... I guarantee this if your glass breaks at 2:00 a.m. at night somewhere from some criminal, you all know that those baby blue helmets of the U.N. aren't going to be there to protect ya and neither is President Obama or [U.S. Attorney General] Eric Holder. What will protect ya is our freedom that we have here in the united States under the Second Amendment to the Constitution.[3]

But while the 15-page document released by the White House outlining the President's gun proposals does contain a plan to expand background checks to include all gun sales and transfers "with limited, common-sense exceptions for cases like certain transfers between family members and temporary transfers for hunting and sporting purposes", it makes no mention of changing the existing law to create a federal gun registry.  LaPierre talks about what he thinks the
President wants as though the President has said he wants it!  I hate it when people attribute their ideas to me as though those ideas were mine!

And anyway, does the NRA really believe that what stands between the might of a rogue United   States military and our freedom is private gun ownership? As my granddaughter would say, "ROTFL". But assume the worst.  The people in Tunisia, a police state which had the lowest firearm ownership in the world (one gun per thousand citizens, compared to America's 890), was able to topple a brutal, 24-year dictatorship and spark the Arab Spring!  And the early colonies were able
to claim independence from the then strongest country in the world (Great Britain) with only 1/3 of the population supporting the revolution!

Another thing I don't understand is why the NRA is against studying gun violence. Once, the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control was dedicated to addressing gun violence as a matter of public health.  But gun rights advocates accused the CDC of practicing politics, so Congress cut the agency's  funding for gun-related research.[4] 

The National Academy of Sciences, however, has published some interesting research on the relationship between firearms and violence.  Empirical research on firearms and violence has resulted in some important findings that can inform policy decisions. 

For example, higher rates of  household firearms ownership are associated with higher rates of gun suicide; illegal diversions from legitimate commerce are important sources of crime guns and guns used in suicide; firearms are used defensively many times a day; and some types of targeted police interventions may effectively lower gun crime and violence.  On the other hand, the committee found no credible evidence that the passage of right-to-carry laws
either decreased or increased violent crime.[5] Why would the NRA be against learning that?

If the United  States would fund good research, we could save a great deal of time and trouble. Take New York.  Starting in the 1990's New York started its 80% decline in rates of serious crime that is unprecedented in modern American history.  And there's no good explanation because there were no obvious changes in population, economy, education, or criminal justice sanctions. They can't explain it!  In the 1980's it had been thought that fatherless high-risk youth and widespread availability of illegal drugs caused the high crime rates, but none of those variables had changed over the two decades that crime dropped, and New York reduced its rate of incarceration while imprisonment and jailing continued to increase elsewhere in the United States![6]  All the easy answers had been wrong!

What did emerge in Zimring's study was a new credibility of police as agents of crime prevention...not longer incarceration, but a focus on harm reduction.  More about this in my next article.

I still don't understand why the NRA would believe that it's easier to ask an elementary  school teacher to stand up to a crazed gunman with an AR-15 than to make some simple rules about preventing felons and people with a history of mental illness! 

Certainly new laws will not prevent all the deaths by firearms of mass destruction, but, as the New York Police Department found through empirical evidence and better organization, making crime even a little bit harder made it much, much rarer. This is also true even of crimes committed by people who are delusional.

Ten years after the attempt on his life, Ronald Reagan wrotean op-ed article in support of the Brady bill. Published in the New York Times on March 21, 1991, it said,

...if the passage of the Brady bill were to result in a reduction of only 10 or 15 percent of those numbers [those killed by handguns], it would be well worth making it the law of the land.

WHY would anybody disagree with that?

Rosenfeld, Steven. "The Surprising Unknown History of the NRA".
January 13, 2013


[3] op cit

[4] CDC:
Gun-Violence Research Restricted by Politics. December 20, 2012http://www.governing.com/templates/gov_print_article?id=184267131

Wellford, C., Pepper, J; Petrie, C. Eds., Committee on Law and Justice,
National Research Council. Firearms and Violence: A Critical Review,  2004. ISBN: 978-0-309-09124-4.

[6] Zimring, Franklin, The City that Became Safe: New   York's Lessons for Urban Crime and Its Control. Oxford University Press, 2012.

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John Lovaas March 01, 2013 at 09:49 PM
Dave R, I didn't say assault weapons were the problem. I concede your point. In fact, the vast majority --97% or so-- of the killings and maimings are committed by folks with handguns not assault weapons. Yes, handguns should be the focal point. Why aren't they do you suppose? How would you propose to reduce the gun violence?
Dave reston March 01, 2013 at 11:00 PM
John, I guess my question was more rhetorical. Why are people killing each other? Shouldn't that be the bigger picture kind of question? Not the means in which they are doing so. I guess in a utopian world, you can outlaw guns and everyone loves each other, and we would have no problems, but you and I both know that isn't the case. Marijuana has been illegal for decades; and how long have people been illegally buying, selling, smoking marijuana? The people doing this have been knowingly breaking law. So if we outlaw guns, what happens? You think people who have no regard for the law will say to themselves "ok, guns are illegal, I won't rob this bank, or this person since guns are now illegal?" There is a huge flaw in logic there! As far as why handguns aren't the focal point for legislation, I can't tell you. My point was that there is a huge lack of logic in the way anti-gun people think. They go after "assault weapons" when they are obviously not the biggest problem. Tell me this; do you own a kitchen knife? Would you go and stab people with it? Probably not, right? 99% of gun owners wouldn't go shooting people, for the same reason you wouldn't go stabbing people. Owning a kitchen knife or a gun is not the problem.
DGeorge March 02, 2013 at 02:24 AM
John, why wouldn't you concentrate your efforts on the 8,800 firearm deaths caused by gang banger related killings? It is not a problem of inanimate objects such as guns but rather a cultural problem relating to tribal conflicts between rival tribes, such as those in Chicago, Detroit and DC. The great number of firearm deaths (19,392) are the result of suicide. Even with that number we find ourselves 34th in the world as to the number of suicides. THis 19,392 number is only part of the total of 38,364 suicides in the US annually. Where John, should we concentrate our efforts? Does it make more sense to concentrate on the 8,800 firearm deaths committed by gang bangers or the few deaths commited by rifles? It is not a question of the type of weapon being used but much more on who is using, and why. Please tell me where I have gone wrong in my thinking.
Sally Singer Brodsky March 16, 2013 at 06:05 PM
I actually did mention the crime in the cities. I cited a book with actual data about crime in big cities. Franklin Zimring, "The City That Became Safe. New York's Lessons for Urban Crime and Its Control", Oxford Press, 2012. ISBN 978-0-19-984442-5. Crime in New York from the 1990's declined 80% and it's stayed that way. It happened with many small changes including some with the New York Police. Not talking about erasing guns or eliminating all suicides or homicides. Just talking about reducing their number and, perhaps, preventing the death of children.
George Lyon March 24, 2013 at 01:04 PM
Sally, if you really want to reduce violence, do the following: Get rid of the war on drugs; enact shall issue concealed carry laws; stop releasing violent mentally unstable persons on the population; teach people to take responsibility for their safety through being situationally aware; teach kids to have respect for themselves and others; and teach them not to do stupid things with stupid people at stupid places.


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