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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Mike M February 28, 2013 at 06:46 PM
I am confident that one of the things that stands between a rogue United States military and our freedom is private gun ownership. Fortunately, there are other things that stand between rogue government and our freedoms - such as a military highly disinclined to get between us and our freedoms. Police and Federal agents have proven to be more inclined. There are many things in between bad government and our freedoms. Private gun ownership is one of them. To use your own analogy, private gun ownership was absolutely one of the things that enabled the colonials to oppose the British Empire. Your Tunisian analogy was worthless. Countries such as Tunisia have no idea how many guns are in the country and when they toppled their government there were likely many more than reported.
Mike M February 28, 2013 at 06:46 PM
I will credit your editorial for one thing, you address the issue of the Second Amendment as something intended to arm the population against its police and military. That was the main point. Few understand that in our tranquil today. Fewer will even talk about it. Unfortunately, it remains as relevant today as ever. I realize most Restonians can't fathom that. If people want to change minds, they ought to show a little respect for those who are sensitive about their Second Amendments rights. Let's be straight, the CDC and other organizations have played politics with this issue. Many organizations aim directly at banning firearms. Some admit it. At the same time the NRA would do well to speak more directly about the Second Amendment.
Mike M February 28, 2013 at 06:47 PM
Let's talk about background checks and mental illness. Who will judge the mental illness? A local political official body? Do you realize that the Soviets abused mental illness diagnoses to cow their people for half a century or more? And yeah, I have grave concerns about what sovereignty American leftists are willing to give away to the UN - a body I know well for employing the children of European nobility who have motives for hating the US that you might just object to yourself. If you want to change minds then respect the legitimate concerns of your oppositions and stop just pretending that anyone who would disagree with you is stupid. I was disgusted with gun control advocates who exploited the Newtown massacre with "arguments" such as "Isn't it time we had an intelligent conversation?" How utterly arrogant? They want dialogue and reason, then they come up with such non-starters as your "Why are they so stupid?" I get the sense they don't want dialogue and reason at all.
Mike M February 28, 2013 at 06:48 PM
. . .sorry there was a character limit.
DGeorge February 28, 2013 at 09:53 PM
So far we have had several threads on gun control. Without exception they have gone like this. First the original post that decries the ownership of weapons. Then the anti's continue to post a lot of untrue, myth based information on guns. Then when someone posts the true facts about gun ownership the thread dies as all the Anti's head for the hills. All that is left is the sound of crickets chirping. If in fact you want to have a real dialog on guns, lets have at it. I find it strange you did not include in your initial article that 2.5 million people with firearms defend themselves from violent crime annually. Included are 200,000 women defending themselves against sexual assault annually as well. Now the anti's get all huffy about the 2.5 million number, so lets use the antis' number of 1.5 million. Done by the Clinton Admin.
Connie Hartke March 01, 2013 at 01:25 AM
Isn't Ms. Brodsky writing about gun safety laws, not taking away our 2nd amendment rights? That is my interpretation of her article. Reminds me of an article from the Wall Street Journal last week. If you don't have time to read the whole article, please skip to the 5th paragraph from the end that begins "What could the NRA and the community of responsible gun owners do to reduce gun deaths without government intervention?" and read through to the end: "Taking collective responsibility for social problems is not the same thing as knuckling under to a tyrannical government. In fact, it's the opposite." http://bit.ly/GunDebate
Mike M March 01, 2013 at 03:07 AM
Connie, my point is that I simply don't trust in that. Too many gun "safety" people are really trying to erode the Second Amendment as best they can get away with. I addressed the "mental illness" issue and explained why I don't trust in it. There is room for compromise, but it has to be honest. And many, like me, will never accept an erosion of second Amendment rights. Let's say you were diagnosed with depression. Would that mean you lose your Second Amendment rights?
Dave reston March 01, 2013 at 03:59 AM
Again, deaths by ALL rifles, let alone assault rifles, are about 300 of the total 30,000 gun deaths a year. Why are anti gun rights people so adamant about making those illegal? According to FBI stats, you're more likely to get killed violently with a club, bat, tire iron or fist than an ar-15. Why doesn't anyone address the real issue that constitutes for far more gun deaths a year, which is the thug/gangbanger lifestyle in cities like chicago? If you all really cared about senseless gun-related killings, we would see a lot more blogs about that stuff, not blogs about taking guns away from already law-abiding citizens, who already follow the laws.
DGeorge March 01, 2013 at 01:07 PM
Never have I heard an anti-gun person even mention the gangbanger and thug lfestyle in the cities. Why is that? If they were really serious about curbing gun violence, that is where you would start. 500 dead in Chicago alone. Mostly young people. Come on Sally, you started this dialog lets hear from you.
John Lovaas March 01, 2013 at 01:22 PM
Well said Sally! It is amazing what a discussion of possible approaches to reducing killings -32,000 a year,- and untold thousands of mailings brings forth from the rabid right wing. Vitriol against all Europeans who've succeeded in dramatically improving the safety of their peoples in robusly democratic countries; wild, unfounded attacks on President Obama for secretly planning to take all their 300 million guns away--attacks behind which I suspect lurk less than noble motivation. It is time to talk positive solutions, including those that most gun owners will want because they, unlike the rabid ones, understand that 32,000 homicides and thousands more lives destroyed by gun violence are too many in our free society.
DGeorge March 01, 2013 at 02:01 PM
Oh, and in my post about the general direction these gun posts go I forgot to mention the usual final anti-gun post. That is the insults. When you cannot discuss the subject, it is common, (very common) for the antis' to resort to insults then run away. Nice post Lovaas, " lol "rabid right wing vitriol".
DGeorge March 01, 2013 at 02:04 PM
BTW, I do expect you to do one of two things. One, run away, Two, return with more insults. What I do not expect is for you to return with a reasoned argument and discuss and examine the problem with logic.
DGeorge March 01, 2013 at 02:20 PM
DGeorge March 01, 2013 at 03:17 PM
Now the thrust of the anti-gun people is to ban assault weapons. If only that were done the USA would be so much safer. Would it John? Would it Really? What do you think the percentage of firearms deaths by rifle are in this country? Not just assault weapons but ALL rifles. I'm going to give you some homework John, look it up and report back. Of course by now you are in the hills and cannot look anything up. But I will tell you this, you are more likely to be killed with a blunt object than to be shot with a rifle. Now, do you and Sally still think the main thrust of your anti-gun program should be to get rid of Assault rifles, or do you think attacking the 8,800 gang banger deaths would be a more profitable direction to go. We are already doing comparatively well on the suicide end of things. The counties on the suicide list have already banned firearms and their suicide rates are above ours. Hmmmm.
Dave reston March 01, 2013 at 03:46 PM
Why, AGAIN, can you not address the FACT that of the 30000 gun deaths you mention, only 300 of those are by ANY type of rifle, let alone assault rifles? Fine, I understand you want all guns made illegal and confiscated, but surely you're really not as stupid as you sound to believe that, if all of a sudden, assault rifles were illegal, our problem would be solved. Why don't you address the FBI stats?
Virginia Harlow March 01, 2013 at 04:14 PM
I'm sure it's a mistake to comment at all these days on this subject, but a phrase caught my eye I couldn't resist. "Vitriol against all Europeans who've succeeded in dramatically improving the safety of their peoples in robusly democratic countries.." Really. Violent crime records from the UK should make them blush in shame to even bother comparing with ours. Concealed carry laws have lowered violent crime and the FBI stats prove it. Vitriol. Really.
DGeorge March 01, 2013 at 04:20 PM
" Insults are the last resort of insecure people with a crumbling position trying to appear confident. " Annon
Amy March 01, 2013 at 05:34 PM
I just don't understand why people are so aghast at the idea of requiring that someone take a gun safety course and be willing to certify that they have done so in order to own a gun. After all, we are required to take driver's education and pass a test and get a license in order to operate a motor vehicle, and that (unlike a gun) is NOT designed to kill things when properly used.
DGeorge March 01, 2013 at 06:46 PM
Amy, I think you will find that law abiding citizens do have training in the use of firearms. My daughter completed a course last year. What else you will find is that gang bangers do not take firearm courses, nor do they go to the range and become proficient. They fire willy nilly at their target and generally kill an innocent bystander. Do you really believe that passing a law would force criminals to take a firearm safety course? It is the criminals on which we need to concentrate our efforts.
Mike M March 01, 2013 at 06:57 PM
John, most of the laws proposed would have not even stopped the killer at Newtown which the gun haters have been exploiting so lustily. I find it intriguing that none of the anti-gun people in here like yourself will not address the points made by the other posters. Yet the pro-Second Amendment people like the other posters stay directly on points raised by the opposition. Why is that? It's like not looking someone in the eye when you talk to them. It implies disingenuousness and talk "at rather than talking "to." I think your response is emotional rather than logical. Will these laws really stop the crimes? Will it make a dent? How do you know?
Mike M March 01, 2013 at 07:01 PM
But, Virginia, Europe is the very model of perfection for these misguided people, most of whom have only vacationed there. They are certain that the Euros know better, based primarily on their contempt for their own. Comparing Europe to the US is like comparing a tool box to a marble collection.
The Convict March 01, 2013 at 07:20 PM
Q: Why Would People Oppose Firearm Safety? A: For the same reason that they would oppose the abridgement of their Constitutional rights.
Virginia Harlow March 01, 2013 at 08:01 PM
Amy, there you go again...as all seem to who just don't understand, comparing defense of the Constitution, and our God given right to self defense YES even against an overwhelming government to driving a car? You don't see the difference? The demand for more background checks is just another way to create that all important list.....the need to check on mental state is yet another way to add people to a list and take their guns if they are just not in total agreement with the "powers" currently running the country. As has been previously stated in the thread already, history tells us how these techniques were used by totalitarian regimes to control one thing....the people. If you really feel so unsafe, check the FBI stats yourself, don't just take our word for it. You are more likely to die falling down than being shot with a semiautomatic long or short gun! Oh, and guns are not designed to kill....they are tools of defense in the hands of people who may need to STOP someone from killing them. It's not guns that kill. Far more people die by car every year.
The Convict March 01, 2013 at 09:49 PM
I guess your position isn't clear to me, Virginia. Do you not think that we should not allow the mentally ill and the convicted felons from owning firearms? Because if you do believe in such prohibitions, then you necessarily believe in some government's right to restrict and interpret the 2nd Amendment. If so, then, we're only quibbling about how much of a right the government can administer the firearm laws. (Note: The 2nd Amendment doesn't restrict gun ownership to felons and the mentally ill.)
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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