Defenses: Guns

What we’re not hearing much of after the Tucson shooting is serious talk of tighter gun control. A few people have brought it up, of course, but IMO in a half-hearted way. Because it ain’t gonna happen. Not in today’s America. And I think large chunks of the progressive Left have accepted that and don’t push it much.

Of course, the reaction of the Right is that America needs more guns. An Arizona Congressman, Rep. Trent Franks, said after the Tucson shooting, “I wish there had been one more gun in Tucson.”

But according to Timothy Egan, some people in the crowd were armed.

The only gun-carrier I can find reference to in news stories is described by law professor John J. Donohue 3rd:

Joe Zamudio, the first lawful gun carrier on the scene, came around a corner and saw a man with a gun. Zamudio “grabbed his arm and shoved him into a wall.” Thankfully, Zamudio didn’t shoot because this was not the shooter, but the person who disarmed the shooter. Zamudio, age 24, displayed further caution in that he didn’t pull out his own 9 mm handgun because “he didn’t want to be confused as a second gunman.”

You may remember that Jared Loughner was subdued while reloading by several bystanders, including a woman who grabbed the loaded magazine when Loughner fumbled and dropped it. Another bystander clubbed Loughner in the head with a folding chair, while a 74-year-old retired colonel who had just been wounded wrestled him to the ground.

Timothy Egan continues,

It defies logic, as this case shows once again, that an average citizen with a gun is going to disarm a crazed killer. For one thing, these kinds of shootings happen far too suddenly for even the quickest marksman to get a draw. For another, your typical gun hobbyist lacks training in how to react in a violent scrum

Lots of “gun hobbyists’ also don’t seem to understand that a firearm is not necessarily the self-defense tool of choice in all situations, especially in urban settings.

You might remember, back in 2000, a young woman was sexually assaulted in broad daylight on the south end of Central Park. She was in a big crowd of people gathered to watch the Puerto Rico Day parade. And when I say big crowd, it was big even by New York City standards. There were hundreds of thousands of people in the immediate vicinity, in some placed packed elbow to elbow.

So on some web forum some yahoos in Texas were smarting off about how that wouldn’t have happened to a Texas woman, because Texas women know how to shoot, or some valiant Texan male with a gun would come to her rescue, or some such nonsense. After pointing out to the yahoos that New York City had a much lower rate of forcible rape than Dallas (and still does), I tried to explain that in a crowd like that it was unlikely anyone could have gotten a clean shot at the perpetrator. And they just jeered that I obviously didn’t know what I was talking about, because guns are the solution to just about everything.

Now, I realize that there are lots of responsible gun owners out there who have a lot more sense than these goons did; the young man in Tucson with the 9mm pistol he didn’t shoot, for example. But it’s exchanges like this that make me leery of the “more guns are the solution” attitude. And I’m sorry, but it always seems that the hotheads who holler the loudest about their gawd-given right to carry anything anywhere are the last people you’d want to have handy in a crisis like Tuscon. Hooray for the guy with the folding chair, I say.

Bob Drogin wrote for the Los Angeles Times that back in the Wild West days of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday, Arizona cities like the infamous Tombstone had tougher gun laws than they do today. Then, visitors were supposed to check their guns at the sheriff’s office and pick them up when they left town. Today, however,

Arizona’s gun laws are among the most lenient in the nation. Under legislation passed last year, guns are permitted almost everywhere in the state except doctors’ offices and some businesses. It is one of three states, along with Alaska and Vermont, that allow people 21 or older to carry concealed weapons without a permit. Concealed guns may be carried into bars as long as the gun owner isn’t drinking, and guns are permitted on school grounds as long as the weapon is unloaded and the owner remains in a vehicle.

Any law-abiding citizen 18 or older may buy or possess a rifle or shotgun. To buy a handgun, federal law requires a minimum age of 21. Firearms may be sold 14 hours a day, seven days a week, except Christmas.

Arizona also has among the highest rates of firearm-related deaths of any state in the nation. Arizona ranks eighth nationally, with 15.1 deaths per 100,000 people. By comparison, the state in which you are least likely to get shot is Hawaii, with 2.6 deaths per 100,000 people.

What about the claim that more guns equals less crime? This is from Daniel Webster, a professor and the co-director at the Center for Gun Policy and Research at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health:

It is not clear that permissive right-to-carry laws haven’t increased violence. There have been numerous studies of these laws, many of which have substantial flaws. The best study was done by Ian Ayres and John Donohue, law professors at Yale and Stanford, respectively, and disaggregates the effects for each state and type of crime.

The estimates from their best models show right-to-carry laws associated with increases in 7 of 9 crimes studied, with the largest effect (+9 percent) being the crime many researchers would have hypothesized would increase – aggravated assaults.

I can already see the “gun hobbyists” reaching for their well-thumbed paperback copy of John Lott’s More Guns, Less Crime. Don’t bother, fellas; Lott’s name has become synonymous with “cherry-picked data.” See also the John Lott “alternative Q and A.”

Related: See also “Police Fear War on Cops.”

9 thoughts on “Defenses: Guns

  1. Guns are almost never used for self-defense in real life. I’m over 50; I can count on one hand the number of true instances of self-defense I’ve heard of.

  2. My brother in Sacramento years ago had someone pounding on his back door at 3AM, “They are going to kill me.” Not surprisingly, my brother did not let him in, but promised he would call the police. Despite the fact this incident was reported as a matter of life or death, the police took almost half an hour to show up – they couldn’t find the location. Thirty minutes is a long time.

    I understand that a gun is not a magic wand. It’s unlikely in your whole life you will use a gun in self-defense. Very unlikely. However, I have a gun and know how to use it and when to use it. I marvel at how few gun ranges there are, and how empty they are when I go. The most dangerous element of private gun ownership is ignorance. I support mandatory education for gun owners, because a gun is NOT a magic wand.

  3. I’m not against hunting rifles, or a small handgun for self-defense (with mandatory education, as Doug Hughes says above). It’s semi and automatics that concern me, especially those with large clips. If you need 10 bullets, either you ain’t shootin’ right, or, instead of one or two robbers, it’s the NY Knicks that have decided to invade your house.
    That walking, talking piece of human waste Phil Gramm is the gun lovers prophet. Remember his, “Ah gowt moah guns than Ah neead, buht nowt az mahny az Ah wawant.”
    Somewhere, somehow, America went from “Baseball, hot dogs, apple pie and Chevrolet,” to ‘Football, hot dogs, apple pie and the NRA.’
    It’s become almost as if your birth certificate be damned, you’re not a real citizen until you can show your NRA membership card. The NRA is basically a marketing group. But’s it’s the most powerful and influential marketing group in history.
    The left has lost this argument, and I’m not sure how we bring it back to even the level of having a rational converstation about this, let alone any real meaningful gun control.
    Maybe, instead of mandatory gun control, we ought to have everyone take mandatory classes in triage.

    • c u n d gulag — and the gun “hobbyists” will tell you that possessing full auto weapons has been illegal in the U.S for a long time. I don’t know if full auto is much of a factor here. I’d like to know if many crimes are committed in the U.S. with full auto weapons; I’d guess not many, since they’d be a lot harder to obtain than semi-auto.

      To me, the concealed carry craze is insane. I wouldn’t mind so much if people getting concealed carry licenses had training in safety and use of a firearm in critical situations, but allowing any hot-headed yahoo who wants to play Rambo to carry a concealed weapon anywhere he wants is self-evidently, um, nuts.

  4. maha,
    I don’t know squat about guns. But I think I read somewhere that there are tricks that people can use to make a semi into a full automatic.
    I leave that to people who know what the heck they’re talking about. Hopefully someone knowledgable will read this and explain it to me. I don’t want to spread nonsense, after all, I’m a Liberal not a Conservative. Help, please.

    And my concern with guns in general, and ‘concealed carry’ specifically, isn’t for all of the “Outlaw’s,” but for all of the Barney Fife’s out there who think they’re John Wayne.

    • I don’t know squat about guns. But I think I read somewhere that there are tricks that people can use to make a semi into a full automatic.

      Yes, and such a converted weapon also is illegal. I am not saying no one is doing those things, but I just want to point it out because the “hobbyists” will jump all over your ass for being ignorant of their sacred issue if you start to talk about the evils of automatic weapons. Of course, when backed into a corner, they’ll find something irrelevant to jump on your ass about to get out of it.

  5. Once again I lament the limitations of my knowledge of human pschology. There seems to be a strong element of fantasy in the conviction that a few well intentioned, well armed patriotic Americans would prevent crimes like a legion of super heroes. None of the inconvenient realities seem to intrude, like, as you mentioned, getting a clear idea of what is going on and a clear shot at the perpetrator. It’s an empowering and compelling fantasy, particularly for fearful and angry people who may feel powerless in the face of increased insecurity. Confronting this fantasy often elicits a visceral response, as you encountered with the Texans. I should be clear that I believe that the overwhelming majority of gun owners are level headed, responsible people. But, even responsible adults might have a lapse in judgment.

    When “concerned citizens” were encouraging healthy debate by carrying and displaying guns at townhall meetings and at a few events where President Obama was present. I wonder what would have happened if there had been a coincidental attempt on his life. Secret Service personnel are superbly trained, but under the circumstances things might have gotten very ugly.

    One part of the second amendment that seems to get less attention than it deserves is the adjectival phrase “well regulated” as applied to militia. I expect some of my more conservative friends will be able to explain precisely what the founding fathers meant by that.

    • There seems to be a strong element of fantasy in the conviction that a few well intentioned, well armed patriotic Americans would prevent crimes like a legion of super heroes.

      Indeed. Like I said, they’re the last people you’d want to actually show up in a crisis.

  6. “…jump all over your ass for being ignorant of their sacred issue…”

    Well, THAT I can certainly understand.
    After all, they have the monopoly and patent rights on ‘ignorance.’

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