September 20, 2005


Question: How can you tell the Star/Tribune editorial board is lying about civilian gun ownership?

Answer: Their presses are rolling.

Monday's Strib editorial, as usual, carries water for Rebecca Thoman and Citizens for a Supine "Safer" Minnesota.

Like most such editorials - and the Strib has done dozens in the past twenty years - it's hard to decide if they're merely getting bogus information, or actively lying to the people.

Read it. You be the judge.

Naturally, you can count on the likes of Rebecca Thoman to jump on the tragedy of Neil Mahmoud - the Apple Valley clerk who apparently accidentally shot himself - before the body was figuratively cold:

Neil Mahmoud had every reason to live. Newly married and on the verge of a career as a computer programmer, the 23-year-old student saw little peril in his job at an Apple Valley convenience store. The job entailed ejecting the occasional troublemaker, of course, and just this July Mahmoud tossed out two young men who tried to rob the place with a pellet gun. But the neighborhood was regarded as supremely safe, and locals were shocked late last month when Mahmoud was found on the shop floor bleeding to death from a gunshot wound. How could such horror invade a tranquil town?
Leaving aside accidents?

How could horrors invade Littleton, Colorado? Red Lake or Cold Spring, Minnesota? Pearl, Mississippi? A workaday commuter train on Long Island? A backwater cafeteria in Lubbock, Texas? A McDonald's in San Ysidro, California?

The crimes, and tragedies, in that little paragraph accounted for over fifty lives; aside from the criminals who put each of those places on the map, not a single person involved knew the "horrors" that were about to "invade", and end, their lives when they walked into the school, through the turnstile, up to the buffet or back to their table on those fateful days.

In each of those cases, the only thing that could have prevented some of those many, many deaths would have been a law-abiding citizen with a gun. And in dozens of cases a day - 2.5 million cases a year, according to Gary Kleck of the U of Florida - it's a citizen with a gun who averts horrors great and small; by showing a gun to scare away a rapist; by winging the robber for the cops to catch later; by holding the sniper at bay until police arrive; by killing the would-be copycat mass-murderer - that, rather that pietistic posturing, is how life's horrors are turned away.

A parallel on a national scale; during the 1920s and '30s, nations like Norway and the Netherlands counted on piety and even-handed relativism to protect them from the scourge of war; their both figured that relentless pacifism combined with blinkered neutrality would save them from the Nazis invaders. They were wrong - and had the sense to learn from the horrible lesson. Whatever their shortcomings, both armed themselves very heavily against the Soviets. The lesson? Pious pronouncements about non-violence and a buck will buy you a cup of coffee.

So too with crime.

But this, we find, isn't about crime. It's about an accident.

No matter - the Strib lies about accidents, too. Read on.

It invaded not because a criminal came to call, but because the store's owner had recently purchased a gun. The weapon was meant to deter robbers and protect employees, but -- as too often is the case -- ended up underwriting a tragedy. The person who shot Mahmoud, police have determined, wasn't an intruder. All evidence suggests that Mahmoud shot himself -- accidentally.
Let's make one thing perfectly clear; nobody who doesn't know how to use a firearm should be around them. Basic safety training is imperative. No two ways about it. We don't know the whole story, but at face value it would seem Mr. Mahmoud didn't get any, or enough, or he had one of those slipups that, tragically, kill so many people every year, via falling in the bathtub, driving down the street, riding a bicycle, playing golf in the rain or eating chewy foods (many of which kill many more than firearms accidents, by the way).
The accident may seem a fluke, a rare and unfortunate happenstance hardly worth a second thought. In truth, Mahmoud's needless death vividly illustrates the folly of counting on guns for safety. Thousands of accidental gun deaths occur in this country every year. The key to reducing the number is clear.
It is, indeed, clear. The number can be reduced by thousands... giving the true number.

According to the CDC, the number of accidental firearms deaths (and indeed firearms deaths of all kinds) have been dropping - and by no means equal "thousands", plural, under any circumstances. A cursory Google shows there were there were under a thousand accidental firearm deaths in the US in 1997, and the rate is dropping. The NRA notes, with my emphasis added:

Firearm accident deaths are at an all-time annual low, nationally and among children, while the U.S. population is at an all-time high. In 2002, there were 762 such deaths nationally, including 60 among children. Today, the odds are more than a million to one against a child in the U.S. dying from a firearm accident.
Every single one of those accidents was a tragedy. But the Strib is wrong; there are not "Thousands" of accidental deaths, not even one thousand. But with the number of guns in American increasing faster than the left's hysteria about them, the only way accidental shootings are a growing plague is among those really committed to smearing the law-abiding firearm owner and creating a perception of facts that do not exist.

Enter the Strib:

More than a decade ago, a study from the New England Journal of Medicine found that private gun ownership heightens a household's risk of homicide threefold and raises the likelihood of suicide five times above that of a gun-free household.
And about ten minutes after that study was released, it was roundly debunked - or, more accurately, the out-of-context conclusion that the mainstream media reported as fact was torn apart, to the point where knowledgeable opponents of civilian firearm use stopped citing the NEJM study.

I said "knowledgeable". The Strib editorial board doesn't qualify - and they don't want you to qualify, either.

The study said that a firearm in the household was 43 times as likely to kill a family member or someone known to the gun's owner as it was to kill an intruder or criminal. That was the "conclusion" drawn by the media.

The facts were these:

  • The survey was far from comprehensive. In fact, it included exactly one county - King County, Washington. The "study", in other words, covered the inner city of Seattle itself. Inner cities add a lot of contributing factors to both accidental deaths and homicides; intellectual honesty demands that one account for them in such "studies"; the media that disingenuously or ignorantly quoted the "43 to 1" ratio exercised no intellectual honesty.
  • Of the "43" in the "43 to 1" ratio, well over half were suicides. Tragic, to be sure - but suicide is generally a product of deep-seated emotional problems. And those who kill themselves with firearms are generally not those who are "looking for attention"; they want out, now. Tragic, to be sure, but no more so than those who jump from bridges or ram their cars into bridge abutments.
  • Of the remaining deaths in the "43", the vast majority were people "known" to the gun's owner. Unstated in the media - while "knowing" the victim included a few accidental shootings and a few tragic murders, it also included drug dealers shooting other drug dealers (they knew each other!). It included a number of homicides that were later termed justifiable, including a number of women shooting abusive and estranged spouses. It included every shooting where the victim had any acquaintance, fair or foul, with the gun's owner! For every accident or wrongful death of an innocent person, there were several criminal-on-criminal "acquaintance" shootings.
  • The "study" was incredibly bloodthirsty; it only counted as "good" shootings where a criminal (completely unknown to the gun owner) was killed. Incidents where the perpetrator was wounded, driven off, or deterred do not show up in the survey - but that, indeed, is the result that most self-defense shooters strive for; to wave the gun and have the attacker just go away.
  • The study also does not control for the criminal records, or drug and alcohol use, in the households being studied. Taking NEJM's numbers, and controlling for crime records, alcohol and drug abuse in the household, as well as projected uses of firearms to deter crime (using the most conservative numbers available, those from the FBI). While a firearm in the home of someone with a criminal record, a drinking problem or a drug problem was about equally as likely to kill an acquaintance (criminal or innocent) as it was to deter a crime, a gun in a household with no criminal record or substance problems a gun was over 400 times as likely to deter as to kill anyone (without even reckoning things like justifiable homicides and self-defense shootings).
Two canards up, two canards down.

And we're just getting started:

In short, having a gun close at hand is generally more dangerous than not having one. Plain logic suggests that this is true not just on the home front but in the workplace as well -- and research bears out the speculation.
"Research" refutes this speculation pretty spectacularly.
Workplace violence has become an American commonplace, and those who study it insist that blessing the presence of guns on the job can only bring more bloodshed.

A "commonplace?"

And who are those researchers doing the insisting?

Name them. Publish their studies. What are you afraid of, Star/Tribune Editorial board - that we, the people, are going to get your data and Rather it?

As researcher Dean Schaner has argued in a book about employer liability, "It is far more foreseeable that an employee will be injured in a workplace full of guns and an environment reminiscent of the Old West, than one in which weapons are prohibited."

In other words, the data doesn't exist (and we've shown that it doesn't!), but it could happen?

What are the numbers? What is the basis of Dean Schaner's claim?

All tragedies give rise to a flood of "if onlies." Surely all who cared for Neil Mahmoud are consumed with thoughts about how his life might have been saved. Yet such thoughts should preoccupy not just those mourning this charming young man, but all Minnesotans. This tragedy teaches a lesson to which employers -- and all of us -- should hold fast: To keep the workplace safe, banish weapons.
Which is, of course, poppycock.

Research is fairly conclusive that firearms deter crime, and that resisting a lethal attack (armed robbery, kidnapping, aggravated assault, assault with a deadly weapon and rape) with a firearm is about a seventh as likely to result in your dying than not resisting.

No, what research - the kind of thing the Strib editorial board seems to abjure, in favor of rote regurgitation of "data" from "Citizens for a Supine "Safer" Minnesota" - shows is that guns in the workplace are a fine idea, as long as people know how to handle them safely .

And research also shows that the Star/Tribune is the last place to go for facts on this issue.

Posted by Mitch at September 20, 2005 06:33 AM | TrackBack

Minneapolis homeowner shoots burglar (KSTP-TV)

A south Minneapolis homeowner shot a man suspected of breaking into his house, according to police...

The burglary suspect is being treated at Hennepin County Medical Center, and is expected to live. The homeowner is not expected to face charges, according to one Minneapolis police officer.

The odds this will get reported by the STrib: zero.

Posted by: Gideon at September 20, 2005 06:50 AM

accidental shootings do kill thousands a year. they kill a schoolroom full of kids a week. its time to stop.

besides, guns just make up for other deficiencies.

Posted by: Mel at September 20, 2005 11:40 AM

Just saw Lord of War this weekend with Nicholas Cage.....actually with Jordan, but Nick was in the movie....I love the opening line.

" in twelve people own a firearm.....the question do we arm the other eleven...."

Now that the smoking bans have left me without a job....does anyone know how I can start a career in gun running? there a correspondence course?.....

Posted by: marcus aurelius at September 20, 2005 12:29 PM

It's HIGH TIME we put an end to this! Then we can focus on the very real threat of back yard swimming pools. Bicycling and skating WITHOUT HELMETS! Motorized vehicles of all types. Transfat! Ultraviolet radiation! And the worst evil of all - unrestrained stupidity.
Where'd my nanny go?

Posted by: Kermit at September 20, 2005 12:36 PM

Looks like I've got another one to add to my list of statements that instantly discredit the speaker ( "Wild West" references in discussions about firearms.

Should have thought of that one right away, to be honest.

Posted by: Steve G. at September 20, 2005 12:37 PM

Can't we start a new rule, paralle to Godwin's Law: The first person who invokes The Wild West in a discussion about guns automatically loses and is banned from future discussions for life.


Posted by: nathan bissonette at September 20, 2005 02:04 PM

Let's start a new rule, parallel to Godwin's Law: The first person who invokes The Wild West in a discussion about guns automatically loses and is banned from future discussions for life.


Posted by: nathan bissonette at September 20, 2005 02:04 PM

I like it...and I would name it Bissonette's Law but that just takes far too long to type.

And by virtue of having a short name Mitch gets it. I declare it Berg's Law.

Posted by: Kevin at September 20, 2005 11:42 PM
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