These 5 arguments against gun control are all wrong

Orlando attack and the Dallas tragedy were followed by pro-gun arguments that have no relation with empirical reality. 

After the Orlando attack last month and yesterday's attack against police officers in Dallas the gun control debate was back on the table. The National Rifle Association and its allies have a post-shooting routine which consists on waiting a day or two and attack gun control advocates with five common pro-gun arguments.

1. A good guy with a gun would have stopped it

In response to the Orlando attack Trump said mused, “If you had guns on the other side, you wouldn’t have had the tragedy that you had.” It is making reference to NRA's mantra the “only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

But research shows a different outcome. In a National Fun Victim Action Council study, 77 participants with varying firearm training were put in self defense scenarios. In the first one 7 participants shot an innocent person. Almost all were killed in the first two scenarios when they engaged "the bad guy" and in the last one 23% of the participants fire a suspect who didn't pose a threat.

In real life from the 160 active shootings identified by the FBI between 2003 and 2013 only one was stopped by an armed civilian, two by off-duty officers, four by armed guards and twenty-one by unarmed civilians.

2. Shooters target gun-free zones

Before details of the Orlando shooting were released pro gun commentators John Lott argued gun-free zones were dangerous as “it is hard to ignore how these mass public shooters consciously pick targets where they know victims won’t be able to defend themselves.”

This wasn't the case in Pulse as there was an armed police officer and he was quickly joined by two fellow officers. Instead of targeting gun-free zones there is a pattern in which shooters have a personal connection to their target locations. And when it is chosen at random there is no significant evidence that shows it is because they are gun-free zones.

3. No laws could have prevented the tragedy

Conservative writer, David French argued “The gun-control debate is nothing more than a destructive distraction” and asked rhetorically, “Is there a single viable gun-control proposal of the last decade that would keep a committed jihadist from arming himself?”

In the case of Orlando the answer is yes. In countries like Canada the gunman couldn't have obtained a license to purchase a firearm because of his history of domestic violence, mental instability and vocal support for terrorist organizations. If gun-shop owners had to notify the FBI when somebody on a terror watch list purchased a weapon agents could have investigated and perhaps prevented the attack.

And if there were restrictions to the magazine size, the shooter would have had to reload more frequently and mitigate the attack.

4. Terrorists and criminals aren't deterred by laws

NRA director Chris Cox stated, Radical Islamic terrorists are not deterred by gun control laws.” and Marco Rubio often proclaimed during his campaign, “My skepticism about gun laws is criminals don’t follow the law.”

Applying this logic, why have any laws? The NRA's reasoning is prescription for chaos and doesn't withstand contact with empirical reality.

There’s clear evidence that laws do influence criminal behavior. A study by Indiana State University shows terrorists in the US have abandoned bombs. Why? In the aftermath of Oklahoma City bombing federal legislation made it more difficult to obtain bomb-making ingredients and make it easier to monitor. Terrorists had to change their tactics and an investigation by the Trace revealed that 95% of terrorism deaths in the US between 2002 and 2015 were caused by firearms.

5. Guns are just a tool, like knives and hammers

In response to the Orlando shooting, Philip Van Cleave, leader of the Virginia Citizens Defense League, said: “Blame the bad guy, not the tool he uses. If you don’t do that, you’re just wasting your time looking for a solution where none will ever be found.”

But firearms are more lethal than other weapons, like knives, machetes or hammers. Their wounds frequently cause catastrophic damage and the ability to maintain a quick and steady rate of fire allows a gunman  to maximize casualties.

Even the most heart-wrenching acts of gun violence are now so ordinary and routine that writing a timely article about the subject has become almost impossible. One mass shooting replaces another, permitting little time for meaningful reflection or catharsis.

The recent attack in Dallas is still under investigation but there are some facts painfully clear: The shooter was reportedly armed with high-powered weaponry, was clearly undeterred by good guys with guns and indeed specifically targeted those good guys. Yet again, our country’s lax gun laws helped a bad guy unleash horrific carnage.

 

Evan DeFilippis and Devin Hughes LA Times

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