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Michael Swartz / October 6, 2017

Stepping Back From the Crime Scene

Statistics on guns and gun crime can easily be manipulated for leftist ends. Let’s sort through the clutter.

As is their practice after a shooting with casualties on a mass scale, leftists are blaming the guns for the behavior of a man who obviously lost sight of the commandment, “You shall not murder.” And while we mourn the victims, the mainstream media seems preoccupied with the possibility of multiple shooters and the need to ban “bump stocks.” Many folks have also lost sight of the big picture: Statistically, we’re at far greater risk in a hospital than at a public concert like Sunday night’s Route 91 Harvest festival in Las Vegas.

One statistician, in fact, concluded that the gun control measures being proposed would be rather ineffective in addressing the problem. Leah Libresco, who is described by The Washington Post as “a statistician and former newswriter at FiveThirtyEight, a data journalism site,” came to this realization as part of a large effort by her former employer — something FiveThirtyEight reminded us of this week — to analyze all 33,000 deaths by firearm in a particular year. She makes the case that “bump stocks,” bans on so-called “assault rifles,” and even gun buybacks would do little good when the largest portions of gun deaths involve their usage as “suicide machines” or as a method for young gangbangers to settle scores.

“But, but,” stammers the Left, “look at how little gun violence there is in Australia — a place where certain types of guns were confiscated under penalty of law two decades ago after their own mass shooting.” While it’s true that no significant mass shootings have since occurred in Australia, a 2016 study by three Australian researchers found the data was inconclusive regarding the effects of the gun buyback: “Following enactment of gun law reforms in Australia in 1996, there were no mass firearm killings through May 2016. There was a more rapid decline in firearm deaths between 1997 and 2013 compared with before 1997 but also a decline in total nonfirearm suicide and homicide deaths of a greater magnitude. Because of this, it is not possible to determine whether the change in firearm deaths can be attributed to the gun law reforms.”

Moreover, as Corey Iacono of the Foundation for Economic Education points out, another study that used the adjacent island nation of New Zealand — where there are fewer restrictions on guns — as a control found that both had roughly the same decline in mass shootings. “Gun control advocates have built their entire case about Australian gun control on lazy data analysis, or perhaps no data analysis at all,” argues Iacono. “If anything, Australia proves the complete opposite of what advocates of gun control want.”

He added, “A national gun confiscation scheme which reduced the civilian firearm stock by an astounding twenty percent and nobody can seem to find any clear evidence it caused a meaningful effect on the firearm murder rate? That’s not only embarrassing, it goes against everything they believe about the nature of the relationship between guns and murder rates.”

Then, when we consider this longstanding fact that more guns have yielded less crime, leftists’ case really begins to unravel. Not that they’ll stop shouting from the rooftops about it anyway — their newest cause is to repeal the Second Amendment. Our response? Molon labe.

The leftist viewpoint — shared, apparently, by the New York Times’ token “conservative,” Bret Stephens — doesn’t come close to meeting the smell test. Stephens’ anti-gun prejudices lead him to use faulty numbers, including counting five years’ worth of murder statistics to give himself a number that finally exceeds the annual toll in auto accidents. Even at this emotion-driven moment, this is all the gun-grabbers have.

Should we remind them yet again that stridently anti-gun Europe, whose elites would love to see our pesky Second Amendment consigned to the dustbin of history, suffers more mass shootings on a statistical basis than the U.S. does? Europe’s restrictions don’t allow a good guy with a gun to stop a bad guy with one. As we often point out, when seconds count, the police are only minutes away. Stephen Paddock reportedly spent about 11 minutes firing at the crowd before a security guard finally made it to his room. Local police were even further behind.

In the wake of the Las Vegas massacre, Congress will certainly feel pressured to “do something,” with the most likely outcome a feel-good ban on bump stocks. Even the NRA doesn’t have a problem considering that, and a Republican lawmaker already has the bill set to go.

Despite the statistics that have shown a trend toward more security, our government cannot make us perfectly safe — though armed citizens certainly have made us safer. Even if the government took away all the so-called “assault weapons,” deranged individuals bent on causing mass casualties would find a way to do so. One need look no further than the 85 people mowed down last year by a jihadi with a truck in Nice, France.

Incidents like these are a problem of evil. Instead of debating the repeal of the Second Amendment — which was, after all, placed in the Bill of Rights as a check against a tyrannical government having all the firepower — we should be discussing the lack of self-control that our culture seems to encourage. There are still many laws on the books that extend the command of “you shall not murder,” and perhaps the first order of business should be to restore a much-needed respect for life.

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