Exploding the Mythology of the Pro-Gun Zealots

In a mere two pages, Mother Jones magazine does a magnificant job of exploding much of the false information peddled by pro-gun zealots, committed to opposition to any and all restrictions on possession of firearms. (See Dave Gibson, “Hits and Myths,” Mother Jones, March/April 2013).

Myth #1: They’re coming for your guns.  Fact-check: Law enforcement and the military own about 4 million guns: 3 million for the military and 1 million for law enforcement. Exact breakdown of weapon types unknown. Civilians own an estimated 310 million among roughly 80 million gunowners: a ratio of 79 to 1.

Myth #2: Guns don’t kill people — people kill people. Fact-check: The states with the highest gun ownership rates have a gun murder rate 114 percent higher than those with the lowest gun ownership rates. Mother Jones supplies a graph showing gun ownership vs. gun deaths (by state), which puts Hawaii and Massachusetts near the bottom left of the graph and Wyoming and Montana near the top right.*

Myth #3: An armed society is a polite society. Fact-check: Drivers who carry guns are 44 percent more likely than unarmed drivers to make obscene gestures at other motorists and 77 percent more likely to follow them aggressively.

Among Texans convicted of serious crimes, those with concealed-handgun licenses were sentenced for threatening someone with a firearm 4.8 times more than those without.

Stand Your Ground and other laws making it easier to shoot someone in claimed self-defense have been linked to a 7 to 10 percent increase in homicides.

Myth #4: Good guys with guns can stop rampaging bad guys. Fact-check: There have been zero mass shootings stopped by armed civilians in the past 30 years.

Myth #5: Keeping a gun at home makes you safer, Fact-check: For every time a gun is used in self-defense in the home, there are 7 assaults or murders, 11 suicide attempts, and 4 accidents involving guns in or around the house.##

43 percent of homes with guns and kids have at least one unlocked firearm. In one experiment, one-third of 8-to-12-year-old boys who found a firearm pulled the trigger.

Myth #6: Carrying a gun for self-defense makes you safer. Fact-check: In 2011, nearly 10 times more people were shot and killed in arguments than by civilians trying to stop a crime.

In one survey, nearly 1 percent of Amercans reported using a gun to defend themselves or their property; however, a closer look at their claims found that more than 50 percent involved using guns in an aggressive manner such as escalating an argument.###

A Philadelphia study found that the odds of an assault victim being shot were 4.5 times greater if he carried a gun. His odds of being killed were 4.2 times greater. 

Myth #7: Guns make women safer. Fact-check: 6 times more women were shot by husbands, boyfriends and ex-partners than murdered by male strangers.

A women’s chances of being killed by her abuser increase more than 7 times if he has access to a gun.

Myth #8: “Vicious, violent video games” deserve more blame than guns. Fact-check: So said NRA executive vice-presidnet Wayne LaPierre after Newtown. So what’s up with Japan? Per capita spending on video games is $44 in the U.S. and $55 in Japan. Civilian firearms per 100 people is 88 in the U.S. and 0.6 in Japan. Gun homicides in 2008 were 11,030 in the U.S. and 11 in Japan.

Myth #9: More and more Americans are becoming gun owners. Fact-check: More guns are being sold but they’re owned by a shrinking portion of the population. About 50 percent of Americans said they had a gun in their homes in 1973. Today, about 45 percent say they do. Overall, 35 percent of Americans own guns.

80 percent of gun owners are men. On average, they own 7.9 guns each.

Myth #10: We don’t need more gun laws — we just need to enforce the ones we have. Fact-check: Weak laws and loopholes backed by the gun lobby make it easier to get guns  illegally.

Around 40 percent of all legal gun sales involve private sellers and don’t rquire background checks. 40 percent of prison inmates who used guns in their crimes got them that way. 

An investigation found 62 percent of online gun sellers were willing to sell to buyers who said they couldn’t pass a background check.

20 percent of licensed California gun dealers agreed to sell handguns to researchers posing as illegal “straw” buyers.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has not had a permanent director for 6 years, due to an NRA-backed requirement that the Senate approve nominees.

* When I was a village trustee in University Park, Illinois, I introduced a handgun ban modeled on the one in Morton Grove, Illinois. On doing research for my legislation, I learned from annual FBI graphs that violent crimes — murders, assaults and rapes — were much lower per capita in regions with relatively strong gun laws, such as the Northeast, compared with regions with relatively weak gun laws, such as the South and the Southwest.

** The two signature studies of home defense firearms in urban areas were done in Detroit and Cleveland. These studies found that for every intruder shot by a home defense gun, 4 to 6 family members or visitors to the home were shot.

### The claim that hundreds of thousands or even a few million Americans use firearms in self-defense every year is contradicted by annual FBI reports that show well under 1,000 documented cases of self-defense use of firearms.

Personal anecdotes of myself and likely numerous other people are in order here. I come from a family of 9 children and a very large extended family; also, I have lived in a number of states in my 78 years on this earth. I know of only one instance in which another person with whom I have had more than casual contact has made a claim of firearms self-defense: a fellow trustee on the University Park village board said she shot through her door at someone rattling her doorknob. She apparently didn’t hit anyone and it may have been a case of a drunk mistaking her home for his or hers. 

What is most striking to me in what has been presented above, is the 11 gun deaths in Japan, compared to the more than 11,000 in the United States. If the slogan that guns don’t kill people — people kill people — is true, than U.S. citizens most be far more violent that Japanese citizens.

Sources and more detail that provided above may be garnered at motherjones.com/gun-myths.




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