Rocky Mountain News Runs Anti-Gun Mud Slinging
by Ari Armstrong, September 1999
According to Molly Ivins, gun rights advocates are "gun-nuts" who advance "ideologically tainted research." But as Ivins's omissions and misrepresentations make clear, her accusations amount to little more than ad hominem attacks, and the ideological subversion of truth lies more with her presentation.
Ivins is a columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram whose piece, "Deflecting gun nuts' best shots," appeared in the August 25, 1999 Rocky Mountain News.
Even the title of Ivins's article is inaccurate. She counters only the worst argument made against gun control, and she flagrantly misrepresents other arguments.
Let's start with Ivins's best point, and watch her go downhill from there. She says the National Rifle Association is hypocritical in arguing for better enforcement of gun control laws now on the books, when the NRA actively opposed those laws when they were first introduced. Ivins makes a good point here. However, she fails to properly interpret the significance of her point.
Ivins refers to the NRA as "the gun-nut lobby," as if it were the only voice for gun rights. But in fact the NRA is only one of hundreds of pro-gun organizations across the nation that advance the right of self-defense. Nationally, the more consistent Gun Owners of America competes with the NRA and frequently criticizes that organization's compromises. Many gun rights advocates do not agree with the argument that the gun control laws now on the books should be better enforced. Many instead call to repeal those gun control laws. In ignoring this point, Ivins attacks a straw-man.
Ivins also fails to note that the argument, "the laws on the books should be better enforced," can mean something other than an advocacy of modern gun control laws. The statement could mean that one supports more enforcement of laws aimed directly at violent crime, not more enforcement of gun control laws. So we ought not conflate these two distinct arguments.
I myself have referred to the fact that the Federal government doesn't enforce its own anti-gun laws, but in doing so I wasn't arguing that it should enforce those laws. Rather, my argument was that, because those who favor more gun controls don't even bother to enforce the gun control laws on the books, we may be suspicious of the motives of anti-gun leaders. They don't seem to see their incremental gun controls as ends in themselves, but rather as a means to advance their ultimate (and explicit) goal of firearms confiscation. This is a fair argument which Ivins misses.
As I said, Ivins's critique of the NRA is her best argument. She also makes fun of Thomas Sowell's advocacy of concealed carry, but without coming to terms with Sowell's case. She admits she's flippant in writing, "My gun-nut friends often tell me these mass shootings wouldn't happen if more people carried concealed weapons. How right they are: If those 5-year-olds in Los Angeles had just been packing, none of 'em would have gotten hurt."
What disrespect for the truth! No one, including Thomas Sowell, has advocated arming young children. Rather, Sowell's argument is that if adults are better-armed, they will be able to protect children. (Not even Colorado's radical L. Neil Smith advocates arming young children, but only older ones.)
And Ivins never once mentions the reasons gun rights advocates give for believing more concealed gun carriers will reduce violence. Three such reasons are most common. First, in Israel, armed parents now greet students as they come to school. Terrorist acts against schools in Israel have since dropped to zero. Second, in fact two of the school shootings in recent years were stopped by adults with guns -- even though it was illegal for the adults to have the guns. Third, the recent string of school shootings have taken place when Federal laws have prevented adults from carrying guns in schools, a correlation which should give one pause.
Ivins's most sensational charge is that John Lott's More Guns, Less Crime "has now been debunked so many times that it's irresponsible to quote it as though it proved anything." Ivins characterizes Lott's book as just one example of "ideologically tainted research," which is ironic because those who have allegedly debunked the book are themselves ideologically motivated. While it is true that the attempt has been made numerous times to debunk Lott's book, the debate still rages. For Ivins to claim at this point that Lott's work has been "debunked" is a bit like claiming the Catholic Church "debunked" Galileo's theory that the earth revolves around the sun.
(For more on the debate on Lott's book, see http://www.best.com/~ddfr/Lott_v_Teret/Lott_Mustard_Controversy.html.)
(Note: John Lott replied to Ivins's article in a Speakout column in The Rocky Mountain News September 3. He addressed every point Ivins brought up in relation to his book and showed her to be in error on each point. Lott wrote, "My study has been harshly criticized by people like Ivins, who apparently have never read my book, but it certainly hasn't been debunked. Everyone who has tried has been able to replicate my findings...)
Besides, the case for uninfringed gun ownership does not rest solely with Lott's book, which covers only statistics on states which have passed concealed carry laws. That book presents but a piece of the evidence. Other evidence abounds. Towns that require adults to arm themselves see a minuscule violent crime rate. Australia, which recently banned guns, saw a significant increase in home break-ins, armed robbery, assault, and homicide. In the United States, armed citizens prevent crime an estimated 700,000 to 2.5 million times per year. Unequivocally, this proves that MORE GUNS means LESS CRIME (not to mention fewer criminals).
And how can Ivins call pro-gun research "ideologically tainted" (the implication being that ideology has pushed out truth, which Ivins has not attempted to prove), without noting the anti-gun lobby flagrantly misrepresents the data on a daily basis?
The latest claim from the anti-gun lobby is that every day 13 children die from gun wounds. When does Ivins plan to write the column that notes that toddlers have a greater chance of drowning in a bucket than of being accidentally shot by a gun? Families have an excellent record for firearms safety. More significantly, the "13 children" statistic includes adults up to 20 years of age, even those who are shot by police while committing a crime! The statistic also includes older teen gangsters for whom violence is a way of life. Such deaths can hardly be blamed on guns.
Ivins closes by noting the problems with guns but failing to note the usefulness of guns. She writes, "I remain pro-knife. You have to catch someone before you can stab him, knives don't ricochet and people are seldom killed while cleaning their knives."
Unfortunately, limiting self-defense to knife ownership would empower criminals over the physically less-strong. Would a rapist rather approach a potential victim who is armed with a knife or with a gun? And Ivins's implied desire for a gun-free world is a pipe-dream, anyway. When criminals can buy guns on the black market, steal them, or make them in the garage, gun control laws will serve mostly to disarm the honest citizen.