Whenever something like the South Carolina mass shooting happens, I always have to brace myself.
Among all the letters advocating forgiveness, universal concealed-carry, universal disarmament and the like are usually more than a few featuring misleading or downright false information.
Because, obviously, using fake quotes and data is the absolute best way to inspire people to believe you. And if that doesn’t work, make sure you use “all or nothing” rhetoric … it’s a real winner!
(Yes, that was sarcasm.)
No, George Washington did not say, “Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American people’s liberty, teeth and keystone under independence.” That and several other spurious quotes are listed on the website for Washington’s Mount Vernon as not appearing in his writings or reported utterings.
Perhaps the person who advanced the idea that gun-control advocates think guns are capable of independent action came up with that. (Seriously, guys? I think we all know that people with guns kill people … I’ve yet to come across a sentient firearm.)
No, indications are that Sarah Brady most likely did not say, “Our task of creating a socialist America can only succeed when those who would resist us are totally disarmed.” This quote and a longer variant were supposedly printed in The National Educator in 1994; however, GunCite and other Second Amendment sites note that its provenance is more than a little iffy (some aren’t even sure the publication actually existed).
No, there’s not a proven link between concealed-carry laws and reduced crime in states that have those laws; as Fact Check’s 2012 review of the literature found, crime also declined in states without those laws. This appears to be a case of correlation/causation in which the purveyors of statistics fer or agin something imply clear cause and effect when it’s no more than a weak link or pure coincidence.
Not that that matters to some people—truth is merely an inconvenience. Winning an argument with truth? Passé! Coming up with an original thought on guns? Overrated!
Carlisle Moody, an economics professor at William & Mary who studies the economics of crime, talked of semantics to Fact Check in reference to a statement by U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas. Moody said Gohmert is “factually correct” in stating, “The facts are that every time guns have been allowed—conceal-carry [gun laws] have been allowed—the crime rate has gone down.” Well, of course … making such a broad statement absent context will often mean you’re technically correct. Crime had indeed gone down, but implying that concealed-carry was the reason is more problematic. There’s that reduced crime in non-concealed-carry states, for one thing, and research that shows negligible effects directly related to it for another.
Statistically speaking, research shows that more gun homicides occur where there are more guns. However, that’s not necessarily a causal relationship, either, and as Fact Check notes, it’s highly doubtful any study could ever conclusively prove that the mere presence of more guns causes an increase (or decrease) in gun murders.
Besides, you can correlate just about anything, such as the divorce rate in Maine and the per capita consumption of margarine (a 99.26 percent correlation!); Tyler Vigen proves that on his Spurious Correlations site. In fact, based on my study of three people born on Jan. 13 (me and two local birthday buddies) who have all had serious hip/leg injuries in the past year or so, I conclude that being born on Jan. 13 is hazardous to the health of the lower body (at least that’s what my Achilles tendinitis keeps telling me).
What am I saying here in my long-winded way? Basically this: Trust no one with an agenda (gosh, I think I’ve said this before, and no, “agenda” doesn’t mean a different opinion than yours). Before you forward that pithy quote or infographic, check it out, and if it’s wrong, return to sender and explain why. Quotes and statistics that too neatly make the point of a hot-button agenda (i.e., get rid of guns/give everyone guns, let gays marry/keep gays from marrying) might just be more than a little trumped up or taken completely out of context.
Context, for example, might add to the Jeanne Assam story being trotted out again that she was a former police officer and a volunteer security guard—as opposed to being simply a random church member with a concealed-carry permit—in the Colorado church where she stopped a gunman from killing more people in 2007.
We all know how important context is, which is why so many with agendas like to strip context away. And it’s why I try my best not to use certain words in my column or on my blog just in case some crazy person not related to me wants to put forth the idea that I … well, I won’t finish that thought. Just to be safe.
What’s my take on the whole gun issue? I don’t see a reason to take away everyone’s guns; I do, however, think it’s far past time to inject some common sense into the debate.
Yeah, I know, not bloody likely.
The Second Amendment, like other amendments, is not absolute (and stop pretending it is). There’s nothing wrong with setting and enforcing reasonable limits to preserve a civil society. Because I just said that, I would probably be labeled as an anti-gunner by the pro-gun adherents. I also had a childhood friend killed when she was 8 by another child playing with a gun. Yet I don’t hate guns and, out in the country, I grew up around them, and have a healthy respect for them (and I recognize that I have a bad temper and good aim, which is a bad combination). I simply don’t like the absurdities of toothless or unenforced laws and people who brook no disagreement with their position.
If you really feel like punishing yourself, head to a gun forum (pro or anti, but more commonly pro) and marvel at the complete lack of recognition of reality … and concepts such as spelling and grammar (my head was on the verge of exploding). Like most hot-button issues, guns tend to bring out extremes, with no room for the middle ground, and as long as that continues, common sense (and truth) will avoid the debate. No one side is all right or all wrong … but boy, when they’re wrong, they’re reeeeeeallly wrong.
So what do we do now? Hopefully, we’ll start actually speaking to each other honestly and making a constructive effort to fix the laws, rather than yelling false information and insults over each other and proposing absurd measures like banning all guns (even for the police and military) or arming toddlers.
Aaaaand now the armed-toddler lobby is going to come after me.