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The Annual Big Yawn: Brady Campaign State Gun Control Scorecard 2011

Friday, February 24, 2012

Year after year, the Brady Campaign’s state gun control scorecards have become the laughing stock of the gun control debate for at least three reasons. First, they typically give good scores to states that have high crime rates and bad scores to states that have low rates. The Brady Campaign’s scores aren’t based on whether anyone gets murdered, raped, robbed, or beaten in any particular state; the group is just happy if the state has its favorite gun control laws on the books.

Second, as federal, state and local gun control laws have been eliminated or reduced in their restrictiveness, the nation’s violent crime and murder rates have fallen to 37-year and 47-year lows, respectively, through 2010, and the FBI has preliminarily reported that crime decreased again in the first half of 2011.

Third, the FBI doesn’t include gun control in its list of “factors that are known to affect the volume and type of crime occurring from place to place” and studies conducted for the National Institute of Justice, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Library of Congress have found no evidence that gun control reduces crime here or abroad.

A gun control study that doesn’t consider whether the laws have any effect really doesn’t deserve much attention. However, with over 300 million people in the U.S., it’s remotely possible that someone out there still gives a hoot about Brady’s nonsense, so here we go.

The Brady Campaign gave its best score—81 points out of 100—to California, where the total violent crime, murder, robbery, and aggravated assault rates were higher than national rates in 2010, the most recent full year reported by the FBI. And, as one by now should expect, the group gave ridiculously low scores to states that had the lowest rates in these categories of crime. The average Brady scores for the five lowest-crime states in each of these categories—which in the aggregate included Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Utah, Vermont and Wyoming—were as follows: Total violent crime (5 points), murder (5), robbery (3), and aggravated assault (7).

The Brady Campaign compared California—which it said “continues to blaze legislative trails saving lives”—to Arizona, Alaska and Utah, each of which got a grand total of zero points. California’s total violent crime rate was five percent higher, murder was 16 percent higher, and robbery was 97 percent higher than the average rates for the other three states.

As usual, the Brady Campaign didn’t rate the District of Columbia—not because D.C. isn’t a state, but because D.C.’s gun laws are so restrictive that it would get more than 100 points, which would throw off the rest of the scoring system.

Based upon the conventional letter grades used in schools, Brady gave passing scores to only four states: California (B minus), New Jersey (C minus), Massachusetts (D) and New York (D minus). It gave single-digit scores to 31 states, for an average score of 4.

If you’re done laughing, we can move on to point out that the Brady Campaign scored the states based upon the anti-gun Legal Community Against Violence’s sense of what’s important in the world of gun control, which provides a valuable insight into both groups’ legislative priorities.

The Brady Campaign would give a state 21 points if the state required a license to possess a firearm, a permit to purchase firearms and ammunition, and fingerprinting and safety training as part of obtaining such a permit. It would give another 17 points for prohibiting all private sales of firearms. Another 12 points would go to a state requiring a state firearm dealer license on top of the standard federal license, along with requiring unlimited inspections of dealer records and inventory by police, reporting of sales to the state police, and mandatory theft reporting to the police. Ballistic fingerprinting and microstamping semi-automatic pistols were worth 10 points. Banning “assault weapons” and “large” magazines were worth five points apiece, as were a 30-day waiting period between handgun purchases and mandatory integrated locks on handguns.

Given the group’s ranting about Right-to-Carry laws for the last couple of decades, we had to laugh again when we noted that the 2011 scorecard awards a measly two points to any state that doesn’t have a “shall issue” carry permit law. Presumably this is because giving more points to those states would have made the inflated scores for high-crime California and Maryland look even more ridiculous in comparison to the low scores for low-crime “shall-issue” states.

On a side note, we noticed that the Tides Foundation gave $125,424 to the Brady Campaign and its affiliate, the Brady Center, between 2004 and 2009. But with no contributions in 2010, we wonder whether someone at the Foundation’s grant office had a look at Brady’s previous scorecards and realized that even when you’re wasting someone else’s money, there has to be a limit.

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