You know that a reporter supports gun control when he or she says that government officials who don’t stamp their feet for gun control lack “courage.” It’s not just because some reporters flatter themselves by thinking that they occupy the moral and intellectual high ground on every issue under the sun. It’s also because ever since the Senate rejected President Obama’s gun control package in April 2013, gun control supporters have been trying to convince the public that there’s no possible reason for opposing something so “commonsense” as gun control, other than “cowardice.”
On Monday, CNN reporters Elizabeth Cohen and John Bonifield accused Dr. Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), of lacking “courage,” because he isn’t demanding that Congress allow the CDC to use tax dollars to pay gun control activists to conduct slipshod research designed to promote gun control. The reporters asked, “Why is he [Dr. Frieden] silent about guns?”
Dr. Frieden declined to take Cohen’s and Bonifield’s bait. However, had he responded to them, he might have asked why they were “silent” about the CDC’s massive study of a variety of gun control restrictions, published in 2003. The study concluded that “[e]vidence was insufficient to determine the effectiveness of any of these laws.” A similar conclusion was reached by the National Academy of Sciences the following year.
The CDC’s study evaluated mandatory background checks on firearm purchases, and concluded that failing a background check “does not always stop [a person] from acquiring firearms through other means.” It also evaluated bans on specific types of firearms and ammunition, waiting periods, firearm registration and licensing of owners, prohibiting guns at schools, and laws dictating how people should store firearms at home.
As if that study never took place, Cohen and Bonifield said that the CDC should pay anti-gun researchers to answer five questions. No such misuse of the taxpayers’ money is necessary, however. Here are the five questions and some of their obvious answers:
1. “Would a federal assault weapons ban save lives or cost lives?”
A ban would be more likely to cost lives for at least two reasons. First, today’s federal “assault weapon” legislation would ban any magazine holding more than 10 rounds, regardless of the firearm for which the magazine is designed. That would limit the ability of people to defend themselves. The ability to carry more rounds for protection goes a long way to explaining why semi-automatic pistols now account for 80-90 percent of new handguns sold annually. Second, the legislation would also ban AR-15s, Remington 1100s, and all other detachable-magazine semi-automatic rifles and semi-automatic shotguns regardless of their magazine sizes, which would limit the ability of people to use the most effective firearms for protection in their homes and many, if not most, of the most popular firearms used in recreation and hunting. There are more so-called “assault weapons” and “large” magazines than ever before, the number of the firearms rising by more than a million annually and the number of the magazines rising by an even greater margin, and the nation’s murder rate is at an all-time low, exactly the opposite of what gun control supporters have been predicting would happen all these years.
2. State laws allowing people to carry concealed weapons are supposed to deter crime, since attackers never know who's carrying a gun. Have these laws worked out that way?
Allowing people to carry firearms is to enable people to defend against crime, and evidence suggests that it may also deter crime from happening in the first place. As examples, newspapers that aren’t biased against guns regularly report instances in which gun owners have successfully defended themselves against criminals, and a federal study of prison inmates found that 40 percent had not attempted crimes when they knew or suspected their prospective victims were armed.
However, the more appropriate question would have been whether allowing people to carry firearms for protection increases crime, as claimed by gun control supporters. The answer to that question is “no.” People who carry firearms under the laws in question have consistently proven themselves to be more law-abiding than the rest of the public.
3. If gun owners had to register their weapons with the government, would fewer people die from gun violence? Would more die?
Most states don’t require registration, and the nation’s murder rate is at an all-time low. Registration would likely have no effect on violence, because criminals don’t register guns and the Supreme Court has ruled that requiring felons to register guns would violate their Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. Furthermore, many criminals acquire guns by theft, on the black market, or through “straw purchasers,” negating any possible effect of gun registration as well as limiting that of background check requirements.
4. Are certain types of people more prone to gun violence than others? If the answer is yes, what's the best way for authorities to reach out to these people?
Indeed, the answer is “yes” and improved policing programs and increased prison sentences for the most violent offenders since the mid-1990s are two of the reasons that violent crime has been cut in half over the last 20-plus years.
5. Do background checks help save lives?
Gun control supporters would certainly like the public to think so. But the CDC’s 2003 study concluded, as we mentioned above, that failing a background check does not always stop a person from acquiring firearms through other means. That’s because many criminals steal guns, get them on the black market, or get them through “straw purchasers”—surrogate purchasers who, by definition, defeat background checks on behalf of criminals.
Cohen and Bonifield didn’t waste their time entirely, however. They reminded readers why public opinion surveys show that only about a quarter of Americans have confidence in the news media. Meanwhile, 58 percent of Americans view NRA favorably, compared to only 35 percent who have the opposing view, 53 percent oppose banning “assault weapons,” while only 45 percent disagree, and a majority of American believe the problem of terrorist attacks would be better addressed by having more people carrying guns, than by imposing more gun control.