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Talking points for gun rights

With all the talk about guns recently, it is important that our community educates people on guns. Without support of the population, our rights are dead in the water - Second Amendment or not. We need to win hearts and minds for our movement to succeed.

With that in mind, we need to take every opportunity to educate the public. I took liberty to put together a few talking points for our side that could help you drive the conversation with your friends, neighbors, and the public.

You will find the material below to be organized around the talking points for specific topics. It is quite a bit repetitive, as the same data can be used to defend the argument in multiple topics. This is by design, just to make referencing the data easier.

Elevator pitch

Gun owners are law abiding citizens - more so than general population. We went through the background check to purchase our guns. Like everyone else we would like to keep guns away from criminals, but we don't want to be presumed criminals.

The problem with the gun control regulation today is that it doesn't affect criminals, it makes things very difficult for lawful gun owners, and the effectiveness of it is never measured. Instead, after passing another ineffective law, after observing no difference in crime, gun control movement simply comes for more.

For example, by how much did I-594 impact homicide rates? There is no evidence of positive impact, in fact, homicide rates in WA rose slightly since I-594 was enacted.

(Source: https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/murder-rates-nationally-and-state)

Likewise, there is no evidence that universal background checks have any effect on mass shooters, either. In all cases mass shooters either acquired the firearm legally, or stole them from legal owners. Not a single one of them got a gun through what antigun crown calls "gunshow loophole".

(Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/12/10/marco-rubios-claim-that-no-recent-mass-shootings-would-have-been-prevented-by-gun-laws/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.3f2a5e4e1c29)

Or take "assault weapons" ban. It was in effect for 10 years and DOJ study found no evidence that it impacted homicide rates. This is not surprising: according to that study, vast majority of shootings use 3-5 rounds, well within the magazine capacity allowed under the ban, and the banned features of the rifles themselves - bayonet lugs, muzzle breaks, certain types of handguards - have no impact on lethality of the rifle, or its rate of fire.

(Source: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/204431.pdf)

Do note that all rifles in WA - not just "assault rifles", but ALL rifles - kill under 5 people a year. To put it in perspective, you are less likely to be killed by a rifle in WA than dying from an animal bite, four times less likely than being stabbed to death, and 170 times less likely than dying from flu or pneumonia.

(Source: http://www.i1639.org/)

Gun owners are not against regulation - but none of the currently proposed laws are effective, and all of them were tried in the past. We need laws that, similar to dealing with other criminal miscoduct like drunk driving, focus on the offender, rather than inflicting group punishment on innocent gun owners.

Selected topics

"Gun violence"

We are not amidst the "epidemic of gun violence". Homicide rate peaked in 1980s at 10 per 100000 and has been falling ever since. It bottomed at 4.5 in 2014, and then rose slightly after that. It is still below what it was throughout 2000s. (https://www.zerohedge.com/news/2016-06-16/fbi-us-homicide-rate-51-year-low), https://deathpenaltyinfo.org/murder-rates-nationally-and-state).

It is a lot higher than in most countries in West Europe, but internationally gun ownership rates do not correlate with homicide rates. They correlate with inequality (http://www.preciseshooter.com/blog/HomicidesVsGINI.aspx). We have considerably higher rate of inequality than most countries in Western Europe, worse access to medical care, and many other factors that influence guns far more than gun ownership rates.

When anti-gun activists claim successes, they prefer to focus on "gun violence" instead of all violence. This depends on a leap of the faith supposition that gun homicides would somehow disappear instead of being replaced by homicides by other means. There is no evidence that this is actually true.

For example, when guns were confiscated in Australia, gun homicide rates plummeted instantly - but knife homicides rose to complensate, and so overall homicide rates slowly drifted down with the rest of the world, and slower in percentage terms than in the United States.

On the mass shootings front, there were 77 mass murders in Australia in 20 years prior to Port Arthur, mostly by guns, and 76 mass murders following Port Arthur, mostly by other means.

But what about all the studies?

The studies that gun control activists push suffer from many flaws.

They typically focus on "gun violence" and don't account for all homicides, just "gun homicides". Of course, we should all freely admit that if someone magically took all the guns away, "gun violence" would instantly disappear. However, there is no evidence that people would not find a substitute tool. When guns were confiscated in Australia, gun homicide rates plummeted instantly - but knife homicides rose to complensate, and so overall homicide rates slowly drifted down with the rest of the world, and slower in percentage terms compared to the United States.

On the mass shootings front, there were 77 mass murders in Australia in 20 years prior to Port Arthur, mostly by guns, and 76 mass murders following Port Arthur, mostly by other means.

In Russia civilian gun ownership for all practical purposes does not exist, yet homicide rate is a lot higher than in the US.

(Source: http://www.preciseshooter.com/blog/GunControlAustralia.aspx, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_massacres_in_Australia)

To make the effect more dramatic, many studies focus on per-capita gun ownership, which is a wrong variable entirely. Many guns in the US are owned by so-called super-owners who constitute the total of 3% of the adult population, yet onw half of the civilian-owned guns. If one owns 10 guns, it does not make this person any more lethal than someone who only owns one. Yet it does drive the statistics.

The right variable to use would be percentage of households that own guns (ideally, percentage of people, but this data is not available). This is typically quoted as around 35% for the US. In Canada, this number is 22%, and in Finland, it is 50%(!). Yes, half of households own guns in Finland.

Homicide rates, however, are completely uncorrelated: US is 5.35, Canada is 1.68, and Finland is 1.42.

(Source: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/sep/20/gun-ownership-america-firearms-super-owners, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2016/06/29/american-gun-ownership-is-now-at-a-30-year-low/?utm_term=.1081ca9fada5, http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/rp-pr/csj-sjc/jsp-sjp/wd98_4-dt98_4/p2.html)

And some of these "studies" are just plain lies. For example, a quote from an anti-gun organization Everytown was in the news around the Parkland shooting claiming that there were 18 school shootings by that time this year. It was examined by a number of fact-checking authorities, such as Politfact and Washington Post, and found to be completely bogus. Similarly, a claim by social-network sourced "gun violence archive" that there is one mass shooting every day repeated by press ad nauseum was found to be misleading by Mother Jones.

(Source: http://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/article/2018/feb/16/18-school-shootings-already-18-not-really-stat-kee/, https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/no-there-havent-been-18-school-shooting-in-2018-that-number-is-flat-wrong/2018/02/15/65b6cf72-1264-11e8-8ea1-c1d91fcec3fe_story.html?utm_term=.80a6eafa81a4, https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2015/12/no-there-were-not-355-mass-shootings-this-year/)

A great source that examines how these "statistics" come to be is an article by BJ Campbell on Medium: https://medium.com/@bjcampbell/everybodys-lying-about-the-link-between-gun-ownership-and-homicide-1108ed400be5.

What about suicides?

Guns can make suicides easier. But so can alcohol, which kills 90000 people a year, including 10000 drunk driving deaths (https://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics). By comparison, of 30000 gun-related deaths, 20000 are suicides.

We do not put limits in alcohol to prevent people from drinking themselves to death, and there are no technical limits - outside completely banning all gun ownership - that can make a gun suicide-proof. For this scenario, neither magazine capacity nor rate of fire matters: a single-shot shotgun is as effective as an AR-15.

Parenthetically, classifying suicides as part of "gun violence" is nonsense. We aren't talking about suicide by handging as "rope violence", and we don't talk about intentional overdoses as "pill violence". When people classify suicides by guns as "gun violence", it should be clear that they have political agenda.

Mass shootings

Mass shootings are rare. Mother Jones publishes an exhaustive database of mass shooting events in the US, and the average for the last 10 years is 44 people killed per year.

By comparison, there are 50 yearly fatalities from lightning strikes.

(Source: https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/12/mass-shootings-mother-jones-full-data/)

More importantly, all the currently proposed laws that are supposed to reduce or eliminate mass shootings are not effective.

For example, Washington Post fact checking service concurred with Marco Rubio's campaign claim that no recent mass shootings would have been prevented by gun laws.

(Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2015/12/10/marco-rubios-claim-that-no-recent-mass-shootings-would-have-been-prevented-by-gun-laws/?noredirect=on&utm_term=.3f2a5e4e1c29)

School shootings

School shootings are extremely rare, and the incidence of school shootings peaked in 1990s and were declining ever since. Four times the number of children were killed in schools in the early 1990s than today.

There are around 55 million school children in the United States, and on average over the past 25 years, about 10 students per year were killed by gunfire at school.

(Source: https://news.northeastern.edu/2018/02/26/schools-are-still-one-of-the-safest-places-for-children-researcher-says/)

To put things in perspective, more than 200 people are killed each year by drunk drivers. Children are 20 times more likely to die on the way to school than be shot to death at school.

(Source: https://www.cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/impaired_driving/impaired-drv_factsheet.html)

Assault weapons ban

Mass shootings, and especially school shootings commonly elicit calls for banning "assault weapons".

The truth is, we have tried it in 1994, and when the ban expired in 2004, DOJ comissioned a study of its effectiveness. The study found no effect.

It is intuitive because most common definitions of an "assault weapon" call for banning superficially cosmetic features such as pistol grips or handguards or bayonet lugs - the features that make the gun look like an AR-15. When these features were banned, the firearms industry immediately started producing AR-15s without these features - but it was still the same AR-15: same caliber, same rate of fire. So there was no difference in the availability of AR-15s during the ban.

Similarly, magazine capacity is not important. The worst school shooting in the US - Virginia Tech - was perpetrated with "AWB-compliant" 10 round magazines. The assailant brought a whole bunch of them. It only takes a couple of seconds to change a magazine in a rifle or a pistol.

(Source: https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/204431.pdf)

"Even if it saves one life"

This is a hypocritical argument. Many more lives would be saved if we banned alcohol. For example 90000 people die from alcohol every year, three times as many as from guns. 200 kids are killed by drunk drivers, 10 times as many as school shooters. If we wanted to save lives at all costs, banning alcohol would be much more effective.

Or at least regulate it as guns - institute a background check for alcohol purchases to prevent former abusers from getting it, limiting monthly sales, waiting periods, etc.

We do not hear these arguments from the gun control crowd. Why? Because they do drink, they - consciously or subconsciously - believe in their ability to handle alcohol responsibly, and prefer to punish the abusers. We the gun owners agree with the same approach when it comes to gun regulation, and are asking for the same courtesy. Please focus on people who abuse guns, not on guns themselves.