One of the biggest myths of the NRA and gun advocates is that guns are critical for self-protection and the saying goes that all that is necessary to ward off an attack of a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. The NRA likes to frame things in this dichotomy of "good vs. evil" creating a simplification of reality very appealing to conservatives. In doing so they neglect the accidents which are all too common like the recent incident in which a two-year-old found the gun of his mother's boyfriend under a car seat and accidentally shot his mother in the back killing her.
Well, even the myth of guns being used frequently for defensive purposes turns out to be another falsehood. According to a recent study by the Violence Policy Center (VPC) citing data collected by the Federal Bureau of Investigation:
In 2012, across the nation there were only 259 justifiable homicides involving a private citizen using a firearm reported to the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) Program as detailed in its Supplementary Homicide Report (SHR).
That same year, there were 8,342 criminal gun homicides tallied in the SHR. In 2012, for every justifiable homicide in the United States involving a gun, guns were used in 32 criminal homicides. And this ratio, of course, does not take into account the tens of thousands of lives ended in gun suicides or unintentional shootings that year.
Of course, gun advocates like to claim the wild figure that their are millions of defensive gun uses annually, a number cited in a study by Gary Kleck and Marc Getz, criminologists at Florida State University. However, according to the 2004 book Private Guns, Public Health by Dr. David Hemenway, Professor of Health Policy at the Harvard School of Public Health and director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center: "This estimate is not plausible and has been nominated as the most outrageous number mentioned in a policy discussion by an elected official."
In fact, most so-called defensive gun uses are those used in escalating arguments which are termed both socially undesirable and illegal. According to a study cited in the Injury Prevention Journal: "Criminal court judges who read the self-reported accounts of the purported self-defense gun use rated a majority as being illegal, even assuming that the respondent had a permit to own and to carry a gun, and that the respondent had described the event honestly from his own perspective."
According to a blog written in the Daily Kos:
"The [National Rifle Association] has staked its entire agenda on the claim that guns are necessary for self-defense, but this gun industry propaganda has no basis in fact," Josh Sugarmann, the executive director of VPC, which conducted the review, said in a statement. "Guns are far more likely to be used in a homicide than in a justifiable homicide by a private citizen. In fact, a gun is far more likely to be stolen than used in self-defense."
Relative to the scant number of legal defensive gun uses there were, for example, "nearly 200,000 guns reported lost or stolen in 2012, according to federal data, and in the same year there were over 20,000 suicides in which a gun was used." Is this mayhem the price of what the right calls "liberty?"
Now the NRA has worked assiduously and successfully to keep information on gun violence from the general public. For example, there is no national database on gun deaths. It turns out that the NRA in the 1990's successfully lobbied right wing representatives in Congress to slash the funds for the Center for Disease Control (CDC) by the exact amount that was used for gun-related public health research. The statutory language, which remains in appropriations legislation for the Department of Health and Human Services to this day, is that "none of the funds made available in this title may be used, in whole or in part, to advocate or promote gun control."
According to Garen Wintemute, director of the Violence Prevention Research Program at the University of California, Davis Medical Center: "I think it's fair to say that this language has been interpreted at times to mean that none of the funds could be used to support research that, depending on its findings, might be used in support of efforts to alter current firearm policy."
Why do conservative politicians call for our "thoughts and prayers" after every mass shooting that is now becoming commonplace instead of sensible gun control legislation like more extensive background checks?" An article in Vox points out two reasons:
"The NRA and its allies have millions of dedicated single-issue voters who are deeply passionate about their Second Amendment rights; gun control advocates do not.
Rural and suburban areas with higher rates of gun ownership and deeper passion for the Second Amendment are overrepresented in Congress."
Knocking down the myths of the NRA such as the number of the defensive gun uses will not convince gun advocates and conservative politicians bankrolled by the NRA to change their minds about passing sensible gun legislation. They can not be convinced and the far right largely lives in a post-truth environment anyway where there is no objective reality and whatever one believes is the truth becomes the truth. But with defensive gun uses being so rare one wonders if the ubiquity of hand guns is necessary. It is interesting in an very Orwellian way how the NRA controls not only the politicians who block sensible gun legislation, but the very reality we live in by controlling the information on gun violence we have access to. Surely, the right wing wants us to adopt this post-truth environment they have long become accustomed to. No thanks!