Ban Gun Bans
19th Annual Gun Rights Policy Conference
by Dave Workman
September 26, 2004
"I think a lot of evidence shows that requiring people to lock up their guns in their homes makes them less able to go and defend themselves and their families..."
Following the luncheon, Lott greeted GRPC participants with an in-depth look at how the media distorts gun news and creates a false impression about firearms in society.
Lott, who is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, is the author of More Guns=Less Crime and The Bias Against Guns, plus many op-ed newspaper columns. Following an explanation of how the press can get stories wrong, he focused on the gun issue.
"It's pretty hard to think of almost any other item that's as commonly owned in American homes as guns are, that is remotely as dangerous, (and) that has as few actual deaths associated with it," he observed.
Lott said more children under age 5 drown in water buckets or bathtubs, and very few children under age 15 actually die of gunshot wounds. He frequently is contacted by the press with questions about guns and safe storage laws, and he noticed that reporters often ask the same or similar questions. So, he turned the tables on them.
"I've started asking reporters when they call me up 'Why is it that this one particular type of death gets so much coverage,' " he reported. "And the answer I get back is 'because it's so rare.' "
He has two problems accepting that explanation. He tells reporters that he can provide lots of very rare ways that children die, but they do not get anywhere near the coverage that child gun deaths receive. Secondly, Lott tells reporters that their coverage creates the false impression that there is an epidemic of child gun deaths in the country, when just the opposite is true.
Yet much of this media sensationalism may have contributed to certain gun laws, he suggested. At least some of those laws are having a negative impact on neighborhood and individual safety, Lott asserted.
"I think a lot of evidence shows that requiring people to lock up their guns in their homes makes them less able to go and defend themselves and their families," he said. "It encourages the number of attacks and actually makes crimes more successful than they otherwise would have been. The net effect is you actually see more deaths."
However, Lott added that, "The risk of having a gun death in a law-abiding home is essentially zero. It is something akin to children in those homes dying in lightning strikes."
Lott pointed to a very rare event, the end of a gun law, and he immediately began attacking the credibility of gun control groups on this subject. He said the so-called assault weapon ban was one of the two major cornerstones of the gun control movement, and initially, its supporters insisted it was important. The hysteria escalated in the days prior to the ban's sunset, during which, Lott recalled, "Sarah Brady complained that our streets were going to be filled with AK47s and Uzis."
However, now that the law is history, Lott said the rhetoric is changing. He also noted that, "The unique thing about this is that all of these claims, it will be pretty obvious to people whether they're true or not-in a relative short period of time."
Lott said the end of the ban has produced some "pretty major cracks in the gun control movement." He also said the public seems to be increasingly cool to gun control proposals.
"I think one of the reasons why you've begun to see that change is the overwhelming academic evidence on this issue," he said. "There's not one single academic study that's found any evidence, any statistically significant evidence that the law's been associated with any reduction in any type of violent crime."
Lott looked at data from California and New Jersey that suggested gun control laws in those states have done little or nothing to reduce violent crime.
"If my work convinces me of anything," he concluded, "it's that there are lots of things that affect crime. Gun ownership isn't the most important thing. I think police understand. While they are extremely important, they simply can't be there all the time. They virtually always arrive on the crime scene after the crime has been committed and that raises the question about what you advise someone to do. Simply telling them to behave passively actually turns out to be very bad advice, dangerous advice to give people."
As if to bolster Lott's arguments, the panel discussion immediately following his presentation was devoted to an examination of propaganda from Michael Moore and gaffes by major news organizations, primarily CBS and ABC.
Fund led the presentation, noting, "I think that fraud has of course permeated coverage of the gun issue. There seems to be this willful inability to confront obviously inconvenient facts.
"We have very recently an incredible example of media fraud, the CBS Dan Rather incident, a watershed moment for the media."
He referred to a slow decline in network news broadcast ratings over the past quarter-century, and he predicted that the decline will accelerate over the next few years. Fund said the many "very good and very professional journalists at CBS News" were the ones most upset by Rather's debacle regarding forged and fabricated documents allegedly criticizing a younger President George Bush as a pilot in the Texas National Guard.
Fund revealed that executives and producers at "60 Minutes" are very liberal, and that the senior executive, Josh Howard, once worked for anti-gun Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY).
"All journalists have been tainted and tarnished by this terrible incident with Dan Rather," Fund commented. "Fairness in journalism is easily achievable if you talk to the other side, find out what their point of view is and make sure you report it fairly and accurately. Objectivity, which they claim is the goal, I say it's like the Unicorn, it's a wonderful and marvelous creature to behold but it's not going to be found on this earth."
He concluded by noting, "Most journalists in this country are anti-gun, let's be honest about it, let them be honest about it."
Renowned researcher and author David Kopel was up next, unleashing a string of examples about how Michael Moore has loaded his discredited documentary "Bowling for Columbine" with lies about the creation of the National Rifle Association. Kopel blasted the film for attempting to make a not-so-subtle link between the NRA and the Ku Klux Klan.
Kopel, research director with the Independence Institute and a contributor to National Review Online, has written or co-authored several books dealing with gun rights.
"Moore puts images together to create a false impression," Kopel stated. "The 1871 founders of the NRA were diametrically opposed to the southerners who founded the Klan."
Kopel was particularly alarmed about statements Moore has made comparing Iraqi insurgents to Colonial Minutemen, asserting that the far left liberal film maker cannot tell the difference between terrorists and George Washington.
"He may try to fool the American people," Kopel said. "We do have the truth on our side, our numbers are growing and we will win."
Melinda Meador, national spokeswoman for the Second Amendment Sisters, told the audience that writing letters to the editor to refute misinformation, support a pro-gun candidate or present a pro-gun position can make a difference.
Promising to provide the audience with "the tools you can use at home," Meador urged the activists to write letters to the editor of local newspapers supporting pro-gun candidates, or hailing the end of the Clinton gun ban.
"You can find one of those pro-gun candidates and you can work for that candidate because they will remember that effort and they will remember your face," she counseled. "They will be more inclined to listen to you. You may get a phone call from that candidate for your opinion. When you receive a call like that you realize that you are helping shape the laws."
She also promoted a strategy she called "Each One Teach One." Every shooter should make an effort to take a non-shooter out to the range, get them interested in shooting and, as a result, "create a new activist."
"We need to expand our numbers, increase our strength, get more people out, especially women," she said. "People look at women shooters and they look at me and they go 'a woman, a shooter.' A woman speaking about gun rights carries 10 times the weight of a man. Get your wives out shooting, get your daughters out shooting, your neighbors out; they will be the ones protecting those rights."
Dr. Timothy Wheeler, director of Doctors for Responsible Gun Ownership, a project of Claremont Institute, resumed the attack on biased reporting, asserting, "Major media have been biased in their approach to a number of issues not the least of which is firearms ownership. They are, as a whole, very prejudiced against it."
He also pointed to major medical journals which he asserted have carried on an anti-gun campaign for years, advancing "the notion that guns are somehow a public health menace."
Wheeler has been a leader in criticizing physicians who promote gun control under the guise of practicing medicine.
"Some doctors have even gone so far as to misuse their authority and the trust that you as patients have in them to advance a political agenda against firearm ownership," he observed, "to ask you about your guns, how many guns do you have in your house, do you keep them loaded or not, and by the way, you really would be safer if you didn't have a gun in your house at all. Any doctor who asks you politically motivated questions about guns in the home is committing an ethical boundary violation and that doctor should be disciplined."
Wheeler detailed three anti-gun articles that have appeared in medical journals, contending that all of them "liken guns to diseases." He said some of the so-called research that has been used to support this notion was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health.
"Which means," he advised, "that it was funded by our taxpayer dollars."
However, Wheeler noted, the pendulum seems to be swinging back in the other direction, and nowadays, such studies do not get the kind of publicity they did even a few years ago. What changed the political and social landscape has been the onset of the war on terrorism, he suggested.
"The nation is at war and 9/11 proved the reality that there is a threat to American lives, land and homes," Wheeler said. "There's nothing like a threat like that to unify people and particularly to provide a favorable political environment for the right to keep and bear arms.
"Americans have come to see the claims of the public health anti-gunners as politically motivated," he continued. "American gunowners are just in no mood anymore to be lectured to by doctors who know very little about guns and who care less about gun owners."
Kerry Gun Stories
Gun Week Senior Editor Dave Workman then told the audience about his dealings with the Kerry campaign about the shotgun that the senator received on a Labor Day visit in West Virginia, and about the so-called "Communist Chinese assault rifle" he allegedly told Outdoor Life that he has.
Workman noted that he was the only journalist to ask where either firearm was, after the stories broke about their existence. The interest, he indicated, was in determining whether Kerry had broken any firearms laws.
"We ask these questions," he said. "Our colleagues in the media don't seem to bother with this sort of thing. Sometimes they get it wrong by accident; sometimes they seem to get it wrong on purpose."
Workman recounted network coverage of the semi-automatic gun ban in the days leading up to the law's sunset. He said broadcast segments, especially one on ABC's "Nightly News," had included footage from the North Hollywood, CA, bank shootout, in which actual machineguns were used by the robbers, not semi-automatic firearms that would once again be legally available now that the ban has expired.
He insisted that reporters usually want to get their stories right, and that if gunowners offer solid information to correct errors, they might establish productive relationships with local reporters.
"The people do have a right to know, but they have a right to know what's accurate," he stressed. "You can correct that kind of misinformation that goes out so that the people do have the ability to make a decision based on accurate information. That's what's really important."
Next Issue: Panel discussions about domestic security, firearms legal issues at the federal and state levels, right-to-carry laws and a discussion about whether hunting and conservation issues dilute the gun vote.