A couple of very fine and much-liked-by-myself young people (well, young compared to me — I’ll still be calling them “young people” when they are seventy because they’ll still be fifteen or twenty-five years younger than I will be) recently expressed admiration of this exceptionally bad New York Times editorial about the Florida school shootings. I was sorry to see this, and I mean these youngsters no disrespect because they really are generally honest and intelligent most of the time…but great googly gopher guts, everything about this article could be used as textbook examples in a course of how not to either think rationally or argue honestly. It’s like Kristof (Nicholas Kristof, the perpetrator of the editorial) checked every box on the Lying Journalist’s Checklist.
If you are serious about reducing the number of mass school shootings and the bodycounts in the ones we still have, and you would like to read an article by somebody who actually has expertise in the subject matter and has thought the matter through – and whose ideas have already been put into practice in schools in Utah – you can go here. If, on the other hand, you prefer to read an article that is shamelessly dishonest from beginning to end and that essentially makes it very clear that the author and editor assume that their readers are deeply gullible people who can be lied to at will…why, then you should certainly go with Kristof and the Times.
Specifics, very briefly, taking it section by section in a sort of semi-fisking:
Section 1: “America Has More Guns Than Any Other Country”
Right off the bat, we have the standard trick of talking about “gun deaths” rather than “homicides, culpable manslaughter, and suicides.” I have talked at length about that elsewhere and will not repeat myself here.
Section 2: “We Have A Model For Regulating Guns: Automobiles”
Now we get the common and unimaginative argument that cars are properly analogous to guns, which can only be argued by two kinds of people. The first type consists of people who have not the slightest idea of what constitutes a valid argument by analogy, one of the conditions of which is that the analog must be similar in ALL relevant aspects to the issue on which the analogy purports to shed light. The second consists of people who simply dismiss as unimportant all of the differences between cars and guns – all the things that matter deeply to the people who disagree with them – even though this is simply begging the question — that is, saying, “I’m right because I’m right and while I will pretend to prove it I will really just repeat my own opinion with different words and then say, ‘See, I told you I was right.'” The right to have a convenient form of transportation is not a fundamental right, nor is it a Constitutionally guaranteed one; the right to self-defense is both a fundamental and inalienable right and also a Constitutionally guaranteed one. The purposes for which people own guns are quite different from, and both morally and Constitutionally far more important than, the purposes for which they own cars. Kristof doesn’t address the multiple ways in which its analogy fails to be relevant — hemerely pretends that irrelevancies are of no importance. Either he is very stupid or he is arguing in bad faith. (Or, given that this is the Times, quite possibly both.)
Section 3: “The Liberal Approach Is Ineffective. Use a Public Health Approach Instead.”
I have no huge problem with this section except that it is so vague as to be largely pie-in-the-sky. Of course there is also the fact that Kristof refers to “smart guns” as a possible solution, despite the very widely known issues with “smart guns,” which reinforces my point about the previous section. If a “feature” on a product renders that product largely useless for the primary use for which it is purchased in the first place, then the pretense that one is not using a back door to effectively hamstring a right that one claims to be honoring, is mere duplicity. There are a significant spectrum of self-defense situations in which putting a “smart gun” “feature” on a handgun renders it utterly useless for self-defense. But of course, Second Amendment be damned, Kristof doesn’t actually care about respecting the fundamental right of self-defense, as he promptly proves in the next section. Still, if you could come up with a smart-gun technology that would be genuinely smart enough to ensure that in a home invasion my properly trained twelve-year-old self of 1978 (and at twelve I bloody well was trained well enough to be a danger to a home invader but not to myself or my family) would have been able to use one of my dad’s hypothetical handguns to defend myself (though my dad actually was one of the few parents I know who didn’t keep handguns in real life; we only had a couple of rifles), then I think pretty much all NRA members would be all for using it – as long as it wasn’t imposed on them by regulation, progressives having long since convinced most gun owners that they (the progressives, I mean) do not deal in good faith when it comes to the Second Amendment and that if one gives them an inch they will try to take a mile. Before Kristof can really be taken seriously in this section, however, someone would have had to actually accomplish that technological task. Since they haven’t, he is merely waving his hands about vaguely while mouthing phrases that sound nice but have nothing concrete underpinning them.
Notice also that Kristof doesn’t really want guns abolished as a public health matter; he wants guns abolished because of “liberal reasons,” which in my experience always reduce (in the technical, logical sense) to, “We hate guns.” Here Kristof is merely suggesting that purely as a tactic of propaganda progressives should cast all their arguments in terms of “public health and safety,” rather than honestly stating their true reasons for desiring the effective disarmament of their law-abiding fellow-citizens, since stating their true reasons for wanting gun control has proven to be ineffective. This is, after all, the Times. What, you were expecting intellectual integrity and honesty? Aw, that’s so cute.
(By the way, Nicky my boy, your public health approach isn’t going to work any better than your more honestly liberal approach did, because you are still not taking the other side’s concerns seriously and nobody is going to be fooled.)
Section 4: “Fewer Guns = Fewer Deaths”
More absolutely and utterly dishonest abuse of statistics. The Times wishes to refute the idea that guns are an effective means of self-defense. This is an extremely difficult thing to accomplish given that even the lowest-end estimate of “Defensive Gun Use” (“DGU”), that of the NCVS, says that there are “only” 68,000 or so defensive uses of guns in connection with assaults and robberies per year, and 80,000 to 82,000 if you add household burglaries. The NCVS is actually a way-low outlier; there are numerous other surveys from which estimates of DGU can be drawn, and they imply rates of annual gun use that are closer to 500,000 per year. But let us take the lowest rate, the NCVS: 68,000 times per year potential crime victims use their guns to defend themselves. And what we know is that in the overwhelming majority of those cases, what immediately happens is that the attacker flees and nobody gets shot. Usually the trigger doesn’t even get pulled.
So how does Kristof deal with this highly inconvenient (for his agenda) reality? In three ways, one of which is standard journalistic special pleading that you can find wielded by any garden-variety journalistic liar, but the other two of which are breathtakingly and shamelessly dishonest, even for a New York Times journalist.
(a) I have rarely seen a more nakedly dishonest use of an actual fact, or one that more brutally insults the intelligence of its readers, than this, which Kristof actually presents as evidence that DGU is so rare as to be negligible: “One study by the Violence Policy Center found that in 2012 there were 259 justifiable homicides by a private citizen using a firearm.” Do you see the trick? If a home invader breaks into a single woman’s bedroom and finds her pointing a gun at him, and he does what 99% of the time happens, namely turns and runs away, to Kristof this does not count!! Either you actually kill the bad guy, or else Nicholas Kristof grandly informs you that you have not used your gun to stop violence.
WOMAN WHO RECENTLY DIVORCED A PSYCHOPATH: “So, my ex-husband violated the protective injunction and showed up my house waving a knife, and I pulled my gun and pointed it at his chest and told him if he wasn’t gone in ten seconds he’d be dead in eleven.”
NICHOLAS KRISTOF: “What happened then?”
WWRDAP: “He said I didn’t have the balls to pull the trigger and he charged me with the knife raised.”
OLD NICK: “And then what happened?”
WWRDAP: “I shot him twice in the chest.”
OLD NICK: “So he died?”
WWRDAP: “No, then I called 9-1-1 and the paramedics came and he wound up pulling through.”
OLD NICK: “He lived, then?”
WWRDAP: “Yes, I just said that.”
OLD NICK: “Ah, well I am relieved to find that you didn’t use your gun to stop violence.”
Personal testimony from Larry Correia, in the same article that I linked to at the beginning of this post:
So many defensive gun uses never get tracked as such. From personal experience, I have pulled a gun exactly one time in my entire life. I was legally justified and the bad guy stopped, put his gun away, and left. (15 years later the same son of a bitch would end up murdering a local sheriff’s deputy). My defensive gun use was never recorded anywhere as far as I know. My wife has pulled a gun twice in her life. Once on somebody who was acting very rapey who suddenly found a better place to be when she stuck a Ruger in his face, and again many years later on a German Shepherd which was attacking my one year old son. (amazingly enough a dog can recognize a 9mm coming out of a fanny pack and run for its life, go figure) No police report at all on the second one, and I don’t believe the first one ever turned up as any sort of defensive use statistic, all because no shots were fired.
That’s two DGU’s in one family — three if you count keeping the dog from maiming the one-year-old — and they live in Utah, not the South Side of Chicago. But according to Kristof, nobody in the Correia family has ever used guns to stop violence, because they never actually capped the bad guy. Because the Times is…well, it’s the Times.
Kristof and his editors actually expect their readers to be foolish enough, or careless enough in their reading habits, to think this is a reasonable statistic to use as a representation of all defensive gun use. If you are a subscriber to the Times, you should think long and hard about what this says about the opinion the Times has of you.
(b) There are at least fourteen studies that show DGU rates above 60,000 per year, the most extremely thorough of which (which so far as I know has not been successfully attacked on grounds of process and procedure) finds the DGU rate to be more than 1,000,000 per year. Kristof is very careful not to mention any of these studies to his readers. Nor does he mention that a disproportionate number of defensive gun users are women and minorities, despite the fact that the average reader of the Times claims (with what degree of sincerity the skeptical-but-charitable among us choose to leave as a matter between the Times readers and God) to care very much indeed about protection for women and minorities.
(c) Not only does Kristof go back to the “gun deaths” statistics, but he outright lies by referring to these statistics — but taking out the “gun” bit. It is demonstrably untrue that the removal of gun control has led to more deaths; it is demonstrably true that both worldwide and in the U.S. “More Guns = Fewer Deaths.” (This, by the way, does not prove causality, that is, it does not prove that Gov. Abbot was right to want Texans to have more guns than anybody so they could be safer than anybody. It only proves correlation. However, it certainly goes a long way to dis-proving the held-with-religious-fervor belief that gun control will reduce violence in general and violent deaths in particular; a person trying to maintain that stance is in much the same position as a person who, in the face of statistics showing a correlation between decreased smoking and decreased lung cancer, continues to insist that the best way to reduce lung cancer is to force people to smoke.) It is true that, generally speaking, “Fewer Guns = Fewer GUN Deaths”; the gun-death rate at the very height of Genghis Khan’s many genocidal military campaigns was after all 0%. And the two sets of statistics that the Times presents are both “gun death rate” statistics. But even in one of the graphics where the column with the number is headed, “GUN DEATH RATE,” the summary on the side says, “States in red have death rates above the national average of 10.5,” and the section is headed, “Fewer Guns = Fewer Deaths” – which is a lie direct.
The Guardian is hardly a right-wing paper, but even the Guardian isn’t so shameless as to deny (in this article) that in actual empirical fact the years-long American increase in gun ownership has been accompanied by a dramatic fall in violent crime: “Even as the US has grown dramatically safer and gun violence rates have plummeted, handguns have become a greater proportion of the country’s civilian gun stock, suggesting that self-defense is an increasingly important factor in gun ownership.” (The Guardian I think misspeaks by saying that “gun violence rates have plummeted;” I think it is actually “violence rates” in general that have plummeted and the Guardian, being left-wing, is so used to always talking about “gun violence” that it did so in this case out of sheer habit.) The Guardian uses a Fox Butterfield tactic to try to give its readers the impression (a) that Americans in general have taken the advice of the self-defense pro-gun activists, and (b) that what then happened (namely, across-the-board reductions in violence) was exactly what the self-defense pro-gun activists predicted would happen, and (c) that this proves that pro-gun people are really, really, really stupid compared to dutifully left-wing, pro-gun-control readers of the Guardian. (Really, that’s what the Guardiandid; see this explanation of the rhetorical trick they used). So the Guardianis just as invested in gun control, and just as eager to explain away the undeniable correlation between reduced gun control and reduced violence, as is the Times. It just isn’t quite shameless enough to outright lie and pretend that the correlation doesn’t exist at all.
But the Times, being itself, has not the slightest hesitancy in stooping to a tactic that even the Guardian is ashamed to resort to.
The rest of Kristof’s article is on the same level as the first four sections; I won’t spend more of your or my time addressing each section. I will, however, point out one more notable omission.
Kristof pretends to care about Protecting Our Children, and he waves around lots of carefully-chosen, cherry-picked statistics to bolster his case, while playing the Evil Bogeyman National Rifle Association card that he knows will play well with most of the readers of the Times. (Completely true fact which will never be acknowledged in the Times: in American history there have been more mass shootings by Bernie Sanders campaign volunteers than by National Rifle Association members.) But among the many relevant statistics he is careful not to mention is simply this:
In something north of 90% of the mass shootings over the last twenty years of our country’s history, the shooter has deliberately chosen a target zone that is publicly known to be a Gun Free Zone – that is, a place where he can be confident that he will face no effective armed resistance for at least an initial five to ten minutes. Furthermore, in attempted mass shootings where the police stop the killer the average body count is dramatically higher than that of attempted mass shootings where the killer is taken out by an armed civilian. There is ABSOLUTELY NO DOUBT that would-be mass murderers show a VERY strong preference for target zones in which nobody is supposed to be carrying weapons, and therefore nobody will be equipped to shoot back at him. This was even the case at the Fort Hood shooting – even though it was a freakin’ military base, nobody was allowed to carry guns in the mess hall, which the shooter knew perfectly well. In the most recent Florida tragedy, three male teachers were killed trying to protect children by shielding them with their bodies. What if, instead, they had been able to protect the children by shooting back? The most obvious way to reduce both the number of mass shootings that target schools and the death rates when schools are so targeted, is to allow those teachers who have concealed-carry licenses, to carry their guns – as they already can, for example, in Utah. For heaven’s sake, and for our children’s sake, repeal the laws that require public schools to advertise themselves to all would-be mass murderers that they are “Gun Free Zones” – it being perfectly reasonably to take every single “Gun Free Zone” sign in America and replace it with a sign reading, “Ideal Mass Shooting Target Zone” or “Innocent Victims Hunting Preserve,” with hardly any significant change in meaning.
But every member of the Times editorial staff could write an editorial on mass school shooting tragedies every day for the next fifty years, and not one of them would ever entertain such an idea. It is hard to avoid the suspicion that this is because they hate guns far more than they care about the safety of children in school.
I will close by referencing one more historical event, the first and (until Columbine) most notorious of all school shootings (loosely defined), the one at U.T. in 1966. Charles Whitman, an expert and well-armed sniper, was ensconced in a shooting position that commanded five city blocks. Furthermore, nobody in America had ever experienced or even imagined a mass shooting of this type. It took 90 minutes for law enforcement to reach the top of the tower and kill him…but in those 90 minutes he killed 15 and wounded 30 (counting David Hubert Gunby as a homicide, in agreement with the State of Texas’s classification, and counting the unborn baby as a person and therefore as a murder victim).
Except, actually, almost all of those people were shot in the first twenty minutes or so. Had he continued at the rate at which he began, the casualty count would have been easily triple what it ended up being. So what caused his drop in effectiveness?
Simple: this was Texas, in 1966. There was no rapid-response law enforcement unit, and not very many police managed to show up even in the first half-hour; that is one of the changes that began to happen later, in response to the shooting (just as police tactics changed again after Columbine). It took twenty minutes for members of the student body themselves to realize what was happening, get to their trucks, grab their hunting rifles, get back to where they could see the tower, and start shooting back, and for at least a few policemen (who typically carried useless handguns and therefore took a while to get their hands on rifles) to arrive and join in. From that point on, Whitman could no longer carefully sight in on a target, because whenever he poked his head out, a bunch of bullets came flying at his head. Furthermore, he no longer could see most of the target area, because he was forced to shoot through the storm drains. Once the good guys started shooting back, it was no longer open season on the innocents.
Every attempted mass shooting goes the same way: the bad guy first gets to a place where he knows (or thinks) nobody will be able to shoot back at first. Then he goes to work killing people who (unless they are trained American soldiers who happen to be on a French train, or off-duty security officers whom the terrorists did not expect to be packing) cannot effectively fight back. Then some good guy with a gun shows up, and puts an end to it.
You want to reduce the number of mass shootings we have at schools?
First of all, put an absolute embargo on publishing the names of the mass shooters and therefore rewarding them with exactly what they want, so that the most common reason they become mass shooters – public notoriety – will cease to be an incentive. The American news media and mass murderers have a long-standing symbiotic relationship: the shooter provides the ratings for the media, and in exchange the media eagerly provides the publicity for the shooter, knowing damned well (I use the term advisedly and in its most literal sense) that they are willingly helping to ensure that a similar high-ratings event will transpire in the fortunately-for-the-bottom-line-none-too-distant future, even as they piously publish pontifications on, “How Can We Stop All These Terrible High-Ratings Events From Happening In Our Beloved Country?” As long as the Times continues to blazon every mass shooter’s name and photograph all over its paper and online editions in hopes of raising subscription advertising revenue, I will not take seriously any Times employee’s pretense at wanting to reduce the rate of attempted mass shootings in America.
Next, take public schools off the list of “places where mass shooters know nobody will be able to shoot back at first.” Simple, obvious, effective…and anathema to persons such as Kristof.
Those two steps will do more than anything else to keep mass school shootings from being attempted in the first place. But there will still be sick and twisted teenagers who hate their schools and the people in them. Occasionally one of them will still decide to perpetrate a mass shooting at his school out of pure hatred, and will be able to get his hands on guns somehow. So in the (one hopes far more rare than at present) event of a school shooting, how do you minimize the number of children who die before the first good guy with a gun shows up? There’s no mystery to that: you let the good guys at the school, have guns.
That, however, involves recognizing that guns are tools, not independently evil demon-possessed moral agents; that violence is not always bad because very often the innocent can only be protected against evildoers by violence, in which case violence is a very good thing and the more effective and overwhelming the violence the better; and that people who like guns (this is the thing that urban progressives such as New York Times editorialists will find hardest to accept) are in no way morally or intellectually inferior to people who hate guns. As I have said before, the arguments in favor of gun control are – witness this particular Times article, for example – grotesquely irrational, patently fallacious, and utterly unconvincing to intelligent people…until you sneak in the unexpressed but necessary premise lurking in every pro-gun-control argument I’ve ever encountered, namely: “Guns are inherently evil.”
Without that premise, no gun-control argument, at least in the American context, holds up under rational scrutiny. And unfortunately for would-be gun controllers, that premise is simply and unalterably false.