Welcome to Common Gunsense

I hope this blog will provoke some thoughtful reflection about the issue of guns and gun violence. I am passionate about the issue and would love to change some misperceptions and the culture of gun violence in America by sharing with readers words, photos, videos and clips from articles to promote common sense about gun issues. Many of you will agree with me- some will not. I am only one person but one among many who think it's time to do something about this national problem. The views expressed by me in this blog do not represent any group with which I am associated but are rather my own personal opinions and thoughts.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

NRA myths and propaganda, Part 1

Mythology has been passed on for centuries. Greek Mythology seems to have a particular fascination. Since I am of Norwegian extraction, I am interested in that country's lore. Native American myths and folk lore are also of interest to me. People used to believe that babies were delivered by storks or that the world was flat. Thank goodness for Science, which seems to be out of favor with the far right these days. I just can't figure that one out. But I digress.

For decades now, the NRA has been getting away with mythology and propaganda. Why? One of the reasons is because they have actually created a myth about why they are so powerful. And many Americans have bought it- most especially politicians. What a shame. Because of this, we have wasted precious time and maybe precious lives. In Part 2 of this thread, I will be talking more about the NRA myth about money and politicians.

Propaganda runs rampant in the pro gun community. Whenever I write about incidents of shootings, it is inevitable that I get links to articles about gun owners defending themselves with their guns. If there were as many self defense instances as the pro gun extremists would have us believe, why are we not hearing about them in the media? I have asked the question before but I really don't get any answers to it. But this blog, Propaganda Professor, has done a lot of good research to lay bare the gun lobby's propaganda machine. It's a well-oiled machine and has worked well for people who don't bother to think. But really, I am tired of the attack on thinking and reason that is coming from the far right in this country. Since when are facts, truth, intelligence, reality, reason and intellectualism bad? How have we come to this place? Armed with knowledge is a better idea than armed with guns. Let's take a look at what the link above has to reveal about the propaganda of the NRA. From the article:
According to Gallup (a poll, not a study, but generally rather reliable) 30 percent of American adults own guns. With a U.S. population of 313 million, roughly 75 percent of whom (about 230 million) are adults, that translates to about 70 million gun owners. The gun culture estimates its own strength at 80 million, so let’s assume they’re right, and Gallup not so much so.  That would mean that one out of 32 gun owners is involved in a DGU every year.  Seriously? Even if we factor in the additional 12 percent who, according to Gallup, live in a household in which someone owns a gun, that means 99 million who have access to one.  And that would still mean that one out of 40 of them is involved in a DGU every year. If that sounds like a reasonable ratio to you, let’s draw a tighter bead on it.
In challenging my observation that many of the anecdotes are bogus, a writer at The Truth About Guns whipped out a list of “75 real ones, just from the last 4 months”. Except that many of these “real” ones were, um, not so real.  He didn’t say where he came up with this collection, but everybody who produces such a list produces essentially the same list, a roster of news headlines apparently meant to confirm the 2.5 million tally. If so, it indicates that maybe gunsters aren’t quite as proficient at counting people as they are at killing them.
Because 75 in 4 months does not quite add up to 2.5 million. It adds up to 225. And at that rate, you would have – quite literally – a substantially greater risk of being struck by lightning. So, since the NRA has only your best interests at heart (wink wink nudge nudge) why isn’t it promoting handy dandy designer rubber suits to go along with those portable miniature lightning rods it pushes?
Even on the busiest day, there are rarely more than 2 or 3 DGUs in the news; and in order to meet the quota of 2.5 million annually, you would need to have 6849 daily, more than 2 per day in each of the nation’s counties.
I thank the writer of this blog for revealing the "truth about gun facts" and taking the time to do some math with real numbers. Several gun blogs and the NRA's own section on its' website are "keeping track" of how many times guns are used in self defense ( according to their own statistics). They love to tout them. But they aren't doing so well in providing actual numbers to go with their propaganda:
One only hopes that the good folk at NRA are more competent handling weapons than they are handling editorial space. Armed Citizen easily could accommodate one DGU per day, 365 per year. And how many did it print last year? Barely more than 100. And guess what? It appears that every one of them was reported in the terrorist-coddling librulmedia. Can I order my rubber suit now? Surely they must come in red, white and blue.
So how do these numbers of supposed self defense get inflated? If you ask the folks who claim they have used a gun in self defense, you get some interesting responses ( language is not mine but that of the blog author) :
Indeed, a close inspection of the Kleck data reveals some major thorns. As we mentioned, at least 36 percent of respondents stated they didn’t even notify police. Which makes you wonder whether the incidents really were serious enough to justify calling in the infantry.  Furthermore, 46.8 percent admitted (the actual percentage could be higher) that the supposed offender neither attacked nor made a threat. So what made the hardware necessary? In more than half of the cases, the supposed defender admitted (the actual percentage may be higher) that the supposed offender had no weapon of any kind.  And since 57.6 percent of defenders say they verbally referred to their guns and 75.7 percent brandished or showed their guns, that seems to indicate that about 25 percent only referred to them verbally. And this counts as a defensive gun use? I could do the same thing, but since I don’t even own a gun, the weapon du jour would be bullshit, not a Glock.
And why does any of this make any difference? Because if the pro gun extremists believe that their guns are absolutely necessary to defend themselves from criminals with guns then the gun dealers and manufacturers make a lot of money. If gun owners believe in these myths, the NRA and the gun manufacturers, who have a very cozy relationship, all benefit. The NRA keeps it member numbers up and yells and screams about conspiracy theories as did Wayne LaPierre at the recent CPAC meeting. Good grief. What a great myth he is weaving. But I'll let him speak for himself.


This is the stuff that should keep us all up at night. Implicit in this mythical message is money and power. In Wayne LaPierre, NRA Executive VP, the gun lobby has found a perfect story teller who can weave a tale to peddle nonsense. Stupidly, this nonsense is used to lobby against any kind of reasonable and common sense gun legislation that might have the effect of keeping guns from criminals. If criminals aren't running around with guns, then people might not need to have so many guns and the gun manufacturers would have a problem with their business model.

To end, the writer of the blog, above, points out the obvious but often ignored truth:
Not that I expect it to make a great deal of difference. People will believe what that want to believe, and for the gun culture it’s important to believe that lead is more vital than oxygen. For all their rant and cant about “defending liberty”, many gunsters are quite willing to enslave themselves to the unscrupulous marketing machinations of the firearms cartel. And every time a trigger clicks, a cash register ka-chings.
And on my own blog, these myths and propaganda persist. Just today, a commenter dragged out this tired old myth:
" Included in your examples are two murderers and one attempted murderer. I'm not an expert in criminal law, but it seems to me that murderers and attempted murderers are not law-abiding citizens. I'm pretty sure they aren't. In fact, I'm willing to bet my life, any sum of money, AND all of my guns on it. 
Reality doesn't arrange itself according to your preferences. Those who break the law are not law abiding. You can't be a law-abiding murderer. "
Well, he should be happy I didn't take him up on his bet because he would lose hands down. Such circular "logic" keeps the people who use it in a fact free bubble of their own making. Here's the thing. My post was about otherwise law abiding gun owners/permit holders shooting people or themselves. I have had this stupid go-around before. Law abiding gun owners are law abiding until they are not. In the matter of seconds, someone with a gun can become a felon by shooting someone in a crime of passion, or while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, etc. These are people who are NOT prohibited purchasers and can buy guns legally from FFLs. I am not talking about ACTUAL criminals who don't come by their guns legally. I am talking about every day ordinary gun owners, just like the folks who read my blog. Every day, a few of them "go ballistic" and shoot someone. The myth perpetrated by the pro gun extremists is that it's only criminals who kill people with guns. Of course, a person who shoots someone else becomes an instant criminal. But just seconds before he/she pulled that trigger they were law abiding.

This does not fit with the world view of the pro gun extremists who seem to think that they themselves and the people they know couldn't possibly shoot someone intentionally or by accident. Or they wouldn't commit suicide with that gun. Until, of course, they do. They know this for sure. It bothers them that real life incidents of gun permit holders and law abiding citizens actually shoot people or use their guns carelessly. In fact, as it turns out, the majority of homicides are committed by people who know the victim in some way rather than random shootings by criminals. And many of these people were not criminals before they pulled that trigger. But the myth persists. I even had an unsavory exchange on my blog with someone who insisted that my sister's killer ( my now ex and dead brother-in-law) had to have been a criminal before he shot her. He was not, of course, but he sure as h#$% was after he shot her.

It's a choice to live in a world where up is down and black is white. That is not the way I live my life. I prefer the truth to myth. I prefer Science to making things up. Studying mythology is instructive in that it applies to daily life in many ways. We can actually learn something by studying myths. And unpacking the myths and propaganda of the NRA can only lead to more common sense about gun violence in this country and to a more sane, safe and sensible world.


  1. japete

    "I have asked the question before but I really don't get any answers to it"

    I answered your question last night in a post you refused to publish ( I think I know why )

    The NON partisan National Academy of Sciences performed an exhaustive study entitled " Firearms and Violence, A Critical Review" a few years ago. They determined that it could NOT be disputed that people used firearms in defense of themselves or another person a MINIMUM of 700,000 times every year.

    I think you also know why " we dont hear about it in the news ". Because the only stories that get National Media attention are the big ones. Would you really be aware of a self defense story reported only by a local paper in Georgia , or NY State or Arkansas or any of the other State's that arent immediately in your vicinity ? Of course not.

    1. Not sure the study comes out the way you claim it did. It was a 2004 study. http://www.democraticunderground.com/discuss/duboard.php?az=view_all&address=118x96247

      " Data limitations are immense in the study of firearms and violence, the committee emphasized. The report calls for the development of a National Violent Death Reporting System and a National Incident-Based Reporting System. No single data system can answer all questions about violent events, but it is important to start collecting accurate and reliable information that describes basic facts about violent injuries and deaths."

      " The role of guns in U.S. society is a subject of intense policy debate and disagreement. However, current research and data on firearms and violent crime are too weak to support strong conclusions about the effects of various measures to prevent and control gun violence, says a new report from the National Academies' National Research Council. A comprehensive research program on firearms is needed if criminal-justice and crime-prevention policy is to have a sound basis.

      Some of today's most pressing policy issues in this area cannot be tackled with existing data and research methods, which are weak, the report says. For example:

      -- There is no credible evidence that "right-to-carry" laws, which allow qualified adults to carry concealed handguns, either decrease or increase violent crime. To date, 34 states have enacted these laws.

      -- There is almost no evidence that violence-prevention programs intended to steer children away from guns have had any effects on their behavior, knowledge, or attitudes regarding firearms. More than 80 such programs exist.

      -- Research has found associations between gun availability and suicide with guns, but it does not show whether such associations reveal genuine patterns of cause and effect.

      "Policy questions related to gun ownership and proposals for gun control touch on some of the most contentious issues in American politics: Should regulations restrict who may possess firearms? Should there be restrictions on the number or types of guns that can be purchased? Should safety locks be required? These and many related policy questions cannot be answered definitively because of large gaps in the existing science base," said Charles F. Wellford, professor, department of criminology and criminal justice, University of Maryland, College Park, and chair of the committee that wrote the report. "However, we do know what kind of data and research are needed to fill those gaps and, in turn, inform policy debates in a more meaningful way."

      The study committee was not asked to address any issues of policy and did not do so. Rather, the committee evaluated the research base on firearms violence and on prevention, intervention, and control strategies. It also explored how new methods of merging scientific findings and data could inform strategies for reducing gun-related crime, suicide, and accidental fatalities. The federal government should support a robust research program in this area, concluded the committee."

  2. Now lets see some other quotes from the same study.

    National Academy of Sciences "Firearms and Violence, A Critical Review " Chapter 5 pg 113

    " The hypothesis that many Americans use guns for self protection each year has been repeatedly subjected to empirical testing, using the only feasible method for doing so, survey of representative samples of the populations. The results of nineteen consecutive surveys unanimously indicate that each year huge numbers of Americans ( 700,000 or more ) use guns for self protection. Further, the more technically sound the survey, the higher the defensive gun use estimates. The entire body of evidence cannot be rejected based on the speculation that all surveys share biases that, on net, cause an overestimation of defensive gun use frequency because, ignoring fallacious reasoning, there is no empirical evidence to support this novel theory. At this point it is fair to say that no intellectually serious challenge has been mounted to the case for defensive gun us being very frequent. "

    1. In the paragraph following, also on page 113- " Certainly, the numerous surveys reveal some phenomena. In light of the differences in coverage and potential response errors, however, what exactly these surveys measure remains uncertain. Ultimately, the committee found no comfort in numbers: the existing surveys do not resolve the ongoing questions about response problems and do not change the fact that different subpopulations are queried. Mere repetition does not eliminate bias (Rosenbaum, 2001; Hemenway, 1997a)."

  3. With fortuitous timing, a new study on this very subject has just been published.

    A summary may be seen here:

    On the right side of the bullet
    More Americans protect themselves with guns than you think


    The full study may be viewed from here:

    Tough Targets: When Criminals Face Armed Resistance from Citizens


    1. Not exactly from an unbiased source, Jay. But even this author found nowhere near the number of DGUs as Kleck claimed there were. So this story really verifies the link I provided. And by the way, I have never said that guns are not used for legitimate self defense. But whether or not scaring a robber away when you show a gun can be counted I believe is up for scrutiny. Maybe I would scare a robber away with my dog, or by yelling or some other way. That, I suppose, could be called self defense.

    2. "Maybe I would scare a robber away with my dog, or by yelling or some other way."

      An woman living alone awoke one night to the sound of an intruder in the house. Unable to find her phone in the dark, she yelled out: "Repent...in the name of Jesus Christ -- Acts 2:38". The intruder fled but was seen and apprehended by a passing police car. After taking the homeowner's statement, an officer asked the intruder why he fled upon hearing the bible quote. "What bible quote," he replied. "I thought she said she had an axe and two 38's."

  4. I am trying to understand you viewpoint. To that end, could you please clarify for me a couple points?

    1) You state that "Law abiding gun owners are law abiding until they are not...These are people who are NOT prohibited purchasers and can buy guns legally from FFLs." Do you then believe that no one should have guns on the basis that they might become violent in a stressful or anger-inducing situation?

    2) If as you have stated previously, you do not wish to ban firearms all together, what are the common sense laws you wish to have in place that would prevent otherwise law-abiding gun owners from becoming criminals in the situations you mentioned?

    1. My views are contained in my blog posts and don't need to be further explained. I have done so many times on this blog.