A friend of mine said recently, “The very best lies are the ones that contain a trace of very powerful, self-evident truths, thereby obscuring the larger truth. We read them and nod in ascension — but only if we are not very bright. Or we simply succumb to our own confirmation bias. In other words, we agree because we already believe it anyway.” This statement certainly characterizes the current furor over firearms, where the media and others, whether intentional or not, permeate the airwaves with popular myths rather than facts. For example,
Myth: Murders are on the rise.
Fact: The murder rate (U.S. Crime Statistics, from any cause) is the lowest since 1968, in absolute terms. Proportionally, the murder rate in 1968 was 69 murders per million citizens, in 2011, 47 per million; a decrease of 32 percent.
Myth: criminals purchase their firearms at gun shows due to the “gun show loophole.”
Fact: Two U.S. Department of Justice surveys have shown that less than 1 percent of incarcerated federal felons obtained their weapons at gun shows. Theft is far and away the most likely means of acquisition.
Myth: Limiting access of certain types of weapons to law-abiding citizens will reduce firearm-caused deaths.
Fact: The Columbine shootings took place during the former “assault weapon ban.” The ban was no impediment whatsoever to minors who were in possession of firearms illegally. The cause then, as now, is a result of criminal behavior, for which no simple fix exists.
As a nation, should we restrict citizen’s Constitutional rights and legislate based on myth or fact? In my opinion, the firearm issue, much like our budget woes, is being addressed by legislators who apparently prefer to base their efforts on myths rather than facts, or have some other agenda.