Publishing the names and addresses of gun-permit holders? Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.
There’s simply no public purpose – and therefore no excuse – for publishing a map with the names and addresses of the holders of gun permits.
This provides a strong argument against forms of recordkeeping that could actually help solve gun crimes. All for the sake of some hits.
Historically, Gannett has done some good work. But this is utterly beyond the pale. I can’t find an email address for the publisher, Larry Kramer, but you can Tweet him @lkramer.
Footnote No, none of the glibertarian gun nuts making a fuss about this had any objection to doing it to abortion recipients: a much more damaging invasion of privacy. But that’s them, not us.
Author: Mark Kleiman
Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out.
Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken)
When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist
Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993)
Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989)
View all posts by Mark Kleiman
89 thoughts on “Gannett’s shame”
Well said. Nothing more to say about it.
So is gun control off the table now?
Perhaps you shouldn’t link it? I clicked through thinking it might be a story about it.
There’s plenty of public purpose in knowing where gun fetishists live. Knowing who and where the gun fetishists are is essential to knowing who shouldn’t be associated with because they just might snap into violence one day.
This is true, but on the other hand possession of a firearms license doesn’t equate well to “firearms fetishist”. If I learned someone was stockpiling weapons I would be worried about their sanity and what they might do – but if I learned they were stockpiling freeze-dried food (certain Mormon religious requirements aside) I’d have much the same worries. There is the caveat that the worries would still involve firearms, I just wouldn’t have direct proof of their existence. Similarly, if I learned someone had acquired the (apparently legal) gear used by the Aurora, CO shooter (full body armor, gas grenades, multiple military-style weapons with extended clips) I’d want their head examined tout suite, but they wouldn’t appear any differently on the Gannett database than would a hobbyist with a target pistol.
Basically: the database contains a lot of the people in the country who I believe to be dangerously insane and equipped to do real harm. But it also contains a preponderance of people who are perfectly fine, as well as a great many who are merely misguided. The problem isn’t that some people want legal firearms; it’s that our gun culture cultivates peoples’ Dirty Harry fantasies, and their Mad Max fantasies, and generally refuses to consider even the most moderate of regulations or duties.
What might they do, if they stockpiled freeze dried food? Not have to rush to the grocery to fight over empty shelves after the next natural disaster? Oh, horrible!
People ought to stockpile food, and other consumables, like fresh water. It’s stupid having a society set up so that people start starving if the supply chains get disrupted for even a few days.
As I would have assumed you’d recognize, it was a reference to the paranoiac trend, and the marketing around it, that has in recent months (or years?) seen people stocking up on guns, ammunition, freeze-dried food, and who-knows what else, sometimes going into debt in order to indulge their apocalyptic fantasies. I worry about such people not because they are reducing their trips to the store and making sensible plans for mild exigencies, but because they are preparing for what they imagine is the imminent collapse of civilization, a manifestation of fear, panic, and psychosis that has historically been associated with violent outbursts. The fact that some people are making money off of such illness – a trend closely associated with the marketing of firearms – is simply reprehensible.
Yes, you worry, which is what makes the reference to “paranoia” so delightfully ironic, in a lack of introspection sort of way.
Brett, I don’t know where you live, but here on the East Coast where we deal with multiple hurricanes every year, your observation is clearly correct. I’m a lefty liberal and I don’t own a gun, but for 36 years living in Virginia Beach I kept a pantry full of canned food and bottled water. It’s uncomfortable to be without electricity for a week; it’s stupid to be without food.
What this tells me is that Warren made his analogy too quickly, without thinking it through. OTOH, sticking to the original point and not the analogy–yes, I’d worry about someone I knew to be stockpiling weapons of war.
And that brings us back full circle–only in the mind of a truly paranoid person does “has a firearms license” equate to “is a dangerous gun nut.”
For the last few years, I’ve lived on the outskirts of Greenville, where they panic and run to the grocery store at a mild dusting of snow, and while we get the occasional tornado or ice storm, nothing that would knock out infrastructure for weeks seems in the cards. (Until we get a 500 year earthquake, of course! Then it’s going to get ugly.)
Prior to that I grew up in rural Michigan, where only a fool didn’t keep weeks of food on hand in the winter, along with some source of emergency power and heat. Because you never knew when you might be snowed in for a week or more, possibly without electricity. Those habits really paid off for Mom when she moved to Florida, and had to weather the occasional hurricane.
You could eat out of our pantry for a month without leaving the apartment. Though pasta salad with tuna might get boring after a while.
There simply is a difference between being prepared for exigencies and falling for a cynical marketing campaign that has you tooling up because any day now the Mad Max Zombie Apocalypse is coming. I don’t know if you’ve seen the ads, but they’re not about being ready for a blizzard or about eating a lot of tunafish for a few weeks – they’re about having years of supplies and the makings of your own warlordship as anarchy prevails for years. I do worry about the people who live out their apocalyptic fantasies, because they do tend to end badly.
Warren, I don’t disagree with you about the 4-sigma outliers. But as Brett pointed out, and I concurred, if there were a map showing people who have pantries full of non-perishables and bottled water, we’d both show up.
Which reinforces your original point–a map of gun licensees is worse than zero, because it points a finger of innuendo at people who’ve done nothing more sinister than comply with the applicable laws.
Yes, Ken & Brett, if you interpret Warren Terra’s comments as being about people with “pantries full of non-perishables and bottled water”, then he looks pretty silly. So maybe you, I dunno, shouldn’t interpret them that way?
Seriously, his original comment was about how a simply listing of the gun registry would fail to distinguish between someone who is stockpiling weapons and “a hobbyist with a target pistol.” So is it not possible that he distinguishes between people who are stockpiling food for the collapse of civilization and someone who has supplies for the occasional natural disaster? And that his comments were about the former group of people and not the latter?
This really isn’t that complicated so I’m not sure why you two are finding it such a sticking point. Well, Brett is continually not understanding things he finds it more convenient to not understand but I don’t see what your difficulty is, Ken.
Nick, the SPLC once, in their online guide to “hate” groups, included a google search for dried bean stores. No kidding! I make no assumptions about the reasonableness of people who attack stockpiling.
Nick, if you go back through this thread you’ll see that neither Brett nor I disagree with Warren’s original point, which was that a mere mapping of gun licenses does NOT show you who to worry about. Left, right, left–we’re all in agreement. Brett and I simply didn’t like Warren’s analogy, because “stockpiling” of weapons may be a significant signal, while “stockpiling” of foodstuffs is likely the prudent policy of a lot of us (a) in the West, where they have earthquakes, (b) in the North, where they have blizzards, and (c) in the Southeast, where we have hurricanes.
This was simply a nit that I picked, not a go-to-battle-stations disagreement.
Do please feel free to willfully refuse to comprehend a distinction between: (1) shopping in bulk and laying in a well-stocked larder for reasons of convenience, of economy, and in order to be better prepared in case of the sorts of emergencies that sometimes happen – and (2) buying years’ worth of freeze-dried food, complete collections of seed stocks not for gardening now but to recreate Agriculture after it has ceased, and other Survivalist supplies that are marketed to those poor deluded and panicked souls who become convinced they must and can be prepared for what they apparently regard as a likely complete breakdown in society. The former is a policy I’d thoroughly endorse; the latter is a hallmark of someone I’d prefer stayed well away from me and those I care about; too many of these people that perceive themselves as backed up against a wall have wound up lashing out violently.
I don’t see how you can refuse to understand the difference with any sincerity, but if you find insincerity works better for you then so be it.
This is a very long reply. Anybody but Warren is welcome to skip it.
Thereâ€™s plenty of public purpose in knowing where gun fetishists live. Knowing who and where the gun fetishists are is essential to knowing who shouldnâ€™t be associated with because they just might snap into violence one day.
Warren Terra says:
This is true, but on the other hand possession of a firearms license doesnâ€™t equate well to â€œfirearms fetishistâ€. If I learned someone was stockpiling weapons I would be worried about their sanity and what they might do â€“ but if I learned they were stockpiling freeze-dried food (certain Mormon religious requirements aside) Iâ€™d have much the same worries.
Brett Bellmore says:
What might they do, if they stockpiled freeze dried food? Not have to rush to the grocery to fight over empty shelves after the next natural disaster? Oh, horrible!
People ought to stockpile food, and other consumables, like fresh water. Itâ€™s stupid having a society set up so that people start starving if the supply chains get disrupted for even a few days.
Ken Rhodes says:
Brett, I donâ€™t know where you live, but here on the East Coast where we deal with multiple hurricanes every year, your observation is clearly correct. Iâ€™m a lefty liberal and I donâ€™t own a gun, but for 36 years living in Virginia Beach I kept a pantry full of canned food and bottled water. Itâ€™s uncomfortable to be without electricity for a week; itâ€™s stupid to be without food.
What this tells me is that Warren made his analogy too quickly, without thinking it through. OTOH, sticking to the original point and not the analogyâ€“yes, Iâ€™d worry about someone I knew to be stockpiling weapons of war.
And that brings us back full circleâ€“only in the mind of a truly paranoid person does “has a firearms license” equate to “is a dangerous gun nut.”
Warren Terra says:
There simply is a difference between being prepared for exigencies and falling for a cynical marketing campaign that has you tooling up because any day now the Mad Max Zombie Apocalypse is coming. I donâ€™t know if youâ€™ve seen the ads, but theyâ€™re not about being ready for a blizzard or about eating a lot of tunafish for a few weeks â€“ theyâ€™re about having years of supplies and the makings of your own warlordship as anarchy prevails for years. I do worry about the people who live out their apocalyptic fantasies, because they do tend to end badly.
Ken Rhodes says:
Warren, I donâ€™t disagree with you about the 4-sigma outliers. But as Brett pointed out, and I concurred, if there were a map showing people who have pantries full of non-perishables and bottled water, weâ€™d both show up.
Which reinforces your original pointâ€“a map of gun licensees is worse than zero, because it points a finger of innuendo at people whoâ€™ve done nothing more sinister than comply with the applicable laws.
Then Nick chimed in that I should have interpreted your original comment differently than you wrote it. To which I replied:
Ken Rhodes says:
Nick, if you go back through this thread youâ€™ll see that neither Brett nor I disagree with Warrenâ€™s original point, which was that a mere mapping of gun licenses does NOT show you who to worry about. Left, right, left–weâ€™re all in agreement. Brett and I simply didnâ€™t like Warrenâ€™s analogy, because “stockpiling” of weapons may be a significant signal, while “stockpiling” of foodstuffs is likely the prudent policy of a lot of us (a) in the West, where they have earthquakes, (b) in the North, where they have blizzards, and (c) in the Southeast, where we have hurricanes.
This was simply a nit that I picked, not a go-to-battle-stations disagreement.
And to that, you impugned my sincerity. That bothers me. I don’t “willfully refuse to comprehend your distinction.” Your analogy you wrote didn’t make the distinction. For the final time, after which I shall give up trying to get through the fog:
Brett and Ken, voices from the two ends of the spectrum, both agreed with Warren’s point about the counterproductive value of the alleged list of gun permit holders. We both didn’t like the analogy he wrote. Not the one in his mind; the one in his words on this blog. He wrote ” If I learned someone was stockpiling weapons I would be worried about their sanity and what they might do, but if I learned they were stockpiling freeze-dried food (certain Mormon religious requirements aside) Iâ€™d have much the same worries.”
Yes, that choice of words is a nit in the big picture, but I’m a well known nit-picker. And I said just that–that it was merely a nit–a poorly chosen analogy. That sentence, which Warren wrote and then pushed the Submit button, put me in the category Warren would have much the same worries about as a gun nut.
And on the other side of the coin, I try to choose my words carefully. When I slip up in my writing and somebody like Brett points it out to me, I don’t go to general quarters to defend myself. I don’t say “as I would have assumed you’d recognize.” I say “Oops, sorry,this is what I meant to say…” and I move on.
As I shall now.
In the name of my child’s safety, my wife has identified where documented pedophiles live near us. We also ask my childrens’ playmate’s parents if they have guns in the house–and, if so, are not allowed to play at that house.
In the same way, there is a value in knowing where local gun owners live, so that me and my kids can avoid them.
This was my first reaction, too: a parent might want to know if there are guns in the home of their child’s playmate. And after all, this is public record. And unlike sex offenders, who often are harassed when their location becomes known, there are so many holders of gun permits, I doubt that many would be singled out for harassment.
We had a pediatrician for a while who had this whole list of health and safety questions he’d go through every well-child visit, for example, Do we wear our seatbelts and always use our child’s car seat, Does anyone in our household smoke or use recreational drugs, and so on, including, Do you have a gun in your home. He used to look up from the list at that point and say, “I don’t have to ask *you* that!” Which was a point of pride for me. But it did make me wonder how many parents he felt he needed to give the gun safety talk to.
Anyway, depending on your kid and your circumstances, I can definitely see parents being interested in this list.
Alternatively, they could, oh, I don’t know, talk to their child’s playmates’ parents. Get to know them.
When the chance of a violent death goes up in these households, no way.
To me, this is no different than any other behavior that puts my child at risk. I simply dont care about gun-owning parents’ reassurances. The mere fact of their having a gun exponentially decreases my child’s safety.
He should have asked you, if it’s on the list. I had a doctor apologize for asking me whether I use any street drugs, with the implication being that I’m a middle class, employed, married, white male suburbanite, but he said they ask everyone. As it turns out, I do (very) occasionally enjoy the odd bit of marijuana, and I told him so. Doctors shouldn’t stereotype. He can ask, and you can say no.
Doctors have no choice about it being on their list. It’s the government’s list, not the doctor’s. If the government wanted doctors to quiz you about the brand of underarm deodorant you use, that’s the list they’d put it on.
The government’s list? We’ve had a number of different general pediatricians (lemme see, about I think we’re on #6 now, due mainly to either us or the pediatrican moving out of town), plus a number of specialists, and no one else has ever gone through that list with us, or anything like it. The list was a Dr. Sorauf speciality. He was pediatrician #3 and one of very few things I miss from our days in Dayton.
You appear to be correct; Some poking around reveals it’s likely an AMA recommendation, (The AMA is notoriously anti-gun.) than a government decree. My mistake, fell for a rumor.
Uh-huh. Those crazy, crazy anti-gun people who want to recommend that pediatricians talk to parents about putting covers on outlets, putting latches on cabinets, securing bookcases to walls, putting Mr. Yuk stickers on solvents and cleaners, using child-proof caps, and storing guns unloaded, out of reach, and locked away.
“If the government wanted doctors to quiz you about the brand of underarm deodorant you use, thatâ€™s the list theyâ€™d put it on.”
So survivalist he-men use underarm deodorant? Now if I met somebody stockpiling crates of the stuff …
Do you keep your kids from playing at homes with pools? Stairs? Cars & driveways? All cause more at-home deaths of children each year than guns. (I couldn’t find alcohol-related non-suicide numbers, but I’ll bet those are larger too)
It’s not really about the children, right?
Again, depends on the child and circumstances. There’s a difference between the risk involved with an unsupervised toddler and a backyard swimming pool and that same pool and an unsupervised teenaged swim team captain.
Some kids are very impulsive and are natural dare-devils, others aren’t — a dare-devil can manage to break his arm jumping off the bed, that doesn’t mean you’re all going to start sleeping on the floor, it means you might keep a closer eye on him until he grows up a little more.
What I’m trying to say here is, there are lots of variables here and they change through the years. Frankly, whether or not another family has guns is not an issue of mine but my family’s circumstances are not universals. If another parent thinks it’s vitally important to know who in the neighborhood is keeping guns, I don’t have a problem with that because I can’t possibly know everything that went into that decision.
Even if it’s not about the children’s safety but rather a value judgement the parents are making, namely that We Do Not Associate With the Type of Person That Uses Guns, so what? As a parent, it’s well within your purview to pass down your values.
I disagree. Shouldn’t these be crime-immunized domiciles? That’s the point of possessing (w/o any guarantee of knowing how to use them) the guns, right Brett?
They’re crime shifted domiciles; We already have a considerably lower rate of “hot” burglaries than most countries, and surveys of burglars confirm the criminologists’ theory that it’s because burglars don’t want to get shot by homeowners. In England, it’s been reported, burglars actually favor invading houses when people are home, because they can force homeowners to direct them to the valuables, and don’t have to worry about the homeowners shooting them.
Homes identified on this list will be largely immunized against the already uncommon “hot” burglaries, and become a little more attractive for burglaries when the burglars are confident nobody’s home, as the presence of a relatively valuable object has been indicated. The degree of the shift will be moderated by the fact burglars aren’t stupid enough to think only people with licenses have guns, so this only adds a bit of certainty to what was already a fairly good bet.
I don’t think this list is going to have a very profound effect in any direction, as most people don’t think it’s that big a deal to learn their neighbors own guns, even if the newspaper thought it was a shocking revelation which would result in shunning.
Like many other claims in this area, this relies on cherry-picked data. I’ve seen such studies before, and usually they rely on picking the countries and data sets that are favorable and ignoring the rest.
Residential burglaries have gone up in recent years (while burglaries of non-residences have gone down). Whatever the effects of Heller and McDonald, it didn’t affect residential burglary rates.
According to the National Crime Victimization Survey (table 64), at least 24.1% of burglary victims were at home when the crime occurred (the number may be higher, because of a don’t know rate of 16.2%). Whatever surveys of burglars say, it doesn’t appear that the presence of the home owner is much of a deterrent in reality.
According to the German federal crime statistics, Germany had 197,803 residential burglaries in 2011 , compared to 1,630,791 in the United States in the same year, i.e. about 12% the crime rate with about 26% of the population. Germany, as you may know, has very restrictive gun laws. Color me skeptical that even after accounting for methodological differences, you’ll get a higher number of “hot” burglaries (you may get a higher rate, but that’s little consolation for the more numerous victims). Especially given that the numbers are even more extreme for robberies occurring in residences  (2,911 vs. 60,078, or about 4.9%), there doesn’t seem to be much evidence that guns are particularly useful for keeping criminals out of our homes.
Another interesting data point: These statistics count both attempted and completed burglaries, and both in Germany and the UK, the number of failed burglaries is much higher than in the United States (~40% vs. ~20%).
 German law distinguishes between “Wohnungseinbruchdiebstahl” (residential burglary with the intent to steal) and “Hausfriedensbruch”, which combines both trespassing and all other forms of unlawful entry where nothing is stolen. There were 132,595 incidents of the former and 65,208 of the latter. This may actually overcount burglary cases a bit, because it includes trespassing offenses that we would not classify as burglaries under American or British law.
 “RaubÃ¼berfall in Wohnungen”. Incidentally, about 8.1% of those in Germany involved the perpetrator using a firearm.
“… both in Germany and the UK, the number of failed burglaries is much higher than in the United States…”
Better locks? A friend in Paris, who inherited a fair number of paintings by his grandmother, a minor but listed post-Impressionist, was required by his insurance company to instal an armour-plated door to his flat with a five-point security lock. That’s not unusual in France.
You’ll notice that the maps gave no locations for unregistered handguns. Those locations could be greater in number than the registered locations.
Almost certain, given the record.
Uh, perhaps that is because it is a list of permit holders, that is, sentient beings, not a list of guns, which are inanimate objects. I thought the mantra was that guns don’t kill people; people kill people.
I am not aware of any map being published of abortion recipients. When and where did this happen? Also nothing from googling it.
I am not sure what the point of much of the left’s sudden desire for gun control. It is a loser of a wedge issue they wisely abandoned years ago, and even with a democratic congress at best there would be ineffectual garbage like the assault weapon ban, which was easily evaded.
Meanwhile millions of long term unemployed people will be losing their benefits a week from today, and those with a job can look forward to higher payroll taxes on every penny of their checks, even minimum wage workers. But hey who cares about those losers, there are political points to be scored this media cycle and the midterms are only 23 months away.
I’ll mostly be voting for democrats regardless, but this extreme lack of any sense of priority makes you all look amateurish, emotional and unserious.
I don’t think anyone put together the software for a map; I’m not even sure a database was actually released, because of court action. But there has been a campaign to force disclosure of the people who have aborted pregnancies, including one spearheaded by the attorney general of Kansas (in this example I found rapidly, but as I recall there have been other more recent and more extensive attempts).
I think disclosing records to a prosecutor, as part of the evidence in a criminal investigation, is quite a different kind of “disclosure” than publishing it in the newspaper.
Give me about a nanosecond, and I can think of about 26 reasons in Newtown alone. Admittedly, some of them are quite small reasons. I can think of a couple of reasons in Webster, NY, and more in Tucson, Aurora, and elsewhere.
Is it canny political strategy? Maybe not. But the alternative is to shrug as more people get killed because it’s so absurdly easy for people in this country to get their hands on highly efficient tools designed for the sole purpose of mass killing of human beings.
how about 160 reasons and counting–
“Meanwhile millions of long term unemployed people will be losing their benefits a week from today, and those with a job can look forward to higher payroll taxes on every penny of their checks, even minimum wage workers.”
You’ve just identified the reason for the sudden obsession with gun control: It’s a distraction.
Riiiiiight. Democrats are trying to distract people from the spectacle of Republicans temper-tantruming the American people right into a tax hike. That makes sense,
Nah, they’re trying to distract people from their effort to run out the clock, and then blame Republicans for the tax increase they accomplished by doing it.
Nah, they’re trying to run out the clock (or at least they OUGHT to be) so that on January 2 they can propose to restore the tax cuts for all but the highest incomes (whatever they decide that number is) and see if the Republicans have the chutzpah to kabosh the whole deal to save a few percentage points of tax for a few percentage points of the least needy taxpayers.
That’s politics the way they OUGHT to be playing it, if they had anybody in charge with the savvy of a Lee Atwater or a Bill Clinton.
The Senate passed a bill, the President released a plan. House Republicans are still providing smoke and mirrors like tax increases limiting deductions they won’t mention at all and cuts they will barely begin to describe.
The House Republicans are incapable of negotiating – they told their own Speaker to pound sand last week even on a plan the Democrats opposed, because they’re unwilling even to pass a doomed bill that won’t clear the Senate and that existed only for transparently cosmetic purposes. And this entire situation only exists because of the fraudulent accounting and the mendacious tax legislation passed by the Bush administration at a time when it had the power to pass whatever legislation it wanted – tax legislation that was denounced by the Democrats at the time, including precisely because of its sunset provisions, and the way they were used to game the numbers. But, yeah, you think the problem here is the Democrats.
Republicans ran out their own clock (or fuse–choose your metaphor.)
Obama has no obligation to help the republicans as they repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot. They are the inheritors of their own stubborn idiocy.
I find it amusing how all those dim bulbs in DC can’ remember how we got this so-called fiscal cliff.
It’s a JOINT product. The Dems owned the Senate and the Reps owned the House, and this is the plan they sent to the Prez with a note attached saying “Sign it sir, or your checking account will be empty next week.”
I’m not a gun fan myself, but it should be pointed out that mass murder, while emotionally wrenching, is a statistically insignificant cause of death. Only about one murder victim in 100 is part of a group of five or more victims. The real problem is the ease of committing murder, suicide, or both with any gun. So while a ban on massive clips, semiautomatic weapons, and the like might reduce the body count when a mass murder does occur, and that would be a good thing, we in the reality-based community must realize that even if we reduced mass murders to zero, we’d reduce our murder rate a tiny, tiny amount. The real problem is guns in general, and handguns in particular, since a handgun, being portable and easy to conceal, makes it very easy to kill one person (including yourself) without having to think very hard about it first. But banning all private ownership of handguns is still a fringe position in the USA and will likely remain so for some time.
Also: the ridiculously high rate of accidental deaths with handguns. Gun enthusiast groups fight tooth and nail to block proposed regulations about trigger locks and gun safes – let alone issues of gun design such as better safeties, indicators when a round is chambered, rules about having the safety on or no round chambered, etcetera.
I was told in a comment thread on this issue – in all apparent seriousness, and by two people – that of course your hand gun has to have a round chambered and its safety off, because otherwise when you get mugged you won’t be able to draw your weapon and shoot your attacker rapidly enough; one even pointed out that studies show a mugger can traverse twenty feet in the time it takes to react and draw your weapon, and so you won’t have the additional time necessary to unsafe it and chamber a round – as if muggers announce their intentions and give their victims time to whip out a gun, perhaps by starting from twenty feet away!
In a complex world, don’t believe anybody who starts a paragraph with the assertion “the real problem is…”
There are lots of real problems.
What if “the real problem” is in the third sentence? 🙂
There are, of course, lots of real problems, but mass murder is awful emotionally, not statistically.
You’re right, of course, that our gun homicide rate is a much bigger problem than crazed mass-murderers.
I’m just not willing to say that guy at Virginia Tech, and the one at Texas, and the one in the mall in Arizona, and the one in Newtown don’t constitute a real problem, too.
Also: the ridiculously high rate of accidental deaths with handguns.
What “ridiculously high rate of accidental deaths?” All firearms accidents combined kill about twice as many people annually as drown in bathtubs–and handguns probably account for about half of those. (Hunting accidents account for the other half, which is a total guess.) So the risk of an accidental death with a handgun is similar to that of drowning in your bathtub.
The risk includes that of killing your child, not just yourself, so it can’t be laughed off.
Your table does show that this risk is remarkably low, though there’s a possible mis-identification problem with suicide and assault. Do findings of accidental death generate tiresome lawsuits for negligence, which cops and doctors certifying death will want to to avoid? Suicide and assault are the big-ticket risks (16,586 and 10,801 deaths respectively in your table for 2000). Many of the assaults are domestic disputes that would not have ended in death without the availability of a gun. The same goes for suicide; availability matters.
“The risk includes that of killing your child, not just yourself, so it canâ€™t be laughed off.”
So’s that for the bathtub, in case you couldn’t figure that out. So I’m puzzled why you even brought that up; You weren’t aware children drown in bathtubs?
What’s the problem here? The risks of drowning a bathtub and killing yourself accidentally with a gun are more or less independent (the exception is alcohol). The risks for your child are completely independent. Also, it wouldn’t be you drowning your child: his of her life is full of such risks and you can’t guard against them all. You can reduce the risk to your child either way. Get rid of the bath? This has no other benefits. Get rid of the gun, or lock it up is a proper gun safe? Other and much larger risks go down.
How many people (not named Andrea Yates) deliberately drown children in bathtubs? Would that be more or fewer than those who shoot children to death?
My point was that a fair number of people – from the table, the order of magnitude could be 100 a year – accidentally kill their children with a gun, either by discharge when they are holding it or the child playing with a negligently stored weapon. Accidental drowning in a bathtub involves the child climbing into a full bath left unattended, and falling and knocking itself unconscious. To my mind, the former involves more agency and guilt on the part of the gun- or bath-owner. YMMV.
i don’t think your comparison of bathtubs to firearms is quite as useful as you might think but could be made useful if given a little context. census data from 2000 suggests that 99% of u.s. homes had a bathtub wheras in a 2010 survey by gallup indicated that 39% of homes had a firearm. the nra, in a 2005 press release, said that slightly less than half of u.s. households had a firearm. either way, it would seem that the risk of an accidental death by firearm is closer to double the risk of accidental death in one’s tub and might be slightly greater than that.
all of this is running far afield from the original point of the post with which i agree. i also find much that is true in cranky’s post below.
I’m pretty much on the Mark and Brett side of this, but the list isn’t limited to handguns and abortion providers (the latter being far more dangerous than the former.) We’re becoming a Scarlet Letter society, where virtually any interaction with the government can create a lifetime mark of Cain: easy to find. The most salient example is the sex offender registry or arrest/felony histories. “Private” information is marginally better–only because a snoop has to pay for it, rather than getting it free, and maybe can’t publish it. (I’m thinking credit.)
Who flourishes in such a society? The risk-averse and perpetually defensive sort, I suppose.
A cautionary tale for those on the left who entertain the thought that adopting some of the right’s objectionable but politically effective tactics is a good idea. As always, watch out for those unintended consequences!
I pay attention to abortion controversies pretty closely. I don’t remember a map of abortion recipients. Maybe you mean abortion providers? There was some controversy about that at some point. But that would be analogous to providing a map of gun manufacturers, or maybe distributors. Publishing mere licenses is completely different.
I don’t even have a gun, nor am I likely to get one. But I understand why people might one them. And I’m very skeptical about creating yet another status crime for police to pivot to just as we get our first glimpses of hope on the drug war.
Further, I hate misuse of statistics. If you want to actually take a same facts approach to the gun issue, you can’t be lumping suicide into the discussion. There are plenty of European and Eastern countries with much tighter gun controls and much higher suicide rates. Gun suicides appear to be almost entirely replacement effect suicides–if you can’t get a gun and you are suicidal you kill yourself with something else. The gun suicide rate is higher in the US but the overall suicide rate is lower than many Western countries. If you insist on dragging that statistic in, you would have to face the idea that guns LOWER the overall suicide rate. That is very likely a spurious correlation, but that is what you get for using a crappy emotional argument that is anti factual.
Countries are sufficiently different that these sorts of comparisons are problematic. You can look within the US: the suicide rate appears to vary by at least 3-4 fold from US state to US state. One lesson appears to be: stay away from the Mountain West. Those states typically have lax gun rules, and the states with the lowest suicide rates have some of the strictest gun rules, but I don’t know if there’s any sort of decent correlation. And, of course, US states can be fairly different from each other, too.
Activists concerned with suicide certainly seem to feel that a lot of successful suicides happen because guns are faster and more effective for the purpose than most other options, and are too easy to get hold of.
A database of gun-owning households would be very useful to burglars. It should be welcomed by the proselytising, LaPierre wing of gun advocates, as it would put pressure on the gunless to arm up like proper Americans.
You’re assuming burglars enter occupied houses, and so fear an armed response from the homeowner. I always assumed the opposite – and so the burglars might want to steal the guns from houses they know to have them.
Speaking of which: poll data suggest that 600,000 guns are stolen from private homes each year. Another 30,000 were reported missing from the 10% of gun dealers surveyed in 2007 alone, suggesting hundreds of thousands more stolen or trafficked unreported. Poll data are likely flawed, but I have no reason to think that’s an overestimate – if anything, the reverse.
As I remarked above, it likely won’t have much of an effect at all, because burglars, typically owning unlicensed guns themselves, aren’t prey to the delusion that not having a license means not having a gun. They’re not going to be silly enough to start invading the houses that weren’t on the list while somebody is home. They likely won’t take up invading homes where they know a gun is, because how confident can they be there’s nobody home?
All it really does is demonstrate the character of Gannett, which nobody had any doubts about to begin with.
“â€¦burglars, typically owning unlicensed guns themselvesâ€¦”
I would ask for a cite here but I know it would be to no avail.
Please note that, in Ohio at least, taking a gun or any weapon on a burglary elevates it to aggravated burglary, even if nobody is home; making it a first degree rather than a third degree felony and, at the least, tripling the prison time.
Time for anec-data!
I had my house cleaned out in a burglary 20 years ago. They took the leather clothing, the audio equipment, the jewelry, and the computers. They found the hidden shotgun and pistol… and left them nicely arranged on the bed.
This little exchange confirms that the database of gun owners is useful to burglars either way. They will try to go for empty properties, but there’s a risk they won’t be empty. Risk-takers might go for the unattended gun (chance of stealing it), risk-avoiders prefer the gunless house (avoiding risk of gun-owner being at home after all).
Of course, a burglar would also like to know that a valuable item, easily sold to the criminal milieu, may be there for the taking when the occupants are away from home.
Why would the “cold, dead fingers” crowd object to being identified as gun permit holders? Are they capable of feeling, you know, shame?
To call them pussies would be to disrespect female genitalia.
It should absolutely be a matter of public record who holds gun permits, and I’m having trouble imagining why we should object on privacy grounds. Do we object to public marriage licenses? Any well-regulated militia ought to know where the guns are located, and that knowledge ought to be available to the public. Surely nobody is arguing that it stigmatizes gun owners, or makes them more susceptible to crime. (Right?)
I wonder what other matters related to public licensure are kept quiet, or should be. Do we conceal military records? Criminal records? Professional licensure? Should we?
Why public record? It is a matter of some controversy whether I can, for example, find out to whom the license plate “ABC-123” belongs, and I don’t think I’ve ever heard of someone getting access to the DMV records to find out the address of every person owning a late-model Mercedes. Not all Government records are Public records.
If the fear here is that people are going to target gun-owners for crime, I don’t find that plausible, but I’d be interested in hearing gun-owners make that case. And if Crazy Louie down the street owns a Mercedes, I can’t think of a reason that information would be useful to the general public. I don’t have any problem understanding why gun permitting should be a matter of public record.
Kudos for this post. I was not aware that a newspaper had published the names of abortion recipients. If so, that is fairly reprehensible too — and is unjustified whatever one’s view of abortion.
If the point of owning a gun is to deter criminals, then how does said ownership deter anyone if it is a secret?
If the point of owning a gun is to prepare for the apocalypse, or to fight the government, then do we honestly believe that the government doesn’t already know who has registered them?
If the point of owning a gun is to play with firearms, then shouldn’t the neighbors be allowed to know who is playing with firearms in their neighborhood?
I’ve confronted the barrel of a gun twice, both in the hands of legal owners and neighbors who were having what might kindly be called “bad moments.” I would have preferred knowing they had guns in their homes before responding to their yelling, and I’m grateful to live in a neighborhood where many neighbors respond to such commotion.
I’d like to think that our community’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness trumps the right to secretly bear arms. That Americans have a right to guns is a fact, that we have a right to secretly have guns until we surprise our neighbors with them seems beyond that fact.
The Supreme Court found that Americans have a fundamental right to privacy. Do you really want to argue that now that it doesn’t exist?
That “fundamental right to privacy” is not absolute.
The right to bear arms is not the right to be a threat to the community.
The history of legally owned and registered guns in the hands of non-criminals is not good. From accidents to acts in the heat of the moment to suicide, the presence of a gun escalates the ability to be a threat to the community.
The first victim in Newtown was a legal owner of legal firearms, even trained at the range to make sure she understood how to use them safely. The first victim was killed with her own weapons, weapons she’d taught her son and murderer how to use.
The community has a right to know that this exists, a right to know who has the ability to escalate their individual distress to the point of being a threat to the community, before that individual manages to kill 20 children and 6 teachers, or maybe just accidentally puts a round through your wall.
I think you don’t have any idea what “right” means in American jurisprudence.
Thanks, Henry. I’m not sure you have any idea what SCOTUS actually ruled about privacy. So we’re even with the snark.
“The right to bear arms is not the right to be a threat to the community.”
No, but it’s a right to not be presumed a threat to the community, simply on the basis of exercising the right.
No presumption about anything. The issue here is that knowing who does and doesn’t have guns in their home is a violation of a fundamental right to privacy. I disagree not because gun owners are a threat to anyone, but because gun use is not a private thing.
Blogger Christopher Fountain Hits Back Against Gun Owners’ Map, Publishes Addresses Of Journal News Staff
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