How to show both sides. While not showing both sides.

How the forces of gun control pretend to be fair to the other side. With empty chairs.

My suspicions about this documentary project were awakened immediately. First, there was the title: Under The Gun. Nothing ominous or accusatory about that, right? Then there’s the woman presenting the “famous face” of the project, none other than Katie Couric. You remember Katie. She once co-hosted the Today show, then went to CBS, where she was paid millions of dollars as no one watched her and the evening news ratings tanked. After CBS kicked her to the curb, she wound up on Yahoo!, where she was paid millions to do…something…but, once again, no one appears to be watching.

Ms. Couric worked with documentary director Stephanie Soechtig to create Under The Gun, screening at the annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah this week. According to this breathless blurb about the film, the film “examines the battle between those who favor stricter gun laws and staunch Second Amendment supporters.” Battle is an appropriate word to describe the differences between us dangerous gun-totin’ ‘Muricans and the reasonable, non-violent activists who favor total gun confiscation more gun regulation.

There don’t appear to be any trailers or clips available, even at the promotional web site created for the documentary. The only way to determine the “fairness” of the film is the brief video on the deadline.com site I referenced above. Combining the comments by Ms. Couric and Ms. Soechtig with how they plan to present their film (and the sponsoring organizations they link to on their film’s website), only an absolute idiot would come away thinking this was a fair presentation of both sides.

Let’s begin with what the filmmakers plan to do at the upcoming screenings. When you enter the theater, there will be twenty-two empty chairs present. Why? According to Ms. Soechtig, the empty seats will represent the number of people “shot while you are watching the film.” Of those 22, she claims, eight will die. Dominic Patten, the hyperventilating host of the video in the link, exclaims “a staggering number!”

I know you probably don’t want to do any math. So I did.

In the ten-year period between 2005 and 2014, the average number of automobile-related deaths in the United States is 32,022 (statistics courtesy of the NHTSA). That averages out to a bit more than 87 highway-related fatalities every day (or 3.625 deaths per hour). Extending this out to the total population, that’s about 10.5 auto fatalities per 100,000 citizens.

Now let’s put those “staggering” gun numbers in perspective a bit more. Ms. Soechtig tosses the numbers out there, but doesn’t say how or why those deaths occurred.

Since the film is about two hours long, four people will die from a shooting (allegedly). Four times twenty-four is ninety-six people dying from a gun shot per day. That’s a bit over 35,000 per year. I did a quick search and found that this number is pretty close: according to the Brady Campaign (not a pro-gun group, by any stretch), an average of 31,537 people died from gun violence annually between 2008 and 2010. However, of that number an average of 11,583 were murdered. 18,783 on average committed suicide with a gun.

As we all know, it’s easy to shock people by tossing numbers around while exclaiming “staggering!” Drilling down to the specifics and reasons often paints a very different picture. This is not to say that suicide by gun is not a bad thing because it wasn’t murder. But how many of those suicides would have occurred by some other means if a gun wasn’t available?

Ms. Couric and Ms. Soechtig make some interesting comments in the video, one in particular from Ms. Soechtig near the beginning that reveals just how they view the pro-gun public in the United States:

Katie really had a mandate going into this film that we needed to gain a better understanding of both sides of the conversation…We wanted to make sure we gave them their fair shake, that we did allow them to speak

Oh, I see..they allowed those people to speak. Interesting choice of words. Considering that we’re now talking about the first two Constitutional amendments, the comment unexpectedly reveals the true motivation here: Come on in, watch this movie. Oh, those are seats for the dead and wounded, so don’t sit there. We’re going to show you a fair and open-minded discussion about gun ownership and gun control. We even allow some people who actually own guns to say something! Aren’t we tolerant?

Ms. Couric makes the claim that both sides of the gun rights issue are often doing nothing more than “talking at each other”, which may be the most honest thing she says in the entire clip. The problem with trying to talk about this issue (and both sides are guilty of this at times) is that each side often has an intractable position from which it won’t back down. Any strong disagreement against those positions, even only with words, is viewed as a threat, after which each side digs in a little harder.

The sticking point in the guns-vs.-no-guns debate stems from the fact that the Second Amendment, and the well-documented history of gun rights in America, have been in place for 228 years as I write this. The opposing side is attempting to make radical changes to a culture and a right that’s long entrenched. When you tell a group of people they can’t have something anymore, they are going to resist. Prohibition worked out really well, didn’t it? And how much longer do you think marijuana is going to remain illegal throughout the country?

Ms. Couric says something that she probably thinks is counter to what gun owners believe, but it really an idea around which I personally believe we can all rally:

We’re not going to completely eliminate gun violence in this country but I think we should emphasize reducing gun violence.

This is a perfectly reasonable idea. In fact, I’ll wager that if I asked 100 gun owners the question, most, if not all would agree that eliminating gun violence is a wonderful idea, not just reducing it. And Ms. Couric is correct; we will probably never completely eliminate gun violence. But she seems to imply that those of us who are gun owners and who are fighting to protect our rights live some kind of raging blood lust and don’t care about the violence occurring with these weapons on a daily basis.

But a meme I saw on the web the other day humorously addresses what I believe is our real attitude. The photo was of a large group of people all holding various handguns, pistols and long guns. The text on the image said something like “90 million American gun owners made it through another non-violent day.” As over-simplistic as this might seem to some, it makes a valid point. Law-abiding legal gun owners in America don’t want to kill or injure anyone with their weapons. Causing harm to others is not the point and it’s not the goal. Until the “other side” figures this out, we’re never all going to get along, to quote Rodney King.

The film makers give away their viewpoint when Ms. Couric mentions what really impressed her:

If you look at what’s done at the grassroots level, at Moms Demand Action and Shannon Watts and what’s she’s done in a relatively short period of time, galvanizing…citizens all over the country…

Wow. Katie, a bit of journalistic advice (I went to journalism school a long, long time ago): you may want to take a closer look at the way Shannon Watts and her group “galvanizes” us citizens out here. From the beginnings of her “grassroots” organization, Ms. Watts has chosen to go the ad hominem route when addressing those who disagree with her comments and statistics.

Case in point: John Lott. Dr. Lott is a pretty well-educated guy and over the years, he’s become the go-to authority on gun rights research. As you would expect, there are academics who have questioned his research and his conclusions (not without their own axes to grind), but Lott’s numbers generally stand up to scrutiny.

So when Shannon Watts Twitter-trolled the NRA about mass killings in gun-free zones, Lott responded with his own tweet, providing a link to detailed research showing the gun-free-zone-to-mass-shootings relationship to be factual. providing the evidence to back it up. Watt’s reaction to Lott was to refer to him as a “debunked…troll.” When Lott responded with the same link and asked her to respond again, she then alluded that he was as a sexist troll who was picking on her because she was a woman.

Kaitie, one more thing about Shannon Watts: she has armed security nearby when she makes public appearances. Just like her pal Michael Bloomberg, who’s dumps a lot of money into her cause and her organization. Ask Dana Loesch.

Even more telling: visit the documentary’s website and scroll to the bottom of the page, under the unbiased heading of Take Action, where you will see logos linking you to all the big anti-gun organizations, including Watts’s group, the Violence Policy Center and Sandy Hook Promise.

My question to Ms. Couric and Ms. Soechtig would then be: if your “documentary” is supposed to be a fair and even discussion of the gun ownership and gun violence issue, why are you not providing us with links to organizations that support gun rights. The NRA would be an obvious one, but how about John Lott’s Crime Prevention Research Center? There are others you can find with a reasonably simple web search.

An even deeper look into the conflict could be examining the relationship to the federal background check requirements and their ineffectiveness in preventing some the mass shootings that have occurred in the United States in recent years. Yet the gun control lobby and their political supporters keep pushing for more of these checks, at greater cost and inconvenience to the taxpayer.

So what’s the bottom line here? Ms. Couric reveals this at the very end of the video clip, where she discusses someone “from Texas” who told her that people “who don’t want anything done” are such a “tiny minority.” (I assume mentioning this person was from Texas gives the comment some kind of credibility with us right-wingers…because, you know there are no liberals or progressives in Texas, right?). Somehow, she takes what this “Texan” said and draws a line from the “tiny minority” to the inability to elect people who see things their way:

Why are they so powerful, if you’re saying that? He said “because [gun rights are] all they vote on, where other people, it’s issue four, five or six for them.” But people have to start really caring about this at…on Election Day, and they really have to make this a deciding factor and who the politicians are who will represent us…

First they will allow us to speak. Then they will inform us of what is the right thing to do, and that’s to stop being a tiny minority, get right in the head and start voting for more than one thing…as long as one of those things is more gun control policy. In the end, this entire documentary is simply a one-sided attempt to induce people into believing that gun owners are the problem, and the only solution is voting for people who will legislate more government control.

I don’t know if this documentary focuses on some the deeper issues in this debate, such as the aforementioned ineffectiveness of the background check program, how preventing the “mentally ill” from obtaining guns leads to more privacy invasion by authorities, or how the genuine gun violence problem in America is an inability to prevent real-life criminals from illegally obtaining guns, then using them in places like Chicago on a normal weekend.

I’m betting these ideas aren’t mentioned a whole lot, because, in the end, it’s not about preventing gun violence. The goal is for you to capitulate, first in baby steps.

Frog in the pot of water, remember? We thought it could never happen in America. Reexamine the last seven years.

 

Never bring your fists to a gun fight.

Where your host attempts to explain to one of our British brethren the differences between protecting yourself with a gun and being a living target…

With the Oregon community college shooting still on everyone’s minds, the web is rife with hand-wringing, defending, blaming and similar commentary regarding the shooting, the shooter and, of course, the guns. We live in one of the few countries that constitutionally codifies the right to own a firearm, so whenever one of these terrible events occurs, the level of idiocy among the gun banning community increases to staggering levels. While the commentary from some pro-gun people can also occasionally be silly , the emotional and illogical arguments of some in the anti-gun crowd are far more interesting and fun to dismantle.

A prime example is this blog entry by a Brit named Glenn Browne, posted on Saturday. The commentary serves as an excellent example of how misconceptions about America, its citizens and gun ownership makes you wish they would just shut up.

Mr. Browne makes a number of assumptions about us, along with relying on data from some questionable sources to make his point.

First, he comments on something said by Obama, who, as all Americans know, is an expert on everything from mental health to people’s motivations:

…[Obama] makes a valid point that gunmen like this are not necessarily mentally ill people. Gun crime consists mostly of young men with anger issues who end up snapping and using their ability to freely own a gun to their advantage; and usually to the dismay of many innocent people.

No, sorry, Glenn, but in spite of the President’s presumed intellectual brilliance, he cannot conclude that Chris Harper Mercer wasn’t mentally ill. Mentally sound people don’t profess their admiration for, and jealousy over the publicity received by previous killers, such as Vestor Flanagan. They also don’t leave behind rambling notes discussing themselves and their perceived plights in the world:

The suspect allegedly left a note behind and investigators have it, CBS News has learned. Law enforcement sources say it is several pages long and in it, the 26-year-old made statements suggesting that he may have been depressed and angry.

…the multi-page typed note was a philosophical rant of someone who was mad at the world. The source said the note was focused a great deal on the suspect’s low opinion of himself.

The president may not be able to conclude the shooter was nuts, but I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch for the rest of us.

After posting a chart from Vox that claims the United States is a freaking shooting gallery with blood flowing in the streets, he drops this whopper:

In All [sic] states of the United States of America everyone is entitled to carry some sort of concealed firearm in public, while many of theses states actually allow the gun to be carried un-concealed in public. State level laws vary significantly in their form, content and level of restriction, but in general almost anyone is able to buy and own a gun for self defense.

The term “all states” (or “All states,” as he wrote it) is only partially true. Though all 50 states do have permitting laws for concealed carry, not all 50 states actually allow people to obtain those permits without extremely stringent requirements (for example, being in law enforcement). New Jersey, Maryland, Hawaii and Rhode Island are states with severely restricted permit issuance, as are specific cities like the District of Columbia, New York, Boston and Los Angeles, along with all federal military installations. In all these places, it’s nearly impossible for the average citizen to obtain a carry permit of any type. Browne gets it partially correct in the last sentence, but then drops the ball on the “almost anyone is able to buy and own a gun for self defense” part. Unless, of course, he’s including illegal, under-the-table sales by people who can’t get a permit.

But that would never happen because of gun control, right?

Mr. Brown then states that, since no one in the U.K. carries a gun, the homicide rate is very low (which is true), and he even points out that Britain doesn’t appear on the aforementioned Vox homicide-by-gun chart. Which makes sense, since no one in Britain can carry a gun. He then wonders rhetorically why the homicide rate is so low in his country versus the United States.

According to the chart on this page, going back a couple of years, the U.S. had 14,827 homicides (of any type) in 2012, a rate of 4.7 per 100,000, placing us 111th in the world. In 2011, the U.K. as a whole has 653 homicides, at a rate of 1.0 per 100,000, placing it 190th on this chart. (I should note that this chart uses information from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. They claim that there’s no international standard for reporting exactly what constitutes a “homicide.” But you don’t ever want to live in South America, most of the Caribbean and anywhere in Africa, if these numbers are remotely accurate).

Now, while Mr. Browne might celebrate his nation’s advanced standing in not killing a lot of people, there are a couple of things to consider. First, he’s correct: Americans have a lot of guns. However, one other thing we have is a far greater population size. The 2015 U.S. population estimate is almost 322 million (making us 3rd in the world), while the U.K. hovers around 65 million. With a population nearly five times larger, one can reasonably conclude that any activity would occur more frequently in the country with the greater number of people.

In all likelihood, most of these homicides were probably crime-related (consider the name of the UN group gathering these statistics), possibly involving gang activity, robbery, rape and drug sales. Now I know London and other areas in Britain have high crime rates, but considering our population size and our proximity to drug-producing countries (such as Mexico and Columbia), it makes logical sense that the levels of this activity would be higher here, leading to a greater level of related killings.

The FBI, incidentally, reports that about 8000 homicides were committed with a gun in 2012, the year we referenced above.

Consider this: it’s estimated that about 80 million people legally owns guns in America, and counting the ownership of multiple weapons, about 300 million guns are legally owned in this country. Using those numbers, we can easily calculate that, if all homicides were committed by that population of legal owners, the rate of those homicides would be 0.0001%. But it’s more likely that many of those killings were committed by people using illegally-obtained weapons. So that percentage would probably be even lower.

The rest of Mr. Browne’s post focuses on emotional questions and “what-if” scenarios that don’t strengthen his argument all that much. First, he says this:

Don’t get me wrong though, I understand why people would want to protect themselves and their family, but maybe not being allowed to own a gun so easily is a better way to control homicide in the country.

After all most of the time using the gun would be totally unjustified! – I have NEVER had to hold, own or use a gun to protect myself or my family, so it just sounds like an excuse to be power crazy and threatening to me.

His first mistake is assuming that the person looking to harm your family is going to be concerned with laws that say they can’t own a gun. Creating a law that says “you can’t own a gun” is one thing. Assuming that people will obey that law is another, and is frequently the issue we face in America.

No one ever expects Mr. Browne (or anyone else) to use a gun in an “unjustified” manner. We have laws to this affect; one cannot just draw their gun and shoot someone because of some perceived threat. Since he’s admittedly never even held a gun, I fail to understand how he can believe that doing so automatically makes one “power crazy and threatening.” The first thing I thought of when I first picked up a gun was “be careful and don’t do anything stupid.”

There are two main reasons to own a gun in my opinion, the first because you LIKE guns and use them for sporting activities, or because you like to kill people!

Right. 80 million gun owners just like to kill people. If this were the case, our streets, highways and homes would be flowing with rivers of blood, don’t you think?

I mean who gives anyone the right to take another person’s life? Ok so there are situations where extreme force is necessary, such as someone attacking your children, but as we have proved in Britain time and time again, and for many years, there are other ways to defend yourself and family without falling into the realms of using a gun and probably ending up in prison for murder; who will protect your family then? I think there is  a fine line between self defense and murder in the case of using a gun.

Browne makes the assumption here that there is some kind of “right” to take another person’s life. In fact, our Constitution is pretty clear that “life” is a fundamental right, enumerated at the very beginning of that document. The right to live is the central argument for those of us who are against abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty. He apparently confuses the “right to take a life” (which really doesn’t exist) with the “right to defend yourself against harm.” And he’s correct; there is a fine line between self-defense and murder. Most law-abiding gun owners in America are well versed in this difference, and very likely far more knowledgeable about gun and defense-related laws than the average person.

These are the responsibilities of being a law-abiding gun owner.

Browne does bring up one interesting point: potential prison for murder for an act of self-defense in his country. I believe that in the United Kingdom, a person can be tried and potentially convicted for murder even when using a gun in the process of defending their property or other people. I won’t pretend to understand how this is possible or why the law would be designed to permit this to happen. But in the U.S., laws that allow for self-defense, such as “stand your ground” laws, are specifically written so that a specific and immediate threat must be present when someone uses a gun for protection.

Mr. Browne then asks one rhetorical question after another regarding locked guns, unloaded guns, making enemies…you can read those and judge his logic yourself. But he makes two comments that are contradictory all on their own. First, he says this (emphasis is mine):

 The main reason someone own a gun in America is the belief they need it for protection, but protection from what? If another guy was pointing a gun at you, how do you find that your gun is protecting you? Can you physically move faster than a bullet? I think not…so the idea of either one of you having a gun is just beyond me. What happened to good old, honest fist fights to defend yourself?

So if a guy with a gun breaks into my home and threatens my wife and me with a gun, I’m supposed to ask him to put down the gun and accept my challenge to a good old fist fight? I’m pretty sure the last thing I hear will be peals of laughter as he guns me down, fists raised. But then he comes back with this:

Take a burglar for example, they are coming into your home to steal your TV, your iPad, maybe even your car keys, but what is the likeliness of them coming in with a gun to murder your family? If they are intending on murder, you must have made some serious enemies! In the case of a burglar, what use would your gun be when it’s locked in a cabinet? Do you think the burglar going to stand there and wait for you to open the cabinet, pull the gun out, and then continue with the episode until he is shot dead? In the time it took you to get to the gun, unlock it, load it, and point it at the guy he will have already bashed you on the head or simply ran away….so what is the point in the gun?

No, idiot, I don’t think the burglar is going to wait until I take the gun from a locked cabinet, which is why my loaded weapon is at the ready in a location where I can reach it quickly. I use my gun safe to lock up guns I’m not using (i.e., taking to the range, cleaning, etc.) so I know they’re secure when I have people visiting or when I’m away from my home.

In the same breath, he first asks why we can’t just duke it out, but he doesn’t understand why a gun-toting burglar wouldn’t just wait for me to unlock, load and rack before trying to shoot me.

In my personal case, I have a security system in my home that we arm at night. If someone attempted to break in, the alarm would activate first, hopefully making the would-be burglar run away. If not, it would give me ample time to grab my weapon and confront someone.

He also makes the assumption that using a gun in self-defense automatically means firing the weapon at someone. I don’t know anyone, even the most ardent gun owner, who wants to intentionally shoot someone. The point of drawing the gun is to make the other person reconsider what they’re doing, stop their actions and surrender. I believe Mr. Browne would be surprised how many times a situation like this occurs in America yearly. The threat of using a gun can often be as powerful as actually pulling the trigger.

In the end, he fails to realize that the large number of guns and gun owners in the United States has nothing to do with what happened at that campus last week. That was the act of a disturbed man, who entered a room full of unarmed people, and knowing they could not defend themselves, cowardly demanded they declare their religious beliefs, then killed them or wounded them based on their answers.

This wasn’t about concealed carry, open carry, permits or self-defense. This was about a degenerate subhuman using unarmed people for target practice. We all speculate about what may have happened if one person in that room was carrying their personal weapon. There may have been an opportunity for someone to fight back, not with their fists, but with something to equalize the situation.

Until people like Mr. Browne understand the difference, we’re always going to have to fight this battle.