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Debunking Mother Jones' '10 Pro-Gun Myths, Shot Down'

By Nick Leghorn on May 30, 2014

I've been inundated by emails in the last couple days asking for me to straighten out an article from Mother Jones titled "10 Pro-Gun Myths, Shot Down." The premise of the piece is simple: paint gun owners as paranoid idiots, and make gun control activists feel superior because their violent opponents don't have a firm grasp on reality. But the piece does the exact opposite - it proves that Mother Jones and their associated gun control cheerleaders don't care about facts. They don't care about the truth. They just hate gun owners. So, let's take a look . . .

Myth #1: They're coming for your guns.
Fact-check: No one knows the exact number of guns in America, but it's clear there's no practical way to round them all up (never mind that no one in Washington is proposing this). Yet if you fantasize about rifle-toting citizens facing down the government, you'll rest easy knowing that America's roughly 80 million gun owners already have the feds and cops outgunned by a factor of around 79 to 1.

There are two blatant lies here, and I want to address both. But first, did you notice that not-so-subtle positive re-enforcement of the common stereotype liberals have of gun owners? It's the word "fantasize." Gun owners and NRA members in particular are constantly described by the opposition as paranoid anti-government traitors who simply want to overthrow the United States. As if you needed further proof, the lack of a neutral tone in this opening statement lets you know that this won't be a fair and balanced reporting - this is propaganda.

Blatant lie #1 is the statement that no one in Washington is proposing national confiscation of firearms. In fact, let me just leave this here:

Back when that interview was recorded, civilian disarmament fever was in its ascendancy. The gun control activists could do no wrong, and just about any law they wanted to pass would have been A-OK with the American public. In the last couple decades, that reality has been turned on its head. Gun control is no longer a golden ticket to re-election even for Democrats, and even the mention of the word "confiscation" sends people running for the doors. So while we haven't heard the proposition publicly, you can bet your bottom dollar that it's still part of the discussion.

Confiscation is a word that is so carefully avoided by the gun control activists in congress that you'd think it was choreographed. But make no mistake, while the word may be absent the meaning is very much there. When President Barack Obama said the words "Weapons of war have no place on our streets, in our schools, or threatening our law enforcement officers," how do you think he meant to remove those 'weapons of war'?

The original form of Dianne Feinstein's Assault Weapons Ban floated back in 2013 had no grandfather clause and no sale permitted of the now banned firearms - the covered firearms would be illegal after the owner's death and required to be turned in to the government for destruction. Gun control activists were listening when Charelton Heston said you can have his guns when you take them from his cold dead hands, and they're willing to wait.

Blatant lie #2: that's not the real issue. The statement isn't "they're coming for your guns," it's "they want to take your guns." Door-to-door confiscation is no longer an option, but that doesn't mean they don't have other ideas derived from their confiscatory impotence. Like confiscating upon death, requiring your kids to turn them in or become felons. Kicking down doors and removing firearms is so last century - why put state employees in danger when they can force law abiding citizens to do all the work?

Myth #2: Guns don't kill people-people kill people.
Fact-check: People with more guns tend to kill more people-with guns. The states with the highest gun ownership rates have a gun murder rate 114% higher than those with the lowest gun ownership rates. Also, gun death rates tend to be higher in states with higher rates of gun ownership. Gun death rates are generally lower in states with restrictions such as assault-weapons bans or safe-storage requirements. Update: A recent study looking at 30 years of homicide data in all 50 states found that for every one percent increase in a state's gun ownership rate, there is a nearly one percent increase in its firearm homicide rate.

News flash: alligator-related death rates tend to be higher in states that have more alligators. Automotive fatalities are higher among people who own cars. Drowning tends to happen more to those people who swim. And 100% of Americans who've eaten mashed potatoes will die. Gun-related deaths are more likely when there are more guns? And there's a direct correlation between gun ownership and gun-related fatalities? That sounds perfectly reasonable and logical to me.

Things start to go off the rails when MJ starts making the jump from correlation to causation. Apparently no one at Mother Jones passed their high school statistics class, so I'll lay it out for them: just because two sets of numbers appear to be correlated does not mean they are linked in any way. For example, I could tell you that the murder rate in Washington D.C and the average peanut butter consumption per resident are correlated, but that doesn't mean that eating peanut butter causes murders.

The problem with poorly researched studies like the ones MJ uses to back up their "facts" is that it's often hard to do a point by point rebuttal and make any headway in a debate. So rather than point out the specific errors, I'm just going to use one chart and disprove the entire premise of Mother Jones' assertion.


People kill people with guns, but that happens less often every single year. If Mother Jones' assertion that guns are the cause of these deaths, then with the influx of millions of new guns and gun owners in the last few years the murder rate should have skyrocketed. But despite all those new potential murderers (to MJ's mind, at least), the murder rate continues to drop.

The mere existence of a firearm doesn't increase the probability of a murder being committed. Firearms are not magical talismans of evil, no matter how Mother Jones wants to twist the facts to look that way.

Myth #4: More good guys with guns can stop rampaging bad guys.
Fact-check: Mass shootings stopped by armed civilians in the past 30 years: 0

The problem with claiming that zero mass shootings have been stopped by armed civilians is just that: they were stopped. There's no weeks-long media feeding frenzy when a mass shooting doesn't happen. But I can definitely present some examples in just the past couple of years where a good guy with a gun stopped a bad guy with a gun.

Clackamas Town Center: An armed individual, obviously attempting to commit a mass shooting, was confronted by a person with a concealed carry license. After seeing a gun being drawn on him, the shooter immediately deviated from his course and killed himself in an adjacent hallway.

Arapahoe High School: A student armed with a shotgun and multiple incendiary devices, shot one person in the face and was attempting to kill more people when an armed school resource officer confronted him. The attacker then killed himself.

Those are just the two most high profile cases in recent history - a news story that doesn't happen is hard to find, so we never seem to hear about those. Even when they happen, the actual chain of events are still often hard to prove.

It boils down to this: the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Police officer, concealed carry holder, school resource doesn't matter. Any armed opposition is effective. So, yeah, Mother Jones lied again. Not surprising.

Myth #5: Keeping a gun at home makes you safer.
Fact-check: Owning a gun has been linked to higher risks of homicide, suicide, and accidental death by gun.

Uh, what's wrong with that? People who don't own a gun can't kill themselves with a gun. That seems like a pretty common sense thing to me, but apparently MJ believes that this proves guns are dangerous. Question to Mother Jones: does the accidental death rate increase in households with firearms? That would be newsworthy and an actually effective argument if it were true. But it isn't.

Firearms-related accidental deaths are so statistically insignificant that even if we were to outlaw all firearms and confiscate every single one, we wouldn't notice a difference. In fact, I have this graph to prove it:


To me, that's reason enough to chuck Mother Jones' assertion that people would be safer without a gun in their home. Nevertheless, I need to go for the kill (metaphorically speaking, of course) on this one.

The underlying concept is that more guns = more accidental deaths. Gun ownership has been rising for decades and there's been a spike in gun sales since 2008, so there should be more firearms-related fatalities, right? At least, that would be the case if Mother Jones' hypothesis were correct. Unfortunately...


Accidental deaths are on the decline. Even with a boom in firearms sales, there are fewer and fewer firearms-related accidental deaths. QED, having a gun in the house does not necessarily put you at a greater risk for killing yourself.

As for the statement that defensive gun uses are outweighed by murders and other crimes involving guns, Mother Jones doesn't seem inclined to cite their sources for that statistic. They just link to another long-outdated study (this one from 1998) that uses long-since debunked methodology and figures. Even the Violence Policy Center puts the number of defensive gun uses in the United States at over 50,000 per year, which doesn't even come close to matching the numbers that MJ apparently snatched out of thin air.

Myth #6: Carrying a gun for self-defense makes you safer.
Fact-check: In 2011, nearly 10 times more people were shot and killed in arguments than by civilians trying to stop a crime.

Bullshit. Oh, sorry. Balderdash.

Mother Jones arrived at their conclusion about people being killed in arguments versus citizens stopping a crime by using the number of justifiable homicides as a stand-in for defensive gun uses. The best "defensive gun use" situation is one where everyone walks away uninjured. Something that happens every day in this country.

Mother Jones would have you believe that every valid DGU must end with a justifiable homicide - someone pulling the trigger and dying - but a gun is just as (maybe more) effective as a behavior modification tool if the attacker stops and flees without ever needing to fire a shot. Mother Jones either doesn't think those bloodless DGU's "count" or they're just too damn lazy to look into the facts and figures any further. Either way, their analysis is sloppy and misleading.

The reality is that (conservatively speaking) somewhere between 50,000 and 100,000 defensive gun uses happen in the United States every year. That's compared to fewer than 14,000 murders annually. How many more murders (by any means) would have happened without those DGUs? I'd say we're on the right side of that ratio.

As for the point about Philadelphia citizens being more likely to be killed if they carry a gun...gang bangers anyone? Not everyone who carries a gun is a law abiding citizen. Gang violence is responsible for between 48% and 90% of violent crimes (depending on where you are), so it makes sense that a gang banger is more likely to be killed than an average citizen. If the majority of gun-related murders are gang-on-gang violence, and gang members carry illegal guns, that will inflate the probability of being assaulted or murdered while carrying a gun.

Notice that MJ and the study didn't specify CHL holders - it only focused on people who carry a gun. There was no distinction between legal and illegal carry. Add in the fact that a single study from a single city does not necessarily mean that the same conditions apply nationwide. More sloppy statistics and misleading statements.

Myth #7: Guns make women safer.
Fact-check: In 2010, nearly 6 times more women were shot by husbands, boyfriends, and ex-partners than murdered by male strangers.

Mother Jones apparently believes that women are weaker than men and inherently less capable of defending themselves. That's a pretty sexist position for them to take if you ask me.

The main issue I have with these numbers is that it's another case of MJ seeing even the glimmer of correlation between two numbers and jumping all over it, screaming and shouting that it's undeniable proof that guns cause crime and women are being victimized unfairly by evil gun-owning men.

Myth #8: "Vicious, violent video games" deserve more blame than guns.
Fact-check: So said NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre after Newtown. So what's up with Japan?

Actually, gotta agree with this one. LaPierre was off his rocker when he made that suggestion. Blind squirrels, acorns and all that.

Myth #9: More and more Americans are becoming gun owners.
Fact-check: More guns are being sold, but they're owned by a shrinking portion of the population.

Let me illustrate how MJ and other organizations arrive at this "shrinking number" nonsense for gun ownership. The numbers are based on a phone survey conducted by calling the landline in people's homes and asking if they own any guns.

Do you see the problem there?

(A) Landine phones are going the way of the dodo. Almost no one in my generation pays for one in their home, and a shrinking number of the older generation are doing the same. Cell phones are the new way to communicate, and those aren't included in the polls.

(B) How would you feel if you received a call from a random stranger claiming to be from a polling agency and asking how much jewelry you have in your home? Or how much cash you carry around? Or if you leave your back door unlocked at night? This is especially frightening if you realize that land-line phone numbers all have an address associated with them. Is it really a polling agency calling or a burglar doing some recon work before stealing all your stuff? How can you tell the difference?

I just don't trust those numbers. What I do trust are the ever-increasing numbers of people showing up at shooting ranges and the constant growth in the firearms industry. Solid figures that represent actual growth, not just conjecture. And anyway, since the MJ article came out, even Gallup has seen a uptick in those numbers.


So, in fact, that entire statement is now null and void. A lie, if you will. Gun ownership is indeed on the rise.

Myth #10: We don't need more gun laws-we just need to enforce the ones we have.
Fact-check: Weak laws and loopholes backed by the gun lobby make it easier to get guns illegally.

It is already a crime to sell a gun to a felon. It is already a crime to use a gun to commit a crime. It is already a crime for a felon to posses a firearm. I really don't see any room for improvement - you're just making already illegal things more illegal-er.

Mother Jones' statement that enforcement isn't an issue is ridiculous. Apparently in their fantasy world, the simple act of taping a "no guns allowed" sign on the door of that Newtown Elementary School would have stopped Adam Lanza cold and saved 26 lives. Except there was a no guns allowed sign, and a federal law prohibiting guns on that school property, and Lanza broke both of those laws without blinking an eye.

Adding one more piece of paper to an already mile-high stack isn't going to stop criminals. Making something illegal-er isn't the answer. It never has been. The only thing that stops crime is direct intervention - getting your hands dirty and doing the leg work. MJ wants to believe that if we just pass one more law then everyone will suddenly become perfect law-abiding citizens. If that were the case, I wouldn't be offered cocaine or prostitutes freely and openly on my jaunts through New York City.

Criminals exist. There is evil in the world. Mother Jones' statements follow the same simplistic "logic" we see time and again from gun control activists, namely that every criminal is just a naturally good person who was tempted by the evil demonic powers of a handgun. But it just ain't so.