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Twenty Years of Putting Nonsense First
By cdmichel | Published November 11, 2013

When your stock and trade is irrational logic, you publish the same stuff.

An example of such irrationality was recently whelped by a politicized organization now called the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (LCPGV). They were originally called the Legal Community Against Violence, though both names are misleading given that their stated goal is enacting lots of gun control laws, not anti-violence laws. In a knee jerk reaction to a crazy person murdering people in a law firm one tragic day in San Francisco, this band of local liberal litigators took it upon themselves to develop novel theories, imposing liability on gun manufacturers for the criminal misuse of their products and inventing/promoting legislation designed to reduce the availability of guns. In the 20 years since then, they have effectively become the law firm for the gun ban lobby.

Throughout their history the LCPGV has made many ridiculous claims, citing flawed studies and taking unscientific stabs at criminological data in order to assert than gun control is a Good Thing. In their latest self-congratulatory publication, they claim that the past twenty years of increasing gun control in California had positive effects. Baloney.

Electricians shouldn't perform neurosurgery, even though the brain is a compact electrical device. And LCPGV lawyers shouldn't opine on statistical criminology just because they write laws that criminalize gun ownership.

The National Negation

Nationally, violence has been on the decline for the past twenty years. Criminologists have several explanations, but the fact that some predicted the slide before it occurred indicates that increased gun control was not a variable. Overall, homicides in America are down 50% in the last twenty years, while the handgun supply has roughly doubled (a convenient inverse relationship. But as you will see, such causal relationships are intellectually void).

Where LCAGV's claims really start to look suspicious is the unnatural metrics they use. Like most other gun control groups, LCAGV employs "gun deaths" as the unit of measure. Professional criminologists scoff at this due to the defensive use of guns and their measured ability to deter or prevent crimes of violence without a death. Violent crime rates are the usual measures, because rational people (which evidentially excludes LCPGV members) want to observe both the benefit and cost (i.e., the social utility) of firearms. Over time, gun control laws lost popularity because the deterrence and uncertainty effects of a freely armed populace have been calculated. In fact, some economists (people more familiar with statistics than lawyers tend to be) have concluded that rapidly liberalized gun ownership across the nation has strongly contributed to the plummeting national rates of violence. More guns = less violence.

So why does the LCPGV use gun deaths to measure their alleged success? One reason is that their "gun death" numbers include suicides. Using the same Center for Disease Control database that the LCPGV cites, we see 2,935 gun deaths in California in the last reporting year. But the CDC tells us that more than 50% of those "gun deaths" were suicides. Further, the CDC reports that California's gun-related suicide rate has dropped nearly 13% in the last decade, while the national average has remained steady.

Piece all that together for a moment. California gun suicides, the largest segment of "gun deaths" have fallen fast. The LCPGV claims that California "gun deaths" (i.e., primarily suicides) have been reduced due to "assault weapons" bans, "safe handgun" testing, handgun safety certificate programs, open-carry bans, and one-gun-a-month legislation. The logical disconnect astounds everyone outside of the gun ban lobby. One could similarly argue that California's suicide rate would be lower still-if it wasn't for the LCPGV's support for the loaded-chamber-indicator law, which increased successful suicides by assuring self-destructive people that their gun was indeed loaded.

Like suicides, violence of all kind has been steadily falling across America. Fewer rapes, robberies and assaults, regardless of any tools used to commit them. That California mimics this trend is not surprising. Yet that is not the claim made by this pack of politically savvy spin masters. Their blatant claim is "Through our extensive work and partnerships, California's gun laws are now the strongest in the nation, and ... the state's gun death rate has plummeted over the last two decades." Their agitprop is designed to make you believe that these gun control laws they pushed are responsible for California's reduced armed violence, though they cannot lay claim to the co-variant national reduction.

In essence, they are bragging about causing something that they didn't cause.

In fact, let's examine some extremes. Texas abandoned what little gun control laws it had in the 1990s. In fact, the LCPGV check list of laws - from "assault weapons" bans to "safe handgun" lists to extra capacity magazine limitations - simply don't exist in the Lone Star State. Yet the Texas homicide rate, the key measurement of deadly violence, fell in lock-step with California. This information cannot be used to prove anything, but it can be used to disprove that gun control laws are effective in reducing homicides and other violent crime.

By the way, this Texas trend occurred despite their population growing about 86% faster than California.

Since some San Francisco lawyers got the basic concept wrong - that gun control results in less violence - we have to wonder how they came to their conclusion. So called "assault weapons" accounted for less than 1% of crime guns, and thus much less than 1% of gun deaths in California before a ban was passed. Yet the LCPGV flyer claimed their laws against "Dangerous Military-Style Weapons" contributed to California's gun death drop (which we have already demonstrated was a suicide and national violence decrease). They assume their "Standards for Gun Safety" did the trick, despite nearly every gun made and imported into California passing the new regulations and thus not slowing consumer demand for firearms. The LCPGV also added their elimination of openly carrying guns as a cause, though except for a few publicized demonstrations, the actual practice of open firearm carrying was nearly unknown in the state. They even list a law requiring the retention of paperwork for shotguns passed in 2011 as being contributory to the 2012 final tally.

Believe it or not, this isn't a case of collective insanity. It is merely a case of politically motivated misdirection. Favoring gun control and ignoring crime control, the LCPGV and rest of the gun ban lobby markets everything through their preselected prism. If there has been a reduction in violence they assume, without merit, that gun control created it. They are also selective in their analysis. Crime was spiraling out of control in the late 1980s and early 1990s despite California having handgun waiting periods since 1923, handgun registration since 1924 and "assault weapon" bans since 1990. These tough gun control laws did not hamper homicides, which peaked in 1980 and peaked again in 1993.

But something else happened in 1993. Californians became fed up with unrestrained violence, and pushed their legislature to enact California's "three strikes" law which permanently incarcerated repeat offenders with a focus on the violent ones. Then in 1996, we got 10-20-Life, also known as the "use a gun and you're done" law. In other words, the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence begins their analysis at a point in time when thugs stated going to jail for life, removing them from the streets, taking them away from the ATM you visit, ridding some inner cities of very violent influences.

This is evidentially unimportant to the LCPGV. So is the truth. "Gun violence is not a problem without solutions. We know what works." Obviously they don't.

This article is filed in the following categories in the database: Legal Frontlines.