Real Benefits or False Promises?
March 20, 2014
Truth was the first victim of the gun control debate, and apparently will be the last. It may be unfair to pick on Doctor Garen Wintemute, for his research into gun control policy has been publicly savaged by many in the field. Nor is it polite to rehash the fact that much of Wintemute's funding comes from the gun control movement's financier, the Joyce Foundation. It wouldn't even be sportsmanlike to pick apart his all too frequent Op/Eds since they appear in newspapers without the benefit of citing his sources (a common scientific courtesy).
It is, however, fair to say his conclusions are not supported by facts, statistics, history and common sense.
In legislative matters, laws must address problems. Problems must first be identified, measured, and if confirmed to be a public menace, laws are crafted to address the problem. Granted, this critical thinking chain reaction is occasionally sparse in the State Capital, but it should be robustly enforced on such critical issues as firearms, preserving self-defense alternatives and that quaint, libertarian notion of freedom.
To start the process, let's take Wintemute's unsupported contradictions in arguments he made in the Sacramento Bee a few months ago. He claimed (without citation) that before California's 1989 "assault weapons" ban that "people who purchased such weapons were more likely ... to have a criminal record, and they were more likely to commit violent crimes subsequently." Yet later he claims "such weapons were not in common criminal use at the time they were banned." Restated without obfuscation, "there wasn't a problem to begin with, and the ban fixed that problem."
Ignore if you will the broken chain of logic from what weapons a criminal may acquire and the fact that criminals commit crimes. Even Wintemute admits that the firearms in question were not the choice of criminals.
I'm not seeing the "real benefit" he claims more gun bans will bring.
To support of the odd notion that registering bullets reduces crime, Wintemute says that in Los Angeles criminals bought 5,000 rounds a month from retailers (which is about the same number of rounds an NRA member uses at the practice range in a weekend). With a population of nearly four million people, and with L.A. County racking up 6% of felony convictions, 5,000 rounds of retail ammunition acquired directly by thugs is mere statistical noise. Los Angeles is no model for the state, and even if it were the numbers show that retail sales of ammo makes no difference (for the record, in the latest reporting year, L.A. endured over 20,000 violent crimes and about 24% of those arrested didn't show up for their court hearing, while many more were released from our overcrowded prisons).
Which brings us back to the core concept, that a problem needs to be identified before laws are conceptualized. Digging through the data repeatedly leads to the same conclusions: Violence is a young man's game and is heavily centered in urban gang culture. The FBI ranks California in the top tier for gang memberships, with more than six gangsters for every 1,000 residents, or about 24,000 Los Angeles gang members (with fewer than 5,000 bullets between them). Sociological and psychological profiles of typical gang members show complete sociopathic tendencies on their part, which helps to explain why laws against their acquiring guns or ammo seems not to deter it at all.
This is a core problem which the gun control movement and their medical malpractice specialists choose to hide. Adding paperwork to buying bullets slows down your neighbor but not the person who robs them at the ATM. Banning higher capacity magazines and so-called "assault weapons" does nothing to reduce gun violence because they are not the weapon of choice in the overwhelming number of common crimes committed each year in the state of California.
As Wintemute notes "California has a proud tradition of enacting evidence-based reforms." Debatable, but this is not the time to stop and statistics show the LIFE Act is an avoidance of evidence. Supporting information
Public critique of Wintemute's early work:
A substantial part of Chapter 11 ("The Straw Men Straw Man: The Trafficking That Isn't") in Shooting The Bull, http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0983240701/
UC Davis page noting Wintemute's funding by Joyce Foundation:
LA Felony data
"According to the BJS Federal Justice Statistics Program, Federal courts convicted 63,217 persons of a felony in 2002 (see page 3). ***Footnote 1: By comparison, the State court in county, Los Angeles, accounted for about 39,000 felony convictions in 2002. *** That number represents 6% of the combined State and Federal total number of felony convictions during 2002."
http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/fdluc06.pdf Table 20 shows percent of felons who do not appear in court.
FBI data on gangs.
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Quoting you: "Wintemute says that in Los Angeles criminals bought 5,000 rounds a month from retailers (which is about the same number of rounds an NRA member uses at the practice range in a weekend)." This is comparing the purchasing behavior of a segment of a population with a single individual's behavior. I think it would be more believable if it referred to all NRA members in the LA area on a weekend. That would cost $2000 for .223 Remington and $250 for .22LR. Also that represents 300 rnds/hour for 16 hours not counting the amount of time it would take to reload the magazines