Columnist Kirk Whatley: New gun laws not solution to reducing violence

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Recently, there have been misleading statements and unsubstantiated opinions offered about gun control in our nation.

Prior to 2008, according to the Washington Post, there were an estimated 300 million firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens. According that same source, there were more than 357 million in 2016.

Over a longer period, violent crimes, including murder, have been steadily decreasing. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, the rate of violent crime dropped from 79.8 to 18.6 victims per 1,000 people age 12 and older from 1993 to 2015.

These statistics do not support the opinion that more guns lead to more crimes.

As a result of the 1994 assault weapons ban, a national database referred to as NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System) was created. This database is supposed to have the records of all convicted felons, domestic abusers, dishonorably discharged military members, people deemed mentally insufficient and anyone else who should be excluded from ever legally owning a firearm. Any time anyone legally purchases a firearm, their name and Social Security number are run through the database.

Regarding the claims of a need for a “universal background check,” the NICS database already exists.

The more concerning issue is that Massachusetts is one of the worst states for submitting the names of people deemed mentally insufficient by the state into the NICS database. While Massachusetts legislators seek more and more gun control, they don’t follow the laws already in place; laws that all law-abiding, safety-conscious gun owners believe should be followed.

Some question letting the 1994 assault weapons ban expire in 2004. The fact of the matter is that, according to the Clinton-era Department of Justice, the impact of the assault weapons ban on firearm-related violence was “uncertain,” and the department’s latest report stated, “We cannot clearly credit the ban with any of the nation’s recent drop in gun violence.”

The assault weapons ban was not renewed because it had little to no impact on firearm-related violent crimes.

Further research shows that since the assault weapons ban ended in 2004, violent crime has actually decreased by 16.6 percent from 2004 to 2016, according to FBI statistics.

According to FBI data, 13,455 people were murdered in the U.S. during 2015, with 1,544 people killed with knives; 624 by personal weapons such as hands, fists, or feet; 437 by blunt objects such as hammers or clubs; and 252 by all rifles combined. Rifles accounted for only 1.9 percent of all murders in 2015. You were more than twice as likely to be killed from someone kicking or punching you to death than to be shot by a rifle.

Judging by these numbers, rifles are not the problem some make it out to be.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention conducted a number of studies regarding gun control laws. Their 2003 study concluded “The Task Force found insufficient evidence to determine the effectiveness of any of the firearms laws or combinations of laws reviewed on violent outcomes.”

The National Academies Press, which publishes the reports of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, reported statistics showing that the defensive use of firearms to protect oneself drastically outnumbers the murders committed with firearms.

Because magazines can be changed quickly, limiting their size (10 rounds vs. 30 rounds) is meaningless. Some states, such as Massachusetts, limit the number of attachments that can be put on a rifle — as if limiting cosmetic features make rifles safer.

According to Alan Korwin, co-author of “Gun Laws of America,” there are 271 gun laws at the federal level, a 17 percent increase in the past decade. That does not take additional laws of individual states, like Massachusetts, into account.

What we really need are four things: 1. Enforce the laws already on the books; 2. Fulfill the data-entry requirements of the NICS database; 3. Make it easier for law-abiding citizens to defend themselves with firearms; and 4. Realize that violent crime is decreasing as private firearm ownership increases.

Murder is already illegal. Criminals, terrorists and the mentally ill do not obey current gun laws. Do we really expect that they will obey new ones?

Kirk Whatley, of Hadley, owns Whatley Training LLC that offers firearms classes.