Gullible gunners, episode V

The London Daily Telegraph has been running a cynical and dishonest campaign in the UK to give people the right to defend themselves against burglars. It's dishonest because, as I have detailed here and here, people in the UK already have the right to defend themselves against burglars or anyone else who threatens them. The Daily Telegraph's campaign is nothing more than a beat up to create an issue to attack the government with. The truly disgraceful thing about their scare campaign is that it could convince people that self-defence is unlawful and frighten them out of defending themselves against an attacker, resulting in injury or even death of a crime victim. I am disgusted.

One of the features of the campaign is the use of deceitful and fabricated statistics and quotes. Let's look at some examples: Dominic Lawson writes:

Remember Robert Symonds? It is the name of the 45-year-old Putney teacher who six weeks ago was stabbed to death in the hall of his home by a burglar. His body was found by his wife while their two children slept upstairs.

It was as a result of that incident that this newspaper launched our "right to fight back" campaign, which calls for the public to be given an unqualified right to self defence against intruders in their own homes. The point that struck me so forcibly at the time was not just the horror of Mr Symonds's death, but the fact that had Mr Symonds picked up a kitchen knife before encountering the burglar, and managed to get blows in first, then he would now, as the law stands, be facing a murder trial.

It's telling when they can't provide real cases where people have been put on trial for murder after killing a burglar in self-defence and instead present hypothetical cases. Here is a real case that the Telegraph will never mention because it destroys their campaign: John Lambert (no relation), who killed a burglar in self defence and was not put on trial for murder or even prosecuted. I have collected more examples here.

Lawson then states:

But the doubling in recorded violent crime over the past eight years is a domestic apocalypse now.

Notice how Lawson was careful to write "recorded violent crime"? That's because violent crime has been falling for the past eight years. But rather than mention this, Lawson uses the fact that the police have improved their record keeping to dishonestly create the impression that crime has increased.

Next, we have Charles Laurence, who writes:

[In 1987] the Oklahoma state government passed legislation that became known as the Make My Day Law, named for the celebrated scene in the Clint Eastwood Dirty Harry film. ... "Our law says you can use any force, including deadly force, to defend your home."

It has been an unqualified success. Since the Make My Day Law came into force, burglary has declined by almost half in Oklahoma. In 1987, there were 58,333 cases; in 2000, just 31,661.

But as Eugene Volokh points out, burglary also declined by almost half in the rest of the US as well, so there is no reason to believe that the law deterred burglars.

And then there is Mark Steyn, who writes:

But the trouble is that this kind of burglary - the kind most likely to go "wrong"---is now the norm in Britain. In America, it's called a "hot" burglary---a burglary that takes place when the homeowners are present---or a "home invasion", which is a much more accurate term. Just over 10 per cent of US burglaries are "hot" burglaries, and in my part of the world it's statistically insignificant: there is virtually zero chance of a New Hampshire home being broken into while the family are present. But in England and Wales it's more than 50 per cent and climbing. Which is hardly surprising given the police's petty, well-publicised pursuit of those citizens who have the impertinence to resist criminals.

Now, it is true that in the US, about 10% of burglaries are "hot", while in England and Wales it is more like 50%, but Steyn has added his own fabricated statistics. The part about the rate being zero in New Hampshire was made up by Steyn, as was the part about the hot burglary rate in England going up. Steyn doesn't even bother to give a single example of the police pursuing citizens who resist criminals, he just asserts it again and again. I am concerned that Steyn's misinformation might frighten people out of defending themselves. And, no, "home invasion" is not a more accurate term. A "home invasion" is a domestic robbery, not a "hot" burglary.

Steyn continues:

In New Hampshire, there are few burglaries because there's a high rate of gun ownership.

Not so. In fact, in the US, higher gun ownership tends to lead to more burglaries. (Presumably because guns are valuable loot.)

And then there is Joyce Lee Malcolm. She produces a whole list of false claims. She uses fabricated quotes to claim, falsely, that the right to self defence has been practically eliminated from British law. And she writes:

Crime has rocketed. A UN study in 2002 of 18 developed countries placed England and Wales at the top of the Western world's crime league.

Now Malcolm is well aware that the British Crime Survey shows that crime has declined, so she is deliberately misleading her readers here.

Of course the cynical genius of the Telegraph's campaign is that if they are able to instill into enough people the false belief that the law does not allow self defence, the only fix is to to re-enact the current law to convince people that self defence is legal. And then, having created the problem, the Telegraph will take credit for solving it.

Just as in the cases of Gullible Gunners part I, II, III and IV, American pro-gun bloggers have lapped this up. They all seem convinced that self defence is not lawful in the UK. There are too many to list; some examples are Kevin Baker, Glenn Reynolds, Dave Kopel and Jim Treacher.


More like this

"I was already aware of that."

Okay. I thought that since you lumped me in with the "gunners," maybe you didn't get the joke. Sorry about that!

One of the problems I have with UK law on self defense, as I understand it (please correct me if I'm wrong) comes from this summary on uk law online

To show self-defence you must:

1. show that you reasonably fear immediate attack.
2. show that you had no alternative avenue of escaping the attack. If you can, you must run away.
3. your response must be proportionate to the threat. If someone threatens you with a balloon, you may not respond with a knife. If your own life is not under threat you cannot threaten somebody else's life.

so, you must retreat from a violent situation, if you safely can, even if you are in your own home and ther person or persons that are threatening you come from outside.

In America, in most states, you are not required ever to retreat from your home. You can always make a stand there.

So that, and no guns allowed for self defense.

It appears that the situation is more complex than your dismissive comment that self-defence is already legal, Tim.

I met a very angry Pom in Harare who claimed he had moved there because his sister's fish'n'chipper was robbed and she was stabbed,and the police refused to do anything about it. They knew who did it but no-one would testify against the gangsters.

He felt even under Mugabe that self-defence against criminals was better accepted than in the UK.

The most interesting (and alarming) thing with British self-defense law is this: Parliament has not actually changed the law any time recently to slant it against homeowners and law abiding citizens.

Rather, it is the interpretation of the law that has shifted in the practices of the police, prosecutors and the courts.

Dave Kopel has pointed out that there is no statute passed by Parliament that forbids the keeping of a firearm for self defense in the home in Britain. However, the police who license firearms have tacked on various unloaded safe storage and other procedural restrictions that make this legally impossible. And if you use should use a firearm for self defense in the home - well, then, you were already acting illegally, eh? How does that affect your self defense claim? Not positively, I am sure.

Agricola, the headline of the Telegraph is the kind of hyperbole that is found in newspaper headlines in general, and particulary the headlines of British newspapers. The actual quote does not contradict the sentiment of the headline:

There should be a presumption in law "that the person using the force to defend themselves is acting within the law, rather than the other way round".

Even if a struggle led to the death of an intruder, Sir John added, the law would presume that the person in that house had acted lawfully "and let the law change that presumption because of fact in evidence".

Hyperbole, but not far off base, either.

Moreover, sordid affair? To me, the newspaper seems to be performing the valuable service of airing out the dirty laundry of the British state - something that was already clearly public perception.

Where do you think the public perception of lack of self defense rights comes from? Seriously? Britain does not have an effective gun rights and self defense lobby like the US does. The Telegraph campaign is quite recent. The public perception comes from the actual state of the law as it is interpreted and practised. Not from the annoying right-wing newspaper which is pointing out that the Emperor has no clothes.

Moreover, the claim that the Telegraph is doing this purely for political purposes is the kind of accusation of impure motive and lack of integrity that typically comes from Tim Lambert about almost anyone with whom he does not agree. (People with whom he agrees, like the Lancet publishing an article just before the US elections, are of course given a pass).

What makes you think that the Telegraph does not actually take the right of self defense seriously? In the US, the vast majority of gun rights activists whom I know are really self defense activists who are protecting guns as tools of self defense. They (and I) feel that without an effective right and means of self defense, all other human rights become meaningless.

You may agree or disagree with this point of view. It is unbecoming however, to simply claim that someone advocating the right of self defense is only trying to score political points. I assume that the editors of the Telegraph are British homeowners as well. For all you know, they may just have a selfish motive - that of trying to preserve their own skin.


Good article, but you can also point out that very few "hot burglaries" are in fact "home invasions", which would be domestic robberies, or alternatively aggravated burglaries in the Home Office statistics. "Home invasions" sounds more scary though, which is why it has been used.

The cynicism and dishonesty is not just limited to the Daily Telegraph - the Metropolitan Police Commissioner is running around saying that the public perception of the law has become inverted so much that the law has to be clarified.

Time to let people kill burglars in their homes, says Met chief


He said the current legal test of "reasonable force", which has evolved in common law, seemed to be weighted against householders and left the public confused about their rights.

Sir John suggested replacing it with legislation that put a statutory duty on police, prosecutors and the courts to presume that the force someone used in their home against a violent intruder was within the law, unless the facts clearly disproved this.

It's disgusting, I tell you - the guy is the senior most police officer in all of England and is running around telling people that the practical interpretation of the self-defense law has evolved so much that it no longer means anything! And that citizens legitimately fear to use force in self-defense because they don't know what to expect!

Sir John, who will step down in January after five years as commissioner, said: "There is a real difficulty in people understanding what force they can use to defend themselves, their loved ones, their families and their homes. In years gone by I think there was a broad understanding of what it meant.

"The test at the moment is that you use reasonable force in the circumstances. You do not use excessiveness. I think the test of reasonableness needs to be looked at and clarified within statute.

"The thing is too imprecise at the moment for people when they are in extremis. You should be absolutely clear about what your legal rights are to defend yourself."

Kevin P,

i) that article was from the Telegraph, and is overflowing with the biases already highlighted (after all, where does he say "its time to let people kill burglars in their homes"?;

ii) the Commissioner is restating the case as it is now, and since the Telegraph is one of the most guilty papers in this whole sordid affair, they would have hardly had the gall to say "and the reaslon why people arent absolutely clear on their legal rights is because we have done our level best to confuse them".

Tim, are you locked into your position? I suggest that although some of use are gullible enough to take the sensational media claims made for instance in Joyce Malcolm's Dave Kopel's columns seriously, it appears to be true that the right of self-defense in the UK has been reduced. The cause of the reduction is oppressive policing and malicious prosecutorial decisions, unrelated to legislation.


That article is wrong; there is no test that you must retreat.

Kevin P,

You are wrong. Basically, in criminal law there are two codes used - statute law, and caselaw. On the surface there would appear to be a discrepancy between the two on the issue of self defence, however in reality there is not, because caselaw (as Tim showed when he quoted Glanville Williams) is very clear on the issue - there is no reasonable-test where there is a threat of serious harm, and its only when the "defender" tries to claim defence and the use of deadly force where there is no threat (eg Martin, Hastings) that they fall foul of this law.

The proposed change would not affect that in any way, shape or form - Martin, if he did exactly the same thing again after the law (if it gets in) would be convicted. That issue is quite clear, and it has been since R v Shannon when the Appeal Court established it. Of course, that is not something that has got into the press.

Also, defence carried out with an illegally held weapon is not "illegal", the only issue (as demonstrated by that cause celebre of Malcolm and the gun rights lobby of the executive with the sword-cane attacked on the Underground) is the legal status of the weapon.


Would you like to demonstrate the "oppressive policing and malicious prosecutorial decisions" that you have highlighted?

Chris, Kevin: As Tim notes, the Telegraph haven't actually provided any examples of prosecutions brought under the current legislation. It's a reasonable inference to make that the reason that they haven't done that is that there aren't any such examples.
I am against the Private Member's Bill because it is the worst kind of legislation by newspaper. The British media have created confusion and panic, then demanded that the law of the land be changed to do something about the panic that they created. This is a bad way to make laws and gun enthusiasts should be very wary of it; it was through precisely such a media frenzy after the Dunblane massacre that we got the handgun ban in the first place.

Stevens is correct that the "reasonableness" test is a bit of a mess at the moment. Tim has a post a few weeks ago giving excerpts from the standard legal textbook which points out exactly how the statute and case law are at odds with one another. However, this does not mean either that the "reasonable force" test needs to be replaced with "not grossly disproportionate" or that self-defence is illegal for UK homeowners and the Telegraph is ludicrously irresponsible to suggest it does.
I take this all rather personally as a British homeower, because I do not like it when people suggest to British burglars that they need to be armed and ready to kill householders.

dsquared, you are right we should beware of media frenzies; may I enquire if you protested against the one which reculted in the British losing their target pistols?

And Agricola, I feel that Kevin Baker has made his case adequately, and suggest you read his link. I have independent confirmation of his thesis from Brits I contacted after Gullible Gunners 1, including a horror story about malicious prosecution for home defense (using a de-activated shotgun to intimidate an intruder).

In casual conversation I said it was a bad idea, but the internet wasn't invented at the time and I don't write letters to newspapers.

ChrisPer, I already went through Kevin's cases in Gullible Gunners IV. The pattern is always the same -- he presents a case that seems like a miscarriage of justice, but that's because you only see the case for the defence. When you investigate further you discover that important facts have been left out, like the fact that the victime was stabbed repeatedly in the back, making self-defence unlikely. These horror stories always seem to turn out to be, well, stories.

>>>Moreover, the claim that the Telegraph is doing this purely for political purposes is the kind of accusation of impure motive and lack of integrity that typically comes from Tim Lambert about almost anyone with whom he does not agree.<<<

And if he had any genuine way of disproving the Telegraph's position, he wouldn't need to resort to slurs and character assassination...can we trust anything Tim has to say on this subject? When he seems to be driven to disagreeing for the sake of disagreeing? I think not.

By Mark Taylor (not verified) on 13 Dec 2004 #permalink

If the lethal force is justified, the wound angle makes no difference. But the rlevant question is whether the force is justified. If the guy is lying face down stabbing him in the back a dozen times doesn't seem justified.

In Texas, and most USA jurisdictions, it is no longer self-defense to shoot (or stab) someone in the back after they are leaving the scene and/or are no longer a threat. Once the threat is removed, lethal force is no longer justified.

By Carl Jarrett (not verified) on 13 Dec 2004 #permalink

So you're now asserting that Wayne Halling was "lying face down" when Brett Osborne stabbed him?

What happened to the concept that what the defender believed at the time is the measure of whether their action was or was not "reasonable," regardless of whether what he believed was factually accurate? That seems to be the standard that the Crown Prosecution Service applies randomly, thus the confusion of 71% of the public.

And, of course, we "gullible gunners."

The one lying face down was Roger Williams, who was stabbed by Barry-Lee Hastings. Nothing happened to the concept that what the defender believed at the time is the measure of whether their action was or was not reasonable.

Agricola, care to point me to a reference for the actual law then? I'd like to be sure that I find one that is reasonable.

Ben - Tim has already covered the relevant law here, in the earlier "gullible gunners" posts.

Kevin - I refer you to one of Tim's earlier posts about Osbourne: " Osborn decided that he could not face the risk of life imprisonment. "You see it in the paper," Osborn has said, "that bloke Tony Martin who shot the kid who was burgling his house. He went to prison for years.

Osborn mistakenly believed that Martin had been convicted despite acting in self-defence. And the reason why he believed that was because of the activities of the "Tony Martin is innocent brigade". If Osborn was really acting in self-defence then the jury would have acquitted him but Osborn was unsure of this because of people like Baker who argue that self-defence is legally risky in England. As a result Osborn is now in jail."

Osbourne PLEAD GUILTY to the offence. He did so at least partially because of the lies put about by the Telegraph, and other papers.

Agricola, Osborne was charged with murder for stabbing Halling. Get that through your head.

Charged. With. MURDER.

The sentence for which is life in prison. All because he picked up a steak knife and stabbed a blood-soaked, half-naked maniac who had invaded his home and apparently assaulted his houseguests.

Well, GEE! If that had happened here in the States, Mr. Halling might very well have been shot - and very probably no charges would have been filed. Here's an example. But instead, apparently because the knife wound was in Halling's back the Crown Prosecution Service decided that Osborne intended to kill him. Well DUH. Here that's called "justifiable homicide."

Osborne's lawyers might have been incompetent, but the Crown should never have prosecuted in the first place. Taking a plea-bargain was possibly stupid, but when facing life in prison, perhaps not.

And you make my point for me. That happened long before the Telegraph started its current campaign. The way such prosecutions are covered in the press (including the one that began this "gullible gunners" exchange, BTW - go back and read the comments to Tim's first "gunners" post) plants that idea in the minds of all British subjects. Once Osborne found himself in the middle of such a prosecution, what was he supposed to think?

And why are you so obtuse that you cannot understand this?

Kevin - why is it that you make demands that you are unwilling to adhere to yourself? The CPS charged him with murder, probably because (shock horror) that is what the evidence suggested. When Osbourne pled guilty to manslaughter, the CPS accepted it and so the evidence did not see the light of day. Of course, if you have access to this evidence that can demonstrate that it was a "justifiable homicide", then please share it with us. However, I rather doubt that you do.

Oh, and please keep allegations of obtuseness to yourself - since this piece is yet another in the tide of pieces that have followed R v Martin, which has - demonstrably and convincingly "planted that idea in the minds of all British subjects".

Kevin, you are seriously mistaken if you think that shooting someone in the back will not lead to charges or a conviction. In Boca Raton, Florida, Jay Levin shot Mark Drewes in the back after Levin thought that his house was being invaded. Levin was convicted of manslaughter.

By Carl Jarrett (not verified) on 13 Dec 2004 #permalink

Apples and oranges, Carl. Drewes had not forced himself into Levin's home.

Agricola, of course the CPS "accepted" the plea. As to what the "evidence suggested" - I guess we'll never know, will we? But we sure as hell know how all the UK media handled it, don't we?

Did you read the case of the death of Lee Kelso? This young hooligan managed to smash a door off its hinges in breaking in to the home of elderly, blind Thomas O'Connor, who managed to plunge a knife into Kelso, killing him.

Mr. O'Conner then suffered a three week murder investigation before the Crown Prosecution Service finally determined - and I quote:

A 62-year-old man who was arrested in connection with a fatal stabbing will not be charged, police have said.
Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said it made the decision because it cannot prove the arrested man was not acting in self-defence.

"Cannot prove the arrested man was NOT ACTING IN SELF DEFENSE." A 62 year-old blind man against a 23-year old man healthy enough to knock a dead-bolted door out of its frame, and they think it might not be self defense? Does that or does that not indicate that the Crown Prosecution Service as a matter of course actively prosecutes cases where they think they MIGHT disprove self defense?

That's the basis of the Telegraph's campaign. The presumption of innocence on the part of the defender, which seems to be missing. That's why they want a change in the language of the law.

Again, I repeat my accusation of obtuseness.

C'est même chose, Kevin. Drewes was on Levin's property and Levin thought his house was being invaded. Levin tried to claim self-defense. It failed.

Self-defense in the USA is an affirmative defense. A person has to prove that they were acting in self-defense, there is no presumption of innocence.

By Carl Jarrett (not verified) on 13 Dec 2004 #permalink

I consider the hypothesis that burglars prefer to rob houses containing guns (because of their value) implausible. I expect the effect is the other way, homeowners in high crime neighborhoods are more likely to buy guns for protection.

By James B. Shearer (not verified) on 14 Dec 2004 #permalink

I've read your "Gullible Gunners" posts and would agree that claims about the right to self-defense being taken away are exaggerated. Nonetheless, an article Kopel links to ( ) has a few horror stories of people being prosecuted for reasonable self-defense. An Americn tourist who stabbed attackers with a pen knife was convicted of carrying an offensive weapon, as was a man who stabbed his muggers with a swordstick. These cases involved muggings, not burglaries, but they convey an impression of the British government comeing down hard against anyone who uses a weapon in self-defense.

(Caveats apply, of course. These cases happened in the late 80's, so the legal situation may have changed since then. And it's impossible to tell from the article how often people who use knives in self-defense are actually charged.)

By Peter Caress (not verified) on 14 Dec 2004 #permalink

Tish! You speak French!

(Why am I not surprised?)

I'd say, Carl, that there was overwhelming evidence that it was not a self-defense shooting, then. On the other hand there was the case of Rev. Phillip Mielke of Big Lake Alaska who interrupted two men burgling his rectory, shot both of them, in the back, with a .44 Magnum, and was tried for manslaughter.

And was found innocent.

I'm OK with that.


James, the paper considered that possibility. They found that increases in gun ownership were followed by increases in burglary rather than the other way round, so it's unlikely to be people getting guns to protect against burglars.

Tim, I have to support you here. In Australia we have a number of cases of innocent shooters being targeted for their guns by thieves, and I am sure this happens elsewhere.

We also have had at least two deliberately murdered in the process of the robbery. The difference is in Australia our laws require us to be helpless even though we own guns; they must be stored with magazines unloaded, and separated from the gun.

My impression is that this is designed to prevent self-defence, or possibly because we are all presumed wife killers and it is to allow our wives an extra 30 seconds to escape when we 'just snap'.

Tim Lambert wrote:
James, the paper considered that possibility. They found that increases in gun ownership were followed by increases in burglary rather than the other way round, so it's unlikely to be people getting guns to protect against burglars.

This continues to fail the plausibility test. In the vast majority of jurisdictions in the US, gun purchases and ownership are neither public records nor public knowledge. To a prospective burglar, there is nothing that distinguishes a gun-owning home from a non-gun owning home. There is also nothing that distinguishes a neighborhood with high gun ownership from a neighborhood with low gun ownership. In fact, with decades of demonization by the news media, many gun owners tend to be reticent about their ownership of guns. How this correlation can be established boggles the mind. Perhaps this is another case of the academy failing to set foot in the real world.

There is of course the correlation that academics (and journalists) in the US tend to be liberal, which correlates with low gun ownership, which correlates with lack of elementary knowledge about how citizens buy, own, store and use guns. In the debate about the recently departed assault weapons ban, it was astounding to see the amount of misinformation out there. A large number of people are convinced that machine guns have been legalized. Maybe gun rights advocates should push for machine gun legalization - how will people tell the difference?

For those who are unfamiliar with US law, the federal government is prohibited by federal law from maintaining any kind of register of ownership of ordinary rifles, pistols and shotguns.

At the state and city level, there are a few jurisdictions that require registration of handguns, even fewer that register all guns, and those records are almost always not open to the general public. They are accessible to only law enforcement and by court order. In my home state, Texas, there is no registration of any ordinary firearms. So Joe Burglar cannot really say: Hmmm, Tim Lambert in #12 doesn't own a gun, but Kevin Baker in #14 does, so I'll go and burgle Kevin Baker instead, since I'll get more bang for the break-in. There simply is no plausible connection here.

Well, here in Australia the classified ads have been used repeatedly by bad guys. There is no doubt that guns are more in demand in recent years for the crime gangs of our cities, and increasing demand is resulting in higher profits to illegal imports and higher incentives for local theft.

Look, if there's a dead body in your house with a knife sticking out of him, of course there's going to be a murder investigation. How could there not be? Should the police just take your word for it that the stiff was a burglar?

Kevin P, burglars can distinguish a neighbourhood with high gun ownership from one with a low gun ownership. They break into houses ans steal what they can. They can learn where the neighbourhoods with good loot are.

How can you distinguish a gun owners neighborhood from a non-gun owners neighborhood? Are there street signs warning those who enter?

You can buy a gun in the U.S. for as little as $100, so gun ownership is definitely not limited to affluent neighborhoods. Anyone can buy one (excepting felons) and that's how it should be. Burglarizing a house SHOULD be dangerous for the burglar.

One household in ten in Australia has a gun. Some are rich, some are poor. A large proportion of rural households have some kind of firearm, but obviously our population is 95% urban. Even rural families have an urban connection, so do their gun business in the city.

You can get an old .22 rifle from around $50 up to a good new one for $600-$1200 or more and that is the single most common type in Australia. However, to own it you have to spend about $500 on a safe, to ensure you are unable to reach it in a social emergency.

The idea of distinguishing a neighborhood for stealing guns is really laughable. We are dealing with people here, not bloody statistics; a burglar may steal a gun he opportunely finds, but mandatory storage has reduced that significantly by raising the inconvenience.

Rather, burglars use their intelligence to find a house that has guns if that is what they are after. Gossip, newspaper reports, classified ads, following people home from gunshops... Those of us who still have them face an increasing risk of victimisation because of higher gun prices on the black market.

And just as home invasion is a response of car thieves to better security, it is a more serious threat to gun owners because of mandatory safes.

Kevin Baker,

Yet, Kevin, the Telegraph campaign and the Tory PMB that is associated with it would not change any aspect of how a homeowner would be dealt with in similar cases - they would still be arrested on suspicion of murder/manslaughter, they would still be interviewed as a suspect and they would still be bailed, dependent on a CPS prosecutor deciding whether they would be prosecuted.

This is because of the way the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984 regulates that when Police are investigating a suspected offence, in order to ask someone about his/her involvement in that offence (in this case, a homeowner who has caused injury to a burglar), then they have to caution that person about things they say being taken down and used as evidence etc etc. This usually equates to an arrest in instances of serious injury, because (a) the homeowner can get legal advice and (b) the incident is almost never as clear cut as it appears at the scene.

I also note with no shock that you now cite someone being charged with, and cleared of, manslaughter in the US as some kind of evidence that the US system is better than the UK one which does exactly the same thing. What is it about certain pro-gun types that means they cannot ever be wrong about anything?

Kevin S., there are gun owners who do put up signs on their house (e.g. This house protected by Smith & Wesson).

Kevin B., get back to me when you figure out the term "affirmative defense".

By Carl Jarrett (not verified) on 14 Dec 2004 #permalink

Chis that gun safe is to protect you when your loved ones get pissed. (and yes I am proud of my puns).

By Eli Rabett (not verified) on 14 Dec 2004 #permalink

Carl Jarrett is wrong when he writes:

A person has to prove that they were acting in self-defense, there is no presumption of innocence.

That's simply not the case. For self-defense to be justified, a number of elements must be present. If the defendent makes a claim of self-defense, the prosecution has the burden of proving that at least one of the elements was not present.

Consider, for example, Minnesota's standard jury instructions on self-defense:

CRIMJIG 7.05. Self Defense--Causing Death


No crime is committed when a person takes the life of another person, even intentionally, if the defendant's action was taken in resisting or preventing an offense the defendant reasonably believed exposed the defendant (or another) to death or great bodily harm.

In order for a killing to be justified for this reason, three conditions must be met. First, the killing must have been done in the belief that it was necessary to avert death or great bodily harm. Second, the judgment of the defendant as to the gravity of the peril to which (he) (she) (or another) was exposed must have been reasonable under the circumstances. Third, the defendant's election to defend must have been such as a reasonable person would have made in light of the danger perceived and the existence of any alternative way of avoiding the peril. All three conditions must be met. The State has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense.

Let's emphasize that last sentence: "The State has the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant did not act in self-defense."

By Jeff Dege (not verified) on 14 Dec 2004 #permalink

Kevin P,
There is of course the correlation that academics (and journalists) in the US tend to be liberal, which correlates with low gun ownership, which correlates with lack of elementary knowledge about how citizens buy, own, store and use guns. In the debate about the recently departed assault weapons ban, it was astounding to see the amount of misinformation out there. A large number of people are convinced that machine guns have been legalized.

You know, before going off like a know-it-all and condemning 'liberals' with a bunch of made-up statistics, you might want to sit down and get your facts straight. There are several hundred thousand private legally owned automatic weapons in the United States. Getting an automatic weapons permit is hard, but not impossible by any means.


By Carleton Wu (not verified) on 14 Dec 2004 #permalink

Carleton, if you want to quibble, machine guns are illegal except for those pre-1986 grandfathered machine guns. See the letter of the law. Agreed that you can continue to fairly easily be approved for a transfer of a lawfully registered machine gun.

If you look above, I did not make up any statistics of any kind about liberals. My wife works for the University of Texas in Austin. I have a lot of personal experience with academics, liberals, and their knowledge about guns

Tim Lambert wrote:
Kevin P, burglars can distinguish a neighbourhood with high gun ownership from one with a low gun ownership. They break into houses ans steal what they can. They can learn where the neighbourhoods with good loot are.


Jeffrey, we've had this discussion in TPG before.

"The burden of production means that a defendant "must produce sufficient evidence to require [the defense's]submission to the jury"

Go back there and quit obsessively stalking me. I am not going to turn the Deltoid comment section into a mini-TPG.

By Carl Jarrett (not verified) on 14 Dec 2004 #permalink


"The legal defense of self-defense is an affirmative defense. An affirmative defense is illustrated in a case where the defendant used deadly force (say, with a gun) and the alleged assailant consequently died (of a gunshot wound). The defense (1) affirms that the defendant committed the homicide but (2) purports that the homicide was justified. An affirmative defense thus carries two requirements: (1) The defendant affirms that he committed the homicide, that his use of deadly force was intentional, that he deliberately committed the act resulting in homicide. (The defendant's intention might have been merely to shoot to stop rather than to kill, but an admission to the deliberate use of deadly force entails liability for its result.) (2) The burden of proof to establish the claim of self-defense and the burden of persuasion to show justifiable self-defense by a preponderance of the evidence is then upon the defendant, rather than upon the prosecution to prove criminal homicide beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a cost of an affirmative defense."

By Carl Jarrett (not verified) on 14 Dec 2004 #permalink

ChrisPer wrote:
Rather, burglars use their intelligence to find a house that has guns if that is what they are after. Gossip, newspaper reports, classified ads, following people home from gunshops... Those of us who still have them face an increasing risk of victimisation because of higher gun prices on the black market.

I do not live in Australia, so I cannot really comment on the above one way or the other. In America, however, gun ownership is prevalent in about half of all households, differing across states and regions, decreasing in big cities, increasing in suburbs and rural areas. As I mentioned above, registration of firearms is the exception rather than the norm, and registration records are almost never public information. Classified ads usually contain only phone numbers, without names or addresses. Gossip - who knows? Newspaper reports that actually list gun owners by name cause a big uproar about the invasion of privacy and are quite rare. Following people home from gunshops... I don't know how realistic this is. I have seen "Protected by Smith and Wesson" stickers on armored cars, but never on private homes. <u>It is near impossible to find out which house has guns unless the owner is very indiscreet.</u>.

While guns do cost money, the price range is very large - from $100 to several thousand. Lower income neighborhoods own inexpensive guns and household goods; higher income neighborhoods own expensive guns and household goods. I don't see burglars making a calculation of which house to burgle based upon gun ownership density.

Sorry, this is one absurdity that Tim will have to give up on. There is a reason for the phrase "ivory tower".

The burden of proof to establish the claim of self-defense and the burden of persuasion to show justifiable self-defense by a preponderance of the evidence is then upon the defendant...

This is contradicted by the Minnesota jury instructions above.

Carl, regarding self defense being an affirmative defense to prosecution:

I think that it is more correct to say that "self defense can sometimes be invoked as an affirmative defense". I don't think it is correct to say that "self defense must always be invoked as an affirmative defense", which is what you are trying to say, I think. Correct me if I am wrong.

I just read through the Texas statutes on the justifiable use of deadly force and they don't say that self defense is an affirmative defense. I contribute to's Operation Self Defense, and in many reported cases, the defender is not even arrested, let alone charged with a crime. I can see that there might be a catch-all statute that says that "we have defined a long list of crimes in the criminal code, but just in case, self-defense can be claimed as an affirmative defense to any of them, if the judge and jury buy it." But that is different from saying that you can only claim self defense as an affirmative defense.

Carleton Wu, you are right about automatic weapons in (a very few) private hands, but the point Kevin P was making is that the wall of sewage spouted by the media and the activist groups left people under the WRONG belief that crazy changes in the law had occurred with the expiry of the AWB, when the true changes were trivial.

Of course, the desperation of Democrats to get traction on any issue during the Presidential campaign made the media a little shriller than usual. Speaking of Astroturf (in another thread) how about the Several Thousand Mom March??? Where did they go once the funding dried up and they weren't needed for the Gore campaign?

From your cite:

In a defense under 2.03 PC, a defendant bears the burden of production, which requires the production of some evidence that supports the particular defense. Once the defendant produces such evidence, the State then bears the burden of persuasion to disprove the raised defense. The burden of persuasion is not one that requires the production of evidence, rather it requires only that the State prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Seems to me that even in Texas, the prosecution bears the burden of proof.

By Jeff Dege (not verified) on 15 Dec 2004 #permalink

"The burden of proof to establish the claim of self-defense and the burden of persuasion to show justifiable self-defense by a preponderance of the evidence is then upon the defendant, rather than upon the prosecution to prove criminal homicide beyond a reasonable doubt."

Both the prosecution *and* the defense bear the burden of proof, Dege. In cases where there is not an affirmative defense, the burden of proof rests solely on the prosecution.

It seems to me that you can't read, Dege. But that's normal for you.

By Carl Jarrett (not verified) on 15 Dec 2004 #permalink

Kevin P., above you write "I did not make up any statistics of any kind about liberals." Earlier you wrote: "There is of course the correlation that academics (and journalists) in the US tend to be liberal, which correlates with low gun ownership, which correlates with lack of elementary knowledge about how citizens buy, own, store and use guns." The word "correlation" is a term used to denote a statistic. You use the term three times. If you did not make up any statistics, that means that you possess those three correlations and the associational regression statistics that support your claim. If you have these statistics, please do share them with us. After all, you said you did not make them up.

By Carl Jarrett (not verified) on 15 Dec 2004 #permalink

Carl, you are a laugh, it's a privilege to enjoy your posts. You try to force someone into producing statistics for you??? Are you planning to question that academia is 'liberal'??? That is a matter of public knowledge, measured by registered party affiliations and political donations; the statistics are available. Similarly for media. This has been extensively discussed for the last year or twenty, and resulted in movemetns like ProtestWarrior and the Academic Bill of Rights.

It is somewhat more arguable about a tendency of liberals to not own guns. The correlation is not that good. Certainly, many Democrat voters (or former Democrat voters :-) enjoy gun ownership and hunting. And many conservative urban people (especially conservative women) subscribe to anti-gun views, because after all they are a new-class status display issue rather than a Democrat value.

Nevertheless there are only two possibilities for the media treatment of guns: profound ignorance or deliberate duplicity. I suggest that the duplicity is a matter of policy, conformance to a status display issue.

If you allow an honestly mistaken person to see the truth, they will either quit being mistaken or quit being honest.

Agricola wrote: "I also note with no shock that you now cite someone being charged with, and cleared of, manslaughter in the US as some kind of evidence that the US system is better than the UK one which does exactly the same thing. What is it about certain pro-gun types that means they cannot ever be wrong about anything?"

On point 1, said manslaughter charges were brought in Alaska - a state I consider above-average when it comes to common sense. In this case (if you didn't read the story) the Rev. went to investigate noises in his church - which was detached from his home. He fired at the burglars after they had run past him. The prosecutor took the evidence to a grand jury, and charges were filed.

He was tried, and a jury of his peers found him innocent.

This was different enough from a home-invasion case that I don't really have a problem with his being investigated and charged. Honestly, had the jury found him guilty, I'd have been OK with that, too. Note too, they didn't charge him with murder, but with manslaughter. As I said, I believe Alaskans have a high level of common sense. Apparently, so does Rev. Mielke, as he trusted that jury rather than taking a plea bargain out of fear of what might happen. I just thought it was an interesting case to compare to Osborne's, for example.

I note also, however, that you have no comment about Mr. O'Connor's case, nor the Crown's position that they declined to charge him because they could not disprove self-defense. Did you read the second link? (Actually, did you read either?) The Crown made it plain that they considered what Mr. O'Connor did was 'taking the law into his own hands,' and they wanted to discourage that.

No, what Mr. O'Connor did was take his and his wife's protection into his own hands - he didn't wait to farm it out to the police. Can't have that, apparently.

If you'd like another example, let's take the one of Hale DeMar. Mr. DeMar's suburban Chicago-area home was burglarized on two successive nights. On the second, he was home, and he was armed, and he shot the intruder. The Chicago Tribune seems to believe that he acted as a "vigilante," but the Cook County prosecutor declined to file charges in the belief that Mr. DeMar was the victim, not the burglar.

And I have to admit, I don't hold Illinois, much less Cook County, as a bastion of common sense. The prosecutor's action quite surprised me. But I expect a jury would have found in Mr. DeMar's favor had charges been brought.

As to point 2, what is it about certain other types that prevent them from admitting error? Hmm?

Kevin Baker, I find your reading of the O'Conner case rather strange. If the Crown thinks it can disprove self-defence then they should prosecute. If the killing wasn't in self-defence then it was manslughter or murder. Nor did the Crown make it plain that they thought O'Connor was taking the law into his own hands. What they did make plain was that people should not take this case as an indication that people were free to kill intruders into their houses.

Quote 1: "Greater Manchester Police (GMP) said it made the decision because it cannot prove the arrested man was not acting in self-defence."

Quote 2: "As a result of this advice it is not believed we would be able to disprove a case of self defence against [this man]."

Quote 3: "Mr O'Connor was not charged with the killing after police took advice from a leading barrister who said no jury would convict the frail man."

Note they did not say "We're not bringing charges because Mr. O'Connor only defended himself." They said "We cannot PROVE his act WASN'T self-defense." "No JURY WOULD CONVICT." Words mean things, Tim. People say what they MEAN, usually. Contrast that to what the Cook County prosecutor said of Hale DeMar: "We choose to prosecute the real criminal here, the person who broke into this house not once, but twice." And contrast it with this:

Quote 4: "We feel it is important to point out that this decision refers to this case specifically and should not be seen as an indication that people can take the law into their own hands."

Thereby implying that Mr. O'Connor's actions should be seen as "taking the law into (his) own hands," but unfortunately they couldn't charge him for that because "no jury would convict."

I find your reading of it "rather strange" myself, Tim. What a surprise.


Why is it you make a big play of "people say what they mean usually", and then go and contradict youself in the very next paragraph? Or did you ignore the first part of the sentence "We feel it is important to point out that this decision refers to this case specifically" - so they, in these circumstances, clearly did NOT think he "took the law into his own hands".

Probably the reason why they added the second part is because of irresponsible people who misrepresent cases like these to peddle their own theories about things.

Oh, and the CPS base a decision to prosecute on several factors, one of which is if there is a realistic chance of a conviction, which there wasnt in this case.

ChrisPer, if the "statistics are available" as you claim, produce them. Don't pull a John Lott and make statistical claims for which you have no supporting statistical evidence. Considering the level of the arguments you present, I am not going to hold my breath while I wait.

By Carl Jarrett (not verified) on 16 Dec 2004 #permalink

Tim Lambert wrote: "Kevin P, burglars can distinguish a neighbourhood with high gun ownership from one with a low gun ownership. They break into houses ans steal what they can. They can learn where the neighbourhoods with good loot are."

If this is true, than academics have much to learn about where to find guns.

One of the problems in making correlations between gun ownership and crime is that gun ownership is so hard to determine.

That is why various proxies are employed - often with dubious effects.

If you have found a paper that is able to prove this statement or your statement that armed households somehow draw criminals like honeypots, I'd love to see it.

Given that even the goverment and leading academics don't have any way to know where gun owners are concentrated, it's impossible to verify this either way.

It seems to me you are willing to engage in sneering abuse, but not contribute to discussion. I suggest you try Google and look things up for yourself in the library.

Carl, the liberal bias of media journalists and university faculty is so well-accepted, that virtually no one here questions the fact. However, if you want some stats, a cursory look on Google yields this article on ideological diversity (or the lack thereof) in American universities:

According to Karl Zinsmeister's article "The Shame of America's One-Party Campuses" in The American Enterprise (September 2002), campus political, and hence ideological, diversity is all but absent. Mr. Zinsmeister sampled faculty political affiliation obtained from local voter registration records at several universities.

He classified faculty who registered as Democratic, Green or Working Families Party as members of the party of the Left and those registered as Republicans or Libertarians as members of the party of the Right.

The results were: Brown University, 5 percent of faculty were members of the party of the Right; at Cornell it was 3 percent; Harvard, 4 percent; Penn State, 17 percent; Stanford University, 11 percent; UCLA, 6 percent; and at UC Santa Barbara, 1 percent. There are other universities in the survey; however, the pattern is the same -- a faculty dominated by leftist ideology. In some departments, such as Women's Studies, African-American Studies, Political Science, Sociology, History and English, the entire faculty is leftist. When it came to the 2000 election, 84 percent of Ivy League faculty voted for Al Gore, 6 percent for Ralph Nader and 9 percent for George Bush. In the general electorate, the vote was split at 48 percent for Gore and Bush, and 3 percent for Nader. Zinsmeister concludes that one would find much greater political diversity at a grocery store or on a city bus. [Source]

The Media Research Center says this about liberal bias amongst journalists:

Evidence of how hard journalists lean to the left was provided by S. Robert Lichter, then with George Washington University, in his groundbreaking 1980 survey of the media elite. Lichter's findings were authoritatively confirmed by the American Association of Newspaper Editors (ASNE) in 1988 and 1997 surveys. The most recent ASNE study surveyed 1,037 newspaper reporters found 61 percent identified themselves as/leaning "liberal/Democratic" compared to only 15 percent who identified themselves as/leaning "conservative/Republican."

And, apparently, the higher up you go in the ranks, the more you find hardcore libs.

It took me five minutes to find hese on Google, and there were many more links to sources claiming the same thing.

Tim, that is valuable information for me as a gullible gunner. I don't think the statistics need to be precise when they demonstrate Kevin's point that there is a very strong selection bias into academe and media populations; and I recognise that a left-wing person with intellectual integrity is worth a battalion of drafted 'diverse' viewpoints that don't have it. And vice versa.

If a 110 poound woman (approx 50 kg) is attacked by a 280 pound man (approx 127 kg) and he uses only his hands, she will be dead or raped or both. Because the British law denies her the access to anything that might equalize the playing field, like a gun.

Zendo, women in the US are much more likely to end up murdered then women in the UK. This playing field equalization thing doesn't seem to be working that well.

Sarah, there were three associational claims in Kevin P.'s statement. Pointing to some questionable evidence for one of the three is incomplete and inadequate. If a person is going to make a specific empirical claim, they better be prepared to back it up. Telling someone to go look for themselves is lazy.

By Carl Jarrett (not verified) on 17 Dec 2004 #permalink

The US has always had higher violent crime rates than the UK, even when the gun laws were the same. So trying to pin a higher violent crime rate on guns alone defies logic.

One can credibly argue that guns don't matter either way. US states that adoped shall-issue laws saw crimes fall. You can try to say they would have fallen anyway, but if more guns=more crime, you've still got some problems.

When you start arguing that shall-issue will only *slow the reduction* of crime, you've pretty much lost your number one argument.

"Posse" - Nobody is "trying to pin a higher violent crime rate on guns alone" and the results published yesterday by the NAS Committee on Firearms and Violence have demolished (yet again) the claim that the adoption of a shall issue law reduces crime.

By Carl Jarrett (not verified) on 17 Dec 2004 #permalink

posse, gun laws were never the same - and Lott ascribes the "rise" in violent crime post-1997 to the ban on handguns.

Carl, the argument that the anti-gun side always makes is that "shall-issue" concealed carry will result in "blood in the streets" and "Wild-West" shootouts over fender-benders. The argument is that "more guns" will be "on the streets" resulting in an increase in firearms crime and accidental shooting.

They claim this in every single state considering "shall-issue" legislation without regard for the results in other states, even adjacent ones, that have passed such legislation. The attitude is "Don't bother me with facts, I know what I know."

And it never happens.

Now, concerning the NAS, from this speech from yesterday's conference:

The committee's major conclusion, however, is that the existing data and research methods cannot answer some of the most pressing policy issues in this area. Although there have been some well-designed studies on policy issues, the underlying data and the methods used are not strong enough to draw policy conclusions. For example:

The literature on "right-to-carry" laws has obtained conflicting estimates of their effects on crime, despite the fact that data and methods used in these studies differ in only minor ways. Thirty-four states have enacted these laws, which allow qualified adults to carry concealed handguns. However, we found no credible evidence that such policies either decrease or increase violent crime.

There is no credible evidence that the more than 80 gun-violence prevention programs reviewed by the committee have had any effect on children's or teens' attitudes, knowledge, or behavior regarding firearms.

And although research does show associations between gun availability and suicide with guns, that research does not show whether such associations reflect actual cause and effect.

This reflects poorly on gun control research, since in 1983 when Wright, Rossi, and Daly published Under the Gun: Weapons, Crime and Violence in America they found precisely the same thing: no evidence that any research studies on "gun control" had proven any beneficial effect on violent crime. I was, in particular, struck by this passage from the concluding chapter:

The progressive's indictment of American firearms policy is well known and is one that both the senior authors of this study once shared. This indictment includes the following particulars: (1) Guns are involved in an astonishing number of crimes in this country. (2) In other countries with stricter firearms laws and fewer guns in private hands, gun crime is rare. (3) Most of the firearms involved in crime are cheap Saturday Night Specials, for which no legitimate use or need exists. (4) Many families acquire such a gun because they feel the need to protect themselves; eventually they end up shooting one another. (5) If there were fewer guns around, there would obviously be less crime. (6) Most of the public also believes this and has favored stricter gun control laws for as long as anyone has asked the question. (7) Only the gun lobby prevents us from embarking on the road to a safer and more civilized socitey.

The more deeply we have explored the empirical implications of this indictment, the less plausible it has become. We wonder, first, given the number of firearms presently available in the United States, whether the time to "do something" about them has not long since passed. If we take the highest plausible value for the total number of gun incidents in any given year - 1,000,000 - and the lowest plausible value for the total number of firearms now in private hands - 100,000,000 - we see rather quickly that the guns now owned exceed the annual incident count by a factor of at least 100. This means that the existing stock is adequate to supply all conceivable criminal purposes for at least the entire next century, even if the worldwide manufacture of new guns were halted today and if each presently owned firearm were used criminally once and only once. Short of an outright house-to-house search and seizure mission, just how are we going to achieve some significant reduction in the number of firearms available?

Excellent points.

So, instead of drawing a conclusion that "gun control" doesn't seem to have an effect on crime, I'm sure the recommendation is to try "gun control" even harder and to increase funding for research on how well "gun control" works. I mean, after literally decades of research and hundreds of millions of dollars invested, sooner or later someone must come up with a study that will conclusively prove what "progressives" just know, right?

You take the report to indicate that it "demolished (yet again) the claim that the adoption of shall issue law reduces crime." I take the report to demolish, yet again, the claim that "gun control" does either. If the worst you can say about "shall issue" is that it doesn't provably reduce crime, then I'm all for it, since it positively expands the right to arms. BUT if you cannot prove beyond doubt that "gun control" reduces crime, then I strongly recommend rolling back "gun control" laws to restore an infringed right to the people who were promised in writing that it wouldn't be infringed.

And Tim? Women in America are at higher risk of being murdered without guns than women in the UK, too. Americans seem just to be much less squeamish about killing each other than Brits. Your bringing up the fact that women die a lot more often here does not negate Zendo Deb's point, it merely attempts (and fails) to dodge it. If men here are more likely to murder women, then it would behoove women to arm themselves in defense, because Zendo Deb is correct. Since (in the overwhelming majority) they do not arm themselves (the legal ability to do something being far different from an obligation to do so), they will tend to be murder victims at a higher rate than they might otherwise.

Zendo Deb's point being that at least here women have the choice. I most jurisdictions.

But you knew that.

Kevin B., you repeat a common pro-gun strawman argument when you claim that "the argument that the anti-gun side always makes is that "shall-issue" concealed carry will result in "blood in the streets" and "Wild-West" shootouts over fender-benders." Gun control advocates do not "always" make that argument. In fact, very few have. The claim is one made by gun advocates as a strawman. I have challenged that claim in the past, and I have researched it, and there are very, very few examples where gun control advocates have made the 'blood in the streets' claim before a change in a gun law. It is people like you who are running around claiming that gun advocates are making the claim. If you think they've made that claim "in every single state" - then produce start producing the evidence. Let's see if you live up to your own standard. Or are you one of the people who can't be bothered with facts? The empirical evidence continues show that Lott's research does not hold up and is not robust. If Lott had run around ten years ago shouting - 'More guns, no significant change in the violent crime rate' - nobody would have listened to him. Legislatures changed laws in part because of people like you and Lott claiming that changing the law will reduce violent crime. I doubt that they Legislatures would have been particularly impressed with the claim that changing the law would produce no change in the crime rate.

As for proving anything about the effect of gun control laws, you falsely assume that I hold a utilitarian position on the issue. I don't.

By Carl Jarrett (not verified) on 18 Dec 2004 #permalink

Carl, I don't have access to the newspaper archives for every state, but what I do have is a lot of archived reports and editorials from states recently considering "shall-issue" CCW.

I find it fascinating that, seemingly without exception, you require gun rights advocates to provide data for you in order to prove the sky is blue.

I can point to the Violence Policy Center's "License to Kill" report as one example of gun-ban advocates predicting an increase in crime. (Look it up yourself.) Their position is that concealed-carry license holders are not stopping crime, but committing it.

The Brady Campaign's position is that "shall-issue" CCW has increased crime in Florida, (mis)quoting a study by criminologists from the University of Maryland (which they did not bother to name.) Check their web page.

The misinformation spread by these organizations then results in editorial commentary in the media that perpetuates the "blood in the streets" and "Wild-West" meme. Mea culpa - those words don't come from the mouthpieces of gun control organizations, you are correct. They come from the proxies of those organizations, the "useful idiots" as it were.

As if that made a difference.

And personally, Carl, I don't really give a damn whether you "hold a utilitarian position on the issue" of gun control laws or not. I was stating my position. Am I glad the law has been changed regardless of the lack of any evidence that it has affected violent crime rates? Damned straight. Particularly after decades of efforts to incrementally restrict gun rights with the promise that that would reduce violent crime has resulted in precisely the same outcome.

Again, I'm in favor of restoring if not expanding enumerated rights wherever possible.

You apparently are not.

Kevin, if you don't have access to data for every state, then your claim that it "always" occurs in "every state" is clearly false and you made a claim for which you lacked data. A couple of anecdotal examples do not support your claim. You should honestly admit that you didn't have the data and you can't support the claim you made. Don't whine about getting caught without the data to support your position and don't demand that others produce support for your claim. You continue to demonstrate that you hold the position of "Don't bother me with facts, I know what I know." If you want people to support your position, produce the empirical evidence for it.

Finally, you were attempting to tell me what my position was and you continue to do so with your final sentence.

By Carl Jarrett (not verified) on 19 Dec 2004 #permalink


You demand that every 'I' be dotted and every 'T' crossed when people argue against you but give your ideological friends a pass.

I note that Tim said "The pattern is always the same" is reference to Kevin's posts. Yet you did not jump Tim's case for failing to enumerate each case in detail. Tim also asserted, based on a linked study, that higher gun ownership causes an increase in burglary. Yet, if you were so demanding of him as you are of Kevin, you would have pointed out that the study could mean that increases in burglary cause increases in gun ownership. You know, the old correlation/causation thing.

This is the comments section on a blog. You do seem to be demanding that your opponents prove the sky is blue while allowing your allies to quote the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin without comment.

Lighten up, dude. And try asking, rather than demanding.


My original generalization, which Carl Jarrett seems to be excitable about is:

There is of course the correlation that academics (and journalists) in the US tend to be liberal, which correlates with low gun ownership, which correlates with lack of elementary knowledge about how citizens buy, own, store and use guns.

This is a really a case of arguing about whether wet streets cause rain, but let us humor Carl and examine my generalizations in detail:

1. Academics (and journalists) in the US tend to be liberal. Carl must not have spent much time in a modern American university, particularly in the social sciences, or read a "mainstream" newspaper or watched the big four TV networks: ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN. Nevertheless, Sarah above has provided reasonable statistics to confirm what we all already know.

Tim attempts to smear AEI and MRC in their entirety as reputable sources. For some reason, he does this only to people or organizations that he disagrees with. The Lancet and Ayres and Donohue get a pass, for some reason. In order to give Tim an opportunity to discredit Santa Clara University, here is a survey that finds that Democrats outnumber Republicans by 7-to-1:

Republicans Outnumbered in Academia, Studies Find

2. ...liberal, which correlates with low gun ownership. To anyone who has spent any time in the gun control debate, this is like arguing over whether the sky is blue. I suggest that you read "Restricting Handguns: The Liberal Skeptics speak out" by Kates.

Note that I am not slamming liberals in general. I am libertarian and my wife can be reasonably called a pro-gun liberal. Most of my friends are liberal Democrats, and none of them own guns, which is why I feel very comfortable in making this claim. In fact, I systematically invite them out to a shooting range, where I introduce them to safe and responsible shooting, which they invariably enjoy and leave with a much more positive impression of guns.

3. low gun ownership, which correlates with lack of elementary knowledge about how citizens buy, own, store and use guns. This is a truism. Guns are things with complex technical and legal issues. If you don't own a gun, and have no previous experience with using them, then you are simply much less likely to know anything about them. It is like the Amish talking about sports cars. Any time I hear that "assault weapons can be easily converted to machine guns", or that "a gun will be taken away from you and used against you", or that "you can buy an AK-47 at a gun shop for cash and carry", I can make an accurate guess about the level of gun experience of the person.

Kevin P., at least you tacitly acknowledge that you did make up your statistics. You get a brownie point for coming up with support for your first asserted correlation. You fail by using personal anecdotal evidence on the second correlation, and then you simply argue by assertion on the third one.

By Carl Jarrett (not verified) on 23 Dec 2004 #permalink

Don Kates? Dishonest as they come.

As for trying to equate the Media Research Center and AEI with the Lancet---that's laughable. When the Lancet starts getting funded by political parties and corporate interests, Kevin P. might have an argument. Currently, he hasn't one.

Liberals in academia? Why do you suppose that is?

The misinformation spread by these organizations then results in editorial commentary in the media that perpetuates the "blood in the streets" and "Wild-West" meme.

So much utter bilge, so little time.

Note Kevin B's argument is largely anecdotal; I'm sure there are op/ed pieces that rail against CCW laws on the basis of 'blood in the streets.' But if Kevin B. wishes to elevate anecdotes and cherry-picked stories to the same standard as evidence--I can easily produce the same about the NRA's and GOA's links and associations to racist groups and extremist paramilitary outfits.

And there is no shortage of verifiable accounts of "lawful gun owners" doing something profoundly stupid or illegal with their guns--often with devastating results.

I'm certain Kevin B. wishes to include anecdotes because the
actual evidence doesn't support him.

Well, as has been pointed out Kevin is under no obligation to justify anything he says here, but you really are thrashing yourselves to deny liberal domination of media and academia. And the ignorance about guns is pretty damn obvious in these worlds; if you want to find a paper about that ignorance I would suggest Buckner 1993 Concordia's "Gun Control" Petition:
Ignorance of the Law is the Only Excuse.

Kevin P. Regarding the 3 points in your last post,

1. Academics (and journalists) in the US tend to be liberal.

In other words, the better educated and more literate people are, the less likely they are to be conservative. Alright, I will buy that, but is this your idea of a glowing endorsement of conservatism? As for the tired old "liberal media" bit, that can can only be sold with carefully cherry-picked information. The media spans a wide range of sources ranging from Far-Right to Far-Left with most being moderate. Those who have studied this in detail, with proper methodology have reached different conclusions. Examinations of cable news channels and their audiences have also reached conslusions that would surprise the Far-Right. Those studies that the Far-Right has pointed to are almost always based on perceptions of media opinions rather than clear evidence of biased sources (the only real test).

2. ...liberal, which correlates with low gun ownership. and

3. low gun ownership, which correlates with lack of elementary knowledge about how citizens buy, own, store and use guns.

This, you claim to be a "truism". Really? Well... I'm one of those allegedly gun-ignorant "liberals" you're referring to. I have 12 and 20 gage pump shotguns, a 30-06 deer rifle, a hand made 6.5 Mannlicher Shonar rifle (which is a collector's piece), and a 9mm semi-auto WWII era Lugar that was carried by a German officer during that war. I assure you that I know, and have shot every one of those pieces during my long life. I have also done a fair amount of 22 and 9mm pistol target shooting in my time, and I could probably pick the cigar out of your mouth with any one of those weapons at 40 paces. Where does this leave me in your equation? I could also introduce you to any of a number of folks who have extensive military records, including combat duty, who can damn well shoot as well as anybody, yet take serious issue with Far-Right propaganda and pro-gun extremists. Where do they fit in your equation?

For that matter, even if "liberals" were not commonly gun owners, in my experience they are far more likely than their conservative counterparts to visit a library and properly research questions like gun control that have clear scientific and sociaological knowledge bases behind them. This sort of research is far more likely to be relevant to questions of Shall-Issue laws and gun control than any question of how to store and retrieve a gun. Virtually all of the conservatives I personally know get their information from rant and/or extremist web sites like or As a bad scholarship case in point, consider the track record of John Lott and his various research and scholarly blunders. You might try reading more of Tim's exchanges with said Herr Lott. They are most revealing indeed.


Nothing that you have written actually contradicts what I said.

I am well aware that there are some liberals who are gun owners. I hang out on whose membership includes several gun-owning liberals. As a fellow gun owner, I encourage you to visit that site, whether you are interested in miliary rifles or not. However, I confidently continue to make the case that most liberals are not familiar with guns and gun ownership. If your social circle includes many liberals, as mine does, I ask you to take a look at your liberal friends and see how many of them could be called knowledgeable about guns.

Carl Jarrett demands that I provide some kind of numeric proof for this assertion. I will leave the job of proving that the sky is blue up to him. I have a real job in the real world to return to.

Scott Church wrote:
1. Academics (and journalists) in the US tend to be liberal.

In other words, the better educated and more literate people are, the less likely they are to be conservative. Alright, I will buy that, but is this your idea of a glowing endorsement of conservatism?

If you actually read what I wrote above, I said that I was a libertarian. I do not consider myself a conservative and so have no bone in your fight. However, you make the mistake of equating "Academics (and journalists)" (my phrase) with "better educated and more literate people" (your phrase). The first group is a very small part of the second much larger population, which continues on to work in the real world. Academics remain in the intellectual bubble of the university, where the orthodoxy, particularly in the social sciences, can be very strong. Journalists start with Journalism School, which is in my view a fundamental mistake, and then often proceed straight into working for media organizations, which are often ideologically homogeneous.

In any case, just so you know, Jim Lindgren, by no means a conservative, has found that the GSS survey finds that conservative Republicans are the most educated sub-group of the population:

Yet Republicans in the general public tend to be better educated than Democrats. In the 1994-2002 General Social Surveys (GSS), Republicans have over 6/10ths of a year more education on average than Democrats. Republicans also have a higher final mean educational degree. Further, Republicans scored better than Democrats on two word tests in the GSS--a short vocabulary test and a modified analogies test.

If one breaks down the data by party affiliation and political orientation, the most highly educated group is conservative Republicans, who also score highest on the vocabulary and analogical reasoning tests. Liberal Democrats score only insignificantly lower than conservative Republicans. The least educated subgroups are moderate and conservative Democrats, who also score at the bottom (or very near the bottom) on vocabulary and analogy tests.

Regarding liberal media and the gun control debate, see Outgunned: How the Network News Media Are Spinning the Gun Control Debate

Carl, JadeGold, Lambert et. al. will all immediately attempt to discredit this study as a production of the eeeeevil Media Research Center. I invite you to actually read the entire report for the hard numbers that describe what everybody already knows about the media and their promotion of gun control.

Scott, in providing the link to the GSS survey above, I should point out that neither Jim Lindgren nor myself believe in "I am smarter than you" comparisons. In fact, I think that such comparisons are usually very stupid things done by otherwise smart people, and are an indirect reason for the present Democratic decline (you can't insult people and then demand that they vote for you at the same time).

The artifical division of America into red states and blue states may be a reason for this prevailing belief among liberals that they are smarter than the dumb hicks in the red states. When you slice up a demographically complex country using state lines, all sorts of statistical results can be found, and even manufactured to meet a desired goal.

I will also state, as another hackle-raising generalization, that the liberals that I know tend to believe that they are better educated and smarter than other people. This belief does not always correlate with reality, especially in the realm of knowledge about guns and firearms policy.

Kevin P, the numbers in the Media Research Center study are not hard numbers. Why on earth should anyone trust their classification of whether a story is pro-gun or not?

Tim, note that MRC finds that in many cases, the number of "neutral" stories is near the number of "anti-gun" stories. From my own experience in listening to media coverage over the last few years, this seems reasonable to me: About equal numbers of neutral and anti-gun stories, with a very small number of pro-gun stories. This study was conducted in 2000; since then I will say that the coverage has improved, but only slightly. In the recently concluded debate about the death of the assault weapons ban, all the old bad habits came back.

Also, note that they did not classify a story as anti-gun until the number of anti-gun statements exceeded the pro-gun statements by a factor of 1.5 (and vice-versa)

If you feel that MRC's classification scheme is incorrect, it should be simple to find a subset of stories, follow their methodology and see if it is reasonable. To my knowledge, nobody has attempted to seriously dispute their findings.

I pretty sure that their classification scheme is incorrect. Whether a story is anti-gun or not is a subjective decision. If a different person did the classifying, they would get different results. These are not hard numbers.
I did my own analysis of the stories about the shootings at the Appalachian School of Law. The claims of anti-gun bias in the reporting were not well founded.

Kevin P. makes a rather fundamental error; he assumes all conservatives own guns while all liberals do not. This is a huge leap of logic.

In fact, gun ownership in the US cuts across many demographics. Additionally, gun ownership isn't as widespread as Kevin P. believes and tends to be heavily concentrated among a relatively small number of middle class, rural, white men. It is estimated that 10% of US adults own 80% of the guns. Most gun purchasers are people who already own one or many more firearms.

Kevin P. also failed to answer my question: why is it that conservatives are underrepresented in college faculties?

Jadefold, are you smoking something wierd? You completely mischaracterise Kevin's broad correlation. Please read his posts and prove that he assumes any such thing.

Kevin would agree that ownership cuts across many demographics; given claims that 50% of all households own guns it would be hard not to have lots of Democrat voters as gun owners.

Then you immediately contradict yourself claiming its a small number of middle class rural white men that own the guns.

And perhaps the reason conservatives are under-represented in faculties is partly the same reason they are under-represented in jail...

Scott Church wrote:

I have 12 and 20 gage pump shotguns, a 30-06 deer rifle, a hand made 6.5 Mannlicher Shonar rifle (which is a collector's piece), and a 9mm semi-auto WWII era Lugar that was carried by a German officer during that war.

Um, that would be a Mannlicher-Schoenauer and a Luger.
I don't doubt that you shoot, but I wouldn't call you an enthusiast.

Kevin P. You are right about my own status with guns, and those of the liberals I know, as not necessarily being representative of the larger population. Given my own poor fit with your equation, my reaction to it was visceral. But the real issue is your larger points, which if I understand them correctly, are as follows;

1) Conservative Republicans are the most educated sub-group of the population.

You cite the 1994-2002 General Social Surveys for this, but the link you provided went only to someone else quoting Jim Lindgren. I searched the General Social Survey databases for the data to support this and found none. Nor did I find proper support for it anywhere else where the data were actually made available. Even in Lindgren is right, I fail to see how two-word tests constitute a valid measure of literacy and education level. Furthermore, Lindgren's remarks make no discrimination to what sort of degrees were involved in his GSS figures or to where they came from. There is a considerable difference for instance, between an MS in Economics, or Statistics from MIT, and a PhD in "Church Growth" from a small unaccredited college (the former pastor of a very large, extreme fundamentalist church near my home has one of these). A more valid measure of politically relevant literacy and/or education level would be provided by a direct test of voter issue awareness on a wide range of domestic and international issues. This year, just prior to the Nov. U.S. presidential election, just such a test was conducted this year by the Center on Policy Attitudes (COPA) and the Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland (CISSM) at the School of Public Affairs, University of Maryland. The test was large, well characterized, and statistically significant with standard errors of less than 3 percent. Scores per question varied, but on average, fewer than one in every 3 or 4 Bush voters could even correctly identify his positions on a wide range of issues, much less discuss any of them. The corresponding figures for Kerry voters ranged from 65-85 percent. The test methodology is here and the the findings report is here. Personally, this strikes me as a much better test.

2) "I am smarter than you" comparisons are not useful.

I agree completely. But smart vs. stupid isn't the issue - active information seeking is. The smartest guy on earth, as measured by two-word tests and degrees of an unspecified nature from unspecified schools, will be functionally illiterate if he believes whatever he's told by ideologues and does not have active research habits of his own. Note that the above test results I linked do not reflect I.Q. or attained education level, but the degree to which people have active information seeking and verification habits as opposed to to running off of opinion or passion. I could introduce you to countless people, family and friends, who have college degrees and GPA's that are quite admirable, yet who haven't set foot in a library to investigate something that concerns them in many years.

3) Compared to the ordinary gun-toting guy on the street, Ivory-Tower academics know little about the realities of gun ownership and its public impacts.

The sort of issues covered in the NAS Report - gun ownership and crime as related to public health and safety - are ultimately driven by State and Federal data on crime (particularly violent crime), gun ownership, gun theft and trafficing, domestic violence, suicide, shall-issue laws, demographic data, etc. This data is hardly "ivory-tower" - It comes directly from the front lines, and the best research available based on it has been analyzed with proper data and metadata characterization and statistical methods that have shown themselves to be reliable in countless other fields of research. And they do not support the usual NRA doctrine. If anything on this earth is truly Ivory-Tower, it's being paid huge honorariums by the Olin Foundation, the NRA, and other Right-Wing special interests to sit in an office at Yale, collect carefully chosen subsets of this data, and then fuss with input parameters to poorly designed multiple regression models until one get just the right amount of data clustering and spurious correlations needed to get the results their Right-Wing benefactors are paying for - e.g. The John Lott School of Econometrics.

Unfortunately, Scott, as both the NAS and Wright-Rossi studies seem to indicate, the Ivory-Tower academic studies are equally skewed by Left-Wing benefactors, resulting in the same unreliable studies, only biased the other way.

Recall, there have been two meta-analyses of all of the gun control research to date, separated by twenty years, and they both conclude that the overwhelming bulk of the research done proves nothing useful. They not only do not support the NRA doctrine, they don't support the Brady/VPC/et. al. doctrine either.

Don't you find that fascinating? I do.

Scott, I like the way you argue.

We might make a useful distinction between academics who use their critical faculties and do good research on the gun issue, and the ones who let the climate of 'liberal' values direct their research goals.

The data you correctly describe as coming from the front lines suffers from a selection problem - they collect what is collectable, and they only count harms. Benefits accrue to individuals without headline-grabbing payoffs. The costs of misuse are headline-grabbing. We combine this kind of data - ignoring benefits - with a values-driven climate in academia. The result is obvious; research even if done well is not balanced in its social effect. In Australia, the Auustralian Institute of Criminology is paid by the Howard Government (who spent all that money taking useful, legal guns away). The AIC data appears to be well gathered, their low-level analysis rational and fair; yet the AIC senior management have staged media stunts to misrepresent the results as 'Buyback Saves Lives', and the media have uncritically accepted this.

By contrast, look at the case of cars and access to private transport. The benefits are similarly accrued to individuals, but for obvious reasons few road safety activists deny that the benefits exist or that they exceed the costs.

The data don't support either extreme pro-gun or anti-gun cases; they seem to show that the effect of new gun laws is negligible or close to it. Kevin finds that fascinating; but I have another fascinating question.

If the overall evidence is that violence as a whole is little affected by gun laws, why have we no mass shootings in Australia since 1996? My belief is that this piece of data may indicate that the influence of media coverage on violence is far stronger than they have been prepared to acknowledge.

Kevin Baker, Yes, Mannlicher-Schoenauer and Luger. Sorry 'bout that, I was in a bit of a hurry when I typed it.

Regarding your statement about the NAS and Wright-Rossi studies, it might actually be relevant had I said that ivory-tower studies were not skewed by "Left-Wing" benefactors, academics, or anyone else. Of course, I said no such thing. What I said was that the available evidence and the best studies based on them (as opposed to "ivory-tower" studies, of which I know of none) did not support Right-Wing benefactors and ideologues, and in point of fact they do not. What the data do say is that the evidence does not support concluding that handgun prevalence either adds to, or detracts from, crime rates, and that criminal access to handguns is not independent of legal gun ownership as so many pro-gun advocates assume ("if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns..."). There is also a strong case to be made that handgun prevalence does contribute to violent crime fatalities, simply because shootings tend to be more lethal than stabbings or bludgeonings.

Furthermore, as I clearly pointed out, none of this has anything whatsoever to do with "ivory-tower" academics, "Left-Wing" or otherwise. The data comes from State and Federal crime, shall-issue law, and demographic data among other things, and the most thorough analyses of this this body of data can be found in places like the ATF Youth Crime Gun Interdiction Initiative Reports. The gun trace reports for instance, which bear directly on the "only criminals will have guns" bit, can be found here for the year 2000. In addition to the NAS Report, you might also check out the FBI Uniform Crime Reports (the Year 2003 Report is available here) or this 1993 NAS Report on violence. Please note that the actual sources cited in all of these reports use data that comes right off the street and from the precinct headquarters - not the Faculty Lounge at Harvard.

Unless we are prepared to believe that the FBI, the ATF, and similar law-enforcement agencies are all populated by ivory-tower academics who get police departments to fabricate data for them, the whole "Left-Wing" Academics bit is a red herring, and I'm not buying it. Those who think otherwise should produce the data that says so and demonstrate how it has been skewed by supposedly Left-Wing academics, in precisely what manner, and how a corrected methodology would reach different conclusions. Note that this has been done, and done extensively, in regard to Right-Wing academics such as John Lott.

ChrisPer, Can you provide me an example of someone who let a "climate of liberal values" direct his or her research goals? The sources I have been citing have no such connections. I cannot speak for Australia, but here in the U.S. there are no examples of this I have seen. Tim can, and has, spoken to the situation in Australia. The best analyses of the U.S. situation have in fact weighed alleged benefits, and almost without exception, the firearm-crime studies that were cherry picked and/or based on obviously flawed methodology have been mainly on the Right - again, John Lott being a classic case in point. So I do not see the sampling problem you speak of, or the evidence of massive Liberal conflation. Where is all of this in the data?

Scott, if you are willing to read it, try for my essay on this matter.

IMHO, the 'climate of liberal values' creates underlying assumptions in the research that frame what people look at. For instance, the idea that 'social conditions' cause crime means that ways of looking at crime in research avoid questions of individual responsibility and choice of action. In my experience of deadly industrial safety environments, only strong and continuing emphasis on individual acts and choices can build an effective safety culture; yet the hidden assumption of much of the literature is that guns in some way cause violent acts by availability alone.

We see study after study focused on contrasts in laws that entirely neglect the idea that a law operates via a mechanism on individual choice. For instance, they refer to 'tightening' without saying what was tightened, what were the effects on choices people made, what were the intended and unintended responses. Example would be the good Professor Ozanne-Smith et al 2004.

I was thrilled when I started reading on this topic to find how much there was; and disappointed as I realised how bad a lot of it is. The extended ad hominems of Kates et al on 'gun-aversive dyslexia' (for example) were a disappointment. However, the way the activists misuse even the good stuff convinces me that being aligned with some nitwits is better than accepting the oppressive laws drafted to make smart people feel morally righteous. Prohibition saved a lot of lives - didn't mean it was right or wrong in the end.

Kevin B, I would classify that story as a beat-up. The media often tries to create a controversy because that attracts viewers/sells newspapers. It strikes me as pretty well the same thing as the Daily Telegraph's campaign I commented upon in my original post.

ChrisPer, you are demonstrating a poor level of knowledge of Sociology. Humans are social animals and are heavily influenced by social conditions. At the community-level, 95% of criminal behavior can be by social conditions and social structure. The availability of guns is part of the social structure. It is rather foolish to try to focus on only 5% of the source of variance, as you want to do.

By Carl Jarrett (not verified) on 29 Dec 2004 #permalink

I fear ChrisPer has been hitting the crack pipe. Crime is a function of a number of social conditions including economic and educaional factors, among others. Trying to foist it off on 'individual responsibility and choice' is akin to trying to blame sickness and disease on 'ill body humours.'

Guns, in and of themselves, don't cause crime. But there is no disputing the fact guns tend to make crime more violent and more deadly. Further, guns greatly enhance the ability and feasibility of violent crime.

Moreover, there is exactly zero evidence guns as a self-defense tool --or crime deterrent--offsets crime or even accidental injury or death.

That piece was a one-off, not part of a continuing series dedicated to getting legislation passed...

Or was it?

The Telegraph has been documenting evidence of what has happened. The MSNBC piece was a fear-mongering effort to strike terror into people over what might happen, using images that had nothing to do with the topic at hand, which was the raffle of a hunting rifle and a .22 rimfire.

This was the most blatant piece of propaganda I've seen since Broward County Sheriff Ken Jenne duped (?) CNN into portraying that "post-ban" "assault rifles" were somehow less powerful that "pre-ban" weapons of the same design and caliber.

The Telegraph is certainly trying to affect public opinion - but AT LEAST THEY'RE OPEN ABOUT IT.

Jadegold, no not crack just a nice Coonawarra shiraz.

Are you going to tell me that a murder is caused by social conditions without choice being involved? That's good, it removes me from responsibility for shooting a burglar in the back in 'self-defence' should the situation arise.

Tim Lambert wrote:

I pretty sure that their classification scheme is incorrect. Whether a story is anti-gun or not is a subjective decision. If a different person did the classifying, they would get different results. These are not hard numbers.

But if you read through the MRC report, it describes the classification scheme in the second paragraph:

Methodology. To assess the tilt of stories, analysts counted the number of pro- and anti-gun statements by reporters in each category. Pieces with a disparity of greater than 1.5 to 1 were categorized as either for or against gun control. Stories closer than the ratio were deemed neutral. Among statements recorded as anti-gun rights: violent crime occurs because of guns, not criminals; and gun control prevents crime. Categorized as arguments for gun rights: gun control would not reduce crime; that criminals, not guns are the problem; Americans have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms; right-to-carry concealed weapons laws caused a drop in crime.


In 653 gun policy stories, those advocating more gun control outnumbered stories opposing gun control by 357 to 36, or a ratio of almost 10 to 1, while 260 were categorized as neutral. Anti-gun soundbites were twice as frequent as pro-gun ones-412 to 209-while 471 soundbites were neutral. Gun control advocates appeared on the morning shows as guests on 82 occasions, compared to just 37 for gun-rights activists and 58 neutral spokesmen.

As can be seen, the classification scheme can in fact be objectively applied. If a different person did the classifying, I doubt that their results would be hugely different. Of course, you can dispute the classification scheme itself, but it seems reasonable on its face.

95% of criminal behavior can be by social conditions and social structure ... Trying to foist it off on 'individual responsibility and choice' is akin to trying to blame sickness and disease on 'ill body humours.'

So this means that people who are poor or black are really a criminal class regardless of their individual choice? Seriously, is this what you believe? And you accuse conservatives and others of being racist!

I like ChrisPer's motive for self-defense: The gun made me do it!

Jadegold wrote:

Kevin P. makes a rather fundamental error; he assumes all conservatives own guns while all liberals do not.

I said no such thing.

But you knew that, of course.

Kevin, P - Jadegold said you "assume" those things, she didn't say you stated it. She does essentially hit on a correct assumption you do make. You assume that there is a statistically significant difference in gun ownership between conservatives and liberals and that the difference does significantly influence their level of knowledge about guns. Neither you nor any of your buddies have demonstrated that such significantly different levels exist.

By Carl Jarrett (not verified) on 30 Dec 2004 #permalink

Scott: Regarding the GSS survey, I am not going to debate you on it. As I said before, I consider myself a (small "l") libertarian, not a conservative. I have no bone in that fight, and frankly, I have no interest in that entire debate. To me, it seems like a sophisticated version of "mine is bigger than yours".

You make the interesting point that education and degrees are not the same thing as active seeking of information and the truth. This is of course true. I am guessing that you are implying that people who share your viewpoints more actively seek out truth. This is, of course, your perspective. If I may gently suggest, your assumption that your side is the "better" side may be ultimately self-defeating, because it makes you less willing to pay attention to the other side.

I am not sure if JadeGold is a man or a woman. In past blog comments, JadeGold has claimed a variety of things, many of which have been suspect.

Tim wrote:"Kevin B, the Telegraph is not documenting what has happened. It is lying about what the law is in order to scare people."

And that's where we disagree. The Telegraph has:

A) Illustrated numerous cases of people being brutally attacked in their homes - generally elderly people who are physically overmatched by their attacker(s)

B) Illustrated cases of people being prosecuted or threatened with prosecution (including time spent in jail, legal expenses, charges hanging over their heads for extended periods before being dropped) for acts of self-defense, because while the law is what it is, how that law is interpreted apparently varies quite widely. You call this "lying about what the law is." I call this "pointing out the realities."

The Telegraph is attempting to reform the law so that it is uniformly interpreted, and reduces the burden on the defender. That's a burden you don't recognize, or dismiss. In fact, you blame the Telegraph for the public's misunderstanding of the law. However I pointed out back when this "gullible gunner" controversy started out that the media was part and parcel of the effort to convince the public that they should not defend themselves because it was legally risky, and that the only legitimate use of force belonged in the hands of government actors. They did so in the manner in which such reports were made, and the one that generated this entire discussion is a perfect example. The story simply stated that a man's home was broken into by thugs, that at least one thug had a gun, that he had grabbed a sword with which to defend himself, that he had killed on of his attackers, and that he was going to jail for doing so. With no more information than that, what conclusion is the reader to draw? When faced with numerous stories, all told the same way?

The difference is that the Telegraph has decided to convince the public that they can do something about that. You are disgusted by that effort. I applaud it.

Again, I repeat: The Telegraph is trying to affect public opinion, but at least they do so openly.

After making the above remark, I thought that it was perhaps a tad rude to make implications about someone's gender, so I Googled JadeGold (single word) to see if I could figure out the gender.

Well, I was ultimately unsuccessful, but I will say that he/she/it appears to be one of the Internet's favorite personalities. This one made me laugh:

Kevin P. Yes, I agree. "Mine is bigger than yours" arguments are unproductive, and I'm as anxious to move beyond that as you. I only pursued that tangent in the first place because as near as I could tell, you were arguing that liberal, "ivory-tower" academics were somehow less informed about guns and gun-related public health issues than the average gun owner on the street. That is a "mine is bigger than yours" argument, and one makes a clever end run around the relevant science - which, incidently, we seem to be avoiding at this thread. My intention was not to imply that my side is "better", or that I am unwilling to read opposing points of view. You are quite right to assert that being unwilling to do so would create many problems for me. I'm simply evaluating what I have read and seen in pro-gun studies, editorial, and commentary. Nearly all of it is based either on endless opining about "liberals" or the "liberal media", opinions about studies based on science being flawed (without specifics), or rabble rousing patriotic speeches ("you'll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands!!!... etc.). Impassioned opinions are fine, as are opinions that someone else's study is biased or lacking a suitable emphasis on what one personally wants to see - this seems to be a favorite arguing tactic of ChrisPer.

But opinions are poor replacements for demonstrated conclusions, and I call 'em like I see 'em. Please note that scholars on the pro-gun side who have attempted not to opine about, but to demonstrate that more guns make for less crime (for instance) have been soundly discredited - once again, the most obvious example being John Lott. Note that Lott has not been rejected by the NAS and others because they didn't like his views or were of the opinion that his study sucked - they did so because others replicated his analysis using his own dataset and showed that his numbers were clustered, his social variables poorly designed, and that his results vanished when a single data point was removed (Black and Nagin, J. 1998. J. Legal Studies 27: 209-219). Note also that Lott has a demonstrated history of cherry picking, and even fabricating data, as Tim has repeatedly shown at this site, and with citated sources. Lott has even been shown to have used incorrect code in his runs.

Note that these criticisms are specific and rooted in data and methodology. Anyone who wants to can replicate them and show how the inclusion of other relevant data and/or alternative analyses would have produced different and more robust results. Contrast this with the arguments of ChrisPer, most of which seem to be based on opinions that someone else's work was "spin" or "fraudulent", yet without specifics, or attacks on straw men. And yes Chris, I did read your article at C.L.A.S.S. - though in fairness I have only had time to check a few of your sources so far and have not yet gotten through the whole thing so this statement is based only on what I have seen so far. I did note though that you claimed there that the attacks on Lott were "principally ad hominem" that got "wide media support" because he is funded by Olin. Note however that the criticisms I made of him above (and cited by the way) have nothing to do with any of that. His numbers and methods are wrong, and if you think otherwise you're welcome to duplicate them and show that they aren't, or show where the published analyses of others who have refuted his methods are flawed as well. Note that Tim has quite a few very specific examples of Lott's analysis flaws right here at this site, and you could do worse producing demonstrated refutations of his specifics.

Guys, we could belabor this whole "liberal" vs. "conservative", or "liberal media" thing to death until the end of time and get nowhere, if for no other reason, because too much of it is rooted in highly emotional perceptions. If you want to make your case, then you need to do more than argue "liberal bias" - you need to demonstrate where this alleged bias has actually altered the results, and produce the data that shows this, the way the NAS and Lott's critics have done. Everything else is smoke and mirrors.

One last note, my personal life is getting a little consuming right now (Holidays and all) so I will probably have to drop out of this thread for awhile. But I will note your further comments here and in the similar threads, and ChrisPer, I promise I will finish reviewing your article. One last note Kevin, I did not mean to ignore your remarks about conservative vs. libertarian - point taken. I should note however that here in the States where I live (I can't tell yet where you live), libertarian usually falls off on the Right side of the fence with a resounding thud. The Cato Institute ( is a libertarian think take - one of the wealthiest in the world today - and it is a decidedly vociferous vehicle for Far-Right platforms on a wide range of subjects. So at least where I live, the distinction is often academic.

Anyway,if I don't get back here for awhile, thanks to you both for a stimulating discussion on an important issue.


Scott, thanks for your reply.

Guilty as charged. I do criticise articles for not covering things that should IMHO be covered.

I accept what has been reported against Lott. My article at CLASS was written a couple of years ago, and at that time the main criticisms around the discussion boards (remember before blogs?) were over the Olin funding or just plain abuse.

It is nice to find a few people who do actually address the merits of an argument, and I hope to learn from your examples.

Scott, I don't think that anyone here is arguing that John Lott is anything other than an untrustworthy researcher. Tim Lambert has conclusively demonstrated that, long before you came along. You are arguing against someone other than the people on this thread.

Regarding my "ivory tower" argument, I disagree with you that it is a "mine is bigger than yours" argument. Rather, it is a "let me pull you down to reality on the street" argument. It was prompted by Tim Lambert's claim that neighborhoods with high gun ownership are associated with a higher rate of burglaries - in other words, that high gun ownership causes higher burglaries. He also quoted some academic who crunched some numbers and found this correlation. I, and many other people, found this wholly incompatible with what we know about real life and gun ownership in the States. You can follow the whole train of argument above.

Hence my "ivory tower" claim. I am a chemical engineer who works in a real world manufacturing environment, has done his fair share of statistical work on the factory floor, and is well aware of the high potential for finding out what you want to find. Science has to comport with observed reality. You can't just crunch numbers in a university and expect that the people in the real world will accept them blindly, especially when your findings contradict what these people experience in reality.

Good statement Kevin P.

Science does not have to "comport" with observed reality. Kevin P., science, especially social science often contradicts what people experience in reality because what they experience is biased and skewed by their perspective. Social science involves the systematic collection of data in ways that are designed to reduce the many known biases that people have when they experience the world. Do you think that individual job satisfaction is a good predictor of individual job performance? If you do, you'd be wrong. Do you think that outgoing and extroverted people make good call-center employees? If you do, you'd be wrong. Do you think that increasing an employee's salary is an effective long-term motivational tool? If you do, you'd be wrong. There are literally hundreds of examples in social science that show that 'what people experience' is simply wrong. That's why we do science. If simple 'observing reality' was all that was needed, we wouldn't need to engage in science.

By Carl Jarrett (not verified) on 01 Jan 2005 #permalink

Carl, all true but 'observing' includes measurement and design of measurement so you seem to be creating afalse distinction. You would be making a case if you said that 'common sense' doesn't necessarily 'comport' with science; but why the hell should we not just note that correlation is not causation, and the claimed cause-effect relationship is as yet unproven?