On Wednesday, June 17, a 21-year-old white man by the name of Dylann Roof entered the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina during a weekly Bible study meeting and opened fire, killing six women and three men including the church’s pastor, State Senator Clementa Pinckney.
On Thursday, June 18, President Obama spoke to the press about the Charleston church shooting, and used the opportunity to take a swing at opponents of gun control. “We don’t have all the facts,” he admitted to members of the media gathered in the White House Briefing Room,
“…but we do know that once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hands on a gun.”
Well now, once again our great Uniter-in-Chief used a tragedy to advance his personal policy goal–in this case, disarming the American citizenry. “Let’s be clear,” he says, repeating the phrase which has been his hallmark and which, according to Language Monitor, came up 1,006 times in the first two years of his presidency,
“…At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.”
Way to go, Mister President: Instead of using your voice as America’s leader to present our nation in the best possible light, tell nations around the world that they’re all So Much Better Than We Are. Look at the warped behavior of one disturbed young man, and use your bully pulpit to criticize the majority of American citizens who obey the laws, and the majority of gun owners who never fire a weapon unlawfully.
Critics of the President’s policy are justifiably concerned that if he were successful in forcing people to give up their guns, it would be law-abiding citizens who would lose the protections guaranteed them by the Second Amendment. Those criminals who use guns illegally would just as easily acquire them illegally; only under harsher gun control laws, they would be unopposed by law-abiding citizens who would have no means of self-defense.
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Granted, President Obama has had to wrestle with the issue of gun violence before: In December 2012, when 20-year-old Adam Lanza took the lives of 20 schoolchildren and 6 adult staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, Obama called it “the worst day of my presidency.” This is, according to CBS News’s Mark Knoller, the 14th statement the president has issued on a mass shooting since taking offfice. That such a thing should happen at all is a cause for mourning and for introspection.
But how accurate is the Obama Administration’s assertion that reducing guns in American households would reduce crime and gun violence?
The independent website JustFacts offers a detailed statistical analysis. Here are a few of the points they make with regard to use of firearms:
Roughly 16,272 murders were committed in the United States during 2008. Of these, about 10,886 or 67% were committed with firearms.
* A 1993 nationwide survey of 4,977 households found that over the previous five years, at least 0.5% of households had members who had used a gun for defense during a situation in which they thought someone “almost certainly would have been killed” if they “had not used a gun for protection.” Applied to the U.S. population, this amounts to 162,000 such incidents per year. This figure excludes all “military service, police work, or work as a security guard.”
* Based on survey data from the U.S. Department of Justice, roughly 5,340,000 violent crimes were committed in the United States during 2008. These include simple/aggravated assaults, robberies, sexual assaults, rapes, and murders. Of these, about 436,000 or 8% were committed by offenders visibly armed with a gun.
* Based on survey data from a 2000 study published in the Journal of Quantitative Criminology, U.S. civilians use guns to defend themselves and others from crime at least 989,883 times per year.
* A 1993 nationwide survey of 4,977 households found that over the previous five years, at least 3.5% of households had members who had used a gun “for self-protection or for the protection of property at home, work, or elsewhere.” Applied to the U.S. population, this amounts to 1,029,615 such incidents per year. This figure excludes all “military service, police work, or work as a security guard.”
* A 1994 survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that Americans use guns to frighten away intruders who are breaking into their homes about 498,000 times per year.
* A 1982 survey of male felons in 11 state prisons dispersed across the U.S. found:
- 34% had been “scared off, shot at, wounded, or captured by an armed victim”
- 40% had decided not to commit a crime because they “knew or believed that the victim was carrying a gun”
- 69% personally knew other criminals who had been “scared off, shot at, wounded, or captured by an armed victim”
Check out JustFacts for much more information, and for detailed footnotes and resources to support these statistics.
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What did earlier U.S. Presidents believe about gun control?
President George H.W. Bush said,
“I believe law-abiding citizens ought to be able to own a gun. I believe in background checks. The best way to protect our citizens from guns is to prosecute those who commit crimes with guns.”
President John F. Kennedy was a member of the NRA and was known as an avid shooter of both shotguns and rifles. He was one of the early advocates of the M16/AR15 platform. It was believed that Kennedy owned two AR-15s, and that he kept one of them on his boat.
President Bill Clinton did, in fact, support some measures of gun control. His administration was known for enacting the Brady Bill and the Assault Weapons Ban. Even he, though, did not threaten to take guns out of the hands of law-abiding citizens.
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And what about the other part of President’s claim? Are other “advanced countries” free from unlawful gun violence?
Umm…. No. A cursory check of the web brought up the following incidents:
ENGLAND – On August 19, 1987, a young man by the name of Michael Ryan murdered 16 people in the small market town of Hungerford, England. After being cornered by police, he committed suicide rather than face capture.
CANADA – On December 6, 1989, 25-year-old Marc Lepine burst into Montreal’s Ecole Polytechnique college. Once inside he building, he shot at women he encountered, killing nine of them before turning the gun on himself.
SCOTLAND – On March 13, 1996, a troubled 43-year-old man, Thomas Hamilton, killed 16 kindergarten children and their teacher in an elementary school in Dunblane. He then turned the gun on himself.
AUSTRALIA – On April 28, 1996, the seaside resort of Port Arthur in Tasmania was the site of 35 murders, when 29-year-old Martin Bryant burst into a cafeteria and opened fire, killing 20. As he drove away, he killed 15 others. Bryant was captured and imprisoned.
GERMANY – On April 26, 2002, a student who had been expelled, Robert Steinhaeuser, killed 13 teachers, two former classmates and a police officer before committing suicide.
FINLAND – On November 7, 2007, an 18-year-old high school student named Pekka-Eric Auvinen killed eight people in his school, after posting a warning on YouTube.
Also in Finland, on September 23, 2008, a 22-year-old man, Matti Saari, walked into a vocational college in Kauhajoki and opened fire, killing 10 people and burning their bodies with firebombs. He then shot himself in the head.
AZERBAIJAN – On April 30, 2009, Farda Gadyrov entered the prestigious Azerbaijan State Oil Academy in the capital city, Baku, and killed 12 people before turning the gun on himself. He was armed with an automatic pistol and clips.
NORWAY – On July 22, 2011, Anders Breivik murdered 77 people in twin attacks: a bombing in downtown Oslo, and a shooting massacre at a youth camp outside the town. Breivik, who confessed to both attacks, was a self-styled anti-Muslim militant.
And locally? Just for comparison, I happened to note one recent weekend in June 2015, when Detroit saw an unusually large number of gun victims. I noted the stories:
- Few clues in “urban terrorist” shooting that left 1 dead, 12 wounded
- 1 killed, 1 injured in Greektown shooting
- Woman shot in the head while driving with family
- Cook shoots and kills robber at Detroit restaurant
- Mother, child shot following dispute between neighbors
- Teen girl shot in front of Five Guys restaurant in Greektown
- Police investigating 2 violent incidents along I-96
Gun control advocates: Please note that in just one of these incidents was the shooter the “good guy.” In that case (in the restaurant), the good guy shot and killed a robber.