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Five fallacies about guns and violence


In the wake of the Dark Knight massacre in Aurora, Colorado, major media outlets and public figures have been making statements about guns and violence that do more to misinform than educate. Below are some of the most significant and common of these misleading assertions.

Fallacy # 1: Violence is a growing challenge

The Los Angeles Times published an article by Michael Memoli that begins by claiming that “President Obama vowed Wednesday night to ‘leave no stone unturned’ in seeking ways to curb the growing challenge of violence in American cities, including reasonable restrictions on gun ownership.”

The White House transcript shows that Obama didn’t say there was a growing challenge of violence in our cities, and rightfully so, because violence in the U.S. has been falling—not growing. For example, from 1990 to 2010 (latest FBI data), the nationwide murder rate dropped by 49% (see graph below). Furthermore, preliminary data for 2011 indicates that there were 1.9% fewer murders than in 2010, which saw the lowest murder rate in 45 years.

Fallacy # 2: Congress opposes banning military weapons

At a campaign event, President Obama stated that

steps to reduce violence have been met with opposition in Congress … particularly when it touches on the issues of guns. … [A] lot of gun owners would agree that AK-47s belong in the hands of soldiers, not in the hands of criminals—that they belong on the battlefield of war, not on the streets of our cities.

On the contrary, the AK-47s used on the “battlefield of war” are already banned. As detailed in the book Military Technology, the AK-47s used by the military are fully automatic weapons—otherwise known as machine guns—which can continuously fire bullets as long as the trigger is pulled. Federal law has strictly regulated such guns since 1934, and as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives explains, a 1968 law expanded the definition of what constitutes a machine gun, and a 1986 law outright banned the transfer or possession of machine guns except for those grandfathered under previous law.

Read More at By James D. Agresti.

Photo credit: Gregory Wild-Smith (Creative Commons)


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