Where’s the defense of California choose?
US District Judge Roger Benitez’s decision to lift California’s assault weapons ban has caused some gun inspectors to go insane. California government Gavin NewsomGavin NewsomMcCarthy knocks out Pelosi, mask mandate: “This house broke the country’s trust” Newsom removes his children from basketball camp after refusing to enforce mask policy called the judge “a wholly owned subsidiary of the NRA”. John Donohue, one of the three Californian experts in the case, warned that the ruling would put his state “in grave danger”. There was a time in the Trump administration when the president’s attacks on a judge resulted in the media and politicians turning to the perpetrator like a pack of wolves. Now the mainstream media is not getting to Benitez’s defense.
The 94-page statement from Benitez mainly focused on public safety. The judge noted that none of the state experts provided evidence that the offense against weapons ban reduced murder or crime overall. No one provided evidence that the California ban reduced the mass shootings in California. And he questioned the state experts’ claims that such bans had reduced mass shootings.
Benitez was very critical of some experts in the state and explained in detail his dissatisfaction with apparently manipulated statistics.
I should acknowledge that I was the statistical expert on those contesting the offensive weapon ban, and the judge relied on my research.
GVPedia’s Devin Hughes criticized Judge Benitez’s opinion, claiming that the decision contained “blatant falsehoods” and that we “cannot continue to allow misinformation and myths to invade our courtrooms.” Using data from his center, Hughes found that “assault weapons were 2.7 times more likely to be used for mass shootings than defensive against any type of attack”.
Many in the media rely heavily on the Gun Violence Archive, with dozens of mentions in news sources the day I wrote this comment, but there’s a reason none of the statistical experts are using the archive’s data in this case Has. I examined the Gun Violence Archive data from January 1st to June 15th of this year and found only 581 defensive weapon deployments. However, 95 percent of these cases come from early news reports. The remaining cases come from initial police reports, and two-thirds of those police reports come from one city – Houston, Texas.
The problem is that what makes cases newsworthy skews which cases are handled. Murders are usually considered more newsworthy than wounds, and wounds are considered more newsworthy than cases that are defused simply by someone brandishing a weapon. But we do know that wounds are seven to eight times more likely than kills with firearms. Survey data also shows that about 95 percent of the time people use guns defensively, people are just brandishing the gun to pull the criminal back. These defensive weapons use seldom makes the news.
Forty-two percent of the Gun Violence Archive’s cases involve murders, 42 percent injured, and 11 percent gunshots that were fired defensively but did not hit anyone. Less than 5 percent of the time, no shots were fired, and in half of those, the criminal was held at gunpoint until the police arrived.
If other cities like Houston and Hughes had reported the use of defensive weapons, they would have managed to find the first police reports from across the country with the same frequency, but this alone would – according to my calculations – increase the number of cases by 74 percent. These cases tend to be less interesting to the media as only 3 of the 17 in Houston involve a death. Still, they are of interest to the police as they were all gunshots.
It also doesn’t help that the Gun Violence Archive lacks use cases for defensive weapons. Even a very quick look through just cases of people using legal concealed handguns in public to stop the crime in the first three months of this year shows they missed cases from Florida, Philadelphia and New Jersey.
There are other problems with relying on messages. If people fend off guns in public, they are very likely to be arrested unless the police are certain about the incident. The charges are later dropped, but this is practically never disclosed in a follow-up message or a police record report.
In addition, this discussion assumes that people report these crimes to the police. Yet only half of victims of violent crime report violent crimes to the police, and if people successfully use weapons in defense without firing the weapon, they may never see themselves as victims.
If the offensive weapon ban actually reduces public mass shootings, the proportion of mass shootings committed with offensive weapons should have decreased during the period of the offensive weapon ban and then increased after the ban was terminated. But gun control advocates ignore the fact that the opposite actually happened. After the ban went down nationwide in 1994, public mass shootings became relatively more common in states with their own bans.
You won’t know it from political debate or reporting, but the vast majority of studies find no effects of federal or state-level bans on assault weapons, and the few who ignore the effects of law enforcement or other gun control laws, or have had other issues . There is a reason that many academics who have published peer-reviewed empirical research on gun control disagree that banning offensive weapons does not reduce mass public shootings or murders.
Also, few would know that the United States is well below the world average in public mass shootings. While the US makes up about 4.6 percent of the world’s population, we make up only about 1 percent of the world’s mass shooters. Many European countries have higher per capita death rates from public mass shootings than the US, although these countries have extremely tight gun controls.
It is not helpful to misrepresent a judge’s decision. Instead, the media may wonder why they keep quoting data that even gun control experts never use in court.
NOTE: This post has been updated from the original to correct the organization Devin Hughes is associated with.
John Lott is President of the Crime Prevention Research Center and author of Gun Control Myths. Until January, he worked in the US Department of Justice as Senior Advisor for Research and Statistics.