NPR, although it claims to be straight down the middle and apolitical, bias certainly rears its ugly head now and then. By admission, I understand the need to cause a little controversy to stimulate one, or both, sides of a political position to further the debate. However, when NPR recently challenged gun ownership for self-defense without a counterpoint to defend our position, it raised my hackles.
To be fair, NPR did not come out against guns directly, and it did not call for a repeal of the Second Amendment. Instead, the premise challenged that firearms are used so rarely for self-defense that they are too dangerous to own. Essentially, the argument was along the lines that the danger outweighed any potential benefit. Afterward, the conversation spiraled into pure rhetoric spewed by the gun control nuts and touted as fact.
By example, a Harvard University analysis of numbers harvested from the National Crime Victimization Survey showed individuals used a firearm for self-defense in about 1 percent of crimes from 2007 to 2011. The person being interviewed continued by stating that gun owners are extremely unlikely to ever use a gun for self-defense, but they have the opportunity to misuse that gun every day—especially when they get “scared or angry.”
Unfortunately, the host was only too willing to let the inane comment go unchallenged. Using parallel logic, few are ever going to be saved by having a fire extinguisher in their kitchen or smoke alarms throughout their house. Does that mean we do not need them? Of course, the comment is much more irresponsible and misleading than that.
Working from the guest’s premise that firearms are only used for self-defense in less than 1 percent of crimes, what crimes are we speaking of? I am not concerned that a firearm was used to prevent embezzlement, pandering, or thousands of other white-collar or victimless crimes. I am concerned for those who do not have a firearm to defend themselves when someone is threatening to rape, murder, or kidnap them, though. It is not the number of different laws; it is the severity of the law or potential damage of the act that determines whether a firearm is appropriate.
Likewise, numbers go both ways. Although a bit dated, one of the most popular estimates of guns being used for self-defense or to prevent a crime was published in 1995 by criminologists Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz. Their research concluded there were approximately 2.2 to 2.5 million annual incidents where a firearm was used for self-defense or the defense of others. And that was long before the proliferation of concealed carry laws and carriers we have today!
Admittedly, these numbers are hard to quantify or prove. Not all uses of a firearm for self-defense result in the firearm being discharged or a police report. There are times when the presence of a firearm is enough to de-escalate the situation or prevent it from ever escalating in the first place. Many gun owners also fear being eyed as the suspect rather than the victim, so once the threat is over, unfortunately, they fear reporting the incident to law enforcement.
More recently, the Centers for Disease Control’s study, commissioned by then-President Obama, found a minimum of 500,000 annual uses of a firearm for self-defense and credited reliable estimates as high as 3 million. Even at 500,000 the documented uses of a firearm for self-defense outweigh the number of people injured or killed with a firearm unlawfully (approximately 300,000) each year.
NPR, and its guests, need to understand the meaning of the Second Amendment. The Second Amendment was not written to protect the rights of hunters or be weighed against law-abiding citizens versus criminals. That is more than evident in the “necessary to the security of a free State” clause of the Second Amendment. What part of that do they not understand?
Was NPR’s guest out of line in his claim that the misuse of firearms outweighs the benefits derived from self-defense use? Weigh in with your opinion in the comment section.
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