In the wake of President Barack Obama’s announcement that he will ask Congress to pass legislation requiring universal background checks for anyone attempting to buy a gun, restore a ban on military-style assault weapons, and limit magazines to seven bullets, a lot of myths have been popping up (mostly in right-wing media circles).
Myth 1: The public does not support stronger gun laws.
FACT: The assault weapons ban and requisite for background checks on every gun purchase have strong public support.
A poll conducted December 19 – 22, 2012 by USA Today and Gallup found that 92% of respondents were in favor of a background check on every gun purchase and 62% approved a plan to ban the sale and possession of high-capacity magazines.
Seventy-four percent of National Rifle Association (NRA) members and 87% of non-NRA gun owners also support background checks on every gun sold, according to a survey conducted by Republican pollster Frank Luntz, the results of which were released July 24, 2012 by the group Mayors Against Illegal Guns.
A January 14 report on a Pew Research Center poll that surveyed 1,502 adults over the phone from January 9 – 13 shows that 85% of Americans — regardless of being Republican or Democrat — were in favor of making background checks on gun buyers universal and 80% of Americans were in favor of preventing people with mental illness from buying guns. These proposals were backed by about nine out of 10 guns owners surveyed, who made up about 1/3 of the people surveyed in the poll.
A CNN poll conducted December 17 – 18, 2012 found that 62% of Americans favored an assault weapons ban; a Public Policy Polling survey conducted December 18 – 19, 2012 found that 63% of people polled were in favor of an assault weapons ban and a poll conducted by Time magazine in June of 2011 found 62% of Americans favor assault weapons ban.
Myth 2: The recent gun control measures proposed by the government will lead to gun confiscation.
FACT: An assault weapons ban would allow current owners to keep their weapons.
An assault weapons ban proposed by Sen. Dianne Feinstein would allow current legal owners of assault weapons to keep their firearms provided that they pass a background check and register the serial number of their weapons under the National Firearms Act.
In addition to the assault weapons ban and universal background checks for potential gun owners, according to a January 5 article in the Washington Post that cited sources in the White House, other options under consideration to help curb gun violence include tracking the movement and sale of weapons through a national database, strengthening mental health checks, making stiffer penalties for carrying guns near schools or giving them to minors.
Myth 3: All Gun Violence Prevention Proposals Are Infringements On The Second Amendment
FACT: The United States Supreme Court has stated that guns can be regulated while still adhering to the Second Amendment.
In the 2008 Supreme Court case, District Of Columbia v. Heller, Justice Antonin Scalia, on behalf of the majority, wrote that the Second Amendment is not unlimited and that several courts at all levels have explained that the right to bear arms was not a wholesale right to keep and carry any weapon of a person’s choosing in any manner of a person’s choosing for any purpose.
Justice Scalia also wrote that there should be no doubt cast on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive areas like schools or government buildings. And no doubt should be cast on laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of firearms.
The Supreme Court, he wrote, also recognized that the Second Amendment protects people’s right to carry weapons that were in common use at the time it was written and it fairly prohibits the carrying of dangerous and unusual weapons.
Myth 4: Gun Violence Prevention Proposals Are Ineffective Because More Guns Equal Less Crime
FACT: The “More Guns, Less Crime” theory and its main proponents have been discredited.
The main proponent for the theory that allowing more freedom to carry firearms means a reduction in crime is John Lott, who wrote the “More Guns, Less Crime” thesis. This thesis calls for more Right to Carry (RTC) laws and claims that if more of these laws were in place, there would be a reduction in crime.
However, a report released on October 25, 2012 by the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Policy and Research cited a panel of experts from the National Council of Research who said that Lott’s thesis has serious flaws in it.
The report goes on to say that much research has been done about the effect of RTC laws on violence and that research consistently shows that RTC laws are actually linked to increases in aggravated assaults.
Ian Ayres and John J. Donohue III have also explained, in a Stanford Law Review article titled “The Latest Misfires in Support of the ‘More Guns, Less Crime’ Hypothesis,” that Lott’s research is further undermined by errors in handling the data by his co-authors Florenz Plassmann and John Whitley.
FACT: More firearm availability is linked to higher rates of homicide and suicide.
Economist Mark Duggan found that changes in homicide and gun ownership are positively related. Furthermore, the relationship between increased gun ownership and increased homicide is driven by the relationship between lagged changes in gun ownership and current changes in homicide, meaning that people are not simply purchasing more guns because of an increase in crime.
Duggan reported his findings in the Journal of Political Economy in 2001.
Harvard Injury Control Research Center Director David Hemenway published a study in the health journal Injury Prevention that found that guns were used far more to threaten or intimidate people than to protect.
And, lastly, in a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, employees of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that people who had firearms in their homes were more likely to be victims of firearm related homicides and suicides than people who did not have them in their homes.