Jeffrey Goldberg: Debunk gun myths

01/06/2013 12:00 AM

01/04/2013 5:17 PM

So many myths and misunderstandings about gun control, from all sides of the debate, and so little time. Here goes:

•  Myth No. 1: President Obama is going to confiscate your legally owned weapons.

He isn’t. He is so far from doing that it’s comical to believe otherwise. There’s no constitutional mechanism for him to do so. There’s no practical way for him to do so. And he has no motivation to do so, because he’s on record defending the rights of sportsmen, hunters and – this is crucial – people who believe in armed self-defense to own guns.

•  Myth No. 2: Issuing more permits for carrying concealed handguns makes society more dangerous.

There are more than 8 million concealed-carry permit holders in the U.S., and the number grows each year. These are people who are vetted by local law enforcement. They commit crime at a lower rate than the general population. And, by some estimates, they commit crime at a lower rate than police officers.

•  Myth No. 3: Renewing the assault-weapons ban is the clear answer to making the U.S. safer.

It may be beneficial to ban large-capacity magazines and other exceptionally deadly implements. But we shouldn’t be under the illusion that this will stop mass killings.

•  Myth No. 4: There is no proposed gun-control measure that would make the United States safer.

True, there are as many as 300 million guns in the country, with more coming into circulation every day. But some new regulations would help. Closing the so-called gun-show loophole – which allows many guns to be sold without benefit of a federal background check – would make it at least marginally more difficult for unqualified buyers, such as felons and the mentally ill, to get weapons. Since 1994, about 1.9 million purchases have been stopped because of background checks. A semi-smart criminal, or a high-functioning deranged person, would still most likely find his way to a gun. But it would be beneficial to place more stumbling blocks in his path.

•  Myth No. 5: Only pro-gun extremists want to place police officers in schools.

Before National Rifle Association chief executive Wayne LaPierre took up the cause of armed security protecting students, President Clinton advocated a similar program to assign police officers to schools across the country after the Columbine High School massacre in 1999.

•  Myth No. 6: Columbine proved that police officers in schools can’t stop massacres.

It is true that a sheriff’s deputy assigned to Columbine engaged in a shoot-out with the two killers but failed to stop them. But in 2007, at the New Life Church in Colorado, an armed volunteer security officer shot and wounded a gunman who had killed two people outside the church and two others the night before. It is difficult to extrapolate from a single incident. But licensed and trained civilians carrying arms do represent one solution to gun violence.

•  Myth No. 7: Video games are the real culprit.

No studies have proved a strong link between violent video games and actual violence. This isn’t to say that the games aren’t perverse and repulsive. But you can’t shoot up a school or a movie theater with a video game. Blaming video-game makers alone for such complicated and incomprehensible crimes is a cop-out.

What do all these misconceptions add up to? Simply that we aren’t even close to having a serious conversation about protecting ourselves from death by gun.

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