Freedomnomics

Article published Friday, January 18, 2013, at US News.

Obama's Gun Proposals Ignore the Facts

By John R. Lott, Jr.

President Obama believes that people who oppose his gun control regulations do so "because they want to gin up fear or higher ratings or revenue for themselves." That they will do "everything they can to block any commonsense reform" that is necessary "to protect our communities and our kids."

Sorry, but we all are motivated by the same concern to save lives. I may believe that Obama's views are wrong-headed and that they will endanger public safety, but that is quite different from accusing him of allowing children to die because he will benefit from those deaths.

Two things stand out as particularly disappointing in Obama's offering of new gun control regulations: 1) his willing to make so many false claims and 2) his inability to acknowledge that gun control regulations have real costs. Take his first couple "facts" during his presentation.

"In the month since 20 precious children and six brave adults were violently taken from us at Sandy Hook Elementary, more than 900 of our fellow Americans have reportedly died at the end of a gunó900 in the past month."

The impression that the president creates here is surely that these people would not have died if guns hadn't existed. Yet, in 2010, the most recent year that we have data for, shows 62.4 percent of gun deaths involve suicides. That would amount to 562 of 900 deaths. Surely a tragedy, but most research suggests that even if guns ceased to exist people would just commit suicide in other ways.

Guns do make it easier to kill people. But what Obama fails to ever acknowledge is that guns also make it easier for people to defend themselves and prevent bad things from happening. Looking at gun deaths without talking about the lives that were saved is not a very useful comparison. We can debate how large that number is, but Obama's assumption that it is zero is obviously not correct.

"The law already requires licensed gun dealers to run background checks, and over the last 14 years that's kept 1.5 million of the wrong people from getting their hands on a gun."

This is simply false. There have been 1.5 million initial denials from background checks, but virtually all these denial were "false positives." That is, innocent law-abiding citizens were prevented from buying guns for anything from a few days to months because their name was similar to someone who was actually on the prohibited list. In 2010, there were 76,142 initial denials, but even after just the preliminary review by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms there were only 4,732 cases left. Further review by the bureau's field offices and the Department of Justice left only 62 cases to be referred to prosecutors, and only 13 were strong enough to produce a conviction.

Remember the five times that the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, a Democrat of Massachusetts, missed flights because his name was on the "no fly" list? Obama's method of counting would be the equivalent of saying that the "no fly" list stopped five flights by terrorists. Senator Kennedy may have been "kept" off those flights, but he still flew on later planes. If Obama padded numbers that way for the benefit of "no fly" lists, people would be outraged. Well, they should be just as outraged for how he used the data on gun background checks.

There were numerous other mistakes in his talk.

President Obama likes to set up straw men to argue against. Yet, if he really could make a strong case for his position, he wouldn't have to demonize opponents and constantly exaggerate or misstate facts.

John R. Lott Jr. is a FOXNews.com contributor. An economist and former chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission, he is also a leading expert on guns. He is the author of several books, including "More Guns, Less Crime." His latest book is "At the Brink: Will Obama Push Us Over the Edge? (Regnery Publishing 2013).". Follow him on Twitter@johnrlottjr.

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