From a Responsible Gun Owner: a Reply to Dr. Claire McCarthy

A recent column by pediatrician Dr. Claire McCarthy in Boston.com asks responsible gun owners several questions the good doctor seems to believe are self-explanatory and ought to be believed by anyone with common sense. The questions she asks are the same tired, mundane myths perpetuated by gun grabbers, begging for an explanation, as if they’re irrefutable facts and should not even be debatable.

Well they are, and I volunteer. I will answer those questions.

I’m glad Dr. McCarthy agrees that “…there are responsible gun owners out there, people who use them for hunting and sport, keep their guns safely stored, and would never think of using them (or allowing them to be used) to hurt anyone (or at least anyone who wasn’t in the act of attacking them).”

In fact, the vast majority of gun owners are the people Dr. McCarthy describes above. Law-abiding citizens who choose to freely exercise their rights vastly outnumber the thugs. Studies have shown that people with concealed carry permits are:

  • 5.7 times less likely to be arrested for violent offenses than the general public
  • 13.5 times less likely to be arrested for non-violent offenses than the general public

So it’s not that these “mythical” responsible gun owners exist “out there.” They are by far the vast majority of gun owners.

But on to Dr. McCarthy’s questions.

First of all, can you help me understand the problem with universal background checks? In his senate testimony, Wayne LaPierre of the NRA said that they will never be universal because criminals will never submit to them. That’s true, of course. But I can’t understand how one gets from there to saying that it’s okay that 40 percent of gun sales happen without background checks. I know that bureaucracy is a hassle and background checks can miss things. But I don’t get why saving some lives isn’t worth a hassle–and why we shouldn’t make at least the basic attempt to stop people with mental health problems or a criminal background from buying guns. Am I missing something?

Yes, you are. Let’s start with the fact that you are using old statistics perpetuated by the likes of Michael Bloomberg who never met a tyrannical law he didn’t love. The “40 percent” figure is faulty for several reasons, the biggest of which is that the survey on which this number was based was done only a short time after the Brady background checks went into effect, and therefore, many of the folks queried likely purchased firearms before the Brady law went into effect. The number would change tremendously now that the background checks have been law for nearly two decades.

Second, bureaucracy is expensive. When you create a bureaucracy, and force sellers to comply with numerous regulations that are cumbersome and costly, basic economics dictates those costs will be passed on to the consumer. Guns are already pretty expensive, and making them more cost prohibitive is punitive to the people who may need them the most – the poor, who may live in neighborhoods that are much less safe than the one Dr. McCarthy likely inhabits, and who likely would need a tool of self defense much more than the low-crime neighborhoods the more wealthy doctors and lawyers can afford.

Furthermore, dealers already have to perform background checks. Any federally licensed dealer does. Ergo, the only sellers who would be affected by these universal background checks are private individuals, who may want to sell their private property. These aren’t dealers. They likely do not have the resources to implement background checks just because they want to sell a gun, but they will be forced to, and they will incur costs, which they will likely pass onto their buyer. Ergo, a guy living with his family in a high-crime area, who wants to purchase a tool of self defense, will be forced to bear the brunt of the costs of this bureaucracy. Not recognizing this fact is ignorance of economics or simple disregard for poor people.

Second: assault weapons. I need help with this one too. I need someone to explain to me why people feel so strongly about having them. The fact that they are flying off shelves is disturbing to me. I get that they are cool, that it could be exciting to own something so powerful. But they are guns designed for maximum carnage. They are meant for military use, not civilian use. I understand that the data suggests that the assault weapon ban didn’t lower crime–but these are the guns that killed all those children in Newtown, that killed the people in Aurora….in the wrong hands, they can cause not just murder but devastation. There needs to be a really good reason to keep them available–can someone please tell me what that reason is?

First of all, you need to revise your language, Dr. McCarthy. What do you mean by “assault weapon?” The people who committed murders in Newtown and Aurora used these firearms – firearms that fire ONE round with ONE pull of the trigger. These are semi-automatic firearms, no more deadly than the .45 caliber M1911 I carry on my hip. I would venture to say that my .45 caliber round will make a bigger hole than the .223 varmint round used by the AR-15. These are not automatic weapons. They are rifles. They get better distance, but they are no more deadly than your average revolver that also fires ONE round with ONE pull of the trigger. These firearms DID NOT KILL ANYONE. I realize how tempting it is to personify these firearms and ascribe to them some sort of evil intent, but fact of the matter is that MEN committed these crimes, and they would have committed these crimes just as easily and likely with the same amount of damage as with a regular handgun.

As for having a good reason to have them available…

Ask the Korean shopkeepers during the Los Angeles riots in 1992 how effective these firearms were at keeping them and their property safe.

Pretty powerful stuff.

Ask the boy who recently used his dad’s AR-15 rifle to defend the life of his sister how effective this firearm was at keeping them safe.

Ask the people who protected their property from criminal thugs in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew how effective this firearm was at protecting what meager possessions they had left.

And the final reason? It’s a Bill of Rights, not a Bill of Needs.

Third: what’s up with the marketing to children? I was so upset to read the article in the New York Times about the various efforts of the gun industry to recruit and engage children–even young children, younger than 12. It was absolutely chilling to read about marketing military-style rifles for “junior shooters” (who can’t buy them legally, but whatever), the semiautomatic hand gun competitions for youth, and the other ways that gun manufacturers and gun organizations are targeting children. I understand that parents might want to pass on a hobby or tradition–that is their choice. But marketing, by definition, isn’t about teaching values and safety–it’s about selling things. Can someone explain to me why it’s okay to market something to children that they can’t buy legally and don’t have the maturity to use responsibly, something that could literally kill them or someone else?

Your being upset is an irrational response, ma’am. Your mindset won’t allow you to make the connection between shooting sports, children and the evil gun you insist on vilifying. That’s why you’re upset. Fact of the matter is children and shooting sports is a very logical, very safe combination if taught correctly. I would urge you to look up a young lady named Katelyn Francis. Katelyn is a competitive shooter, and she’s only 13 years old. Take a look for yourself.

Yes, that is a 13-year-old shooting a fully automatic firearm. She is focused. She’s intent and she uses it safely and effectively.

My son shot his first fully automatic machine gun when he was 8 years old – with adult supervision. He has known the rules of gun safety since before he could tie his own shoes. He recites those rules before he touches a firearm. When he is at the range, he is focused, serious and responsible. Shooting helps concentration, teaches personal responsibility and firearms safety. You may not appreciate this, but millions of Americans do, and your being “upset” about it is quite frankly irrelevant.

You need to change your way of thinking, Dr. McCarthy. Guns did not wound Gabby Giffords. Guns did not kill children at Sandy Hook, and they did not murder innocent movie goers at Aurora.

I would have thought that someone with a medical degree would understand that inanimate objects are not capable of murder, but evil people are.

Perhaps you should stop with the hysterical newspeak and examine the true causes of these tragedies.

Relieving people of their fundamental rights of self defense and their ability to resist tyranny – or even making it prohibitively costly or cumbersome to exercise these rights – will not stop these crimes.

9 responses

  1. Good answers, but she pretty much closes her mind to any possible answers to her questions by starting her 2nd paragraph with “I’m not a gun owner and never will be…” Well, la dee freekin’ da. Like most wealthy liberals, she lets the police and hired security deal with guns and the poor, desperate people who might interfere with her sainted existence. And just for the record, I am a gun owner and I always will be…

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  2. Thanks for an excellent article. What so many anti-gun people fail to understand is it’s not about the gun. We have these, because – we can. The great majority use and store our firearms properly and safely. It is an insult to be told we are bad because we chose to have these. The politicians promise the evil acts will stop if we give up our firearms. That is a lie that even they know. The problems in our society are deep and can’t be solved easily. So if these draconian laws are passed and the killings continue they will be back for more restrictions. This story has played out in other countries with similar results. The elites will always have their protection with full-auto firearms and high capacity magazines. The lowly disarmed ‘serfs’ are doomed to suffer the effects of crazed killers.

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  3. I got tired of trying in vain to get a comment through on that spectacularly bad BostonDOTcom site. It’s perfectly-attuned to liberal media sensibilities: offers the ostensible ability to comment, while placing so many hoops in one’s way, and making the process so onerous, one gives up in frustration. The final straw was when I’d finally gone through all the hoops (I’ll spare you guys), it logged me out, saying “please log in to comment.” No thanks, you Boston libs obviously have it just like you want it; all the appearance of open debate, none of the pesky dissent.

    I really prefer having these discussions in front of libs, so they have no choice but to know how soundly beaten they are, but when they make it THAT difficult to comment, I have no choice but to admit defeat.

    Has someone dropped a link to this, REAL discussion into the BostonDOTcom comment thread? If that’s even possible?

    Here’s the reply I composed for Dr. McCarthy:

    In the wake of the Newtown shootings, as a country we are all taking a step back, looking at our laws and our policies and thinking about what we can do to prevent unspeakable tragedies like the deaths of those children from happening again.

    Actually, I’m taking a step back and looking at the government-media complex’s laws and policies and thinking about what I can do to prevent them from sweeping all the real gun crime (blacks shooting blacks one at a time, with low-capacity handguns) under the rug, while focusing in on exceptional, un-representative gun crime (whites committing mass shootings with semi-automatic rifles) in an effort to ignore the real gun crime and assault the liberties of law-abiding Americans.

    I am not a gun owner and never will be, but I am not advocating getting rid of all the guns. I totally get that there are responsible gun owners out there, people who use them for hunting and sport, keep their guns safely stored, and would never think of using them (or allowing them to be used) to hurt anyone (or at least anyone who wasn’t in the act of attacking them). Those are the people I’d really like to help me understand a few things.

    I am not a gun owner, but I am advocating against any new gun laws. Despite that, I’ll do whatever I can to help you understand a few things.

    First of all, can you help me understand the problem with universal background checks?

    Sure. First of all, they’re a violation of the 2nd Amendment, because they infringe on the right to keep and bear arms. Second, they’re an historical precursor to gun confiscation; no registration, no confiscation. Ergo, stopping universal background checks (a euphemism for registration) is tantamount to stopping confiscation. Third, when a citizen sells his property to another citizen, neither should have to check in with the government first. It’s no more the government’s business when I sell my gun to my neighbor or friend than it is when I sell him my refrigerator. Fourth, the government is full of bumbling incompetents who can’t be trusted to become a necessary part of a the exchange of guns, which are protected from infringement by the 2nd Amendment; government foot-dragging could easily be turned into a defacto ban (“we didn’t run the check, so you don’t get to sell the gun”). Fifth, background checks won’t have any positive effect; family and friends of criminals will report the gun stolen, and sell it to the criminal.

    In his senate testimony, Wayne LaPierre of the NRA said that they will never be universal because criminals will never submit to them. That’s true, of course. But I can’t understand how one gets from there to saying that it’s okay that 40 percent of gun sales happen without background checks.

    One gets to “it’s okay that 40 percent of gun sales happen without background checks” via common sense, love of liberty, and plain old fashioned Americanism. No need to bring LaPierre into it. A man shouldn’t have to jump through bureaucratic hoops (that are inevitably tantamount to a federal veto on any gun sale, should they choose to make it so) set up in D.C. to sell his property to his fellow citizen.

    I know that bureaucracy is a hassle and background checks can miss things.

    Bureaucracy is a hassle; and that’s infringement.

    But I don’t get why saving some lives isn’t worth a hassle–and why we shouldn’t make at least the basic attempt to stop people with mental health problems or a criminal background from buying guns. Am I missing something?

    I would love to save some lives. But it isn’t worth eroding liberty to do so. If it was, we could start discussing locking everyone in cages to save some lives; sure, it’d be a hassle, but we’d save so many lives!

    Second: assault weapons. I need help with this one too. I need someone to explain to me why people feel so strongly about having them.

    Assault weapons are a non-issue. Almost no one has them, and no one is making any new ones. Assault weapons are fully-automatic rifles. You’re talking about semi-automatic rifles. And yes, many people feel strongly about having them because SA rifles are the standard. You can’t ban them without gutting the 2nd Amendment. The police have them (in LA, SA AR-15s are standard patrol car equipment, carried all day long in the trunk of every patrol car). Explain to me why police should be allowed to have them to protect themselves, when police backup is only a radio call away, but civilians should not, despite having no backup, and despite the fact that the supreme court has ruled that police do not have an obligation to protect me, my family, or my property.

    The fact that they are flying off shelves is disturbing to me.

    The fact that so many in the government-media complex are so eager to infringe on the 2nd Amendment is disturbing to me. The fact that they’ve put the keystone of liberty so far down their list of priorities is disturbing to me.

    I get that they are cool, that it could be exciting to own something so powerful. But they are guns designed for maximum carnage.

    That is incorrect. SA rifles are pretty pathetic at delivering maximum carnage. You’ve confused them with fully-auto rifles, which you see in the movies and in the hands of the miltiary. They’re totally different animals.

    They are meant for military use, not civilian use.

    Wrong. The military uses FA rifles, not SA. You’re also wrong to imply that the 2nd isn’t meant to cover military weapons. That’s precisely what the 2nd was meant to cover. There were 3 main types of weapon used in land warfare at the time the Constitution was penned: melee weapons (e.g., sabers), firearms, and cannon. The main implement was firearms. And it is precisely that main implement of land warfare, the military firearms of the day, that the Framers put into the hands of the citizenry with the 2nd Amendment. Today, the power of the firearm on the battlefield has been diluted by crew-served weapons, modern vehicles and tanks, missiles, bombs, air power, grenades, heavy artillery, and on and on. The point here is, the Framers were putting far more of the power to wage war into the hands of the citizenry then, than we are afforded with the 2nd today.

    I understand that the data suggests that the assault weapon ban didn’t lower crime–but these are the guns that killed all those children in Newtown, that killed the people in Aurora….in the wrong hands, they can cause not just murder but devastation.

    The power of such devastation is found in far more forms than just the AR. A madman could do more harm with a full-sized SUV on a crowded urban street.

    But the real response to the cry of “Sandy Hook” is not to quibble about the power of SA rifles. It’s “so what?” Sorry to burst your bubble, but there it is. Statistically speaking, mass shootings are insignificant to safety policy. Bee stings kill more Americans every year than mass shootings do. Lightning strikes kill more Americans every year than mass shootings do. The government essentially admits that mass shootings are statistically insignificant; they don’t even keep track of the statistics. Go and ask the gov’t for the stats, and come back and report them. We’ll wait.

    There needs to be a really good reason to keep them available–can someone please tell me what that reason is?

    Wrong. There needs to be a really good reason to ban them. This is western civilization, where all that is not forbidden is permitted, and where one must justify removing freedom, not granting it. If you want to live where that is reversed, where all that is not permitted is forbidden, and where one must justify granting freedom, not removing it, try the Muslim World. That’s how they do things over there, so you might find living there more suitable to your temperament.

    You have to explain why 20-odd deaths, even of children, justifies taking away the rights of 300+ million Americans.

    Would you curtail free speech of 300+ million Americans if 20-odd kids died because the Globe printed something untrue?

    Third: what’s up with the marketing to children? I was so upset to read the article in the New York Times about the various efforts of the gun industry to recruit and engage children–even young children, younger than 12.

    You’ll have to ask someone who does that, sorry, I can’t help you there. But I will say that if I’m ever a father, about 12 (for a boy) is roughly when I’d start training my kid to shoot and handle guns safely.

    It was absolutely chilling to read about marketing military-style rifles for “junior shooters” (who can’t buy them legally, but whatever), the semiautomatic hand gun competitions for youth, and the other ways that gun manufacturers and gun organizations are targeting children.

    That’s because you come from a different culture. You hate and fear guns (without any real justification – it’s just your culture, the way you were raised) and we don’t. They’re part of our culture.

    How many murders were committed last year with rifles? Do you even know? Not deaths, which include suicides and accidents (accidents, like falling off a ladder, kill far more people every year than homicide does), but actual murders?

    I understand that parents might want to pass on a hobby or tradition–that is their choice. But marketing, by definition, isn’t about teaching values and safety–it’s about selling things. Can someone explain to me why it’s okay to market something to children that they can’t buy legally and don’t have the maturity to use responsibly, something that could literally kill them or someone else?

    All marketing to kids is based on the idea that their parents are the ones forking over the cash. As for who has the maturity to do what responsibly, I’ll leave that to the parents to decide, not you or the gov’t, thank you very much. There are plenty of 12 year olds who can handle guns responsibly.

    Watching Gabby Giffords struggle to speak at the hearings was heartbreaking.

    You keep dragging your emotions into this, as if your feelings really have any bearing. It’s a very frustrating feminine trait that folks should learn to curtail when discussing public policy. Once is enough, no need to pepper the whole piece with your feelings and emotions, like you’re writing for cable drama.

    Should I talk about how heartbreaking it is for me to watch America throw its liberty, and more devastatingly, its culture, down the toilet in pursuit of political faddism at best, or creeping soft totalitarianism at worst? About how it nauseates me?

    But we have to do something. Background checks, banning assault rifles, and looking honestly and critically at gun marketing seem like good places to start. If I’m wrong, can you please explain to me why?

    Yes, you’re wrong. The overwhelming majority of gun crime in this country is blacks killing other blacks, in urban areas, with low-capacity handguns (or more precisely, handguns that could just as easily have been low-capacity). Concentrate your efforts there, and stop falling for the government-media complex’s sleight of hand and prestidigitation; “assault rifles” are already banned (name the last crime that involved a fully automatic weapon), semi-automatic rifles (what you call “assault weapons”) are used to kill a statistically-insignificant number of people each year, and mass shootings are even more statistically-insignificant (bee stings and lightning strikes are a bigger threat).

    Personally, I think the citizenry of the United States would be well-advised to tolerate no limits on weaponry available to civilians via the 2nd that are not simultaneously imposed upon the weaponry available to the military and police. If we shouldn’t have them, neither should they. If a safety measure won’t compromise and doesn’t infringe upon the 2nd, it won’t compromise military or police effectiveness, either.

    P.S., don’t you think officer Dorner (black; just figured I’d tell you that since the media is hiding his picture for precisely this reason) in LA justifies disarming police? I mean, it would save lives, wouldn’t it? If not, why not?

    P.P.S., Boston.com puts a lot of hoops between people who want to comment, and the ability to comment. First I had to go through registration, then I had to go through it again to choose a screen name, which they should’ve prompted me for the first time around. Plus their password fields won’t allow pasting in the password, which just contributes to errors. And their site is buggy (I have a hard time even making the comments to this article appear). It took me almost as long to jump through all their hoops on my rural, red-state 56k modem as it did to compose this reply to you. You might have gotten more replies if you had placed your inquiry in a more open forum; something to think about in the future.

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    1. I got mine through OK last night. You have to register first.

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  4. Nicki, I’m on 56k dialup at home, so obviously YMMV. The whole web has left 56k users behind, heedless of the bloat they heap onto the network (don’t they know bandwidth bloat = more electricity = more dead trees and a hotter planet?😉 ).

    I just can’t get over how crappy BostonDOTcom’s site is. You have to register twice. Mercifully, they do skip the obnoxious email confirmation phase. You can’t paste your password into the fields, you have to type it manually, with no way to verify you’ve done so accurately before submitting. Then you have to load their page 50 times to get the comments to show up. Then you have to divide your comments up into 3000 character pieces (Dr. McCarthy wants answers, but only in 3000-character pieces, apparently, though she doesn’t have to obey the same restriction; sure, Dr. McCarthy doesn’t make the rules, but she’s fine with playing by them). Then you can’t use basic HTML tags like those for italics and bold text. Then you have to hit the “submit” button and cross your fingers and hope the comment goes through. Then you get to sit and wait and see if some Boston liberal decides to nuke your comment.

    All this, for the outside chance at helping the truth reach the mind of a Boston liberal, a dubious prospect at best.

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    1. Ah. Yeah, that could be a problem. Ugh.

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  5. What really sticks in my craw is that I can surf these bloated, heavy sites just fine by using TeamViewer on my dialup connection to control my work computer, which has broadband. Meaning, their code sucks, and it’s not just a limitation of my modem; TV basically sends images to the end user, but it’s still far faster than if I used my 56k to directly browse the site.

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    1. Time to get cable? 😃

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  6. 1. No matter how logical, eloquent, and direct your answers are, she is not interested in hearing it. Her mind is already made up.
    2. It drives my nuts when anti-gun nuts talk about how dangerous it is to introduce kids to guns. Kids drown, would anyone in their right mind suggest that we prevent kids from learning how to swim and learning swimming safety until they are old enough to purchase their own pool? No, no one would, the concept is ridiculous.
    But, a gun (GASP! The HORROR!) is something that a child is quite likely to come across sometime in their life. Arming them with the knowledge and skills they need to properly handle the firearm is the equivalent of teaching them how to swim.
    I am not sure why liberals seem to think it is OK for the schools to teach sex ed, but it would be terrible if the schools taught shooting and firearm safety.

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