Tom Diaz, the former NRA man, on his conversion to gun control and Newtown

In conversation with Brian Bethune

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Tom Diaz, 72, is one of the most prominent gun control advocates in the United States. A former senior policy analyst at Washington’s Violence Policy Center—which considers firearms violence to be a public health issue rather than criminal issue—Diaz wrote Making a Killing: The Business of Guns in America in 1999. It explored the links between political lobbying by the National Rifle Association (NRA) and gun manufacturers. Last year, dismayed by a decade of increasing gun violence and what he considers political indifference to it, Diaz wrote—before the Newtown, Conn., school murders—The Last Gun: How Changes in the Gun Industry are Killing Americans and What It Will Take to Stop It.

Q: You were an NRA man years ago, someone who grew up with guns and was comfortable around them. What changed your thinking?

A: I ended up on the staff of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Crime and Criminal Justice, and I was the only staffer, literally, on that committee who knew anything at all about guns, so they said, “Okay, now you’re going to do the gun legislation.” And a couple of things then snapped me out of my comfortable gun world, especially a hearing about the impact of firearms on children. I interviewed kids and it shocked me what 10-, 11-, 12-year-old kids were talking about—one had actually seen her best friend shot down in the street. And, you know, we thought it was bad then, but it was really only the beginning of the trend in the U.S. The kids’ testimony rolled me back; I thought, “This is not the gun world I grew up in. This isn’t target shooting. It’s not even hunting, it’s just killing machines.” And so, like Saul on the way to Damascus, I suddenly became a convert to gun control.

Q: Has Newtown affected everything, from the political moment to the politicians’ courage?

A: We’ve yet to see how it will play out, but I think we are potentially at the tipping moment. Newtown had an enormous, enormous impact, a gut impact. Yes, we’ve had shootings at schools before but this . . . First grade you just have to regard as a safe haven. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve talked to who tell me this has changed everything. I also know specific organizations and philanthropists and foundations that I’m not going to name, but I know from intimate conversations who have said now is the time to push this thing. We need to organize—there’ve been a lot of studies, we don’t need more—the focus now is to get the grassroots going.

Q: More political will, you mean?

A: Yes, grassroots pressure to match the NRA. The secret to the NRA is not its wealth; it does give millions to candidates, but averaged out over an election, as one analyst calculated, it’s about enough to keep volunteers in donuts. The NRA’s secret is that they are organized in every congressional district. They can push a button in Washington and somebody in you-name-the-place-in-America will get their talking points and will call a member of Congress or send an email or appear at an office. It’s a very effective political machine, particularly if you have no response from the other side, which is unfortunately the situation we’re typically in. So what I think will be the ultimate impact of Newtown is another voice, people saying, “Enough of the NRA. We want a different system.”

Q: Newtown was also revealing of the NRA world view. For many, executive VP Wayne LaPierre’s response seemed literally insane.

A: When you use the word, I think you’re absolutely right. I watched that press conference and heard people say, “Oh, my God, that’s so shocking,” about the proposal to turn schools into armed camps. My reaction was, this is the same thing, the same rhetoric, the same incendiary talk about guns that the NRA has always used. But now the American people could suddenly realize, “This is not a sporting organization, this is a madhouse.” I think it changed their views, and I personally believe that the NRA is going to come out of this debate very diminished. There are already conservative voices saying that they’re tired of being bullied by the NRA, and they’re tired of this madness.

Q: Newtown may be a tipping point, but for years you’ve been trying to move this debate from the killing sprees and other headline material to the everyday and virtually unnoticed slaughter in the U.S.

A: Exactly. I tell people if we stopped every mass shooting tomorrow, we’d still have a horrendous record of firearm death and injury that no other advanced nation would allow. In the last 20 years we’ve seen this turning of the civilian market into a military bazaar. Take an Occam’s razor approach: if you dump millions of military firearms, assault rifles and high-capacity semi-automatic pistols into a given country, won’t its people, now that they have access, start using them? Newtown is the natural and probable consequence of this marketing. What’s frustrating is that information about firearms violence has been very skilfully suppressed by the gun industry and the NRA. When I say suppressed I mean they’ve prevented, by law, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives from releasing data that used to be routinely released, such as rates of crime with specific guns by make and model. So 20 years ago we could have asked, “Well, how many crimes have been committed with Bushmaster rifles?” and the ATF could have developed that from their data. Today we cannot get that information. The news media run to these mass shootings but ignore the everyday shootings in their own communities.

Q: The weekly toll, an average of 582 deaths, is staggering. You write that gun fatalities already surpass auto fatalities in 10 states, and that may soon be true nationwide.

A: The trend is definitely that. We continue to make motor vehicles and the environment in which they’re operated safer, and we continue to educate people about how to do it safely, but we do none of that with firearms. On the contrary, we pass nutty laws like the one in Florida where pediatricians were not allowed to ask about guns in [patient] interviews, which is a standard kind of question that people responsible for children’s health ask. They ask because—wholly aside from the children finding guns and killing themselves or each other—there’s the fact that bringing a gun into the home increases as much as three times the likelihood that somebody in that home is going to be shot, not by some stranger breaking in through the window, but by that gun.

Q: One reason the gun and auto fatality rates have not yet intersected is improvements in trauma care—firearms deaths have been flat, at about 30,000 a year, even as the number of shootings has risen.

A: We’ve managed to suppress the death rate, even as the average toll of shooting victims has risen from 65,000 to 75,000. That’s not all good news—the way it is in the movies when wounded people just walk away—because typical gunshot injuries bring lifelong disabilities. Very often there are spinal injuries, injuries to the head like congresswoman Giffords, or major organs disrupted. And psychological trauma. But there’s a certain point, which the medical experts fear is coming, when the increased militarization of guns will send the death rate back up.

Q: Although gun-rights spokespeople talk of protection, whether from criminals or a tyrannical government, half the deaths are suicides or murder-suicides. You cast a new light on the sensitive debate over military suicide rates.

A: There were 3,800 active duty deaths and 1,500 suicides in the U.S. armed forces between 2001 and 2008, half of them by privately owned weapons. People talk about the stress of the wars and PTSD, but not about how the NRA silently slipped into legislation that the Defense Department can’t keep any records of private firearms [kept by military personnel] and can’t ask personnel about them. Whether it’s the commander or the base psychiatrist concerned about a specific person, they can’t ask them, “Do you have a gun at home? Don’t you think we should bring it in?” And you can’t even imagine a situation in our military where you’d say, “This is the army, we got all the guns we need here, so you aren’t allowed your own gun.”

Q: We frequently hear that Americans accept the guns, the price of freedom and all that, and that’s why gun control has been a failure, but you do not think that’s true?

A: No, no, no, no. I don’t accept that at all. The gun culture is really shrinking dramatically in America, and that’s only going to accelerate: young people are just not into it, it’s an old white guy thing, frankly. People of different ethnicities and races, who are defining the American political scene, they’re not into guns, and this is going to change the political dynamic. The future is going to be a huge wake-up call for so-called progressive politicians who really have just done the minimum they can. Only about a fifth of the population owns guns—there are more around because the people who do have more than they used to, an average of six. Hunting is declining, and all that sells now are the assault rifles and the new small handguns to fit with the concealed-carry permits—those sales are why the gun lobby pushed for those laws. But the marketing to women, the pink guns and last year’s First National Take Your Daughters to the Range Day, is not working. Gun sales to women are flat. The NRA, the gun lobby, is a paper tiger.




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Tom Diaz, the former NRA man, on his conversion to gun control and Newtown

  1. This is all very nice but let’s discuss where the bulk of the homicides and assaults occur. 50 years of the Great Society, another 30 of ignoring illegal immigration and the “War on Drugs” have given US inner cities the chaos that leads to many if not most of the shootings. How banning gun X or limiting magazines to (pick a number) rounds is supposed to sort out the mess that Big Government has brought is beyond me.

    This is the crux of the argument. The gun control people want to bankrupt manufacturers, put dealers out of business and steal property from millions of lawful owners on the very, very slim hope that the criminals will obey the new laws when they regularly ignore the old laws. When they don’t comply we’ll all be asked to go further down the slippery slope. This is why the NRA (actually among the gun groups historically most open to compromise) acts as it does. It will state it’s final position while the opposition hide theirs with platitudes about respecting hunting or going skeet shooting etc. The gun control groups shouldn’t be trusted. Both sides know how gradualism works to get controversial social policy through and the NRA is right to stand up to them.

    • Then the blood of innocents is on their – and your – hands.

      • Is the blood of drunk driving victims on the hands of GM employees?

        • There is a bit of a difference there – a vehicle is designed to transport people. Used correctly, everyone gets to their destination.

          With a gun however, it is designed to kill. That is its purpose – esp. handguns and automatic weapons.

          The NRA and other advocates who battle against restrictions are saying “my right to carry a gun supersedes your right to be free from being shot”.

          As someone who once had a sharpshooter ranking, and who has also had someone waving a gun around in his house, I think it is very possible – and very important – to balance the sports of shooting / hunting with proper restrictions to make things safer for the general public.

          • Are the guns the police carry designed to kill or to protect?

            The concept of the right of private ownership of guns is about self defence not sports.

            Have you thought out the consequences of reducing the risk to criminals of coming across an armed private citizen? How are we better off if thugs believe they can invade a home and at most risk being threatened with a baseball bat? Check violent crime rates in the UK for the answer.

          • To kill.
            The fact that the guns can kill serves as an effective deterrent most times, and provides protection [self defence / defence of others] to the officers and comunity at large when properly used – but the use (or non-use) made of the weapon by the police does not in any way alter the inherent purpose of its design.
            As to the other bit: Criminals are going to commit their crimes regardless of how well-armed the populace. If they think they are likely to encounter armed citizens then they just make sure they have equal or better firepower – and shoot first. So any sense of security the gun gives you is likely just a placebo effect.
            And the US has ridiculously low thresholds for ownership. It is harder to get a driver’s licence than to legally buy a gun. No proof of competency with the weapon is required. If your laws included mandatory firearms safety and skills courses prior to purchase, I might be a little more sympathetic – but the current US laws are beyond absurd.

          • The is no one US law, so you have to be specific on which state you’re taking about. The trend is that states with high violent crime rates have stricter laws: bans, mag limits, waiting periods etc. and the states with less crime have fewer restrictions. The most likely explanation is that laws were passed in the crime ridden states “to do something” and they didn’t work.

            The US federal restrictions on who may possess a gun are narrower than Canada. In Canada you need a PAL and in the US their is no federal license but the list of people not allowed to possess firearms is long and automatic- no court hearings required. In practical terms the US has the tougher laws as in both cases you need a cop to find the violator with the gun .

            There is no test of competency to get a PAL. There is a very easy multiple choice test. Competency etc has nothing to do with crime. The PAL course may reduce accidents which is a good thing but this also could be achieved by hunter safety or actual courses in the use of firearms etc. I’m not sure what the purpose of giving criminals training is.

            The argument that if potential victims are armed the criminals will just arm themselves more fails on a number of fronts. First surrendering to crime because of what the thugs might do is cowardice and almost sure to backfire.

            Secondly where the vast majority of violent criminals are young men and likely to be acquainted with violence the victims are far more likely to be women or older men. Saying “we’ll get rid of guns and have a knife fight” is hardly a wining strategy. Having a gun and practicing with it regularly evens out the odds considerably especially if there are multiple attackers. This is the situation in the UK where home invasions are far more common than in the US. Having the residents home when you break into a British home makes sense- the alarm will likely be off and the victims can be forced to handover bank cards, PINs, car keys and any hidden valuables. That’s before rape, torture and murder. In a US home the risk is much greater that the robbers would be shot.

            Lastly when CCW were first passed in the US the homicide rates went down and property crime went up. The conclusion being that criminals turned from robbery, which had just become more dangerous, to theft.

          • Oh, where to begin? There’s a lot of crap in here; I’ll address a few of them and then I’m done as it’s pretty clear there is nothing I can say that will convince you that better gun laws make for fewer gun deaths.

            “…surrendering to crime because of what the thugs might do is cowardice and almost sure to backfire.” “Saying “we’ll get rid of guns and have a knife fight” is hardly a wining strategy.”

            Survival should be one’s FIRST priority. Property can be replaced; wounds healed; pride restored. Dead is dead. This shouldn’t about leveling the field and getting revenge. If you are facing someone with a gun and you pull your own weapon, the odds someone will get shot goes up dramatically. And unless the victim is well trained in using a gun under stress the odds are good that it is the defender – or an innocent bystander – not the criminal who dies.

            As for the knife fight, well, someone will always pick up some kind of weapon to get an edge (pardon the pun) on an opponent, but you have to be standing pretty close to die from a stray knife blade. A stray bullet can get you up to a mile away, depending on the type of gun.

            In Canada a PAL gets you the right to buy a much more selective range of weapons. No handguns; no automatic weapons. Long guns for hunting, primarily (and I’m in favour of tighter restrictions here, having had a schizophrenic wave a long gun around in my home – and no, at no time did I wish for my own weapon so I could take him out). And like you point out, the US has a hodgepodge of laws, which makes things much more difficult to enforce. One uniform law nationwide would make eminently more sense – but sense does not often factor into US politics – and the more divisive the topic, the less chance for a common sense solution.

            Anyway, have fun cherry-picking your stats to argue for the right to kill. Because that is what it boils down to – you think you have the right to kill anyone who messes with you or your stuff. You don’t. Or at least, you shouldn’t. That’s a fundamental difference in beliefs that we are not likely to bridge.

          • A PAL doesn’t cover handguns (or semi-auto rifles for that matter)? That will be news to the RCMP and gun counter sales people across the country. It is usually better to understand laws if you want to discuss how they should be “better”.

            What does “better” mean? I presume more restrictions on lawful ownership. If you wanted to make the penalties for possession of a stolen gun, possession by disqualified people or armed robbery stiffer I’m with you. If you’re keen on mag limits, banning certain models or declaring that “a gun with a X” barrel is lawful and a X-.05 ” is a serious crime” I’m not on board.

            If can explain how the police will get a correct up to date list of people currently judged by mental health professionals to be a danger I’m all ears.

            I’ll pass on letting a criminal decide what’s to become of me and my family. Feel free to surrender and hope that the intent is just to steal stuff and not kill, rape or torture. Yes I might get hurt defending myself. The options are to run (which is not always possible) or give up. I PLAN TO GIVE UP! doesn’t sound like much of a crime fighting slogan or a way to live.

          • A standard PAL does not cover handguns or semi-auto rifles. You need a “PAL for Restricted Firearms”. To get this you must already have a regular PAL and have passed two safety courses. I was speaking of the standard PAL which most gun owners have.

            A PAL for restricted firearms is not easy to get; the restrictions on use of such weapons is also much greater than in the US. You aren’t going to have them kicking around your house for self-protection; they have to be properly stored. By the time you retrieve them from your gun locker and load them, any intruder will be all over you. And if you DON’T have your weapon properly stored AND assuming you survive the gun battle, you’ll find yourself in serious trouble. You don’t have the same right to self-defense in Canada as US citizens do. We aren’t into vigilante justice.

            (Who doesn’t understand laws?)

          • Who Doesn’t Understand Laws? You clearly have very limited knowledge regarding gun laws. A standard PAL covers most semiautomatic rifles and shotguns in Canada. The majority of semiauto long guns in Canada are non-restricted.
            A “PAL for Restricted Firearms” is known as an RPAL.
            A high profile case involving a man named Ian Thomson proves that you will be before a judge for using a gun for self defense but it also proves that a properly stored handgun or restricted long gun can be effectively used for self defence in Canada. He was able to retrieve his handgun from his gun safe that was in his night table in a matter of seconds. Despite it being a clear case of self defence, the crown charged him. The Crown later had to drop most of the charges. Thomson was later acquited by the judge of the remaining unjust unsafe storage charges.
            Seconds is all it takes to retrieve a gun from a safe with a touch pad combination or biometric lock. A restricted firearm does not have to be stored with a trigger lock if it is in a safe. Stored in a safe, the ammo can also be stored next to the firearm in a charged magazine. Once the safe door is open it takes 2-3 seconds to put the charged mag in and chamber the first round.

          • Meant auto not semi-auto. FT switched up the language on me (I originally said “automatic”, if you scroll up, but then followed the language of his reply [which was a rather disingenuous switch] by mistake).

            You have to be damned proficient and well practiced to get a gun out of a safe and loaded in the time you quote. How many gun users fall into that category? Statistical outliers cherry-picked to make your argument may sound nice but don’t match the day-to-day reality of most people. It’s like saying Gretsky was your typical hockey player.

          • If you keep all of your firearms in one large safe hidden in a basement closet using them for self defence is pretty difficult. The gun owners who want to have them available as a self defence, worst case scenario, insurance policy buy small handgun safes with either push button or biometric locks. These are available for a few hundred dollars. Once bolted to the floor under your bed or inside an end table it takes 15 seconds or less to roll out of bed, punch in your 4 digit code, grab your handgun and a charged magazine, then rack the slide to chamber the first round.
            The suggestion that firearms cannot be used for self defence is a myth and a lie. If you install a small safe close to your bed or a place that you would retreat to then one can easily quickly access it and its contents while still being in compliance of the Firearms Act.

  2. It would instructive if the article bothered to tell us what the breakdown of the gun deaths were- homicide, self defence, accidents and suicides and then compare them to past years. I know that homicides and accidents will trend down and expect suicides and self defence will be flat. I suspect Diaz knows this and has included concern for the injured to counter the uncomfortable fact that although the number of guns has increased and most states have CCW permits the number of people killed with guns has gone down. The mantra of “more guns lead to more deaths” doesn’t even collate let alone indicate causation.

    • Try comparing gun-related deaths or crimes in the US against countries of similar wealth and employment rates with more restrictive gun policies. The difference is staggering.

      • The US is 22nd in the world for gun homicides per 100,000. War zones are not included.

        If you think gun control laws that restrict peaceable ownership work to reduce murders you should compare the rates of gun violence in a country before and after the regulations are imposed. If you find that the UK has strict guns laws and low gun homicide rates then it would be useful to know what its rates were before the laws came in. Do that and you’ll see that laws that restrict lawful ownership have little to do with murder rates and in some cases rates have gone up after laws were passed.

        Passing laws that ban “X” or impose a waiting period or limit the number of guns you can buy per month make pols look like they are doing something. The gun-control crowd can feel good but in reality nothing is achieved and in the worst case noncriminals are disarmed and left to the mercy of predators. See the UK, Chicago, Detroit, Jamaica, Brazil, and Mexico for examples.

        • Interested in your UK / US comparison….

          I agree that simply comparing the gun homicide rates of two countries and then ascribing any differences to gun control laws is unhelpful.

          Which leads me to ask these three questions of you:
          - do you agree that there is a significant difference in the gun homicide rate between the UK and the US?
          - if so, what are the top three or four or five causes, in you opinion
          - are those deaths just a part of living in the US, similar to traffic deaths and drug overdoses, or does it make sense to put some effort into reducing that number?

      • Good idea Keith! Let’s compare apples to oranges. Every country is different. It is not at all constructive to compare say… the US to the UK. The UK does not border Mexico for instance where drug cartel violence spills over the border. The US also does not have an extensive social safety net like most European countries.
        Compare Apples to Apples! Over the last 35 years most states have adopted concealed carry laws which allow non-felons to carry a concealed handgun for self defence. Since 1980 all rates of crime have dropped significantly. Their murder rate was cut more than in half. AND all other rates of crime are now lower than Canada. Same country with same the social, cultural and economic realities. The difference is easier access to handguns for self defence for non-criminals.
        Results? Much less crime. Much less murder. “The difference is staggering”!

        • Since 1980 all crime rates also dropped in Canada. Concealed carry has nothing to do with it; it is the aging population.

          The reason for comparing the US against other countries with similar economies bur different gun laws is to demonstrate that the US gun laws are primarily responsible for the MUCH higher murder rates in the US (about 10x the rate per capita of Canada).

          Other crime rates lower in the US than Canada? Please point me to the source of your stats; they fly in the face of anything I’ve read.

          As to the Mexico red herring: Based on that theory, gun crime rates should be highest in border states, with crime rates dropping the further you get from the border. Point me to the stats that back THAT up!

          As usual, nonsense stats from the gun goons.

          • My stats fly in the face of everything you’ve read because you primarily get your gun info from propaganda contained in antigun articles like this one.

            According to the FBI, the 2011 US Violent Crime Rate was 386.
            According to StatsCan, the 2011 CAN Violent Crime Rate was 1231.
            2011 US Property Crime Rate = 2908
            2011 CAN. Property Crime Rate = 3520

            The US Murder Rate is NOT 10x higher than the Canadian rate. It is a little over 2x the rate. 4.7 (US) vs 2 (CAN).

            Here are the 2011 stats from the FBI and the “Gun Goons” from StatsCan:
            http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/uscrime.htm
            http://www.statcan.gc.ca/daily-quotidien/120724/t120724b001-eng.htm?tw_p=twt

          • Re the violent crime rate: from the charts you provide you are definitely comparing apples to oranges as the included offences appear to differ significantly.

            Different sources give different figures for the national murder rates – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate#By_country gives 4.8 for US and 1.6 for Canada: 3x higher in the US. But firearm-related deaths are 5x higher in the US, and the firearms-related homicide rate is 7x: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_firearm-related_death_rate

            That’s just a quick search; we can play the numbers game ad nauseum.

            Re your Mexico theory, Michigan rates much higher than Texas or California; the District of Columbia is astronomically higher than the rest of the country. If I had the time I’d do a little digging into death by firearm rates versus gun ownership rates by state (but I have work in the morning so that will have to wait). I’d predict there’s a correlation, though.

          • You said the US murder rate is 10x higher than Canada. The exact murder rate for Canada in 2011 was 1.73. For the US it was 4.7. Not wikipedia numbers, these are official government stats. That means the US murder rate is 2.72X higher than Canada not 10X.

            The Overall Crime Rate for the US in 2011 was 3295.
            The Overall Crime Rate for CAN in 2011 was 6604. (2x Higher)

            Yes Michigan (a northern state) has a murder rate that is the same as Arizona (a state that borders Mexico).
            I said:”In general violent crime rates are higher in the Southern States. Being right next to Mexico is a contributing factor (not the only factor just contributes).”
            Michigan is one of the very few States that do not fit this model. The reason for this is because they have drug gang violence of their own that is not directly related to Mexican Cartel violence. Michigan is made up of 83 counties. Wayne county alone is responsible for 59.5% of all the murders in Michigan. Wayne is home to Detroit city which has massive poverty and a massive gang culture. Take Wayne county out of the equation and the other 82 counties that make up Michigan have a murder rate of 2.9 which is similar to all of the other Northen States that border Canada (and are far from Mexico). Take Genesee county out of the equation which is home to Flint city, a city almost as bad as Detroit for poverty and gang/drug activity, and the remaining 81 counties have a murder rate of just 2.2 similar to Canada.
            The higher murder rate in the US has nothing to do with law abiding gun owners and their firearms. It is heavily influenced by violence related to the drug trade from the Mexican Cartel’s or local drug gangs fighting over turf.
            Washington D.C. has the toughest gun control laws in the US. They also have a lots of gangs. Their murder rate is 17.5 vs the national average of 4.7
            Criminals do not care about and are not affected by gun control laws. They use illegaly obtained guns to support their illegal activities.

          • Add the populations and the murders of Chicago, D.C. and Detroit to Canada’s numbers and the Canadian murder rate rises to 3.85.
            Chicago and D.C. have some of the toughest gun control in North America, in some ways similar to Canada and in some ways more restrictive.
            I added Detroit since it came up in the above post and it is the anomaly that is responsible for Michigan’s elevated murder rate numbers due to it’s gang culture and drug trade. Detroit has a murder rate of 48.7. If Canada had a few “Detroits” scattered throughout the country, our murder rate would be at least as high as the US murder rate.
            Chicago is found in the state of Illinois, the one State in all of the US that does not allow citizens to “Concealed Carry” a handgun for self defence. Despite their tough gun laws, the city of Chicago has a murder rate of 16 and DC has a rate of 17.5.
            The picture I am painting here is that the high(er) US murder rate is not because the average American is more violent than the average Canadian.
            The US is composed of 3033 counties or county like equivalents. The high rate of murder and gun related murder is due to very high crime rates in a handful of these counties. Counties that have a very high level of gang related drug trafficking activity.
            It has nothing to do with law abiding citizens owning firearms. That is a lie. A lie like the one quoted in the above article that came from the highly discredited Kellerman Study in the NEJM (New England Journal of Medicine), 1993.

          • In general violent crime rates are higher in the Southern States. Being right next to Mexico is a contributing factor (not the only factor just contributes). Why? News Flash: The US is where the Mexican drug cartels do most of their business. It is along the US/Mexican border that the majority of the Cartel Violence occurs as they fight each other for control of the US drug market. It is natural that this violence will spill over. The city of Juarez probably has the worst drug related violence and it sits across from New Mexico. The murder rate in New Mexico for 2011 was 7.5. Another Mexican city that traditionally has had a bad cartel/drug violence problem is Nogales. That city sits across from Arizona which has a murder rate of 6.2.
            Both of these states are well above the national average of 4.7.
            States that are the most north, well away from Mexico, include
            Washington Murder Rate = 2.4
            Montana Murder Rate = 2.8
            North Dakota Murder Rate = 3.5
            Minnesota Murder Rate = 1.4
            Vermont Murder Rate = 1.3
            Maine Murder Rate = 2.0
            Many of the States that border Canada have murder rates well below the national average. Many have a murder rate that is similar to or less than Canada (which is 2.0).
            Other States close to Canada and far from Mexico
            New Hampshire = 1.3
            Massachusetts = 2.8
            Rhode Island = 1.3

  3. Mr. Diaz says that legislation prevents the ATF from publishing detailed statistics regarding the types of guns used in gun crimes and, he being the expert, I presume he’s right. But the FBI does publish more general statistics breaking down homicides by type of weapon – see http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-8

    According to that data – which further breaks down firearm homicides into handgun, rifle, shotgun, other gun, and type-not-stated – the vast majority of firearms homicides are perpetrated not by “military-style” rifles, but by handguns. Indeed, even if you attributed *all* of the uncategorized firearms to the rifle column, handguns would still the runaway leader. I presume Mr. Diaz favors greater restrictions on all firearms, so the available data aren’t inconsistent with his position – but while more data is pretty much always a good thing, the answer to his question “how many crimes have been committed with Bushmaster rifles” appears to be “not nearly as many has have been committed with non-’assault’ firearms.

    • Those same statistics, by the way, suggest that firearms homicides (and homicides by each subcategory of firearms) have in fact declined each year from 2007-2011, except for marginal increases in handgun and ‘other’ gun homicides in 2011. Note though that the FBI relies on reports from other law enforcement agencies, and such reporting is almost certainly not uniform. Still, at least with regard to homicide and at least with regard to available data, the data appears to contradict the claim that gun violence is increasing.

    • And if he would have done a little more research… he would have found that most gun crimes usually involves “drugs and gangs”…

      -

      But hey! Why deal with a social problem when you can simply blame it on the gun.

  4. Gun control only has a chance of working on a large, totalitarian, ban them/confiscate them Australian or English type scale. That will never happen in the US. There are 300,000,000 guns already here that the government admits to. The real number is probably closer to twice that. The constitution means what any gun advocate will tell you it means, with supreme court decisions to back it up. So, what we are left with, are piece-meal legislative attempts that will only affect the law abiding and create a thriving black market. The respondent in this piece makes a lot of good points, but he is wrong with the notion that the popularity of guns is somehow diminishing. More than one percent of the electorate submitted for background checks in the month of December. That is one month! These numbers dont even account for the secondary market. Folks who bought these weapons will vote to keep what they have and also what they want legal. If you want gun control that works, you have to start with accepting the notion that we are an armed society. The GOP just proposed legislation that makes gun-trafficking a federal offense. I was shocked that it wasn’t! That is just one example of solid legislation that could actually make a difference. Forget about this pie-in-the-sky liberal social engineering dogma. You don’t restrict the rights of millions over the less than a tenth of one percent of criminally insane for something that some liberal politician somewhere hypothesizes MIGHT work.

    • Are you sure that selling a gun to a person you know is disqualified isn’t already a crime?

  5. The “FACT” that bringing a gun into the home increases as much as three times the likelihood that somebody in that home is going to be shot by that gun comes from the debunked Kellerman study in the NEJM (New England Journal of Medicine), 1993.
    The fact that this supposed expert uses a study full of lies to advance his agenda, instantly strips him of all credibility.

  6. “The gun culture is really shrinking dramatically in America, and that’s
    only going to accelerate: young people are just not into it, it’s an old
    white guy thing, frankly. People of different ethnicities and races,
    who are defining the American political scene, they’re not into guns,
    and this is going to change the political dynamic.”

    I don’t know where Mr. Diaz is getting his information, but I think he needs to ask for a refund. I’d also bet that he hasn’t been to a gun range in a while. It’s not just “old white guys” at the range. What I do see is what we see out in public, people of every ethnic background, a whole lot of young people and what surprises me the most is how many women you see at the range compared to ten or fifteen years ago. I’ve seen women outnumber the men at the range on several occasions. They are not just shooting cute little pink guns either. I think Mr. Diaz needs to get out to the range a little more and see for himself. Also, his statement that gun ownership for women has been flat is dead wrong. Since 2000, sales to women have increased 50%. (source: NSSF) Incorrect statements and erroneous conclusions don’t all of a sudden become true just because the person who made those statements was once a NRA member and grew up with guns.

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