The Weak Underbelly of Obama’s Gun Policies


By Nancy Thorner and Ed Ingold –

President Obama is deliberately ignoring solutions in favor of a long-time “progressive” goal of disarming Americans. Of course, he’s doing the same thing with regard to the economy.  Rather than promote business, he’s doling money out to the states and labor unions. Rather than cut spending, he wants to raise taxes, even though all the wealth of America wouldn’t match his out-of-control spending habits.

Blaming violence on a particular segment of society or region doesn’t lend itself to solutions. Not withstanding, there is a blizzard of propaganda against the NRA and its supporters in Congress which seem perfectly legitimate to anti-gun advocates. It is easier to blame an organization with an easily recognized set of initials than the millions of its members and tens of millions of supporters who write their representatives in Congress in support of their Constitutional rights.

The President made no mention of Chicago’s homicides in his campaign for “gun safety.”  Instead, he’s concentrating on penalizing millions of legitimate gun owners with the objective of “drying up the source of firearms used in crime.”  When serving in the Illinois Assembly Obama’s record was against prosecution of juvenile gun offenders as adults, even for offenses committed in or near schools.

A plausible explanation may be found in the demographics of violent crime in the United States. One has to be very careful sourcing this data, since it is racially charged, hence politically toxic. There are many fringe organizations which attempt to capitalize on this data, and others which are just as eager to play the race card in denouncing the facts. This data comes from the FBI, which maintains strict standards on the collection and reportage of crime data.

We can see at a glance that nearly 50% of violent crimes in 2011 (homicide, assault and robbery) in the nation were committed by black offenders. 54% of violent crimes were committed by offenders 18 years old or less. In terms of population. Blacks compose 12.6% of the US population, and 13.3% of the population is in the age group 10-19 (6.8% are 15-18, most likely to commit serious juvenile crimes). The situation is exacerbated in Chicago and other large cities because there is an unofficial ban on reporting crime by race. The data is nonetheless found in FBI statistics, if you care to look. According to one report, an average of 95% of violent crime in Chicago is committed by blacks and Hispanics, which compose about 66% of the urban population.

Despite similar demographics, New York City has been able to reduce violent crime to a fraction found in other metropolitan areas, largely through aggressive police work and a “stop and frisk” policy, and not though more gun control laws. There is likewise no obvious correlation between gun control and violent crime rates in other large metropolitan cities. New York City has had strict gun control since 1913 in the Sullivan Acts, as do Chicago, Boston, Newark and Los Angeles. Other metropolitan areas, including Miami, Philadelphia, Houston and St. Louis allow private citizens to carry weapons, with training and if they pass strict background checks, mainly because local law is preempted by the state. Now the “stop and frisk” policy is under attack by the ACLU and DOJ for its intrinsically racial implications. Approximately 84% of the stops are conducted in non-white neighborhoods and on non-white subjects. Mayor Bloomberg’s response is that the police concentrate on areas with the most crime.

Despite grim statistics where within selected demographics violent gun crime abounds, when the CDC conducted several studies in the early 90’s in an attempt to connect gun ownership with crime, they were discontinued and defunded because the results were uniformly negative. FBI statistics continue to show little correlation between gun ownership and crime.

These studies fail, in part, because they are looking for minute differences between large numbers. The facts become buried in noise.  If the CDC is authorized to conduct further studies, they should concentrate on where the problems exist. Even mental health data is “noisy,” because only a minute fraction of these patients ever commit violent crimes.

One pitfall to avoid is confusing correlation with causation. Most of the mass shooters have a history of psychotic behavior, largely untreated. The mental health treatment system of the US has been systematically dismantled over the last 30 years. Confinement for professional review has mostly occurred after the crime has been committed. Even recorded episodes do not find their way into the NICS databases.  The political right has it’s difficulties too, trying to correlate violent movies and games with violence on the streets. For the vast majority, these activities are an outlet, primarily for entertainment. At the same time, most of the mass killers are know to like to violent games, but that’s not enough to establish a causal relationship. Everybody with cancer has swallowed saliva at some time.

Despite statistics that prove otherwise, this Administration has displayed a great reluctance to enforcing existing law, preferring to pass new (ineffective) ones.  Already Attorney General Holder is beginning to implement Obama’s twenty-three Executive Orders on gun control proposed earlier in January, having taken the first steps on Friday, January 25.

As it now stands law enforcement is not able to perform a NICS check when transferring, returning, or selling firearms that have been seized or recovered. Presently NICS background checks serve as a followup to the affidavit signed under threat of perjury when purchasing a firearm (Form 4473). The proposal (Order 1) being brought forth by the Obama Justice Department gives local law-enforcement agencies access to the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) gun-sale database.  Furthermore, instead of removing stored records after ten years, records of denied weapons sales would now need to be preserved indefinitely. It is a short step to retain all records, establishing a de facto national gun registration system contrary to existing law.

The President has already issued an order to collect this data for sales of multiple “assault” rifles in the Southwest. He is not shy about bypassing Congress, established law and The Constitution in this regard.

Published initially at Illinois Review on Monday, January 28.   Permalink