By Mike Rosen, First published in the Rocky Mountain News

Anti-Freedom crowd cooks the books

The anti-freedom crowd persists in spreading disinformation about the successful use of firearms by citizens in defense of their homes. Especially one particular bogus statistic that keeps coming back like a bad burrito.

First, some context: Last Sunday, the Denver Rocky Mountain News published a point-counterpoint on whether the Second Amendment protection of the right to keep and bear arms applies to citizens as individuals or only as members of a collective militia. Arguing for individual rights was a former U.S. Justice Department attorney, Jim Winchester. On the other side was Robert Hardaway, a law professor at the University of Denver. The two advocates offered dueling precedents and interpretations. Reasonable people have long disagreed on this question. Ironically, Hardaway cited conservative former Supreme Court Chief Justice Warren Burger to make his case.

I'll return the favor by citing Harvard law professor Lawrence Tribe, the liberal establishment's first choice for the next vacancy on the court. In his newly revised edition of American Constitutional Law, Tribe declares that the Second Amendment was conceived as a political right and guarantees individuals the right "to possess and use firearms in the defense of themselves and their homes."

While the debate goes on, the law will default to the status quo and we'll continue to enjoy the individual right to own firearms, tempered by regulations.

Now for Hardaway's regurgitation of the bad burrito. He cited a tendentious 14-year-old study by Arthur Kellermann of Emory University and Seattle medical examiner Dr. Donald Reay. If Hardaway ever actually saw the study, he either misread it or misrepresents it. More likely, he's just parroting anti-freedom rhetoric he's gotten from others. According to Hardaway, the study "reveals that for every person in the U.S. who claims use of a gun for self-defense, 43 people die from gun accidents, suicides and unintentional killings, many of them innocent children." That's just not true and a shameful stretch from the study's original language, which was shifty enough. But you'll have to follow the wording very carefully.

The study claimed that guns in the home are 43 times more likely to kill a family member or friend than an intruder. Specifically, that "for every case of self-protection homicide involving a firearm kept in the home, there were 1.3 accidental deaths, 4.6 criminal homicides and 37 suicides involving firearms." (That adds up to 43.) Did you spot the gimmick, though? "Self-protection homicide." The study considered only homicides. (Hardaway failed to mention this.) In contriving the 43-to-1 unfavorable ratio, the study conveniently ignored all instances of home defense in which an intruder was not killed. If you scare the intruder away, that doesn't count. If you wound him, that doesn't count either. You've got to kill him or be killed. Talk about cooking the books.

On the other hand, the lion's share, 37 of the 43 deaths noted in the study, were suicides. What does that have to do with home defense? If you're intent on killing yourself, you could do it with sleeping pills, too, but they wouldn't do you much good against an ax-wielding intruder in the middle of the night.

In a rival study, Gary Kleck, professor of criminology at Florida State University, found that guns are used in self-defense between 800,000 and 2.45 million times a year, that the defender actually fires the gun in fewer than 1 in 4 cases, that in most instances merely displaying a weapon is sufficient to scare off an intruder, and that gun ownership is a deterrent to crime. All of this is ignored in the Kellermann/Reay polemic.

Would you like the option of self-defense in your own home? A former Green Beret might give a different answer to that question than a Boulder pacifist. It's a highly personal decision. The anti-freedom crowd would rather you not have that choice. They've decided for you that it's a bad idea. And they'd love to make it law.

Mike Rosen's radio show airs daily from 9 a.m. to noon on 850 KOA.

April 28, 2000

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Created: May 3, 2000
Last updated: January 10, 2004
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