Rifles Get Bad Rap. Fists and Knives are the Problem

by Mark T. Mitchell on January 16, 2013 · 14 comments <span>Print this article</span> Print this article

in Short

Here’s the FBI’s Crime Statistics for 2011. In every state, more people were killed with hands, fists, and feet than with rifles. More were killed with knives than with rifles. In other words, rifles (hunting rifles and assault rifles are not differentiated) accounted for very few murders. But apparently because some rifles look scary, politicians have chosen to go after them even though they are not the problem. More murders could be stopped if knives were banned.  We clearly need a NKA to defend against this likely event. But be forewarned:  they can pry my steak knife from my cold dead hands.

Handguns are the issue, but a couple pieces of information do not appear here. First, what percentage of murders committed using handguns were committed by people who obtained those weapons legally? I’m guessing that the gang-banger with a Tech-9 didn’t obtain that weapon in a conventional manner, but that is mere conjecture. Second, how many murders committed with handguns involved high capacity magazines? Again, I’m guessing very few.

An intelligent discussion on this matter does not appear likely. That means that intelligent solutions will continue to elude us.

h/t Ron Laurenzo

{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Jon B January 16, 2013 at 1:10 pm

You’re right. That title is definitely the best way to start an intelligent discussion. I guess “Rifles Get Bad Rap. Handguns are the Problem.” just wouldn’t allow for the sarcastic tone, which, as you can likely tell, was not lost on me. Sarcasm is indeed both fun and easy. Good thing we’re not talking about people dying. A few quick substantive comments:

1. If the gang-banger with the Tech-9 has access to the secondary market, chances are he did obtain his weapon legally.

2. The high capacity magazine thing is more to slow down the carnage of a mass shooting than to reduce gun deaths overall. So the fair criticism would be that there are already too many out there for a ban to make a difference. But you’re also right that it won’t solve a problem that it’s not trying to solve.

3. Your point about the assault weapons ban being largely about optics is well taken, though. Too bad it was buried so deep in LaPierreian doublespeak.

4. For the record: just over 2/3 of 2011′s murders captured by the data were committed with firearms (rifles, handguns, shotguns, and unknown). 49.12% of 2011′s murders captured by the data were committed with handguns.

avatar D.W. Sabin January 16, 2013 at 1:19 pm

Yes, but how else are we supposed to insure that the suburbs of Foggy Bottom remain the richest in the nation, while the District itself, possesses not a little poverty….and gee whiz, gun/fist/knive/take your pick violence.

The neighborhoods once had Petey Greene to talk some hilarious sense while the suburbs are chock full of soberly humorless legislators, lobbyists and departmental technocrats doing their serious work toward the continuing farce.

avatar Peter Kadzis January 16, 2013 at 2:48 pm

Cute point, that bit about feet and knives. Neither society nor the federal government is ever going to eradicate murder or mayhem. So I get it.

My typical default position on many hot button social issues these days is leave it to the states. I live in the much reviled state of Massachusetts, which has the lowest incidence of gun violence in the nation. So I’m not going to get my boxers all in a knot about gun control. I spend as much time as I can in Maine, where I’m pretty sure four out of the six neighboring houses contain firearms, principally rifles for hunting deer and shot guns for bagging ducks. Maine’s incidence of death by gun play in close to being in the national middle. So again, I’m not too upset about my personal safety or the personal safety of my wife and three boys. In October and November a touch of orange is something of the color of choice.

Frankly, I’m more disturbed by the lack of attention being paid to the fact that the Patriot Act was just extended or reconfirmed, than I am by the gun control debate. But that clearly makes me something of an eccentric.

When you put all the huffing and puffing aside, I just don’t get the intense opposition to banning semi-automatic weapons with expanded capacity ammo clips. They are really good for only killing people — although I can imagine that they could be a hoot to use at a gun club. I’m not going to sleep any easier one way or the other, but the fact that these weapons are sometimes used in mass murders makes me want to ease the worries of people who get upset by things like the Newtown massacre. As for background checks for purchasing firearms, it makes sense to me. But the issue seems reasonably under control where I live so I’m not going to get worked up because the likelihood of change is so remote.

If I were black or Hispanic — as many of my Boston neighbors are — I think I’d feel and think differently. Gang violence committed by bad guys with illegal guns is a real problem in Boston and other big cities. Over the last two years I’ve seen four bodies on the street within walking distance of my house. Because I’m white, I’m not a target of gang violence — although there is the danger of getting hit by a misfired bullet. That, however, is not something that happens often. Supporting what’s popularly known as an assault rifle ban and being in favor of background checks strikes me as something that is neighborl.

Social scientists will tell you that anecdotal evidence is dangerous. But sometimes its all we have to go on. The evidence I gather from my Maine neighbors — a retired school teacher, a retired Coast Guardsman, a small contractor, a carpenter, a guy who does something at the Bath Iron Works, and a working teacher — all says one thing: leave their rifles and shotguns alone, get ride of Newtown-style weapons (my wording), and what’s the big deal about background checks.

That’s fine with me. I even hope it happens some day. But I’m not signing up for a crusade. The NRA opposition is just too intense and too kooky.

avatar Stephen January 16, 2013 at 3:42 pm

For year I generally agreed with the positions and arguments of the NRA and their allies until I spent eight years living in an urban neighborhood in which gun violence was routine. I witnessed fatal shootings within a block of my house, and a little girl around the corner was hit in the face by a stray round while watching TV in her grandma’s living room. I’m sure most if not all of the weapons used in these crimes were obtained illegally. I’m also sure that the absolutist agenda of pro-gun lobby makes it easier for would-be perps to obtain these guns, and harder for local law enforcement to get them off the streets. Also, the fact that over a million of my fellow Floridians have concealed weapons permits is not a fact to celebrate, but striking evidence of a failure of civil society. There’s nothing “conservative” about that.

avatar robert m. peters January 16, 2013 at 4:28 pm

I recall when the guns they wanted to ban were the stub-nosed, six-shot “Saturday night specials.”

It is already illegal to have an “assault rife” without a federal permit, i.e. a background check. An assault rifle is a fully automatic rifle which may or may not be switched to semi-automatic. The rifle the murderer was firing was a semi-automatic rifle not an assault rifle. It has the same firing mechanism as a 30.06 deer rifle which is semi-automatic. I can modify that standard rifle to look like an “assault rifle,” but an assault rifle it ain’t and can never be. Contrary to the myth it is difficult f not impossible to modify a semi-automatic into an automatic. It would take an expert with the proper tools and parts. As to limited sizes of magazine, it does not take a lot of skill to get around that. Anyone who can tack and solder and tinker a bit can meld two or more magazines.

In the end, gun control is about just that, control, and has absolutely nothing to do with safety!

avatar D.W. Sabin January 16, 2013 at 4:35 pm

Mr. Kadzis commentary leads me to believe we might better be served by the testimony of his neighborhood concerning the issue than all the finely attired hired hands in Congress. Every Bill in congress today is deeply tainted, Tea Party or not.

avatar Michael Umphrey January 17, 2013 at 1:02 am

It sounds as though there are some places that have a violence problem. A violent culture seems appalling and worth discussing Maybe we could talk about violent cultures and peaceful cultures to see if we can understand the truth about how it is that people end up in such different states and then about cultural practices and educational approaches that foster peacefulness.

We could identify groups that have very little violent behavior and study them to learn the secrets–which I’ll bet are not secrets at all. We could be quite scientific about it. We might at some point listen to Charles Murray and begin to teach to poor children some of the truths we ourselves live by.

Gun control hasn’t really solved that violence problem in Chicago. Why not?

Focusing on guns seems a good way to avoid the real conversation. A culture with lots of murderers in it would seem to be problematic, even if they didn’t have guns. I’d be more interested in hearing some talk about that.

avatar Matt January 17, 2013 at 12:23 pm

“An intelligent discussion on this matter does not appear likely.”

Of course not, the gun grabbers have no need nor desire for facts. They don’t care if crime decreases as a result of gun control, they just equate “correct society” with “no guns”. I now know what leftists who opposed the Iraq boondoggle felt like, that total exasperation with people who not only have no evidence for their beliefs, they don’t even care about having any.

avatar Lela January 17, 2013 at 7:04 pm

The issue with background checks is actually fairly significant because it tracks who may be buying guns and what guns they are buying. I have a friend with a federal firearms license. He tells me that he has to report all my personal information to the feds.

I know everybody wants to believe that the government of the United States is never going to become tyrannical and start taking away people’s rights (uh, except for the Second Amendment and the Fourth Amendment and …), but if they decide to do so, it’s a lot easier to confiscate the weapons if you know who owns them.

Case in point. California issues an “scary-looking semi-auto” rule several years ago. They said just register them and everybody was grandfathered in, but you couldn’t buy new ones. Then about a year later, after everybody had registered, they “strengthened” the law and said everybody had to turn their scary-looking semi-autos in and, if you didn’t, they were going to come and arrest you for having illegal guns. Thanks ever so much for telling us that you had them.

Gun confiscation, like the gradual loss of so many of our liberties, won’t happen overnight. They’ll sneak up on us a little at a time until we’re caught by our own desire to be law-abiding.

avatar Michael Umphrey January 17, 2013 at 9:35 pm

“the gun grabbers have no need nor desire for facts”

Chantal Delsol is good on a sense of absolute evil has come to experienced by people who have renounced moral truth in favor of relativism and individual values. Evil has seeped back into everything, and they have a great many moral absolutes–racism, apartheid, etc–but no truths.

So evil is recognized by emotional disgust, but it is not understood or explained, as it can’t be without truth. There is no standard except personal feelings. So we get moral certainty without moral reasoning and without truth.

Guns are made to kill. That’s disgusting and horrific. Don’t you “get it”? What other facts are needed?

avatar Michael Umphrey January 17, 2013 at 9:36 pm

“good on how a sense*

avatar David Masciotra January 18, 2013 at 9:27 am

Chicago currently has the highest murder rate in the country. According to the Chicago Police Department, 80 percent of murders committed in Chicago in 2012 were gang related. WTTW, Chicago’s PBS affiliate, ran a report on the issue here: http://chicagotonight.wttw.com/2012/09/25/are-chicago-murders-all-gang-related

Gun control would do little to nothing to prevent that “gang banger with a Tech 9″ from robbing and killing people, as you imply. Anyone who is ready and willing to sell drugs, assault neighbors, and participate in drive by shootings isn’t going to obey gun laws, register for a background check, or pay attention to the latest governmental regulations.

avatar John Haas January 21, 2013 at 6:46 am

So, since knives are so dangerous, we have a solution: Arm school-teachers with knives and . . . no more school massacres!

avatar Joe April 1, 2013 at 6:52 pm

It would be interesting to see the average number of murders/rifle compared to the average number of murders/knife. It’s pretty difficult to go on a murder spree armed with only a knife. An assault rifle on the other hand….

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