To the editor: Post-truth politics have no place in gun regulation

Illustration by Erin Vest

To the Editor:

I am disappointed to see such an uninformed stance on gun control published in the October 9th edition of the Commonwealth Times. Perhaps the only thing Bashista gets right in “After Las Vegas, it’s time for Americans to end our bond with guns” is that this issue is indeed bigger than either her or me.

First, allow me to dispel the popular misconception that suppressors eliminate the sound of gunfire. They don’t. A low-powered handgun produces a gunshot noise around 160 decibels (dB). Suppressed gunshots generally register around 130 dB, with the quietest suppressors reducing a gunshot to around 120 dB.  In simpler terms, the sound of a suppressed firearm is somewhere between a chain saw and a jet launching from an aircraft carrier with its after-burner. Anyone who has ever shot a suppressed firearm, and not just seen them in movies, could tell you that. It is also why gun owners insist on calling them suppressors, and not silencers. They are tools used to prevent hearing damage and reduce recoil, allowing smaller people to better control the gun’s motion.

In the strictest sense, a suppressor is just an accessory. It does not make a firearm more lethal or stealthier in any meaningful way, and obviously, they are not firearms themselves. Making them more difficult to obtain would be a pointless exercise achieving little.

The author’s call to make modifying semi-automatic firearms into automatics illegal is similarly irrelevant. Such modification is already a felony punishable by 10 years in prison. How do we make it more illegal?

The notion that we, as a nation, must do something in the aftermath of tragedies like Las Vegas is understandable. Over the past weeks, I have heard it echoed across all walks of life and from many sides of America’s political landscape. Yet, as Jacob Sullum writes in an October 4th column for Reason Magazine, “a massacre is not an argument.”

In the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, politicians and pundits claimed we ‘must do something.’ What followed was a war on terror that has left thousands dead, while multiple Presidential administrations have used the premise of safety to abuse the individual rights and privacy of American citizens.

Many of the gun control policies advanced in the wake of the Las Vegas attack would have done little to prevent it from happening. From “smart” guns to age requirements, background checks to purchase decisions, these misguided proposals all share one thing in common: they do not stop determined criminals from attaining firearms.

These examples highlight what should be an obvious truth: policy made in the wake of tragedy is often over-reaching and almost always irresponsible. The federal legislative process is designed to be slow – so that the real facts and honest numbers can be examined.

Let’s explore some of these. FBI statistics show that of the 15,070 homicides committed in 2016, only 374 involved rifles. By comparison, 656 homicides were committed by individuals using only their hands, feet, or fists. Another 7,105 homicides were committed with handguns.

These statistics are far more solid than the author’s assertion that “on average, there is more than one mass shooting for each day in the U.S.” That statement is based on a deceptive methodology. Instead of counting only the slain victims of a gunman, it may include the gunman himself, or any civilians accidentally wounded by police; the shooting doesn’t even have to be fatal. Mother Jones, far from a staunch supporter of gun rights, only counts seven mass shootings in 2017 – a horrific and tragic number, but far fewer than 281.

Other similarly misleading gun violence statistics count any shooting that happens within four miles of a school as a school shooting. Many firearm statistics include suicides in their figures. I despise the very idea of suicide and wish that more would be done to help individuals needing mental or emotional support, but including these deaths in gun violence statistics is misleading and disingenuous. An uninformed reader would assume that gun violence means a person inflicting violence on another individual through use of a firearm.

However, the situation is not as dire as our statistics may seem. According to the Pew Research Center, firearm homicide deaths in the U.S. have declined by 50% since the 1990s. Non-fatal firearm crime has decreased by 75%. The irresponsible post-truth platitudes shared in Ms. Bashista’s original opinion, and throughout the media, are part of why 56% Americans incorrectly believe gun violence is on the rise.

Even as publicity for high-profile shootings like the Las Vegas and Pulse night club attacks has risen, public support for banning handguns has generally declined. A study from the Roper Center at Cornell University suggests a reason: many Americans simply do not believe the government can do much to prevent such shootings. So they reason, ‘if the government can’t protect me, then I’ll do it myself.’

This is the heart of Peggy Noonan’s October 5th column in the Wall Street Journal. Noonan argues “a lot of Americans have guns because they’re fearful.” She explains that these Americans believe the very structure of our country is collapsing. It is not hard to see why, if you try. Perhaps they are worried about the opioid crisis, or social tensions, or maybe crazed terrorists and nuclear weapons. Maybe it is because crime constitutes nearly 10% of nightly news coverage. They might even be unnerved by an openly hostile technological and cultural elite.

Whatever the reason, the likelihood of many Americans voluntarily disarming, let alone being forced to disarm by a government of elites they fundamentally distrust, is zero.

In light of these truths, those who still believe an absolutist approach to gun control is the answer are simply ignoring reality.

It is easy for Bashista to blame the lack of gun control she perceives on the NRA and corrupt politicians, but her anger is misplaced. The real gun lobby she despises is every American who owns a firearm, be it for hunting and recreation, self-defense, or perhaps even protection from their own government. Surely a paper that has bemoaned the killing of unarmed African Americans by police officers can understand mistrust of government, even if they see no need for self-defense.

This all underscores the simple truth that guns aren’t going anywhere. Even in the aftermath of other tragedies, such as the Virginia Tech and Pulse Nightclub shootings, public support has remained firmly in support of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. A gun buyback or round-up would be predictably messy, as would criminalizing firearm modifications, many of which can be done with household items or 3D printers. 

Before we can have a serious debate on gun safety, the left needs to abandon its hysteria and its condescension to gun-owners and advocates. It’s time to look at the facts, not our feelings.

-Alan Booth

7 Comments on To the editor: Post-truth politics have no place in gun regulation

    • He is absolutely correct. It seems you are the one who has not actually shot a suppressed gun and fell into a common trap by trying to determine ‘loudness’ from a video, which does not work as the camera’s microphone automatically clips the sound. Watch a video where they use a correctly setup and calibrated dB meter, and you’ll see that even his quietest suppressed round was still well over 120db, and I would say well over 130dB as he was not using sub-sonic ammo.

      This video shows the actual sound levels before and after suppressing a 9mm using sub-sonic ammo. You can see that even with the suppressor(s) it is still over 130dB.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vydILDfxEnU

  1. https://www.dailykos.com/stories/2007/11/5/405370/-A Democrat’s guide to why firearm sound suppressors (“silencers”) should be made easier to obtain.

    By jlseagull42
    Monday Nov 05, 2007 · 3:12 PM EST
    DISCLAIMER: I am a Democrat voter. I am also a gun owner.

    Firearm suppressors, colloquially and inaccurately known as “silencers”, are basic safety equipment when operating a firearm, as their use prevents both hearing damage and reduces the noise pollution of firing ranges. Due to a little-known section of Federal law called the National Firearms Act, their possession has been all but criminalized.

    (This article refers to these devices by the correct “suppressors” instead of the more colloquial and inaccurate “silencers”, as they do no such thing.)

    Suppressors have the benefit of both decreasing the likelihood of hearing loss and decreasing noise pollution from hunting and shooting ranges. In the UK, Europe, and Scandinavia, they recognize the health and environmental benefits of suppressors, so they are sold over the counter without much regulation at all.

    Democrats, as the party that pushes for safer health and environmental regulations, should embrace any effort to lessen the regulations surrounding firearm suppressors, preferably by making them subject to the same regulations as ordinary firearms – a simple instant background check and no onerous tax. This is called a “Title I” firearm. Let’s explore a bit…

  2. *The Second Amendment was not inserted into our Bill of Rights for the purpose of hunting or target shooting. It was put there for the purpose of the people being able to defend themselves from criminals AND from oppressive governments.

  3. The 2nd Amend is a RESTRICTIVE admendment. It states such in the Preamble to Bill of Rights. the 2A does not grant nor convey any right, but RESTRICTS and PROHIBITS the government from infringing upon this enumerated, pre-existing, God given right.

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