Gun study’s truth inconvenient

As a new school year starts around the country, December’s atrocity at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., still haunts us. Adam Lanza took the lives of 20 children and six adults, mowing down innocents in a hail of gunfire. The attack was as emotionally devastating as any news event in recent memory.

Those emotions compelled elected officials, advocacy groups and the national media to politicize the event in every way possible, with President Barack Obama leading the charge. In January, the president began a push for many policy changes, headlined by three gun control initiatives: universal background checks; a ban on so-called assault weapons; and a ban on high-capacity magazines. He also issued an executive order “directing the Centers for Disease Control to research the causes and prevention of gun violence.” Mr. Obama was all but certain such a report would support his gun control initiatives.

Except that it didn’t.

As reported by The New American website, the CDC subcontracted the study to the Institute of Medicine and the National Research Council — and it was completed in June. Not surprisingly, there has been almost no mention of the study from any major media outlet over the past two months, and no comment from the Obama administration. That’s because, as The New American stated, “The key finding the president no doubt was seeking — that more laws would result in less crime — was missing.”

In fact, if anything, the study showed the opposite to be true, noting that interventions such as background checks, restrictions on firearms and increased penalties for illegal gun use showed mixed results. The study also noted that gun turn-in programs were ineffective in reducing gun crime, as well as the unsurprising fact that most criminals obtain guns outside the reach of the law (from friends, family members, gang members, etc.), showing that more gun controls on legitimate, licensed gun owners would not help reduce gun crime. If there was any way to put a more positive spin on the study than “mixed results,” the study most certainly would have done so.

Appalling as they are, mass shootings such as the one at Sandy Hook are extremely rare and comprise a tiny fraction of all firearms-related deaths, the study notes. In fact, from 2000 to 2010, suicide — not criminal violence — accounted for 61 percent of the country’s more than 335,000 gun-related deaths. Violent crime and gun crime rates have actually been falling for years.

The report pointed out that gun use for self-defense purposes can deter gun crime. “Almost all national survey estimates indicate that defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals,” the report said.

The immediate politicization of Sandy Hook and the Obama administration’s attempt to use the massacre to achieve old policy wishes — none of which would have done anything to prevent such a tragedy — was deplorable. The fact that no one in the gun control lobby, nor the administration, is paying any attention to the CDC study ordered by the president speaks to how everybody — including the national media — used Sandy Hook for political gain. If the study had affirmed the hopes of Mr. Obama and gun control proponents, it most certainly would have led the nightly news, been plastered on thousands of websites and displayed across the top of Page One in newspapers across the country.

The goal of the study was to find ways to prevent another Sandy Hook tragedy, and that can still be accomplished. For example, the study found that keeping guns out of the hands of people under restraining orders saves lives. The study also determined that handguns are used in more than 87 percent of violent crimes. So why are politicians lasered in on so-called assault weapons and the size of rifle magazines?

Previous research has determined that allowing citizens to carry concealed weapons is an effective deterrent to mass shootings. We know that mass shooters have deliberately targeted “gun-free zones” for their crimes because they knew their victims would not be able to defend themselves. And we know the common denominator in all mass shootings is a mentally ill gunman. Yet the country’s deplorable, ineffective mental health care systems have received scant scrutiny from politicians and the press. Ending “gun-free zones” and allowing concealed weapons at educational institutions remains a nonstarter among the liberal elite.

All too often, people focus on guns because of the simplicity of doing so — eliminate guns, and you eliminate the problem. But when it comes to the complexities of human behavior, simple solutions are rarely actual solutions.

Congress is expected to again take up the president’s Sandy Hook gun control agenda. Lawmakers should instead read the CDC report and consider solutions that actually address gun violence problems. The victims of Sandy Hook deserve no less.

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