Comforting Myths about Gun Control

There are certain comforting myths that the gun-control movement likes to promote. "Mandatory gun registration would help us solve gun crimes" is a big one. Perhaps the most comforting -- and dangerous -- of all is: "Give the robber what he wants, and he probably won't hurt you."

This news story from Atlanta is valuable for a number of reasons (emphasis mine):

(WSB Radio) -- A 17-year-old Atlanta teen has been arrested and charged with the January 7, 2009 murder of John Henderson, a bartender at the Standard Restaurant and Spirits in Grant Park.

(...)

Detective Keith Meadows told reporters that it was Redding's Smith and Wesson 9mm handgun that led to his being charged with 22 crimes including felony murder, aggravated assault and armed robbery.

Two days after Henderson's murder on January 9th, police say Redding and three other teens were involved in a home invasion. Police say during that break-in, the homeowner, armed with an semi-automatic rifle fired at Redding striking him in the shoulder.

The news account doesn't tell us if this "semi-automatic rifle" is one of those terrifying "assault weapons" or a more common semi-automatic hunting rifle. The next time that someone asks why anyone would need an assault weapon, here's your answer: four armed criminals forcing entry into a home that they know is occupied. The invaders knew that the inhabitants were probably going to be able to identify them later. What do you think these home invaders were going to do to potential witnesses before they left? Against a crew like this, a weapon that lets you fire 20 to 30 shots without reloading suddenly sounds useful.

Police say Redding dropped his weapon as he fled the home. Because police were conducting ballistic tests on weapons in crimes committed after Henderson was killed, they were able to connect Redding to the murder at the Standard and also to an armed robbery in the parking lot of the Standard two and a half weeks before.

Gun registration isn't a terribly useful method for solving crimes, because criminals seldom leave guns at the scene of a crime and they don't register their guns. Here's one of the rare cases where a criminal left a gun at the scene of a crime- -- without being hauled away on a gurney. But none of the suspects could legally purchase a handgun from a dealer; they are four years too young. I doubt that they registered these illegally acquired handguns. The absolute best possible outcome of mandatory gun registration might be to find the last legal owner (who is unlikely to have sold these guns to the criminals). Most likely, registration would only tell you who owned the gun before it was stolen.

Henderson was shot during a robbery at the Grant Park area bar where he worked, Standard Food & Spirits. He was shot multiple times despite complying with robbers' demands, according to investigators.

The killing took place as Henderson and another bartender were getting ready to close the bar, on Memorial Drive, when four to five armed men broke through the bar's glass door.

Comply with robbers' demands and he gets shot multiple times. This wasn't an accident. Yes, had Henderson been armed someone could have gotten hurt. But it could not have gone any worse for Henderson.

I edit a blog that keeps track of every news story where civilians use a gun in self-defense in the U.S. (We have logged more than 4000 such news stories since 2003.) I went back through our archives looking for coverage of this foiled January 9 home invasion. Either it didn't get news coverage or we didn't see it. If the news media didn't cover it, it shows how many of these incidents are falling through journalism's cracks. This is the "if it bleeds, it leads" news story that you would expect to get media attention: home invasion. If this incident was covered by some local news organization, it shows that our best efforts are still missing civilian gun defense incidents of some importance, and thus we are underreporting the enormous number of good uses of guns that take place.

Finally, in spite of not having the useless gun registration information that gun control advocates insist are necessary to solve gun crimes, Atlanta police are clearly doing a fine job of correlating information about very different crimes. They are using that, plus ballistic matching, to find bad guys.

Gun-control advocates rely on a weird mixture of comforting myths. Yet they ask, "Will you be next?" I've always wondered about this apparent cognitive dissonance: there's so little violent criminal attack that you really don't need a gun, but the problem of gun violence is so serious that we need more gun-control laws to deal with this before you are the next victim.

Unlike many gun-rights advocates, I don't assume that gun controllers are intentionally lying. I think that they are suffering from a combination of terrible fear and a desperate need to control a very dangerous world. Unfortunately, there is only one realistic short-term way to take control when criminals this callous of the rights of others run wild: shoot back.