My Response to Penny Okamoto’s Anti Gun Article Entitled “Adams’ gun proposal will save lives”

Published by the Author on October 4, 2010 at 12:01 am > Pro Gun Rights Articles > My Response to Penny Okamoto’s Anti Gun Article Entitled “Adams’ gun proposal will save lives”

Penny Okamoto’s article entitled “Adams’ gun proposal will save lives” supports additional restrictions upon law abiding gun owners, and does so using a variety of logically-flawed and previously-discredited arguments. Excerpts from that article, along with my responses, can be sen below:

The recent shootings in Portland sadly indicate that the city needs to better control the use of illegal weapons. Mayor Adams’ proposed ordinances to reduce illegal guns would help address this grave situation.

The idea that laws will control the use of illegal weapons is logically inconsistent.  By definition, an “illegal weapon” is one that a law already bans.  If passing a law prevented a person from committing the proscribed act, then there would be no crime.  However, as should be obvious, there are members of society who choose not to conform their behavior to the law – we call them criminals.  Those criminals don’t obey the laws against murder.  They also ignore the existing laws that tell them not to have a gun.  There is no reason to believe that passing yet another law will server to stop those criminals from choosing to unlawfully possess and misuse guns.  Indeed, it would defy logic to think that a person who is willing to commit murder (the most severely punished crime in our society) would be deterred by any other law, whose punishment is going to be much less severe than the punishment for murder).

The mayor’s proposed Child Access Prevention ordinance would prevent illegal access to firearms by children. . . The goal of Child Access Prevention laws is to reduce unintentional shootings, suicides and gang shootings by requiring gun owners to keep their guns from being easily obtained by children without their permission. CAP laws have been implemented in many states, and while they vary in the details, many, like Mayor Adams’ proposal, hold responsible any adult who negligently allows minors access to weapons. . .

Again, Ms. Okamoto fails to understand that the existence of a law does not ensure that every member of society will obey that law.  The law against murder is routinely broken, despite the fact that virtually everyone is aware that killing is a crime.  At the opposite end of the spectrum, failing to wear one’s seatbelt is a crime in many jurisdictions, yet there are no shortage of people who break that law.  Here, Ms. Okamoto suggests that a city ordinance that would criminalize negligent storage of firearms by adults would “prevent illegal access to firearms by children.”  That is simply not the case.  Instead, responsible gun owners already take care to properly store their firearms.  Such gun owners do so whether or not there is a city ordinance.  Negligent gun owners (who are often illegal gun owners) don’t care, and store their guns in an irresponsible manner regardless of what the law requires.  Passing such a gun storage ordinance is pointless, since the responsible gun owners are already storing their guns properly, and the negligent (and illegal) gun owners’ behavior won’t be affected by such a storage ordinance.

The ordinance mandating reporting of lost and stolen weapons would choke off the market for illegal firearms.

The market for illegal firearms is comprised primarily of gang members and other criminals who want a gun with which to commit a crime, but who can’t buy a gun in a store due to our existing and effective gun laws.  Such criminals steal guns from the police, other governmental agencies, or private citizens, illegally smuggle guns into the country, or simply manufacture their own guns.  Forcing a private citizen to report the theft of their gun won’t “choke off the market for illegal firearms,” since the gun is already in the hands of a criminal by the time the report is made.  Instead, laws that require the reporting of lost/stolen guns are simply a means of backdoor gun registration that leads to wrongful gun confiscation and other abuses of governmental power, while failing to stop crime.

According to a 2008 report by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, seven states and the District of Columbia require reporting of lost and stolen weapons. According to ATF gun crime traces, in 2007 the average number of guns exported per 100,000 inhabitants from states requiring reporting of lost and stolen guns was 4.2. Oregon’s rate was 13.3 guns exported per 100,000 inhabitants. Clearly, mandatory reporting of lost and stolen weapons is a highly effective tool against gun traffickers.

Penny Okamoto attempts to bolster her statements by citing a flawed report that was conducted by a biased anti gun group.  She then uses that “evidence” to leap to the conclusion that the proposed gun control law she supports is “high effective.”  The facts simply don’t support that interpretation.

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Instead, the report that Ms. Okamoto mentions is simply the result of Mayors Against Illegal Guns (MAIG) taking statistics, massaging the data to suit their purpose, and then releasing the results as though it was a scientifically valid conclusion.  Sadly, this is nothing new insofar as anti-gun “research” is concerned.  For a more in-depth discussion of the problems with the methodology that MAIG uses, I would recommend this article by John Lott.

Even assuming, just for the sake of argument, that the statistic cited by Ms. Okamoto is accurate, it doesn’t follow that a mandatory lost/stolen reporting law is what accounts for the difference in illegal gun exporting.  That is because locations with the highest crime rates tend to have the strictest gun control laws, and tend to be where criminals misuse guns the most.  Locations with lower crime rates tend to have less restrictive gun laws, and fewer criminals misusing guns.  As a result, it makes sense that those areas with the strict gun control laws (including the lost/stolen reporting laws) will have more guns flowing in, and fewer guns flowing out.  However this tells us nothing about the effectiveness of the lost/stolen reporting laws, as correlation does not prove causation (remember, ice cream sales go up on the summer, as does the murder rate. However, the correlation between ice cream sales and the murder rate doesn’t mean that there is causation between ice cream sales and the murder rate!)

When the weapon is used in a crime, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives tries to use the gun’s serial number to trace the weapon back to the original purchaser. A gunrunner is easily off the hook by falsely claiming that the weapon was lost or stolen and then faces no penalties or prosecution.

A favorite tactic of those opposed to gun rights is to suggest that there is some glaring “loophole” in the existing laws that enables criminals to get away with their bad acts.  Here, Ms. Okamoto suggests that a person who illegally supplies guns to criminals can avoid liability by simply claiming that the gun was stolen.  That isn’t accurate – not by a long shot.  When a person is suspected of illegally trafficking in firearms, the police and prosecutors at the state and federal level can still prove their case even if the suspected trafficker claims the guns were stolen.  The case can proven by showing that the number of guns transferred to criminals is more than would reasonably have been taken during a theft, to show a pattern of intentional transfers to criminals.  The prosecution can also use surveillance of the transferor and transferee to show that no theft had occurred.  Another approach is to use the statements of witnesses (or parties to the trafficking who are seeking leniency by cooperating with the prosecution) to prove that trafficking, rather than theft, was occurring.  Financial records showing a transfer of funds to the alleged theft victim (who was actually engaged in trafficking of weapons) is still another way that the prosecution could make its case.  Another tactic often used by law enforcement anytime contraband is involved is a “controlled buy,” which is where an undercover agent, a cooperating source, or even an unwitting source is used to “set up” the seller.  Indeed, I’ve just started to scratch the surface here, but the point is that a wide array of tools are already available to law enforcement and prosecutors who fight the illegal trafficking of firearms.

We need to stand with Mayor Adams against the gangs and gun traffickers and tell them that our streets belong to all Portlanders. We need to tell the gun lobby that we will not tolerate illegal guns in Portland. We need safe neighborhoods and healthy children who don’t have to live in fear of shootings..

This article concludes with an emotional plea which attempts to blame the “gun lobby” for Portland’s crime, while creating a false dichotomy that suggests that the only options are to have the city overrun by crime, or to implement the (pointless) gun control laws that the Mayor proposes.  I’ll address each of those points in turn:

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Firstly, the use of emotion in the gun right debate is quite common.  However, such emotional pleas are the last thing that we as a society need when debating something as important as one of our constitutional rights.  I can only conclude that the emotion-laden “think of the children” type arguments are used by those who oppose gun rights because they are unable to prevail when arguing the facts.

Secondly, I would like to address the “gun lobby,” which is favorite target of those who argue against gun rights.  They suggest that the “gun lobby” is some small and secretive collective of gun manufacturers and others who somehow make money hand-over-fist by promoting gun-related violence.  That is simply inaccurate.  Instead, the “gun lobby” is made up of millions of law abiding Americans who value their constitutional right to gun ownership, and recognize that gun control laws don’t work.  These people donate their hard-earned money to create and fund organizations such as the NRA, in order to counter the powerful anti-gun lobby (which itself is made up of the sort of many secretive and dishonest groups that are out of touch with mainstream America).

Finally, I would note that broadened gun rights, rather than new gun restrictions, are what we need in order to have “save neighborhoods and healthy children.”  It should be clear from the above discussion and everyday news reports that banning guns doesn’t prevent crime.  It should also be equally clear, from the statistics and real-life examples, that armed citizens can and do stop crime.  As such, I’m unclear why, if Ms. Okamoto is so concerned about the safety of children, why she isn’t arguing in favor of greater gun rights so that law abiding citizens can defend themselves and their children from crime, just as this mother, this father, this grandmother, this grandfather, and countless others have done?

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  • Cory

    "When the weapon is used in a crime, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives tries to use the gun’s serial number to trace the weapon back to the original purchaser"
    Since when do criminals just drop their guns at the crime scene?

    • Eric

      To further Cory's point, I guess it's also not true that criminals use straw purchasers to get their guns, or even (gasp!) remove the serial numbers from their guns completely.

      Also: "A gunrunner is easily off the hook by falsely claiming that the weapon was lost or stolen and then faces no penalties or prosecution."

      Good to hear we're just taking suspected criminals at their word, too. "Oh no, I didn't sell that gang 30 guns last month. They must have been stolen! And all those bank deposits were from my Grandma!" Must be true; criminals also don't lie, right?

  • Len

    i am a gun owner ( 7 rifles, 5 shotguns, 2 pistols) and I have a CHL. At one time I belonged to the NRA when they represented (so I thought) the sportsman and sane gun owner. I have since cancelled my membership when it became obvious to me that they are the mouthpiece of the arms industry, Any sane person on his own would not make to utterly stupid sugestion that we put armed guards in our schools. What rent-a-cop in his right mind would go up against a Bushmaster with a 50 or 100 round capability?. Or are we going to give the rent-a-cops Bushmasters so we can have a military firefight in the schoool with high powered rounds flying through windows and walls. In my State our two universities would require 50 rent-a-cops to cover all the building, dorms, etc. And what about movie theatres, churches, hospitals, and political events? I could go on, but until a friend or family member is senselessly killed, I doubt anyone who reads this will change his mind. That is the NRA mentality!