Finally, we’ve come to the point of trying to blame non-criminals for gun violence

Buried down in that article’s comments is a real treat, one I haven’t seen attempted in so blunt a way. I’ve included a transcript here, but the summary is this: “regular” people cause more than half of all firearms homicides and therefor should not be allowed to own guns. This is built on some specious logic, and I applaud the guy’s subtlety in misdirection.

To support the argument, “O” must make a break between felons who commit murder with a gun and everyone else. So you’re either a felon or a good guy. The study cited notes that roughly 41% of criminal firearm homicides are committed by people with a prior felony conviction. I think that’s a reasonable estimate, and it is not in any counter to the FBI data that I point out, which says that 80% of criminal homicides are committed by people who are not in legal possession of the gun they’re using (I made an error in writing out my responses to him – see below the transcript).

It’s quite a leap of faith to claim 60% of homicides are committed by “regular people” who have no prior criminal history. Well, actually it’s lying. It turns out that people without prior criminal records who are not concurrently engaged in criminal activity account for fewer than 5% of gun homicides are committed by previously legal owners not engaged in some other criminal activity. And of those, roughly half are justified, leaving 2.5% of “regular” people in the gun murder mix.

That is nowhere near the implied 60% number.

Check out the exchange below, and see if you buy his assertions.

O: Thank you! We desperately need to move the discussion on from assault weapons toward handguns, which are responsible for the majority of homicides.

A: We need to move the discussion to criminals, not lawful citizens.

O: Actually, around 50% of gun homicides are committed by people with no prior felonies. So it’s just as important to take guns from non-criminals as from criminals.

A: Nice bit of sophistry there. The actual number of people committing firearm homicides as felons prior to the act is smaller, according to the FBI. But that lacks context, because it’s not only felons that are prohibited persons. It turns out that upwards of 80% of criminal homicide is committed by prohibited persons, felony or not. Another 12-15% are by people with criminal histories that have not yet been listed as prohibited.

When you run it down with facts, you find that perhaps 3-5% of criminal firearm homicides are committed by people in lawful possession of their firearms with no prior derogatory record.

Oh, and I should add that of the 80% or so that are committed by actual prohibited persons, roughly 70% happens while other related crimes are being committed, most typically drug trafficking, extortion, and prostitution.

O: Stats aren’t sophistry. There are multiple studies including the BJS data you cite, and academic studies (e.g. showing that fewer than half of people who commit homicide have a prior felony. Around 8% of the US population has a felony conviction, so it’s overwhelmingly the most common reason for a person being unable to legally own a gun. 

This is corroborated by the circumstances of homicides–the most common circumstance isn’t a crime, it’s an argument that gets out of control (…/crime-in…/tables/10shrtbl12.xls).

This is the big realization that we collectively have to have about guns–that our gun homicide rate isn’t primarily due to bad people having guns, IT’S DUE TO REGULAR PEOPLE HAVING GUNS. (Emphasis added)

A: I didn’t say stats were sophistry – I said your presentment was.

You’re trying to draw fallacious conclusions in a couple of ways: implying only felony convictions cause a prohibition; using all homicide data rather than firearms data; ignoring the study you yourself provided that notes 71% of homicides occur by people with prior arrests. Yet you persist in drawing a boundary around felonies, as if anyone without an actual felony conviction is neither prohibited nor a criminal.

Your assertion about felonies being overwhelmingly the most common reason for prohibited status is also misleading – the NICS denials rank felonies AND misdemeanors that receive a sentence over two years. So both categories are included there. However, that is the list of denials, and not the count of prohibited persons.

Aside from the fact that the 2nd table you show does not include weapons and is nearly a decade old, the fact that ‘argument’ is listed as a high count does not mean the argument was not related to other crimes or criminal activity. Again, you’re trying to imply the argument had nothing to do with other crimes or activities, but that’s not true. From the raw data, we can’t actually know the split either way, only that the circumstance is “other than felony.” Further, the FBI tables don’t show the incidence rate by felons in those categories.

The FBI has 2017 data for homicide by circumstance and weapon:…/expanded-homicide-data-table-11.xls

Notice the report includes “brawl due to alcohol / narcotics” and “argument over money or property,” both of which would fit your description of “regular people having guns” better than implying “other arguments” is a metric of people without criminal history. The fact is, the FBI tables give no direct insight as to the history of the person pulling the trigger. More to the point, “other arguments” does not preclude prior or concurrent criminal activity.

So the crux of your assertions is that regular people with guns cause the majority of firearms homicides, but your definition of “regular” is bounded by who is not a felon. In other words, you are choosing specific definitions that are intentionally incomplete and using a blend of vague data and small-scope studies to support the idea that lawful citizens cause more gun homicides than criminals.

And that is sophistry.

I have to admit, your approach is indeed careful and practiced, but it’s still sophistry

Now, to be fair, the 80% figure isn’t precisely “prohibited persons.” I indeed misspoke: the figure includes people who are not in lawful possession of the gun, not just felons. I will undoubtedly have to correct this at some point, and there is a high likelihood that O will use that as an excuse to try and discredit my entire argument.

That notwithstanding, he is attempting to put some logical force behind the position that nobody should be allowed to own firearms. My guess is he wants a full repeal of 2A along with confiscation and making anyone who fails to comply a felon. While I haven’t seen anyone really try to articulate this to the level here, it’s becoming more and more common among the progressive Democrat crowd.


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