Myth vs. Reality in the Gun Debate Today

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Myth vs. Reality in the Gun Debate Today

I’m an open-​minded observer of our great polit­i­cal process, and have voted both Repub­li­can and Demo­c­rat in the past. I feel strongly about a vari­ety of issues, but I am also will­ing to lis­ten to rea­soned debate on them. As long as I feel my oppo­nent has under­stood the issues at hand, and has taken the time to research them, I have no prob­lem with my opin­ions being questioned.

What I can’t stand are argu­ments based on myths that are eas­ily dis-​proven: that is, peo­ple argu­ing from an entrenched ide­o­log­i­cal posi­tion with­out hav­ing taken the time to log­i­cally assess the issue. We are all, of course, guilty of this from time to time, because no-​one can be an expert on everything.

How­ever, there is one debate which is par­tic­u­larly prone to being warped by politically-​motivated myths: that on gun con­trol. In addi­tion, any fair observer would have to con­clude that these myths are par­tic­u­larly preva­lent on one side of the debate. Gun con­trol activists don’t seem to know a lot about the way that guns actu­ally work, and are wor­ry­ingly sus­cep­ti­ble to their own propaganda.

You could argue that this is not their fault: many peo­ple who are vehe­mently anti-​gun have never had the oppor­tu­nity or need to fire one, and so it’s nat­ural they don’t know much about them. Their only con­tact with the gun con­trol debate comes in those moments imme­di­ately after a school mas­sacre. They for­get that, every day, hun­dreds of thou­sands of gun own­ers use their weapons respon­si­bly, and lock them up safely at the end of the day.

When seen from this nar­row per­spec­tive, and with­out daily con­tact with actual weapons, the lib­eral left is still mis­led by a num­ber of myths about guns. Nowhere is this more appar­ent than in the cur­rent debate on the The Hear­ing Pro­tec­tion Act 2017.

An Exam­ple: Why A Sup­pres­sor Is Not A “Silencer”

The Hear­ing Pro­tec­tion Act 2017 is cur­rently await­ing a hear­ing in Con­gress. It seeks to reduce the restric­tions on buy­ing sup­pres­sors, which date back to 1934. Like any debate on gun con­trol mea­sures, the Act has polar­ized opin­ion, and has led to impas­sioned speeches, warped sta­tis­tics, and divi­sive rhetoric from both sides.

What is strik­ingly appar­ent in these debates, though, has been the level of igno­rance on the side of those who wish to limit access to sup­pres­sors. It seems that many lib­eral politi­cians, hav­ing never used a sup­pres­sor, are under the impres­sion that they allow crim­i­nals to kill peo­ple silently.

If you’ve never used a gun fit­ted with a sup­pres­sor, let me reas­sure you that they are still incred­i­bly loud. As loud, in fact, as a pneu­matic ham­mer hit­ting con­crete, a level of noise that even lib­er­als seem to have no trou­ble hear­ing. Still, the myth remains, and many oppos­ing the bill naively – or cyn­i­cally – refer to sup­pres­sors as “silencers”.

The funny thing about this is that sup­pres­sors, when they were invented back in 1909, were orig­i­nally called “silencers”. This, how­ever, was bla­tant hyper­bole – call­ing these devices “silencers” is equiv­a­lent to mar­ket­ing a flan­nel shirt as an arc­tic coat. The irony here is that those who oppose the bill have taken the over-​blown claims of weapon man­u­fac­tur­ers as lit­eral truth.

My point is that, if you are ide­o­log­i­cally opposed to guns, have never actu­ally used one, and have been raised on a diet of Dick Tracy and James Bond movies, the myth that a sup­pres­sor is a “silencer” is a use­ful fiction.

The Real­ity

This mis­taken belief leads to a num­ber of hilar­i­ous argu­ments against the bill. Take this one, put for­ward by Kris­ten Rand of VPC back in June: “Silencers are military-​bred acces­sories that make it eas­ier for crim­i­nals to take inno­cent lives and threaten law enforce­ment. Exist­ing fed­eral law has kept crimes com­mit­ted with silencer-​equipped firearms rare”.

Where to begin? She is cor­rect in one respect, of course: crimes com­mit­ted with “silencers” are very rare. Knox Williams, pres­i­dent and exec­u­tive direc­tor for the Amer­i­can Sup­pres­sor Asso­ci­a­tion, told Guns​.com in August that of the 1.3 mil­lion sup­pres­sors in cir­cu­la­tion, his group can only fund 16 instances of crim­i­nal use since 2011. As he pointed out, “that trans­lates to the mis­use of a glar­ingly low per­cent­age of sup­pres­sors in cir­cu­la­tion – roughly 0.000012308 percent.”

Now. If you think that a sup­pres­sor makes your gun silent, I can imag­ine how you would think that lim­it­ing their use would be a good thing. How­ever, as any­one who uses a gun knows, the rea­son why sup­pres­sors are not used to com­mit crimes is not because of the Fed­eral lim­i­ta­tions on their use, but sim­ply because they are totally use­less if you want to com­mit a crime. I repeat: law enforce­ment are still going to hear the shots, and adding a sup­pres­sor to your weapon makes it much harder to handle.

In real­ity, sup­pres­sors are used pri­mar­ily by hunters, who risk sig­nif­i­cant dam­age to their hear­ing if they use un-​suppressed weapons. At present, hunters are faced with a very dif­fi­cult choice. They can either go through the lengthy (and, I would say, uncon­sti­tu­tional) process of obtain­ing a sup­pres­sor, or they can wear any OSHA-​certified hear­ing pro­tec­tion, which func­tion as pro­tec­tive ear muffs for your ears.

Doing the lat­ter is, at the moment, the pre­ferred choice, but has the unfor­tu­nate con­se­quence of dead­en­ing all sound, which makes hunt­ing more dan­ger­ous than it should be. It is this absurd sit­u­a­tion that the Hear­ing Pro­tec­tion Act seeks to change.

Dan­ger­ous Myths

I’ve picked one exam­ple to make my point, but I could have picked many oth­ers. The unfor­tu­nate real­ity is that, in the gun debate and sev­eral oth­ers, the peo­ple mak­ing laws are the least qual­i­fied to do so, because they lack first-​hand expe­ri­ence of the issues they are talk­ing about. And this lack of first-​hand expe­ri­ence means that they are sus­cep­ti­ble to myths that any expe­ri­enced gun owner could dis­pel within a few seconds.

This sit­u­a­tion reminds me, if you’ll per­mit me the aside, of the debate regard­ing the ban on fox hunt­ing going on right now in Eng­land. The sit­u­a­tion is some­what anal­o­gous, because a van­ish­ingly small per­cent­age of the pop­u­la­tion have actual expe­ri­ence of fox-​hunting, let alone using using 22 lr ammo or other pop­u­lar rounds.

The major­ity of the urban pop­u­la­tion oppose fox-​hunting, but have never actu­ally seen a fox. This lack of first-​hand expe­ri­ence (or igno­rance, if I were to put it more strongly) allows a well-​developed series of myths to cir­cu­late on the left – that fox-​hunting is inher­ently cruel, for instance – that are laugh­able to any­one with actual expe­ri­ence of the issue.

I’m not sure, in truth, what the solu­tion to this state of affairs is. It cuts against my belief in small gov­ern­ment to rec­om­mend some kind of “expert panel” to help lib­er­als get a grip on the real­ity of guns. Per­haps there should be a manda­tory “away day” where mem­bers of Con­gress can fire a weapon with a sup­pres­sor, and lis­ten care­fully to see if they can hear the shot.

I’m not sure, how­ever, that this would actu­ally help, because I’m also pretty sure that those who con­tinue to pro­mote these myths know they are baloney. And if they didn’t before, they do now.

About the author

Sam Bocetta is a retired defense con­trac­tor for the U.S. Navy, spe­cial­iz­ing in elec­tronic war­fare and advanced com­puter sys­tems. He now teaches at Algo­nquin Com­mu­nity Col­lege in Ottawa, Canada as a part time engi­neer­ing pro­fes­sor and is the ASEAN affairs cor­re­spon­dent for Gun News Daily.

I’m an open-minded observer of our great political process, and have voted both Republican and Democrat in the past. I feel strongly about a variety of issues, but I am also willing to listen to reasoned debate on them. As long as I feel my opponent has understood the issues at hand, and has taken the time to research them, I have no problem with my opinions being questioned.

What I can’t stand are arguments based on myths that are easily dis-proven: that is, people arguing from an entrenched ideological position without having taken the time to logically assess the issue. We are all, of course, guilty of this from time to time, because no-one can be an expert on everything.

However, there is one debate which is particularly prone to being warped by politically-motivated myths: that on gun control. In addition, any fair observer would have to conclude that these myths are particularly prevalent on one side of the debate. Gun control activists don’t seem to know a lot about the way that guns actually work, and are worryingly susceptible to their own propaganda.

You could argue that this is not their fault: many people who are vehemently anti-gun have never had the opportunity or need to fire one, and so it’s natural they don’t know much about them. Their only contact with the gun control debate comes in those moments immediately after a school massacre. They forget that, every day, hundreds of thousands of gun owners use their weapons responsibly, and lock them up safely at the end of the day.

When seen from this narrow perspective, and without daily contact with actual weapons, the liberal left is still misled by a number of myths about guns. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the current debate on the The Hearing Protection Act 2017.

An Example: Why A Suppressor Is Not A “Silencer”

The Hearing Protection Act 2017 is currently awaiting a hearing in Congress. It seeks to reduce the restrictions on buying suppressors, which date back to 1934. Like any debate on gun control measures, the Act has polarized opinion, and has led to impassioned speeches, warped statistics, and divisive rhetoric from both sides.

What is strikingly apparent in these debates, though, has been the level of ignorance on the side of those who wish to limit access to suppressors. It seems that many liberal politicians, having never used a suppressor, are under the impression that they allow criminals to kill people silently.

If you’ve never used a gun fitted with a suppressor, let me reassure you that they are still incredibly loud. As loud, in fact, as a pneumatic hammer hitting concrete, a level of noise that even liberals seem to have no trouble hearing. Still, the myth remains, and many opposing the bill naively – or cynically – refer to suppressors as “silencers”.

The funny thing about this is that suppressors, when they were invented back in 1909, were originally called “silencers”. This, however, was blatant hyperbole – calling these devices “silencers” is equivalent to marketing a flannel shirt as an arctic coat. The irony here is that those who oppose the bill have taken the over-blown claims of weapon manufacturers as literal truth.

My point is that, if you are ideologically opposed to guns, have never actually used one, and have been raised on a diet of Dick Tracy and James Bond movies, the myth that a suppressor is a “silencer” is a useful fiction.

The Reality

This mistaken belief leads to a number of hilarious arguments against the bill. Take this one, put forward by Kristen Rand of VPC back in June: “Silencers are military-bred accessories that make it easier for criminals to take innocent lives and threaten law enforcement. Existing federal law has kept crimes committed with silencer-equipped firearms rare”.

Where to begin? She is correct in one respect, of course: crimes committed with “silencers” are very rare. Knox Williams, president and executive director for the American Suppressor Association, told Guns.com in August that of the 1.3 million suppressors in circulation, his group can only fund 16 instances of criminal use since 2011. As he pointed out, “that translates to the misuse of a glaringly low percentage of suppressors in circulation – roughly 0.000012308 percent.”

Now. If you think that a suppressor makes your gun silent, I can imagine how you would think that limiting their use would be a good thing. However, as anyone who uses a gun knows, the reason why suppressors are not used to commit crimes is not because of the Federal limitations on their use, but simply because they are totally useless if you want to commit a crime. I repeat: law enforcement are still going to hear the shots, and adding a suppressor to your weapon makes it much harder to handle.

In reality, suppressors are used primarily by hunters, who risk significant damage to their hearing if they use un-suppressed weapons. At present, hunters are faced with a very difficult choice. They can either go through the lengthy (and, I would say, unconstitutional) process of obtaining a suppressor, or they can wear any OSHA-certified hearing protection, which function as protective ear muffs for your ears.

Doing the latter is, at the moment, the preferred choice, but has the unfortunate consequence of deadening all sound, which makes hunting more dangerous than it should be. It is this absurd situation that the Hearing Protection Act seeks to change.

Dangerous Myths

I’ve picked one example to make my point, but I could have picked many others. The unfortunate reality is that, in the gun debate and several others, the people making laws are the least qualified to do so, because they lack first-hand experience of the issues they are talking about. And this lack of first-hand experience means that they are susceptible to myths that any experienced gun owner could dispel within a few seconds.

This situation reminds me, if you’ll permit me the aside, of the debate regarding the ban on fox hunting going on right now in England. The situation is somewhat analogous, because a vanishingly small percentage of the population have actual experience of fox-hunting, let alone using using 22 lr ammo or other popular rounds.

The majority of the urban population oppose fox-hunting, but have never actually seen a fox. This lack of first-hand experience (or ignorance, if I were to put it more strongly) allows a well-developed series of myths to circulate on the left – that fox-hunting is inherently cruel, for instance – that are laughable to anyone with actual experience of the issue.

I’m not sure, in truth, what the solution to this state of affairs is. It cuts against my belief in small government to recommend some kind of “expert panel” to help liberals get a grip on the reality of guns. Perhaps there should be a mandatory “away day” where members of Congress can fire a weapon with a suppressor, and listen carefully to see if they can hear the shot.

I’m not sure, however, that this would actually help, because I’m also pretty sure that those who continue to promote these myths know they are baloney. And if they didn’t before, they do now.

About the author

Sam Bocetta is a retired defense contractor for the U.S. Navy, specializing in electronic warfare and advanced computer systems. He now teaches at Algonquin Community College in Ottawa, Canada as a part time engineering professor and is the ASEAN affairs correspondent for Gun News Daily.