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Summer 2015: New Record for Gun Sales?

Data from the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) indicate that firearm acquisitions set a new record during June, July and August, and are on track to finish the year higher than any year except 2013, when firearm acquisitions soared in reaction to President Obama’s push for gun control.

There were more than 2.6 million firearm acquisition-related checks during June through August 2015, a figure 100,000 higher than was achieved during the 2013 surge, and well above the figures for any other year since NICS’ inception in November 1998.

For the first eight months of 2015, January through August, the number of firearm acquisition-related checks was the second highest on record, at 7.7 million, well behind the 9.3 million tallied during the 2013 surge, but running 365,000 ahead of the number achieved last year.

In addition to checks conducted on customers at gun stores and FFL customers in other venues, other NICS checks are conducted for purposes of obtaining firearm purchase permits or carry permits, the latter of which in some states exempt the holders from redundant NICS checks when acquiring firearms.

NICS check numbers are not a precise measure of the number of firearms acquired, of course. They indicate only the number of checks conducted. However, viewed over time, they indicate that gun control supporters are off-base in claiming that firearm ownership is on the decline. To the contrary, the long-term trend in firearm ownership is indisputably on the rise.

Gun owners should never allow the anti-gun media to diminish their hope or expectations that our fundamental rights will be fought for and protected.  Our numbers are growing and our resolve is unquestionable — the misinformation of Michael Bloomberg, Barak Obama and the mainstream media notwithstanding.

Research Findings a Blow to Anti-gun Academics

For decades, anti-gun academics have attacked firearms and firearm owners by conducting “research” that purportedly offers insight into the psyche of gun owners. The dubious findings of these psychology studies typically portray gun owners in a negative light, and are frequently published in uncritical academic journals, and then touted by gun control activists and the mainstream media as legitimate science. However, as a study published this week in the journal Science reveals, the entire field of psychology research warrants severe skepticism; and consequently the field’s frivolous attacks on gun ownership.

Perhaps the most famous item on this topic that has long been heralded by gun control activists is Leonard Berkowitz and Anthony LePage’s, already largely debunked, “Weapons as Aggression-Eliciting Stimuli,” published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1967. This research popularized the notion of a “weapons effect,” where supposedly the mere presence of a firearm elicits aggression in an individual.

More recently, in 2012, researchers James R. Brockmole and Jessica K. Witt’s article “Action Alters Object Identification: Wielding a Gun Increases The Bias to See Guns,” was published in the Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance. This paper contended that when individuals are armed with a gun, they are more likely to perceive others as being armed. Gun control advocates were quick to seize on the findings to promote the idea that gun owners are paranoid and prone to react with outsize responses to potential threats.

Some recent psychology studies have attacked gun owners more personally. A 2013 item published in PLS One titled, “Racism, Gun Ownership and Gun Control: Biased Attitudes in US Whites May Influence Policy Decisions,” tried to link gun ownership to racism. The researchers concluded “Symbolic racism was related to having a gun in the home and opposition to gun control policies in US whites.” Anti-gun publications, such as the New York Daily News, Huffington Post, and Salon.com were all-too-willing to parrot the findings.

The study recently published in Science is the result of a four-year effort to improve the accuracy of psychological science. A team of 270 scientists led by University of Virginia Professor Brian Nosek attempted to replicate 98 studies published in some of psychology’s most prestigious journals by conducting 100 attempts at replication. In the end, according to a Science article accompanying the study, “only 39% [of the studies] could be replicated unambiguously.”

In the same article, University of Missouri Psychologist and Editor at the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology (which published the Berkowitz and LePage study) Lynne Cooper, was quoted as saying of the findings, “Their data are sobering and present a clear challenge to the field.” She went on to note that the journal is working on reforms that will push “authors, editors, and reviewers… to reexamine and recalibrate basic notions about what constitutes good scholarship.”

The scale of the problem could be even greater than the recent study reveals. In an article on the team’s findings, the journal Nature noted, “John Ioannidis, an epidemiologist at Stanford University in California, says that the true replication-failure rate could exceed 80%, even higher than Nosek’s study suggests.

Further, psychology isn’t the only field to suffer these problems. In reporting on this matter, the New York Times noted, “The report appears at a time when the number of retractions of published papers is rising sharply in a wide variety of disciplines. Scientists have pointed to a hypercompetitive culture across science that favors novel, sexy results and provides little incentive for researchers to replicate the findings of others, or for journals to publish studies that fail to find a splashy result.” For better, or worse, results involving guns might accurately be described as “sexy,” and the editors of the nation’s major newspapers appear willing to splash any gun control supporting findings all over their publications.

These findings and the accompanying comments by those in scientific research community encourage a healthy dose of skepticism when examining studies; regardless of how prestigious the journal, or the schools the authors hail from. The problems outlined in this study, along with pre-existing knowledge of the political bias in some portions of academia, should embolden gun rights supporters to further confront the findings of anti-gun studies, while hopefully also causing those who report on these topics to question research findings more critically.

White House, Media Mislead on Crime Trends, Ignore Evidence that Could Save More Lives

Tragedy strikes – and the White House immediately shifts into exploitation mode, trying to use raw emotion to push “solutions” that don’t fit the facts. From Charles C. W. Cooke at National Review comes a timely reminder, however, that despite well-publicized crimes, the nation as a whole is getting safer and less violent.

As Mr. Cooke notes, the U.S. firearm homicide rate peaked in 1993 and has fallen dramatically since then. Meanwhile, he adds correctly, gun control has been rolled back and the number of firearms in private hands has increased dramatically. Yet 88% of the public were unaware of favorable crime trends in a May 7, 2013, Pew Research Center Poll. Mr. Cooke attributes this knowledge gap, in part, to the increasing prevalence of “round-the-clock news” and more powerful forms of social media.

It’s a sad commentary that more news and more communication may have somehow led to greater ignorance on important matters of public policy. Your NRA, for its part, has been doing its level best to keep the record straight, including with the reports mentioned here and here.

Yet it’s no accident on gun control advocates’ part that they mislead the public on the true state of affairs. As we’ve mentioned before, a PR firm hired to produce a gun control messaging guide advises, “Always focus on emotional and value-driven arguments about gun violence, not the political food fight in Washington or wonky statistics.” It also counsels advocates to act quickly after a highly-publicized event, while emotions are at their highest. As for the facts, gun control advocates are told, “Don’t wait for them.” Instead, “The clearest course is to advance our core message about preventing gun violence independent of facts that may shift on us over time.”

Once again, sadly, we see that advice in action. Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, for example, was using Wednesday’s televised murders in Roanoke to call for universal background checks, even before the suspect had been apprehended and before news emerged that the perpetrator had, in fact, passed a background check to buy the gun he used.

Evil and violence are terrible things, and Americans understandably react with horror and sadness when confronted by them. Yet denying reality and exploiting emotions do not solve problems. Ensuring that peaceable, responsible people have the means to defend themselves is why NRA remains resolute in its mission to defend and protect the Second Amendment.

Rather than promoting “solutions” that offer false promises, like “universal” background checks, policy makers should study what’s working redouble their efforts on those fronts. Dismissing the crime deterring benefits of firearm ownership is neither smart nor compassionate. Empowering good people to defend themselves against violence is, and this defining principle will continue to drive everything that NRA does.

Colorado’s Experience Soundly Refutes Common Anti-gun Talking Point

Last month, while addressing a group of Colorado sheriffs, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper spoke on the topic of the state’s 2013 measure outlawing almost all private transfers of firearms. According to the Denver Post, Hickenlooper told the sheriffs, “I think we screwed that up completely… we were forming legislation without basic facts.”

A new Associated Press report examining Colorado background check data in the first year of the new law proves the accuracy of Hickenlooper’s statement, and should (although likely won’t) end the repetition of an already discredited anti-gun background check factoid.

The report states that the Colorado Legislative Council, an offshoot of the state legislature that is tasked with analyzing legislation, estimated that 420,000 additional background checks would be conducted in the two years following the new private sale restrictions. This led the Colorado legislature to allocate $3 million to the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to handle the anticipated increase.

However, the AP notes, “officials have performed only about 13,600 reviews considered a result of the new law — about 7 percent of the estimated first year total.” The article goes on to state, “In total, there were about 311,000 background checks done during the first year of the expansion in Colorado, meaning the 13,600 checks between private sellers made up about 4 percent of the state total.”

How did the Colorado Legislative Council get their estimate so wildly wrong?

They relied on the same bogus statistic (that 40 percent of gun transfers occur between private parties) which gun control advocates and the White House have been using to advocate for expanded background checks all over the country.

The 40 percent statistic is from a Police Foundation survey, the results of which were published in a 1997 National Institute of Justice report titled, Guns in America: National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms. The figure has been debunked repeatedly by the NRA and others, and even earned the President “Three Pinocchios” from the Washington Post’s fact-checker for his repeated use of the misleading stat.

Unfortunately, these public admonishments haven’t deterred gun control supporters from using this absurdly inflated figure. In November, Sen. Dianne Feinstein repeated the factoid in an opinion piece for the San Jose Mercury News. As recently as early July, the Brady campaign asserted in a press release, “Approximately 40 percent of all guns sales go unchecked.” A May press release from Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety reiterated estimates “that 40 percent of gun sales occur without a background check in the U.S.” Even President Obama’s official website, whitehouse.gov, has a page for his “Now is the Time” gun control campaign that continues to claim, “Right now, federally licensed firearms dealers are required to run background checks on those buying guns, but studies estimate that nearly 40 percent of all gun sales are made by private sellers who are exempt from this requirement.”

The data from Colorado’s first year of restricted private transfers makes continued use the 40 percent figure untenable. Still, some gun control advocates might seek to blame Colorado’s low increase in background checks on scofflaws, and those unaware of changes in the law, circumventing the new restrictions. Even if these factors did have a role to play in the underwhelming check numbers, they could hardly be expected to raise the percentage of undocumented private transfers by a factor of 10. Even if they could, it would merely weaken the case of the efficacy of private transfer restrictions. Evidence of background check avoidance would simply underscore NRA’s position that background check laws cannot affect the behavior of those who intentionally or unknowingly violate them.

Colorado’s expensive foray into background check expansion should serve as a warning to state and federal legislators as to the limited effect these laws can have, and the importance of collecting the “basic facts” before crafting legislation that inhibits the rights of their constituents.

Yet the tactics of gun control supporters are nothing if not shameless, so don’t expect them to relinquish the 40 percent myth any time soon. President Obama has openly embraced the confiscatory gun bans of Australia and Great Britain, and he and other gun control radicals realize they can’t achieve that goal without registration. “Universal” background checks are the next step in that direction, so for their proponents, the ends justify their dishonest means.

For everyone else, however, Colorado’s example is a resounding reminder that the war the proponents of “universal” background checks are waging is one of ideology, not one of facts, and it is certainly not in the service of “gun safety.”

EDITORS NOTE: This column is by the NRA-ILA with accompanying graphic.

Florida HB-89 — “Threat of Force to Stop Attackers” Bill Passes

House Bill 89, Threatened Use of Force, introduced by Representatives Neil Combee (R-Auburndale) and Katie Edwards (D-Sunrise) was favorably amended and passed the Florida House Criminal Justice Committee by a bipartisan vote of 12-1. The bill currently has 29 cosponsors and with the number growing.

According to NRA-ILA, “HB-89 is a bill to stop abusive prosecutors from using 10-20-LIFE to prosecute people who ‘threaten to use deadly force’ against an attacker as a means of self-defense and to stop an attack. Some anti-gun, anti-self-defense prosecutors have been abusing the 10-20-LIFE law to prosecute average citizens who displayed a weapon or gun in self-defense to make an attacker back off.”

“Average citizens who never would have been in the system if they had not been attacked and in fear for their own safety, are being prosecuted for defending themselves. Because citizens took responsibility for their own safety, some prosecutors treat them like criminals and make them victims of a judicial system that is no longer about justice but rather about the whim or politics of prosecutors. 10-20-LIFE was passed to be used against criminals who use guns in the commission or attempted commission of crimes — NOT average citizens who rightfully defend themselves against threats of force,” notes NRA-ILA.

Voting In Favor of HB-89 were Florida Representatives Matt Gaetz, Ray Pilon, Irving Slosberg, Randolph Bracy, Mike Clelland, Dane Eagle, James Grant, Gayle Harrell, Dave Hood, Travis Hudson, Dave Kerner and Charles Van Zant.

Kionne McGhee voted Against HB-89.

FOLLOWING IS THE TESTIMONY OF MARION P. HAMMER:

HB-89 by Rep. Neil Combee & Rep. Katie Edwards
House Criminal Justice Committee
Thursday, November 7, 2013 3:00pm – 8:00pm

Thank You Mr. Chairman and Committee Members. The NRA and Unified Sportsmen of Florida support the Proposed Committee Substitute.

The simple truth is the intent of the 10-20-Life law is being violated.

10-20-Life was intended to lock up criminals who use guns during the commission or attempted commission of a crime.

10-20-Life was designed to put criminals behind bars and keep them off our streets – and to stop plea bargaining and sentence reductions for gun wielding criminals.

It was designed to stop prosecutors and judges from slapping gun-toting criminals on the wrist so they could quickly clear cases.

Folks, I was here in 1999 when we passed 10-20-Life – and NRA was a part of helping pass the law. I know what was intended and why.

10-20-Life was never intended to be used against citizens who, in an act of self-defense, threatened the use of force to stop an attacker.

It was never intended to be used on citizens who, in fear for their own safety, threaten to use force to stop an attack.

Yet that’s how some prosecutors are using it. Depending on the seriousness of the threat, they’ll try to put you in prison for 10 years or 20 years for threatening to use deadly force to protect your own life or the lives of your loved ones.

So the message from those prosecutors seems to be, if you actually use force in self defense — the law protects you But threaten to use force in self-defense, and they’re going to put you in prison for 10-20 years.

That is the cold hard reality of how some prosecutors are treating law-abiding people who never would have been in the system if they had not been attacked and in fear for their own safety.

There are people sitting in prison today who should not be there – but they are because prosecutors abused their discretion and violated the intent of 10-20-Life. This bill will stop that. Please support it.

Thank you.

Florida’s Stand Your Ground Law Stood Its Ground against attack – for now

By an overwhelming bipartisan vote of 11-2, the Florida House Criminal Justice Committee defeated House Bill 4003 by Representative Alan Williams (D). HB-4003 would have repealed Florida’s Castle Doctrine/Stand Your Ground law.

According to NRA-ILA, “House Speaker Will Weatherford kept his word.  He gave Representative Williams and his Dream Defenders the hearing they requested. Committee Chairman Matt Gaetz kept his word.  He skillfully and expertly ran a fair, open and orderly 5-hour hearing. In a structured format, each side was allowed 30 minutes for Legislators who were not on the Committee to speak on the bill. Speaking in opposition to repeal were Representative Jason Brodeur (R), Representative Marti Coley (R) and Representative Katie Edwards (D). Representative Alan Williams was the only Legislator who spoke in the 30 minute time slot allocated for legislators to speak in favor of repeal.”

Karl Etters in The Tallahassee Democrat writes, “Florida was the first state to adopt the extension of the Castle Doctrine in 2005, which includes a clause stating that a person who feels threatened has no duty to retreat, but instead can lawfully use deadly force anywhere they are lawfully allowed to be. But with more than 10 bills filed in the Florida Legislature addressing some form of self-defense, lawmakers say even without a full repeal of Stand Your Ground, there is room to make tweaks.”

Etters notes, “At a Wednesday press conference, he [Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale] said instead of focusing on a full repeal, effort should be diverted toward bills like SB 130, which denies aggressors the chance to use self-defense. Gaetz said ‘what the Senate has proposed is an exercise in style over substance. I think you’ve got a couple of senators who just want to see something pass even though it doesn’t fundamentally alter the rights of Floridians in a favorable way.’ National Rifle Association and the Unified Sportsmen of Florida President Marion Hammer said this bill ‘wipes out part of the statutes. It doesn’t tweak it; it doesn’t amend it. It doesn’t adjust it. It is a repeal’.”

Allison Neilson from Sunshine State News reports, “On their Twitter page, the Dream Defenders brought in the issue of race at the hearing, saying that every single supporter of the Stand Your Ground bill at the hearing was white. ‘Every. Single. Opponent. testifying in support of #StandYourGround has been white. Everyone.’ read the tweet. But several lawmakers dismissed the claim that the law was about race, including Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral, and Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach. Eagle dismissed the claims, saying instead the law was an issue of human rights.”

Speaking for 2 minutes each were 59 speakers from around the state (24 in support of repeal and 35 opposed to repeal). Following speakers on both sides of the issue the vote was as follows:

Voting Against the Bill To Repeal Stand Your Ground:

Representatives Matt Gaetz, Ray Pilon, Irving Slosberg, Mike Clelland, Dane Eagle, James Grant, Gayle Harrell, Dave Hood, Travis Hutson, Dave Kerner and Charles VanZant.

Voting in Favor of the Bill to Repeal  Stand Your Ground

Randolph Bracy and Kionne McGhee.

Currently twenty-two states have some form of an expanded self-defense law that extends to public places, while others only cover a person’s vehicle or business.