August 13, 2019 10:57:30 AM
Response to column on guns
The August 12th Dispatch edition included Mona Charen's 'State of the Nation' column on proposals for gun reform. In that column Charen initially gives 'equal opportunity' criticism to arguments on both sides of the issue and I applaud that approach. However, while Ms. Charen provides substantive evidence in support of her argument that stronger background checks might not work as well as their proponents claim, her arguments regarding the AK-47 and AR-15, which she describes as 'frequent targets of gun controllers' interest', strike me as disingenuous. While she correctly describes those two models as having firing rates similar to those of the "vast majority of guns owned by Americans" she suddenly stops citing statistics. To evaluate her argument here, we'd need to know specifically what type of guns are this 'vast majority' and what their average firing velocity actually is relative to those of the AR-15 and AK-47. Charen provides neither. May I also point out that the shooter who killed nearly 60 people used an AR-15 - with a bump stock? Because Ms. Charen did not. Adding a bump stock to an AR-15, as the Las Vegas shooter appears to have done, roughly triples the firing rate, closer to that of a true automatic weapon than it is to an unmodified AR-15.
She then uses the argument on firing rates as a springboard to advancing a detailed argument that our culture has a 'masculinity problem' which fosters the 'borderline young men' who come 'from unstable families' that ultimately provide the bulk of the mass shooters. Again, Charen provides absolutely no data/evidence in support of this notion. None whatsoever. In light of her meticulous statistics on background checks, this departure from the evidence is particularly glaring. Further, it is all too easy to poke an initial hole in her assertion: black families are nearly 3 times as likely to have single-parent families as white families (data from a 2018 report at kidscount.org). How many black mass shooters can you point to?
I disagree with Charen that we can so easily point to just one factor at the root of the gun problem in the US. At least, not if that one factor is 'family stability'. I can't say whether or not Ms. Charen's real goal is to move the discussion away from banning certain assault rifles and related equipment, but, either way, she hasn't convinced me that the spotlight shouldn't be placed squarely there until evidence shows otherwise.