Is There a Gun Violence Problem in America?

The following article was originally published on OpsLens.com on Nov 13th, 2016.

By Chris Wagoner:

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After being a cop for over 35 years now teaching police recruits full time at a police academy and having been involved in several OIS (officer involved shootings) you would think that if anyone had seen all the violence that guns have caused in America and how bad the gun violence problem is, it would be me. You would think as a cop I should be against citizens having firearms, especially on their person, because it will make me more unsafe as a cop, right? If you thought along the lines of what the media keeps on shoving at us, I should be the number one advocate for more gun laws and stricter “gun control” to stop the rampant “gun violence sweeping America” as one paper put it. But there seems to be a problem, and it’s not “gun violence”.

The problem remains, if you start to look at the research, the numbers and the incidents of firearms being used in murders and crimes over the years are just not the numbers to support the claim by most media outlets that gun violence is a huge problem. In fact, it’s on a steep decline! The numbers and the claims just don’t add up. In addition to that, my experience on the streets of Broward County Florida beg to say different than the media. When you look at the numbers and really look at what is happening over the last say 20 years or so, you will come to realize that the gun violence problem in America is actually a made-up problem that does not exist and has been created by the anti-gun crowds to try and remove guns from America. It has actually been declining year after year for decades! So what are they talking about and why do they push the news on gun violence so much? What could possibly be the reason?

Well let’s look at the FACTS first and make sure to get them from a reputable, unbiased source like the Department of Justice (DOJ), where crime and gun violence is intensely studied. I read over several reports and what I found did not surprise me.  Yet, if you tell this to someone who is in the “gun violence is a problem” group, they will try and tell you that you are crazy and a liar. I know, that’s what I was told, along with other things they called me. But you can’t argue with cold hard facts. So here are a few that you can use to talk to your uninformed anti-gun, anti-Second Amendment friends (if you have any).

First and foremost, firearm homicides make up a very small, even tiny part of firearms related crimes. According to the DOJ report titled, “Firearm Violence, 1993-2011”, firearm homicides make up about 2% of all-firearm related crimes. You got that right, about 2%. In fact they say in the report “There were 11,101 firearm homicides in 2011, down by 39% from a high of 18,253 in 1993.” Now, the first thing an anti-gun person may say is “Ah ha! But that’s just the murders, what about all those who were shot but didn’t die? They are still victims!” Of course you simply continue on with your facts, “Nonfatal firearm crimes declined 69%, from 1.5 million victimizations in 1993 to 467,300 victimizations in 2011.” Those declined even more than the murders have.

But what about those big black scary “assault weapons” we keep hearing they want to ban. Surly you can’t argue that they are not a huge problem in America with all the mass shootings. Well again, we should read and look at the numbers. The use of rifles are a very small part of crimes committed with a firearm and according to DOJ, “About 70% to 80% of firearm homicides and 90% of nonfatal firearm victimizations were committed with a handgun from 1993 to 2011.” What? You mean that those assault weapons are not the ones that are killing everyone? Well of the ever declining number of murders committed by firearm, they are the smallest section, yet seem to garner the largest cry for banning. Kind of makes you wonder why, doesn’t it?

The next point to make is that not all firearm related crimes resulted in someone being injured. Even when a firearm is used in a crime only 23% of the victims were injured. But remember that the big bad assault rifles are the real problem in America. Isn’t that what you have been told over and over? Really? According to the DOJ report, “A handgun was used in about 83% of all firearm homicides in 1994, compared to 73% in 2011. Other types of firearms, such as shotguns and rifles, accounted for the remainder of firearm homicides. For nonfatal firearm violence, about 9 in 10 were committed with a handgun, and this remained stable from 1994 to 2011.”

What about the argument that guns are just too easy to get and that anyone can buy a gun in from a gun shop, flea market, and of course, the dreaded “Gun Show”. Well we know that is not the case either, the same report debunks that myth, “In 2004, among state prison inmates who possessed a gun at the time of offense, fewer than 2% bought their firearm at a flea market or gun show, about 10% purchased it from a retail store or pawnshop, 37% obtained it from family or friends, and another 40% obtained it from an illegal source”.

What about citizens with firearms? We know they NEVER really stop crime with their own guns so why does the average citizen need to carry or even have a firearm for that matter? First and foremost because it’s a Constitutional right. What other rights do you have that were hated as much as this one and then taken from you and sold back in the form of a license for a fee? Do we have to buy a “Freedom to Speak” card to talk in public? Purchase a license to write or publish something freely? No of course not. It’s a Constitutional right, just as it is to bear arms. Yet that right has been overly litigated, legislated, and licensed to the point that it is no longer a right as it should be and has become more of a privilege. If our founders could only see us now, they would probably wonder why we have not had a second revolution. The Supreme Court of the United States is not supposed to decide if the Constitution itself is Constitutional rather, laws that are made that conflict with it are. The first law to regulate firearms in America should have been struck down as it violated that right. All we have to do is go back to the same report and guess what we find, the fact that Americans DO AND HAVE used firearms to defend themselves, and not just a few hundred but hundreds of thousands! According to the report, “In 2007-11, there were 235,700 victimizations where the victim used a firearm to threaten or attack an offender.” That’s right, almost a quarter of a million people defended themselves from criminals with a firearm! Look at the states in the US that have Constitutional carry of firearms and see what problems with gun violence they have. I think you may be surprised.

So where is all that “gun violence” we hear about in the media? They make it seem like it’s the number one cause of death for Americans. They make it seem like crime with guns is on the rise and at all-time highs. Firearm violence in America is an “epidemic” that must be stopped! The only problem I see is that not one of those statements is true or even close to being true. Murder by firearm (or any other way for that matter) is at an all-time low and still declining. Gun violence has been declining for years and continues to do so. Victims continue to defend themselves from attackers with lawfully obtained firearms.

So the next time someone tells you that “gun violence” is a problem in America, you can politely tell them they are uninformed, unread, uneducated, brainwashed by the media and do not know what the hell they are talking about. Introduce them to the facts and then drop the microphone and walk away. In my next piece, I will be talking about what has caused this drop in violent firearm related murders and the likely reason for all the good news. Until then, carry your lawfully concealed or open-carried firearm wherever permitted by law and be safe.

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Is it Too Easy to Buy a Firearm in the U.S.?

This article was originally published on OpsLens.com on Nov 10th, 2016.

By Chris Wagoner:

Well, I have to tell you what inspired me to write this Op-ed was how blatant the misinformation and fear of an inanimate object can drastically alter perception versus reality.  In many cases, out of such fear, people do, say, and write extremely uneducated things about topics they know very little about.

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I read a story written by Helen Ubinas, a journalist (@Notesfromhel), who, the day after the Pulse Night Club shooting, wanted to see how easy it was to buy an AR-15 rifle. What she failed to realize, if that she should have educated herself about firearms and how to purchase them before trying to write a story, is that law abiding citizens can purchase them in an efficient manner. The title of her article kind of gives you an idea of the slant that it takes, “I bought an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle in Philly in 7 minutes.”

My first response to that title was that is pretty good customer service for most gun stores! My problem I have is I know all the guys and girls in my local stores and I always spend an hour or two or three just shooting the breeze and talking about guns and training. So, to be able to buy an AR-15 in 7 minutes speaks highly of the shop and the system as a whole. First let’s be clear; she is not a prohibited person. She is not a wanted or convicted felon. She is not addicted to drugs or alcohol (at least she swore to that on the ATF form) and she has not been diagnosed as mentally incompetent. So why should she not be able to buy an AR-15? Did she have evil intentions? No, she thought she was proving a point. And she did, but maybe not the one she meant to. More on that later.

So, she walks into a Philly gun store and tells the sales person she wants to buy an AR-15, but is on a budget. She goes onto say how “insanely easy” it was to buy the gun, fill out some paperwork, undergo a background check, and once passed pay for the rifle and out the door she went. Now, at this point is where she went terribly wrong with her whole premise. She says that the easy access to guns is why we have all the problems, murders and various other ailments in the US (even though Murder is at an all-time low over the last 25 years or so, according to the FBI UCR Reports on Violent Crime). She states in here article “If it wasn’t so appallingly easy to get a gun in this country, it wouldn’t be easy for the next gunman to deliver the kind of carnage that’s as much a part of this country as the American flag.” She goes onto mention the Newtown, Conn shooting and says “If it wasn’t so easy to get a gun in this country, another gunman who came before him wouldn’t have been able to use the same kind of firearm to kill elementary-school children in Newtown, Conn.” REALLY!?! Did she not research her story at all? The Newtown, Conn mass murderer shot his own mother to death to gain access to guns. He didn’t go buy them at a store.

Many people do not understand firearms because they fear them and don’t think rationally or try to understand something they are afraid of. I was always taught that if you face your fear and try to understand it, you will no longer fear it. I had a simple experiment that she could have done that would have helped her understand how it’s the person not the firearm that is the problem. Load that new rifle, place it in an obvious place in your home and watch it very carefully! It will not shoot and kill anyone, it will not go out and commit a mass murder, and in fact it will not even go off, not once! You see it’s the person behind the trigger that is the issue, not the firearm itself.

Ms. Ubinas took her firearm to a local police department and turned it over to them. Well at least law enforcement got a new firearm to use. And now in the hands of one of the officers, that same firearm she was so afraid of could be used to cause death and mayhem, could actually save a life. She proved her own premise was nothing more than just plain lack of education on firearms and fear, unreasonable, unwarranted fear of firearms.

Over the years, I have told more people than I can count that firearms are not evil. They are not mass murderers, and they do not kill people. It’s the person behind the trigger that is the issue. I carried a firearm for more than 36 years now, and had to use mine three times to defend my life or the lives of others. The firearm I used had nothing to do with the shootings, other than being the tool I had to use at the time to protect myself and others. Firearms are NOT ALIVE and DO NOT DECIDE TO KILL. I get so tired of trying to explain to people who have this irrational fear of firearms for some reason that they are not bad, evil things. They are tools that are used by many people for good and righteous things. Protecting lives, hunting for food (I only hunt what I eat), and for sport.

I invite Ms. Ubinas to join me for an afternoon at the gun range for some instruction and shooting time. I think that after actually seeing how safe firearms can be, when handled correctly and by people that are not intent on mass murder, she might have more information to base her writing on. You see firearms availability is not the issue. Firearms with 30 round magazines are not the issue, and the looks or design of the firearm is not the problem. Evil in the hearts of some people is the problem. After all of my years as a cop, I have seen the evil that one person can do to another. Pure unadulterated evil, and it has nothing to do with the tool used. I have seen humans use knives, bats, ice picks, pipes, boards, swords, and all manner of other weapon used to kill and mutilate other humans. It would not have mattered what was used, the person that committed those acts would have done so regardless of the availability of firearms. Education is the key to understanding the issues as they exist in reality.

Ask yourself these questions and if you can answer them, then you are way more informed than the supposedly professional journalist. What percentage of firearms deaths is done with a rifle vs. handgun? What percentage of all murders is done with a firearm? What weapons are used more than firearms? You can find the answer to these and other questions you may have in the FBI’s Report on Violent Crime in America. What you may find, may (or may not) surprise you. Firearms are not the issue that they are made out to be. Millions of firearms are in the hands of law abiding citizens and never have caused, and never will cause, any injuries or deaths. It’s not the firearm that is the issue, it’s the person behind the trigger. Make guns illegal and only criminals will have guns, since they don’t follow the laws anyway. Don’t let fear run your life and blind your intellect.

As I said before Ms. Ubinas was trying to prove a point, that it is easy to buy a firearm in the US. She is partially correct. For a person who is not a felon, not addicted to drugs or alcohol, not deemed mentally incompetent and is otherwise known as a law-abiding citizen in most circles, it should not be difficult to buy a firearm. Again, she simply proved the store she chose for her “experiment” followed the rules, did the background check, and had impeccable customer service!

Fact or Fiction: The Gun Show Loophole

The following article was originally published on OpsLens.com on Nov 7th, 2016.

By Chris Wagoner:

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Well, I was asked on one of the Facebook pages I like to read why I was against “Common Sense Gun Control” and I must confess I was a little shocked. Why did this person think I was against any kind of gun control and what in the heck was this common sense gun control they were talking about all the time?

So I asked one of the people in the group (I will reveal what group in a bit…) “why you are against closing the deadly loopholes in our background check system?”

Again I sat there and was stymied. What loophole were they talking about? Were they talking about the “Gun Show Loophole” that so many people talk about but when asked what it is they can’t tell you for sure? Then, they went on to say that the loophole allows “minors and dangerous people like felons and domestic abusers easy access to guns.”

I almost fell out of my chair! What?! There are loopholes that allow this to happen? Of course I am against those types of people getting firearms illegally, I am against anyone getting a firearm illegally, key word being… illegally! But wait, it’s already illegal for them to buy firearms by law, so what loophole? A loophole is something that allows one to legally skirt the spirit of a law is it not? Not doing something that is already illegal, right? I was confused.

I responded to the now wound up member of this group, “what loophole are you talking about?” Then it came out, they replied “the gun show loophole”.

“What is that?” I asked.

“The gun show loophole allows anyone to walk into a gun show and buy a firearm without a background check, none, no checks at all.” They said, thinking they had me now. I would have to agree with them now, right?

“But it’s already illegal for someone who is not eligible to buy a firearm, like “minors and dangerous people like felons and domestic abusers” as they cited before, I said. “So it is a loophole that something is already illegal?” I went on to explain there is no such thing as a gun show loophole. The laws that apply outside the gun show, apply inside the gun show also. At most gun shows I have been to, most of the sellers in the show are Federal Firearms License holders. There are a few private sellers, but not all that many. All sales by a FFL dealer, regardless of location (in their store, gun show, or in a home) requires they do a background check on the buyer before selling the firearm. No exceptions (loopholes), even cops have to go through the background checks, and rightfully so.

So what they are really talking about is private sales. The transaction of selling a firearm from one private party to another. But if they had bothered to check, it is already a law (and a Federal Law to boot!) that even during a private sale of a firearm, it is illegal for a prohibited person to buy a firearm and for someone to sell them a firearm. Federal law (18 U.S.C. § 922[g] [1-9]) prohibits certain individuals from possessing firearms, ammunition, or explosives. The penalty for violating this law is ten years imprisonment and/or a $250,000 fine. And guess who is on that list! Felons, Fugitives, drug or alcohol abusers, people adjudicated as mentally defective, dishonorably discharged former military, domestic abusers, even people who have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence. So there is already a very stiff Federal Law that prohibits these people from buying and selling firearms.

So in reality, there is no such thing as the “gun show loophole”. That is simply not true and does not exist.

Then, I wondered why so many people have taken up that mantra of “common sense gun control” and what do they know about current gun control laws? Well, if the above incident (which is fictitious but based on several conversations I have had with gun control advocates, the quoted text above is actually from the Mission statement of the group called “Mom’s Demand Action”. Their mission statement is already reality and illegal and they don’t even know it!

So in reality, how many of these prohibited people actually buy firearms from gun shows? How big of a problem is it? And what about other places? Well it just so happens that information is available from none other than the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics. In their “Special Report, Firearm Violence, 1993-2011” published May of 2013, Report number NCJ 241730, they have some very interesting numbers they talk about. And remember this is the US Department of Justice, not some gun nut support group.

Here are just a couple of interesting quotes from this report:

In 2010, the rate of firearm homicide was 10.7 per 100,000 for persons ages 18 to 24, compared to 8.1 for persons ages 25 to 34 and 0.3 for persons age 11 or younger.” &From 1993 to 2010, the rate of homicides for persons ages 18 to 24 declined 51%, compared to a 35% decline for persons ages 25 to 34 and 50% for persons age 11 or younger.”

Really? Homicides are down that much? Then what is the problem? What about those darn Gun Shows that sell guns to just anyone (remember that’s false!) Well I went on to read this:

In 2004, among state prison inmates who possessed a gun at the time of offense, fewer than 2% bought their firearm at a flea market or gun show, about 10% purchased it from a retail store or pawnshop, 37% obtained it from family or friends, and another 40% obtained it from an illegal source (table 14). This was similar to the percentage distribution in 1997.”

And what Table 14 shows is that of the criminals interviewed (that’s how they got all this information) LESS THAN 0.8% bought their firearms at a gun show. What? You mean that all this noise about the “gun show loophole” aside from the fact it is not even real, the statistics show gun shows are not even a large problem? Did you catch the fact that most criminals get their guns illegally? 40% got their firearms illegally, either theft or burglary, drug deals, or black market. So why are these groups not focusing on the real problems? The ones that are really causing the issues? Because they do not want to listen to the facts, figures and logic.

So why not actually concentrate on the real problems that result in these guns getting into the wrong hands? Why not have universal background checks? Because you are only going to get law abiding citizens to do them, criminals are called criminals because they do not follow the law and will not follow UBC’s. Remember they do not get their guns from legitimate sources, they get them from other illegal sources.

And what about how simple it is to buy a firearm on the internet? You know, like a lot of the politicians have said, you can go online and buy a firearm and have it sent to your home. Well again I have to inform our good intended, but poorly informed politicians, no you can’t as a rule. Again where do they get these false ideas, and doesn’t anyone research anything anymore? If you buy a firearm from a Licensed Firearms dealer the firearm must be sent to another licensed firearms dealer near you where you go and pay a transfer fee and wait for it while a background check is performed! After that, you may take your firearm home. But what about buying one from a private person? Well those same Federal Laws I mentioned before still apply, regardless of how you buy a firearm or where you buy it from. If you are a prohibited person, it doesn’t matter where or how you try to get the firearm, you are breaking the Federal Law! Those darn pesky facts again, always getting in the way of things.

You know the old saying, if you repeat something often enough it will be believed as fact? Guess who constantly repeats these false statements about buying firearms? The anti-gun groups like “Everytown USA” & “Mom’s Demand Action” among a few. The mainstream media is also at fault for spreading false information on these issues.

So, the next time you discuss with someone the topic of “Common Sense Gun Control” or that pesky “Gun Show Loophole” your BS meter should be pegged at high! There are already stiff laws on the books to prevent prohibited people from buying or even someone selling to these people. So what other laws do they want to put in place that are already not on the books? Ask them that and see where the conversation goes.

Oh and as a side note, you know what happens when you tell someone that their mission statement for their group is flawed and based on a non-existent problem? They ban you from talking to them on social media. Truly a mature way to discuss issues, but hey, I have been banned from better groups than these. Obviously, perpetuating the truth in this case is harder than perpetuating the lie.