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Sunday, January 15, 2012

Christmas shooting certain to whip up anti-gun hysteria

Joe Konopka
Joe Konopka

On Christmas Day, 24-year-old Dover resident Jessica Rivera-Padilla called 911. Her boyfriend had been shot. Police arrested Rivera-Padilla on the charge of manslaughter. She’s now on her way to becoming a statistic.

Whatever led to this gruesome incident on a day celebrated for peace on earth will no doubt be the subject of legal proceedings for months to come. There’s also no doubt it will be added to the talking points of anti-gun activists.

None of the circumstances will matter. All that will be documented is that a gun was fired and someone was killed. This, you see, is fuel for anti-gun agendas. Guns are evil. They kill people. Never mind that guns also save lives; that’s irrelevant.

Gun-control advocates always point to the 1986 study by doctors Arthur Kellermann and Don Reay that established the guns-are-evil conviction. It’s titled, “Protection or Peril? An Analysis of Firearms-Related Deaths in the Home.”

It claimed the ratio of gun-related deaths (murder, suicide, accidental death) compared to justifiable homicides was 43 to 1. From this came the claim that a gun in the home is 43 times more likely to kill a household member than to kill a criminal in self-defense.

That’s certainly disturbing. This finding probably discouraged many firearm purchases. No one questioned it until Dave Kopel wrote “The Fallacy of ‘43 to 1’” (

Now for the rest of the story.

When the study’s methodology is applied to nonfirearm deaths, the flaw upon which it’s based becomes apparent. The ratio of nonfirearm deaths (murder, suicide, accidental death) compared to justifiable homicides is 99 to 1. That means a nonfirearm assault is 99 times more likely to kill a household member than to kill a criminal in self-defense. See the problem?

This is more than twice the rate of gun-related deaths. Yet the study’s authors ignored the more significant 99:1 ratio. They focused instead on the lower 43:1 ratio that vilified firearms and fed anti-gun hysteria.

That’s not all. Adding gun-related suicides to the calculation distorts the findings. Suicides should have been excluded. Guns don’t cause suicide; they’re merely a means of implementation.

Had guns not been available, other means would have been employed. Indeed, a study by Florida State University criminologist Gary Kleck concluded that introducing gun-control laws doesn’t affect suicide rates.

Despite these flaws, the Kellermann-Reay finding became an accepted truth. So from 1986 until recently, the “43 times” statistic appeared extensively in the mainstream media as a fact.

That this study bamboozled the public is regrettable, but there’s more. Neither counted nor documented are the times when the mere suspicion that a targeted victim might possess a firearm stops commission of a crime.

Such instances can’t be proven, but common sense says they exist. If that’s not enough, then statistics from Kennesaw, Ga., might suffice.

Back in 1982, the Kennesaw City Council passed a law mandating that heads of households acquire at least one firearm with ammunition. Hysteria across the country predicted “shootings in the street and violence in homes.”

Yet Robert Jones, president of the Kennesaw Historical Society, says that after the law was passed, the Kennesaw crime rate dropped by 89 percent. During that time, Georgia’s overall crime rate decreased merely 10 percent.

In 1981, Kennesaw had seen 11 burglaries for every 1,000 residents. After 1982, that rate plummeted and stayed down. Kennesaw Police Department records show the most recent rate is at 0.243 per 1,000.

That’s enviable. However, the rest of us live in an increasingly crime-prone, home-invasion, flash-mob society. Morals, religious beliefs and respect for law that once discouraged criminality are no longer embraced by modern culture. Hence, law-abiding people are progressively more vulnerable.

That’s a problem. Police cannot be everywhere to protect everyone. Individuals have to take responsibility for self-protection.

Even so, anti-gun states place restrictions on self-defense, forcing their residents to be good victims. By contrast, New Hampshire’s legislators appreciated that need and re-crafted the law to accommodate it.

Now, the Granite State’s legal code regarding protection of life and property creates uncertainty for criminals –─they’re uncertain which likely victim might respond with deadly force. That uncertainty also benefits those who choose not to carry a weapon.

Yet the price of self-protection is risk. The death of Jessica Rivera-Padilla’s boyfriend exemplifies that. Regardless of how gun-control advocates might spin this tragedy, the bad judgment of one does not undo the good judgment of the many.

Were that not so, none of us would have driver’s licenses.

Joe Konopka, of Hudson, is a freelance columnist. His column appears on the third Sunday of the month. E-mail him at