Sunday, February 24, 2008

Dr. Coburn's Latest Obstructionist Ploy (Hint: It Involves Loaded Guns)

The Sooner State's junior U.S. senator, Dr. Tom Coburn, is at it again. Always the contrarian, Sen. Coburn is blocking a bipartisan public lands bill on behalf of the gun lobby.

Coburn's latest budgetary ploy is an attempt to "overturn decades-old safety regulation barring people from carrying loaded guns in national parks," New York Times noted this week. The paper points out that Coburn is threatening to block the public lands bill "unless it includes his amendment to allow the packing of live firearms in the parks."

And why are loaded weapons in national parks a good idea? Coburn's office, the paper reported, could only offer a Death Wish movie scenario, saying that guns locked in your trunk are no use when a rapist is attacking your family.

Yikes! Talk about some seriously over-the-top fear-mongering. 

If we understand the Coburn position correctly, it would be better to have all park visitors armed and ready at all times just in case there's a maniac on the loose. 

A more sensible approach to guns in the park has been advanced by a group of retired park rangers, who have warned that loaded guns in national parks would increase the risk to public safety and make poaching in the parks much easier.

The Times argues that Coburn's amendment is "another attempt by the gun lobby to extend laissez-faire gun rights to college campuses, churches, and workplaces even as the nation suffers firearm fatalities and rampages that take 30,000 lives a year."

Thirty thousand lives a year—that's an amazing (and horrifying) statistic. And it's a statistic unlikely to diminish if we follow Sen. Coburn's "shoot 'em up" idea.

Let's be clear: We're not arguing that the government should take guns from its citizens. (That's not about to happen, in any case.) But neither do we believe that the Second Amendment gives every citizen an absolute right to be armed anywhere and everywhere.

National parks, for instance, might be a place where even gun-lovers can unload their weapons for a time. That hardly seems like a full-bore assault on the Second Amendment.

Reasonable restrictions on gun use and gun possession make common sense and serve the greater good. Dr. Coburn, who has made a professional pledge to "Do No Harm," ought to drop his obstructionist amendment.


Dan Paden said...

I can't help but wonder how your perspective might change if you had a relative or two whose lives had been saved when they brandished a firearm. Makes a difference in your thinking, that's for sure.

I well remember that before Oklahoma's concealed-carry law was passed, opponents prophesied carnage in the streets. Since that time, the prophesied carnage has completely failed to materialize, but I haven't heard of anyone admitting their error.

For some interesting additional perspective, particularly as regards the number of lives saved every year by the brandishing or use of firearms, you might find John Lott's More Guns, Less Crime interesting. It's boring as all get-out, just ream after ream of statistics and analysis, but don't let that stop you.

The problem you face in making your case is that it is hard for any two people to agree on what is "reasonable." Personally, I think it entirely reasonable for people with a concealed-carry license to carry their firearms pretty much anywhere--including national parks.

Tulsan said...

Another reason for park visitors to disarm might be that all the gunfire would disturb the bears. Or maybe we should arm the bears, too.


"(Lott) is unabashedly libertarian and may not be an unbiased source for research on gun-related issues...according to him, 'the worst thing people can expect from dioxin is a bad rash.' Two days after the Jonesboro schoolyard shootings, Lott called for arming teachers as the solution to preventing such tragedies. Most recently, Lott has argued that the hiring of more women and minorities in law enforcement has actually increased crime rates.

"Both Lott's book and his study have been reviewed by academics from a wide range of disciplines from criminology to public health. Many of these scholars found serious, fundamental flaws in Lott's methodology and found his claims to be unsubstantiated.

"Unfortunately, while flaws in his research have been widely documented in scientific literature - and his findings dismissed by numerous, prominent researchers - the gun lobby has successfully used Dr. Lott's flawed conclusions to persuade several state legislatures to loosen CCW restrictions in the mid-90's."

Dan Paden said...

Dr. Lott responds to accusations of bias in the second edition of his book.

Now, seriously, rather than just taking the Brady Campaign's word for it--my goodness, they couldn't possibly be biased themselves, could they?--why not at least peruse the thing when you get a chance?

Tulsan said...

Lott is one interesting dude.


"In 'More Guns, Less Crime,' Lott writes that 'since in many defensive cases a handgun is simply brandished, and no one is harmed, many defensive uses are never even reported to the police'. Attempting to quantify this phenomenon, in the first edition of the book, published in May 1998, Lott wrote that 'national surveys' suggested that '98 percent of the time that people use guns defensively, they merely have to brandish a weapon to break off an attack.' He cited the figure frequently in the media, including publications like the Wall Street Journal and the Los Angeles Times.

However, critics challenged the statistic, and in the book's second edition, the phrasing was changed to indicate that the percentage came from a study Lott himself had conducted. Critics then contended that he never actually performed the study, and when asked for proof, Lott responded that a bookcase fell on his computer and the documentation of the study was lost."

(Tulsan: This weak excuse is a higher-tech version of "the dog ate my homework.")

"In early 2003, some critics suggested that Lott had created and used 'Mary Rosh' as a fake persona to defend his own works on Usenet and elsewhere. Although Lott initially denied the practice, after investigative work by blogger Julian Sanchez, Lott admitted to use of the Rosh persona, but insists that he had not done anything academically unusual, let alone unprofessional.

"Lott's opponents, however, maintain that several uses of his nom de plume transgressed normal practice, arguing that he praised himself while posing as one of his former students, and that 'Rosh' and other sock puppets were used to post favorable reviews of his books on and Barnes & Noble and bad reviews of books by his rivals. Lott has stated that the 'Rosh' reviews had been written by his son and wife."

"(He) was the chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission (1988–1989), before taking a position at the American Enterprise Institute. In 2006, he left AEI."

(Tulsan: AEI is a so-called "wingnut welfare" think tank. It seems unlikely he would produce any research with findings contrary to the orientation of his highly partisan employer.)

Tulsan said...

AEI in the news a year ago:

"A think tank (AEI) partly funded by Exxon Mobil sent letters to scientists offering them up to $10,000 to critique findings in a major global warming study released Friday which found that global warming was real and likely caused by burning fossil fuels."

Tulsan: That story was a black eye, publicity-wise, for AEI.

Dan Paden said...

Knowing how things tend to be in this world, I'm inclined to take your data on Dr. Lott with a grain of salt, but for the sake of argument, since I'm not willing to go do the research to prove you wrong, let's say that the alleged indiscretions do in fact invalidate his figures regarding brandished firearms: do you really mean to say that you don't think that firearms in the hands of private citizens save lives and stop crime? One of the reasons that Dr. Lott's material made sense to me is that it squared so nicely with what I know to be true from real life--that is, at least one of my relatives was able to avoid probable violent assault by brandishing her snubnose .38, and she never reported the incident to the police, at least as far as I know.

Apparently your experience differs? You have some experience of otherwise law-abiding people committing unwarranted mayhem with their firearms?

Dan Paden said...

I did go and look for material about the accusations against Dr. Lott. Sadly, it appears from his own words that they are, in the main, accurate.

It's sad. I expect that the majority of information in his book is accurate--as I said, it certainly squares with the experience of people I know--but the reality is that his lapse of judgement vis-a-vis the Mary Rosh thing makes it impossible to effectively cite his work, accurate or not.


But I still don't think it does any harm for concealed-carry permit-holders to carry their firearms pretty much wherever they like.

Tulsan said...

Unfortunately, the gun culture is probably here to stay in the U.S. It's partly a carryover from our romanticized Wild West history.

I used to hear gun enthusiasts defend their hobby thusly: "If the government takes away our guns, that's the first step to taking away our rights. If enough people have guns, they won't be able to do it."

In retrospect, it appears that line was a lot of hot air. They seem perfectly happy to let the government tap their phones without restriction and to turn their country over to a "unitary executive," rolling over and waving the flag all the way. The owning of guns, period, must have been their real interest. Is a rich fantasy life adequate compensation for what is lost?

All that said, with millions of unregistered guns in this country, I would want the option to buy one to defend myself from errant members of that motley group if need be. Too bad it's that way.

To quote an Aussie reviewer of Lott's book on Amazon: "If the right to bear arms leads to less crime and a safer society, then the Wild West must have been a model of politeness and non-violence. Yeah, right."

Tulsan said...

I almost didn't mention Lott's sock puppetry. While questionable from a professional standpoint, it wouldn't matter if his research was sound and replicable.

Gun research conducted under the aegis of AEI is about as credible as lung cancer studies from the Tobacco Institute.

Dan Paden said...

...I would want the option to buy one to defend myself...

Well, barnacles, if you're all for the right to buy and possess firearms to exercise your God-given right to self-defense, we're not that far apart.

I'm almost tempted to say, "Welcome to the NRA!"

Tulsan said...

Please don't :)