The NRA's self-defence argument is untrue: here is why

RTR39UM3ReutersMorgan Meritt of Del City, Oklahoma, joins other members of the Oklahoma Open Carry Association (OKOCA) wearing unconcealed side arms as they gather at Beverly’s Pancake House in Oklahoma City November 1, 2012.

A mass shooting at a historic black church in Charleston, South Carolina this week has once again pushed the issue of gun control in America to the forefront. On Thursday, in a speech addressing the Charleston shootings, President Barack Obama reaffirmed his stance on gun control.

“We don’t have all the facts, but we do know that once again, innocent people were killed in part because someone who wanted to inflict harm had no trouble getting their hand on a gun,” Obama said.

Naturally, this warranted a response from pro-gun advocates, and a message on a pro-gun site attributed to National Rifle Association board member Charles Cotton suggested the solution to gun violence was more guns.

The message on the website — where Cotton is listed as an administrator — appeared to blame South Carolina State Senator Clementa Pinckney for the shooting because he’d voted against a bill to expand the right to carry concealed guns to churches back in 2011. Pinckney was one of nine people killed on Wednesday.

“[Pinckney] voted against concealed-carry,” the message attributed to Cotton noted. “Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.”

The old adage of “a good guy with a gun will stop a bad guy with a gun” has been a favourite of the NRA for years. It was used after the mass shootings in Newtown, Connecticut and Aurora, Colorado.

The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” NRA President Wayne LaPierre said in response to the shootings in 2012 at an elementary school in Newtown.

As Mother Jones reports, a key talking point of the NRA is that firearms are frequently used in self-defence — as often as 760,000 times every year.

But a new study released this month by the Violence Policy Center — a gun control nonprofit — analysed FBI data on gun violence and found that the NRA’s number of 760,000 instances of self-defence is wildly overstated and that guns are used much more often to commit crimes than to defend against them.

Overall, in the five-year period examined by the study, there were a total of 29,618,300 victims of attempted or completed violent crimes. Guns were used to defend against them 235,700 times, or about 0.8% of the time.

The study said 13 states did not have any instances of justifiable gun homicide in 2012, adding that gun violence carries a $US229 billion dollar price tag in America every year.

In theory, the argument that armed churchgoers could have prevented Dylann Roof from killing 9 people may be true. But as reality has proven, good people with guns very rarely stop bad people with guns.

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