L.A. Times Cites Claim by Pro-Gun Control Group As If It Came From Some Neutral “Policy Center” on Guns
The L.A. Times has a piece titled Tough gun control laws linked to lower death rates. The piece touts the findings from a “San Francisco-based policy center on gun control laws”:
A San Francisco-based policy center on gun control laws has produced a report that says states with strict gun laws have the lowest gun-related death rates. In contrast, it reports, states with the highest per capita gun death rates have “weak” gun laws.
The study by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence is touted by Sen. Leland Yee (D-San Francisco) as support for his own legislation tightening California’s current assault weapon ban. The bill, SB47, would prohibit semiautomatic weapons from having devices that allow them to carry high-capacity magazines or easily be reloaded with multiple rounds of ammunition. A similar version of the bill failed to pass in 2012.
I found this a rather eye-opening claim, since it’s pretty well accepted that gun control laws are not proven to work, and that gun violence tends to be higher in places with stricter gun control laws. As this piece at the Daily Caller explains:
The main problem with gun-control laws is that they don’t work. Florida State University criminology professor Gary Kleck, a political liberal and one-time supporter of gun-control laws, has been studying guns and their effect on violence and crime since 1976. What he’s found is that gun-control laws have no net effect on violence or crime rates, because the benefits of widespread gun ownership cancel out the costs.
Which made me curious about this “San Francisco-based policy center on gun control laws.” Just who are these people, and why do we care about their claims as to the efficacy of gun control laws? The L.A. Times piece repeatedly refers to the the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence as “the law center”:
“It is a fact that strong gun laws work and weak laws result in the loss of innocent lives,” Yee said.
Yee notes that the law center cited low per-capita gun death rates in Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — states that the law center identified as having some of the toughest gun laws in the country.
He failed to mention the law center also included California on its list of states with the strongest gun control laws and lowest gun-releated deaths. The center declares California has the toughest gun control laws in the nation and gives the state an “A minus” on its report card, a designation shared only with New Jersey and Massachussetts.
The highest per-capita gun death rates were in Alaska, Louisiana, Montana, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Wyoming, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi — states that the law center said have weak gun control laws.
The center was formed by Bay area lawyers in 1993 following an assault weapon rampage at a San Francisco law office that ended with 10 people dead and six wounded.
One thing that is not mentioned: whether this “law center” or “San Francisco-based policy center on gun control laws” has a point of view. Is it fair to assume that an organization whose title is about preventing gun violence is necessarily pro gun control? I don’t think it is. I am all in favor or preventing gun violence, but I am not a fan of gun control for law-abiding citizens.
Without a clear statement that this is a pro gun control group, the reader is left with the notion that, perhaps, this “law center” is simply devoted to doing research, and following the facts wherever they lead.
Yeah, not quite.
I’ll do the work the L.A. Times refuses to do.
The web site for the “law center” is at http://smartgunlaws.org/. Here is their logo:
Here is their about page.
Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (formerly Legal Community Against Violence) is the only national law center focused on providing comprehensive legal expertise in support of gun violence prevention and the promotion of smart gun laws that save lives.
Under the heading “What We Do” there is this passage:
Accessible, accurate, online information – We provide extensive, in-depth summaries of federal, state, and local firearm laws and policies. The most comprehensive resource for information on U.S. firearms regulation, we supply the foremost information and analysis on the Second Amendment, as well as detailed statistics, study findings, and polling in support of strong gun regulation.
They also boast about influencing the media:
Media – Journalists trust us to supply them the legal background on gun policy issues and the legal aspects of the gun policy debate. In turn, we inject legal expertise into the media’s coverage of public policy debates concerning gun violence. Using interviews, op-eds and press releases, we contribute the legal perspective, emphasizing that effective gun laws enhance public safety.
If you’re starting to get the idea that they’re in favor of gun laws, you have demonstrated a keen ability to pick up on subtle clues.
This is certainly the organization to which we should all turn for unbiased information about whether gun control laws work. And hey, let’s not call them a “gun control advocacy group.” Let’s just call them a “policy center” or a “law center,” to make them sound neutral. After all, just because they say they’re for gun control doesn’t necessarily mean they have a point of view that makes them biased, right?
My dear Watson, the game’s afoot! because there’s more.
How does this “law center” feel about the Second Amendment and the Heller decision? Why, they believe that Heller was a “radical shift” in interpreting the Second Amendment:
Second Amendment litigation has become a critical battleground since the U.S. Supreme Court held, in District of Columbia v. Heller, that the Amendment guarantees an individual right to possess a firearm in the home for self-defense. This decision created a radical shift in the meaning of the Second Amendment, but it doesn’t prevent smart gun regulations. In fact, since Heller, courts nationwide have found a wide variety of firearms laws constitutional because they can help prevent gun deaths, injuries, and crimes in communities across the country.
A related page re-emphasizes the organization’s view that Heller was “unquestionably a radical decision.” Another related page describes Heller as a “radical departure from longstanding Second Amendment case law,” and tells the reader about the organization’s view of its role vis-a-vis the Second Amendment:
As the nation’s only organization devoted exclusively to providing legal assistance in support of gun violence prevention, LCAV is actively involved in supporting state and local governments’ defense of Second Amendment litigation, educating courts, governments, and the public about the meaning of the Second Amendment, and developing common sense gun violence prevention legislation that complies with the Heller decision.
And then there’s the page on studies, which is what initially brought me to the web site. Here is the page. And here is the smoking gun (thank you for noticing!) that shows that this organization’s view of control laws is not news:
Do gun laws work?
Many types of gun laws are effective at reducing gun deaths and injuries, keeping guns away from criminals and other prohibited people, and fighting illegal gun trafficking. The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence tracks important studies proving that smart laws can and do work to prevent gun violence. Our publications offer in-depth analysis of significant trends in firearms laws and policies nationwide.
So, you track studies showing that gun control laws work.
What about the studies that show they don’t?
See, even a pro gun control group could, in theory, decide to cover all studies regardless of which way they come out. But they just told you that they don’t do that. They cover studies that go their way. Period.
So basically, the L.A. Times is reporting that a pro gun control group believes gun control works. Whoop de do. But they make it sound like news — because they don’t tell you that the group is a pro gun control group.
This is dishonest. It’s why conservatives increasingly see news media outlets like this as propaganda organs.
As I said in my piece on New Year’s Resolutions, if you subscribe to the Los Angeles Times, you are subsidizing this kind of disinformation. If you subscribe to Patterico, or buy from the Amazon widget in the sidebar, you are participating in the correction of disinformation. Which do you want to support? Information or disinformation? The choice is yours. It’s also pretty obvious.
Stop giving these people money. Cancel your subscription to the L.A. Times today. It’s never too late.