Guest commentary response: Fallacies galore in DeMarco’s defense of firearms act

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Mark Newgent of Red Maryland and Watchdog Wire takes issue with the Aug. 25 commentary by Vincent DeMarco touting the successes of the 2013 Firearms Safety Act.

By Mark Newgent

Firearm homicidesG.K. Chesterton once said fallacies do not cease to be fallacies simply because they become fashion. This describes Vinny DeMarco’s utterly unoriginal and fallacy laden piece, defending the Firearms Safety Act of 2013.

DeMarco’s use of a tiny statistical snap shot is intended to deceive readers into believing the law is responsible for reductions in gun deaths.  Like most of his claims, however, whether they concern cigarettes, or health care, the assertion about the law’s effectiveness is un-clever spin designed to fool the public.

DeMarco thinks if he merely adds the phrase “saves lives” to the end of his assertions that by some alchemy they become fact.  The law certainly did not prevent Darion Marcus Aguilar from murdering Briana Benlolo and Tyler Johnson last January at the Mall in Columbia.

Steep national decline in gun violence

Source of firearmsThe truth is gun violence in the nation was already on a steep national decline over the last two decades. The U.S. Department of Justice 2011 special report Firearm Violence 1993-2011 shows a dramatic 39 percent drop in gun deaths over that period, and non-fatal gun crimes dropped 69 percent.

Where did the bad guys get their guns from to commit these crimes?  A 2004 Justice Department Survey of inmates found that only 10 percent of those who committed gun crimes purchased they legally or through gun show loopholes.  A full 40 percent responded that they obtained their guns illegally.

In other words gun crimes were on the decline before DeMarco and Governor O’Malley decided to exploit the Sandy Hook tragedy for political gain.

Inconvenient statistics 

These statistics and the reality of the matter are inconvenient for DeMarco and Governor O’Malley.

This is especially interesting given O’Malley’s affinity for statistical analysis. After all, why did Governor StateStat’s aides prevent a Maryland State Police Commander from testifying before the legislature that SB 281 (the Firearms Safety Act) would do nothing to prevent violent criminals obtaining illegal guns or help reduce crime?

We do know that keeping violent offenders behind bars longer helps reduce crime However, where was DeMarco’s concern for “saving lives” when the House Judiciary Committee, through legislative trickery killed a duly passed amendment to SB 281 that would have imposed mandatory minimum sentences and eliminated good behavior credits for criminals who used illegal firearms in the commission of a crime.

Apparently DeMarco’s concern for saving lives ends at the interests of Maryland’s trial lawyers.

Assault weapons in hands of militarized police 

DeMarco boldly boasts a woefully un-informed federal judge’s decision to uphold the Firearms Safety Act from a legal challenge.  He proudly claims that assault weapons (guns that fire one shot per trigger pull) and high capacity magazines, which he labels “weapons of mass destruction,” are no longer legal for sale in our state.”

He’s right they aren’t for sale, however, they are in the hands of our militarized police forces and SWAT units.  Maryland’s SWAT data shows that over the last four years these heavily armed SWAT units were deployed over 6,500 times, mostly to serve warrants on non-violent criminals. The state law requiring police departments with SWAT units to deliver annual reports on deployments quietly expired in June.

These “weapons of mass destruction” are on our streets and in our communities–in the hands of militarized police forces that are increasingly using them against the populace they are sworn to protect—see Ferguson, Mo., and close to home the killing of Labrador Retrievers belonging to Berwyn Heights Mayor Cheye Calvo in a botched drug raid by a Prince George’s County SWAT team.

In Vinny DeMarco’s world it’s perfectly fine for the weaponized arm of local government to possess such weapons, just not citizens to defend themselves from the criminals our gun laws don’t affect.

Mark Newgent is the founding editor of Red Maryland and Maryland state editor of Watchdog Wire.