August 26, 2014

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

Print More
Firearm homicides

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.

  • guns

    Saying that because cops have assault have weapons so we should too is a terrible argument. Are you suggesting that we shoot it out with a S.W.A.T. team?

    • Jack Lee

      Are you saying our enemies are the police? He is saying that these firearms are already out there in the hands of police to counter the rhetoric that “we need to get these weapons off of our streets.” Your argument is a classic straw man fallacy.

  • lenlazarick

    Just the facts, ma’am, just the facts…
    By Len Lucchi

    Mark Newgent sounds more like Ted Nugent when he attacks
    sensible and responsible measures for firearms safety. Newgent ignores the facts and uses diversionary tactics to ignore the truth. It is like the old trial lawyers adage, “When you have the law on your side, go with the law; when you have the facts on your side, go with the facts; when you have neither, throw mud on the wall and see what sticks.” (edited for family audiences)

    Newgent begins by alleging that the Firearms Safety Act of 2013 did not prevent the terrible January, 2014 tragedy at Columbia Mall. He ignores the fact that the incident would have been far worse, and many more people could have been killed, had the shooter used a rapid-fire, military-style assault weapon that the law banned. He further ignores the fact that, for years, Maryland has been one of the few states to prohibit persons under 21 years of age, such as the Columbia shooter, from obtaining assault weapons.

    In response to Maryland’s 23% decline in gun deaths since
    passage of the Firearms Safety Act of 2013, Newgent refers to a 39% drop in gun
    deaths nationally over 18 years. That amounts two just over a 2% drop per year.
    He ignores the fact that, in Maryland, gun deaths were going up before
    passage of the Firearms Safety Act. Newgent further ignores the fact that the fingerprint licensing provision of the law is proven to reduce gun deaths.

    Newgent then cites a ten-year old report from the George W. Bush administration asking prisoners how they obtained their firearms. What a fallacious study! Why would a convicted criminal tell the truth? Newgent ignores the fact that while some criminals attempt to purchase their firearms legally, many more
    obtain their weapons through straw purchasers or by theft from legitimate
    owners.

    Newgent then complains that the Firearms Safety Act does not contain mandatory minimum sentences for the use of a handgun in the commission of a crime. Once again, he ignores the fact that current law provides a five-year mandatory minimum sentence for the use of a handgun in the commission of a felony.

    Having failed to refute the compelling evidence that the Firearms Safety Act of 2013 is working, Newgent turns his fire on the men and women in law enforcement that put their lives on the line every day. It used to be that our men and women in blue
    were outgunned by drug kingpins and hardened criminals. Since 9/11, thanks to homeland security grants, that is not the case anymore. What separates law enforcement agencies in Maryland from what we know about
    the Ferguson experience is that, in Maryland, our major police agencies are in
    the community, engage the community, and reflect the community.

    The most despicable aspect of Newgent’s commentary, however, is his flippant disparagement of a legislative goal to save lives. I have worked with the men and women who have served our State as state legislators for over 35 years. There are very few opportunities to vote for a bill that can actually save lives. I
    greatly admire the vision and courage of the Delegates and Senators who stood
    up to support the O’Malley-Brown Administration’s Firearms Safety Act of 2013.

    Len Lucchi is a longtime Maryland attorney and lobbyist.

    • River Mud

      Now that the coldest and wettest winter in history is long over, Baltimore is back to almost a murder per day – a rate held standard through most summers of the last decade (and roughly 70% of the state’s murders). With almost 30 murders in the last 30 days alone, the anti-gun data is melting away like an old popsicle in the gutter, and what’s printed on the popsicle stick is clear: this law doesn’t work. This law wasn’t meant to work. This law was designed to convince taxpayers that the administration was “doing something” about gun violence. Only….it’s not true, because the causes of gun violence are complex and probably very expensive (as a society) to resolve. Like most gunowners, I don’t oppose universal background checks. Or 5 day waiting periods. Or limitations on automatic weapons. But this law is a stinker, and almost everyone knows it now.

    • River Mud

      Now that we know the murder rate has significantly INCREASED since the passage of the law “that saves lives,” can Mr. Lucchi please revise his comments? Since Mr. Lucchi is so hell-bent on causality (the gun law CAUSED the decrease in murders…stated four months after the law went into effect), I’m sure he’ll concur to revise his statements now that the statistics (almost two years after the law went into effect) show the opposite of the law’s intent. Does the law, as corollary, CAUSE the increase in murders? And by the way, an assault rifle is no more or less “rapid fire” than most shotguns. If Lucchi had ever handled a weapon, he would know that.