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Politics & Policy

The Dumbest Gun-Control Paragraph

(Jim Young/Reuters)

After the Virginia Beach shooting, the New York Times reran an essay on gun control by Nicholas Kristof, which contains this paragraph:

It is true that guns are occasionally used to stop violence. But contrary to what the National Rifle Association suggests, this is rare. One study by the Violence Policy Center found that in 2012 there were 259 justifiable homicides by a private citizen using a firearm.

This may very well be the dumbest paragraph ever written about gun control, a subject that has inspired many dumb paragraphs. It is dumb to the point of intellectual dishonesty—because Kristof is not this dumb, and neither are the people who edit the Times op-ed section, dumb as that page is from time to time.

Nobody but nobody is quite so dumb as to believe that all, most, or even very many uses of firearms to prevent acts of criminal violence result in justifiable homicides. Most of them do not result in anybody’s being shot, much less shot dead, because most of them do not involve discharging a firearm. As it turns out, pointing a gun at a would-be assailant is in many cases a very persuasive gesture.

Estimates of how often private guns are used to prevent crime vary greatly, but they vary from the tens of thousands to the low millions per year. This is easily accessible information. Anybody writing an essay about the defensive use of firearms has an intellectual obligation to address it.

If you are wondering why journalism is held in such low esteem, this is it.

Kristof should be embarrassed to write this sort of obvious nonsense. His editors should be embarrassed, too.




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