The New York Times Botches America’s History With The Gun
David Harsanyi 30, 2018
ver the past 50 years, a wide-ranging, well-funded political, cultural, and legal revisionism effort has been undertaken to erase much of the United States’ history and culture of the gun and the Second Amendment. The New York Times’s Nick Kristof’s recent column, “It’s Time To Talk About The NRA” (because no one’s been talking about them!) is a good example of this trend.
I’ll ignore Kristof’s partisan contentions about firearm violence, gun control, and the National Rifle Association’s lobbying, fundraising and scoring—much of it highly debatable—to point out three of the misleading historical assertions he embraces.
First, Kristof makes the claim that contemporary firearm advocates, in an effort to “reinterpret” the Second Amendment, had “expanded the gun-buying constituency by reframing the purpose of firearms from hunting to personal security.” As even a cursory reading of the Founders and American leaders through the 19th century can attest, this is untrue.
The predominant philosophical concern driving the creation of the Second Amendment was protection from domestic or foreign tyranny, or protection of personal property and life. As John Adams explained (quoting legal authority William Blackstone) when defending a British soldier who had fired into an American mob in 1770, self-defense was “the primary canon in the law of nature.”
In my book “First Freedom: A Ride Through America’s Enduring History with the Gun,” I detail how this ideal was widely embraced by the Founding generation. The right to defend your property, life and liberty girds the entire American project. Not a single Founder ever challenged the notion of individual firearm ownership. Most celebrated it. Individual ownership of firearms was so omnipresent in colonial days—and beyond—that Americans saw no more need to debate its existence. Debates over the Second Amendment involved a disagreement over who should control the militia: state or federal government.
The CDC Is Publishing Unreliable Data On Gun Injuries. People Are Using It Anyway
For journalists, researchers and the general public, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention serves as an authoritative source of information about Americans’ health, including estimates of how many people are killed or injured by guns. The agency’s most recent figures include a worrying uptick: Between 2015 and 2016, the number of Americans nonfatally injured by a firearm jumped by 37 percent, rising from about 85,000 to more than 116,000. It was the largest single-year increase recorded in more than 15 years.
But the gun injury estimate is one of several categories of CDC data flagged with an asterisk indicating that, according to the agency’s own standards, it should be treated as “unstable and potentially unreliable.” In fact, the agency’s 2016 estimate of gun injuries is more uncertain than nearly every other type of injury it tracks. Even its estimates of BB gun injuries are more reliable than its calculations for the number of Americans wounded by actual guns.
An analysis performed by FiveThirtyEight and The Trace, a nonprofit news organization covering gun violence in America,1 found that the CDC’s report of a steady increase in nonfatal gun injuries is out of step with a downwardtrend we found using data from multiple independent public health and criminal justice databases. That casts doubt on the CDC’s figures and the narrative suggested by the way those numbers have changed over time.