Thursday, September 15, 2016

Ballot Question 1: The Guinn Center Fact Sheet

The Kenny C. Guinn Center for Policy Priorities released a fact sheet on Ballot Question 1, which would ban private gun sales/transfers by requiring all such sales to go through a dealer. This is being marketed as “universal background checks” as all dealer transactions require a background (Brady) check. Unfortunately, most Nevadans don’t realize that the law is confusing, unenforceable, and would unintentionally criminalize innocent behavior.

Kenny Guinn, a moderate Republican, was the Governor of Nevada from 1997 to 2007.  The Guinn Center describes itself as a “nonprofit, bipartisan, independent research center focused on providing fact-based, relevant, and well-reasoned analysis of critical policy issues facing Nevada and the Intermountain West.” Let’s take a look at some of the claims made in the report, particularly those made by the argument in support of Ballot Question 1.

“In 2010, Nevada reported 14.6 gun deaths for every 100,000 residents, which makes the Silver State’s gun-death rate 40 percent higher than the national average.”

The intent of this statement, from the argument in support, is to paint Nevada as an extraordinarily violent place with guns to blame. Let’s break down the figures:
  • 395 firearm deaths (all intents) 14.49 per 100,000
  • 100 for homicides and legal interventions 3.73 per 100,000
  • 90 homicides (murder) 3.36 per 100,000
  • 289 suicides 10.51 per 100,000
Using all firearm deaths to frame the debate is highly misleading. Such statistics include legal use of firearms (self-defense; police and civilian) and suicides. Suicides should not be counted because firearms have little to nothing to do with the decision to commit suicide. The firearm is merely the method and an absence of firearms does little to reduce suicide rates. Despite having stricter gun control laws, countries with little to no legal access to guns still have high suicide rates as other methods of suicide (hanging, poisoning, jumping) are used.

Looking strictly at criminal homicides (subtracting suicides and legal killings), this gives Nevada a score of 3.61 non-suicide gun deaths per 100,000, versus 3.59 nationally, meaning that Nevada has a gun homicide rate slightly above average. Nevadans do not face a significantly higher risk of gun violence than the rest of the United States (especially rural Nevadans).

Source: CDC WISQARS. 2010, Nevada & United States. “Firearm Deaths and Rates per 100,000.” All Races, Both Sexes, All Ages, ICD-10 Codes: Y22-Y24

“In 2015, Nevada received an “F” given its weak gun control policies and its high rate of gun death rates.”

This was from the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, an outspoken gun control organization. Various pro-gun sources rank Nevada as among one of the most gun friendly states. An A or an F rating depends wholly on the objectives and the beliefs of the organization rating the state.

“Preliminary data reported in April 2016 found that the new background check system had ‘prevented 50 felons from purchasing a gun from an unlicensed seller in Washington since expanded background checks took effect there in 2014.’”

In the source article, from Bloomberg anti-gun rag The Trace, citing a local Washington news report, states that 3,948 felons were blocked from buying a gun in 2015. The 3,948 number is total gun sales--both from dealers and private sources. There were 50 denials in 14 months, about 3.5 per month. Private gun sale/transfer denials are 1% of the total dealer sale denials.

On top of such misleading statistics, “State court records show there have been no prosecutions related to I-594.” How many guns obtained legally or illegally were used in crimes, background checks be damned? If no one is being convicted under the law, then what actual deterrent is it to criminals?

“Analysts noted that this amounts to a “rejection rate of less than 1 percent of the more than 6,000 private firearm sales during that timeframe,” which is equivalent to the national rate of blocked gun transfers to felons recorded by the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) in the last 18 years. Following implementation in Colorado, there were 13,600 background checks conducted between private sellers (about 4 percent of total state background checks) and 260 denials (a two percent rejection rate).”

The majority of failed background checks do not lead to prosecutions, indeed, they are far from flawless. Many denials are in fact, false positives. John Lott, an economist known for his analysis of studies on guns and violence, points out that there is an “initial false positive rate of roughly 94.2 percent,” (from 2009 statistics). Only 4,154 denials out of 71,010, after review, were determined to be potentially criminal attempts to purchase firearms and only 140 cases were referred to prosecutors and only 77 of those cases were prosecuted at all. That’s roughly one one-hundredth of the total denials that were prosecuted. Only 32 cases resulted in a conviction or guilty plea.

The report, in its argument in opposition, does tell the truth that universal background checks are the first step towards gun registration and useless without it.

“Enforcement of this measure may be a challenge. National and local government policy makers have acknowledged that a system requiring background checks for firearm sales and transfers is ‘unenforceable without a system of universal gun registration’ for the reasons mentioned previously. As David Kopel wrote in, The Costs and Consequences of Gun Control, the National Institute of Justice has recognized that ‘the only way to enforce the background-check law would be to require the retroactive registration of all currently owned firearms in the United States.’”

Is the Guinn Center Biased Towards Gun Control and Supporting Yes on One?

The report disclaims:
“We note that certain Guinn Center Board Members have acted as advisory members of Nevadans for Background Checks and have provided financial assistance. However, those board members played no role in the scoping and preparation of this report. Following our standard protocol, this Fact Sheet, prior to publication, was reviewed by an external panel of subject matter experts.”
However, the arguments in support and opposition are grossly disproportionate. The “support” section got a map of national gun deaths while the “opposition” section didn’t get a graphic.

Word count per segment
  • Support: 797 words
  • Opposition: 341 words
Sources cited in whole report:
  • 7 pro-gun control sources (Everytown, The Trace, etc.)
  • 2 gun rights sources (NRA)
  • 2 ‘neutral’ press sources rebutting effectiveness of universal background checks
Additionally, the article gives no mention of who Nevadans for Background Checks is funded or supported by (Michael Bloomberg and his various astroturf gun control groups). In portraying the initiative as a grassroots response to Gov. Sandoval’s veto of a similar law passed by 2013’s legislature, such information honestly stating the initiative was a strategy modeled on Washington and rolled out to Nevada and Maine is crucial. This isn’t something that Nevada's truly want: it’s being foisted on them with lies, out-of-state money, and an anti-gun agenda.

Anti-gun bias factor: 3, report tells the truth, but tells it slant.

Vote no on Ballot Question 1--no more gun control.

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