Bob Costas appeared on the O’Reilly Factor Wednesday night in an effort to explain his ill-informed comments about guns that he made over the weekend.
Using one of Sunday’s football games as a platform to express his views on guns, Costas (who was quoting a sports writer) said that the Kansas City linebacker who killed himself and his girlfriend this past weekend would still be alive today “if Javon Belcher didn’t possess a gun.”
Because Costas’ remarks have stoked a nation-wide controversy, O’Reilly invited Costas onto his show to clear away the “confusion.” Taking his cue, Costas led off the interview saying that he knows Americans have a right to bear arms and that he never intended to enter the political debate surrounding this issue.
He emphasized several times that he never used the words “gun control,” and that he is not looking to repeal the Second Amendment.
But rather than set the record straight, Costas only made things worse with several bone-headed or factually inaccurate statements. Rather than clear up the matter, Costas adopted the talking points of several anti-gun “Brady Bunch” organizations by saying Americans are worse off owning guns, that they don’t typically use them in self-defense, and that Americans need to do something about our dangerous “gun culture.”
Here are just some of most egregious examples (although one comes from Bill O’Reilly):
1. Myth: Guns do more harm than good.
“Even if one has the right to have the gun -- you got this many guns out there -- far more often, bad things happen (including unintentional things) than things where the presence of a gun diminishes or averts danger.” – Bob Costas to Bill O’Reilly
Not true. Law-abiding citizens use guns to defend themselves against criminals as many as 2.5 million times every year -- or about 6,850 times a day. This means that each year, firearms are used more than 80 times more often to protect the lives of honest citizens than to take lives.(1)
Even anti-gun researchers have conceded that guns are used 1.5 million times annually for self-defense. According to the Clinton Justice Department, there were as many as 1.5 million cases of self-defense with a firearm every year. The National Institute of Justice published this figure in 1997 as part of “Guns in America” -- a study which was authored by noted anti-gun criminologists Philip Cook and Jens Ludwig.(2)
So where does the guns-are-more-likely-to-harm-you theory come from? Well, it first appeared in the 1980s with a “study” performed by Dr. Arthur Kellermann, who concluded that a gun in the home is supposedly more likely -- far more likely, he claimed -- to kill the owner than to be used in self-defense.
Interestingly, Kellermann refused to release the data behind his conclusions for years.(3) But subsequently, the nation discovered why Kellerman stonewalled for so long:
* All available data now indicates that the “home gun homicide victims [in Kellermann’s study] were killed using guns not kept in the victim’s home,” researcher Don Kates writes. In other words, the victims were NOT murdered with their own guns! They were killed “by intruders who brought their own guns to the victim’s household.”(4)
* In retrospect, Kates found, it was not the ownership of firearms that put these victims at high risk. Rather, it was the victim’s “high-risk life-styles [such as criminal associations] that caused them to own guns at higher rates than the members of the supposedly comparable control group.”(5)
Even using the conservative figures issued by the Clinton Justice Department, Americans are 50 times more likely to use a gun in self-defense than to be killed by a firearm.
The fact is, guns save far more lives … far more often than they take a life.
2. Myth: More gun control needed.
“I believe there should be more comprehensive and effective controls on the sale of guns.” – Bob Costas to Bill O’Reilly
Bob Costas says he never used the words “gun control” in discussing the Belcher murder-suicide. While technically true, he did admit to Bill O’Reilly that he favors greater gun restrictions: more background checks, mandatory training for those who purchase firearms, and bans on “military-style” firearms -- saying that only the military and police should have them.
“None of that impinges on someone’s Second Amendment rights or their right to protect their home and their family,” Costas said.
Well, if gun bans and background checks are consistent with Second Amendment rights -- never mind the words “shall not be infringed” -- then perhaps Mr. Costas won’t mind similar restrictions on his right to speak in front of a microphone?
After all, his comments have caused severe angst on the part of many Americans this week. And not only his comments, but one could make an argument that, in general, the media incites people to anger and violence on a semi-regular basis.
Therefore, if we were to curb (or ban) most or all of the media’s broadcasts, then one could argue that we would live in a far safer environment:
* Remember the environmentalist wacko who, in 2010, held several people hostage in the Discovery Communications building in Silver Spring Maryland? James J. Lee confessed he had an “awakening” after watching Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth -- an “awakening” which convinced him the planet would be better off without humans and which drove him to take hostages in order to protest the Discovery Channel’s programming.(6)
* Or what about the Los Angeles riots of 1992? Rioters began their circuit of death and destruction, only after the media reported the jury verdict which cleared the police officers who had beaten Rodney King. Fifty-three people were killed during the riots and thousands more were injured.
* Or what about Timothy McVeigh, who was driven to blow up the federal Murrah Building in Oklahoma City after watching the media’s coverage of tanks assaulting the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas?
In all of the above cases, the media played a significant role in stoking people’s anger. Thus, it could be argued with some cogency, that gagging the media would result in less violence and bloodshed.
Of course, this is not the kind of society we want to live in. But if we are going to use pragmatic arguments for restricting the Second Amendment, then don’t be surprised when that same standard gets used to infringe upon the freedoms protected by the First Amendment.
In truth, however, the problem is not that there are too many guns or too few restrictions on them. The fact is, we have more guns than ever in this country and crime rates are dropping -- as evidenced by the fact that during the first decade of this century, 40 million new guns were manufactured for sale inside the U.S., even while the murder rate dropped 14%.(7)
And this just underscores the undeniable truth that “Guns Save Lives.”
3. Myth: America needs to curb its “easy access to guns.”
“If we’re looking for perspective on this, we’re going to have [a serious discussion about] domestic violence, about the culture of the game itself, about the easy access to guns ... and in the future we will soon do that.” – Bob Costas to Bill O’Reilly
Costas drinks the “Brady Bunch” Kool-Aid here, arguing that the availability of firearms is one of the main causes of violence. But “easy access” to guns is NOT the problem. In fact, the places in this country where guns were restricted the most have been the places where citizens lived in the greatest danger.
Consider, for example, the nation’s capital in the United States. In 1976, Washington, DC made it virtually impossible for anyone to legally obtain a firearm. If a homeowner did get a gun to defend himself, and the police found out, then the gun owner could go to jail.
These restrictions discouraged homeowners from obtaining firearms and, not surprisingly, the city’s murder rate skyrocketed -- so much so, the city was frequently ranked as the nation’s “Murder Capital.”(8) This held true for several decades, until the Supreme Court struck down Washington’s gun ban in 2008.(9) That year, gun ownership once again became legal in the District, and residents began purchasing thousands of firearms.
Not surprisingly, gun control advocates predicted that the murder rate in the nation’s capital would spike as a result of legal guns entering the city. But what was the reality? Murders in the nation’s capital immediately dropped to a 45-year low.(10)
People are less safe when they enter a “gun free zone,” but have a better chance of protecting themselves when they can easily access a firearm and use it for protection.
Consider El Paso, Texas, which was ranked by CQ Press as America’s safest big city in 2010.(11) Residents there can carry concealed firearms (and live quite peacefully) despite being located across from Juarez City, Mexico -- a town with very stringent gun control laws and one of the highest murder rates in the world.
In Juarez, people are disarmed, they live in fear, and criminals still manage to get a hold of firearms. In El Paso, average citizens can carry firearms -- they have “easy access” to them -- and they live in peace.
The verdict? Easy access to guns keeps people much safer than the alternative.
4. Myth: Citizens can’t be trusted with guns, but police can.
“In that situation [in the Aurora theater] -- in the dark, in the confusion -- I think it’s highly more likely that there would be additional carnage. Bullets would be flying wildly all over the place.” -- Bob Costas to Bill O’Reilly
These are the talking points one frequently hears from the Brady Bunch. They love to portray law-abiding citizens as the ones who, not only can’t be trusted to defend themselves but, will accidentally harm others -- even when trying to do the right thing.
However, if we’re going to use the “bullets flying wildly” standard as a basis for denying gun ownership to private citizens, then you might as well start disarming the police. After all, it was the New York City police (not law-abiding citizens) who accidentally shot nine bystanders in August outside the Empire State Building.
And while that’s just one anecdotal case, readers of Newsweek learned that while “only 2 percent of civilian shootings involved an innocent person mistakenly identified as a criminal, the ‘error rate’ for the police [is] more than five times as high.”(12)
The fact is, civilians do an amazing job of protecting themselves and others -- even in crowded surroundings. Take Jeanne Assam, who saved the lives of hundreds of worshippers in 2007, when she shot an armed thug in the New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colorado -- a gigantic church which boasts a membership of thousands.
Matthew Murray, intent on killing as many innocent victims as he could, entered the building with a thousand rounds of ammunition and several firearms.
However, he was only able to shoot two sisters in the parking lot because, once he entered the building, he was met by a woman with a gun. Assam shot him repeatedly until he fell incapacitated. He then took his own life. No innocent bystanders were shot or killed inside the New Life Church.
5. Myth: Guns are only used to harm athletes, not protect them.
“I cannot think of a single instance, involving a professional athlete, whereby that athlete having a gun averted or diminished a dangerous situation. But I can give you a long list of tragedies that came about because guys were packing.” -- Bob Costas to Bill O’Reilly
The DC Examiner exposed the outright lie -- or lazy scholarship -- that is central to Costas’ statement here. For example, Baltimore Ravens cornerback Corry Fuller (in 2004) and Houston Astros outfielder Luke Scott (in 2005) are just two notable athletes who have used guns in self-defense in recent years.(13)
But beyond Costas’ ignorance (or deception), this argument is just foolish. One could make an argument for banning all kinds of items under this reasoning. Just try inserting the word “barbell” everywhere Costas mentions guns.
Truly, no one’s life has ever been saved because of a barbell or dumbbell, and yet, in recent months, there have been some gruesome murders committed with these blunt objects:
* A Florida woman was on trial this year for the torture/murder of her husband which included beating him barbells and slicing his eyes with a utility knife.(14)
* A Virginia man is also facing charges for the strangulation/beating murder of a woman which involved a 15-pound dumbbell.(15)
Heck, if Costas really wants to press the issue, there are more student deaths related to high school football than to guns.(16) Has football ever saved anyone’s life? No.
So how can Costas support a game that claims more student lives than guns?
6. Myth: Americans hold to a dangerous Wild West, Dirty Harry gun culture.
“[Americans] may feel that it’s part of a romanticized culture. There’s an aspect of this -- a kind of Wild West, cowboy, Dirty Harry aspect. There’s also an aspect that’s influenced by some of what we see in the inner cities. There’s some of what may be glamorized in Gangsa Rap videos. Whatever it may be, it plays itself out in different ways [and] in different demographics.” -- Bob Costas to Bill O’Reilly
Costas says he was shocked to hear that, when Tony Dungy was coaching the Indianapolis Colts, there were 60 out of 80 players in training camp who admitted to owning guns. Costas conceded, somewhat dismissively, that they may feel they need these guns for protection.
But more than that, he says, it’s the dangerous gun culture which is fueling this supposed fascination with guns.
Of course, inherent in his statement is the assumption that guns are inherently bad. Notice that Costas is not concerned about the “football culture” which results in more deaths than guns at the high school level.(17) Nor is he concerned about the “Playboy culture” which, arguably, has resulted in higher levels of rape and incest.(18)
But no, it’s just the “gun culture” he’s concerned about -- never mind that this freedom is enshrined in the Bill of Rights.
So how about if we turn the tables: What if many Americans are concerned about Bob Costas’ views on gun control? Would that justify limiting his right to free speech?
It may sound like a preposterous question, but there are Congressmen who favor LIMITING the free speech rights of law-abiding Americans. Just consider the DISCLOSE Act and “Hush Rush” bills that Congress has put forward in years past.(19)(20)
Or, take Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA), who told an audience recently that millionaires are “stealing your government” because they have the money to get people elected. (Never mind there are campaign finance laws which limit the amount of money they can give to candidates.)
So what’s the solution, according to the congressman? “We need a constitutional amendment to allow the legislature to control the so-called free speech rights” of these rich folks, says Johnson.(21)
Really? Our First Amendment rights are now “so-called” freedoms?
You see, once you let the “Congress-needs-to-change-the-culture” genie out of the bottle, then all the Bill of Rights will be up for debate.
7. Myth: The Founding Fathers gave us our Second Amendment right to bear arms
“Gun control in America is an emotional issue because it is clear that the Founding Fathers gave the right to bear arms for two reasons.” -- Bill O’Reilly to Bob Costas
In case, you missed it -- notice the flip-flop in the order of the names. This myth came from Bill O’Reilly’s lips.
Yes, O’Reilly had some good things to say on Wednesday night. But he also staked out a position in favor of some gun control, while totally ignoring the “shall not be infringed” language of the Second Amendment.
So just to be clear. The Founders did NOT give us our rights, nor did they believe they were granting us rights.
The Declaration of Independence states that “All men are created equal [and] are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights.” Our rights come from God himself, and this is the reason our rights cannot -- and should not -- be infringed in any way, shape or form (unless someone has committed a violent crime and, thus, forfeited his rights).
Now, O’Reilly did give two good reasons for the right to keep and bear arms: Defense against tyranny and self-defense against both natural and human predators.
But the reason that he supports gun control stems from the fact that he does not hold a principled view of rights. If O’Reilly believed our rights came from God, then he could not consistently hold the gun control position that he advocates. Same for Bob Costas.
In fact, Mr. Costas should dust off his copy of the Declaration next time he tries to wax eloquent on a civil rights issue during a football game. Or better yet, maybe he should just stick to sportscasting.
Erich Pratt is the Director of Communications for Gun Owners of America, a grassroots lobbying organization with 300,000 members.
(1) Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz, “Armed Resistance to Crime: The Prevalence and Nature of Self-Defense With a Gun,” 86 The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, Northwestern University School of Law, 1 (Fall 1995):164.
Dr. Kleck is a professor in the school of criminology and criminal justice at Florida State University in Tallahassee. He has researched extensively and published several essays on the gun control issue. His book, Point Blank: Guns and Violence in America, has become a widely cited source in the gun control debate. In fact, this book earned Dr. Kleck the prestigious American Society of Criminology Michael J. Hindelang award for 1993. This award is given for the book published in the past two to three years that makes the most outstanding contribution to criminology.
Even those who don't like the conclusions Dr. Kleck reaches, cannot argue with his impeccable research and methodology. In “A Tribute to a View I Have Opposed,” Marvin E. Wolfgang writes that, “What troubles me is the article by Gary Kleck and Marc Gertz. The reason I am troubled is that they have provided an almost clear-cut case of methodologically sound research in support of something I have theoretically opposed for years, namely, the use of a gun in defense against a criminal perpetrator. . . . I have to admit my admiration for the care and caution expressed in this article and this research. Can it be true that about two million instances occur each year in which a gun was used as a defensive measure against crime? It is hard to believe. Yet, it is hard to challenge the data collected. We do not have contrary evidence.” Wolfgang, “A Tribute to a View I Have Opposed,” The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, at 188.
Wolfgang says there is no “contrary evidence.” Indeed, there are more than a dozen national polls—one of which was conducted by The Los Angeles Times—that have found figures comparable to the Kleck-Gertz study. Even the Clinton Justice Department (through the National Institute of Justice) found there were as many as 1.5 million defensive users of firearms every year. See National Institute of Justice, “Guns in America: National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms,” Research in Brief (May 1997).
As for Dr. Kleck, readers of his materials may be interested to know that he is a member of the ACLU, Amnesty International USA, and Common Cause. He is not and has never been a member of or contributor to any advocacy group on either side of the gun control debate.
(2) Philip J. Cook and Jens Ludwig, “Guns in America: National Survey on Private Ownership and Use of Firearms,” NIJ Research in Brief (May 1997); available at http://www.ncjrs.org/txtfiles/165476.txt. The finding of 1.5 million yearly self-defense cases did not sit well with the anti-gun bias of the study’s authors, who attempted to explain why there could not possibly be one and a half million cases of self-defense every year. Nevertheless, the 1.5 million figure is consistent with a mountain of independent surveys showing similar figures. The sponsors of these studies—nearly a dozen—are quite varied, and include anti-gun organizations, news media organizations, governments and commercial polling firms. See also Kleck and Gertz, supra note 1, pp. 182-183.
(3) Don B. Kates, “Guns and Public Health: Epidemic of Violence, or Pandemic of Propaganda?” in Gary Kleck & Kates, Armed: New Perspectives on Gun Control (2001), p. 79.
(4) Ibid., p. 75.
(5) Ibid., p. 76.
(6) MSNBC.com, “Police kill Discovery building gunman: Three hostages safe, police say; man told NBC he had several bombs,” September 1, 2010.
(7) For the number of guns manufactured in the United States from 2001 to 2010, see the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, “Firearms Commerce in the United States Annual Statistical Update,” 2012 (Exhibit 1). For the drop in the murder rate, see the FBI Uniform Crime Reports for 2010 (Table 1).
(8) According to the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, the murder rate in Washington, DC (during the years its gun ban remained in force) was quite often the highest in the nation. The rate peaked at 80.6 murders per 100,000 people in 1991 and continued to remain high. Only once during the entire 1990s did DC’s murder rate drop below a rate of 50 murders per 100,000 people. Even 25 years after the ban’s enactment (in 2001), the murder rate was still 51 percent higher than it was in 1976—despite the murder rate having dropped 36 percent throughout the rest of the country during the same period.
(9) DC v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570 (2008).
(10) Paul Wagner, “DC Murder Rate Lowest in 45 Years: Murders in the District are down 25 percent,” MyFoxDC.com, (December 28, 2009).
(11) Mayor John F. Cook, “El Paso, Texas -- The Safest City in the United States for Cities over 500,000 in Population,” at http://www.elpasotexas.gov/police/_documents/press/El%20Paso,%20Texas%20-%20Lowest%20Crime%20Rate%20Cities%20over%20500,000.pdf
(12) George F. Will, “Are We ‘a Nation of Cowards’?,” Newsweek (15 November 1993):93.
(13) Examiner.com, “Bob Costas has egg on his face after Tuesday night challenge,” December 5, 2012.
(14) CBS/Miami/AP, “Witness: Narcy Novack Handed A Pillow To Muffle Husband’s Screams,” April 27, 2012.
(15) Debbie Hall, “Murder suspect waives preliminary hearing in strangulation death of Rideway woman,” Martinsville Bulletin, November 30, 2012.
(16) Erich Pratt, “Trade in those pigskins for guns and bullets?” NewsWithViews.com, September 5, 2009.
(18) Judith Reisman, “Pornography’s link to rape,” WND.com, July 29, 2006.
(19) John Velleco, “DISCLOSE Act Defeated,” Gun Owners of America, September 23, 2010.
(20) Byron York, “The Never-Ending Quest to ‘Hush Rush,’” National Review, August 1, 2008.
(21) Eric Schneiner, “Dem Rep. Hand Johnson: Amend Constitution to Restrict Freedom of Speech,” CNSNews.com, November 29, 2012.
* More often used to harm