FRANCE: Misinformation Can Lead To Unreasonable Worries

LETTER from ROGER LAFRANCE

Misinformation Can Lead

To Unreasonable Worries

To the Editor:

In a recent edition of this newspaper, Mr. Brockway offered an explanation of his support for a resolution to make Otsego County a “Second Amendment Sanctuary.”

He prefaced his argument with his opinion that, contrary to an accusation in a prior letter, he is not a fearmonger. However, much of the information he cites to support his case is distorted or factually incorrect – the type of misinformation that promotes unreasonable fear.

I am a lifelong resident of the county (in fact I live just down the road from Mr. Brockway), and have been hunting in the Oneonta area for over 50 years. My career involved helping small communities and businesses in Otsego and Delaware counties, which I believe gives me a credible understanding of their residents.

I have not heard any proposal from any presidential candidate that leads me to fear any of them would move to take away my firearms if elected.

While it is true that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Heller vs. District of Columbia that the Second Amendment provides for an individual to possess arms outside of membership in a state militia, for traditional lawful purposes, including self–defense,  within the home, the ruling also confirmed such right is not unlimited and that guns and gun ownership would continue to be regulated.

Nevertheless, I don’t find in Governor Cuomo’s recent official proposals for 2020 reference to all of the gun-related regulations Mr. Brockway claims he has proposed.  I’d be curious about the source of these claims.

Mr. Brockway states that Australia passed a law forcing all its citizens to give up their guns, and that the crime rate then went up 400 percent in less than a year.  The first statement is an exaggeration, the second is patently false.

Australia did pass very strict gun-control laws in 1998 following a horrific mass shooting.  These banned most semi-automatic weapons, and the government bought more than 600,000 of them from citizens during a year-long buy-back program.

While this resulted in a significant drop initially in the number of guns owned by civilians in the country, since then the number has gradually increased and the number of guns currently owned legally by Australian citizens is about the same as prior to the 1998 laws.

Violent crime most certainly did not increase 400 percent following these laws; a simple Google search will show that this viral “fact” was debunked years ago but continues to be circulated.  In fact, the rate of homicides in Australia continues to drop in a trend that started prior to the 1998 gun-control laws.

Like Mr. Brockway, I don’t want Otsego County to become a gun-free zone, but Australia’s experience demonstrates that even rigid gun-control laws won’t result in such a radical situation.

The primary purpose of the laws was to reduce mass shootings.  In the decade prior to them, Australia suffered mass shootings at the rate of more than one per year; in the 20-plus years since, only three such incidents, two of which were acts of domestic violence. The United States suffered 31 mass murder incidents in 2019 alone, and a total of 418 mass shooting incidents.

The contention that the highest numbers of gun crimes are committed in cities with the toughest gun laws is also not accurate. According to the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Statistics, the highest murder rate (including any method, although it could be assumed the number of gun murders is proportional) of any U.S. city during 2018 was St. Louis (60.9 per 100,000 population).

New York City’s rate was a very low 3.5.  Houston’s was 11.8 and Dallas 11.4, these being cities in a state known for its liberal gun-possession rules.

Statewide statistics for 2018 showed Alaska to have the highest violent-crime rate in the country (995 per 100,000).  New York’s rate was 350.5, ranking it right in the center of the list of states.  Clearly, there are many factors other than gun-control laws that affect crime rates.

But as Mark Twain once said, “facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable,” so one can usually find statistics to back any side of an argument.  Unfortunately, debate over issues in recent years has been dominated by extremists and alarmists on both sides of most issues who routinely promote distorted and downright false information.

The rushed middle-of-the-night process used to enact the Safe Act was not government at its best. But in a civilized society, when citizens don’t like a particular law, the appropriate response is to work through democratic institutions to have the law changed.

A deliberate choice to ignore and urge others to ignore selective laws contributes to a lack of respect for general law and order, and is more of a threat to the community than any single law.  Surely there is a rational middle ground for regulations that could reduce gun violence without unnecessarily restricting legitimate, responsible gun ownership and use.

Polls continually show the majority of Americans desire some degree of regulation to reduce the opportunity for violence-prone individuals to possess guns, and to limit possession of assault weapons to the military and law enforcement agencies.

I’ll continue to enjoy the English skills demonstrated by Mr. Brockway’s outdoor columns, but I find his history lesson lacking.  Otsego County has no need to declare itself a “Second Amendment Sanctuary”, and should not.

ROGER FRANCE

West Oneonta


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