Las Vegas’ own KNPR featured concealed carry on the Friday Sept. 7th edition of “State of Nevada.” Guests included CCW instructor Maggie Mordaunt, Nevada conservative and NRA Membership Committee board member Niger Innis, and author Craig Collins. Collins was the anti-gun Fudd, author of Thunder in the Mountains: a memoir subtitled “A Portrait of American Gun Culture.”
At 13 years old, Collins was injured in a shooting accident where he shot himself in the foot after an negligent discharge. Collins shares hallmarks with emotional hoplopaths who have experienced a gun tragedy. He shot himself and had a harrowing journey to the hospital. His research has been centered around examining gun accidents. He has the intelligence and ability to think rationally about guns, but the emotional aspect prevents him from using those tools to come to the correct conclusions. His experiences and his coping mechanisms force him to come to an assumption that he already wants to believe.
In his interview, Collins simply gets guns all wrong. Listening to him was nearly intolerable because everything he said was incorrect or warped. Very little of what he said stands up to scrutiny. Collins denied that he is anti-gun, rather “I am anti-150k gun casualties in the United States,” and believes that it is more likely for someone to be harmed in violence, suicide, or an accident with a gun than use one positively in self-defense. He is completely wrong.
The CDC statistics on death and injuries are frequently used to showcase gun deaths and injuries. The WISQARS database records 14,415 gun homicides and 22,938 suicides in 2016 and 88,702 gun injuries from assaults and 4,357 injuries from self-harm (i.e. suicide attempt, negligence). That's a little over 100,000 criminal gun uses resulting in death or injury a year and 130,000 or so total “bad things from guns” in 2016.
Even with the most conservative estimate of defensive gun uses (in the 100,000 range), bad things with guns are generally a wash compared to saving lives and stopping crimes. But recently the expert in defensive gun use estimates Gary Kleck confirmed that there are at least one million defensive gun uses annually, perhaps as many as 2.4 million. Most defensive gun uses never result in a shot being fired. [source]
Collins no longer owns a gun, implying it is because hunting is poor in his now-home of San Diego, but as a Fudd, he might own a rifle or shotgun if he lived elsewhere. “I just don’t think that [handguns] are really great defense systems. They're cumbersome, they're dangerous and if you really want to protect your home the best thing to do is get a dog.” What an awkward way of saying he doesn’t believe in private handgun ownership.
Collins seemed to be a wealth of ignorance, misinformation, and propaganda, discounting the usefulness of handguns for self-defense. “These guns that they're making for concealed carry are actually quite dangerous. They smaller...not much bigger than a credit card...these are 9mm guns and they'll kill you just as dead as any other gun.” He complained about subcompact pistols with “hair-triggers” being put in pockets and purses. Purse and pocket carry is a bad idea, but nothing will insulate the world from ignorance and stupidity.
He sends a mixed message on the design or the user being the problem of the gun. Most production firearms, especially the subcompact concealed market, do not have “hair-triggers,” but factory triggers of around 4-5lb weight. This is totally standard. Collins is clearly complaining about striker fired guns, which, if handled negligently, as he handled his rifle, can be fired more easily than a long, heavy double-action trigger.
Collins might be a fan of NYPD weight Glock triggers, as he blamed LA County Sheriff's negligent discharge problem on striker fired guns. This totally ignores the training problems that led NYPD to adopt the heavy triggers (officers accustomed to placing their finger on revolver triggers couldn't unlearn that habit after the switch to Glock).
Frankly, there are vastly more deaths and injuries from bad drivers than there are firearm accidents. Collins' statements on women carrying guns in their purses borders on misogyny; a common anti-gun argument is that women are not safe with firearms.
Much of Collins work focuses on firearms accidents and irresponsible gun use, forming a large portion of his book (I have not read it). In researching his book, Collins said that he learned the “wild” West was extraordinarily violent. Statistically, it was, but not so much in reality as one journalist debunks:
The homicide rate was high in these towns because the population was very small. Even one murder in a town with only a few dozen residents leads to a high homicide rate. These towns were violent, but not nearly as violent as some imagine.
The notorious town of Bodie, California, had an astronomical homicide rate far in excess of even today’s Chicago; however, the town only had 29 killings in a five-year period. Chicago had 2,562 in the past five years. A small population inflates the ratio of homicides, but does not adequately represent the risk to the public nor the nature of the killings. A bare number cannot tell the story of why men killed.
Many frontier killings were done in the heat of passion among persons known to each other, usually in bars or disputes over gambling—there was little risk of today’s random violence. I wrote a little more about this in a post on the history of concealed weapon laws. We can’t look at homicide rates outside of context or extrapolate facts from the past that are no longer applicable to modern America. Using Old West violence as an influence on modern gun control is like studying wagon accidents to reduce traffic deaths.
The fact that rough, single men, usually intoxicated and surrounded by a frontier society that was permissive to violence generally goes ignored by the lightweight gun control authors, much like minority violence is ignored today. Collins complained to the San Diego Union-Tribune that the CDC doesn't track “who’s doing the shooting.” It's probably good (for hoplopaths) that they don’t because blacks, at 12-14% of the US population, disproportionately commit the majority of murders in the country.
According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, of all homicides committed between 1980 and 2008, 47.4 percent of the victims were black while 52.5 percent of all offenders were black. Of all felony murders during the same time period, blacks accounted for 44.1 percent of those murdered while accounting for 59.9 percent of the offenders. Blacks accounted for 56.9 percent of all gun homicides. [Source]
We know who commits the murders/suicides and we know why. Families weakened by welfare—where the state replaces the need for traditional family ties—results in poor parenting, absent fathers, and gangs substituting for intimate relationships while drugs are used as an escape. Mass shootings have pointed to a general breakdown in civility between people and a huge crisis in mental health care. Vast economic changes have altered rural America, leading to the suicide spike for white men in those areas.
Addressing the murder/suicide causes requires an uncomfortable discussion about the causes that we can no longer have in America. It is an inhumane disserve, and indeed racist (in the case of minorities) to ignore root causes of violence and let it go on unchecked because speaking the truth is distressing. The only way to solve a problem is to openly admit its cause. We cannot, as Collins did, misrepresent fact and abuse logic to blame inanimate objects for human factors. Firearms are far more a tool for good than for evil or misfortune.
 Kessler, Glenn. “Rick Santorum’s misguided view of gun control in the Wild West.” Washington Post. April 29, 2014. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/fact-checker/wp/2014/04/29/rick-santorums-misguided-view-of-gun-control-in-the-wild-west/
Clayton E. Cramer
Gun Free Zone
The War on Guns
The View From Out West