SUNY Geneseo Professor Uses Columbine Anniversary to Peddle Mass Gun Confiscation
Data Cited by the Professor Makes a Flimsy Argument for Scrapping the Second Amendment
April 19, 2019 | BUFFALO, N.Y. – April 20, 2019 marks the 20th anniversary of the Columbine High School mass killing. Therefore, remembering victims of the tragedy, assessing the efficacy of school defense and emergency response procedures, and pondering societal shifts fomenting school mass killings are logical endeavors. Cynically commandeering the tragedy to sell policies conflicting with Second Amendment protections, as SUNY Geneseo Professor Michael Leroy Oberg would prefer, is a purely emotional activity beneath the intelligence of a constitutional republic.
In an April 17, 2019 opinion piece published by Syracuse.com, Oberg displays the same naked opportunism we always see from self-important progressive academics when tragic mass killing anniversaries revisit us – that is, to pervert the event in service of personal emotional therapy for progressives by means of mass liberty reduction.
On careful review of Oberg’s argument – in which he proclaims “Guns are the problem. Guns need to go.” – it’s quite clear that he’s not in search of a reason-based method of balancing public safety concerns with the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms via narrowly tailored policies comporting with strict judicial scrutiny. Rather, he’s engaged in a ham-fisted attempt to force a complex world, an inescapable feature of which is irrational violence, perpetrated by gun or otherwise, to comply with his demand for total safety at the expense of constitutionally-guaranteed individual liberty at best, and the risk of widespread government tyranny at worst. The best mechanism Oberg can shake from his skull to achieve this end is a total ban on massively common semi-automatic rifles and handguns so expansive and unconstitutional that it would make Hugo Chavez, Joseph Stalin, Mao Zedong, and a range of other like-minded despots beam with glee.
Given the above, I’d like to invite you on a lively jaunt through Oberg’s dumpster fire of emotion-based rhetoric. There’s far too much ill-informed pandering to correct in a single post like this one, so I’ll segment this journey into a series of posts – to be issued over the next week or so for your review. In so doing, I’ll articulate, point for point, precisely why the SUNY Geneseo professor’s vision of a gun-free America amounts to nothing more than a progressive autocrat’s wet dream that, due to the existence of the U.S. Constitution, contemporary Second Amendment jurisprudence, America’s millions of gun owners, and a range of other factors, stands zero chance of becoming a reality, nor should it.
I’ll begin with Oberg’s two introductory paragraphs:
“Tuesday, April 16, was the anniversary of the mass murder at Virginia Tech University. Saturday, the 20th, is the anniversary of the Columbine High School massacre. These grisly anniversaries should force us to reflect upon the nearly 40,000 people who die every year in the United States from gunshot wounds, through homicide, suicide and accident. And this figure, of course, does not count the many thousands more injured by guns, terrorized by gun owners, or left grieving after yet another shooting.
So much attention in our current debate about guns is devoted to assault weapons and bump stocks and AR-15s and mass killings. This is important, but the problem isn’t just assault weapons. Twenty thousand Americans use handguns to commit suicide. Every 14 minutes, another American dies of a gunshot wound. Every single month, guns kill as many people as did the terrorists on 9/11.”
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Framing the gun confiscation debate in terms of body count, as Oberg does above, presents a losing argument for the world’s progressive acolytes. This is primarily because such a framing ignores the core purpose of the Second Amendment: an effective check against government tyranny (not self-defense against common crime or the ability to hunt, though said activities are likewise protected). When you stack up the bodies generated by government tyranny, which has reared its ugly head multiple times in the 20th century alone and continues to presently in countries like Venezuela, the numerical disparity evident in comparison to the contemporary American ‘gun violence’ figures presented by Oberg is staggering. Additionally, bringing the issue of suicide into the equation, as Oberg does when he claims, with no source attributed, that “twenty thousand Americans use handguns to commit suicide,” is irrelevant as it has nothing to do with Second Amendment exercise and everything to do with the poor state of mental health in America and the fact that progressivism has degraded society to the point that large swaths of the citizenry now believe the answer to their discontent is death.
When the SUNY Geneseo professor asserts that nearly 40,000 people die every year from gunshot wounds in the U.S., he’s citing data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) as outlined in a December 2018 New York Times article. The same article indicates that the aforementioned C.D.C. data set goes back 50 years, so I’ll take all this at face value and assume that 2,000,000 people (40,000 x 50) have died between 1968 and 2018 from gunshot wounds across the nation.
Oberg also asserts that “every 14 minutes, another American dies of a gunshot wound.” He doesn’t cite a source for this data, but I’ll take him at his word that this is true. I’ll likewise assume that this additional data set reaches back 50 years and is consistent over that timeframe, like the C.D.C. data noted above, but is not represented in said C.D.C. data. So, each standard, 365-day year is composed of 525,600 minutes, which generates 37,543 14-minute blocks (525,600 / 14 = 37,542.8, which rounds to 37,543). Multiply that by 50 (years), and the result is 1,877,150 additional lives lost to gunshot wounds in the U.S., according to Oberg’s data. Adding that to the 2,000,000 already covered by the C.D.C. data, we’re at 3,877,150 lives lost thus far.
Next, I need to incorporate Oberg’s final data set into this contemporary American ‘gun violence’ equation, which posits that “every single month, guns kill as many people as did the terrorists on 9/11.” Again, no source is cited here, but I’ll assume this is true, that this has been true for the last 50 years and consistent over that timeframe, and that this data is not represented in either of the two other Oberg-endorsed data sets already examined. So, on September 10, 2018, ABC News reported that 2,997 people died as a direct result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. 2,997 multiplied by 12 (months) equals 35,946, multiplied by 50 (years) equals 1,798,200 additional lives lost to gunshot wounds in America, according to Oberg’s sources. When you combine the data from all sources cited by the SUNY Geneseo professor (again, generously assuming a 50-year constant and no overlap between the data sets) that comes to 5,675,350 lives lost to gunshot wounds in the U.S. (2,000,000 + 1,877,150 + 1,798,200 = 5,675,350).
Guess what? My blind deference and generosity to Professor Oberg’s data hasn’t ended yet. I’m now going to double the 5,675,350 figure in order to represent a century of contemporary American ‘gun violence’ at sustained and consistently high levels, according to Oberg’s data sets. So, 5,675,350 multiplied by two equals 11,350,700 contemporary American deaths from gunshot wounds over a 100-year period. Conversely, Political Scientist R.J. Rummel reports that, over the 100 years that compose the 20th century, democide (murder of any person or people by their government, including genocide, politicide and mass murder) generated 169,202,000 human deaths.
Therefore, by way of 100-year comparisons and a very generous treatment of Oberg’s cited data sets, government tyranny has produced an eye-popping 1,391 percent (157,851,300) more human deaths than contemporary American ‘gun violence.’
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The above freedom calculus clearly delivers a decisive victory for the long-term benefits of private gun ownership over its perceived short-term costs. This is precisely why progressives like Oberg go to great lengths to ignore and/or marginalize the government tyranny justification for Second Amendment exercise when extolling the merits of gun confiscation. They cling to this approach because the evidence for government’s proclivity to turn tyrannical in the face of a disarmed citizenry, and the industrialized murder and sky-high body count that is the inevitable result, is simply too compelling and well-documented to ignore.
In fact, avoidance of the government tyranny justification is likely why Oberg made an additional omission in his opening two paragraphs – he cited the anniversaries of the Virginia Tech (April 16, 2007 – 32 dead) and Columbine (April 20, 1999 – 13 dead) mass killings, but what about the one that occurred on April 19, 1993: the Waco Siege (75 dead)? Opinions on the Branch Davidians and David Koresh aside, the deaths of 50 adults and 25 children at the hands of government agents hardly appears to be a proportional response to federal firearms violations and suspicions of child abuse (no evidence of the latter was produced).
Why didn’t Oberg factor the Waco Siege into his argument? Likely because it’s a clear, compelling, and chillingly contemporary example of a government barreling down the well-worn path to tyranny that’s obsessed with safeguarding its desired monopoly on force by firepower. Obviously, this doesn’t fit the gun confiscation narrative. The same can be said of the current situation in Venezuela, which continues to demonstrate, in real time, that democratic norms and institutions are not enough to safeguard a population from government tyranny. Conversely, the Second Amendment is, and the fact that our constitutional republic has survived the centuries absent periodic government takeovers and industrialized mass murder of our citizens provides compelling evidence that, unlike gun confiscation, it works as advertised.
Stand by for further corrections to SUNY Geneseo Professor Michael Leroy Oberg’s ill-informed gun confiscation pandering in an upcoming post.
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