Tag: Gun Control

The Method is Not the Message

Yes, another gun post. I have more stuff in the queue, I promise.

Vox and other liberal websites have been posting a chart from Tewksbury that shows that the amount of gun violence in a nation rises with the number of guns. If you look at their first chart, you’ll see a bit of a trend. But their second plot just shows countries with a very high Human Development Index and the trend becomes clear:


There is no deception going on here. The plot is accurate, to the extent that the data are. My problem, however, is the reasoning. Note what is being plotted: gun deaths. Not violent deaths, suicide or homicides … only those specifically with guns. But that begs the question: what is this actually telling us? Is it telling us that fewer guns would mean fewer deaths? Or does it just mean that fewer guns means more people dying by other means?

Vox clearly believes the former, having made the claim that if our levels of gun violence were the same as the UK’s, that would save 20,000 lives a year. But I’m dubious. In my previous debunking of some myths by Mother Jones, I noted that they did the same thing: plotted gun deaths against gun ownership state by state and claimed that more guns resulted in more deaths. But if you looked at total suicide and homicides, the picture was far murkier:

I can’t embed the graphic but when you look at the total violence rate from all methods of killing — using the same sources they link — the correlation is not nearly as strong (R^2 of .13) The trend is 0.10 for every percent. So eliminating ALL guns — even if you assume that there is no increase in criminality — would reduce the death rate to about 14.8 or basically as peaceful as Iowa with its 44% ownership rate and Rhode Island with its 13%.

Update: Eugene Volokh revisits the issue here and comes to the same conclusion.

Well, I can embed graphics here. So here is what you get if you plot up the rate of violent death against gun ownership for all the countries with a high Human Development Index (except Liechtenstein, Andorra and Hong Kong, for which I could not get complete data)

Screen Shot 2015-10-07 at 9.25.13 PM

Now you see my point. There is no correlation whatsoever between gun ownership and violent death. If anything, there is a slight anti-correlation (which is basically caused by a few Baltic countries having low gun ownership rates and astronomical suicide rates).

Suicide is the key here. The suicide rate in the developed world is six times the homicide rate. In the United States, twice as many people take their own lives with a gun as take someone else’s. And more honest gun control advocates will tell you that, even if gun control didn’t stop murders, it could prevent suicides. Suicide tends to be impulsive and guns are a much more lethal method than just about anything else.

But the number belie the assumption that more guns automatically mean more suicide. When looking at this data, it was blindingly obvious that there is no correlation, on a country-by-country basis, between suicide rate and gun ownership. No, the difference driving suicide rates is cultural. Lithuania and South Korea, for example, have minuscule rates of gun ownership and very high rates of suicide. Many Middle Eastern countries have high rates of gun ownership but extremely low rates of suicide. That’s not because Kuwaitis are practicing great gun safety and South Koreans are careless. That’s because South Koreans are massively more likely to kill themselves. The gripping hand is that 99.8% of the time, they use something other than a gun. So the plot favored by the gun control advocates literally ignores 99.8% of South Korea’s problem with violent death.

Does that seem reasonable to you?

(Homicide rates show a slight trend of increased rate with increased gun ownership. But it is extremely weak, with an R^2 of .007. That’s noise. My data do not include accidental deaths but those constitute a very small percentage of gun deaths, about 1.5% in the United States.)

I want to be very clear on this: my point is not that there is no correlation between the presence of guns and violent death. If we had fewer guns, maybe fewer people would kill themselves. If Japan had lots of guns, maybe their suicide rate would be even higher. I’m not addressing that. My point is that this specific talking point is irrelevant when it comes to gun control. Guns are not the biggest factor in violent death. Culture is the biggest factor and it’s not even close.1

And that brings me to my point. People keep asking me why the United States is such a violent place compared to say, Canada. Surely, they say, it must be because of our gun culture. I think they’re right about the second word. It is culture. We have a culture that glorifies violence. I don’t mean necessarily in video games or rap songs. I mean in real life. I mean in inner cities, where violence is ubiquitous and role models are non-existent. I mean on an institutional level, where two million people are in prison, 80,000 SWAT raids are launched very year, a thousand people are killed by police and God knows how many are roughed up. I mean on a commentary level where we are very casual about just how many people get killed in a war. I mean on every level. Every day. We act as though human life is cheap. And then we act all surprised when young mean act as though human life is cheap.

Guns and gun violence are a symptom. The disease is our culture. It’s a disease that’s getting better. As I’ve noted many times, violence is way down from it’s awful peak in the 90’s. There are brave people trying to bring sanity to the war zones in our inner cities. As I said in my Sandy Hook post, there are probably dozens of mass shootings prevented by a trouble man getting help. But the amount of violence in our society is still way too much. I think there is a lot we could do to help (better mental health services, more community-oriented policing, ending the War on Drugs). But grabbing guns would be very low on my list.

1. Here’s a thought experiment to illustrate this. Ask yourself this question: would you rather be locked in a room with ten unarmed convicted murderers or ten armed law-abiding NRA members?

Oregon Shooting

Yesterday, we had another mass shooting, this time at a community college in Oregon. You know what happened next. Before we even knew how many people were dead, Barack Obama was giving an angry press conference, blasting Second Amendment advocates and calling for more gun control, whether or not it had any relevance to this incident. Liberals, predictably, loved it.

The blogosphere has filled with the usual array of anti-gun deceptions and distortions. So here’s a free guide to the facts:

  • Gun violence is way, way down, not up. We are at violence rates we have not seen since the 1950’s. This has happened without any significant gun control.
  • Mass shootings are not rising, not how matter how much people try to pretend they are. What’s changed is not the frequency of shootings; what’s changed is the instant politicization of it. Past Presidents did not address the media before the bodies were even cold to demand more gun control.
  • When Barack Obama says these events don’t happen in other countries, he is wrong.
  • When people say there have been masses of school shootings, they are wrong.
  • It’s Friday, so they are probably out there saying “all the studies” show that gun control works. This is not true. It’s totally not true.
  • By the weekend, they’ll be back to complaining that the NRA has blocked any research into guns. This is also not true. The study linked above was funded by the Bloomberg school. Only federal funds are blocked. And given the shenanigans the CDC and EPA have been up to with public health issues, I don’t think that’s completely unreasonable.
  • Australia will be dragged out as an example of what we should do. Keep in mind two things. First, after Australia banned guns, their rate of gun violence did come down. So did ours. Faster. Second, Australia took away millions of guns. When people cite Australia as an example, they’re not talking about background checks. They are talking about taking away millions of guns.

One last thing. I hate doing this. I hate that when there is a horrible tragedy, I have to take up my keyboard and answer this stuff. But the price of freedom is eternal vigilance. The Left takes the floor to cry out for gun control — no matter what the facts on the ground — after every single tragedy. They know, on some level, that what they’re suggesting would have, at most, a minor effect. But they can’t resist it because gun control is basically a moot issue. It’s not happening. So they feel they must exploit every tragedy to try to crack the edifice of the Second Amendment.

It’s hard to blame them if they honestly believe that gun control works. But then it’s hard to blame us when we points out … that it doesn’t.

That’s all I’m going to say on this subject. I’d much rather mourn the dead. And praise the heroes.

It’s Cute When We Do It: SWATing Edition

What could possibly go wrong?

As more states relax rules about open-carrying of guns, the Coalition to Stop Gun Violence has taken to social media to urge the public to assume gun-toters are trouble, and to call the cops on anyone they feel may be a threat.

“If you see someone carrying a firearm in public—openly or concealed—and have ANY doubts about their intent, call 911 immediately and ask police to come to the scene,” the group wrote on its widely followed Facebook page. “Never put your safety, or the safety of your loved ones, at the mercy of weak gun laws that arm individuals in public with little or no criminal and/or mental health screening.”

That approach, according to a blog post by Ohio-based Buckeye Firearms Association, could give rise to needless, tense confrontations between police and gun owners. The association and other similar groups liken the tactic to “swatting,” or the act of tricking an emergency service into dispatching responders based on a false report. Many online harassment campaigns have been known to participate in the practice.

As it happens, conceal carry permit holders are far less likely than the general public to be a threat. The gun control lobby knows (or should know it) and is ignoring it in their effort to harass gun owners.

I don’t know how wide-spread this tactic is. This may just be one or a few jackasses calling for this. But Jazz zeros in on the hypocrisy:

While this is a bad idea (and a criminal one) under any circumstances, it’s a particularly cynical and hypocritical move on the part of the gun grabbers. They tend to be almost exclusively liberal and have a large crossover with the same groups who are constantly complaining about violent encounters between the police and suspects. The atmosphere around the nation is particularly tense for law enforcement officers as more and more of them are murdered and criminals become more brazen [Hal: actually, crime and violent crime are down in most of the country and cops are less like to be attacked than ever]. Sending the cops out on a call where they have been falsely informed that someone is “acting suspicious” and is clearly armed just puts everyone on a hair trigger… literally.

Anyone remember Tamir Rice? Like, from a few months ago? He was killed because a citizen called in a report about someone with a gun (the part where the citizen said it might be a fake was not relayed to the officers). Anyone remember John Crawford? He was killed for the same reason. So the lesson the gun grabbers take is that we should be doing this to gun owners?

It’s almost as if they want there to be violent confrontations between law enforcement and gun owners. For years, the gun grabbers claimed that conceal and open carry laws would result in bloodbaths in the streets. People would be blazing away over car accidents. But that didn’t happen. Violence has continued to fall, permit holders continue to be peaceful and the case for gun control gets weaker every year.

I guarantee you that the first time this tactic results in a gun owner or a police officer being shot, the gun grabbers will milk it to the maximum. The blame won’t be on the gun grabber who called in a report or the training that lead to the over-reaction. No, it will be blamed on the gun.

Because when you’ve decided that guns in the hands of citizens are an evil, almost anything becomes justified.

Janie Got A Gun

Matt Vespa, over at Hot Air, flags a recent and encouraging trend in gun ownership: women.

Women are the next frontier in the firearms industry. Over the past few years, women have become the fastest growing demographic of gun owners. They’re responsible for the surge in gun ownership in states like Colorado, and women are lining up across the country for their concealed carry permits. This isn’t a new phenomenon. While the liberal urban-based elite–and their allies in the media–view gun owners as a group comprised mostly of white, conservative men, Louisa Fitzgerald wrote on the feminist site Jezebel that women gun owners often “defy stereotypes.”

The article details several women who have decided to carry and quotes one woman saying she hopes she never has to pull it.

That’s the mindset of every law-abiding gun owner, concealed carry permit holder, and police officer; a firearm that remains holstered for an entire day is a very good one.

This is one of the things that “research” into the defensive use of weapons often misses: you don’t have to kill someone to defend yourself with a weapon. Hell, there’s some research showing that just knowing guns are out there intimidates criminals.

Matt details some of the shoddy research and laughable arguments used by hacks like Everytown. But there was something that was new information to me: the number of children who are accidentally killed by guns has been falling — down 58% over the last 20 years. Such deaths are rare to begin with (0.2 per 100,000 kids) but any such death is horrifying. But even as the number of weapons has grown, the number of kids being accidentally killed is falling. I don’t know why that is: we haven’t mandated trigger locks or done any of the other hundred things the gun grabbers have insisted on. The data is from the National Safety Council and it’s possible that there’s something methodological going on. But if there has been a huge drop in accidental firearms deaths, that’s a great thing. And hopefully a trend that can continue.

More Gun Grabber Baloney

The anti-Second-Amendment crowd has been positively giddy over a new study that claims Connecticut’s gun registration law cut gun violence an amazing 40%.

I find this claim extremely suspect.

You can read some good critiques from Reason, Hot Air and especially John Lott. Lott is an object of hate from many gun grabbers because of his “more guns, less crime” theory. Some of the criticism is deserved: he can’t reproduce his original results because, he claims, his hard drive crashed. But what Lott is good at is poking holes in the claims of marginal studies of single states that make grand conclusions.

In this case, the authors’ result is that Connecticut saw a sharper reduction in gun violence than Rhode Island did over a very specific ten year frame. That’s it. So give up those NRA memberships guys, the debate is over.

Of course …

Of course, if you look at the data before that law was passed, Connecticut’s rate of gun violence was already falling. And if you look at the data after their ten year window, Connecticut’s rate comes back up. And if you compare them to literally any state other than Rhode Island, the supposed reduction in violence disappears. And if you look at other states that have passed similar gun control laws, you don’t see a reduction in gun murders.

To be clear: there’s no fraud here. Their claim is true. But it’s cherry-picked. You could do a hundred other studies looking at the effects of gun laws and not come to this conclusion. You could do this study with only slightly different parameters and not reach their conclusion.

And it’s not the first time for these guys. Recently, they claimed that violence in Missouri went up because of a repeal of a gun control law. That claim was also cherry-picked. And now comes information that the claim that mass shootings were going up was also bogus. For some time, Mother Jones had been ground zero for this nonsense, including a collection of mischaracterized, cherry-picked data that proved nothing.

But remember, folks. It’s conservatives who are the enemies of science. It’s we who ignore empirical data and substitute our feelings in. Not the Left, oh no. Especially not those who are funded by gun-grabber Michael Bloomberg.

Gun Grabbers Encourage Felonies

It’s hard to pick the most idiotic political movement in this country, but I have to think the anti-gun movement is up there. Behold:

For those of you who don’t want to sit through it, it shows a teenage boy taking a gun out of his parents dresser. He tucks it into his backpack and goes to school to the sounds of ominous music. He waits until after class, goes up to the teacher and … turns it into the teacher, asking her to take it away because he doesn’t feel safe with it in the house.

Let’s count the number of crimes committed in this “uplifting” ad:

1. Illegal possession of a firearm by a minor.
2. Weapons theft (a felony)
3. Unlicensed conceal carry.
4. Carrying a weapon onto school grounds (a federal crime)
5. Transfer of a weapon without a background check (a crime in some states)

Let’s also note that this encourages kids to pick up and handle weapons, something the damned NRA works hard to discourage kids from doing.

It’s too bad I already gave out the Turkeys of the Year awards.

Sorry. They *Are* Coming For Our Guns

Whenever conservatives oppose a gun control law, we are mocked in the media for our delusions that “they’re cummin’ for yer guns!” Mother Jones included this in their list of ten gun control myths (that weren’t really myths).

Well ….

Yesterday California Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill that strips people of their Second Amendment rights based on claims that they pose a danger to themselves or others. Under AB 1014, a cop or “an immediate family member”—which includes not just spouses, children, siblings, and parents but also in-laws and roommates, both current and former—can seek a “gun violence restraining order” that prohibits an individual from possessing firearms and authorizes police to seize any he currently owns. Such an order can initially be obtained without any notice or adversarial process.

The guns will be taken away for three weeks after which the petitioner will have to convince a judge by “clear and convincing evidence” — not “beyond a reasonable doubt” — that he can’t be trusted with guns. After that, a one-year restraining order is issued that can be renewed every year. I’m sure this will work out as well as asset forfeiture has.

I’ll give you three guesses as to why this law was passed:

Assembly Bill 1014, by Assemblywoman Nancy Skinner, D-Berkeley, was the Legislature’s central response to the lethal shooting in May near the University of California, Santa Barbara. It will allow family members of someone who is displaying signs of mental instability to request a court order temporarily barring gun use and purchase.

Families of people killed in Isla Vista had lobbied for the bill at the Capitol, and Skinner cheered Brown’s action Tuesday.

As I have said any time a mass shooting occurs, these events are are rare and any legislation designed to prevent them is unlikely to do so. Law passed in the wake of a mass shooting — or any mass tragedy — are almost always laws that some interest group has wanted for years and finally has an opportunity to ram through. Whether it’s grabbing guns, arming teachers or locking down schools, it’s simple political opportunism.

(Another provision requires toy guns sold in California to be brightly colored because of incidents in which cops have shot kids carrying toy guns. Because God forbid we should train cops not to shoot first and ask questions later.)

It’s not unreasonable to take away the guns of someone who is mentally unstable. The problem is that the standard here has been set pretty low. Cops have to have “reasonable cause” to get a judge to issue the order. But our system defers to cops’ judgement in almost every circumstance. Judges have routinely issued warrants for violent no-knock raids based on the ramblings of drug addicts and the justifications of criminals. Juries refuse to indict cops who gun down unarmed people on video. Unions and politicians rally behind cops even when bad behavior is proven and quietly pay millions to cover up abuse rather than deal with it. If a judge will let police launch a SWAT raid because a meth addict says someone is dealing; if they’ll excuse the resulting bloodshed because the cops “acted in good faith”; if prosecutors and juries will refuse to punish cops even when abuse is proven … why on Earth would anyone stop cops from grabbing someone’s guns if they claim an Isla Vista rampage is imminent?

This is the problem with how people approach infringements on our liberty. They see what they want — guns being taken away from crazy people — and miss what’s actually going to happen: the law will be given yet another tool with which to attack our basic freedom.

In fact, this point is so obvious, you have to wonder if that’s the point. Remember that the gun grabbers want a society in which no one is allowed to have a gun unless they can justify it to the government. It’s not that hard to see the infrastructure being put in place for such a society. They only need a couple more seats on the Supreme Court to make it happen.

Ferguson is All About … Gun Control?

There are many issues that the ongoing situation in Ferguson has raised. Racism. Race-baiting. Media surpression. Militarization of police. But what it is really about, when you get down to it is … wait, what?

The current issue of The Economist contains a striking factoid: “Last year, in total, British police officers actually fired their weapons three times. The number of people fatally shot was zero.”1 By contrast, there are about 400 fatal shootings each year by local police in the United States.

When I tweeted out this stunning stat earlier this week, no shortage of people noted an obvious explanation for why British police were so much less likely to fire their guns: there were far fewer guns around them. The U.K. has some of the world’s strictest limitations on gun ownership—handguns are all but prohibited, while shotguns and rifles require a police certificate and special justification (self-defense does not qualify.) There are an estimated 14,000 handguns in civilian hands in the U.K. (population 63 million) and slightly more than 2 million shotguns and rifles. Estimates for the number of total firearms in civilian hands in the U.S. float north of 300 million. Simply put, if the police in the U.S. seem a lot more on edge than those across the pond, they have good reason to be.

As obvious as this explanation for the militarization and trigger-happiness of U.S. police may be, it has gotten relatively little attention amid the alarming spectacle that has played out in Ferguson, Missouri following the fatal police shooting of an unarmed black 18-year-old and, more recently, the fatal shooting just a few miles away of a mentally-ill man holding a knife.

Every comment thread on Ferguson and police militarization has devolved into liberals screaming that this is really about gun control. If only we got those nasty guns out of the hands of the law-abiding, they say, our police wouldn’t need to be so militarized. They’d be just like the British cops.

Never mind that Michael Brown was unarmed or that Kajieme Powell was armed with a steak knife. Never mind that the protesters were unarmed when police were pointing assault weapons and sniper rifles at them. Never mind that the tear gas and rubber bullet response was justified because of people throwing rocks and bottles (and supposedly, Molotov cocktails). Never mind that our inner cities actually have low rates of legal gun ownership (in DC, the rate of legal gun ownerships is a tenth of the rest of the country). Never mind that fewer officers were shot to death on the job last year than in any year since 1887 (PDF) and that violent assault on cops are down by an equal amount. Never mind that the vast majority of weapons in this country are handguns and rifles, not military-grade weapons. No, it’s really about guns!

In his book on police militarization, Radley Balko talks about the North Hollywood shootout, which was used to justify some police militarization. But the North Hollywood shootout was a rare event, not a harbinger of more violent attacks to come. And the militarization of police throws its roots down in the War on Drugs and the War on Terror. Rarely has gun ownership been used to justify it. And we have certainly never been told this was happening because of the 300 million guns that are owned by law-abiding citizens and are never used to commit crimes.

If we banned guns today, would the police give up their sniper rifles, flash bang grenades, armored vehicles and assault weapons? Of course not. They would claim that we still face danger from terrorism and drug gangs. They would still claim that any raid faced a danger of illegal military-style weapons. They would still default to an armed stance. Compare how officers responded to Kajieme Powell, emerging close by with guns drawn, to how British police dealt with a maniac wielding a machete. These are different approaches to policing, not a response to the phantom menace of super-predators with machine guns.

But gun control is the Left’s religion. Everything, including the finish of teams in the NFC East last year, proves we need more of it. This attitude comes from desperation: gun control is simply a non-starter for most of the country.

A Peek Inside the Mind of A Gun Grabber

I blogged earlier about the prosecution of Shaneen Allen, a working mom of two who legally owned a gun and voluntarily declare its presence when she was pulled over in New Jersey, where having a loaded gun in a car is a crime. Despite the availability of a diversionary program, the prosecutor has elected to charge her with a felony and the trial is going forward.

What struck me about Balko’s latest write-up was this:

“Fortunately, the notoriety of this case will make it less likely Pennsylvanians will carry concealed and loaded handguns in New Jersey, thereby making them and the Garden State safer from gun violence,” said Bryan Miller, executive director of Heeding God’s Call, a faith-based movement to prevent gun violence.

Balko answers:

The people responsible for the gun violence in New Jersey are not residents of bordering states who have gone through the trouble of obtaining a legal permit in their home states. The people responsible for gun violence in New Jersey don’t volunteer to police that they’re carrying a weapon. And the people responsible for the gun violence in New Jersey are not going to be deterred by a story about a single mom sent off to prison for an honest mistake. Sending Shaneen Allen to prison will ruin Shaneen Allen’s life. It will also ruin the lives of her children. And that is all it will do.

But I would add something. That quote gives you a peek into the mind of the gun-control advocates. The certainly must know that getting rid of guns would make some people more vulnerable to violence. They certainly must know that harmless people like Shaneen Allen get swept up in these things. But when you have persuaded yourself that guns are evil talismans that make people do bad things, anything becomes justified. Allen is just collateral damage in the long twilight struggle to pull guns out of the hands of our citizens. Subtleties of the debate don’t matter — as shown in Everytown’s manipulative commercials and garbage stats. What matters is getting rid of those damned guns.

We see this attitude in other contexts, of course. A girl texts a picture of her boobs to her boyfriend and she’s prosecuted for kiddie porn to “set an example”. A crippled man has a few too many pain pills, so we prosecuted him to “set an example”. A hacker commits a fairly minor violation and we hound him into suicide to “set an example”.

But people aren’t examples to be used by ambitious prosecutors and political hacks, least of all to people who have a pathological fear of an armed citizenry. They are individuals, with lives of their own and families who need them.

Want Help? Ask Conservatives

Everyone know that only Democrats care about minorities. Everyone knows that only Democrats care about the poor. Everyone know that only Democrats care about women. Republicans just like to cruise around in their limos laughing at the plight of those less fortunate than them. Meanwhile, Democrats can’t sleep at night because they are so worried about the oppressed masses. Right? Right?

Let me introduce you to Shaneen Allen:

Last October, Shaneen Allen, 27, was pulled over in Atlantic County, N.J. The officer who pulled her over says she made an unsafe lane change. During the stop, Allen informed the officer that she was a resident of Pennsylvania and had a conceal carry permit in her home state. She also had a handgun in her car. Had she been in Pennsylvania, having the gun in the car would have been perfectly legal. But Allen was pulled over in New Jersey, home to some of the strictest gun control laws in the United States.

Allen is a black single mother. She has two kids. She has no prior criminal record. Before her arrest, she worked as a phlebobotomist. After she was robbed two times in the span of about a year, she purchased the gun to protect herself and her family. There is zero evidence that Allen intended to use the gun for any other purpose. Yet Allen was arrested. She spent 40 days in jail before she was released on bail. She’s now facing a felony charge that, if convicted, would bring a three-year mandatory minimum prison term.

There is a wide prosecutorial discretion here (more on that in a moment) but it looks like the prosecutor is going to throw the book at her. Allen is the kind of person the Left is supposed to be in a tizzy over — a single working mom doing her best who is about to be crushed by the system. But the liberal Ecosphere has said little, if anything, about her. You know who is taking up her cause? If you said conservatives and libertarians, move to the front of the class. Here is National Review, for example, trying to make her case a national issue. True, this is because conservatives believe in gun rights and the second amendment. But they also believe in justice. And there is a growing awareness of the massive disparities in how gun laws are enforced.

As it turns out, Allen’s case isn’t unusual at all. Although white people occasionally do become the victims of overly broad gun laws (for example, see the outrageous prosecution of Brian Aitken, also in New Jersey), the typical person arrested for gun crimes is more likely to have the complexion of Shaneen Allen than, say, Sarah Palin. Last year, 47.3 percent of those convicted for federal gun crimes were black — a racial disparity larger than any other class of federal crimes, including drug crimes. In a 2011 report on mandatory minimum sentencing for gun crimes, the U.S. Sentencing Commission found that blacks were far more likely to be charged and convicted of federal gun crimes that carry mandatory minimum sentences. They were also more likely to be hit with “enhancement” penalties that added to their sentences. In fact, the racial discrepancy for mandatory minimums was even higher than the aforementioned disparity for federal gun crimes in general.

This isn’t just a matter of black people committing more crimes. In cases where the prosecution is discretionary — such as the enhancement penalties — this is far more likely to happen to black criminals than white ones. And conservatives like Rand Paul have been making this point more and more forcefully of late.

Oh, speaking of Rand Paul … Just last week, Jon Stewart discovered civil asset forfeiture, the process by which the government can seize your property or money by alleging it has committed a crime (that’s not a typo; they literally charge the property with a crime). It will surprise no one that while asset forfeiture casts a wide net, it also has a tendency to fall heaviest on minorities and on poor people who can’t fight back. Anyone want to guess the party affiliation of the man who has proposed to overhaul asset forfeiture law and give people greater civil service protections?

The FAIR Act would change federal law and protect the rights of property owners by requiring that the government prove its case with clear and convincing evidence before forfeiting seized property. State law enforcement agencies will have to abide by state law when forfeiting seized property. Finally, the legislation would remove the profit incentive for forfeiture by redirecting forfeitures assets from the Attorney General’s Asset Forfeiture Fund to the Treasury’s General Fund.

It’s not perfect. But it’s a huge improvement over the existing regime, where local law enforcement can bypass state regs by turning the seized money over to federal agents, who take a cut and give it directly back the law enforcement agencies.

But there’s still more. Let’s move away from crime and toward poverty itself. Last week, Paul Ryan suggested a new set of policies to try to reduce poverty. He would consolidate numerous programs into block grants to the states, expand the EITC, reduce regulations and push criminal sentencing reform. Even some liberals are admitting these are good ideas. They will reward work and expand opportunity — the two things the poor need a hell of a lot more than slightly larger piles of government cash.

There’s been some controversy over Ryan’s proposal to have chronically poor people meet with councilors who will help them improve their lives. But as Megan McArdle points out, while the chronically poor are a small part of the poor, they consume a huge chunk of the benefits. And it is chronic generational poverty that is the true suffering. Ryan’s plan sounds a bit too paternalistic to me. But it’s got to be better than the absent father method our current system upholds where we just throw money at poor people and hope it will magically make them unpoor.

So in just the last week, we’ve seen conservatives oppose arbitrary ruinous enforcement of gun laws, oppose asset forfeiture and propose a new version of welfare reform (after the last one lifted millions out of poverty). You add this to the ongoing push for school choice and you have a platform that would greatly enhance freedom and opportunity for millions of people, most of who are poorer and darker-skinned than your typical Republican.

And the Democratic Party? Well, their big issue right now is trying to save the corporate welfare that is the Ex-Im bank.

Look, I’m not going to pretend the Republican Party is perfect on these issues or any other issue. And there are plenty of Democrats who support the above policies. What I am going to suggest, however, is that the caricature of the GOP specifically and conservatives in general as uncaring racist sociopaths is absurd.

Update: This isn’t strictly related, but you know how Democrats have been whining about the cost of higher ed and the burden it is imposing on the middle class? Well evil conservative Republican Mitch Daniels is not whining, he’s doing something about it.