Bob Costas doubled down on gun control Wednesday night on "The O’Reilly Factor" and Tuesday on MSNBC. Despite all the commotion generated by his rant on guns during halftime on NBC’s "Sunday Night Football,” he just couldn’t leave well enough alone. He called for restrictions on concealed handgun permit holders and reduced gun ownership in cities. Some Democratic lawmakers followed Costas’ lead and called for more gun control this week.
Unfortunately, Costas’ statements were filled with errors on topics ranging from "body armor" to “automatic weapons” to the gun laws in Colorado to the views of police to the behavior of permit holders.
During appearances on both shows Costas worried about the “Wild West, Dirty Harry mentality” of America’s 8 million concealed handgun permit holders.
Regarding the Aurora, Colorado shooting he attacked: “people who actually believe that if a number of people were armed at the theater in Aurora, they would have been able to take down this nut job in body armor and military style artillery.” But Costas never asked why the killer picked the Cinemark’s Century 16 Theater in Aurora, Colorado on July 20th to commit mass murder.
Despite what some might think, the theater chosen by the killer for the attack was neither the closest one to his apartment nor the one with the largest audience. Instead, out of the seven movie theaters within a 20 minute drive of his apartment showing the new "Batman" movie that night, it was the only one at that time where guns were banned. So why would a mass shooter pick a place that bans guns?
The answer should be obvious, though it apparently is not clear to Costas – disarming law-abiding citizens leaves them as sitting ducks. And I have written elsewhere about many other such cases, such as the Columbine shooting.
It is true that the Holmes’ bullet resistant vest might have protected him from getting killed by a permit holder, but any hits on the vest would have likely knocked him down and stopped the attack. As to the “military style” weapons, Costas confuses how the outside of a weapon looks with how it functions.
None of the attacks that have been in the news involve machine guns. Costas claims that police agree with him about the dangers of permit holders: “In fact, almost every policeman in the country would tell you that would have only increased the [Aurora] tragedy and added to the carnage.”
As to what police believe, the 2010 annual survey by the National Association of Chiefs of Police found 78 percent of their members believed that concealed-handgun permits issued in one state should be honored by other states "in the way that drivers' licenses are recognized through the country"—and that making citizens' permits portable would "facilitate the violent crime-fighting potential of the professional law enforcement community."
Surveys of street officers show even more support. That none of the many multiple victim shootings that have been stopped by a concealed handgun permit holder has ever resulted in a permit holder accidentally shooting a bystander would also be a relevant fact.
Costas told O’Reilly: “it's far more likely than somebody playing Dirty Harry and taking this guy down that, over the course of time, there would be a dispute about somebody stepping on someone's foot on the line for popcorn and that dispute would escalate because somebody has a gun.” But if that is the case, why do murder rates rise around the world whenever guns are banned?
On Monday, Fox Sports columnist Jason Whitlock, whom Costas has been quoting, asserted “the NRA is the new KKK” because it is trying to arm so many black gangs. Costas also expressed his justifiable concerns about “inner cities where teenage kids are somehow armed to the hilt.” But Costas’ and Whitlock’s response will hurt blacks.
There is a real drug gang problem in inner cities. But it isn’t any easier to stop the gangs from “being armed to the hilt” than it is to stop them getting illegal drugs. Police are probably single most important factor for reducing crime, but they almost always arrive on the crime scene after the crime has occurred. The question is whether law-abiding poor blacks will be allowed guns to defend themselves. As the most likely victims of violent crime, poor blacks living in urban areas benefit more than any other group from owning guns.
Finally, it isn’t just women and those who live in high crime urban areas who benefit from owning guns. Even large, powerful football players face a relative high crime rate because of their wealth. Though Costas downplayed last night, conceding: “All right, they -- they may feel that they need it for protection.” Instead, ascribing their gun ownership again to “Wild West cowboy Dirty Harry” and gangster rap videos.
Costas feels baffled by the response he has received because on Sunday night: “I never used the word ‘Second Amendment.’ Never used the words ‘Gun Control’,” but it was pretty hard to miss what he meant. He really didn’t leave any doubt when he said: “Handguns do not enhance our safety. They exacerbate our flaws, tempt us to escalate arguments, and bait us into embracing confrontation rather than avoiding it.”
Costas’ biggest problem is that he just made too many factually incorrect claims. All the interviews that he has given this week have only made that problem worse.
John R. Lott, Jr. is a columnist for FoxNews.com. He is an economist and was formerly chief economist at the United States Sentencing Commission. Lott is also a leading expert on guns and op-eds on that issue are done in conjunction with the Crime Prevention Research Center. He is the author of eight books including "More Guns, Less Crime." His latest book is "Dumbing Down the Courts: How Politics Keeps the Smartest Judges Off the Bench" Bascom Hill Publishing Group (September 17, 2013). Follow him on Twitter@johnrlottjr.