This week Rep. Jeremy Faison made an inaccurate statement in his defense of HB 1264, a bill that would would create a new concealed handgun carry permit process that requires no fee and only a 2 hour online training, meaning people would be able to get permits and carry guns nearly everywhere without ever firing one.
The bill is being carried by Rep. Andy Holt. It passed the House Judiciary Committee easily, despite the fact that even Speaker Casada’s own polling shows 93 percent of Tennessee voters – including 93 percent of Republicans, 94 percent of Democrats, 88 percent of gun owners and 89 percent of current permit holders – support the state’s current permit requirement for carrying a handgun in public.
For some context: Tennessee is already the 11th worst state when it comes to gun deaths. 6 of the 10 that are worse have laws that make guns easier to get and carry everywhere. In 2017, Tennessee led the entire nation in shootings involving children with access to unsecured, negligently stored firearms.
Studies have repeatedly shown states with stricter gun laws have fewer gun deaths, but some refuse to accept that and cite exceptions to the rule – like Chicago, or in Faison’s case the Bahamas – to “prove” that the correlation is not causation.
At the hearing Rep. Jeremy Faison – who thankfully seems to be recovering well after his recent accident – decided to go with the Bahamas as his example, saying:
“The places where the highest amount of crimes where a gun was used in America… those were in places that we have some of the most strict, draconian, anti-constitutional laws. So somehow this notion that if we pass what y’all call ‘common sense gun laws’ – which don’t exist – that crime’s just gonna go away… ask the Bahamians how that works. In the Bahamas you can get the death penalty for having a gun, and they have major gun crime every day. So I just want to encourage you when you’re trying to use that as an argument – you might want to research your own facts.”
Here’s the video:
Ok Jeremy, let’s “research the facts”.
Any person who purchases, acquires or has in his possession, uses or carries a gun without a licence therefor shall be liable —
- (a) on conviction on information, to imprisonment for a term of ten years and to a fine of ten thousand dollars;
- (b) on summary conviction before a Stipendiary and Circuit Magistrate, to imprisonment for a term of five years and to a fine of ten thousand dollars
There’s more to it, and the years have since been amended, but absolutely nothing in their laws that says “you can get the death penalty for having a gun.”
As one lawyer in the Bahamas told us:
“I have not heard of anyone being subject to a penalty of death upon being convicted of possessing a firearm in the Bahamas. Those convicted are often given a custodial sentence or made to pay a fine at the discretion of the court.”
Another Bahamian resident:
“Frankly, I don’t think you’ll get the death penalty for anything in the Bahamas. The Privy Council has effectively abolished the death penalty.”
Turns out the last execution in the Bahamas was in the year 2000, and as of August 2012 only one man was under the sentence of death – and he killed a police officer.
So that’s a big ol’ whiff from Jeremy there.
Where Faison has an inkling of a point is that the Bahamas does have restrictive gun laws and yet still high gun violence rates, but pointing to that as proof that in general stricter gun laws don’t work is no more valid than it would be to say that one country with much stricter gun laws has almost no gun violence proves they DO work.
This is a complicated problem with many factors playing a part. The Bahamas and some other impoverished countries do have higher gun violence rats, but when it comes to the richest countries in the world, the United States is simply off the charts regarding gun deaths and gun ownership:
The Key Word is “Rich”.
The element that often gets left out of the gun violence conversation is the societal factor that has the highest correlation with gun violence is far and away poverty and wealth inequality.
The World Bank has a study that found:
“violent crime rates decrease when economic growth improves… faster poverty reduction leads to a decline in national crime rates.”
As Mark Kaplan professor of Social Welfare at the UCLA Luskin School of Public Affairs put it:
“There is a strong correlation between homicide per million and income inequality… countries that are most equal have the lowest rates of gun-related homicides.”
Here’s a good conversation about it.
So yes, the Bahamas and Chicago have high murder rates. They also have high poverty rates.
When poverty and inequality are rampant in certain countries/neighborhoods, and people are in dire straits and desperate, bad things happen – particularly when guns are extremely accessible within the vicinity. (Chicago has states with lax gun laws right next door, and the Bahamas has the United States nearby)
This doesn’t mean gun safety laws don’t work. On balance the numbers are clear: They do.
What it does mean is if we’re serious about addressing gun violence in our communities, making them cheaper and even easier to get in already dangerous states is not the answer. Instead, we should be focusing on gun safety legislation and policies that address inequality and poverty:
…Raising our $7.25 an hour minimum wage to a livable one…expanding medicaid… subsidizing daycare for low income families… lowering health care costs and drug prices… tax reform that actually helps regular Americans (rather than corporations and the wealthy)… criminal justice reform…
Programs that put more money directly in people’s pockets, makes their lives better, and takes them out of desperate situations will save lives when it comes to gun violence.
In summation: The Bahamas doesn’t tell us gun laws don’t work. The Bahamas reminds us gun violence is a poverty/inequality problem as much as anything else.
And with all due respect to Rep. Faison, maybe next time you should “research your facts” before saying things that aren’t true on a legislative committee, especially one that’s helping to create a more dangerous environment for our children.
Letting people carry in public without ever firing one is like doing away with Driver’s License tests. If you agree, holler at Rep. Faison HERE.
(P.S. – Gun safety laws and the 2nd Amendment are not incompatible. Ask Justice Scalia.)