Africa Check did us all a great favour last week by debunking a persistent piece of gun control fiction.
“You are four times more likely to have your firearm used against you than to successfully use it in self-defence”.
This claim has been doing the rounds for more years than I care to remember. And it is completely false. However, despite being devoid of even a shred of truth, it is still recurrently quoted in the media.
The four-times-more-likely lie was first thoroughly debunked in September 2014 by Richard Best. He contacted Anthony Altbeker – the author on whose work the claim was supposedly based – and asked him whether or not his research supports the aforementioned conclusion.
Mr. Altbeker’s response was quite thorough (please see the hyperlink above) but can be summarised as follows:
“The methodology of the study militates against drawing the conclusion that armed victims are much more likely to lose their weapons than to use them successfully.”
Unfortunately this was not the end of it. A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is busy putting on its shoes, after all. And Gun Safe Cities, a new entrant to the South African firearm debate, breathed new life into this old and tired porky pie. Their spokesperson, John Davenport, shamelessly peddled it on an ENCA televised interview.
Now, Mr. Davenport is also the new Chief Creative Officer of Havas South Africa– a marketing and advertising corporation.
Gun Safe Cities is conducting their campaign with the assistance of Havas. And in spite of extensive public perturbation about the deceptive content of their production, the company has yet to distance itself from the blatantly inaccurate work.
I view it as utterly shameful that a private company will effectively endorse their COO selling outright lies to the South African public – if this isn’t a shining practical example of the principal-agent problem, then I don’t know what is.
Seeing as the management and directors of Havas don’t appear too keen to address this outrage, perhaps their customers will. Havas counts several big brands as clients: Durex, Disprin, Gaviscon, and Universal. Yet it seemed unlikely that much would come of it.
Africa Check caught wind of the claims made by Gun Safe Cities, and decided to investigate. Now, I have been somewhat unflattering of Africa Check in the past. Part of my issue with them is that they receive grants from the OSF-SA. Hence I was pessimistic regarding their degree of investigative independence and considered them potentially biased.
On this occasion I am obligated to eat my hat.
In a piece titled No research backs widely shared statistic about gun ownership risk in South Africa, Africa Check concludes that “there is no recent, reliable data on the topic. We therefore rate the claim unproven.”
The research done by Africa Check was extensive, and they also interviewed a large number of subject matter experts who assisted in debunking the claim. I therefore highly recommend that you read it for yourself.
Since they also communicated with Anthony Altbeker, it isn’t coincidental that we reached the same conclusion. Albeit with a five year gap between us.
Hopefully now that John Davenport has been caught with his pants around his ankles, he will rethink the unwise decision to blatantly lie to the public about our rights and abilities to defend ourselves. And if he chooses not to, then perhaps his employer will do it for him.
Unless they choose to wear the label of “liar” with their currently displayed cavalier attitude.
South Africa is a country plagued by violent crime. A situation not improved by preventing law-abiding and responsible people from arming themselves against criminals. We can ill afford irresponsible people and corporations publicising untruths about self-defence. It is a deception that can quite literally cost us innocent lives.
And it is due to the terribly serious nature of the situation, that we are indebted to Africa Check for helping us tell the truth.
Written by Gideon Joubert
Gideon is the owner and editor of Paratus.