The ebullient Emily Miller has become a champion for gun rights in recent years. Though, it wasn’t by design that she jumped into the fray, but by happenstance. After being the victim of a home invasion while dog sitting at a friend’s house, she felt for the first time in her life that being pro-Second Amendment in theory wasn’t quite good enough. She had to do it in practice. She had to take responsibility for her own safety. She had to exercise her Constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
So began her journey through the tangled web of bureaucratic nonsense that it is the Washington, D.C. legal system. As Miller explains in her new book, “Emily Gets Her Gun: But Obama Wants to Take Yours”, obtaining a firearm in our nation’s capital is a long and complicated process that functions to discourage gun ownership amongst the law-abiding.
Miller, the senior Opinion Editor at the Washington Times, not only endured that arduous process, she documented it in an eye-opening exposé in 2011, which earned her the 2012 Clark Mollenhoff Award for Investigative Reporting from the Institute on Political Journalism. Her series in the Washington Times became the foundational text for her book, which takes a more in-depth look at D.C.’s convoluted firearm registration process, her journey into the gun community and the ongoing national debate over gun control.
Guns.com had a chance to correspond with Miller about her book. Below is our Q&A:
S.H. Blannelberry: The standard Guns.com question: what’s your favorite gun? I’m assuming it’s your SIG?
Miller: I only have one gun – the one you see on the cover of my book. It’s a SIG Sauer P229 in 9mm. Since it took me four months and $435 in fees to go through the 17 steps it takes to register a legal firearm in D.C., I haven’t had the will to go through all that again.
Since I wrote my series in The Washington Times exposing the city’s outrageous regulations to deter gun ownership, the city council changed the law to make it slightly easier to get a gun. Now it’s 11 steps.
Meanwhile, across the bridge in Virginia, it’s one step — just go to the store and pass a FBI background check, state check, pay and walk out with your gun. It’s a stark contrast in how the Second Amendment is respected in different parts of the United States.
Washington has no carry rights at all. No one is allowed to take a gun outside the home. So, only the criminals and the police are armed on the streets. But, I’d like to get a concealed carry permit from another state to use when I travel. Then I’ll probably go through the registration process again to get a smaller firearm.
I’ve also been trying to get better at clay shooting. If I improve enough, then I’d like to buy a shotgun.
SHB: How often do you get to the gun range?
Miller: There are no ranges in D.C. I usually go to Sharpshooter’s Small Arms Range in Lorton, Virginia, about every couple months to train.
SHB: In your book you talk about the burglars who entered your friend’s house while you were dog sitting. You were unarmed and alone during the encounter. Had you been armed in that situation, have you given thought to what you might have done differently?
Miller: No, the robbery ended without me getting physically harmed, so there was no reason to have pulled a gun in the situation. The robber had about 15 buddies with two pickup trucks down the street, so I was just lucky they didn’t attack me.
That was the first time in my life that I thought that if the situation had been violent, the only way I could have had a chance at defending myself against all those men was if I had a gun.
Now that I’m a gun owner, I’m never afraid of someone breaking in and being helpless.
SHB: Can gun-rights advocates really argue that there is a causal link between gun ownership and crime rates, i.e. more guns equals less crime?
While there is certainly a negative correlation between gun ownership, the expansion of concealed carry rights, self-defense laws and crime (all crime, property crime, violent crime and the homicide rate) there are a lot of variables that impact crime rates. To single out any one factor (poverty rate, broken windows theory, the Roe v. Wade theory, gun ownership, gang activity, the role of drugs and alcohol, etc.) as having a significant impact on crime rates seems to be a risky proposition that is quite difficult to empirically prove. Your take?
Miller: That’s true that no study has proven that more gun ownership leads to less crime. However, as I explain in my book, we know for fact three things that makes it seem likely.
First, not a single gun-control law has ever reduced crime. The Centers for Disease Control’s two year study of all kinds of gun-control laws concluded that there is “insufficient evidence” to show the “effectiveness of any of the firearms laws…. on violent outcomes.” A more recent Harvard study said largely the same thing.
Second, as gun ownership has gone up to its highest rates ever (47 percent of households according to Gallup), gun crime has decreased steadily for 20 years. According to the most recent FBI statistics, the rate of gun homicides has decreased 50 percent in 20 years and non-fatal shootings are down 70 percent.
Finally, we have seen a staggering increase of concealed carry permit holders in the United States in recent years — over 8 million people now. At the same time, violent crime has fallen and gun crime has fallen.
So while there is no hard proof that higher rates of gun ownership creates a deterrent which leads to less crime, those three facts seem to suggest it. Plus, it is just common sense. A criminal is just less likely to attack someone who might be armed.
SHB: When I mention your name to other male gun owners, two things inevitably pop up. First, your journalistic pedigree, which the vast majority of guys I talk to believe is outstanding. Second, your looks. Most guys think you’re quite attractive. I’m wondering whether you find this latter compliment flattering or annoying or irrelevant, etc?
Miller: You made me laugh! I sure didn’t see that question coming after the last one. I’m confident in my intelligence and knowledge so I’m flattered. What girl doesn’t appreciate a compliment?
SHB: On the subject of “Fix NICS” there is seemingly a conundrum. On one hand gun rights advocates argue that we need to Fix NICS. Put quite simply, we need to ensure that states do a better job of submitting mental health records to the FBI’s central database, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which gun dealers use to check the criminal and mental health history of gun purchasers.
On the other hand gun control activists argue that even if we Fix NICS there is still a huge loophole; criminals and the mentally ill can still purchase firearms from private sellers via the Internet (provided it’s within the same state) and at gun shows.
So, to really “Fix NICS,” they argue, we need universal background checks that cover private transactions between private buyers and sellers, with certain exceptions: neighbors, friends, family (depending on the language of the UBC bill).
Now, in response to this point, many gun-rights advocates suggest that no matter what Congress does legislatively, criminals are still going to obtain firearms. Consequently, passing an expanded background check bill will do nothing to reduce crime or prevent the wrong people from obtaining guns. But if this is true, why should we even bother fixing NICS in the first place?
It seems that fixing NICS or improving the system is a worthy endeavor since it already prevents an estimated 80,000 illegal purchases per year. But are we stopping short by not closing the “gun show loophole” or subjecting private sales and transfers to background checks?
Miller: I have a whole chapter in my book about the issue of background checks and the supposed “gun show loophole” and a half chapter on the broken NICS system, so I’ll try to keep this brief.
First, the term “gun show loophole” is one of the many invented by anti-gun groups to deliberately mislead the public. I also describe how they came up with terms like “high-capacity” magazine, “cop-killer” bullet and using “assault weapon” for a semi automatic rifle. These groups have been very effective in getting liberal media to use these terms to confuse the public.
While President Obama insinuates that 40 percent of people get firearms at gun shows, the number is actually about 4 percent. A Justice Department poll of inmates released in May showed less than 1 percent said they got the weapons used in the crime from a gun show.
The whole issue is designed to confuse those people who have never been to gun shows to think they are hotbeds of illegal activity. In fact, ATF has stepped up enforcement at gun shows so about 90 percent of firearms sold go through the FBI background check.
NICS is broken because many states refuse to put mental health records into the system. Look at the National Shooting Sports Foundation’s graphic at fixnics.org to see which states haven’t turned over any mental health records — you’ll notice that many are the same states that are passing more useless gun-control bans. States are also not putting in felony records. Without those two pieces in the system, there is no way that a federal firearms licensee can know if he is selling to a prohibited person.
The reason that Obama’s so-called “universal background check” system will do nothing to reduce crime is because only the law abiding will take the time to go to a dealer before exchanging a firearm. Criminals get their guns from stealing them or from straw purchasing. They won’t willingly go to a dealer, pay a fee and take the risk of getting caught.
Just look at the first month that Colorado had a mandatory background check in effect for private exchanges. The Colorado Bureau of Investigation reported that only 10 of the 561 checks in July were initially denied. The agency did not release the reason for the initial denials, so they could be false positives, but the low percentage shows that criminals are not going to go to a licensed firearms dealer to do a background check before handing over an illegal gun.
SHB: During a POLITICO interview, you joked about the title of your next book. The suggestion was: “Emily Gets Her Marijuana.” I thought that was funny — and maybe worthy of serious consideration. But with respect to guns and crime, do you think that decriminalizing or legalizing weed and other drugs has the potential to reduce crime rates?
Miller: Actually it was the reporter, Patrick Gavin, who offered that as an idea. I retorted it should be “Emily Gets Her Crack,” which shows how I view marijuana as a gateway to other drugs.
I am a conservative, not a libertarian. I think drugs should be illegal. And there is zero evidence that legalizing marijuana will reduce crime.
SHB: In your book you talked about all the red tape you had to go through to get your gun. With respect to the concealed carry application process, which in some states can be as equally vexing as obtaining a gun in D.C., do you favor “May-issue,” “Shall-Issue” or “Permit-less/Constitution” carry?
Miller: I think the Supreme Court is going to say that the laws are unconstitutional in “may issues” states in which citizens have to give a good reason for exercising their Second Amendment right to bear arms. Can you imagine if the government said I had to prove I needed freedom of the press before I was allowed to write in my newspaper? Of course that would never happen.
I was disappointed that the Supreme Court did not take up the Woollard case this term. It was a great case to overturn Maryland’s “good and substantial reason” permit laws. I describe in my book what it took for my Dad to get a carry permit in Baltimore in the early 80s. After renewing it once, he gave up because it took so much effort to “prove” to the police that he needed it. Nothing has changed since then in Maryland. We should never have to prove to the government that we need one of our fundamental rights.
These “may issue” states are going to have to be stopped by the high court since they won’t do it on their own based on basic facts like these kind of permit laws do not decrease crime.
As for the shall issue vs constitutional carry state differences, I think that is best left up to the citizens of each state to decide based on the factors specific to their crime rates, population and geography.
SHB: If you had to have lunch with either New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg or President Obama, which one would you choose and why?
Miller: President Obama because I’ve always wanted to ask him one question: When was the last time you read the Constitution?
Huge thanks to Miller for taking the time to answer my questions, some of which were long-winded and purposely contrarian. Also, I should note that I read the book and it’s kick-ass. I highly recommend it. If you haven’t already, you should pick up a copy.