Guns

Alright, folks.  Buckles your seat belts.  I’m about to talk about gun control.

This is a good follow-up to yesterdays post about mindless memes, and how easy it is to spread ignorance and misinformation through social media.  I mentioned that we don’t do sufficient fact checking, and I mentioned in passing that sometimes it’s because we don’t want our illusions destroyed.  Gun control is one of those subjects where people like to maintain their illusions, so we tend to close our minds as soon as the subject comes up.

I’m not going to reveal my opinion yet.  I will later.  First, I want some facts, so that my opinion can be informed by reality.

According to the FBI, violent crime declined steadily between 2009 and 2013.13violentcrimeoffensefigure

Here is a link to the FBI site where I grabbed this graph.

There are some other statistics on the site that aren’t shown in the graph.  62.3% of the violent crimes in 2013 were assault.  Murder accounted for 1.2%.  Firearms were used in 69% of the murders, and 21.6% of the assaults.

 

Let’s look at another site.  The CDC has some quick stats on causes of death.  In 2013, about 192,945 people died from injury related deaths.  48,545 deaths were caused by poison.  33,804 deaths involved a motor vehicle.  And 33,636 deaths involved firearms.

The CDC has another page dedicated to stats on homicides.  In 2013, there were 16,121 total homicides, and 11,208 involved firearms.

 

That’s the data I’m going to use.  I’ve seen some images floating around about Australia.  There are comparisons made between the US and other countries.  I don’t have reliable source information for that, and I’m not even sure it’s applicable.  The culture is different in the US, so what may have worked in Australia might not work here.

 

What does the data we have from the FBI and the CDC tell us?  First, their numbers don’t quite match, so they’re probably using different sources, different definitions, or both.  The numbers not matching from the two sites is a tempting distraction.  Let’s not get wrapped up in that.

The second thing we notice is the difference in numbers between assault and murder.  Multiplying out the FBI numbers, there were 724,640 assaults in 2013.  In the same year, there were 13,958 murders.  156,522 of the assaults involved firearms.  9,631 of the murders involved firearms.

 

Now that we have some actual numbers, let’s start thinking about the problem with unrealistic fantasy.  Let’s assume that we pass effective gun control legislation, and the end result is that ALL of the firearm related assaults and murders are eliminated.  We’ll still be looking at 568,118 assaults, and 4,327 murders.  Looking at the CDC numbers, we’d have reduced the total number of injury deaths from 192,945 to 159,309.

Did we solve the problem?  Remember, we’re applying fantasy to real numbers.  This fantasy has removed ALL guns from the equation, even though the reality would be that there would still be guns in the US.  Both legal and illegal.

The reality is that if you manage to take away all of the guns, some of those assaults and murders would still happen, only with fists or knives.  We can’t know how many, and I’m not going to make up numbers on that.  But I think it’s a reasonable assumption that someone angry enough to inflict bodily harm on another will find a way, with or without a firearm.

 

I saw some posts floating around, proposing that guns should be regulated the same way that cars are.  Then I saw some other people refuting that, saying that right now, guns are more regulated than cars.  I don’t have any data to support either side.  But I do have an opinion.

Changing the way guns are regulated would not have saved that little girl that was killed by a boy, when they were arguing over a puppy.  The boy shouldn’t have had access to the shotgun.  And I wouldn’t blame the government, or the NRA, or anyone else, except the parents of that little boy.

Hell, if I was a cold sonofoabitch, I might even point a finger at the little girl’s parents, too.  I don’t have all of the details of what happened, but it seems like two kids were unattended long enough that they could argue, leading to the boy retrieving a shotgun and bringing it to bear on the girl.  If either child had been under more supervision, then the disaster could have been prevented.

But I’m not that cold.  I feel bad for the parents, of both kids.  One is dead, and the other’s life is ruined.

This event, and the shooting in Oregon, and the shootings before that, bring out emotions and emotional responses.  And with the immediacy of these events, right in our faces, in our news feeds and in our social feeds, we would be monsters not to respond.  If there is something that can be done to prevent this from happening in the future, we should do it.

The argument is whether or not removing guns from the equation will solve the problem.  In the instances that are clear and present in front of us… maybe.  Removing the guns may have helped.

But looking at the numbers, it isn’t the full answer.  I would argue that it isn’t even the answering the right question.  It answers, “How do we stop people from shooting each other?” What we should be asking is, “How do we stop people from hurting each other?”

I don’t know.  According to the five year trend from the FBI data, the number of violent crimes is decreasing.  What did we do to start that trend?  Is the trend continuing?

I’m not saying we should do nothing, and wait it out.  I’m saying that we should do the right thing, and I’m not convinced that guns are the main problem.

How do I feel about guns?  The same way I feel about abortions.  I encourage people not to get them, but if you need one, I think it should be legal.

3 comments on “Guns

  1. Brian, you are taking an honest run at a convoluted topic. Kudos for trying to wrestle out some facts to build a discussion from.

    You posit that “How do we stop people from shooting each other?” is the wrong question, and that we should be asking “How do we stop people from hurting each other?”

    I’ll suggest that that’s not the right question, either. The problem isn’t hurting, it’s hating. Put another way, it’s giving the sort of preference for self that reduces others to destroyable nothingness in our hearts and minds. Then it is merely a matter of capability, convenience, and ability to escape repercussions that prevent the murder from happening.

    Interestingly, our culture’s problem is exemplified in your closing thoughts: “How do I feel about guns? The same way I feel about abortions. I encourage people not to get them, but if you need one, I think it should be legal.”

    When does a mother need to kill her child? Very, very, very extremely rarely is the mother’s life in danger. The vast, vast, vast majority of abortions occur because of convenience and preference. There’s lots of good data on this, if you want to work from facts, and biology is crystal clear about what is being killed.

    In a culture that protects and even celebrates a mother’s ability to kill her unborn child as a matter of convenience, it is not surprising that we have people hurting each other – it’s surprising that we don’t have more. But then, unborn children can’t fight back…

    • I almost didn’t include the reference to abortion, because that’s probably a longer discussion than the one on guns. Abortion is to the far left as gun control is to the far right. And it’s also a subject people have already made up their minds about, so discussions aren’t often very productive.

      I think you’re right, that I settled on the wrong question. How do we stop hating each other? How do we promote compassion towards each other, rather than fear and separation?

      Thank you for the comment, Dan.

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