In recent years, this blog has made great sport of criticizing the MinnPost‘s coverage of Second Amendment issues, noting that much of their coverage has been both anti-gun and comically poor, and pointing out they are sponsored by the Joyce Foundation, which actively sponsors many anti-gun groups (including Protect MN here in Minnesota, and the national-scoped “Violence Policy Center”, or “VPC”).
On the other hand, Joyce has sponsored the work of reporter Mike Cronin, who is three parts into a series on America’s gun culture (check out his installments so far on his introduction to shooting, attending a permit training class with Andrew Rothman, and his conversations with violence victims). The series, thus far, is genuinely fair and balanced; I’ve talked with Cronin, and he seems interested in keeping it that way. That’s all to the good.
Snap Back To Reality: But it’s still the MinnPost, which still reflects the paternalistic inner id of the portion of the Minnesota left for whom MPR just isn’t aggressively “progressive” enough.
We’ve seen MinnPost “consumer health” reporter Susan Perry writing about guns before – all of it simply risible. Perry has a habit of taking the opinion of an “expert” – an academic, a poorly-done and comically slanted study, an anti-gun organization – and regurgitating it uncritically, even fawningly, with that “Journalism!” label stamped on for that extra dollop of unearned credibility.
Last week’s piece – who’s headline screamed “Gun deaths top motor-vehicle deaths in a rising number of states” – continues the trend. Perry’s piece regurgitates a press release from the Violence Policy Center (which, Perry notes, is also funded by Joyce) which, to cut straight to the chase…:
- Uses out-of-context numbers…
- to reach a conclusion that is at best meaningless and at worst intentionally misleading…
- supporting policy proposals that would have no effect on the “problem” they purport to have found.
Math Is Hard:
Perry’s The VPC’s conclusion seems straightforward enough:
Gun deaths exceeded motor-vehicle deaths in 14 states and the District of Columbia in 2011, the latest year for which such data is available, according to a report published last week by the Violence Policy Center.
That’s up from 12 states in 2010 and 10 states in 2009.
The 2011 states are Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington.
In Illinois, for example, there were 1,114 gun deaths and 1,080 motor-vehicle deaths in 2011, while in Vermont there were 78 gun deaths and 62 motor-vehicle deaths.
We Second Amendment people brag – justifiably – about the 50% drop in murder rates in the past 20 years (as the supply of guns has doubled). But the rate of automotive fatalities has also plummeted in most of our lifetimes. Cars are much safer than they used to be.
Of course, the list of states
Perry the VPC picked fall generally into two categories:
- States with lots of gun violence: Illinois? Michigan? Maryland? Ohio? Nevada? Places with dense urban areas run by dense Democrat regimes where people frequently run or take the bus rather than drive from crime scenes?
- States with little of either: Places like Vermont and Alaska and Utah, with low rates of deaths in either category, where comparative numbers can bounce around like toddlers who’ve gotten into the chocolate coffee beans.
Which leads to a misleading, context-deprived, and in some ways fallacious numerical conclusion:
Nationwide, motor-vehicle deaths outnumbered gun deaths in 2011, but the gap is narrowing. In 2009, when the Violence Policy Center published its first report on this topic, 36,361 people died in motor vehicle crashes and 31,236 people died of gunshot wounds.
In 2011, the numbers were 35,543 and 32,351.
As the report points out, that narrow gap is even more startling given the fact that more than 90 percent of American households own a car while little more than a third have a gun.
“If charted out year by year,” the report notes, “… deaths nationwide from these two consumer products are on a trajectory to intersect.”
“If charted out year by year” is an interesting qualifier. If gun fatalities drop by 10% per year, and car fatalities drop by 11%, they’ll intersect eventually; that’s a good thing for all concerned, and it doesn’t mean that guns are getting more dangerous.
It sounds like a stupid comparison. It is. It’s the one
Perry the VPC is making.
Damned Lies And Statistics: Of course, the number of guns has doubled in the past forty years, and the percent of armed households has risen by a similar pace, while the rate of violent crime has dropped by half, and the percentage of families owning cars has stayed fairly similar since the fifties; guns by that measure have gotten much safer.
But Perry’s the VPC’s numbers are completely out of context on another level.
Of the 35,000-odd traffic deaths, virtually all are accidents, with a small residue of suicides and an even smaller number of murders committed with cars. Virtually all car accidents are related to some combination of driver error, driver impairment, or (more and more rarely) product defects. Virtually none are intentional.
But with guns? Of the 31,000-odd gun deaths:
- 2% – about 600 – were accidents
- 34% – around 10,000 – were intentional homicides. Of those, 80% (over 8.100 per year) are criminal-on-criminal shootings, mostly related to the narcotics industry.
- At least 2% were justifiable homicides – self-defense shootings.
- 62% were suicides.
In other words – 2/3 of gun deaths are self-committed, as a result of mental health issues; suicide is tragic, of course, but it is utterly non-accidental. In some ways, it’s the ultimate manifestation of “pro-choice” philosophy; how can people who believe humans should be able to “terminate” fetuses shouldn’t be able to do the same with themselves? At any rate, they are people who choose suicide, using a gun rather than a car, bedsheets, or booze and pills.
And over a third of gun deaths are directly related to crime.
Which leads us to the conclusions.
Off Target: The VPC – operating through its stenographer, Susan Perry – would have our society penalize the law-abiding for the actions of criminals or the mentally ill, based on a reading of the data that is either uninformed, incompetent, or intended to deceive:
Guns, on the other hand, “remain the last consumer product manufactured in the United States not subject to federal health and safety regulation,” the report states.
“While the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is charged with enforcing our nation’s limited gun law, it has none of the health and safety regulatory powers afforded other federal agencies,” it adds.
But as the actual numbers show, while nearly all car deaths are “consumer product safety” issues, about 2% of gun deaths are.
So the VPC’s recommendations are, well, about 2% applicable to the problem we actually face:
minimum safety standards (i.e., specific design standards and the requirement of safety devices);
We’ll come back to the “design standards”. By “safety devices”, they are referring to “smart guns”, which are utterly useless; we’ve addressed them before.
bans on certain types of firearms, such as ‘junk guns’ and military-style assault weapons;
limits on firepower;
Both of these are frankly idiotic; “assault weapons” amount to a few dozen deaths per year, virtually all of them a result of criminal activity. “Firepower” is a factor in a tiny fraction of deaths – mass shootings – and as we’ve discussed before, the best way to curb mass shootings is to have a good guy on the scene with their own gun.
The “junk guns” bit? That’s a combination of ignorance and racism; few if any “junk” guns are produced any more. The urge to get rid of lower-priced guns is purely an attempt to price firearms out of reach of the poor.
restrictions on gun possession by those convicted of a violent misdemeanor;
A seemingly sensible statement that hides a lot of bad intentions, as we’ll discuss in coming days.
heightened restrictions on the carrying of loaded guns in public;
This is simultaneously nonsensical, political, and stupid. Over a third of deaths are caused by people who carry guns illegally in public, and are already “restricted” from it. Barring the law-abiding from carrying legally in public will result in more dead law-abiding citizens, fewer dead criminals, and more mass-shootings (as mass-shooters find more crowds of unarmed victims).
improved enforcement of current laws restricting gun possession by persons with histories of domestic violence;
Of course, the DFL in Minnesota has consistently fought against such laws and such enforcement, as we’ve reported on this blog for the past dozen years or so.
public education about the extreme risks associated with exposure to firearms.
Well, there we’re onto something.
The Second Amendment movement – GOCRA, MN-GOPAC, the NRA, all of us – would be happy to start teaching people about the risks, safe handling, and benefits of firearms.
But I have a hunch that the VPC has in mind less of that, and more like Susan Perry’s uninformed, context-mangled buncombe.
“America is reaping the benefits of decades of successful injury prevention strategies on its highways, but continues to pay an unacceptable, yet equally preventable, cost in lives lost every year to gun violence,” the report concludes.
We can indeed prevent many firearms deaths.
Susan Perry’s the VPC’s recommendations won’t prevent a single one.