Friday, August 28, 2015

America Is Exceptional, All Right. We Have an Exceptional Number of Gun Deaths.

Do any of these make you feel safe? Statistics say they make you less safe.

I've read study after study that the presence of a gun in the home makes that home less safe. The countervailing theory is that I've got a gun, and if I'm threatened, I'll get that gun and shoot the threat. The problem is that you're more likely to get drunk, mad, and decide to shoot a friend or a relative than you are to pull out the gun, Rambo-style, and put a cap in a home invader. Also, you may go for your gun and before you get there, grab it, and shoot someone, that someone grabs it and shoots you. Happens more than you know.

Or your four-year-old finds it and accidentally shoots his sister to death. There are dozens of scenarios where things go wrong for every one that might go right.

But we have a problem: Most Americans don't believe the statistics, if they've even been exposed to the statistics. And, unfortunately, there is a statistically significant number of people who are incapable of accepting that a gun is, far from empowering, actually a ticket to disaster more often than a ticket to glory. Here's the truth:
Moving from state-level analysis to the household or individual, the risks for gun owners become even more apparent. A recent meta-analysis of 16 studies examined the relationship between firearms and gun deaths. Gun ownership doubled the risk of homicide and tripled the risk of suicide. This research is bolstered by a national survey that found that a gun in the home was far more likely to be used to threaten a family member or intimate partner than to be used in self-defense.
An important article came out today in the Washington Post entitled "American exceptionalism and the ‘exceptionally American’ problem of mass shootings." In it, we find, as we always seem to do, that statistics overwhelmingly prove that America has an overwhelming lead over all the other countries of the world for gun violence. Second place, Yemen, that's right, Yemen, has a considerable lower gun death rate than the U.S. Impress you? It should depress you. It depresses me. Says WaPo:
The United States, according to Lankford’s analysis, is home to just 5 percent of the world’s people but 31 percent of its public mass shooters. Even more stunning, between 1966 and 2012, 62 percent of all school and workplace shooters were American. At 90 mass shooters in less than 50 years, the U.S. has five times as many as the next highest country on the list (the Philippines).
Yeah, we're exceptional, all right. zeroes in on how we compare to other countries:
Wednesday's Virginia shooting, like so many shootings before it, seems likely to raise a debate we've had many times before: Why does the US have such a high rate of gun murders, by far the highest in the developed world? Is it because of guns, or is there something else going on? Maybe America is just more prone to crime, say, because of income inequality or cultural differences?
A landmark 1999 study actually tried to answer this question. Its findings — which scholars say still hold up — are that America doesn't really have a significantly higher rate of crime compared to similar countries. But that crime is much likelier to be lethal: American criminals just kill more people than do their counterparts in other developed countries. And guns appear to be a big part of what makes this difference.

Okay, I get it. Can we go home now? No, because there's more that we need to accept as fact, before we take action. We need to accept that guns kill people.
Why does this [violent crime] happen? It's not because, as you might think, American violent criminals are just more likely to kill people. "Only a minority of Los Angeles homicides grow out of criminal encounters like robbery and rape," they find (there's no reason to believe the pattern would differ in other cities). So even if it could be shown that American robbery and rape rates are across-the-board higher than those in similar countries (which doesn't appear true today), that still wouldn't explain why America has so many more homicides than other countries.
Again, Zimring and Hawkins's LA data was revealing. "A far greater proportion of Los Angeles homicides grow out of arguments and other social encounters between acquaintances [than robbery or rape]," they find.
This is where guns enter the story. The mere presence of firearms, according to Zimring and Hawkins, makes a merely tense situation more likely to turn deadly. When a gang member argues with another gang member, or a robber sticks up a liquor store, there's always a risk that the situation can escalate to some kind of violence. But when people have a handheld tool that is specially engineered for violently killing, escalation to murder becomes much, much more likely.
Guns kill people. The mere presence of all these guns in America lead to their being used. And statistics, again, prove it.

That's your correlation right there. Now what do we do? Despair, knowing that the NRA will never let us deal rationally with out obvious problem with an obvious solution? Maybe. I suggest we act locally, you know, town, then county, then state. Move to a state with stronger gun control laws (these states have lower gun death rates). Boycott companies that foster guns. At least act, daily if possible.

Thanks to for liberal use of their material. Go there to read the entire, well-researched report.

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