Archive for the ‘#gunsafety’ Tag

Let’s Discuss Violence   1 comment

A tour around the Internet says some portion of the population is really worried about dying from gun violence … so worried they’re willing to disarm everyone in hopes that will keep them safe and to jail anyone who disagrees.

First, they need to calm down. Your chance of dying of gun violence in the United States is about 30,000 out of a population of 360 million. That’s less than 1% risk. You’re far more likely to get run over by a bus or  bitten by a mongoose than killed with a gun.

Image result for image of violenceSecond, disarming the law-abiding won’t disarm criminals or the police (rather the same thing these days) so it won’t reduce violence … it will just shift how it is done. As a small woman, I am not defending myself against the physical violence of a large man unless I have a gun, which means I am much more likely to become a victim of non-gun violence if I am disarmed. Americans use guns between 100,000 and a half-million times a year to defend themselves from violent crime. My mother was one of those people when I was in junior high and the men she frightened away from our house (by brandishing a gun) went down the road and raped a classmate of mine. Needless to say, I think the ability to defend yourself is non-negotiable.

But let’s take a look at what are the most common gun-violence deaths.

Suicide accounts for 63% of all firearm deaths in the US. It’s the most common gun-related death. And, no, the answer is not “take all the guns away and people will stop killing themselves.” I worked in the mental health field, folks, and I saw this scenario way too many times. The client would be placed in the hospital, their guns (if they had any) would be confiscated, they’d be released and someone would find them hanging in the woods by a rope. Or they’d slit their wrists or they’d save up their anxiety meds and overdose. If someone wants to kill themselves, they will find a way to do that … and do, even while in hospitals for treatment. If violating the right of self-protection was the answer to suicide, Poland, with some of the strictest gun laws in the world, would not have a suicide rate 50% higher than that of the United States, which has some of the more lenient gun laws in the world. Leaving healthy people helpless at the hands of criminals or government thugs will not significantly reduce suicides … which still account for 63% of all gun violence.

Road rage situations.  About 100 people a year die from incidents involving a gun during a road rage incident and in most cases, they were described as the aggressor in the incident, who got out of their car to confront someone they considered to be a jerk and that “jerk” defended themselves with a gun because they preferred not to be beaten to death by an angry driver. And, yes, they could be included in another figure further down.

Gangs. Violence is the accepted norm among gang members, resulting in many becoming victims of gun violence. According to the Center for Disease Control, a staggering 80% of gun homicides are gang-related.

Illicit drug trade. Yes, we could argue that drug laws are likely to result in gun violence from cops, but it’s also true that people already on the wrong side of the law are more likely to commit gun violence than the law-abiding population.

Abusive romances. I’m all about letting people put their pasts well and truly in the past, but we should acknowledge that someone who has previously physically abused a partner is more likely to do so than are those who haven’t.

Gun Free zonesOne study showed that 98% of all mass shootings happen in these places. Gun-free zone signs tell violent people this is a spot where they will encounter little immediate resistance to killing large numbers of people. As for everywhere else, assuming you’re in a state or community that allows concealed carry, these predators may be deterred since they have to wonder if there’s already a good guy with a gun on the property. It might be an explanation for why only 2% of mass shootings occur outside of gun-free zones, but it also explains why states with constitutional carry rarely experience public mass shootings.

Human predator. A significant number (about 700 each year) of gun deaths are justifiable homicide wherein a victim successfully defends themselves from criminal assault. Which, when you think about it, is amazing. If Americans protect themselves from violent crime 100,000 times a year with a gun, but only 700 predator-humans are killed … that says that an awful lot of concealed carry people de-escalate situations while having a gun in their hand … or it could mean that the predators run away when confronted with a gun.

Irresponsible gun owners. There really is no such thing as an accidental discharge of a gun. Someone pulled the trigger or caused a situation in which the trigger was pulled by an inanimate object. Still “accidental” shootings account for 4% of all gun-violence deaths. If you know someone who breaks any of the four rules of gun safety, they are one of a tiny minority of gun owners who give the rest of us a bad image.

Thankfully, the odds of anyone in the U.S. dying from gun violence each year is exceedingly low … about 30,000 out of 360 million people — so less than 1%. Now can we have a conversation about what to do with the behaviors around guns that cause these shootings rather than trying to disarm everyone in a futile attempt to end violence?

Misleading for Gun Control   Leave a comment

Within minutes of the Wednesday news that another young man with another semi-automatic rifle had rampaged through a school a stunning figure was broadcast. The bodies at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High in South Florida weren’t even cold when Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit co-founded by Michael Bloomberg, announced, via tweet at 4:22 pm, “this is the 18th school shooting in the US in 2018.”

Image result for image of gun safetyEverybody loves the bandwagon at a parade, so Sen. Bernie Sanders’ tweet including the claim has been liked more than 45,000 times, and one from political analyst Jeff Greenfield has cracked 116,000. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted it, too, as did musicians Cher and Alexander William and actors Misha Collins and Albert Brooks. News organizations – including MSNBC, ABC News, NBC News, CBS News, TIME, MSN, the BBC, the New York Daily News and the Huffington Post – also used the number in their coverage. By Wednesday night, the top suggested search after typing “18” into Google was “18 school shootings in 2018.”

It is a horrifying statistic. It’s also absolutely erroneous.

For the unfamiliar, Everytown has long inflated its total by including incidents of gunfire that are not really school shootings. They list the following as the first “school shooting” of 2018:

On the afternoon of January 3, a 31-year-old man who had parked outside a Michigan elementary school called police to say he was armed and suicidal. Several hours later, he killed himself. The school, however, had been closed for seven months. There were no teachers and no students.

 

Okay. Maybe they just misinterpreted that one. Or maybe not.

Also listed on the organization’s site is an incident from Jan. 20:

At 1 a.m, a man was shot at a sorority event on the campus of Wake Forest University. No one else was shot, that’s a pretty nebulous connection to a school, and it followed an argument in which alcohol was involved. Not quite the same thing as a mass shooting.

Related imageA week later, as a basketball game was being played at a Michigan high school, someone fired several rounds from a gun in the parking lot. The incident appeared to be gang-related, connected to an earlier altercation inside the building. It was well after classes had ended for the day (past 8 p.m.), but Everytown still labels it a school shooting.

Everytown explains on its website that it defines a school shooting as “any time a firearm discharges a live round inside a school building or on a school campus or grounds.”

Everytown’s research director Sarah Tofte calls the definition “crystal clear,” noting that “every time a gun is discharged on school grounds it shatters the sense of safety” for students, parents and the community.

She insists she and her colleagues work to reiterate those parameters in their public messaging, but their tweets and Facebook posts almost never include that nuance. On February 2, 2018 was the only time the organization clearly explained its definition on Twitter. Interestingly, Everytown doesn’t bring up its jarring totals on social media immediately after the more questionable shootings, probably because if anyone investigated, they’d come to the conclusion that Everytown’s administration are skewing the facts. It’s only following the high-profile and undeniable tragedies, such as the Florida massacre or one from last month in Kentucky that left two students dead and at least 18 people injured. Then, when everyone is really emotional, Everyday trusts that no one will check their facts and figures.

Yes, the figures matter. Gun-control activists use them as evidence in their fight for bans on assault weapons, stricter background checks and other legislation. Gun-rights groups seize on the faults in the data to undermine those arguments and, similarly, present skewed figures of their own.

Gun violence is a crisis in America, especially for children, and a huge number – one that needs no exaggeration – have been affected by school shootings. An ongoing Washington Post analysis has found that more than 150,000 students attending at least 170 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus since the Columbine High School massacre in 1999. That figure, which comes from a review of online archives, state and federal enrollment figures and news stories, is a conservative calculation and does not include dozens of suicides, accidents and after-school assaults that have also exposed kids to gunfire.

 

Just five of Everytown’s 18 school shootings listed for 2018 happened during school hours and resulted in any physical injury. Three others appeared to be intentional shootings but did not hurt anyone. Two more involved guns – one carried by a school police officer and the other by a licensed peace officer who ran a college club – that were unintentionally fired and, again, led to no injuries … although we ought to be asking why we’re not more up in arms about “professionals” who have “unintended” discharges. Any concealed carry citizen will tell you “There is no such thing as an accidental discharge.” They’re all negligent unless they’re deliberate.

At least seven of Everytown’s 18 shootings took place outside normal school hours.

Shootings of any kind, of course, can be traumatic, regardless of whether they cause physical harm.

A month ago, for example, a group of college students were in a criminal justice club in Texas when a student accidentally fired a real gun, rather than a training weapon. The bullet went through a wall, then a window. Though no one was hurt, it left the student distraught … as well it should because the student showed himself to be an idiot who should never be allowed to handle a gun again.

 

But is that a school shooting? Everytown says “yes”. I would certainly say “no” as would the vast majority of the 200 million gun owners in this country who have never had a negligent discharge of one of their weapons.

 

“Since 2013,” the organization proclaims on its site, “there have been nearly 300 school shootings in America – an average of about one a week.”

But since Everytown began its tracking, it has included dubious examples:

  • In August 2013, a man fired a shot on a Tennessee high school’s property, but it was at 2 a.m when the building was empty
  • In December 2014, a man shot himself in his car late one night and was discovered the next day in a Pennsylvania elementary school parking lot
  • In August 2015, a man climbed atop the roof of an empty Texas school on a Sunday morning and sporadically fired a gun
  • In January 2016, a man in an Indiana high school parking lot had a gun negligently discharge in his glove compartment before any students had arrived on campus.
  • In December 2017, two teens in Washington State shot up a high school just before midnight on New Year’s Eve, when the building was empty.

By the way, I’m not the only one who questions Everytown’s figures. In 2015, The Washington Post’s fact checkers awarded the group’s figures four Pinocchios for misleading methodology, after those figures were lauded by Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn.

Another database, the Gun Violence Archive, defines school shootings in much narrower terms, considering only those that take place during school hours or extra-curricular activities, so it’s not like saner figures aren’t available, but many journalists rely on Everytown’s data. Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple included the 18 figure in a column Wednesday night, and Michael Barbaro, host of the New York Times’s popular podcast “The Daily,” used the number to punctuate the end of his Thursday show.

Deciding what is or is not a school shooting or trying to define a mass shooting can be difficult. Some obviously fit the common-sense definition: Last month, a teen in Texas opened fire in a school cafeteria, injuring a 15-year-old girl. That’s definitely a school schooling. What happened in Florida on Wednesday was definitely a school shooting. Others that Everytown includes on its list are trickier to categorize:

On January 10, at about 6 p.m., a bullet likely fired from off-campus hit the window of a building on a college campus in southern California. No one was hurt, though I’m sure it, rightfully, scared the snot out of some students. Classes were cancelled, rooms were locked down and police searched campus for the gunman, who was never found.

On February 5, a police officer was sitting on a bench in a Minnesota school gym when a third-grader “accidentally” pulled the trigger of his holstered pistol, firing a round into the floor. None of the four students in the gym were injured. What makes this incident so frightening to me is that a cop was so negligent with his weapon that a third-grader was able to fire it, but I also have concerns with the negligence of this child’s parents for not teaching a 9-year-old that guns are never to be touched without express permission by a sober adult.

At some point we really need to have a discussion with parents about why gun safety training is essential for every child, even when their parents don’t own guns. Gun-owning parents definitely need to have that training with their children, but non-gunowners need to as well. To not have that discussion is negligent parenting.

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