How interesting, an article in the Washington Post entitled “Five myths about gun violence.”
What makes it interesting to me are the interpretations of the various data involved. The authors are from a prestigious university, John Hopkins Center for Gun Policy.” Sometimes they conflate gun violence with violent crime, which is not helpful, because violent crime includes rape, robbery, and aggravated assault, which may or may not involve a gun.
You can read the article at: goo.gl/XHLuPj
First, my “Cliff” summary:
Myth 1. Gun violence in the United States is at an all-time high.
Analysis: Yes, kind of. Murders up 2014- 2016; but nothing like the good old days of 1993
Discount: No allowance for the advances in medicine that keep many shooting victims alive, and hence not “murdered.” That factor alone made Viet Nam casualties lower than earlier wars. Now we have the wounded to attend/forget/neglect like it has been after every armed conflict, ever.
Discount: Nationwide statistics smudge the hot spots, especially Chicago. If Black Lives Matter, spend your time and money on the black-on-black genocide on the south side. Gangstus/Drugs/Lack of response time/Corrupt, Ineffectual Mayor of bankrupt major metro.
Discount: Strict gun laws? Look at how laws on paper mean nothing, if the police and courts cannot or will not enforce them.
Discount: White police handle microscopic share of killings of unarmed, young black men. One bad move in the neighborhood will get you some lead.
Myth 2. Background checks save lives.
What do they check? A database of 17 million names, of which, 5 million are adjudicated mental health cases.
Active Records in the NICS Indices
||Prohibited Category Description
||Illegal/Unlawful Alien (42.5%)
||Adjudicated Mental Health (29.7%)
||Crime >1yr Misdemeanor >2yrs (19.4%)
||State Prohibits (5.9%)
||Domestic Violence (.9%)
||Restraining Order (.4%)
||Renounced US Citizenship (.2%)
||Dishonorable Discharge (.07%)
Analysis: Not so much. The top three categories, 92% of the people on the list, know better than to try to buy a weapon from a licensed dealer. Those thwarted by ICE, mental health hospital stays, heinous crimes on their records do not stop looking for what they want.
Accolade: the author acknowledges the weakness of government records systems. But does allow for limited “success” in denying legal sales of guns.
Discount: Have you ever seen the decades old computer systems the feds use? It is pitiful. Some people bring their own laptops to work, because smartphones are more powerful than the equipment they are assigned.
Discount: The definition of mental illness is very strict. A person must be committed to a psychiatric hospital, or found incompetent by a court to be added to the NICS database. Not all states record or report mental health problems. https://goo.gl/vKdh5N Only 10 million of the 323 million Americans are in the NICS database, and 7 million illegal aliens.
Myth 3. Mental illness is behind most gun violence against others.
The article asserts that, “Only an estimated 4 percent of violence against others is caused by the symptoms of serious mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Impulsivity, anger, traumatic life events such as job loss or divorce, and problematic alcohol use are all stronger risk factors for gun violence.”
Analysis: 40% of shootings involve people other than the shooter. 60+% of gun deaths are suicides. Gang and criminal shootings are the majority; family member shootings are a significant percentage too.
It may be true that most mentally ill people do not commit gun violence, but that is true of any large population or demographic, because gun-violence is rare: .8% of the general population, and 2.9% of the mentally ill. That means that the mentally ill are 3 – 4 times more likely to commit gun violence.
The author cherry-picked the research, did not define mental illness broadly enough, and ignored the bigger picture.
Discount: Most people would agree that murder-suicide is a mental health problem.
Discount: The study cited was based on a study of Nordic and Australian people. Americans are a bit different when it comes to guns. https://goo.gl/KLV2wN
“Only one recent mass shooting — the 2011 attack at a Norwegian summer camp where 69 people died — was deadlier than the incident in Las Vegas.”
“New laws introduced after mass shootings in other countries addressed two main factors: gun types and mental health. Comparing U.S. policy with similar rules in Germany, Australia and Britain illustrates the different approaches.”
Discount: The same article cites a one-year study of people released from psychiatric hospitals after treatment for severe mental health issues and alcohol or drug abuse. 10%, committed violent acts.
Myth 4: Right-to-carry laws decrease crime.
Analysis: Statistical analysis tries to show that right-to-carry laws do not decrease crime using several statistical models that forecast what the crime rate would have been without the laws from 1978-2014. They concluded that violent crime increased over their models in RTC states.
Discount: The Dept. of Justice figures show the following. The US population increased 46.2%; violent crime decreased 26.6%.
|Type of Violent Crime
||Change per 100,000 pop
I cannot correlate RTC with the changes, but something is working, except in Chicago.
Myth 5. Mass shootings are random.
Analysis: This is a weird claim. It is based on the definition of mass shootings used by the FBI: 4 or more people killed, other than the shooter. This includes family murders (57%) and shootings in private residences (70%).
Public shootings often target specific groups, known to the shooter, like employers, professors, or classmates, at offices or schools.
Discount: No one thinks mass shootings are all random in terms of targets. Some might say that such shootings are random events in terms of predictability, but that is not a myth.
All-in-all, this Washington Post article does not fulfill its stated purpose.