Thursday, February 22, 2018

Gun control - the debate goes on

Friend Bill forwarded me an e-mail attributed to a man named Robert Göltl.  I don't know anything about the man, other than that he has one of the more unpronounceable names I've come across in a while. It's also the 562,492nd most common surname in the world (check it out).

And, of course, the fact that he would appear to be somebody my friends would call a right-wing gun nut.

Bill just left me with the posting (and the comment that maybe he should start worrying about bathtub deaths from now on).

My first response was to throw it in the trash and go listen to some Chopin or some Dmitri Hvorostovsky.

But I haven't had a good argument in a while, so I thought I'd see what I might come up with by way of talking back to this guy.

You can see it's been making the rounds for some time from the reference to Obama, but since things haven't changed on the gun control front, I think the arguments are still timely. Would love to hear if you agree or not and if you have anything to add.

Here goes. Mr. G's e-mail comments are in large font bold face. Mine are in this font.
On Thu, Feb 22, 2018 at 10:09 AM, William M <> wrote:
This is now circulating. I guess it is supposed to make me feel that I can live with the school massacres and mass shootings as a normal part of American life.
Interesting logic. We should probably add bath tub drownings to the list as well.

There are 30,000 gun related deaths per year by firearms, and this number is not disputed. U.S. population 324,059,091 as of Wednesday, June 22, 2016. Do the math: 0.000000925% of the population dies from gun related actions each year. Statistically speaking, this is insignificant!

Some people focus on violence and death and wish there were less of it.
Others focus on statistics.
Statistically speaking, compared to the number of human beings that have inhabited the earth since the beginning of time, the number of deaths in Nazi concentration camps is insignificant. You can twist statistics into saying almost anything.

What is never told, however, is a breakdown of those 30,000 deaths, to put them in perspective as compared to other causes of death:

Again, "perspective" can be pressed into service to defend virtually any cause. From the perspective of the Romans in the Colosseum, feeding Christians to the lions is pretty good entertainment.

The U.S. has a lower rate of firearm deaths than ten other countries in the world. You can focus on that fact and see the glass as half full, or you can focus on the fact that there are 30,000 people who lost their lives in the U.S., or 10.54 deaths per 100,000 population in the U.S. compared to .06 per 100,000 in Japan. Numbers carry a different impact depending on where you point the light.

• 65% of those deaths are by suicide which would never be prevented by gun laws

Not so. When the Israeli army stopped allowing their soldiers to take their guns home in 2006, the suicide rate dropped by 40%. Removing guns means removing convenience, giving people time to reconsider. Many suicides are spur of the moment decisions. You can't say "never."

• 15% are by law enforcement in the line of duty and justified

Fine. But let's not forget the other 85%.

• 17% are through criminal activity, gang and drug related or mentally ill persons – gun violence


• 3% are accidental discharge deaths

Whose side are you on in this argument?

So technically, "gun violence" is not 30,000 annually, but drops to 5,100. Still too many? Well, first, how are those deaths spanned across the nation?
• 480 homicides (9.4%) were in Chicago
• 344 homicides (6.7%) were in Baltimore
• 333 homicides (6.5%) were in Detroit
• 119 homicides (2.3%) were in Washington D.C. (a 54% increase over prior years)

So basically, 25% of all gun crime happens in just 4 cities. All 4 of those cities have strict gun laws, so it is not the lack of law that is the root cause.

Laws are one thing. Effective laws are another. And don't forget the laws that would prevent taking guns from one state to another and from the countryside into urban areas are notoriously weak, and have been weakened further by the current pro-NRA administration.

This basically leaves 3,825 for the entire rest of the nation, or about 75 deaths per state. That is an average because some States have much higher rates than others. For example, California had 1,169 and Alabama had 1.

Turn this around. The reason we're urging gun control is so that people living in highly populated areas, and are most at risk, might rest easier.

Statistics are useful for establishing context. But so is the notion that the preventing the death of innocents - even one innocent - is worth all the effort you can put into it.  Could you in good faith stand before the parents of the twenty six- and seven-year-old children who lost their lives in Sandy Hook and tell them twenty is an "insignificant" number?

Now, who has the strictest gun laws by far? California, of course, but understand, so it is not guns causing this. It is a crime rate spawned by the number of criminal persons residing in those cities and states. So if all cities and states are not created equally, then there must be something other than the tool causing the gun deaths.

"Criminals" is the wrong category label. "Killers" is the better label. And many would-be killers can be prevented from becoming killers if their access to guns is curtailed. And in discussing criminals/killers, you have not mentioned the mentally ill that this country currently gives relatively easy access to guns, compared to places like Australia, Japan and all the other modern societies with better gun control.

There is a flaw in your reasoning here.  You're saying it's not guns that are the problem, but the criminals. But that doesn't mean that making it harder for criminals to have access to guns won't help bring down the number of gun deaths. When Australia got rid of their guns, killing by guns dropped by over 59% between 1995 and 2006. And don't miss the fact that the suicide rate went down by even more – 65% – as well  That's only 200 fewer homicides, in the end, so "statistically" you might call that number insignificant. But tell that to the families of Australians who still have their loved ones with them.

Are 5,100 deaths per year horrific? How about in comparison to other deaths? All death is sad and especially so when it is in the commission of a crime but that is the nature of crime. Robbery, death, rape, assault all is done by criminals and thinking that criminals will obey laws is ludicrous. That's why they are criminals.

They are not criminals until they have committed a crime. The aim is to make access to guns more constrictive. It's like putting locks on doors. They don't really keep people from breaking in to your house. But they make it a lot harder.

And you're forgetting how successful most modern countries have been in bringing down the number of deaths by firearms,

But what about other deaths each year?
• 40,000+ die from a drug overdose–THERE IS NO EXCUSE FOR THAT!
• 36,000 people die per year from the flu, far exceeding the criminal gun deaths
• 34,000 people die per year in traffic fatalities(exceeding gun deaths even if you include suicide)

Do you really think that because more people die from causes other than guns, that one should abandon the effort to get the number of gun deaths down? Do we give up the fight against cancer because there are so many deaths each year from heart disease?

Now it gets good:
• 200,000+ people die each year (and growing) from preventable medical errors. You are safer in Chicago than when you are in a hospital!

Statistics again.
It's not either/or; it's both and. We should work to lower the number of deaths from preventable medical errors and we should work to lower the number of deaths from firearms. Not use the tragedy of one problem to cause us to despair about addressing another.

• 710,000 people die per year from heart disease. It’s time to stop the double cheeseburgers! So what is the point?

What is the point?  Saving lives is the point.

If Obama and the anti-gun movement focused their attention on heart disease, even a 10% decrease in cardiac deaths would save twice the number of lives annually of all gun-related deaths (including suicide, law enforcement, etc.).

Great idea. Let's increase our efforts in fighting heart disease.  Both/and.  Both/and.

A 10% reduction in medical errors would be 66% of the total gun deaths or 4 times the number of criminal homicides......Simple, easily preventable 10% reductions!


So you have to ask yourself, in the grand scheme of things, why the focus on guns?

Because they are a problem which we, as a society, have the right to try and address. And because America leads the world in mass shootings. We focus on the guns in those shootings because the deaths are heart-breaking.

It's pretty simple.:
Taking away guns gives control to governments.

So you want to limit the power of governments?  I assume you want the police to come when somebody is breaking into your house, the fire department to come when it's on fire. The schools to give all children universal access to education. The military to be ready to jump in if needed for defense.  Governments are necessary to keep us safe. The notion that we all live in the woods, hunt our own food, and fight off marauding Indians belongs not in 2018 but in 1718. You're three hundred years behind the times.

The founders of this nation knew that regardless of the form of government, those in power may become corrupt and seek to rule as the British did by trying to disarm the populace of the colonies. It is not difficult to understand that a disarmed populace is a controlled populace.

You've lined everybody up on two sides - the government consisting of bad people and the general populace consisting of good people. Your model of who is government and who is populace is seriously skewed.

Thus, the second amendment was proudly and boldly included in the U.S. Constitution. It must be preserved at all costs.

No, not at all costs.  We need to be careful about changing the Constitution, to be sure. But we have laws to guide us in whether and how changes might be made. The Second Amendment was put in the Constitution (I don't know how "proudly") to assure that people below the federal level would be able to keep a militia. It's a law parallel to the notion of keeping a state police force. It was not written to assure any individual in the country would have the right to own an automatic assault weapon. That misinterpretation of the Constitution needs to be rectified.

 Gun deaths per one million people in 2010. Homicide figures are at the right, shaded darker.

So the next time someone tries to tell you that gun control is about saving lives, look at these facts and remember these words from Noah Webster: "Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed, as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword, because the whole body of the people are armed and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States. A military force at the command of Congress can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power." 

Do you really think Noah Webster had modern-day Sweden and Germany and Iceland and Denmark and Norway and Holland and Belgium and Finland and Italy and Japan in mind as examples of kingdoms we should fear becoming by copying their policies of better gun control?

Remember, when it comes to "gun control," the important word is “control," not “gun."

Yes. Firearms are lethal. And they should be controlled.
Just as Trump wants to do when it comes to bump stock devices.
Just as the NRA did when they banned guns when Trump addressed them in April 2017.
There are times and places for guns to be controlled.  We can argue over when and where and to what degree. But not over the principle that gun control is necessary (in my view) and a very good idea in the view of 66% of the American people.

photo credit
Chart of gun deaths per million people


Tobias Mann said...


Tobias Mann said...

Very informative. Love your blog. Keep up the great work and continue sharing this kind of point of view.
Will definitely follow it.