Archive for the ‘Gun Violence’ Category

Do Right To Carry Laws Make Us Safer?

Monday, August 15th, 2022

America is awash in guns.

According to a 2018 report by the Small Arms Survey, a Geneva-based organization, Americans in that year had in their possession 393.3 million weapons, which is 16% more than the country’s population of about 330 million people. And since that year, especially beginning in 2020, we  have been on a gun buying spree. The National Instant Criminal Background Check System, which the FBI collects and is widely used as a proxy for firearms purchases, jumped 40% in 2020 from 2019 to 39.7 million background checks. The frenzy only cooled slightly to 38.9 million checks in 2021.

With all those guns, it is only natural that people want to be able to take them with them when they leave their homes. Enter Right To Carry laws, RTCs.

In January of 2023, Alabama will become the 25th state that won’t require permits to carry a gun in public. In recent years, more and more states have enacted similar legislation. Indiana, Georgia and Ohio, did so this year. The change in Indiana made headlines as it happened just two weeks before a deadly mass shooting at a mall in an Indianapolis suburb, where a gunman killed three and wounded two more before being shot dead by a bystander who also carried a gun.

The rationale for RTC laws is always the same: They will keep us safer, because people will be able to defend themselves and their families from bad people with guns, a la the Indianapolis situation. But is that even remotely true?

To find out, John J. Donohue, Samuel V. Cai, Matthew V. Bondy, and Philip J. Cook, writing in the National Bureau of Economic Research Paper Series, in June of this year published their study, More Guns, More Unintended Consequences: The Effects Of Right To Carry On Criminal Behavior And Policing In US Cities.

The conclusion of their heavily researched, 36 page paper? “The rate of firearm violent crimes rises by 29 percent due to RTC, with the largest increases shown in firearm robberies.”

Consider this chart, which compares the incidence of violent crime in major cities in the year before  passage of Right To Carry laws and the year after.

From the Report:

The statistically significant estimates that RTC laws increase overall firearm violent crime as well as the component crimes of firearm robbery and firearm aggravated assault by remarkably large amounts with an attendant finding of no sign of any benefit from RTC laws represent a remarkable indictment of permissive gun carrying laws. Perhaps the most noteworthy and novel result is the finding that RTC laws increase firearm robbery by a striking 32 percent.

This study shoots a great big hole through the idea that Right To Carry laws keep us safer. In fact, the reverse is true.

Another consequence of RTC laws is the effect they have on the capacity and ability of police to solve crimes. That is, they cause crime to go up so much that police turn into the Ed Sullivan Plate Spinner.

 

The increasing firearm violence that RTC laws perpetuate is facilitated by a massive 35 percent increase in gun theft (p = 0.06), with further crime stimulus flowing from diminished police effectiveness, as reflected in a 13 percent decline in violent crime clearance rates.

The study authors say RTC laws may generate a host of demands on police time and resources that reduces the amount of time they have to fight crime. Processing complaints about the increased gun thefts, accidental discharges and injuries, processing RTC permit applications, and taking time to check for permit validity by those carrying guns will all encumber police resources.

For example, if the police only have the ability to solve 40 out of 100 crimes, and if crime rises by 20 percent and they still can only solve 40 crimes, the clearance rate would fall from 40 percent to 33 percent (40 out of 120).

Nonetheless, it appears we are stuck with at least half the states falling in love with Right To Carry laws. We are also stuck with the horrid consequences.

Gun Violence In America Is An Example Of The Worst Form Of Insanity

Tuesday, May 31st, 2022

Beginning in 1959, and as it has every year since, the Gallup organization polled Americans with this question: “Do you think there should or should not be a law that would ban the possession of handguns, except by the police and other authorized persons?”  When Gallup asked that question in 1959, 60% of Americans said “Yes.” Thirty-two years later, in 1991, the “Yes” group had decreased to 43%, and thirty years after that, in 2021, only 19% of Americans were still saying “Yes.” A whopping 80% now said “No.”

Since 1959, when Gallup also reported 78% of American saying laws covering the sale of firearms should be made more strict, the decline in support for banning guns has been inversely proportional to the 63-year steady, linear rise in gun violence. The result is what we have today. Gun violence has become a cancer eating away the heart and soul of our society.

It may interest you to know that the proposition reflected in Gallup’s question precisely mirrors the law in the UK. No one is allowed to own a gun except “police and other authorized persons.” Exceptions are made for hunting and target shooting, but these are highly regulated and controlled by government. There is very little handgun violence in the UK. To this, you may say, “Without guns, people will just find another way to kill.” To which I reply, “I’d rather try to outrun a knife than a bullet.”

Last week, immediately following the massacre of 19 little children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, a British reporter asked Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz why the US suffers a seemingly intractable and growing slaughter of innocents through mass shootings. The reporter pointed out America is the only highly developed country in the world where this occurs. So, why America? Rather than attempting to address, much less answer, the question, Cruz launched into platitudes about what a great country America is. When the reporter continually pressed him for an answer (US reporters should take this as a learning experience), the Senator, after trying the platitude thing again, simply avoided the reporter and hurriedly left the area.

I viewed this exchange as an important one. It highlighted the societal dichotomy we face. The US dwarfs the 28 most economically developed countries in the 38-member OECD* in deaths by firearms. In our country, 98 people die by firearms every single day. In those other 28 OECD countries, with a combined population more than twice that of America (712 million vs. 331 million), that number is 19.

Thinking about the British reporter’s question to Senator Cruz, I decided to dive into the actual statistics to compare our gun violence experience with that of the 28 OECD countries cited above as a whole. The year I’m using as a benchmark is 2015, because a number of peer reviewed and credible studies were done that year. I assure you, as I will note below, the situation has only gotten worse in the succeeding six+ years.

2015 (Rates per 100,000 persons)

All Homicides
US – 5.6
Other 28 countries – 0.7

Homicides by firearm
US – 4.1
Other 28 countries – 0.2

Non-firearm homicide
US – 1.5
Other 28 countries – 0.6

Accidental firearm death
US – 0.2
Other 28 countries – 0.0

Firearm death rate
US – 11.2
Other 28 countries – 1.0

Total deaths by firearm
US – 35,769
Other 28 countries – 6,965

Population
US – 331 Million
Other 28 countries – 712.3 Million

Not only is our firearm death rate nearly 25 times higher than our OECD companions, our total homicide rate is eight times higher. We are a violent country.

And what about the mass shootings that, like a knife to the heart, horrify us every time one happens?

The FBI found an increase in active shooter incidents between 2000 and 2020. There were three such incidents in 2000; by 2020, that figure had increased to 40. There have been 27 thus far in 2022.

In 2020, the FBI reports, 513 people died in mass shooting incidents. In that year, according to the CDC, 45,222 of our neighbors died by firearms. Note how that is nearly 6,000 more than we reported above for 2015.

The number of deaths from mass shootings is paltry compared to the number of total deaths by firearms nationally (0.011%).

So, now, in the face of all this mayhem, we hear that our elected legislators may be willing to take some action at an unknown time in the future regarding gun control. We know Americans support this.

Politico/Morning Consult poll published last Wednesday showed “huge support” for gun regulations in that 88% of voters strongly or somewhat strongly support background checks on all gun sales, while only 8% strongly or somewhat strongly oppose such checks. That’s a net approval of +80.

Preventing gun sales to people who have been reported to police as dangerous by a mental health provider is supported by 84% of voters while only 9% oppose it, a net approval of +75. I’m forced to wonder about those 9%ers.

A national database for gun sales gets 75% approval and 18% disapproval, a net approval rate of +57.

Banning assault style weapons like the AR-15 has an approval rate of 67% while only 25% disapprove. That’s a net approval of +42.

And fifty-four percent of voters approve of arming teachers with concealed weapons, while only 34% oppose it, a net approval of +20. Wait—armed teachers. Think about that for a moment. I can just see Sister Mary Stellan, my 2nd grade teacher, packing heat.

These numbers may lead to some kind of legislation. However, as long as we have more guns (393.1 million) in this country than there are people (331 million), do you really believe things will improve significantly?

Among US states, the rate of firearm deaths varies widely. In 2020, Mississippi had the highest firearm death rate in the nation, 28.6 per 100,000 Mississippians, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as opposed to 0.2 in our OECD comparison (I continue to ask, “What goes on in Mississippi?”). New England states fared better, and Massachusetts, where I live, had the second-lowest rate of gun deaths in 2020 at 3.7 per 100,000, trailing only Hawaii at 3.4. However, the Massachusetts rate was still 5.3 times higher than the combined rate of gun deaths in the other 28 countries.

To put a period on this: At less than half the population, the US has 83.7% of all the deaths by firearms in the 29 most highly developed OECD member countries. If our firearm death rate mirrored that of just an average OECD country, deaths by firearm in America would drop 96%. At 45,222 deaths in 2020, that would be 43,413 folks who would still be with us.

I can only conclude that what the NRA paid-in-full Congress is thinking about doing maybe at some point in the possible near term is nothing more than nibbling at the edges of a monstrous problem, and they’re nibbling in ever so tiny bites.

This is insane.

 

*The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, founded by the US and it allies shortly after the close of the Second World War. Its members are the most economically developed countries.

 

It’s Time For Some Morality In Leadership

Wednesday, May 25th, 2022

Nineteen young children and three adults including the 18-year-old shooter. Slaughter on a grand scale, American style.

What can one say that hasn’t been said before and is being said again right now? Nothing. We have run out of new words.

Gun law advocates will say are saying, have said — we need tighter gun control laws. Second Amendment obsessives will say are saying, have said— No, we don’t; it’s not the guns. It’s the demented people using them.

These positions are not mutually exclusive, but that is how we treat them. Result? Nothing ever gets done, and the killing goes on.

I wrote about this back in 2019, and, because not a thing has changed since then, I thought I couldn’t do better than to share a portion of that column.

September, 1970

Let me tell you a story.

We call it “going back to the world.” Home in the USA. And I’ve arrived in one piece. For the last couple of years I’ve been running around the jungles of Vietnam. My new orders direct me to report to the Army’s Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia. I know the place well. It’s where I was trained and Commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant. Then on to Airborne and Ranger schools. Now a Captain, the job is to train the next bunch of happy warriors. My wife and I settle into the house at 3660 Plantation Road in the fine city of Columbus. It’s a nice neighborhood.

A few months after moving in a new civilian worker shows up at my office in the Infantry School. His name’s Bob. He’s a GS12 research analyst and I have no idea why he’s here, but he has a disability that makes it hard for him to walk or move even moderately weighted stuff. He’s rented a house in Columbus and is trying to figure out how to move his junk in. My wife and I offer to help.

So, on a sunny Saturday morning in the deep south we get into Marilyn’s red Corvair Corsa with its turbocharged engine and dual carburetors, show up at Bob’s new place, and find a UHaul truck in his driveway packed with everything he owns. We get to work toting box after box into the house and putting it all where Bob wants it to go. It’s taken us all morning, but around noon we’re done and we sit down on Bob’s new furniture to celebrate the end of Bob’s beginning. Marilyn’s never met Bob, whom I’ve charitably described as being “a little strange.”  So, being a curious person she nicely asks about his life. This goes on for a while until the big moment.

The big moment is when Bob says to Marilyn, “Wanna see my hair-trigger Colt 45s?”

It’s like an E. F. Hutton commercial. Everything stops. I freeze for a second and then say, “Bob, do you really have hair-trigger Colt 45s?” He says, “Sure do. Two of ’em. They’re pearl-handled, too. Want to see?”

He’s asking a guy who’s just finished two years dodging bullets and other bad things in a spot where serious people really wanted to kill him and his men. To say I have developed a healthy respect for any kind of gun is not giving that phrase the value it needs. Having seen up close what they can do, the accidents that can happen, actually did happen, makes me scared to death of them. I’m not scared when they’re in my hands, but in somebody else’s who probably doesn’t know what he’s doing? I’m not scared yet, though, because Bob has yet to produce the firepower, but my tension level rises like a Goddard Rocket.

I look Bob dead in the eye and say, “Bob, please don’t get the 45s. Leave em’ right where they are. Marilyn and I have to be going. Hope you like your new place.” And with that, we leave.

We get back into the red Corvair Corsa with the turbocharged engine and dual carburetors and drive home. When we get to the house on Plantation Road I pay the babysitter and look at the two-year-old daughter I’m just getting to know. And I think about the pearl-handled, hair-trigger Colt 45s in Bob’s house.

May, 2022

A University of Washington 2017 study found that three million Americans carry a loaded handgun daily; nine million do so at least once a month. According to the recently completed U.S. Census, there are somewhere around 390 million guns in the hands of civilians in America. According to the CDC, nearly eight-in-ten (79%) U.S. murders in 2020 19,384 out of 24,576 involved a firearm. That marked the highest percentage since at least 1968, the earliest year for which the CDC has online records.

Unfortunately, all the CDC can do is report the numbers. Why? Because a 1996 appropriations act contained something that has come to be known as the Dickey Amendment. That amendment is interpreted to prohibit the CDC from doing any research into gun violence. The amendment says federal funding could not be used to “advocate or promote gun control.”  Since more than 38,000 people die by gun violence per year (murder and suicide), is it too much to ask that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spend a few million of its $5 billion budget to research and analyze gun violence. Seems a modest proposal to me.

The Houston Chronicle reports the shooter in yesterday’s massacre bought his AR-15 rifle the day after he turned 18. That would be par for the course, because in mass public shootings, the weapon of choice is the assault rifle. The National Shooting Sports Foundation has estimated that approximately 5 million to 10 million AR-15 style rifles exist in the U.S. Regarding assault rifles, I know a thing or two. And I can say with complete certainty and a good deal of experiential credibility that there is not a single reason on God’s lovely earth why anyone other than police and my military brothers and sisters should have one, especially one with automatic fire capability. Anybody who tells you differently is chock full up to their eyeballs with what makes the grass grow green and tall.

We all know that this country is not going to take firearms from its citizenry. However, there are sensible things we can do now —  sensible things that most Americans support. For instance, weapons need to be better controlled through age restrictions, permit-to-purchase licensinguniversal background checkssafe storage campaigns and red-flag laws — measures that help control firearm access for vulnerable individuals or people in crisis.

No one in their right mind commits a mass shooting, but people not in their right minds seem to manage it, and carnage results. And we do nothing. It is a terrible thing to say, but I can only conclude that a majority of our legislative leaders have been bought and paid for by gun lobbyists. No other explanation for inaction seems plausible after the year after year after year slaughter of innocents.

It is high time to force our leaders to ditch the “thoughts and prayers” and find the spot somewhere in their hypocritical, opportunistic, power-hungry being where they have hidden their sense of decency, their morality, presuming they ever had any.

Gun Deaths in America: An Unending Tragedy

Thursday, September 5th, 2019

September, 1970

Let me tell you a story.

We call it “going back to the world.” Home in the USA. And I’ve arrived in one piece. For the last couple of years I’ve been running around the jungles of Vietnam. My new orders direct me to report to the Army’s Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Georgia. I know the place well. It’s where I was trained and Commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant. Then on to Airborne and Ranger schools. Now a Captain, the job is to train the next bunch of happy warriors. My wife and I settle into the house at 3660 Plantation Road in the fine city of Columbus. It’s a nice neighborhood.

A few months after moving in a new civilian worker shows up at my office in the Infantry School. His name’s Bob. He’s a GS12 research analyst and I have no idea why he’s here, but he has a disability that makes it hard for him to walk or move even moderately weighted stuff. He’s rented a house in Columbus and is trying to figure out how to move his junk in. My wife and I offer to help.

So, on a sunny Saturday morning in the deep south we get into Marilyn’s red Corvair Corsa with turbocharged engine and dual carburetors, show up at Bob’s new place, and find a UHaul truck in his driveway packed with everything he owns. We get to work toting box after box into the house and putting it all where Bob wants it to go. It’s taken us all morning, but around noon we’re done and we sit down on Bob’s new furniture to celebrate the end of Bob’s beginning. Marilyn’s never met Bob, whom I’ve charitably described as being “a little strange.”  So, being a curious person she nicely asks about his life. This goes on for a while until the big moment.

The big moment is when Bob says to Marilyn, “Wanna see my hair-trigger Colt 45s?”

It’s like an E. F. Hutton commercial. Everything stops. I freeze for a second and then say, “Bob, do you really have hair-trigger Colt 45s?” He says, “Sure do. Two of ’em. They’re pearl-handled, too. Want to see?”

He’s asking a guy who’s just finished two years dodging bullets and other bad things in a spot where serious people really wanted to kill him and his men. To say I have developed a healthy respect for any kind of gun is not giving that phrase the value it needs. Having seen up close what they can do, the accidents that can happen, actually did happen, makes me scared to death of them. I’m not scared when they’re in my hands, but in somebody else’s who probably doesn’t know what he’s doing? I’m not scared yet, though, because Bob has yet to produce the firepower, but my tension level rises like a Goddard Rocket.

I look Bob dead in the eye and say, “Bob, please don’t get the 45s. Leave em’ right where they are. Marilyn and I have to be going. Hope you like your new place.” And with that, we leave.

We get back into the red Corvair Corsa with turbocharged engine and dual carburetors and drive home. When we get to the house on Plantation Road I pay the babysitter and look at the two-year-old daughter I’m just getting to know. And I think about the pearl-handled, hair-trigger Colt 45s in Bob’s house.

September, 2019 

Back in 1970 slightly more than 50% of Americans, mostly men, owned a firearm. Since then, although the population has grown, the percentage ownership has declined to 22.4%. Nonetheless, Harvard and Northeastern University researchers conclude there are about 265 million  handguns and rifles in the country now. Three percent of gun owners, super owners, own more than 50% of all firearms in the country. For the other 97%, average ownership is three firearms, mostly handguns.

Femicide, abusive men killing their intimate partners, is five times more likely if the abuser has a handgun and lives with the victim. Research shows the number one contributing factor to femicide is unemployment. Potential femicide victims who do not live with the abuser and own a handgun are significantly less likely to be killed by their abuser.

In 70% of workplace shooting deaths, the perpetrator used a handgun. Workplace shootings have declined significantly since the 1990s, but the 70% figure still holds. In the last 50 years there have been 50 workplace mass shootings with an average death count of six per event. According to Jillian Peterson and James Densley, who study mass shootings for a project funded by the National Institute of Justice: 

The perpetrators were almost exclusively men (94 percent) with an average age of 38 (the youngest was 19, the oldest was 66). More than three-quarters (77 percent) were blue-collar workers, and 53 percent had experienced a recent or traumatic change in work status before the shooting.

A University of Washington 2017 study found that three million Americans carry a loaded handgun daily; nine million do so at least once a month.

The National Center for Health Statistics, a unit of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, annually publishes National Vital Statistics Reports. One of those reports is about how we die. In Deaths: Final Data for 2017 (most recent data collection year), we note 38,396 deaths caused by firearms. Of those deaths, 23,854 were by suicide, 14,542 by homicide. Despite comprising 12.1% of the US population, non-hispanic blacks were homicide victims in 57% of the cases. Unfortunately, all CDC can do is report the numbers? Why? Because a 1996 appropriations act contained something that has come to be known as the Dickey Amendment. That amendment is interpreted to prohibit the CDC from doing any research into gun violence. The amendment says federal funding could not be used to “advocate or promote gun control.”  Since more than 38,000 people die by gun violence per year, is it too much to ask that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spend a few million of its $5 billion budget to research and analyze gun violence. Seems a modest proposal to me.

Although there is no universally accepted definition of a mass shooting, the Congressional Research Service defines a “mass shooting” as one in which four or more people are killed, not including the shooter. Using that definition, there have been 164 such events from 1966 through August, 2019. But they are increasing in frequency and deadliness. If the definition were expanded to include the death of the shooter, the raw numbers would rise substantially. Even so, mass public shootings represent only 0.5% of all homicides by firearms annually. But they are the incidents that garner all the attention, which the mass shooter is craving in most cases. And bigger body counts mean bigger headlines. One recently thwarted shooter posted that, “A good 100 kills would be nice,” and another wanted to “break a world record.”

In mass public shootings, the weapon du jour is the assault rifle. The National Shooting Sports Foundation has estimated that approximately 5 million to 10 million AR-15 style rifles exist in the U.S. Regarding assault rifles, I know a thing or two. And I can say with complete certainty and a good deal of experiential credibility that there is not a single reason on God’s lovely earth why anyone other than police and my military brothers should have one, especially one with automatic fire capability. Anybody who tells you differently is chock full up to their eyeballs with what makes the grass grow green and tall.

Now, I would not be an unhappy guy to wake up one morning to discover that all firearms in the hands of civilians have gone *poof* in the night. We all know that will never happen. But as Peterson and Densley argue:

One step needs to be depriving potential shooters of the means to carry out their plans. Potential shooting sites can be made less accessible with visible security measures such as metal detectors and police officers. And weapons need to be better controlled, through age restrictions, permit-to-purchase licensinguniversal background checkssafe storage campaigns and red-flag laws — measures that help control firearm access for vulnerable individuals or people in crisis.

Regarding Bob and his pearl-handled, hair-trigger Colt 45s? One evening in 1975 a bullet from one of them went straight through his head. Police classified it an accident, but I didn’t buy that for one minute.