No matter who really first said, “there’s a sucker born every minute,” I can tell you that nowhere is this more true than when it comes to guns. The latest huckster-rich promotion can be heard on Sean Hannity’s radio show, which runs spots for something called defendfamily.com, a marketing effort for an organization U.S. Concealed Carry Association, which is owned by a Wisconsin-based company called Delta Defense that was founded by a guy named Tim Schmidt who believes in the “society-transforming power of the responsibly armed American.”
According to Hannity, who claims to be a member of the group, the odds are one out of five that your home will be invaded and your property stolen by someone who would otherwise be forced to retreat if you had access to a gun. Now according to the FBI, there were 1.5 million home burglaries in 2013, and this includes roughly 1 million thefts in which the criminal didn’t have to enter the premises by unlawful means. So let’s say that there were somewhere around 750,000 times in 2013 where someone broke in somewhere and therefore might have been thwarted in this effort had the guy or gal with the gun actually been home. The last time I looked, there were somewhere around 125 million homes, and we’re not talking about apartments, just homes. If Hannity is right, this means that at least 25 million of these homes will be locations where the criminals will try to break in; so I guess that the FBI’s crime numbers are off to the tune of some 24 million crimes.
I hope you now understand why I refer to this whole issue of guns and crime as nothing more than a modern-day riff on the ‘huckster born every minute’ theme. I’m not saying that a gun in the hands of someone who is adequately trained can’t make a difference in terms of personal defense. I’m not saying that there are no examples of people who grabbed a gun and prevented something really dangerous from taking place. What I am saying is that the gun industry has spent the last twenty years telling us over and over that walking around with a gun will make us all safe from crime, but when you examine the data even casually the argument falls apart.
The only problem, of course, is that hucksterism about guns protecting us from crime seems about equally matched by hucksterism promoting how to protect ourselves from guns. Back in January a terrible shooting took place at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in which a cardiovascular surgeon was gunned down by a man who allegedly came to the hospital to complain about his mother’s care. The incident sent shockwaves through the medical community and sent hospital CFO’s to their calculators to see if the budget had some spare cash to hire a company like Crisis Consultant Group to come in and bring everyone up to speed.
I know a 150-bed community hospital in the Northeast which recently laid out $80,000 for active shooting training, although Homeland Security will pay for a portion of the cost. But there are 5,600 hospitals around the country, and if each hospital coughed up an average of $100K for this training, the medical system would have to absorb over $600 million bucks. This entire cost, incidentally, would go to prevent roughly 25-30 shooting casualties each year. Despite the NRA nonsense about the danger of gun-free zones, hospitals tend to be even safer than schools.
I’m not saying that everyone concerned about crime goes out and buys a gun. I’m also not saying that every hospital will ante up the money to develop an anti-shooter plan. What I am saying is that the response to gun violence is often as irrational as the violence itself, which doesn’t bode well for dealing with guns, or violence, or the connection between both.