Hey folks. Something really crazy is going on. I hope I’m wrong but I suspect I’m not. But if I am, please correct me as quickly as you can. Okay? I really mean it.
According to my friends at the Gun Violence Archive, so far in the last 72 hours we have racked up 78 deaths from guns. So far in 2016 the total gun deaths stands at 1,735. Overnight there were at least 26 gun homicides, of which 6 were evidently the work of one armed citizen, Jason Dalton, who just drove around Kalamazoo, MI, firing a semi-automatic pistol at whomever happened to come into his sight. That’s more than one killing every hour, which is actually a slightly lower hourly rate than what has been going on since the beginning of the year!
As Bill Clinton said when he re-nominated Barack Obama in 2012, let’s do the arithmetic. So far this year we have gone through 51 days plus 9 additional hours on Day 52. This adds up to 1,232 hours since the great ball dropped in Times Square. Which means that the per-hour gun killing rate is now 1.4. Which means at this rate we end up with 12,297 homicide deaths by year’s end; let’s add in 1,000 unintentional gun deaths which is probably a decent estimate and then tack on another 22,000 suicides, another reliable estimate, and we wind up with a grand total of more than 35,000 Americans who will be killed by guns in 2016.
There’s only one little problem, and it’s not a problem with my math. Taken together, January and February are the two lowest murder months of the entire calendar year. January is actually higher due, of course, to the usual way in which many people celebrate the Holiday Season by getting drunk, getting into a brawl and then, God bless ‘em all, pulling out a gun. But February is the lowest month for all serious crimes because in most parts of the country, it’s just too darn cold.
On the other hand, when we get into the warmer Summer months, what happens in the Winter as regards violent crimes is just a fraction of what takes place between Memorial Day and Labor Day, with high-violence cities like Chicago, Detroit and DC racking up twice as many killings in those months as what is usually recorded at the beginning of the year.
This is why I began this blog with a plea for help in the hopes that perhaps the data I am looking at is wrong. But it’s not wrong. The numbers so far this year reflect what has been happening with gun violence for the last decade, namely, a slow but steady upward climb from 28,685 in 2004 to 32,743 in 2014. That’s a 14% increase in gun violence during the same years that the pro-gun noise machine has the unmitigated gall to keep telling us that guns are protecting us from violence and crime. It’s as if the NRA and their media mouthpieces don’t care whether anything they say has even the slightest relationship to reality at all.
Remember this quote from Dickens: “It was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness.” I think these words really describe the gun debate today. Because if the gun violence numbers so far this year continue and then increase as they surely will during the summer months, we will end 2016 with a body count that will probably crest somewhere above 38,000 or even higher, which takes us back to levels that haven’t been seen since the great crime wave that peaked in 1994.
Is it too much to imagine that yesterday’s shooting in Kalamazoo might provoke folks to consider the possibility that it’s not people who are the problem, it’s the ease with which people can get their hands on guns? Recall again what Dickens said.