What’s The Difference Between The Victims And Perpetrators Of Gun Violence? Not Much.

If you hang around the GVP community, you quickly memorize certain numbers: 30,000, which is the number of people killed each year by guns, although the real number is a couple of thousand more; 65,000, which is the number of people who are injured when someone else shoots them with a gun but they survive; 15,000, which is the number (give or take another thousand) who injure themselves each year with a gun; 2,000, which covers the ones who kill themselves or are shot dead by the police. Put it all together and you come up with roughly 115,000 Americans who are the victims of gun violence each and every year.

conference program picI actually think the annual number of gun violence victims is somewhere above 200,000, because as far as I am concerned, the people who aim the gun at someone other than themselves and pull the trigger are victims of gun violence too. We never think of the shooters as victims because, by definition, all of them used their gun to commit at least one crime, namely, aggravated assault or homicide with a gun.  And in our fractured world, if every crime has a victim, there also has to be a perpetrator, hence by definition, the shooter can’t also be a victim.  But in fact, he is.

Why do I say that?  First of all, most gun assaults are committed by people, usually young men, for whom violence, and particularly gun violence, is part and parcel of their daily lives.  Want to know who comes into the ER most frequently with a gun injury?  Someone who was previously arrested on suspicion of using a gun.  Okay. I know, I know, the cops usually arrest the first ‘bad guy’ they find. But if you don’t think that the average street shooter isn’t going after someone who previously went after him, then you don’t know much about the streets or the shootings that take place in the streets.  And when the victim of a shooting happens to be a female, the shooter is almost always some jerk of a boyfriend or husband who has previously belted her around numerous times, and maybe on occasion she defended herself by belting back.

Now we know just about everything there is to know about the victims who get shot with guns.  We know their age, their race, where they live, what they were doing when the gun went off, between the CDC and the FBI there isn’t much that escapes the eye.  And when we come to the shooters, even though many of them don’t get arrested, enough sooner or later wind up in detention so that we can get a pretty good idea about their demographics as well.

But here’s what we don’t know.  We have absolutely no idea why someone picks up a gun, points it at someone else and – boom! – it goes off.  And it doesn’t work to say that so-and-so used a gun because he came from a violent background or had a violent history, because most of the young men with that profile who want to commit a violent act do so without using a gun.  According to the Department of Justice, less than 7% of all serious criminal events involve the use of guns.  So how and why do the other 93% figure out how to commit violence without using a gun?

Those 7% who express anger and violence with a gun may not be victims of gun violence in a legal sense, but in terms of the impact of violence on their lives they are GVP victims just as well.  Because as Konrad Lorenz points out, anger and aggression can and should be used as tools to advance the social good. But those who cannot differentiate between the positive and negative uses of aggression will sooner or later end up alienated and marginalized by the community as a whole. And most will live shorter and more painful lives.

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Think That Suicide Isn’t Gun Violence? Think Again.

The bad news is that suicides overall are up, the good news is that gun suicides as a percentage of all suicides is down. Well, kinda down.  Fifteen years ago, the CDC counted 29,199 suicides of all types across America; the per-100K rate was 10.48.  In 2014, the overall number was 42,773; the rate had climbed 23 percent to 12.93.  Ouch!  That’s not good.  Gun suicides, on the other hand, claimed 16,599 lives in 1999 for a 100-K rate of 5.96; in 2014 gun suicides were 21,334 resulting in a 100-K rate of 6.34.  So the gun suicide rate only increased by 6 percent.  I guess Gun Nation is doing something right, right?

Actually, wrong. Want the latest and greatest from Gun Nation about suicide and guns?  Take a look at the new, online safety program developed by the NSSF.  It’s a glossy website that gives a roadmap for ‘responsible’ gun ownership based on safe storage, training, communication and all the other things that you should do to be a ‘responsible gun owner.’  The website includes a nice list of safe storage options ‘to fit your lifestyle and home circumstances,’ ranging from a trigger lock to a full-size gun safe, all of which should be used to ‘prevent accidents.’

But what if you don’t want to lock the gun away because you might need to use it to shoot a You-Know-Who breaking down the front door?  After all, isn’t concealed or open carry also a lifestyle?  You betcha, considering that for the last twenty years the gun industry and its media sycophants have been promoting how much safer you’ll be if you own a gun.

But will you be safer?  To my utter astonishment, the NSSF’s safety brochure actually contains a statement about gun risk which is true: “Keeping a firearm to defend your family makes no sense if that same firearm puts family members or visitors to your home at risk.”  What kind of risk? The risk that is never mentioned by the NSSF or anyone else who promotes gun ownership, namely, risk that someone might end their own life with a gun. The NSSF gets about as close to this untouchable issue as they can by noting that gun safety is particularly necessary if “loved ones experience a difficult time.”  Well, at least Gun Nation has found a pleasant euphemism for depression; i.e., a ‘difficult time.’

But let’s drop the euphemism and look at reality: “States with higher levels of household gun ownership had higher rates of firearm suicide and overall suicide.  This relationship held for both genders and all age groups.  It remained true after accounting for poverty, urbanization and unemployment.” The link between gun ownership and suicide is particularly evident among teens, according to researchers at Harvard’s School of Public Health, and the fastest-growing age-group prone to suicides are teens. Since 2007, the overall rate of gun suicide has increased by 12%, the gun suicide rate among teens is up by 42%.

Why is Gun Nation so reluctant to mention the word suicide when they talk about gun safety?  Because it’s an unbroken rule among the gun-nut fraternity/sorority that the only people whose lives are lost from the misuse of guns are law-abiding citizens who didn’t use a gun to defend themselves against the You-Know-Who’s.  Think I’m overstating things?  Just listen to Wayne-o or home-school queen Dana Loesch repeat this nonsense in the videos they produce for the NRA.

Don’t think that suicide isn’t gun violence?  Think again.  Here’s how violence is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary: “Behavior involving physical force intended to hurt, damage, or kill someone or something.” Notice it doesn’t say ‘someone else,’ because that’s a crime called aggravated assault.

Violence means damage and there’s nothing out there that can damage someone as effectively or quickly as a gun, particularly when you don’t even have to aim.  As far as I’m concerned, at least when it comes to suicide, maybe the GVP community should just drop the ‘V.’

 

 

Even Though There Are More Good Guys in Arizona, The Bad Guys Are Winning

Everyone is aware of the NRA’s argument that the only thing that will stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.  They’ve been saying it for years, but they began screaming it out from the rooftops after Sandy Hook.  And even though we seem to keep hearing about good guys who shoot other good guys, like the murder of Chad Oulson in a Florida movie theater by the ex-cop Curtis Reeves, such incidents are dismissed by the pro-gun crowd as aberrations or mistakes that should have no bearing on whether every good guy in America should be walking around with a gun.

Jan Brewer

Jan Brewer

But a group of ER and Trauma physicians have just released a report on the effect of a 2010 law in Arizona which basically made it a lot easier for all those good guys in the Grand Canyon State to walk around with a gun. Prior to 2010, gun ownership in Arizona did not involve state or local approval, and guns could be privately transferred without a background check.  But carrying a concealed weapon in Arizona did require a police-issued permit, and part of the process also involved required proficiency training in how to use the gun.

The new law, SB-1108, was signed by Governor Brewer and went into effect in 2010.  The law abolished the permit requirement for carrying a concealed weapon and also abolished the necessity to even prove that you knew anything about how to operate the gun.  And since Arizonans are free to sell or transfer handguns privately without a background check, this means that virtually anyone regardless of their legal or proficiency background can join up with the good guys and carry a gun.

Talk about fulfilling the fondest wishes of the NRA.  Finally people like John Lott, Gary Kleck and all the other NRA sycophants who have been telling us for twenty years that more guns equals less crime have an opportunity to prove that what they have been saying is really true.  But there’s only one little problem.  The research that was just published shows that the good guys with those guns haven’t been doing a very good job of protecting us from crime.

The researchers looked at gun injuries and deaths in Tucson over the four-year period between 2008 and 2012, in order to compare gun violence for the same time-period before and after SB-1108 was passed.  And what they found was that “gun-related injuries and deaths increased in southern Arizona, mostly owing to an increase in gun-related homicides.”  This information agrees with numerous studies over the years that correlate gun violence with the presence of guns, but those studies rely on data about gun ownership in general, not whether there exists a concordance between gun violence and guns that are being toted around concealed.

Now it turns out that the overall homicide rate went down in Tucson between 2010 and 2012, which seems to support the NRA’s position about the value of good guys having more guns.  But there’s only one little problem: all the other categories of violent crime in Tucson went up and they didn’t go up by just a little bit.  According to the FBI, the robbery rate went up 13%, aggravated assault increased 11%, and the overall violent crime rate in those two years also increased by 13%.  Statewide, violent crime went up only 4%, but it sure didn’t go down.

So where are all those good guys with guns who can now walk around cities like Tucson and protect its citizens from any bad guy carrying a gun?  Arizona is the first state that has removed virtually all legal and training requirements for people who want to protect themselves and others with a gun.  So far it doesn’t look like the good guys are up to the task.