Center For American Progress Has Issued An Absolutely ‘Must Read’ Report On Gun Violence.

Our good friends at the Center for American Progress (CAP) have published a new study on the link between gun laws and gun violence which is a ‘must-read’ for everyone who is concerned about reducing gun violence.  Which means that nobody in Gun-nut Nation needs to read this report because Gun-nut Nation doesn’t believe that we need to regulate guns at all.  But notwithstanding the dwindling Trump supporters, for those who support the concept of reasonable discourse based on at least some attention to facts, the CAP report is a significant effort to figure out (I’m now quoting the report) “whether strong gun laws are effective at reducing gun violence.”
cap-logo2           What makes this report so important is not the fact that the authors attempt to answer the problem stated above about the effects of strong gun laws on rates of gun violence, but for the first time we have an attempt to connect the effect of gun laws to the totality of gun violence based on data covering 10 different categories of gun violence recorded in every, single state.  This is not the first time that scholars have attempted to link gun violence to the legal environment, the CAP study references the work of my good buddy Eric Fleegler and his colleagues, who found a clear link between gun laws and firearm-related deaths in a 2013 article which you can download here.

But there are two important differences between the Fleegler research and what CAP has now produced: first, the 2013 study only defined gun violence by combining state-level homicide and suicide rates, the CAP study breaks down gun violence into 10 separate categories covering every type of incident where the use of a gun creates physical harm; second, Fleegler’s group analyzed state-level gun law environments using the Brady CenterLaw Center reports from 2012, and it was after 2012 (following Sandy Hook) that many states changed their gun laws, in most cases making the legal environment less restrictive in terms of access to guns. So what we get from this CAP report is not only an updated analysis of the relative strength (and weakness) of gun regulations on a state-by-state basis, we also get a much deeper analysis of the different ways in which gun violence occurs.

And what is the result?  Same old, same old, namely, states with stronger gun laws suffer less gun violence, states with weaker gun laws suffer more.  Gee, what a surprise!  But don’t take my cynicism as in way a criticism of the CAP report. Because if you break gun violence down into its component parts, this at least gives you some leverage in trying to figure out not just whether gun laws work to reduce gun violence, but what kind of new gun laws might be implemented or current laws strengthened to address this issue in states where gun violence rates are simply out of control.

Montana is one of those mountain states which has a very high gun-suicide rate but very few gun homicides. It ranks 9th overall for gun violence, but 3rd for gun suicides and only 36th for gun homicides, which puts it below Massachusetts for gun homicides even though Massachusetts ranks dead last for gun violence overall.

But guess what? Montana goes back up to 16th for IPV female homicides, so gun violence in Montana isn’t just driven by suicides, it’s also a very deadly place for women involved in domestic disputes.  Which means that a safe storage law in Montana might have an effect on suicides, but you can be sure that a law which allowed cops to pull guns away from people engaged in domestics would save some lives in the Big Sky State.

By breaking down gun violence into its component parts, the CAP report gives us a realistic view of what gun violence numbers really mean. Which makes this report an inestimable resource for crafting proper laws.  But isn’t that what we expect from CAP in the areas of their concern?


Suicide And Guns: A New Brady Report Spells It Out.

I want to commend the Brady Center for their newly-issued report on suicide and guns.  It’s available on the Brady website and should, no must be required reading for everyone involved with gun violence at any level: advocates, researchers, caregivers and the general public.  I downloaded it earlier this evening and read it without stopping from end to end.  Then I read it again.  Bravo Brady for a job very well done.

The report was issued for National Suicide Week and I wish I could say that suicides as a public health issue have been brought under control.  Unfortunately, that’s not true. According to the CDC, the suicide rate per 100,000 was 10.44 in 2000, it was 12.57 in 2013 (the last year for which we have validated numbers.)  These rates translate into 29,350 suicide deaths in 2000 and more than 41,000 in 2013.  Worse, it appears that this increase is directly associated with the use of guns, with the gun suicide rate increasing by 13% over the past seven years.

brady2                Wouldn’t you just know it, but the NRA has a a history of being concerned with guns and suicide, except in the case of America’s oldest civil rights organization, their concern takes the form of preventing efforts to identify individuals who might be at risk to use a gun to take their own lives.  The best example of their concern in his regard is the Florida gag order (Docs vs. Glocks) that prohibits physicians from talking to patients about their ownership of guns.  The law makes an exception in cases where the patient might be an ‘imminent’ threat to himself or someone else, but as the Brady report makes clear, most suicides are impulsive, last-minute affairs and it often takes lots of sensitive sifting of verbal cues by a caregiver before the potential victim acknowledges that suicide is on his mind.

Where the NRA really shows its true concerns about suicide is their efforts to keep any discussion about gun suicide in the military completely out of bounds.  Military suicides have nearly doubled over the past ten years and the military suicide rate per 100,000 is nearly 40% higher than the rate for non-military folks.  In 2011 a provision was quietly tacked onto the annual Military Authorization Bill that prevented any soldier from being asked if he kept a gun in an off-base home.  Meanwhile a study done in Israel (and mentioned in the Brady report) showed a 40% drop in at-home suicides by soldiers when they were no longer allowed to take their guns with them when they went home on a weekend pass.

One of the most pernicious strategies employed of late by the NRA is guns on college campuses, traditionally gun-free zones.  The latest battleground  – where else? –  is Florida, where NRA lobbyist Marion Hammer has the troops all set and ready to march into the State House and promote a campus-carry bill again.  The fact that college dormitories are the most popular sites for mass, binge-drinking activities doesn’t faze crazy Granny Hammer one bit.  But here’s one little piece of data from the Brady report that might give some of the Florida legislators pause.  A recent study found that college students had substantially lower suicide rates than kids in the same age bracket who weren’t in school, a difference partly attributed to a ninefold decrease in gun availability on campus as opposed to guns in private homes.

The truth is the NRA couldn’t care less about what’s in the Brady report. I can just hear it in the next couple of days, ‘It’s not gun violence, it’s mental health.’  They’ve been getting away with this nonsense because mental health has always been a touchy issue and suicide, in particular, is something we’d rather not face.  But the Brady report makes it clear that suicide moves more quickly move from potential to actual when there’s a gun around.  In case you haven’t yet figured it out, It’s the gun stupid, it’s the gun.