Some Actual FACTS on Gun Violence


Gary Horton seems to have gone on a rampage recently against private gun ownership, as exemplified by his most recent column on the subject, which ran on 28 August and was entitled “Did America Want to Go This Far Out on Guns?” (Link)

Here’s a sample of his histrionics: “Over a decade, American has lost 360,000 people to gun deaths. By comparison, we’ve lost some 3,100 to terror attacks. Gun deaths are 116 times greater than terror-related deaths. That’s 11,600%!”

Well, it’s undeniable that so many deaths are tragic, but why don’t we take a look at another number, since we’re comparing different manners of people dying?

During that same period of time, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 355,429 traffic accident fatalities (NHTSA Report), making them every bit as dangerous as those e-e-e-e-vil guns, again 116 times greater than terror-related deaths.

Well, what’s to be done about all this mayhem? In this particular column Horton doesn’t say, as it’s pretty much an orgy of hand-wringing. But judging from the totality of his columns on the topic I suppose he’d like to wave a magic wand and make all the privately-owned guns in the country vanish. The only thing standing in his way – other than the lack of that wand – is that pesky and “grossly contorted interpretation of a Second Amendment”.

But there is no Second Amendment equivalent when it comes to cars. Thus they can be regulated to any degree. So, if we want to save a boatload of lives, why don’t we mandate breathalyzer/ignition interlock devices on all cars, as well as speed governors that prevent them from going any faster than, say, 20 MPH? That would probably eliminate at least 90% of traffic fatalities since drunk driving is one major factor, and it’s pretty hard for an accident to be fatal at such low speeds. Maybe even eliminate private car ownership altogether, and mandate that everyone use public transportation! How about that? Everyone has to ride the bus!

We don’t do that because as a society we accept the fact that liberty – freedom of choice and action – sometimes has a cost in human life, a sad and harsh reality.

Horton also tries to peddle the clichéd trope that the Second Amendment only applies to “well-organized state militias”. I will very kindly label that statement as “misguided”. In fact US Code Title 10 § 246 defines the militia as having two components: the “organized militia”, which is the National Guard (Horton’s organized state militias); and the “unorganized militia”, which is all other law-abiding adults in the country who are, or who have applied to be, citizens. (US Code)

Of course, Horton indulges himself in the demonization of the semi-auto AR-15, the most popular rifle in this country, calling them “mass killing machines”. Interestingly enough, in Switzerland, members of their militia – which is all males of military age, as they have universal conscription – are allowed to keep their issued weapons at home, including full-auto guns. You’d think their streets should be awash in blood, wouldn’t you? But no…

I think there’s one more issue to address, and I think it’s pretty important. As I quoted him, Horton claims 360,000 gun deaths over a ten year period, so about 36,000 per year on average. However, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report (UCR) for 2017, the last year for which data are available (FBI UCR), there were 10,982 homicides in which firearms were used, and only 403 of those were with rifles of any kind. If you average out the number of gun homicides covered by the five years of that report you get 9,733 per year. Multiply that by 10 and you get 97,333 for ten years, a far cry from that 360,000 Horton so freely bandies about.

In 2017, rifles – of which the AR-15 type is a variant – were used 403 times, and averaged 316 times per year over the five years covered by the UCR, for a ten year averaged total of 3,160. That means that rifles of all kinds, NOT just AR-15s, were used in only three percent of gun-related homicides. Not exactly an epidemic, is it?

I have no idea where Horton got his 360,000 number, and frankly don’t care. No matter how you slice it, that number doesn’t represent gun use in homicides in this country, as the real data clearly show.

Horton’s column is a very clear illustration of the hyperbolic scare tactics used by those who’d deprive law-abiding people of their gun rights, full of blatant misrepresentations and over-the-top rhetoric and demagoguery.

Don’t fall for it.



©Brian Baker 2019

(Published 4 Sep 2019 on my blog and in The Signal)



“I Wish I Could Sit Next To You, Papa”

This morning I picked up my little granddaughter to watch her while the kids were at work. I bundled her into her state-approved car seat, and we hit the road to my place.

About halfway there, in her sweet little voice, she said, “I wish I could sit next to you, Papa.”

“I wish you could, too, Sweetie,” I replied. “It would make it so much easier to talk to you.”

“You know”, I continued, “when your Mommy was a little girl, she used to be able to sit right next to me so we could see each other and talk when we were driving around.”

“Yeah…”, she mused. “Why can’t I sit next to you?”

“Well… because there are laws – rules – that say you have to sit in back.”

After another long pause while she considered that, “I wish I could sit next to you, Papa.”

Yeah. Me, too, Kiddo. When your Mom was your age, her car seat was strapped into the front passenger seat right next to me. That way, when we talked, we could glance over at each other just like in every other normal conversation. Because seeing the other person when we talk to them is a very important part of human conversation; being able to see the non-verbal communication cues. A lot of the way we talk to each other is communicated through our body language. That’s one of the reasons people are more likely to miscommunicate over the phone or through written contact: no body language or facial expressions.

It’s why most important meetings are conducted face-to-face: it’s important to see as well as hear what the other person’s saying.

But instead, people who think they know better for us how we have to live our lives have taken away our choice on how you can ride in the car with me, so you have to sit in the back. I’m truly sorry about that. I often wonder what we adults are teaching you kids about how to relate to other people by sticking you back in the far reaches of the car away from us.

They say it’s so you’ll be safer when we’re driving down the road, but I have to wonder if they thought that out all the way. After all, part of our human nature is to look at someone we’re talking with. But instead of being able to just glance over to the seat next to me – which is just a natural act – now I have to try to glance all the way into the back where you’re sitting. How does that make you safer, if it might make an accident more likely to happen by making me do that?

And what happens if you suddenly scream? You’ve done that sometimes, haven’t you? Usually it’s because you got suddenly excited about something. But how can I tell if it’s just that normal response to something that excited you, or if something bad’s happened that I need to respond to immediately? There’s only one way to know: I have to look.

Want to hear something funny, little girl? When I was your age I used to sit right next to my mommy in the car. Want to hear something even funnier? Back in those days we didn’t even have seat belts, let alone kiddie car seats! Amazing, huh? To hear some people today, you’d think it’s a miracle that any of us even survived! But we did.

In just a few years you’ll be able to read this for yourself, and you’ll see the rest of the answer to that question you asked me today. I hope this makes some sense to you.

It sure doesn’t to me.

© Brian Baker 2012