Editorial: Speaking of guns …
January 24, 2013
The letter below responds to a subject that is sure to become heated as lawmakers in Colorado and Washington, D.C., take on gun control.
The first order of business in any debate ought to be agreeing on terms, and in particular, definitions thereof. In this case, it appears letter writers Tyson Arnold (Jan. 18 Sky-Hi News) and Patrick Brower (below) are talking about apples and oranges with respect to “gun-related deaths.”
Mr. Arnold’s assertion of less than 9,000 gun deaths is lower than the generally accepted number of gun homicides, much less overall deaths. Mr. Brower’s number of 30,000-plus, on the other hand, includes gun-related suicides in addition to homicides.
Arguing about this topic based on different sets of statistics is going to produce considerably more heat than illumination. Both numbers at issue here are off point to some extent.
Including the suicide numbers, for example, implies that those deaths would be prevented in the absence of firearms. Fact is, the 19,000-plus gun-related suicides account for about half of all U.S. suicides. Thus, it’s not unreasonable to conclude that some of those gun “victims” would find another means of killing themselves absent a firearm.
And Mr. Arnold’s number of gun deaths should have specified “homicides,” and even at that would be considerably lower than most accepted figures.
So, in the interests of settling at least one component of this contentious issue and establishing common ground for a reasoned debate, this corner accepts the following with respect to gun-related deaths.
According to factcheck.org, the latest statistically reliable figures (from 2010) are:
• 11,078 gun murders, which at 3.59 per 100,000 population was the lowest rate in the U.S. since at least 1981
• 19,392 gun suicides, which at 6.28 per 100,000 is the highest rate since 1998 (it is widely accepted that the U.S. suicide rate in general has soared since the beginning of the Great Recession)
“No single number can tell the whole story,” as factcheck.org so aptly puts it.
And while we’re at it, since “assault weapons” seem to figure so prominently in this debate, here is more food for thought:
• According to the Wall Street Journal (Jan. 17), about 2.6 percent of all U.S. homicides are committed using any type of rifle, including “assault weapons.”
• According to politifact.com, in 2011 about 400 murders were committed in the U.S. using rifles of all kinds, including assault weapons, compared with nearly 1,700 murders using knives and more than 6,200 committed with handguns.
By all means, let’s debate the gun issue. But let’s first be clear about what the issue really is.