Thursday, August 02, 2007

Would You Rather They'd Been Pushed out of Windows?

From our friends at the Brady Campaign comes these statistics. While the numbers may be accurate, they lack context and frame of reference skirt over the arguments for gun rights.

They do not say that it cannot be reprinted without permission but it is all public data from CDC anyway...

So let us take them one-by-one (data only goes to 2004):

• In 2004, 1,804 children and teenagers were murdered in gun homicides, 846 committed
suicide with guns, and 143 died in unintentional shootings. A total of 2,852 young people
were killed by firearms in the U.S., one every three hours.

They included the suicides here. Is it possible for one to murder himself? Germany and Japan both have very strict guns laws and higher suicide rates. Finland has laws almost as strict as Germany and their suicide rate is even higher. Also included are the children who were killed by their parents. The context that this lacks is the number - estimated of course - that would have been killed even had there been stricter gun laws or no guns at all. I disagree with including the suicides but even if you do, you must ask, "How many would have committed suicide by some other means?"

• In 2004, 82% of murder victims aged 13 to 19 years old were killed with a firearm.

Again, how many of these were suicides, killed by their parents, or would have been killed by any other means? Just because they were killed with a gun does not mean that they would still be alive. It may also mean that they had a relatively quick and less painful death compared to others that they might have suffered.

• During 2004, 55% of all murders of those under age 18 in the U.S. involved firearms.

So, looking at the last two stats, ages one through twelve and nineteen are pretty dangerous firearm years? Same as the last statistic, without the other numbers, this is meaning less. If there were only 100 children murdered and 55 were with firearms, it would still be the same percentage and no more or less a basis for banning guns.

• Firearms are the second-leading cause of death (after motor vehicle accidents) for young
people 19 and under in the U.S.

Firearms are not a "cause of death." They can be a used to cause death but require something else, such as someone pulling a trigger. They correctly state that motor vehicle accidents are a cause. To be consistent, they need to say that firearm accidents or homicides are a cause of death. This is another example of how they continue to miss the main point.

• The rate of firearm death of under 14-years-old is nearly 12 times higher in the U.S. than
in 25 other industrialized countries combined.

They do not mention which countries these are. Are the combined populations of these other countries roughly equal to that of the U.S.? Actually, they are probably greater, given that you can pick the 25 most populous countries on the planet, exluding the U.S., and they will have much more strict firearms laws. To correctly frame this argument, they need to provide the combined homicide, suicide, and violent crime numbers of these other countries.

• In 2004, for every child and teenager killed by a gun, nearly five were estimated to be
non-fatally wounded.

This is a statistic but makes no argument on its own. Would it be better if all six had been killed by a gun? Would it be better if none had been killed by a gun? I am guessing the latter would be a "yes" but then the statistic would still be just that: a raw stat with no frame of reference and no argument using it for support.

• From 1999 to 2004, firearms were responsible for 18% of injury deaths for Caucasian
teens ages 13-19 in the United States, 51% of deaths for African-American teens, 31% of
Hispanic teens, 18% of Native American/Alaska Native teens, and 19% of Asian/Pacific
Islander teens.

What is the ultimate goal of providing a statistic like this: Banning ownership of firearms in predominantly African-American communities until the 51% is down to 18%? I realize this is done quite often and find it irresposible at best. Had the numbers been the opposite, then the using this statistic might have merit. As it is, black and hispanic communites already have some of strictest gun laws in the country so should not these numbers be reversed?

The statistic is flawed in its wording as well. Not firearms but firearms misuse is the cause and those misusing them are responsible.

• In a study of inner-city 7-year-olds and their exposure to violence, 75% of them reported
hearing gun shots.

There are many things that are and could be wrong with this statistic. It begs the question, "Does every 7-year-old studied know what a gun shot sounds like and can tell the difference between a car misfiring, a television, or any other loud 'crack'?"

What were the questions asked to discern this? Poll results that do not provide the questions or other salient information about those questioned have little, if any, value.

• "The firearm injury epidemic, due largely to handgun injuries, is 10 times larger than the
polio epidemic of the first half of this century."

An "epidemic" relates to either a bacterial or viral, i.e. an infectious, disease. I am sure that those providing the statistics would like to think of firearm injuries as something that can be treated as such, that comparison can jade the views of those seeing the statistics. The result of which is the reader thinks less of the statistics overall. If someone is already in concurrence with the provider of the statistic, there is no problem. Someone who is reviewing the facts and may be swayed may just as well discount the whole study.

With regard to the numbers, no census data is provided. How many children were there in the last half of "this century?" It appears that whoever put the data together thought that we were still in the twentieth century. (The statistics were compiled from 2004 data.)

Firearm injuries may be more prevalent now than then numbers should be provided for reference. The references given in the statistics have the same fallacies, i.e. numbers are provided but sources and context is lacking.

The belief of restricting firearms to prevent violence is tantamount to treating the symptoms of an injury without trying to cure it. While it may make the injured feel better, it does not do much more than that.

Of course, the biggest issue that is missed is the overall amount of violence. The Brady Campaign is only concerned with "gun violence." They disregard the greater issue reducing crime / violence against the innocent. In fact, I say they do it to the detriment of the other.

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