By Matthew P. Daley
for our readers’ edification an OpEd by Eugene Robinson in the Washington Post that
illustrates the muddled thinking and arguments often advanced by media outlets.
Its fundamental fallacy is aggregating gun deaths of all types and cherry-picking
data on the prevalence of guns in other countries to claim that the vast
oversupply of guns in the US accounts for the claimed disparity in gun deaths. Here
is what he missed or obfuscated:
deaths in the US are suicides and if Robinson could wave a magic wand and
eliminate all guns, there would still be a substantial number of completed
suicides. Look, for example, at the suicide rate in Canada where per capita
suicide attempts have paralleled those in the US. Indeed because of Canada’s
more restrictive gun laws, the percentage of attempts using firearms is about
twenty percent lower than it is in the US, but the per capita aggregate number
of suicides is very close to the US. People who do not have guns but who wish
to commit suicide are often successful in finding alternative methods.
Robinson spends a disproportionate amount of ink informing of us the evils of
the Ruger AR-556, but he fails to note that semi-automatic rifles account for
less than one or two percent of gun deaths in the US. In other words, he
focuses on the instrument rarely used in homicides and neglects the far greater
does not understand how the FBI background check works and where it needs
reinforcement. For example, he fails to mention that most referrals by the
Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms of straw purchases do not result in
prosecution. Put otherwise, these gun felons are given a pass. Also, while
individuals who have been adjudicated as mentally incompetent are not allowed
to purchase or possess firearms, many states fail to report these individuals
to the FBI data base. Strikingly, mental health professionals in most states
are not required to submit data on those deemed to be dangerous to the FBI data
of his colleagues, Mr. Robinson doesn’t know, or perhaps acknowledge, that the
use of firearms in self-defense, including brandishing a firearm without firing
a shot, numbers over a hundred thousand each year. He would do well to review
the work of the National Academy of Science on this issue.
major considerations are omitted. Robinson does not address the reality that
Black Americans are about eight to nine times more likely to commit homicide
than White Americans, and by a similar ratio are the victims of homicides. None
of his recommendations deal with that issue. If our homicide statistics were
altered to remove those committed by Black Americans, our per capita gun murder
rate would resemble that of other countries.
if he wants to make the argument that the very availability of guns in America
is the cause of our gun death rate, he might explain to us why Switzerland
which has a real military weapon in the great majority of homes enjoys such a
low homicide rate.