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home : opinions : opinions April 29, 2016

1/24/2013 1:09:00 PM
Letter: Let’s have an honest discussion about gun violence in America


Following the horrific event at Sandy Hook elementary school, everyone seems to have an opinion on how to reduce gun violence. Unfortunately, everyone seems to have different “facts” as evidenced by Gari Basham’s letter “Wherever gun laws are most strict, armed crime rates are highest.”

There is simply no proof to support Basham’s claim.

According to FBI statistics for 2011, Louisiana, which has liberal gun laws, is the state with the highest rate of gun violence (10.16 gun murders per 100,000 people). On the other hand, Hawaii, with strict gun laws, has one of the lowest rates (0.07 gun murders per 100,000). And Illinois, which has the nation’s strictest gun laws, has a gun murder rate of 2.93 while Arizona has a gun murder rate of 3.53.

Studies by the National Research Council have shown that areas with a higher prevalance of guns have more gun homicides and more homicides in general. And the Harvard Injury Control Research Center has concluded that studies are “quite consistent … where there are higher levels of gun prevalence, homicide rates are substantially higher, primarily due to higher firearm homicide rates.”

This would seem to be supported by the fact that the U.S. has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world with 88.8 guns for every 100 people. (By comparison, Yemen ranks second with 54.8 per 100 and Switzerland is third with 45.7 guns per 100.) The U.S. also has the highest rate of gun homicides among advanced countries.

The impact of movies and video games on gun violence is less clear. Citizens of most advanced countries are exposed to many of the same movies and violent video games as our own citizens yet they are not motivated to commit gun violence.

As for the NRA belief that “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” the evidence seems to prove otherwise.

Columbine High had an armed resource officer. Virginia Tech University had an armed police force. At Fort Hood, the shooter was able to fire 214 rounds, killing 13 people and wounding 29 more despite on-base armed security. In Tucson, the shooter fired 33 rounds in 45 seconds and the lone person to arrive at the scene with a gun actually threatened to shoot those who had already disarmed him. In Aurora and Newtown the shooters wore body armor making it unlikely that anyone with a gun would have been able to stop them unless similarly equipped.

Certainly, the Second Amendment gives people the right to own arms. To many of us, the question is what kind of arms? We long ago made it illegal for the general public to own fully-automatic guns and other weapons such as hand grenades. Is it really so onerous to ban the sale of semi-automatic “tactical” rifles and large capacity magazines in the interest of public safety?

According to a recent Gallup poll, 53 percent of Americans support President Obama’s proposals to end gun violence. That would hardly support Basham’s accusation that Obama is an “instransigent dictator.” Even a majority of NRA members support some of the president’s recommended measures.

Whether or not you support President Obama’s proposals, if we’re ever to solve gun violence, we must be able to debate the issues calmly and rationally. Perpetuating false information and finger-pointing only makes finding solutions more difficult.

Gary LaMaster


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Reader Comments

Posted: Friday, January 25, 2013
Article comment by: Darren Gemmill

The "evidence" you supply is misleading at best. The ward at Fort Hood where the shooting took place was a gun free zone on base. No armed personnel were allowed so it took time for officers to arrive. At Columbine, the armed officer had specific orders to evacuate students if possible but to back off and not to engage any "shooter" these were pre-determined policies at the time. The Aurora shooter targeted the only theater within 20 min of his home with posted "no guns" signs. The Virginia Tech Police force is no different than the Police force in any town. They can't be everywhere and they take time to respond to the scene of the incident. Finally, Adam Lanza, Police did not arrive on scene for 20 Min. Had there been better controlled access points to the school, and armed security at those points he would likely have never gained access.
You ask why not ban the sale of semi-automatic "tactical" rifles to the public. Can you tell me anything with regard to function that an AR-15 rifle can do that any other semi-automatic rifle or handgun for that matter can not? The answer is no, you can not. The "assault weapons" which are proposed to be banned are defined by strictly cosmetic features. They "look" scary, but they function no differently than any other semi-automatic firearm.

Posted: Friday, January 25, 2013
Article comment by: Country Boy

First let me start with I am not a member of either party, I am an Independent and strongly believe in the USA and the US Constitution. I am a gun owner and CCW holder. I do believe that the liberal sources of information and media are non factual and meant to scare and intimidate.
With that being said,
I disagree with your info not because it is all wrong but because it not all correct or complete. The sources for your info and research are limited in fact. From what I have read for FBI 2011 stats and CDC studies the us rate is 5.3% total and 3.6% actual homicides from fire arms. Homicides include Murder, death result from self defense, suicides, and law enforcement involved firearms deaths. The total 5.3% includes the previous in addition to accidental deaths & hunting accidents.

As far as Louisiana goes you again do not state all the facts for the readers. Here is one important issue that you left out, Causes of death attributable to firearm mortality include ICD-10 Codes W32-W34, Accidental discharge of firearm Codes X72-X74, Intentional self-harm by firearm X93-X95, Assault by firearm Y22-Y24, Firearm discharge, undetermined intent and Y35, Legal intervention involving firearm discharge. Deaths from injury by firearms include deaths due to explosives and other causes indirectly related to firearms.

With your statement of, "This would seem to be supported by the fact that the U.S. has the highest rate of gun ownership in the world with 88.8 guns for every 100 people. (By comparison, Yemen ranks second with 54.8 per 100 and Switzerland is third with 45.7 guns per 100.) The U.S. also has the highest rate of gun homicides among advanced countries."
You have left out one of the most important facts on that data,
"The United States is ranked at No. 1 for civilian gun ownership in comparison with all other industrialized countries. There are approximately 88.8 firearms for every 100 people in the U.S. In the past 14 years, the year with the greatest number of homicides caused by a firearm occurred in 2006, when 10,225 people were killed by the use of a gun. Annual firearm suicides within the United States are high as well. In 2005, 17,002 suicides were committed using a firearm."
So it also looks like rates are going down wouldn't you say? But you really do not want the readers to know that do you?

Below I have added what all readers and commentators of the gun control debate must read to fully understand what it is that you are talking about. This is an email I got from a family member in federal law enforcement. It is a lot of reading but please read it all.

Understanding the numbers on Gun-Related Deaths,
In an effort to understand how the statistics play a part in the promotion of, or refutation of, calls for additional gun control, it became important to examine the numbers in their raw form. Using numbers provided by the United States 2010 Census, the 2010 FBI Uniform Crime Report, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms State Laws and Published Ordinances – Firearms, 30th Edition, 2009-2010, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement 2010 Firearm Involved Violent Crimes Report, the Alabama Criminal Justice Information Center 2010 Crime Report, the Center for Disease Control National Vital Statistic 2010 and 2011 Reports, and the admittedly outdated 2001 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Report on the percentage of people in each state who own firearms, we have a relatively clean set of data to review. Not surprisingly, these raw figures, when compared with media reports on the same numbers, did not align the media changed many of the numbers from the original reports.
Almost all of the summary reports on gun violence covered by the media normalize the data to the “percentage of 1,000” ratio. It appears as though they have to, since the unadjusted numbers would be far under 1 percent in most cases. For example, Rhode Island had 16 gun-related homicides in 2010. With a population of 1,052,567, the unadjusted total number of gun-related deaths relative to the State’s population would be 0.0000152.
By using the “percentage of 1,000” ratio, it now shows Rhode Island’s gun-related deaths as 1.52/1K. How it is presented, as a matter of public perception to drive opinion, is very different.
The “percentage of 1,000” ratio is also used to skew the statistics heavily against sparsely populated states. Alaska had only 19 gun-related homicides in 2010 with a population of 710,231, its adjusted total is 2.7 gun-related homicides per thousand (2.7/1K). Meanwhile, in the first two months of 2010, the City of Chicago had 27 gun-related homicides (Crime Summary Chicago 2010, January-February, 2010, Research and Crime Division, Chicago Police Department).
Despite the fact that more people were killed in the first two months in one Illinois city than in the entire State of Alaska for the full year, Illinois’ adjusted gun-related homicide total is only 2.8 per thousand (population of 12,830,632 with 364 gun-related homicides). The “percentage of 1,000” makes densely populated states appear more safe, despite substantially higher gun-related homicide totals, and sparsely populated states as unsafe.
Of particular interest is the oft-repeated 30,000 figure for gun-related deaths. Approximately 18,000 were suicides using a firearm. Also included are people accidentally killed in police action, or through accidental discharge of a firearm. According to the FBI and state agency sources, the actual number of people murdered by a firearm in 2010 was 11,533 (0.0000381). The total number of murders (including knifes, blunt objects, person’s hands/feet, etc.) is 14,504.
Concerning the number of guns, or the availability of guns, as a potential cause for higher gun-related homicides, using the BRFSS figures to calculate the number of gun owners by state was very revealing. The extrapolated figure was 92 million guns, versus to the official 80 million estimated, and could account for guns that are neither registered nor reported because they have been owned for many years.
The BRFSS estimated that 21.3 percent of Californians own guns. With a population of 37,253,956, this extrapolates to 7,935,093 gun owners in California. The BRFSS estimated that 35.9 percent of Texans own guns. With a population of 25,145,561, this extrapolates to 9,027,256 gun owners in Texas.
Gun control advocates postulate that the accessibility of firearms leads to higher crime rates. With an estimated one million more guns in Texas, their gun-related homicide rate should be higher (even if nominally so). This is not the case in 2010, California had 1,257 gun-related homicides, while Texas had just 805.
This differential is found even among states that have an estimated gun-ownership ratio and population figures that are extremely close. In Utah, (population 2,753,885), an estimated 43.9 percent of citizens (1,208,956) own guns. In 2010, Utah had 22 gun-related homicides, 0.0000080. Meanwhile, in Kansas (population 2,853,118), an estimated 42.1 percent of the citizens (1,201,163) own guns. In 2010, Kansas had 63 gun-related homicides, or 0.0000221.
It is seen again in Louisiana and Wisconsin. Louisiana has a population of 4,533,372, with an estimated 44.1 percent of gun owners (1,999,217), reporting 351 gun-related homicides at 0.0000774. Meanwhile, Wisconsin has a slightly higher population of 4,586,986, with an estimated 44.4 percent of gun owners (2,036,622), reporting just a mere 97 gun-related homicides at 0.0000211.
Gun control advocates also point to registration and permitting as a method for reducing gun-related homicides. Of the 34 states (Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wyoming) that allow conceal carry with a permit, the rate is 0.0000417.
In the 11 states (Connecticut, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina) and District of Columbia that have a mild to stringent permitting process to carry a weapon (and do not allow conceal carry), the rate is 0.0000305.
In the five states (Kansas, New Mexico, Ohio, Vermont, Wisconsin) that do not require a permit for purchase or carry, the rate is 0.0000259, the lowest of them all.
The one area that does seem to have a noticeable impact is a mandatory waiting period. In the 35 states, representing 156 million people, that have no waiting period, approximately 60.2 percent of all gun-related homicides occurred. In the 15 states and District of Columbia, representing approximately 150 million people, with mandatory waiting periods ranging from 24 hours to as long as 6 months, 39.8 percent of all gun-related homicides occurred.
Of the states using the NICS, or FBI-related sources from Criminal Background Checks, the gun-related homicide rate is an average of 0.0000463. Of the states that act as the point of contact (POC) for Criminal Background Checks, the rate is 0.0000295. Of the states that act as a partial point of contact for NIC, the rate is 0.0000311. These numbers suggest that having the states act as the points of contact are more thorough in screening for potential problems.
Ultimately, though, all of these numbers, however troubling they may be for victims of gun-related crimes, need to be put into perspective. Of the people who died in 2010, less than 4/10th of 1 percent, or .004 percent, died as a result of a gun-related homicide.

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