Friday, September 08, 2006

Gun Control Liars

The Seattle Times posted another tired editorial from the Gun Control Lobby. Allow me to retort.

What is it, exactly, that possesses the Gun Control Lobby to falsify or blatantly lie about statistics? Does gun control advocacy naturally draw liars, or at minimum, people who are predisposed to inflate, or manufacture numbers out of thin air? In Washington Ceasefire President Ralph Fascitelli’s op-ed piece to the Seattle Times, he cites three figures, two fairly concrete, the third more vague, but all are exaggerations at minimum, and at worst, complete fabrications. Why he cites these numbers is a mystery to me, but I do have some suspicions. The Gun Control Lobby tends to be a closed feedback loop when it comes to statistical reporting. Quite simply, their organizations use each other as statistical sources. At the core of this movement, there exists what I, and many critics of this movement believe, a small group of congenital liars. Then, through dishonesty or at least sloppy research, the outer reaches of the Gun Control Lobby rely on the statistics manufactured by the core group and cause their further proliferation. I’ve even witnessed reporters, without any question or investigation—let alone clarification--repeat statistics carefully handed them by gun control activists.

Remember, reporters, if your mother tells you she loves you, check it out. Why so sloppy on gun statistics? Fascitelli claims that in the state of Washington, one child per month is killed in an accidental shooting:

It's a sad fact that a gun in the home increases the chances of a completed suicide by 500 percent; almost every month in this state, a child is killed accidentally by a gun.[emphasis mine]

According to the Centers for Disease Control, using their database search tool (found at: ), between the years of 1999 and 2003, fifteen children ranging in ages from the very generous and liberal age range 0 to 20 were unintentionally killed by a firearm. Had Fascitelli’s alarming statistic been even remotely close to true, that number would have been around 120 children, or eight times the CDC figure. However, he did say “almost every month in this state, a child is killed accidentally by a gun.”. Will these be the weasel words to get out of claiming this breathtakingly inaccurate statistic? Did he use the word ‘child’ in the typical generalized and sloppy way that so many gun control activists do? Maybe ‘children’ to him are between the ages of 0 and 26- a common tactic used by the gun control lobby. I adjusted my query to include ‘children’ between the ages of 0 and 26, and the number of these ‘children’ killed by accidental shooting in the same five year period rises sharply from 15 to 25. So at this point, how he came to the figure of ‘almost one child per month’ is a complete mystery to me.

Let’s examine another couple of statistics that were mentioned in his piece. First, he claims that 50 people per month die from gun violence in this state:

In this state, almost 50 people are killed each month by gun violence.

For the year 2003, a total of 117 people were killed not just through homicide, but what the CDC calls ‘Legal Intervention’. This will include people shot by police officers in the course of duty. If Fascitelli’s facts held up, this number would be almost six times what the CDC reports. Also, he cites that some 200,000 people have been killed by firearm violence in the seven years after the Columbine tragedy. Using the same CDC website, choosing firearm homicides for the five year period between 1999 and 2003 (website only allows a five year range), I come up with 56,726. Is it possible that the two years not included since the Columbine tragedy could make up the difference between 56,726 and 200,000? You can bet not. So why and where does he get these numbers? Frankly, I’m not quite sure, and he offers no source. But I do have a possible idea where he came up with this statistic: other gun control groups. And where do the other gun control groups get this number? Easy: They redefine what constitutes ‘violence’. I caught a reporter for the Dallas Morning News repeating an equally bogus statistic when she had mentioned ‘gun violence’ numbers for a particular year. When I looked into her numbers what I found she was using were total deaths from firearms, regardless of cause. For most recent years that I’ve been able to check, more people die from firearm induced suicide than actual gun crime, or what most people would truly identify as ‘gun violence’.

Why such an all-inclusive definition of ‘violence’? Is it violence when someone hangs himself? Is it violence when someone slashes his wrists? How about when someone takes an overdose of sleeping pills? Suicide is a voluntary act where one decides to end his own life. A tragedy to be sure, but “violence”? While some methods chosen may seem grisly, or yes, by broad definition, violent in the nature of the death itself, it does not constitute a criminal “act of violence”-- an assault, let alone premeditated murder.

It’s reasonable to assume that without inflating the statistics, gun ‘violence’ would begin to pale in comparison to vehicle deaths, or many other more innocuous deaths that occur in this country, but don’t carry the emotional weight of firearm related deaths. For example, there were over 44,000 motor-vehicle related deaths in the year 2003. This, to me, seems to be the primary reason for the complete fabrications of gun violence figures.

In the spirit of honesty, one will note that “suicide” is placed as a subcategory of ‘violence-related’ on the CDC website. While I find this curious, it’s reasonable to assume that this creates a kind of easy out for misreporting or categorizing of suicide by violence. The problem with taking this idea at face value is that it creates a whole new subcategory of violence-related deaths that would also need the requisite scrutiny. For instance, ‘suffocation-related suicide violence’ (presumably people who hung themselves) resulted in 6,635 deaths for the year 2003. We can quickly see how ridiculous this broad definition of violence becomes. What next, rope control?

None of this, however, excuses the patently false numbers, let alone the statistics, which assume questionable inclusions- such as suicides and homicides. I understand this is an op-ed piece, and therefore not subject to anything in the realm of fact checking or reality. Apparently, fact checking for op-ed pieces is my job, not the job of the newspaper. However, I’ve seen these same types of statistics thrown about in ‘real’ news stories that weren’t opinion pieces, but being printed as hard fact in major newspapers. As far as I can tell, the real violence is that the truth, or at minimum, the facts are quite literally being murdered.

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