Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Latest already forgotten mass shooting may cause another run on gun ownership--and more danger in the home

It certainly didn’t take long for the Isla Vista mass shooting to disappear from the news. I hope that nobody is actually “surprised” by this; the George Zimmerman case—clearly one of self-defense—was wall-to-wall racist media demonization for over a year, but mass murder, that happens so often it’s just old hat. The news consumer with a short attention span gets bored with such things (almost as much as with the constant bickering between politicians), and it’s time to move on to the next sexy story. After all, most of these mass shooters are white males, and everyone “knows” that not every white male has such a predisposition—not like certain minorities who are “strange” with “strange” ways and cultures.

Still, every time something like this happens there supposedly is an uptick in personal firearm sales. The front page of the Seattle Times reported this past Sunday that women are buying guns at twice the rate of men. Of course the people they interviewed for the story are redneck white women who provide anecdotal incidents to explain this “phenomenon,” although the reality is that as a demographic, white women are the least likely to be the victim of crime by rate; it is just that every time one occurs, the media blows it up by a factor of 100, while every crime show on network and cable television seems to think that it is a ratings winner to portray every murder victim as a white female, although the actual statistical truth is more like 15 percent. 

Even so, do guns prevent crime or protect their owners? The evidence clearly contradicts this belief. Paranoid people may act on very anecdotal evidence exaggerated by the media and the NRA, but the reality is shockingly different.  According to a CDC report in 2012, from 2005 to 2010 there were 3,800 deaths from both illegal use of firearms in the home and “unintentional” consequences from “accidents.” One-third of the victims were under 25. The New York Times has reported that the number of young children killed by “accidental” use of firearms in the home is usually under-reported in official counts, apparently in an effort to disguise the danger and frequency of such occurrences. 

A study reported in the Journal of Trauma found that for each incident in which a gun is used for legally justified personal protection, there were 11 suicides, seven homicides and four “unintentional” shootings in the home. Perhaps not surprisingly, states with the lax personal gun ownership laws have much higher rates of non-legal shootings and deaths than states at the “mercy” of criminals because of tougher gun ownership laws. While the Right likes to talk about crime in big cities like New York, Chicago, Detroit and Los Angeles, according to FBI crime statistics, the gun-happy South and Southwest, politically dominated by the right-wing, have the highest homicide rates overall. 

But people will continue to believe in their myths, mass shootings will continue to occur, and most everybody will continue on as if nothing ever happened, and the natural order of things maintained.

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