Category Archives: Gun Issues

Sometimes Numbers Aren’t the Point: Children and Guns

Gun Child

The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Research Institute, reports that one in three handguns in the United States is kept loaded and unlocked, and most children know where their parents keep their guns. [CHPRI]  Think about that for a second or two, then add the happy note that only about 1 in 3 households in the United States is “armed.” [NPR] In fact the number of households with a gun has dropped from 47% in 1973 to 31% in 2014. [NORC pdf] So, of the 1/3rd of the households that have guns in the U.S., 1/3rd of the hand guns are likely loaded and unlocked, and most of the youngsters know where those hand guns are located.  That’s a problem.  The first and most obvious problem is that guns kill quickly and efficiently – leading to fatal suicide attempts and homicides among the young.

Gun advocates often point to the fact that suicides are included in gun death reports, and opine that this is to “inflate the figures.”  No inflation is necessary.  Whether another person holds the gun or the victim holds the gun doesn’t alter the fact that the firearm was the proximate cause of death.  If we’re looking for ways to diminish the prospect of youth suicides and homicides then gun safety regulations are a point to consider.  Why?

“Homicide is the second leading cause of death for youth ages 10-24, and 82% of the homicides are firearm related. As a nation, the United States has a higher firearm mortality rate among children and youth than the next highest 25 industrialized nations of the world combined.” [JHSPH pdf]

[…] one third of all firearms deaths among adolescents are the result of suicide. Between 1994 and 2006, teen suicide rates have dropped from 11.1 per 100,000 to 6.9 per 100,000. Although adolescent females are more likely to attempt suicide than males, males are four times more likely to die from suicide.  As a result, roughly 83% of suicide deaths were males.” [JHSPH pdf]

These figures support the findings of the Philadelphia Children’s Hospital reports

  • “In 2013, 1,670 children (age 0 to 18 years) died by gunshot and an additional 9,718 were injured.
  • Among children, the majority of unintentional shooting deaths occur in the home. Most of these deaths occur when children are playing with a loaded gun in their parent’s absence.
  • 73 percent of children under age 10 know where their parents keep their firearms and 36 percent admitted handling the weapons, contradicting their parents’ reports. 
  • More than 75 percent of guns used by youth in suicide attempts were kept in the home of the victim, a relative, or a friend.”

However, there are times the statistics aren’t enough.  We can calculate the medical expenses of a homicide victim. We can figure out approximately what the average funeral expenses will be for a suicide victim. We can collate statistics on gun ownership, gun access, and gun availability.  What we can’t calculate, collate, or figure out is the incalculable grief brought to any and all families as a result of firearm use and misuse.

What calculation is possible when a two year old child dies as a result of shooting himself with a hand gun he found in his mother’s purse? [Indianapolis April 20, 2016]  When a 26 year old mother dies because a child in the back seat of a car got hold of a gun? [Milwaukee April 27, 2016]  When a five year old girl kills herself with her father’s gun? [LaPlace, LA May 22, 2016]  In one week in April 2016, four toddlers shot and killed themselves. [NYT]

What method categorizes the grief when an 18 year old youngster with learning disabilities commits suicide, and a community has to deal with two youth suicides in the same month? [Livingston MT February 2016]  How does a school deal with an adolescent murder/suicide? [Glendale AZ, February 2016] There are lawsuits, but what are the lasting damages for a young girl bullied so viciously that she, too, commits suicide on December 11, 2014, in Fairfield, Ohio?  Reporters agonize over how to cover teen suicides, such as the one in Maine, July 2004.  Does one “minimize it” in order to avoid copy-cat results among other unstable teens; or, “report it” seeking to highlight the nature of the problems felt by adolescents and encourage more preventative measures?

What we cannot do is to remove the firearms from the discussion.  “Suicides are unstable, and this is a mental health problem?”  Yes, it’s a mental health problem – a mentally unhealthy youngster got a gun.  “It’s an inner city problem.”  Not really.   If by “inner city” the speaker is talking about African Americans, then the general numbers don’t support the isolation of the subject.  The numbers for U.S homicide murder victims by race for 2009 (2013 report) show White victims at 654 and Black victims at 639.  Under 22? White 1,381 and Black 1,813.  In fact, if we look at the numbers for victims under the age of 13, then White victims less than 1 year old – 106; Black victims 72; 1-4 years of age White 159, Black 129. And, 9-12 years old 43 White, 23 Black. It’s only in the 17-24 age range that there’s an observable disparity.  It’s too many young people who have too little judgment having access to too many guns:

“By age group, 69% of gun homicide victims are ages 18 to 40, a proportion that has changed little since 1993. These groups also have the highest homicide rates: In 2010, there were 10.7 gun homicides per 100,000 people ages 18 to 24, compared with 6.7 among those ages 25 to 40, the next highest rate.” [PewRes]

Good news and Bad news.  For good news we can look to numbers indicating a decline in gun ownership by household.  Fewer households with guns probably means fewer tragic family accidents, fewer youngsters with access to guns, and fewer opportunities for a younger person to take his or her own life.  We can also look to the decline in the overall homicide rates. Fewer people are doing fewer truly stupid things with guns.

On the counter side, only 11 states out of 50 have laws concerning firearm locking devices. Massachusetts is the only state that generally requires all firearms be stored with a lock in place. Only 5 states set standards for the design of locking devices.  This seems an unwarranted situation given that we know that about 1/3rd of accidental firearms deaths can be prevented by the use of a child proof lock and a device that indicates if a firearm is loaded. [SGL]

If we are truly concerned about our children and grandchildren, and we know that “73 percent of children under age 10 know where their parents keep their firearms and 36 percent admitted handling the weapons, contradicting their parents’ reports,” then requiring Safe Storage is a rational way to regulate the storage of firearms without impinging on a person’s right to ownership.

If we are truly concerned about our children and grandchildren, and we know that “More than 75 percent of guns used by youth in suicide attempts were kept in the home of the victim, a relative, or a friend,” then Safe Storage laws would be a sane way to restrict access to legally possessed firearms such that fewer young people might decide to take their lives in the wake of burgeoning personal problems.

If we are truly concerned about our children and grandchildren, then we’ll take a more rational perspective on the storage and access to firearms in the United States, so that the numbers will no longer matter all that much and we can concentrate on the quality of life we wish for those children.

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Gee I’m Glad I’m Not A Conservative Republican, I can sleep at night

Monster under bed

It never fails to amaze me what disturbs the radical right.  When the city of Charlotte, NC declared that transgender individuals should use the rest room which best suits them the troglodyte state legislature promptly  enacted a solution to a non-existent problem.  Should anyone question their motives, such as a Fox News broadcaster asking specifically how many children have been molested in restrooms by a transgender person, the Governor has a quick response:

“How many cases have you had in North Carolina in the last year where people have been convicted of using transgender protections to commit crimes in bathrooms?” Wallace asked.

“This wasn’t a problem!” McCrory replied. “That’s the point I’m making. This is the Democratic Party and the left wing of the Democratic Party.”

“Have their been any cases of this?” Wallace pressed.

“Not that I’m aware of,” McCrory admitted. [C&L]

There would be a reason for that. There haven’t been any.  There weren’t any last year, and there haven’t been any in the last five years.  The charade continued:

“If there’s no problem then why pass the law in the first place?” Wallace hammered.

“There can be a problem,” McCrory fired back. “Because the liberal Democrats are the ones pushing for bathroom laws.”

“I’m not interested in that,” he added. “We did not start this on the right. Who started it was the political left.” [C&L]

Oh, because there CAN be a problem. Like there Can be a monster under my bed?   The logic defies description.  Because a city decided to protect the rights of a group of people, and because those people give some other people the creeps, therefore the state legislature should enact a statute forbidding the protection of those aforementioned individuals? Or, perhaps, because some little junior high school boys might want to sneak into the girls locker room we can’t enact protection for transgender kids and adults?  Bluntly speaking, junior high school boys and those adults who haven’t matured much beyond that stage are much more sinister than any transgender males or females using a restroom in which they’re comfortable.

Children If the Republicans want something to worry about, something more tangible than the non-existent child molesters who seem to populate the imaginations of conservative politicians, how about the scary prospect of hungry children?  In 2014, in the richest nation in the entire world, 15.3 million children lived in what is politely known as “food insecure” households. [FA.org]  As of 2014 there were 415,129 children in foster care. 107,918 children were waiting to be adopted.  Instead of worrying about some fictive character lurking in a rest room, how about getting a bit more worried about REAL children who aren’t eating, and aren’t finding homes?

Vote suppression map The  tortured conservative  logic is similar to argument for voting restrictions of which the Republicans are so fond.  Talk about an upcoming election and they begin to sound off on Voting Integrity.  Ask them about the number of prosecutable cases of voter impersonation fraud and the babbling begins.  Inform them that voter impersonation fraud is mostly smoke and no fire [Politifact] [Brennan Center] with 31 cases out of one billion ballots cast [WaPo] and the response is invariably along the line of “But but but It Could Happen.”  Yes, and there could as likely be a monster under my bed.

It’s more disturbing to find that in the 2012 elections some 35.9% of Americans voted.  48.7% of us voted in 1964, 47.3% voted in 1968 and we haven’t gotten above 45% since. [EP.org]  However, by Republican lights it’s better to be frightened of 31/1 billion ballots than of low turnout elections.  What’s the difference between these two issues  — voter impersonation fraud and low voter turnout? One’s a real problem and the other is a Monster Under The Bed.

Unstable Furniture Beware those doing mathematical calculations!  Like the distraught lady on the American Airlines flight who “saw something” and “said something,” only the Something was an Ivy League economist working on a differential equation. And, no, he’s not an Arab – he’s Italian. [WaPo] That didn’t stop the Ditzel from reporting that he made her feel uncomfortable, like he Might be a terrorist.  Unfortunately, the Ditzel didn’t know that since 2011 there have been 238 Americans killed by terrorist attacks, that would be an average of 29 annually.  29 annual deaths is about the rate for Americans killed by being crushed under unstable furniture or television sets. [WaPo] [CPSC pdf]  One might wonder if she has everything in her home bolted down tightly?

This incident isn’t quite on par with CNN’s epic mistake reporting an “ISIS flag” comprised of sex toys at a British gay pride parade [HWR] but it’s close.  Should we want something REAL to worry about, perhaps we should try avoiding things that make ISIS happy. For example, announcing that we’re AT WAR with ISLAM – which is, of course, precisely the message they’d like to use for recruiting purposes.

Money Stack

If transgender people, imaginary voter impersonators, and putative terrorists aren’t keeping the conservatives up at night then they could always worry about The Debt, The Debt, The Horrible No Good National Debt.  It’s the reason we can’t do anything – like fix our infrastructure or education our children, or take care of our elderly, or provide better Veterans’ benefits, or feed the hungry.  This fear is especially harmful to those who tend to swallow dollar amounts whole.  By the way, if the Republicans need something else to worry about, some 4,800 people die every year from choking related accidents. [NSC]  Here are some soothing words for those who tend to obsess over whole dollar reports on the national debt:

“…this problem — reporters giving the public meaningless raw-dollar amounts — is pervasive in economics journalism. But the people who run CBO are well aware of this point, and present their projections as a percentage of GDP. Interest payments will be 1.3 percent of GDP in 2015, and 3 percent in 2025. The deficit itself will be 2.6 percent of GDP, and then 4 percent, over that same time period.

Obviously, in an ideal world, you’d prefer these numbers to not grow. But increases of 1.7 and 1.4 percent points of GDP over a decade are hardly something to get excited about. [TheWeek]

OMG, we can’t leave the debt to our children! Okay, so it’s better to leave them with crumbling infrastructure? With an archaic energy grid? With a lack of public educational facilities and programs? With no affordable child care? Without food?  Without affordable housing? Without health care?

If the Republicans really wanted something to be frightened of, how about the D+ grade we get for our infrastructure?  Our aging energy grid?  Our colleges scrambling to find funds to replace reductions in state spending?  Those 15.3 million kids going hungry?  Or, if life itself seems perilous perhaps it’s because every day 297 people in American are shot in murders, assaults, suicides and suicide attempts, unintentional shootings, and police interventions. And, every day 89 people die as a result of gun violence. 31 are murdered, 55 are suicides, 2 are accidental, 1 is killed by police intervention, and 1 in unaccounted for. [TBC]

Or, to put the matter in some perspective, between 2005 and 2015 there were 71 Americans killed in terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. During that same period 301,797 were killed by gun violence. [Trace]

Nightmares are distracting and distractions.  The imaginary becomes more intense than the reality.  Somehow we can’t seem to focus on some very real problems in this country – hungry children, un-adopted children, children in inadequate classrooms, low voter turnout, an aging infrastructure and energy grid, gun violence and its tragic outcomes – because we have to deal with the monsters under the Republican mattresses.

Monsters bed And, that’s a real nightmare.

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Filed under conservatism, CPSC, gay issues, Gun Issues, Human Rights, Republicans, Vote Suppression, Voting

Nevada Ballot Questions 2016: Number 1 Common Sense Gun Safety

Question One on the November 2016 ballot shouldn’t be there… that is, the issue should have been taken care of by the State Legislature.  It wasn’t, so here we are doing it the hard way. The initiative provides:

“The measure, upon voter approval, would require that an unlicensed person who wishes to sell or transfer a firearm to another person conduct the transfer through a licensed gun dealer who runs a background check. A licensed dealer may charge a “reasonable fee” for his or her service. If the measure is approved, those found to be in violation of the law would be charged with a “gross misdemeanor,” which could result in a $2,000 fine, up to one year in prison, or both, depending on the results of a trial by jury.

The measure exempts certain transfers of firearms from background checks, including transfers between immediate family members and temporary transfers while hunting or for immediate self-defense.

Supporters refer to the measure as The Background Check Initiative.As of 2014, firearms could be sold by individuals via advertisements and at gun shows without requiring purchasers to undergo background checks.” [Ballotpedia]

Ammosexual It didn’t take long for the NRA hysterics to go ballistic.  Look for the Code Words:

“This November, Nevadans will have the opportunity to vote down this unnecessary and unenforceable proposal which Governor Sandoval already vetoed in 2013.  Bloomberg’s NYC propaganda may say this is a gun safety measure, but we all know that this measure has nothing to do with safety or addressing crime and would only impact law-abiding Nevadans.  It’s important that Nevadans stand up for their rights and not let New York City money influence the future of Nevada!”

There they go again.  “Unnecessary and unenforceable,” is an interesting bit of sloganeering, which doesn’t come close to the rational .  We have laws on the books to criminalize robberies – but robberies still take place.  That doesn’t mean that our statutes on robbery are unnecessary because they are “unenforceable.”  And then there’s this:

“The exceptions are incredibly narrow and could turn an otherwise law-abiding person into a criminal, unknowingly.  For example, a firearm can be borrowed to shoot at an established shooting range; however, that same activity away from an established range such as BLM land is not authorized and would constitute an illegal transfer.” [NRA]

Reading comprehension is tricky but the opponents obviously didn’t get the part about “temporary transfers,” so if we’re out hunting and I hand you my gun, this doesn’t constitute a transfer in the legal sense of the initiative.  All this folderol is followed by the usual Faint of Heart Lament “the criminals will ignore it so we can’t do anything.”  Once more,  extrapolating this to its obvious conclusion would pretty much eliminate section 205 of the Nevada Revised Statutes – the ones defining criminal behavior.  We enact statutes like those attempting to curtail credit card fraud, identity theft, and burglary. Thus, we can enact a statute to curtail the unlawful transfers of dangerous firearms.

Straw Man The Straw Man Cometh.  The NRA and ammosexuals argue that the law would be unenforceable without registration, and registration is unconstitutional, un-American, un-holy or whatever.   So, they contend that this is a stalking horse for “gun registration” which leads to “gun confiscation” which leads to the “new world order,” and “tyranny.”

Excuse me while I take a breath.  There is no way to argue an irrational person into rationality.

The Anti-Urbanity Contingent arrives.   It is a “Bloomberg” idea, it comes from New York City. It’s evil?  It’s “New York Values?”  There’s a long and unhealthy anti-urban sentiment that goes back to the popular fiction of the 19th century.  This bit of pure propaganda would have us categorize other New York City inventions as indicative of New York Values, and the Evil City – for example: The Teddy Bear, Mr. Potato Head, Waldorf Salad, and Pizza?  [nyc]  Oh dear, those Teddy Bears might remind children of the story about President Theodore Roosevelt once refusing to shoot a bear because it was tied to a tree. [TRAssoc]

The origin of an idea is immaterial, and relevant only so far as it suggests (but doesn’t prove) some nefarious connections to the irrational fear of something or another.  Nevada statutes are clear about those the state doesn’t want to possess firearms:

Felons. Yes, there are some hysterics who do argue for the “right” of a felon to possess firearms. However, this fringe is fighting against a tide that’s been washing ashore since the 1920s.

Drug Addicts.  I am interested to hear from anyone who believes that a drug addict should be able to upgrade his capacity to steal to support his habit by moving up from burglary to armed robbery.

Fugitives. Again, does the NRA advocate that fugitives, especially those who have graduated to having their pictures up on police bulletin boards and post office displays, have a “right” to possess a firearm?

Adjudicated Mentally Ill.  It seems to me that the cry from the ammosexuals has been that most mass shootings in this country are accomplished by those few who are seriously mentally ill, and constitute a danger to themselves and to the public at large.  

Persons who are unlawfully or illegally in the United States.  I have met a couple of people whose pro-gun enthusiasm is exceeded only by their anti-immigration views.  I wonder if they want “aliens” with guns?

Now, here’s the question: How can we prevent the felons, the fugitives, the drug addicts, the adjudicated mentally ill, and the undocumented from obtaining firearms — IF we don’t adopt a universal system of background checks?  The anti-Question One crowd renders unenforceable the very statutes we rely upon to prevent the dangerous from obtaining the lethal.

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They’re Back! Ladies vie for Official Nevada Embarrassment Title

Angle 2016

Just in time for political silly season in Nevada! Sharron Angle, Our Lady of Perpetual Campaigning, is pleased to tell one and all in 8 minutes and 41 seconds, how she’d be a great candidate for Nevada’s U.S. Senate seat.

Perhaps we can get a repeat performance of some of Angle’s classics:

“You know what I’m talking about. You’re paying for things that you don’t even need. They just passed the latest one, is everything that they want to throw at us now is covered under ‘autism.’ So, that’s a mandate that you have to pay for. How about maternity leave? I’m not going to have any more babies, but I sure get to pay for it on my insurance. Those are the kinds of things that we want to get rid of.” –Sharron Angle, mocking the notion that health care coverage for autism treatment and maternity leave should be mandated, 2009 Tea Party rally”  [Phumor]

Or this:

They [Republicans] say, ‘You’re too conservative.’ Was Thomas Jefferson too conservative? I’m tired of some people calling me wacky.” –Sharron Angle, March 21, 2010”  [Phumor]  Maybe if she’d stop saying wacky things people might not comment on it?

Fiore Mag

If this isn’t enough fun – welcome back Michele Fiore, the Bundy Babe from southern Nevada.  There’s always her classic comment about guns on campus: “If these young, hot little girls on campus have a firearm, I wonder how many men will want to assault them,” she told the New York Times. “The sexual assaults that are occurring would go down once these sexual predators get a bullet in their head.” [WaPo]  Nice, for a candidate from Congressional District 3? [h/t Crooks and Liars]

Who’s the best qualified as the Official Embarrassment of the Silver State?

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Birds of a Feather in the Refuge

Wampler “Birds of a feather, flock together.” So sayeth all grandmothers offering advice about the accumulation of friends and acquaintances.  For all the palaver about a “peaceful” occupation of the Malheur Wildlife Refuge from the Bundy Boys, they’ve kept company so far with the two notorious cop-killers in southern Nevada, and now it comes to light they have an armed felon in their midst.

Neil Wampler, California patricide, “…Wampler was a ubiquitous presence at the start of the occupation, often seen roaming the compound and talking to reporters. He said he drove to Oregon from his home near San Luis Obispo after seeing an online call for people to support the cause in Burns.” [Oregonian]  And, yes, by his admission, he’s armed.

Little wonder Mr. Wampler’s concerned about gun rights, as a convicted felon (2nd degree murder of his father during a drunken fight) Mr. Wampler doesn’t have any.   As a convicted felon he is prohibited from firearm ownership in California, and in Nevada, and in Oregon.   Mr. Wampler doesn’t agree, however:

“California and federal law generally prohibit felons from possessing firearms. Wampler told The Oregonian that he can legally possess a gun. Cipolla, the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office spokesman, said Wampler cannot have a gun because of his murder conviction.” [Oregonian]

Thus we can assume that Mr. Wampler is a law unto himself; if he says his criminal record doesn’t prohibit his gun toting, then his sovereignty must be respected? This position seems to capture the sovereign notion that the law applies to thee but not to me.  And, Mr. Wampler isn’t the first of the Malheur Loons to make threats, he just seems to be the most recent:

“We are peaceful people, I certainly am,” he says. “And the only circumstance, the last extremity, I think that any gunshots would be fired is if the federalists tried to root us out of here. They would find out then, that we are not playing. We’re not gonna give an inch. And I say that very seriously.” [Oregonian]

Shorter version: If the authorities try to make us leave the Refuge we’re going to start shooting people, even if we Loons have worn out our welcome in the county. [Oregonian]

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Profiles in Cowardice: GOP Soft on Terrorism

Gun Congress I should have known, given that Senator Dean Heller’s last campaign material came from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, that he’d cave to NRA radicals on the following bit of legislation: S.Amdt. 2910 to S.Amdt. 2874 to H.R. 3762

All those links refer eventually to a simple amendment —

“To increase public safety by permitting the Attorney General to deny the transfer of firearms or the issuance of firearms and explosives licenses to known or suspected dangerous terrorists.” {Sen}

And, how did the junior Senator from Nevada cast his vote?  Here’s the roster from vote # 319 —

Heller Terrorist Vote 319That’s right – all those “Nay” votes were to prevent the Department of Justice from refusing to approve gun sales to those on the Terrorist Watch List.  In other words, spoken so often in the last 48 hours, Senator Heller doesn’t want terrorists flying but he evidently has no problems allowing them to waltz into a gun store and loading up on – say,  “1600 rounds of ammunition, another 4,500 rounds ‘at home,’ two assault rifles and two semi-automatic handguns.” [ABC]   

“Senators will need to decide where they stand. Or do they stand with the NRA?” Reid said on the Senate floor Thursday, declaring that the Senate had been “complicit through our inaction” in the 355 mass shootings that have taken place in the United States since the start of the year. “Those who choose to do the NRA’s bidding will be held accountable by our constituents.” [WaPo]

That pretty well sums it up.

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Blood Money and Nevada Politicians

blood money Indeed, it’s time to “politicize” the gun violence issue in this nation; and, it should be done in this election cycle.   The top “gun rights” advocacy groups in terms of money spent on candidates are: (1) The National Rifle Association, which spent $952,252 during the 2013-14 season; (2) Safari Club International, which spent $694,640 during the same period; (3) Gun Owners of America, $270,157; (4) National Shooting Sports Foundation, $169,250; (5) The Ohio Gun Collectors Association, $35,500; and, (6) The Dallas Safari Club, $9,250.  [OpenSecrets]  And now – Who has been collecting some of this money in Nevada?

Contributions from all cycles to date as reported by the Center for Responsive Politics show:

Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) $101,565

Representative Joe Heck (R-NV) $31,415

Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV) $25,765

Representative Cresent Hardy (R-NV) $1,000*

During his 2012 election campaign Senator Heller was presumably pleased to have five contributions from the Safari Club International totaling $6,000. [FEC]   FEC records show more recent money coming into the Cresent Hardy* (R-NV4) campaign from pro-gun sources: there was a $1,000 contribution from the National Rifle Association Political Victory Fund on June 19, 2015, and a $2,000 contribution from Safari Club International on June 30, 2015. [FEC]

Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2) collected $2,000 from the Safari Club International (6/22/15) thus far in the 2016-2016 season; he collected $2,500 from the National Rifle Association on 9/15/14, $1,000 from the National Shooting Sports Foundation (9/22/14), and $1,000 from Safari Club International on 6/21/13.  The gun lobby was generous to Representative Amodei in the 2011-2012 season as well, with three contributions (8/1/2011) (12/20/2011) (7/27/2012) totaling $4,000 from the National Rifle Association.  Then, he received four more contributions from Safari Club International for $1,000 (8/9/2011) another $1,000 (3/19/2012), a boost of $2,000 (2/4/2012) and yet another $1,000 late in the season (9/8/2012).

Counting

While the politicians were collecting contributions from the pro-gun organizations, the CDC reported 16,121 homicides in the US in 2013 of which 11,208 were attributable to firearms. [CDC] As of 2011, the CDC reported, there were 41,149 suicides in this country, of which 21,175 were attributable to firearms. [CDC]  Worse still, we’re not even sure exactly how many children we’re losing every year to gun violence. [WaPo] [NYT] As close as we can infer is that between 2007 and 2011 an average of 62 children under the age of 14 were accidentally shot and killed each year. This is probably, as the Post pointed out, an undercount. [ERorg.]  The politicians collect more contributions, and the count rises.

Counting is important because the gun violence argument is becoming entangled in the differentiation between causation and correlation.  Gun fetishists will be delighted to find that FactCheck is criticizing one of the President’s recent comments about gun regulation and death rates as not being one of causation. No one appears to be disputing the correlations.  What’s interesting is that the original comment, “states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths” doesn’t seem to imply a causal relationship (or even a near perfect positive correlation of .98)  Perhaps for the purists, he might have expressed it as: “There appears to be a correlation between the efforts of a state to enact and enforce gun safety legislation and a lower overall gun violence death rate.”

Additionally, as the FactChecker points out counting suicides and accidental gun deaths is problematic because we lack a standard reporting system, an issue which muddies the clarity of statistics on accidents involving children as described in the links above.  Accurate information (data collection as in “counting” as accurately as possible) would also allow us to treat gun violence as a public health issue.  [Gupta CNN]

Counting and Will Power

If we go by the numbers, none of us can avoid the No. 1 cause of death until we reach 44 years of age – the heart disease and cancer causation kicks in. Unintentional injury is the leading cause for those aged 1-44.  However, when we look at the second leading cause of death in those between the ages of 15-35 it’s suicide, and the third leading cause is homicide.  [CDC]  Surely, if we have these kinds of statistics before us we can observe a public health issue of the first water.

Consider for a moment: Tuberculosis, Pneumonia, and Gastrointestinal infections were leading causes of death in 1900; in 2010 the leading causes were heart disease and cancer. [I09]  We treated TB, Pneumonia, and gastrointestinal infections as public health problems, studied causes, promoted research to find preventative measures and cures, and made a political decision that we would address these three killers with the funding and resources to defeat them.  However, as long as the merchants of lethal weapons continue to pay off politicians, and dispute even the most common sense elements of a potential solution, and won’t even consider funding basic research … our public health problem will persist as a matter of ill-advised political policy.

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