When researching a self defense gun use case on a major news outlet’s website, I noticed a statistical graph discussing gun related deaths. It is entitled “Who’s At Risk,” and states that it “Compares Firearms-Related Deaths Among Men, Women, Blacks And Whites in 2000.” I see serious misrepresentation of fact in this graph:
Firstly, this graph is flawed because it counts homicides (e.g. drive-by shootings) and legal interventions (e.g. self defense by citizens and justified shootings by police) in the same category, when these uses of guns are really worlds apart. When a gun-ban-ignoring criminal in Chicago commits a murder, they are acting in a way that is both legally and morally wrong. On the other hand, when a law abiding citizen uses a gun in self defense, they are acting in a way that is both legally and morally right, saving themselves and other from suffering at the hands of a criminal. The same is true when a cop shoots a criminal in order to stop them from committing a crime. Lumping together murder with the self defense use of guns by citizens and cops just doesn’t make sense, and only serves to hide the self defense gun uses that occur every day.
Secondly, the graph boldly proclaims that it measures “Who’s At Risk,” when it is just not possible to make such a sweeping statement about individuals, based on the underlying statistical information. That is because one’s race and gender have a lot less to do with one’s risk of death by gunfire than a great many other factors. These include where one lives, one’s education level, whether one associates with criminals, etc. The only reason that African Americans have a higher homicide rate that Caucasians is because African Americans are statistically more likely to live in lower income, higher crime areas. Since the topic of this website is guns, I won’t go into why this is, other than to say that it is in part likely the result of lingering social and economic effect from historical race discrimination. In other words, it is not the color of one’s skin that determines the likelihood that one will be fatally shot, but rather the other factors in one’s life that just happen to sometimes be correlated with skin color. For example, I am an African American – but I’m also a soon-to-be attorney who is gainfully employed, lives in a low crime area, and owns guns suitable for self defense purposes. As such, taking that whole picture into account, my risk of dying from gunfire is quite low. On the other hand, a Caucasians male of the same age who lives in a crime-ridden neighborhood, and who associates with violent criminals, will have a much higher likelihood of dying from gunfire than I do. To make this clearer, perhaps a (somewhat extreme) analogy will help: Lets say that a hospital specializes in treating a particularly rare but lethal form of cancer, for which the 1 year survival rate is only 5%. The hospital also has doctors and nurses of ordinary health, who attend to the patients. Lets say that at any given time, the hospital has 100 patients suffering from that particularly lethal cancer, plus 10 doctors and nurses. Statistically speaking, we could say that those who set foot in that hospital have a very high chance of being dead 5 years later, since averaging the life expectancies of the dying patients and the doctors/nurses who are of normal health would show a very low survival rate. However that statistic would be meaningless when discussing the doctors and nurses, since those individuals have almost no risk of dying from this very rare but highly lethal cancer.
Finally, this graph counts “accidental” deaths, when in fact there is no such thing as an accidental shooting. Instead, there are only negligent shootings, as a person who is following the rules of gun safety and safely storing their guns will never cause an accidental shooting. Instead, it is only when a person acts in a careless or worse way that such an unintentional shooting will occur. Calling such shootings accidents falsely makes it seem that guns are unreasonably dangerous, when it is instead human carelessness that is to blame.
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