Louis Weeks, thank you for helping me understand your position a bit better. This is what I’m hearing, so correct me if I’m wrong:
- To have a productive discussion, we should start with facts and real problems. YES!
- We should prioritize the biggest issues that address those problems, and put aside smaller issues that don’t address those problems. We shouldn’t nitpick around the larger issues or play politics just to give the appearance of caring about the larger issues. DOUBLE YES!
Separately, on the side of having a fruitful discussion, a few ground rules might help us stay on track:
- Avoid making claims that the other side is at all influenced by emotions. (I apologize for making that claim initially, retract the statement, and will attempt to avoid this going forward.)
- Allow discussion of “things not said” by the other side, as that might indicate their agenda as much as the things that are said. (I’m open to this… please do call out anything that you feel I am unintentionally or intentionally avoiding.)
- Don’t lie. Be honest and open to data that contradicts claims that support your argument. Be mindful of your own biases. (I will do my best to be mindful of biases — feel free to point them out to me if you see them happening… most of this is subconscious so I can’t guarantee to be able to do this 100%.)
So what are the largest problems we should prioritize?
Let’s agree that gun homicides is the largest problem we want to focus on here. Not suicide, not other kinds of violence, not mental health. Those are all large issues of their own, but not the topic of conversation here.
In order to address problem of gun homicides, we could look at the data and ask a few important questions. If you have different sources or additional facts that you’d like to add to this list, please share them.
- How many deaths are attributed to gun homicides a year? According to the CDC, 12,979 deaths in 2015, which maps to about 4 people out of every 100,000 in the US. In 2016, according to the FBI Criminal Justice Information Services Division, that number was 15,070.
- What kinds of guns are used? “Handguns were used in 19 times as many murders than rifles were in 2016, according to the Uniform Crime Reporting data. Handguns killed nine times as many persons as rifles, shotguns, and other guns did combined. The type of firearm used was unknown for about 28 percent of all firearm murders.” (source and source)
- Were the guns used obtained in legal or illegal circumstances? “In the 13 states with the fewest restrictions on gun ownership, 40% of inmates illegally obtained the gun they used, Webster said. Only about 13 percent purchased the gun from a store or pawn shop. In the other 37 states, including New York state, 60 percent of inmates illegally procured the gun they used, Webster said. “If you look at the most stringent standards for legal gun ownership, it’s more like 65 percent,” Webster said.” (source) Another data point from that same article: “About 48% of state prison inmates surveyed said they got the gun they used from a family member, friend, gun store, pawn shop, flea market, or gun show.” (source)
- Do law-abiding citizens commit gun-related crimes? “Lawful gun owners commit less than a fifth of all gun crimes, according to a novel analysis released this week by the University of Pittsburgh.” (source) Another data point from the article: “More than 30% of the guns that ended up at crime scenes had been stolen, according to Fabio’s research. But more than 40% of those stolen guns weren’t reported by the owners as stolen until after police contacted them when the gun was used in a crime. One of the more concerning findings in the study was that for the majority of guns recovered (62%), the place where the owner lost possession of the firearm was unknown.”
- Where do guns used in gun crimes come from? “Past research has demonstrated that a small fraction of gun dealers are responsible for the majority of guns used in crimes in the United States. A 2000 report from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms found that in 1998, more than 85 percent of gun dealers had no guns used in crimes trace back to them. By contrast, 1% of dealers accounted for nearly 6 in 10 crime gun traces that year.” (source) Another interesting related point made in that same article: “The firearms bureau knows exactly who these gun dealers are — but they’re not allowed to share that information with policymakers or researchers due to a law passed by Congress in 2003. As a result, solutions for stanching the flow of guns from these dealers to crime scenes remain frustratingly out of reach for public-health researchers.”
Do you want to fix the larger problems of gun related violence or you you want to do ‘something’ for the sake of doing ‘something’?
That’s a good question. I definitely don’t want to just do something for the sake of doing something. But I am not sure I’d be directly involved in fixing the problem either. Before I do anything at all, I just want to understand the larger problems of gun-related violence… I think most people (as I’m sure you agree) don’t actually understand these problems well, and yet we are very quick to jump in with solutions. I’m still learning about it, and am particularly interested in finding people who are the most thoughtful and informed on the topic (on both sides of the debate) and to learn from them. I think solutions will emerge from a more fruitful space for debate and learning, and until we have that there’s not much we can do to “fix” the problems.
All we have seen from the left is kabuki theater. They trot out dead babies for what they believe will give them political power and then they push for new laws that have absolutely nothing to do with why those angels are dead.
I’m admittedly on the left. Do you feel like I’m trotting out dead babies or gunning (pun intended) for political power? If so, please let me know how I’m doing this, as I really want to try to avoid that. Yes, you will be able to come up with a million examples of people on the left doing this, and I’ll be able to come up with a million examples of people on the right doing the equivalent, but that turns this debate into a lowest common denominator debate. What would happen if the best arguments and perspectives from both sides sought each other out? Would it be possible to reach a more constructive proposal from there? I think so… the question is how to create that environment in the first place.
Democrats were not interested in a clean bill so all interest died.
I’m 100% with you on this one. Unfortunately Congress is unable to introduce a clean bill on anything… everything has resorted to trying to cram in concessions that please specific interests and gain votes, and has very little connection to solving real problems. Democrats and Republicans in Congress aren’t gonna save us here.
So why do we not care about street violence? Is it because Liberals are racists and simply do not care if people of color are killing themselves?
This is a great question. This article on the two-decades old Ceasefire project, from Boston, and why it has had trouble rolling out to other cities, is painful to read and elaborates in great detail on this point. There are ways to reduce gun violence without changing gun laws, but even they are blocked by funding and “political will”. I would love your take on this question… do you care about street violence? Is this program the kind of thing you would consider a potential solution worth exploring? Because I do.
So do you want to have a productive discussion on actual gun violence or not? Well to start out any productive discussion you have to start out with the facts, start out with the real problems, prioritize the biggest issues and focus down on those larger issues if you ever want to really help fix the problems.
Yes, I do! Hopefully the facts, list of real problems, and potential big issues laid out above are a good starting point. I would love your take on whether the data and sources mentioned are consistent with what you know about as well. Once we’re able to orient around the same problems, data, and sources, I think we’ll be on track to having a truly productive discussion together. Are you in?