Saturday, September 6, 2008

Gun Death Demographics: A Challenge to the Gun Control Crowd

I have a challenge for the gun control crowd. Motivated by discussions like this one, I would like some data. The contention is often made that buying a gun in and of itself increases the odds of one getting shot. "A gun in the home is 22x more likely..." blah blah blah. I reject this argument without reservation, and I have never seen a shred of evidence that supported it. The gun control people are making a fallacy of composition mistake. While it is true that guns are the primary cause of death in some segments of society, that doesn't translate to an increased risk for ME if I purchase a gun. Even if it were true, as they argue, that guns in society general correlates with increased death, that still doesn't necessarily translate to the individual case.

My contention is that the data show very strong demographic trends of gun death rates within our population with regard to age, psychological health, gender, and race, and that these differences along with many others demonstrate that, or at least make it reasonable to presume, that for some segments of the population the risk of buying a gun TO THEM is so negligible as to not warrant a discussion with one's physician, or any other special considerations in their lives. My challenge for the gun control crowd is: show me the data that says otherwise.

These differences are not trivial. Males are 6x as likely to be killed by a gun than females. Blacks are 6x as likely as Asians.
Black males vs Asian females? It's about 33x as high. The death rate also drops dramatically by age. Nonsuicidal death rates by gun for 20 year olds is three times as high as it is for 40 year olds. Compared to 60-year-olds, it's nine times as high. I don't have the data, but I'll bet someone out there does that shows it also correlates negatively with income and education level.

So my argument is that gun ownership does NOT "carry inherent statistical dangers" as some would assert. The data clearly shows that it does so significantly for a 20 year old poor suicidal white male drop out. But does it show any significant risk to a 60 year old retired wealthy college-educated Asian woman? I wouldn't be surprised if there wasn't even one of those all year in the US. Show me the data that says otherwise.

Note also that this is not an argument that we should not have any gun control. I think the 2nd amendment should be rewritten to say something like this:

"The right of the people to be armed with weapons capable of successfully firing at, and only at, a single human target, shall not be infringed, without due process..."

I would argue strongly that this is in the spirit of what the founders intended. So I support restricting private gun ownership to nonautomatic small arms (pistols and rifles). My contention in the broader sense, of which this article is but a part, is that we should also, and in some ways more importantly, focus on the demographic facts as well, and make restrictions where morally and constitutionally appropriate. The data is there, we ignore it at our own peril. Telling everyone who buys a gun that it poses a risk to them, in defiance of the facts, wastes time and whittles away credibility where we need it most.

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