Data recently released by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) shows that 2017 marked an almost 40-year high for firearms-related deaths in the United States. And the anti-gun media is all over it, with headlines aplenty focusing on that fact. What simply browsing the headlines won’t reveal, however, is that the vast majority of those firearms-related deaths were suicides, or that the rates per 100,000 population didn’t really change much, if any, this year.
So if there is no – or very little – increase in the per capita numbers, why all the hubbub from the press? That’s an easy question to answer: Saying that we’re at a 40-year high in death by direct lead injection makes an excellent segue into advocating gun control.
CNN titled their coverage: “Gun deaths in the US reach highest level in nearly 40 years, CDC data reveal.” The Hill went with “CDC report: US gun deaths reaches highest level in nearly 40 years.” Even medical website WebMD got in on the action, with “U.S. Gun Deaths Reach Record High.” The Guardian led with a similar headline, though they claimed only a 20-year high, for some reason. With the exception of a very few of the more conservative sources, none of the titles mention that the majority of shooting deaths were suicides – a conveniently ignored fact that is not unique to 2017.
Most outlets did reveal the suicide numbers further in the article, but then they went on to talk about how many more there were last year than in 1999 – the earliest year in the CDC’s recently released data. What about 2016, the most recent year for which we had this information until now – and, therefore, the most relevant to the conversation today? Not a word.
CNN, as hard as it might be to believe, was the most informative – and therefore least deceptive – of the lot. But even they chose only to compare 2017 to 1999. Why? Because there would be no story otherwise. The tragic rates of 2017, while indeed sensational compared to 1999, aren’t all that different from more recent years. So what do the new numbers mean?
Crunching the Numbers
According to the newly available data, a total of 39,773 people died by bullet in 2017, compared to 28,874 in 1999. That brings the age-adjusted rate per 100,000 up from 10.3 in 1999 to 12 last year. But that’s not news. The CDC also reports that there were 38,658 in 2016. While that is an increase in the raw number, the population grew as well, and the rate for all firearms deaths per 100,000 population was, you guessed it, 12.
Now let’s look at the actual causes of death rather than merely the method. Suicides account for 23,854 of 2017’s fatal shootings, or 6.9 per capita and about 60% of the total. For those keeping score, the rate was 6 in 1990 and 7.1 in 2016. Now, that comparison might be a tad misleading. The overall rate of suicides went down by 0.2 last year, but there were still more people who shot themselves in 2017 than in 2016.
Of the remaining firearms deaths, 14,542 (36.6%) were homicides. Here, we see an increase of 127, or 0.1 per 100,000 population. That brings us to 4.6 compared to 2016’s 4.5 per capita, at 14,415 total gun-related homicides.
A Call to (dis)Arm
The Hill, CNN, and even WebMD all included quotes in their articles from representatives of gun control groups. WebMD and CNN both featured a call to disarm from the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence’s Adelyn Allchin:
“In 2017, 109 people died every single day from gun violence. Gun violence is a public health epidemic that requires a public health solution, which is why we must immediately enact and implement evidence-based interventions – like permit-to-purchase policies and extreme risk laws.”
The Hill quoted part of a statement former Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ), posted through her gun control group:
“This data from the CDC reminds us how many lives our gun violence crisis alters every year – and why so many Americans are rising up to demand action.”
Fake News, Fake Solutions
The anti-gun left – or, perhaps we should say the anti-armed citizen left – always capitalizes on an opportunity to advance their “common sense” reforms by appealing to heightened emotions. We’ve seen this after every shooting that makes the national news, and this update by the CDC is no different. To them, it’s just a way to manipulate peoples’ emotions and get them to react without thinking critically.
But if we do engage our minds and examine the issue, we can see easily see both the practical reason that gun control won’t work and the ethical problem with trying it in the first place.
…some will find their way into the hands of violent offenders…
Some might argue that if there were no civilian firearms at all, criminals would have a harder time arming themselves. That’s probably true, to some degree. However, so long as there are guns in the hands of the police and military – or anywhere else in the world, for that matter – some will find their way into the hands of violent offenders. Though he was quoting another, Thomas Jefferson once made the point:
“The laws that forbid the carrying of arms are laws of such a nature. They disarm only those who are neither inclined nor determined to commit crimes … Such laws make things worse for the assaulted and better for the assailants; they serve rather to encourage than to prevent homicides, for an unarmed man may be attacked with greater confidence than an armed man.”
More importantly, the instrument itself isn’t the problem; the action is. So long as there are items that can be used to shoot, stab, slash, or bludgeon other people, violent crime will exist. But let’s get back to Thomas Jefferson and the other Founders. They believed that all people were granted by their creator certain self-evident and inalienable rights and that amongst these were life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is the right to life and liberty that requires we keep and bear arms so that we might defend ourselves and others against both violence on the part of criminals and tyranny by the government.
The Real Solution
Science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein once wrote that “an armed society is a polite society.” Chances are good you’ve heard that quote in the gun control debate. That’s because it’s true, and the reason is: “Manners are good when one may have to back up his acts with his life.” As Liberty Nation’s Andrew Moran once explained, the American West wasn’t nearly as wild as Hollywood would have us believe. Just about everyone had guns, yet there were far fewer murders – both in raw numbers and per capita – than today.
The solution to cutting down on gun violence, as counter-intuitive as it might seem at first glance, is for more people to take up arms, train and educate themselves, and for it to become common knowledge once again that most of the folk you meet have weapons somewhere on their person. Always remember that only a good guy with a gun can stop a bad guy with a gun. And if the good guy is required by law to be a police officer rather than the intended victim, the body count only grows.
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