February 16, 2018

Yet Another School Shooting

One of those long Facebook posts that I though better of and decided to move over to the blog....

The relationship of mass shooting to gun deaths is kind of like the relationship of airplane crashes to transportation deaths. By every measure (total deaths, per capita, per mile traveled) automobiles are 10s or 100s of times more risky than airplanes - but when a plane goes down, it's all over the media in a way that more mundane automobile accidents are not.

I'm not a gun advocate in any way, but the reality is that nearly 2/3 of gun deaths each year are suicides. And of actual homicides, most are by handguns (not assault weapons or rifles) and most victims are young men of color. The high visibility "gun issues" (mass killings, police killings, police deaths) are a thin slice of the actual number of gun deaths.

Banning assault weapons may make us feel better / safer but will only make a small dent in the "gun problem" this country finds itself in. I think the random nature of mass killings, and the way they extend violence out of more at risk communities, and into presumably safe spaces (schools, churches, performance spaces, whiter, and less economically disadvantaged) creates a more visceral reaction among the middle class and well to do. They shatter our illusion of safety and protection.
This page gets to the heart of the matter, and there's a really interesting statistical tool that let's you peel apart gun violence by race, by age, by gender, and by type. The only thing it really lacks is a "type of firearm" pulldown which would, I think, be useful and informative.

As I mentioned, I am not a gun fan in any way; I'm a proponent of zero gun rights and if not that, highly regulated gun ownership. But I'm also a pragmatist and a numbers geek, and I watch with curiosity as the reaction to a mass killing far outweighs the statistical significance of the event. 

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