Today is National Gun Violence Awareness Day. To show opposition to gun violence, some people, including a few celebrities, are wearing orange–the color that hunters wear to avoid being shot accidentally. Cute. Various landmarks, including the Empire State Building, are also being illuminated with orange light.
I certainly am opposed to violence, including but not limited to gun violence. The problem is that the antidote to “gun violence” inevitably turns out to be nothing but more gun control laws. Which means that the usual bad arguments and misleading statistics are being trotted out today.
This Chicago Tribune column is sadly typical:
Each year,…more than 30,000 die from gun violence.
Actually, over 60% of those 30,000 are suicides. Suicide is a serious problem, but it is not a problem of “gun violence.” If a person hangs himself, is that rope violence?
I’ll speak out in support of measures to address the epidemic of gun violence, because I think it’s the right thing to do. By adding my voice to the chorus saying it’s time to adopt common-sense measures like a ban on assault weapons and requiring universal background checks, I hope to make a difference.
Sorry, but you’re not going to make a difference with those tired old proposals. “Assault weapons” don’t exist, but if the writer means semiautomatic rifles, they are almost never used as murder weapons. Knives are used far more often than rifles of all types, not just semiautomatics, and both blunt objects and bare hands are more commonly murder weapons than rifles.
And making background checks “universal”–i.e., if my friend and I want to trade guns, we have to pay someone to run background checks on one another first–would have essentially zero impact on the homicide rate. Criminals don’t buy their guns legally in the first place, and background checks are useless with regard to lunatics because the lunatics are never on the list. Mainak Sardar, the engineer from Minnesota who murdered his wife and a professor at UCLA, is typical. He reportedly obtained his firearms legally in Minnesota, presumably by passing a background check. There is no point in running more checks against a useless list.
It is odd, too, that ever more hysterical demands for gun control have come during an era of declining violence. The homicide rate today is little more than half what it was for a time in the 1990s. Still, if celebrities, columnists and politicians are serious about trying to reduce gun violence, there is something they can do.
After years of decline, the homicide rate rose in 2015. The upward trend seems to be continuing, as many cities are experiencing far more shootings than they did a few years ago. The only plausible explanation for the current spike in homicides is the war against the police being waged by Black Lives Matter and, generally speaking, the Democratic Party.
Therefore, the most tangible step a columnist, celebrity or politician could take to fight gun violence would be to encourage respect for the law, and for law enforcement. Given the dishonorable role of the Democratic Party in the war on cops, a second constructive step would be to vote for Republican politicians. But that isn’t the message that the sponsors of National Gun Violence Awareness Day are trying to promote.