Gun Deaths in the USA

In a story titled “Gun deaths shaped by race in America”, the Washington Post cites statistics showing how race ties into gun-related deaths in the USA.

The statistical difference is dramatic, according to a Washington Post analysis of data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. A white person is five times as likely to commit suicide with a gun than to be shot with a gun; for each African American who uses a gun to commit suicide, five are killed by other people with guns.

Source: Washington Post

Source: Washington Post

Although it is much more useful than the one promoted by the Huffington Post, the Washington Post’s above-shown gun-death statistic dances around the elephant in the gun-death living room.

In a column for TheRootDC, Barbara Reynolds writes the following:

The slayings of all children are horrible, yet even in death, they are not treated equally.

If slayings happen in a single event, as in the terrible shooting deaths of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., there is public and media outrage. And if the killing is believed to be racially motivated, as in the Trayvon Martin case, civil rights leaders bring thousands to protests, as they did in Sanford, Fla., to push for punishment of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch member accused of shooting Martin. All that is as it should be.

Yet if there are no guys like Zimmerman — who is of white and Hispanic background — to attack, there is often numbness, an unjustified nothingness when the issue is blacks killing blacks. The civil rights machines don’t crank up, the pulpits seldom roar with vitriolic sermons and editorials crying out loudly for an end to the black-on-black carnage are few and far between. In fact there is such a lack of programs, protest or caring about black kids getting killed, I wonder have their lives ceased to matter at all to the power brokers.  As Charles Ramsey, the former D.C. police chief, reportedly said at a gun forum, “Nobody in this room would have known Trayvon Martin if he had been shot by a black kid.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that among 10- to 24-year-olds, homicide is the leading cause of death for African Americans, and other reports show that more than 90 percent of the violence is from other blacks, mostly from guns.

As I noted in an earlier post, murder is an immoral act, and guns don’t act on their own when they are involved in murders. The existence of a loaded gun will not by itself cause a murder to take place. In order for that to happen, a person has to choose to commit the murder.

Michael Bloomberg can demand stricter gun laws, and Jesse Jackson can insist that the Department of Homeland Security patrol the streets of Chicago, but how do those ideas eliminate the apparent immorality of people who choose to commit murders?

Well, those ideas don’t eliminate such immorality. That kind of immorality isn’t caused by the existence of loaded guns. Murder by any means is immorality put on display.

So, is such a display of immorality uniform in regards to race or ethnicity? Answer: No.

The Wall Street Journal has placed online U.S. murder statistics for the years 2000 to 2010, compiled from FBI statistics coming from every state except Florida.

Out of the 165,068 murders that took place between the years 2000 and 2010, 1,172 were committed by American Indians, and 2,156 were committed by people of Asian or Pacific Island descent.  15,843 of the murders were committed by Hispanics, 49,936 by non-Hispanic Whites and 68,531 by Blacks.

The lower numbers of murderers who are American Indians, Asians, Pacific Islanders and Hispanics could be due to those groups being minority groups within the USA. However, Blacks also make up a minority group within the USA, and yet the statistics show more Black murderers than non-Hispanic White murderers. Why is that?

Are we to blame poverty for people becoming murderers?

The University of Michigan’s National Poverty Center reports, “In 2010, 27.4 percent of blacks and 26.6 percent of Hispanics were poor, compared to 9.9 percent of non-Hispanic whites and 12.1 percent of Asians.”  If poverty were driving people to commit murder, then why is there a disproportionately-small number of murderers who are Hispanic, and why is there a disproportionately-large number of murderers who are non-Hispanic Whites? The statistics do not show a correlation between the ethnicity of people who are in poverty and the ethnicity of people who commit murder.

Despite the fact that the USA has the world’s highest rate of gun ownership, the gun homicide rate in the USA is roughly 3 per 1,000 people (as reported by Richard Florida of The Atlantic Cities and by Simon Rogers of The Guardian). Yet, the gun homicide rate isn’t uniform through the nation. Instead, it is highest in particular urban areas, as seen in the image below.

Map by Zara Matheson of the Martin Prosperity Institute

Map by Zara Matheson of the Martin Prosperity Institute

Detroit has a murder rate of 35.9 per 1,000 people. New Orleans has a much higher rate of 62.1 per 1,000 people. If New Orleans were an independent nation, then it would be second only to Honduras in murders by nationality.

Now, compare the gun murder rate in the USA to the rate of gun ownership in the USA.



Apparently, there is no correlation between the percentage of legal gun ownership and the gun murder rate.

So, what give gun-control advocates the idea that they can reduce the number of deaths by guns by making it more difficult for law-abiding citizens to obtain them?

The above-given statistics appear to indicate that the rate of gun-related deaths is high in places where the rate of legal gun-ownership is low.

Could it be that armed criminals are more likely to commit gun-related crimes in areas of low gun-ownership because the criminals expect their intended victims to be unarmed?

As for the significantly-high black-on-black murder rate that Barbara Reynolds cites (and that the Washington Post dances around), that rate could simply be the result of where the perpetrators live. Densely-populated urban areas have been known as areas of violence as long as there have been densely-populated urban areas, even when there were no guns to control.  The high black-on-black murder rate in the USA could simply be the result of the USA’s African-American population being heavily concentrated in urban areas.

So, what should be done to reduce the number of gun-related deaths in the USA? Is it possible to reduce the number of those deaths without dealing with the underlying cause of that number? What if that number is a symptom of another social ailment?

Whenever a physician discovers swollen lymph nodes in a patient, the physician doesn’t simply try to cure the lymph nodes. Instead, the physician investigates the cause of the swollen lymph nodes, which all too often are caused by cancer.  In a community, a significantly-high rate of gun-related deaths could be the social equivalent of swollen lymph nodes. It would be foolish to try to stop the swelling without acknowledging the moral cancer that is causing the swelling.

As it turns out, acknowledging moral cancer isn’t a popular thing to do. Politicians, media members and social/civil-rights advocates who want fame and fortune are going to promote whatever is popular among their supporters, even when what they promote won’t cure a thing. That includes gun control.


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