The Uvalde shooting of young school children is heart wrenching and tragic. We are left with despair and outrage, and while these are normal reactions they are a poor basis for public policy and effective solutions.
The George Floyd murder soon after the Arbury killing in Georgia and Breonna Taylor killing in Louisville led to such extensive coverage that most people thought the incidences of police killing unarmed Blacks was rampant. This did not happen thousands of times a year as so many thought; the incidents of cops killing unarmed Blacks was extremely rare, less than 15 times in 2019. Unarmed does not mean harmless; more people are killed by fists than assault weapons.
Yet this misperception led to riots, billions in property damage and dozens killed. It also led to defunding the police, lower prosecution in some urban areas and restraints of law enforcement as cops just watched buildings burn. This led to an increase in victims of over 100 per week. Obama is right, misinformation kills.
My previous post opines on solutions that take into account our gun problem, our mental health problem and our police problem. Cheap political attacks such as attacking the NRA and Republicans are worse than useless; they obscure effective solutions. Using this tragedy to kill the Senate filibuster (AOC) is reprehensible. Virtue signaling to just do something solves nothing.
Are we making the same mistake with Uvalde that we did with George Floyd? Is the real threat exaggerated by the hyperbolic and extensive coverage? Isn’t our Congress designed to overcome passion with reason?
From Kevin Williamson in National Review, Explaining the Gun Debate:
We are coming up on the 100th anniversary of the worst school massacre in American history, which happened in Bath, Mich., in 1927, and saw the deaths of 44 victims plus the perpetrator. The outlines of the Bath attack are in some ways familiar — the perpetrator, who was the treasurer of the local school board, was known to be troubled, had financial problems, and killed his wife before going to the school — and in some ways different: The killer was 55 years old, and he mostly used bombs instead of guns.
Americans buy more guns today than they did in the 1990s (the number of National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) checks performed in 2021 was about four times the number of NICS checks performed in 1999), but violent crime has decreased radically since those years, with homicides falling almost by half between 1991 and 2020 (from 9.71 per 100,000 to 4.96 per 100,000). In 1990, New York City had 2,605 murders; in 2021, it had 485, meaning that the murder rate was reduced by about 80 percent. Most other American cities saw large reductions in murders over the same period. There isn’t much reason to believe that the increase in gun ownership led to less crime, but it is a matter of historical fact that it was not accompanied by more crime.
In spite of the panicked emoting you hear in the media and online, the number of Americans living in households in which there is a gun present has actually declined quite a bit over the past several decades: In 1973, only a minority of Americans (49.5 percent) lived in a household with no firearm, but by 2014 almost two-thirds of Americans (64.3 percent) did. So the typical American is less likely to reside in a household with a firearm in it today than 50 years ago.
At the same time, the total number of firearms owned by Americans has climbed substantially over the past few decades, with today’s gun-owning Americans likely to own more guns than gun-owning Americans did a generation ago. Much of this is driven by the popularity of shooting sports and recreational shooting; some of it is driven by collectors; some of it is driven by fear. There is not much reason to believe that a lone psychopath with 50 rifles is much more dangerous than a lone psychopath with one rifle.
A good deal of the increase in the American domestic arsenal has been driven by women’s acquisition of firearms. In 1973, the rate of gun ownership among men was 40 percentage points higher than the rate of ownership among women; as more women have become gun owners, that lopsided figure has declined by almost half, to 23 percentage points.
The important variable does not seem to be guns. Americans shoot each other to death at a much higher rate than do citizens of most other countries, but they also stab each other to death, beat each other to death, burn each other to death, etc., much more frequently than do citizens of other countries. In fact, the number of murders committed by Americans armed with nothing more than their bare hands each year exceeds the number of murders committed by Americans with so-called assault rifles. The United States has unusually high rates of criminal violence across the board rather than just an unusually high rate of gun-related violence.
My conclusion: The problem with America isn’t that it is full of guns — the problem with America is that it is full of Americans.
Both gun-control advocates and the National Rifle Association support stronger enforcement of “straw buyer” laws, meaning laws against buying a firearm on behalf of someone who is legally prohibited from purchasing one himself. But we don’t enforce these laws in most instances. Local prosecutors don’t want such cases, because they involve a lot of sympathetic defendants — mostly the girlfriends, grandmothers, and nephews of gang members and other career criminals — and federal prosecutors won’t touch them because they’re deemed a waste of time unless they are part of a bigger, sexier organized-crime investigation. As I first reported years ago and have been shouting about ever since, the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois (meaning Chicago) declined to prosecute these cases as a matter of publicly stated policy.
Our police and prosecutors also decline in many cases to arrest people and prosecute them for violations such as illegal possession of a firearm. A very large share of our murders (more than 80 percent in New York City, according to the New York Times) are committed by people with prior arrest records, often by people with prior criminal convictions, and in a considerable number of cases by people with prior arrests on weapons charges. We keep letting them walk until they kill somebody.
Some criminal-justice-reform advocates worry that more robust enforcement of gun laws would end up being the next “war on drugs,” resulting in high rates of incarceration and felony convictions that would disproportionately affect young black men. I think that is the wrong way to think about it. Yes, the population of violent career criminals we would want to target seems to be disproportionately black (African Americans are about 12.5 percent of the population but more than half of those arrested for murder), but it is a tiny, unrepresentative sample of black America. In 2018, there were just under 3,000 black Americans arrested for murder — out of a population of 42 million. That’s 0.007 percent of the black population, while white Americans arrested for murder make up about 0.001 percent of the white population. Surely there is a way to police weapons violations more aggressively without targeting the black community as a whole. We should keep in mind that black men also make up a disproportionate share of the murder victims.
From John Tierney at City Journal, Sorrow and Precaution, Not Hysteria:
Politicians and journalists cannot resist exploiting the deaths of schoolchildren, but the ghoulish wall-to-wall coverage serves no purpose except to terrify adults and kids. Contrary to what you’ve heard from Biden and the media, school massacres like the one in Uvalde are exceptionally rare events. They actually occurred more often in the 1990s than recently—but back then, there wasn’t an army of satellite trucks competing around the clock to chronicle the horror.
“There is not an epidemic of mass shootings,” says James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University who has been tracking these events for decades and helps keep the AP/USA Today/Northeastern Mass Killing database. “What’s increasing and is out of control is the epidemic of fear.”
As Fox notes, the annual odds that an American child will die in a mass shooting at school are nearly 10 million to 1, about the odds of being killed by lightning or of dying in an earthquake. Those are also about the same odds that any American will die in a mass public shooting like the recent one in Buffalo. Such numbers, of course, are no consolation to the grieving parents and families in Uvalde and Buffalo, but neither is the frenzy to manipulate these tragedies for ratings and political gain.
We can all agree that even one of these massacres is too many. But wallowing in the gruesome details will not prevent another, and neither will blaming the senseless murders on political enemies. We should be looking for ways to protect children and adults from all the dangers they face—including the recent homicide surge claiming nearly 100 additional lives every week. That carnage continues, and a presidential visit to Texas will do nothing to stop it.