Tuesday, January 26, 2016

The Guardian equates Suicide to Self Defense in SHOT Show Coverage

The left loves to use false comparisons of unrelated numbers to make bad arguments.  In a recent article about the Shooting, Hunting and Outdoor Trade (SHOT)  Show in the Guardian, a far-left British newspaper, the reporters start with an off the cuff remark from an economics professor.  From the guardian.com:
“People are buying guns as part of the American dream of freedom and liberty,” said Brauer, who is based at the Hull College of Business at Augusta University. “And also, the hope and the dream of being able to use guns in self-defence.”
The Guardian then adds this:
People very rarely get to live out that dream, with FBI data showing that gun owners are 78 times more likely to kill themselves than they are to carry out a “justifiable homicide”, which the agency describes as “the killing of a felon, during the commission of a felony, by a private citizen”.
Taking an interpretation of an economics professor about motivation for buying guns for defensive purposes as indicative of a desire to kill, is a large stretch.  Even if you start with the given statement,  "the hope and the dream of being able to use guns in self-defense" hardly means that people want to fire guns in self defense.

The desire to be able to prevent a tragedy does not translate to the desire to participate in a tragedy.  People have a desire to be able to prevent their house from burning down.  That does not mean that they want to put out a fire at their house.

The reporters take it a step further, to absurdity, implying that gun buyers want to kill criminals in self defense.   They do this by only considering the FBI numbers on justifiable homicides as legitimate acts of using firearms for self defense while ignoring the millions of cases where firearms are used for defense without a shot being fired.

The reporters mention a partial definition of the FBI reporting requirements for justifiable homicide, without mentioning that the FBI Uniform Crime Reports under reports justifiable homicides.  Studies by criminologists indicate that the FBI Uniform Crime Reports only catches about 20% of justifiable homicides. 

The reporters then compare that select, small slice of justifiable homicides caught by the Uniform Crime Reports, to an unrelated number;  suicides.  The underlying, unstated assumption is that guns cause suicides. The Guardian reporters frame the debate as a comparison of suicides to justifiable homicides, an absurd comparison.

It is similar to comparing car accidents to the number of times cars are used to disable a criminals' car, without considering the benefit of transporting victims to a hospital.  The claim would be made that you are far more likely to be in a car accident than involved in disabling a criminal's car.   Both are absurd comparisons.

Suicides, because they are an individual choice that does not depend on others actions, are not caused by guns; if guns are less available, many effective substitute methods are available to individuals who wish to end their life. 

South Korea and Japan have far higher suicide rates than the United States.  Both countries have fiercely restrictive gun laws.  No regulations that are proposed in the United States have any reasonable chance of preventing suicides in measurable numbers. If an attempt were made to confiscate all firearms in the United States, some small number of suicides might be prevented, but the resulting social upheaval and death toll would overwhelm them.  Few are willing to admit the elimination of most privately owned guns is the goal, and it is not a viable option.

The vast majority of suicides in the United States committed with firearms are old white males who have owned guns for a long time. When one form of suicide becomes less available, others are picked up rapidly.  Due to the copycat effect, mass publicity of suicide methods may lead to more suicides than the availability of particular methods.  From nih.gov:
 This paper examines the emergence of a new method of suicide in Hong Kong by carbon monoxide poisoning generated by the burning of charcoal. In just 6 years, it has become the second most common means of suicide after jumping from heights.
Framing the debate as a comparison of suicides to justifiable homicides was a policy decision on the part of the Guardian.

The reporters could have as easily compared the number of fatal accidents involving firearms (about 500 a year) with the estimated 1.5 million defensive uses of firearms each year, thus making the case for the utility of firearms in preventing crime and for self defense. Their choice indicates their agenda.

It is not news to "frame" a 'news' article to advocate for a political agenda that you wish enacted. It is a political tool used extensively by advocates everywhere.  It is worthwhile to point out how it is done; once people become educated and more sceptical, they are less likely to be fooled into making rash decisions based on advocacy disguised as journalism.

©2016 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice and link are included.     Link to Gun Watch

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