Is having a frank discussion about how to protect people against becoming gun homicide victims too much to ask?
Don Surber, in the Dec. 29 Gazette-Mail, missed an opportunity to present useful information about the impact of firearm misuse and start a thoughtful discussion of solutions.
Instead he chose misleading statistics purporting to show that increased numbers and availability of guns don't increase everyone's risk of being shot. Every single one of the examples in Surber's column involves one or more of the following:
- Choosing incorrect time intervals for comparisons;
- Using inappropriate measures;
- Distorting differences with relative percentage changes;
- Selectively applying or ignoring social and demographic influences on homicide rates;
- Confusing cause and effect.
For instance, Surber compared Australian and U.S. homicides over the same time period.
He noted that Australia had tightened its laws after a mass shooting, but did not mention the Brady Act, which may have been responsible for some of the decline in U.S. homicides.
Then Surber applied relative percentages to total homicide rates to conclude that Australia was no better off than our country.
The total homicide rate in the United States fell from 9.9 per 100,000 to 5.8 between 1993 and 2007. Meanwhile the homicide rate in Australia went from 1.9 to 1.3.
But the Australian homicide rate is now at a record low. Ours hasn't been near that low in the past century. When we look only at gun homicides, the differences are even more striking.
In the United States, the proportion of homicides by firearm declined slightly during recent years. It's still stuck at 65 percent, while in Australia it was cut in half from 30 percent to 15 percent.
In 2007, the U.S. firearms homicide rate stood at 4.2. In Australia, it was 0.3, or less than 10 percent of the U.S. rate. In which country are you more likely to get shot?
Surber's tone is worse. A responsible newspaper invites discussion on issues of concern. Surber uses ridicule and name calling.
Saying that someone "exploited" the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King is cheap and offensive. The term "liberal logic" is simply name-calling.