On some level, can you blame average people for getting the facts so wrong? In light of the news media's ugly blend of profound bias and almost proud ignorance on gun issues, it's entirely unsurprising that the public is deeply misinformed on the subject. The latest case in point is a fresh survey in which Americans badly miss the mark in estimating the top causes of gun-related deaths. Voters vastly overestimate the prevalence and toll of homicides and (especially) mass shootings, while sharply underestimating suicides. Via the Free Beacon, compare and contrast perception...
Fully 25 percent of the population thinks that mass shootings are the top cause of gun deaths in America, when in fact those horrific incidents account for a fraction of one percent of said deaths. And fewer than one-in-four respondents identified suicide as the accurate answer, even though 60 percent of US gun deaths are from deliberately self-inflicted wounds. This disconnect helps explain why our collective debate over firearms, gun policies, and the Second Amendment is often so dysfunctional. I'd also add that the overwhelming majority of gun suicides are committed with handguns, which are not the focus of most proposed legal restrictions -- at least not yet. One can make the case that barring such weapons could make it harder for people to end their own lives, but the developed nation that consistently racks up one of the highest suicide rates in the world is Japan, where gun ownership is regulated extremely tightly.
On the issue of mass shootings, it's understandable why outsized press attention would skew public perceptions on the frequency of such events. This is also true of mass shootings at schools, which are both gut-wrenchingly awful and vanishingly (and increasingly) rare. How does that data justify terrifying, anxiety-inducing drills like this?
Suburban high school shooting drill will include blanks shot in the hallway: http://t.co/955brRFD— NBC Chicago (@nbcchicago) January 29, 2013
This is borderline abusive, and quite possibly pointless to counter-productive, considering that would-be killers would be fully aware of their own school's protocols during an active shooter event. Finally, on the subject of gun ignorance and policymaking, I'll leave you with this recent, must-see Congressional testimony from a Heritage Foundation expert. The whole thing is worth your time: