Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight site is an equal opportunity offender. The GOP slammed it during 2012 and 2016 for its election projections. Democrats lobbed some swipes at Silver for saying Republicans would have a good 2014 midterm year. He was right in 2012 and 2014, but wrong in 2016. It happens. We’re all human. Yet, there is one piece on the site that analyzed and cut through the bull with gun violence that is definitely worth a read. Unlike anti-gun liberals who think we need more gun control, more background checks, and heck—even the prohibition of gun ownership in America—the data crunching site had a verdict on the matter: to see gun violence through only mass shootings is to close the eye of reason. For starters, FiveThirtyEight, unlike other outlets, notes: a) mass shootings are rare; b) the people who commit them are “different"; c) they don’t make up the majority of gun crimes; and d) there are other factors regarding gun crimes in America that won’t be fixed by the ineffectual proposals that are currently being peddled by the anti-gun Left.
Concerning homicides, the majority of the victims are male; the overwhelming majority of victims are black. Women are the least likely demographic to be murdered by a gun, unless it’s a mass shooting in which they make up 50 percent of the victims. They also noted that 54 percent of mass shootings “involve domestic or family violence.” The homicide rate has dropped precipitously, though suicides have risen, especially among women. Sorry liberals, but what FiveThirtyEight is making explicitly clear is that there is no silver bullet—and the one you’re pushing: more background checks won’t yield the results you’re hoping for and blow an opportunity to cut down on at least some of these societal ills. I’m thinking about the soaring suicide rate [emphasis mine]:
First, they’re [mass shooting] rare, and the people doing the shooting are different. The majority of gun deaths in America aren’t even homicides, let alone caused by mass shootings. Two-thirds of the more than 33,000 gun deaths that take place in the U.S. every year are suicides.
And while people who commit suicide and people who commit mass shootings both tend to be white and male, suicide victims tend to be older. The median age of a mass shooter, according to one report, is 34, with very few over 50. Suicide, however, plagues the elderly as much as it does the middle-aged.
Second, the people killed in mass shootings are different from the majority of homicides. Most gun murder victims are men between the ages of 15 and 34. Sixty-six percent are black. Women — of any race and any age — are far less likely to be murdered by a gun. Unless that gun is part of a mass shooting. There, 50 percent of the people who die are women. And at least 54 percent of mass shootings involve domestic or family violence — with the perpetrator shooting a current or former partner or a relative.
The historical trends for different kinds of gun deaths don’t all follow the same course. While data suggests that the number of mass shootings similar to the Las Vegas event has gone up, particularly since 2000,2 homicide rates have fallen significantly from their 1980 peak and continued on a generally downward trajectory for most of the 21st century.
Policies that reduce the number of homicides among young black men — such as programs that build trust between community members, police and at-risk youth and offer people a way out of crime — probably won’t have the same effect on suicides among elderly white men. Background checks and laws aimed at preventing a young white man with a history of domestic violence from obtaining a gun and using it in a mass shooting might not prevent a similar shooting by an older white male with no criminal record.
If we focus on mass shootings as a means of understanding how to reduce the number of people killed by guns in this country, we’re likely to implement laws that don’t do what we want them to do — and miss opportunities to make changes that really work.
So, yeah—the incessant peddling of more background checks is just bad policy and a gross display in political fundraising, which some of us have known for a long time.