Logical Fallacies: Nearly 30,000 people per year die as a result of gun violence in the United States

Most recently I saw this line parroted by Jesse Jackson in an op-ed “piece” he wrote for the Chicago Sun-Times, but I’ve been seeing and hearing this talking point for at least 10 years now.

Let me just get this out of the way: the 30,000/year number is complete crap.

I have no idea where they get these numbers, but I know where I can get some accurate numbers. Let’s take a quick look at Expanded Homicide Data Table 8 from the FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2010 shall we?

Here’s the data for 2010:

Total Homicides – 12,996, Total firearm homicides – 8,775

…and for 2009:

Total Homicides – 13,752, Total firearm homicides – 9,199

…and for 2008:

Total Homicides – 14,224, Total firearm homicides – 9,528

…and for 2007:

Total Homicides – 14,916, Total firearm homicides -10,129

…and for 2006:

Total Homicides – 15,087, Total firearm homicides -10,225

And in chart form:

If we take a quick peek at Expanded Homicide Data Table 7 from the FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2005, we see:

2005

Total Homicides – 14,860, Total firearm homicides – 10,100

2004

Total Homicides – 14,210, Total firearm homicides – 9,385

2003

Total Homicides – 14,465, Total firearm homicides – 9,659

2002

Total Homicides – 14,263, Total firearm homicides – 9,528

2001

Total Homicides – 14,061, Total firearm homicides – 8,890

And in chart form:

Interesting, so in the last ten years, there has not been a single year when the total number of people murdered in the US was more than 15,087. That’s about half of what the anti’s are claiming, and that’s the sum total of all homicides in the US. One important thing to note here is that I am only looking at homicides. I am not counting suicides (which to be blunt, I couldn’t care less about. If someone is gonna off themselves they’re gonna use whatever is at hand, just look at the suicide rate in Japan where guns are completely banned), or accidental deaths. This is consistent with the “gun violence” part of the statement, accidents and suicide are not violence.

When we look at only firearm homicides, there has not been a single year since at least 2001 when the total was higher than 10,225; just a hair over 1/3 the number quoted so often by the anti’s.

What’s even more interesting is when you look at the age groups. We hear all the time how many “children” are gunned down in the US. In 2010, there were 632 people under the age of 18 killed with firearms.

Now, not included in the FBI Uniform Crime Statistics for Homicides are the following:

I find it fascinating how easily one can find accurate data to backup or debunk statistics online.

So I just have to wonder, where are these people getting the 30,000 number?

Logical Fallacies: The “need” trap.

So being a gun owner in California, I get to engage in lots of… discussions about gun control, and shooting. Especially right after some whackjob goes on a shooting spree and it hits national news (like recently happened in Arizona), and the gun grabbers start coming out of the woodwork. Now the vast majority of those conversations are with people that don’t really understand guns, but are looking to me to explain what’s going on. I have no problem with that, I love educating people about the reality of guns and gun laws.

But every now and then (and this seems to happen more frequently online than in person) I’ll run into a genuine hoplophobe, or someone that really believes in gun control, and that gun control laws actually do something other that inconvenience law abiding gun owners. Once I’ve had first contact with this type of person, invariably they will pose some sort of variant on this question: Why do you need an Uzi, heatseeking babykiller cop murdering bulletsa 100 bullet clip, an anti-aircraft .50 caliber machine pistol, the shoulder thing that goes up, so many guns, a gun (insert whatever here)?

And they expect me to fall for that.

First off, “need” has nothing to do with it. Every federal gun law that has ever been written is unconstitutional. Period. There is no arguing that. What part of “shall not be infringed” is it that you don’t understand? If you do just a little bit of research about the Second Amendment, it quickly becomes readily apparent what the intent of the founding fathers was; they intended the citizenry to be capably armed should they need to overthrow the US Government (something they had just done themselves a few years prior).

But there is a reason that they always use this trap; it forces (attempts to anyway) the target of the question into a position where they need to justify wanting or having whatever to the person that asked the question. It also very often moves the discussion away from logic and reason to subjectives (feelings). I once witnessed someone defeat this trap by answering “why do you need a Lexus, a ford should be fine?”

This question is a Logical Fallacy (a mistake in reasoning). It assumes that I need to justify my position. I do not, the founding fathers of the country have already done that (I just wish they hadn’t minced words about it). This is one of the key questions that gun control advocates will try to use to erode your right to anything firearm related, and ultimately to firearms themselves:

  • Why do you need an automatic rifle? (Personally I don’t, I think they are pretty useless except in some very specific circumstances, but maybe I want to because it ‘s fun to shoot?)
  • Why do you need a shotgun shorter than…? (well, it would make fighting in a cramped hallway against a home invader much easier…)
  • Why do you need a silencer? (because I like hearing)
  • Why do you need a clip that holds more than 10 bullets? (because my thumbs get sore)
  • Why do you need a gun with clips, a 5 shot revolver should be fine? (because there may be more than one attacker, or maybe my adrenaline is so jacked up that I miss the one attacker five times…)
  • Why do you need a gun, this isn’t the 1700’s you know? (because there are bad men in this world that will rape/murder you, and not necessarily in that order)

Now while all of those are valid answers, they are also subjective answers. I would submit that there is one non-subjective answer to all of those questions:

  • Why do you need an automatic rifle? (So I can overthrow the government should it become tyrranical.)
  • Why do you need a shotgun shorter than…? (So I can overthrow the government should it become tyrranical.)
  • Why do you need a silencer? (So I can overthrow the government should it become tyrranical.)
  • Why do you need a clip that holds more than 10 bullets? (So I can overthrow the government should it become tyrranical.)
  • Why do you need a gun with clips, a 5 shot revolver should be fine? (So I can overthrow the government should it become tyrranical.)
  • Why do you need a gun, this isn’t the 1700’s you know? (So I can overthrow the government should it become tyrranical.)

But that’s the real answer, the one that there is no rebuttal to. You can’t just go around telling people the truth, they wouldn’t know what to do with it.

Most often what the questioner is looking for when they ask this question is permission. They believe that you require permission from (well them in the context of their debate) somewhere, and that is what the The State is for in their mind. But that is precisely the beauty of the US Constitution,  it is a document designed solely to ensure that you will never require permission from The State. A man with a rifle is a citizen. A man without a rifle is a subject to the first man that comes along with a rifle and an idea.