Vail Daily column: Guns and political myth
Statistics bore most Americans, unless they relate to death by handguns somewhere near where they live. In the event this statement gets your attention, the top cities for gun violence and murder, in this order, are New Orleans, Memphis, Detroit, Birmingham, St. Louis, Baltimore, Jacksonville, Kansas City, Philadelphia and Chicago. The last one, Chicago, has some of the strictest gun laws in the nation, and this fact defies the Obama logic that stricter gun laws should be deployed.
Further study finds less consistency with the argument facing both GOP and Democrats alike: Mental disorder vs. stringent regulatory enforcement. In fact, Richard Friedman M.D., who writes for The New York Times, says there is a misguided focus on mental illness in the gun debate. He uses Adam Lanza, the Newtown shooter, and others (Aurora, Charleston, Columbine, Roseburg) as grist for the mill. White, intelligent, socially awkward, loner, no girlfriend, living with his mother, online rants about this or that.
Stereotyping such unfortunate folk speaks to an awkward miscarriage of identity expressionism, and defies all tenets of a free society. Lawsuits loom in the shadows for whichever agency or finger-pointing entity is directed to ferret out such people who label these unfortunates as “ticking time bombs.” Some folk will feel it to be civic service to snitch on such people, enabling a form of modern day “vigilante-ism.”
Statistics from the National Institute of Mental Health’s Epidemiologic Catchment Area using data from 18,000 subjects that only 4 percent of violence in the U.S. can be attributed to those with mental illness. Should you suffer from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, the prevalence balloons to 16 percent. Add alcohol or drugs, and pour gas on the fire. Consider that between 2001 and 2010 there were 120,000 gun-related homicides. Few were “perps” with mental illness. Dr. Michael Stone, head of clinical psychiatry at Columbia and mass-murderer expert, says: “Most of these killers are young men who are not floridly (what?) psychotic. They tend to be paranoid loners who hold a grudge and are full of rage.” (Zoloft, anyone?)
In Wyoming, one of the lowest affected states with these grim stats, rural and remote communities produced high suicide rates and longer distances to hospital towns after gunshot wound incidents. In some cases, we rely on homicide statistics from city police anxious to keep their jobs who are required to report accurately on a voluntary basis about deaths such as these. Come sheriff-election time, such stats can exemplify or ruin careers, and the suggestion is that “mistakes” are made. Horrible, really.
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Politics. Causation between gun laws and gun violence is flawed because a scientific random study — in which one group of people had guns or permissive gun laws, and another group didn’t — isn’t possible. Obama’s claim suggests that there is a correlation between laws and violence, and he may be right. I read recently that per capita, the U.S. is 110th in the world in gun-related homicides, preceded by Honduras, Caracas, Guatemala and others, mostly Third World nations with non-existent gun laws. Good news: The Justice Department tells us that gun-related homicides dropped from 1993-2011 from 18,253 to 11,101. We should feel safer now?
Still staggering, but food for thought for those 2nd Amendmenters.
Pat Mitchell lives in Edwards.