Let’s not rely on dubious statistics and blame mass shootings on the loss of bourgeois culture (letter)
March 19, 2018
In his column on Thursday, March 8, ("A complex issue") Mr. Mazzuca argues that a serious conversation about gun control can only begin after debunking two myths. The first "myth" is "that mass shootings are far more common in the United States than in other Western countries."
His evidence of the first myth is based on a study undertaken by the Crime Prevention Research Center, headed by economist John Lott. A little Googling shows that John Lott, a sometimes analyst for Fox News, is an avowed pro-gun-rights advocate, and the Crime Prevention Research Center has been accused of receiving National Rifle Association funding.
More importantly, the Crime Prevention Research Center has been criticized for a lack or statistical rigor and its findings have often been contradicted by other studies. For example, Mr. Mazzuca points to the Crime Prevention Research Center findings that — on a per capita basis — Switzerland has a mass shootings rate 3 1/2 times the United States.
But Switzerland, with 2 million weapons, and which has gun laws that are more liberal than in most other European countries but also more stringent than in the United States, has had fewer than 120 homicides from guns over the past 10 years and Switzerland hasn't seen a mass shooting since 2001.
There is a lot of data that challenges the Crime Prevention Research Center findings. In an article from CNN, a few key conclusions are that 1) the United States makes up 5 percent of the world's population but represents 31 percent of the mass shootings and 2) gun homicide rates are 25.2 times higher in the United States than in other high-income countries.
Mr. Mazzuca's second myth is the argument that "the cause (of mass shootings) is lack of gun control" is unsupported conjecture. He then goes on to say, "The causes of these tragedies are multiple and complex and require multifaceted solutions, including a national discussion about the breakdown in what might be called the nation's bourgeois culture." (Maybe I'm imagining things, but is "bourgeois culture" Mr. Mazzuca's euphemism for "traditional white culture"?)
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To evidence this breakdown, he refers to various issues, including the increasing number of children out of wedlock, growing opioid abuse, Hollywood and Xbox violence and the declining quality of U.S. education compared to other countries.
First, I haven't seen any analytical evidence that there is a correlation between these issues and mass shootings. Second, and ironically, I will note that in the most heinous U.S. mass shootings of recent years, the large majority of the shooters have been white males. So, is it Mr. Mazzuca's conclusion that these shooters' loss of "bourgeois" status is leading to their desire to kill (mostly) other white people? I can't remember the source, but I remember the quote: "When you're accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression."
In regards to Xbox violence being an underlying factor leading to more mass shootings, it should be noted that video game sales per person, per year in Japan are $96.06 and in the United States, $63.25. This compares to six gun deaths per 10 million people per year in Japan versus 1,016 gun deaths per 10 million people in the United States.
One area that I am in agreement with Mr. Mazzuca is the declining quality of education in the United States versus other countries. But better education requires more spending on education and higher teacher salaries at the state level. Interestingly, those arguing America has lost its moral ways are also too often unwilling to increase education spending and improve teacher salaries.
I am a supporter of the Second Amendment but can't understand the need for people to have the right to have assault weapons, weapons that were designed with the primary purpose to kill people, quickly.
Yes, Mr. Mazzuca, we need to have a serious discussion, but let's not rely on dubious statistics and blame mass shootings on the loss of bourgeois culture.
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