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Is ‘gun violence epidemic’ a monumental gun control fraud?

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In the weeks since a spree killer murdered six people in Santa Barbara, gun prohibition lobbyists, anti-gun politicians including Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, and many in the media have been talking about an “epidemic of gun violence,” but on Monday, KVI’s John Carlson called them out with a detailed piece in Crosscut that strongly suggests the claims about “gun violence” are hogwash.

Gun owners are tired of taking the rap for crimes committed by a string of people who clearly have mental problems that had not been addressed. Gun rights activists are fed up and fighting back; refusing to be penalized for crimes they did not commit, and that even gun control proponents have admitted would not be prevented by the restrictive laws they advocate.

Should there be more scrutiny about these "epidemic" claims? Would such scrutiny suggest that the sensational rhetoric is based on what amounts to a fraud?

“It will surprise the mayor and many other people to learn,” Carlson wrote, “that gun violence isn’t rising in America, it’s falling. In fact, it’s plummeting. Gun deaths are down nearly 40 percent in the last 20 years, despite an increase in population and a rise in gun ownership. The Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) points out an even more dramatic number: Non-fatal gun crimes free-fell 69 percent during that same period.”

Yesterday, in the Delaware County Daily Times, an editorial quoted Kenneth R. Warren, deputy director of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, who asserted, “In 2010, more than 11,000 individuals died by firearm homicide.” However, according to the FBI Uniform Crime Report for 2010, there were 8,775 firearm-related homicides. Not since 2007, according to FBI data, has the gun-related murder figure gone above 10,000 victims. Whose data should the public believe?

One can presume that data from different sources will vary. The BJS report to which Carlson referred noted, “Homicides committed with firearms peaked in 1993 at 17,075, after which the figure steadily fell, reaching a low of 10,117 in 1999. Gun-related homicides increased slightly after that, to a high of 11,547 in 2006, before falling again to 10,869 in 2008.”

So, the BJS and FBI – both parts of the Department of Justice – can’t even get their figures straight, but that doesn’t mean there is an unreported tsunami of firearms-related homicides. What it does suggest is that different sources will seize on whatever statistic can be used to support their narrative.

There was one other significant note in the BJS report cited by Carlson: “As a percentage of all violent incidents (i.e., rape, sexual assault, robbery and aggravated assault), between 1993 and 2011, nonfatal gun crime has ranged from a high of 8 percent to a low of 5 percent. In 2011, firearm crimes comprised 8 percent of all violent crimes.”

Eight percent of all violent crimes hardly suggests a “gun violence epidemic.” Indeed, the term “gun violence” appears designed to separate, and somehow elevate, gun-related violent crime and death from other types of murders. It is permeating media reporting, with the most recent example being the lead paragraph in a story about anti-gunners descending on Congressional offices in Iowa with post cards demanding tougher gun laws.

“The father of a California mass shooting victim led a demonstration against gun violence in downtown Des Moines on Tuesday,” the Des Moines Register reported. “Richard Martinez helped deliver more than 5,000 postcards to the offices of Iowa congressmen demanding legislation to strengthen gun regulations and improve gun-safety education.’

Martinez’ son, Christopher, was one of the Santa Barbara victims, and he has turned his grief into an emotional rant fest in which he insisted, “This should not be a conservative issue, it should not be a liberal issue, it should not be an NRA issue, it should not be any other kind of issue except for what it is. It’s about protecting kids in their schools.”

There are two small problems with the Register story. Santa Barbara was not a “mass shooting” but was a mass killing. Three of the victims, as the story clarified in the third paragraph, were stabbed to death. But contrary to the elder Martinez’ remark, none of those victims was killed in a school.

Anti-gunners intent on banning so-called “assault weapons” have also demonized semi-automatic sport-utility rifles. However, a look at FBI statistics shows that more people are killed annually with knives or other sharp instruments than rifles of all kinds on about a 4-to-1 ratio. In 2010, 358 people were killed with rifles and 1,704 were slashed or stabbed, the FBI Uniform Crime Report says. In 2007, there were 450 slayings with rifles, and 1,796 fatal stabbings.

For that matter, more people are stomped, beaten or strangled annually than are killed with rifles in any given year. Yet nobody sees headlines about this, nor are there references to “knife violence” or “foot violence.” Only guns are singled out for such sensationalism.

Millions of law-abiding American gun owners are not the problem, and eroding their rights is not the solution. Considering the data, the only “epidemic” facing this country appears to be a plague of misinformation and sensationalism in which agendas seem more important than facts.

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