A headline with a lot of sizzle but an article with very little edible steak.

Let’s start with the “success story” of Connecticut’s red flag laws.

The rate of suicides with guns has indeed dropped since 1999. However, the rate of suicides by suffocation, usually hanging, has soared. As a result, Connecticut’s suicide rate has increased even faster than the national average.

Since the net result is still more people dead by their own hands, I hardly think this can be counted as a success. It’s a swell example of cherry-picking, though.

The story in California is much the same: suffocation suicides have risen dramatically, even as suicides with guns have declined.

The shooting at the Borderline Bar and Grill last November is another shining example of the efficacy of red flag laws. Ian Long, a former Marine who was diagnosed with PTSD, had a violent episode in April of 2018. The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office responded to a call and found Long had been shooting into the walls of his residence and had a violent outburst. The mental health team determined that Long didn’t present a sufficient danger to warrant taking him into custody or having him involuntarily committed for examination.

The official excuse was unfamiliarity with the provisions of the red flag laws but they had been enacted in 2015, more than two years before Long’s April meltdown and the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office is hardly some backwoods podunk outfit.

Incidentally, the percentage of suicides committed with firearms has declined more than 11% over the years since 1998. The percentage of suicides by suffocation has increased 48%. The total suicide rate has increased 30.7%, the firearm suicide rate by about 16%, or less than the total rate, and the suffocation suicide rate has soared more than 128%.

Of course, all those people committing suicide by other methods don’t count.

Moving on to homicides: the period from 2008 to 2017 had the lowest average homicide rate of any preceding 10-year period since the 1950s. According to the FBI, the homicide rate dropped about 35% in the 25-year period from 1993 to 2017. In 2014 the FBI reported the lowest homicide rate since 1957.

If we look at the 20 years between 1998 and 2017, the gun death rate has increased nearly 10%, primarily because of increases in 2016 and 2017. But that is due to a nearly 16% increase in the number of suicides; the homicide rate rose about 4.4%, primarily due to increases in a few major cities.

But drilling down, we find that gun laws are largely irrelevant to homicide rates. Cities in states that have enacted most, if not all, of the so-called common-sense gun laws are just as likely to have high homicide rates as cities in states with fewer restrictions. The same is true of states. The four states with the lowest murder rates in 2017 were all states that don’t even require a permit to carry a concealed handgun.

So the sensational headline is more of the typical clickbait. Reality itself refutes the claims made for the snake oil that continues to be peddled by the advocates for the ineffective measures they have promoted for most of the past three decades.

Professional writer. Passionately interested in facts. Founder of onewordtexas.org

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store