Thanks for the quick reply.

Statistics may be boring and some people admittedly use them like the Swedish Chef uses his rubber chicken. That’s one reason I try to make sure that when I refer to them, I am not saying anything more than what the numbers themselves say. My spin is my interpretation but the numbers are there for anyone to examine and I strive to be open to alternative interpretations.

Having read Preventing Gun Violence Through Effective Messaging, the gun control playbook, I understand the reasons the authors cite for avoiding statistics. Having studied the statistics for several years, I can understand the real reasons the authors advise gun control advocates to avoid them; they don’t tend to support the gun control message.

In June 2014, Mark Glaze, former executive director of Everytown for Gun Safety, was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal’s Reid Epstein. In the interview, Glaze was discussing the problems encountered trying to get the group’s agenda passed in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy. One comment was particularly revealing:

“Because people perceive a mismatch in the policy solutions that we have to offer and the way some of these mass shootings happened, you know, it is a messaging problem for us, I think. … Is it a messaging problem when a mass shooting happens and nothing that we have to offer would have stopped that mass shooting? Sure it’s a challenge in this issue.” (bold highlight added)

I have looked at the details of well over 100 incidents of mass shootings, school shootings, and spree killings since the University of Texas Tower incident in August 1966. I have paid special attention to those that occurred after February 1994, when the Brady Act became effective.

Mr. Glaze is correct: As fas as I can tell from the available information, none of them would have been prevented by background checks, assault weapon bans, or restrictions on magazine capacities. In fact, some of the shootings happened in spite of those laws being in effect when the incidents happened.

You are absolutely correct about gun training being more common in days past. It was a tradition for fathers to teach their sons to handle firearms, usually beginning at about age 12. It was considered normal and healthy.

With the decline in hunting and the increasing urbanization of the American people, that tradition began to disappear. As schools have become more overtly anti-gun, children have been conditioned to regard guns as somehow evil in and of themselves. This sets up conflicts between children and their parents, which winds up with children never learning the basics of gun safety. This is actually worse than the loss of a tradition because it can inspire curiosity about “forbidden fruit” that can have tragic consequences.

Educators’ attitudes towards guns is something that needs to be discussed on a national basis. While no one disagrees that guns in schools are a problem, just as knives in schools were a problem when I was in junior high and high school, the actions of educators often border on irrational and, far too often, cross that line. Part of being an adult, especially and adult with responsibilities for children, is exercising good judgement. If an adult educator or school administrator is so hostile to even innocent behavior that they traumatize children they either should receive counseling or be terminated because their own behaviors are actually counterproductive.

It’s one thing to say guns have no place in schools, quite another to say that mom or dad is evil because they own one.

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I am quite familiar with the Texas requirements to obtain a License to Carry. I am also aware that the state’s requirements at one time were considered to be some of the toughest in the nation. They are still more stringent than the requirements in some other states.

At one time, Texas had the strongest handgun laws in the nation. Citizens were forbidden to carry handguns except for a vaguely worded exception for “traveling.” This dated back to a law passed in the Reconstruction Era and was essentially a Jim Crow law. While the law provided no exceptions, enforcement was another matter.

Many years ago, my grandmother and I were looking through some of her old photographs. We came across of picture of my grandmother as a young woman on her way to an evening social sometime not too long before World War I . Her two older brothers, Alf and Keith, accompanied her. Alf, the older of her brothers, had a big Colt New Service revolver stuck in his waistband.

I asked my grandmother if Alf wasn’t afraid he would get in trouble. She laughed and said, “Oh, no. That was just for Mexicans and Indians.”

We were stuck with that law until 1995. Texas’ first-ever concealed carry permits became available the following year and a strange thing happened: the rate of gun murders in the state plunged 32% through 2017. Texas went from having a gun murder rate nearly twice the national rate to one slightly below the national rate.

I wouldn’t mind seeing the training improved, especially the proficiency part. But I wonder if it might not be better to incentivize additional training.

What if the state made completion of a more rigorous course good for a fee discount or perhaps a year tacked on to the expiration date? Perhaps have two separate licenses, the standard License to Carry and a License to be Armed that would allow those who completed a significant training course, perhaps equal to that required for certification as a law enforcement officer, to carry in more places?

According to the Texas Department of Public Safety, holders of handgun licenses have a criminal conviction rate of about 9% of the rate of the general population. This would seem to indicate those people are less likely to be a problem. So why not reward the ones that go the extra mile with a bit of extra trust?

It’s things like this that make statistics important in a discussion. Emotional arguments overlook, or more frequently ignore, this important information that is critical to making informed decisions, especially when it comes to public policy.

Guns are used in about half (50.6%) of suicides, a percentage that has been declining slowly over time. The problem with lumping suicides in with homicides to come up with a scary number is that is diverting attention from what’s really happening. Especially when it comes to promoting red flag laws.

Connecticut has had red flag laws since 1999 and it’s often touted as an example of their success. It’s true that the use of guns in suicide has dropped 7.3% (yay!) but the rate of suicides by suffocation, usually hanging, has soared 113.0% (Not-so-yay!). The suicide rate in Connecticut has actually increased more than the national average. The changes in the past ten years are especially striking: Gun usage has continued to decline, but more people are killing themselves by other means and Connecticut has seen its suicide rate grow 21.7% faster than the U.S.

Maybe it’s just me, but that doesn’t sound like much of a success at all.

There is a group in which firearm use is increasing: Teens.

While the U.S. suicide rate climbed 22.2% in the years between 2008 and 2017 (2017 is the latest year for which the CDC has released full-year data), the suicide rate among male youths ages 10 to 18 rose 72.4% and the rate for young women jumped 99.3%. The use of firearms rose 85.4% among young men and 141.3% among young women.Young men use a gun in about half of all suicides, but young women use them only in slightly more than one in five suicides. Nearly 57% of young women hang themselves.

We get justifiably upset by school shootings, but teens were 75 times more likely to commit suicide than they were to die at the hands of a school shooter. (BTW: They were also about 14 times more likely to be murdered by their own parents.)

Imagine if we devoted as much effort to preventing teen suicides as we do school shootings? Heck, imagine if we devoted as much effort to preventing all suicides as we do to school shootings?

I am sure I have bored everyone long enough. But I wanted to show why the numbers are important and why it’s equally important to be honest about what they tell us.

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

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