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Is There Really a ‘Gun Violence Epidemic’?

By: Joseph Warta

Typically, the gun control debate is confined to those who have a stake in it: gun rights advocacy groups, gun control advocacy groups, gun owners, and so on. But earlier this year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) decided they would take their attention off of fumbling the response to the COVID-19 pandemic and join a new debate.

They decided it was time for them to shift their focus from COVID-19 and instead work on the other big “public health issue”: gun violence. They declared gun violence a health epidemic and are now dedicating funds to research the issue.

Similarly, former New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo notably declared a state of emergency relating to gun violence, saying he declared it in part to help people “understand the extent of the problem.”

President Biden has made addressing gun violence a significant part of his domestic policy. He frequently attributes the recent rise in violent crime to guns and gun owners. The corporate media is certainly not shy about its agreement with Biden’s viewpoint. It’s no surprise, then, that the media would be all onboard with incessant coverage of gun violence when it sells the views that media companies are so desperate to propagate.

Essentially, the media has a very simple calculus: the more people are afraid of guns, the more they’ll tune in to watch coverage of gun violence. Whether or not gun violence is indeed the problem that the media pretends it to be is of no consequence to them, because it gets eyes on their content.

But is gun violence really a public health epidemic? Is it even the problem that President Biden and the corporate media say it is? The facts tell a different story from what many are saying.

The actual data does not support the media’s narrative of an overwhelming gun problem. According to firearm policy expert John Lott, Jr., while there has indeed been an uptick in violent crime recently, 92 percent of it didn’t involve firearms.

In 2019, from the National Crime Victimization Survey, Lott details that there were 5,440,680 violent crimes -- that is, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults. In the same year, there were 16,425 murders. Of those 5,440,680 violent crimes, 440,830 involved firearms. Of the 16,425 murders, only 10,258 involved firearms. This means 8.27 percent of violent crimes involved firearms. In 2010, that number was 9 percent, and in 2000, it was 8.5 percent.

Also according to Lott, so-called “assault weapons” are not the culprit either. Out of 17,413 murders in 2016, only 258 involved any type of rifle, which was 1.48 percent. In 2019, it was 2.2 percent.

Outside of general violent crime, the media seemingly itches to cover school shootings. Every time one occurs, it seems to be covered as if this is a daily occurrence, and the media really only covers the truly horrific ones. But that’s not the case. According to Education Week, there were 24 incidents involving firearms that resulted in injuries or deaths on school grounds in 2018; 24 in 2019, too. In 2020, there were 10, but of course that was at a time when most schools were shut down for much of the year.

While school shootings happen far less frequently than most would believe, it would probably surprise the average American to learn the true number of general mass shootings, too. The Washington Post kept a running list of mass shootings, which was defined as four or more people killed, excluding robberies gone awry and gang shootings. Between August 1966 to May 2021, there were 189 shootings. That’s about 3.5 mass shootings a year. In spite of these miniscule numbers in a country of roughly 330 million people, Timereported that one-third of Americans avoided certain places because of the threat of mass shootings. It is hard not to see the correlation with media narratives trumpeting up fears about a virtually nonexistent threat with an American perception of firearms being a significantly larger threat than they really are.

Even when compared with the rest of the world, the United States is not nearly as deadly as many in the media would have us believe. According to John Lott, the United States, as of 2018, comprised 4.6 percent of the world's population, but only made up 1.43 percent of the world's mass shooters, 2.11 percent of their murders, and only 2.88 percent of their shootings.

One other common talking point has been that Americans are becoming more armed, especially in light of COVID-19 and civil unrest surrounding racial tension, Americans are buying a lot of guns. So – do more guns equal less crime?

The data points to another conclusion that goes strongly against the popularly promoted MSM narrative. In 2000, the United States had about 8.5 million gun background checks. That same year, the United States reported 506.5 violent crimes per 100,000 people. Fast forward to 2020, and there were just under 39.7 million background checks, but only 398.5 violent crimes per 100,000 people. An almost fourfold increase in background checks coincided with about a 20 percent decrease in violent crime.

If more guns resulted in more crime, the violent crime numbers should have not only increased, but they should have increased exponentially. Sure, there have been reports recently of violent crime being on the rise, but a sudden spike in violent crime should be unsurprising in a time of mental health crises due to a raging pandemic, defunding of police departments, and lackadaisical enforcement of the law when it relates to certain politically popular activities.

At face value, there is certainly an argument to be made as to why the CDC should not be involved in gun violence issues – disease control and gun control are two entirely different circles. Not only is it irrelevant for the CDC to be involved in this debate, but by forcing their involvement, the CDC, along with the corporate media, are blowing the issue way out of proportion. As the data shows, the so-called “epidemic” of gun violence is really not an epidemic at all. People concerned about gun violence (and disease control for that matter) should boycott the CDC as a source of information and look to the data instead.

 
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