Me, I’m a gun owner. Have been since I was 13, thanks to my Dad’s gift of a single-shot .22. Until the last few years, I hunted and fished regularly as part of family tradition. These days I don’t do much of either. Some of that has to do with getting older. Some, more about respect for life other than the damned human race – as Mark Twain came to see us.
So, yeah, I own guns I’m no gun nut. But...…
John Stossel’s column “Bogus gun research” appearing last Friday did pull my trigger, so to speak. For openers, readers should understand that Stossel has connections to the Koch empire (as does fellow columnist Walter Williams). In 2016 Stossel left his regular job on FOX to become an “educator” for the Charles Koch Institute.
Stossel claims “Lazy media” and “sloppy journalism ..outrageously reported 235 shootings in schools.” However, NPR could confirm only eleven, Stossel tell us. NPR, like PBS, was established by our government. Both receive at least some government money and enjoy 501 C(3) non-profit benefits. (Trump would like to privatize both. tinyurl.com/y3h3x99o )
Now, please note that the claim of 235 shootings was made in April 2018 by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE), chaired by none other than Betsy DeVos. DeVos is a staunch promoter of private school vouchers. Note also that DOE referred specifically to shootings in public schools. Stossel’s lazy journalism fails to note the distinction. Or prefers not to. The point, if you missed it, is that DeVos just might have had a motive for proclaiming public schools were very dangerous. Thus, school-choice vouchers would make your kids safer. One thing’s for sure; privatizing schools can make privatizers some taxpayer bucks.
Then Stossel says, “Good for NPR” to correct DOE’s “lazy media” reporting. NPR’s challenge was made in late August, four months late. ACLU reached basically the same conclusion almost at the same time. But only weeks after DOE’s claims. Everytown Research for Gun Safety had already questioned DeVos and crew, finding 119 instances of “gunfire,” not shootings. (Stossel’s column comes nine months after the fact. Where’s he been?)
DOE did not respond in any detail to a query from the Washington Post. DeVos and agency cited no plans to republish its claims. Nor have I seen corrections or apologies offered. Maybe Stossel should have called the DOE out for “sloppy journalism.”
Note also that the “media” — NPR, the Washington Post, ACLU, Everytown Research for Gun Safety are all what Stossel would likely call “liberal” journalism. Stossel makes no specific reference to Betsy DeVos. Nor does he even hint at any DOE effort to promote diverting public tax dollars into private schools — religious or otherwise. Why not?
Stossel then focuses on mass shootings, arguing that the U.S. doesn’t have as many as some claim. Okay, but two important observations. First, what’s a mass shooting? According to Politifact, there’s no legal definition. That’s important to know in trying to compare with others what one source or one country may claim. Second, the number of mass shootings and deaths in the U.S., while absolutely horrible, are a sliver compared with homicides, suicides, and accidental deaths. But one mass shooting is too many.
U.S. firearm-related deaths have risen lately, but the clear majority have been from suicides. For 2016, the BBC reported 22, 936 suicides in the U.S. There were 14,415 homicides. That last category includes 71 deaths in mass shootings. Add to the total, accidental firearm deaths and military casualties numbering 1,305. Some of that 1,305 surely related to law enforcement. In 2017 (the latest I found), the Washington Post reported 987 people shot and killed by police.
In 2016, the U.S. ranked 20th in firearm deaths. Sounds okay? However, none of the 19 having more deaths per capita are countries most readers, including me, would define as major or developed. (tinyurl.com/y2q43dd4)
“Half of all gun-related deaths in 2016 occurred in six nations — Brazil, the United States, Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and Guatemala. Together, as the study published in the journal JAMA noted, these countries hold less than 10 percent of the world’s population.” Brazil and the U.S., the top two, accounted for more firearm deaths than the other four combined.
As for Stossel’s cited “expert” on firearms, John Lott. I’d recommend reading what the website “Sourcewatch” has to say. (tinyurl.com/yxluhjzo) Among other things, you will note that Mr. Lott is a “resident scholar” at the American Enterprise Institute – to which David and Charles Koch have historic ties.
Bottom line: Does having more guns around make us safer? Well, it does swell NRA pockets. The issue also stokes the divisive paranoia the Koch brothers and the right wing depend on. They don’t like government or the media … IF they don’t own or control them.
My opinion, of course.
Correction from last week. It was not Rep. Ocasio-Cortez but Rep. Rashida Tlaib who might better have used the term“Impeach the booger-picker.” I apologize for my error.
Bob Hooper is a fourth generation Western Kansan who writes from his home in Bogue.