It astonishes me how many people feel so passionately about one side of an argument or another when I am teetering on a fence in between, unable to decide how I really feel. People tend to get so heated when discussing personal views that any opportunity for real discussion is completely abrogated within a few minutes. Having been a bit removed from all of the recent talk in the States about gun control, and after seeing countless memes and graphs plastered on my Facebook feed, I decided to dig a little. Because the pie charts suggesting gun violence is decreasing, and the statistics about guns being leading cause of homicide can’t both be right. So, I spent the morning reading a lot of poorly presented data and some borderline fallacious graphs about deaths involving firearms in the US. Turns out they kind of are both right. That’s the thing about statistics; they can be bent to look a particular way to suit our particular needs.
Which leads to the thing about forming an opinion. You can’t expect to have a legitimate view on something unless you seek out information, understand both sides of an argument, and come to a decision based on fact, not fancy rhetoric or retweeted articles written by the NRA.
I started out my morning on NPR as I usually do, and came across a blatantly left article about deaths in the States, US Ranks Below 16 Other Rich Countries in Health Report, which called out gun violence as a major factor in America’s higher than most developed countries mortality rates. This prompted my research, as I wondered how significant an impact guns really did have on deaths in America, and how much this author was just giving into all the media hype recently in circulation.
I sifted through some data, and found that firearm homicides make up .5 percent of deaths in the US, while suicide by firearm accounts for about .6 percent. This means that approximately 1.1 percent of deaths in the States are due to firearms (about 27,364 in 2011). Interesting when you take into account that:
- Drug-related deaths accounted for 1.6 percent of deaths
- Alcohol-related deaths (excluding FAS and homicides as a result of alcohol consumption) accounted for 1 percent
- Diseases of the heart accounted for more 24 percent
- Malignant neoplasms (big word for cancer) accounted for about 23 percent deaths
I realize discussing death in general is much different than discussing homicide. I also realize there is more to an issue than the numbers involved. The arguments about cigarettes killing more people than guns, and regulating X instead of Y doesn’t quite fit into context, and those arguments are invalidated by the other side instantaneously. It just seems lately that so many people from both sides are pointing fingers in this one arena, when it accounts for such a small part of the real issues our country is facing.We tend to get so absorbed in the minutia that the media is feeding us that we fail to see the bigger, far more important picture. It’s an important area, I agree; it should be discussed. But so much hate has been thrown around about it lately. As if we don’t have enough racial, sexual and religious discrimination… as if we need a new outlet to hate each other.
I’m not exactly sure where I stand in the discussion about gun control. There are examples of countries with a lot of gun control who do it right, and vice-versa. It’s not a matter of taking a model that works for someone else and applying it to ourselves. Apples and oranges, square peg, round hole, you know the idioms I’m referring to. I have a lot of questions and not a lot of answers. But doesn’t it seem easier to blame McDonalds for our obesity than our own bad habits… Are we playing the same card with gun control? Do guns kill people or do people kill people?
I don’t know that 18 year old Joe Schmoe has much need for a semi-automatic rifle. Having said that, is it my right to tell him that he doesn’t anymore than I have the right to keep him from smoking or eating a Big Mac every day? There are many sides to every discussion. It’s okay to disagree and discuss and get heated, but remember we’re all just people guessing at the end of the day. Your solution may just be the worst one out there when put into practice.
Regardless of such, I challenge you to read for yourself, decide for yourself. Don’t form opinions based on trending hashtags and what your parents want you to believe. You don’t have to choose left or right, the red pill or the blue pill. It’s okay to be in-process of forming an opinion, or simply be undecided about the right course of action. There’s far too much grey matter to be so staunchly decisive in today’s world.