Another day, another example of how we as a nation fail to properly define a problem and therefore flail about instead of finding real solutions:
Gun violence is just one of many factors contributing to lower U.S. life expectancy, but the finding took on urgency because the report comes less than a month after the shooting deaths of 26 people at an elementary school in Newtown, Conn.
The United States has about six violent deaths per 100,000 residents. None of the 16 other countries included in the review came anywhere close to that ratio. Finland was closest to the U.S. ranking with slightly more than two violent deaths per 100,000 residents.
The study puts the US murder rate at 6.5/100,000 while the actual rate of homicide and non-negligent manslaughter in this country is really 4.8/100,000 according to the FBI. That study uses some sort of age adjustment mumbo-jumbo that I'm somewhat skeptical about, but the real problem is how it, and so much of the discussion about violence in general and gun violence in particular, looks at the problem from such a high level.
America is not a violent nation. America is a mostly peaceful nation with pockets of primarily urban violence. And even in most of those urban areas, much of the violence is concentrated even further into smaller pockets. By looking at the issue so broadly, we not only fail to address the real problem, we also risk damaging otherwise healthy parts of our society.
Let's take a look at Minnesota first, because it's the state I am most familiar with.
According to the FBI, in 2010 the national murder rate was 4.8/100,000 and the violent crime rate was 403.6. For Minnesota that year, the numbers were 1.8 and 236.0. If you isolate for just Minneapolis and St. Paul(668,039 people total), they jump to 7.9 and 924.6 while the rest of the state(4,635,886 people) falls to .9 and 136.7. And knowing Minneapolis and St. Paul like I do, I can tell you that we can further isolate most of the murder and violent crime to just certain neighborhoods.
For the overwhelming majority of Minnesotans, the murder and violent crime rates are no different from the Western Europe rates that people love to cite so much.
Minnesota might be an outlier to some extent, but not by all that much. Illinois had a murder rate of 5.5 in 2010, but if you isolate just Chicago's(city proper, not metro) rate of 16.0 the rest of the state drops to 2.7. California led the nation with 1809 murders in 2010, but the top 20 reporting law enforcement agencies out of almost 400 account for more than half of that total.
I don't have any numbers in front of me, but I bet gun violence specifically also tracks very disproportionately to particular geographic areas.
At this point I'm sure some people are saying, "Well duh, Dave," and I understand that, but why then do our politicians and media approach the problem as though it's as prevalent across the land as it is in primarily urban hotspots?
Before I address what I think is the answer to that question in another post and also bring mass shootings into the discussion, I'll end this one by noting a couple of points.
Any violent crime is too much of course, and pockets of violence can happen anywhere, not just urban areas. Even my little city that abuts Minneapolis has some violent crime. But here and across most of the country the level of violence and murder is at or pretty near what could be understood as the human condition. Wasting efforts on those areas while people suffer in violent hellholes is immoral to an extreme.
The policy disconnect here does not go unnoticed by most gun owners and it is one reason they resist gun control so vehemently. Why should I, in my little house in my pretty peaceful little city, roughly 15 times more likely to be killed by Mother Nature than a gun, have to surrender my gun rights because violent crime is rampant in near-North/South sides of Minneapolis?
If gun control advocates would at least seriously consider that question we might be able to do something together that would have a real impact on violent crime and gun violence specifically. Assuming that's what they truly want.