Back in June, I detailed a study by the Violence Policy Center that purported to show that private gun owners were far more likely to kill innocent people than to defend themselves. The study arrived at this conclusion by using woefully incomplete data sets from the FBI crime reports, which are voluntarily submitted (or not submitted) by law enforcement agencies. You can read my full analysis here, but the short version is that the VPC study interprets the lack of justified homicide submissions by law enforcement as proof that justified homicides do not occur, resulting in an unbelievable assertion that there were literally zero defensive gun uses in dozens of states over a five year period. The VPC study also fails to distinguish between legal and illegal firearm uses and fails to adequately consider defensive gun uses that didn’t result in anyone dying (i.e. the vast majority of such uses).
This week the New York Times editorial board regurgitated that shoddy study, and managed to compound the illogic by drawing even broader and less supported conclusions than the original. The editorial is brief, yet still manages an impressive amount of specious reasoning.
From the top:
The more that sensational gun violence afflicts the nation…
Gun homicide rates have been decreasing for the last generation, a fact as little known as it is demonstrably true.
This foolhardy notion of quick-draw resistance, however, is dramatically contradicted by a research project showing that, since 2007, at least 763 people have been killed in 579 shootings that did not involve self-defense.
Those numbers are not from the study linked by the Times, which analyzed all private firearm deaths regardless of legality. Instead they come from the VPC website itself, on a page about concealed carriers. Of that 763 figure, 223 were suicides, which hardly seem relevant to a discussion about gun crime in America.
That leaves 540 non-suicide fatalities between May 2007 and October 2015, or fewer than 64 deaths a year. Just for comparison’s sake, roughly 49 people a year are killed by lightning strikes in this country, without lightning strikes being labeled “a severe public health problem” by the New York Times.
The figure is also useless without a full accounting of legitimate defensive gun uses on the other side of the ledger, an effort neither the VPC nor the Times seems interested in making.