Umpqua College Tragedy
President Obama and I have at least one thing in common. We both desperately want to see senseless violence in the United States stop. I listened to his impassioned plea last night after yet another, high profile, shooting occurred, this time in rural Oregon, and couldn’t help but empathize with his frustration.
I want to just say that my heart breaks for the people effected by this. What a horrible and disgusting tragedy. I cannot even pretend to know what they are going through. I have written blog posts and letters on several occasions when these types of tragedies have happened in the past and as I go back and re-read them, the universal emotion for me is just sadness.
The President last night appeared angry and frustrated while talking about how there is evidence that strict gun control laws make us safer. As I listened, I thought, “it can’t be that hard to look up the statistics on gun laws and violence in the U.S.” So I did a little research this morning. I found 2013 statistics from the FBI and rankings of states by strictest gun control laws in 2013 as ranked by the Brady Campaign. I took the 10 most strict and the 10 most lenient states, found their violent crimes per 100,000 inhabitants, and then averaged the 2 categories.
The results did not surprise me. The 10 states with the strictest gun control laws had 345.84 violent crimes per 100,000. The 10 states with the most lenient gun laws had….wait for it…. 345.83. Only 1/100th of a difference. I expected they would be close, but I was shocked that they were this close. (One proviso…I left the District of Columbia off the list because it is technically not a state, but if I put it in the top 10 most strict, the numbers change significantly as D.C. has a 1,300.3 violent crimes per 100K, more than double the next closest state!)
Here are the numbers for murders committed with a firearm. The 10 states with the most strict laws had 2.80 firearm murders per 100,000. The 10 states with the most lenient laws had 2.95 firearm murders per 100,000. (Again, I left off the District of Columbia…here is another interesting fact, the combined population of the 10 states with the most lenient gun control laws was 32.2 million and the combined population of the 10 states with the most strict gun control laws was 111.2 million).
My assertion has always been, and I think this little exercise proves, at least for me, that there is no statistical evidence for or against gun control laws (which is why those segments where opposing talking heads argue this point is so confusing). Whenever someone on either side of the gun control debate brings up statistics or numbers to prove their point, they should be dismissed from the conversation. What I want is that both sides just be honest about what they are really trying to do, because no matter what they do, gun control laws don’t have any statistical impact on crime rates in the United States.
So what does all of this mean for the good people in Oregon? Nothing. None of this explains why their loved ones were taken. None of this provides any solace. In my experience, only God can provide that. So I will spend a little extra time on my knees tonight for Umpqua College students and families. Unfortunately, though, it looks like they are destined to be just like Columbine, Santee, Red Lake, Aurora, and all the others–a play thing for the political class to punt back and forth in their endless pursuit of influence. I am sad.