Gun control, Elisabeth Rosenthal, and the New York Times

Purely for my own education I’ve been collecting references for, about, and against gun control as I come across them.  I’m looking for facts, ma’am, just the facts.  This article grabbed my attention in my Sunday 01/06/2013 email edition from the New York Times:

NYT email reference

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After reading it I thought the article was HORRIBLE.  Absolutely one of the WORST I have ever read in the NYT.  I thought the few accurate facts presented were GROSSLY distorted to support a personal agenda.  Donald Sutherland (in Invasion of the Body Snatchers, 1978) says SHAME ON YOU ELISABETH ROSENTHAL!

SHAME, SHAME!

SHAME, SHAME!

(The reply to the common refrain “why do I read the NYT?”  “Because everyone else does.”  Perhaps I should just stop but can you turn away when people are being grossly misinformed?  No.)

I will attempt to explain what is wrong with the article without spewing the vitriol and invective-laden responses the author received at her Twitter account.  Not surprisingly there was no comment section at the actual online article location.

The article link led me to see this:  (I don’t know if you readers can view the entire article without an NYT digital subscription.  I will reproduce a lot of it in my explanation.)

More Guns heading

News Analysis albeit in the Opinion section.  Just what I thought I was looking for in the way of information.

Who is Elisabeth Rosenthal?  The end of the article says “Elisabeth Rosenthal is a physician and a science reporter for The New York Times.”  Hmm.  A physician and a science reporter writing about gun control.  I suppose that makes her no more or less qualified to speak on gun control than say… uhhh… me, a retired software engineer?  Perhaps unlike me she has treated gunshot victims, owns a gun, or has friends or family who are victims of shootings.

The link to her archive, , indicates she has 1167 articles in the New York Times.  She is definitely an prolific writer.

The article begins:

“In the wake of the tragic shooting deaths at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., last month, the National Rifle Association proposed that the best way to protect schoolchildren was to place a guard — a “good guy with a gun” — in every school, part of a so-called National School Shield Emergency Response Program.

Indeed, the N.R.A.’s solution to the expansion of gun violence in America has been generally to advocate for the more widespread deployment and carrying of guns.

I recently visited some Latin American countries that mesh with the N.R.A.’s vision of the promised land, where guards with guns grace every office lobby, storefront, A.T.M., restaurant and gas station. It has not made those countries safer or saner.

Despite the ubiquitous presence of “good guys” with guns, countries like Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia and Venezuela have some of the highest homicide rates in the world.”

No real arguments here.  The N.R.A. suggests arming the citizenry in schools and elsewhere.  A chilling thought but that’s a whole debate in itself.

Yes there are armed guards everywhere in highly homicidal Latin America.  (Facts on those homicides to follow shortly.)

Would Ms. Rosenthal have us believe that heavily guarded Latin American countries with some of the highest homicide rates in the world are to be compared with the United States?  I assert that they are heavily guarded due to their law-LESS-ness not their law-FUL-ness.  Her attempt at the premise that “good guys with guns”-countries have some of the highest homicide rates in the world, therefore that won’t work any better in the U.S., practically negates the entire rest of the article.

As a famous author/philosopher said “Contradictions do not exist. Whenever you think that you are facing a contradiction, check your premises. You will find that one of them is wrong.” (Atlas Shrugged by A.R.)

Let’s take a look at those homicide rates.  They are verifiable and I have no reason to think that they or their associated facts (Guatemalan bus homicides, Guatemalan police and guard counts) are falsified.  She notes:

In 2011, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, Honduras led the world in homicides, with 91.6 per 100,000 people. But rates were also alarmingly high in El Salvador (69.1), Jamaica (40.9), Colombia (31.4) and Guatemala (38.5). Venezuela’s was 45.1 in 2010 but is expected to be close to to 80 this year. The United States’ rate is about 5.

These figures appear to come from the page she linked (United Nations Office… etc.) and from this report on that page: Homicide statistics 2012. [Be advised this report auto-downloads to my Macbook laptop when I access it.] They are all from the 2011 column except for Venezuela and the U.S.  (The U.S. ‘about 5’ is actually 4.8 in case you thought she rounded down where as all the other figures were exact.)

Is she saying that a heavily guarded Latin America has high homicide rates and a presumably heavily un-guarded United States we have now has a low homicide rate so we should stay ‘un-guarded’?  Does that mean that the Latin American countries would reduce their homicide rates if they stopped being so heavily guarded?

But wait, what’s the point of further gun control on the U.S. citizen population if we have such a comparatively low homicide rate already?

(To be ‘fair and balanced’ it is noteworthy that although the U.S. homicide rate is a small fraction of rates in Latin America it is generally 3 to 4 times higher than rates in Western Europe, countries we might consider to have law-FUL-ness more like our own.)

(Note that in this same Homicide Statistics 2012 report the U.S. homicide count in 1995 was 21,606 with a population of 266 million (Census Bureau), making the homicide rate per 100,000 at 8.1 (21,606/266,000).  In 2010 the count was 14,748 with a population of 309 million making the rate 4.8 (14,748/309,000).  The population increased by 16.2% ((309-266)/266).  The homicide count decreased by 31.7% ((21,606-14,748)/21,606).)

The homicide COUNT decreased even as the population increased.  I don’t think the change in homicide RATE is a good comparison tool because as the population increased any homicide count is spread over a greater number.  Thus a U.S. change from 8.1 in 1995 to 4.8 in 2010 cannot be used to calculate a clear percent of rate decrease.  It’s the count that matters.   We’ll soon see why I think this rate was manipulated in Australia.

Just one more thing before I move on.  It stands to reason that as the homicide count decreased even as the population increased, the continuing free market in U.S. firearms during this period would indicate that civilian ownership of firearms would have increased even as the homicide count decreased.  Go figure.  More guns and less murder.  It doesn’t make sense.  Ownership has gone from about 258,322,465 in 1999 to nearly 300 million in 2010 (let’s say 295 million) (http://www.justfacts.com/guncontrol.asp#[6] (search the page)).  That’s an increase of  14.3% in number of firearms in 10 years. ((300-258)/258.)

What about those heavily guarded Latin Americans?  Are homicide rates related to having more civilian guns or less civilian guns?   A 2007 report by Small Arms Survey shows that the U.S. is #1 in civilian gun ownership with 88 average # firearms per 100 citizens.  Huge.  Highly homicidal Honduras ranks 88th with 6.2 average # firearms per 100 people.  Regardless of who is doing the shooting there, no one is shooting back.

Let’s wrap this up.  From Ms. Rosenthal’s article:

After a gruesome mass murder in 1996 provoked public outrage, Australia enacted stricter gun laws, including a 28-day waiting period before purchase and a ban on semiautomatic weapons. Before then, Australia had averaged one mass shooting a year. Since, rates of both homicide and suicide have dropped 50 percent, and there have been no mass killings, said Ms. [Rebecca] Peters, who lobbied for the legislation.

According to Ms. Rosenthal’s United Nations report we’ve been using, the Australia homicide rate went from 1.7 in 1996 to 1.0 in 2010, a 41.2% decrease.  The COUNT went from 312 to 229 (per 100,000), a 26.6% decrease.  That is not half, nor is it as good as the United State’s decrease of 31.7% from 1995-2010.  [Edit:  The Australia count is total count, not count per 100,000.  It is still enviously low even when you adjust for the population difference of 22.6 million Australia vs. 300 million U.S.]

I’m not standing up for gun owners or against gun control.  I’m advocating for ACCURATE FACTS.

A few more choice quotes:

“Generally, if you live in a civilized society, more guns mean more death,” said David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center. “There is no evidence that having more guns reduces crime. None at all.”

Please ignore all my previous math.  Mr. Hemenway says there is no evidence, none at all.

Distinctive factors contribute to the high rates of violent crime in Latin America. Many countries in the region had recent civil wars, resulting in a large number of weapons in circulation. Drug- and gang-related violence is widespread. “It’s dangerous to make too tight a link between the availability of weapons and homicide rates,” said Jeremy McDermott, a co-director of InSight Crime who is based in Medellín, Colombia. “There are lots of other variables.”

But, but.  As noted Latin American weapons are not circulating among the citizens.  Also there is no reason to use Latin America as an analogy or comparison basis for this article.

Suffice it to say that reports on firearms proliferate (increase rapidly).  I found the SmallArmsSurvey.Org site to have a fairly lengthy list.

I want to know when we will get to the REAL issue of violence and firearms homicides (as well as other homicides).  MENTAL HEALTH.  What is wrong with these sick deranged minds and how can we identify them without going around like Donald Sutherland above or Brooke Adams below, pointing at people and saying YOU’RE CRAZY!?!?!

YOU'RE CRAZY!

YOU’RE CRAZY!

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About JohnRH

Retired, avid winter skier, avid reader, traveler (avidly). :)
Gallery | This entry was posted in Ayn Rand, Civil rights, Conservative thought, gun control, Individual rights, News, News and politics, Opinion, Politics, Self responsibility and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Gun control, Elisabeth Rosenthal, and the New York Times

  1. Pingback: Three Cheers for the Nanny State by Sarah Conly | John's Space ……….."It seems like I blog about EVERYthing. The only thing certain is change."

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