Monday, December 7, 2015


The sky is not falling. The recent killings in San Bernardino are horrific, tragic, and evil, but they should not drive us to generalized worry, much less to gape-mouthed fear, gun-buying panic, or further government degradation of our civil liberties.

Here are the facts: Gun deaths and gun injuries in the U.S. are way, way down over the last 20 years, even taking mass killings into account. Gun deaths are down about 50%; gun injuries are down more than 75%. Liberals don’t like to cite these figures because it undermines their call for greater gun control. Conservatives don’t like to cite these figures because conservatives feed on fear; the more afraid they can make people, the more they can claim that only they can protect us.

All of that annoys me. What absolutely infuriates me is that in the 1990s, the Republican Congress, at the behest of the NRA, defunded any attempt by the federal government to gather and analyze data about gun deaths and injuries. The Centers for Disease Control once tried to look at gun deaths and injuries as a public-health issue. The Republicans wouldn't allow it. The data about gun deaths and injuries thus have to be collected by private organizations like the Pew Research Center.

In any case, there is no need to be too alarmed about what happened in San Bernardino. Viewed against the big picture, the supposed proliferation of so-called "mass" shootings is a relatively small problem. In fact, the definition of a "mass" shooting is so vague that, by one definition, there have been only five such events in the U.S. in the past year; by another definition, there have been at least 350. The fear-mongers, of course, prefer the latter definition. But compared, for example, to the day-to-day shooting deaths in Chicago, "mass" shootings are not the central problem.

Even the killings in Paris should be viewed in perspective. In fact, the world's rate of violence has dropped precipitously and consistently over the past few centuries, and has continued to drop in this century. One week's news does not change that.

When a tragic event like the killings in San Bernardino and Paris happen, yes, it's appropriate to shed tears and shake one's fist at the heavens (or at ISIS). But don't listen to the Chicken Littles. The sky is not falling. The terrorists are not winning. Both liberals and conservatives, encouraged by the bloodthirsty media, are simply overreacting.

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