Columns & Commentary

Wrinkles in the Stat Sheet


Jeremy Ervin, Assistant Editor

Jeremy Ervin,
Assistant Editor

A few weeks before we graduated high school, a friend and I were hanging out in my hometown. It was a Friday night and the humid heat of summer had already set in.

Bored, we headed over to an acquaintance’s house. He greeted us and offered us a drink, and then we went upstairs and talked for a while. When my friend excused himself to use the restroom, our host grabbed and loaded an AR-15 rifle.

Since my buddy was in the restroom, it was just our host and myself. I didn’t really comprehend what was happening at the time. My only memory is of him staring me down, while I drank the Pepsi he’d given me.

Once my friend returned to the room, the tension melted. Our host laughed, apologized and unloaded the gun. He said he’d feared that we’d come to rob him and that the bathroom break could have been a ruse to produce a weapon.

While I pieced together what just happened, he continues with a friendly conversation about where he’d bought it, how it shot and how much it put him back. You know, just kind of showing us his new gun.

About six months later, he was murdered at the age of 19.

A group of individuals entered the same house under the pretext of buying drugs, then robbing him. Before leaving, one of them shot and killed him in front of his loved ones.

He knew his attackers and trusted them enough to let them into his family’s home, just like for my friend and me.

As of 2009, there were an estimated total of 310 million non-military firearms in the United States, roughly one for every resident. In 1968, there were closer to two people for each gun.

Homicide is the number two cause of death for males 15-24, behind unintentional injuries. Between 1968 and 2011, around two-thirds of murders were firearm related.

Those seem like some pretty grim statistics to me. But in 1993, there were an estimated 17,073 firearm related murders. By 2011, that number dropped to 9,903.

So while the number of guns carried is up, gun violence is down. This seems to lend some strength to the “more guns means more safety” argument of gun proponents. But I still don’t buy it. After all, our host had a gun and it didn’t save him. Maybe it could have, if the chips had fallen differently, but they didn’t.

Gun control advocates might say that if guns were scarcer, criminals might have to stay home. If they don’t possess a gun, it’s hard to shoot one, right?

It makes some sense and it’s a cute thought. However, with millions of guns manufactured each year, I don’t realistically see them going away anytime soon.

Guns don’t curdle like milk. A pistol made in 1914, if well cared for, will fire in 2014. Even if the guns themselves were illegal, I don’t see how the government could effectively confiscate 310 million of them.

There are so many different opinions and sets of facts. Statistics give us insight, but seem to conflict with the less-guns, more-guns arguments that get thrown around. I don’t know who’s right and instead find myself suspicious of anybody who claims to have all the answers.

Reality isn’t as simple as rhetoric and the situation on the ground doesn’t seem to match the current conversation.

We, the public, can sit around and try to figure out why any number of things happened the way they did. We can talk about all the personal and societal factors that put all those people in that room the day our host died. We can assign blame, question motivations and talk about the effects of guns and drugs and crime until we’re all blue in the face. We keep talking, but people keep dying.

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