Nick Kristof explains how to win a gun control argument. His approach seems to be, baffle them with statistics and misleading comparisons. To his credit, he finally acknowledges that the Times and other gun control advocates routinely include suicides when discussing gun deaths. He does not take that point to any logical resting place however.
Broadly, if the goal is to reduce gun suicides the talk about a ban on semiautomatic rifles and large capacity magazines is irrelevant - we don't have a national epidemic of people shooting themselves fifteen times and bleeding out. I should note that Mr. Kristof himself threw in the towel on an assault weapons ban a while back, but (unlike in boxing) a towel can always be picked up again, and semiautomatic rifle bans (broader than a mere assault weapons ban) are certainly being discussed in progressive circles.
Or if we swing the focus back to gun homicides, when the firearm is known (about 3/4 of the time), handguns are used about 90% of the time. Semiautomatic rifles aren't what the gangbangers on the mean streets of Chicago and St Louis are shooting at each other. Folks seriously concerned about homicides and suicides should be arguing about a handgun ban, and good luck with the pesky Heller decision, the politics and eventual enforcement there.
IMHO, what remains true is that many people have examined their lives and concluded that they are:
(a) not involved with criminal activity, especially drug-related;
(b) not in an abusive domestic relationship,
(c) not suicidal, and
(d) not living in a crime-ridden neighborhood
For those fortunate many, the most visible remaining risk of gun violence is a random shooting at a mall, theater, or (for kids and young adults) school.
That sort of mass shooting death kills about 26 people per year (on average since 1966, per the Washington Post). Recent headlines make me suspect the trend is not favorable, a Bold Insight supported by Grant Duwe.
My strong impression is that most of the current public outcry is about the 1% of gun deaths that are relevant to the lives of successful Times readers and suburban parents of school kids, not the 99% of gun deaths that actually kill people.
CALL ME CRAZY: An example of Statistics In Action: Here is Nick Kristof:
There is no constitutional objection to, say, universal background checks to obtain a gun. It’s crazy that 22 percent of guns are obtained without a check.
His link is to a study which does present that 22% figure (transfers in the past two years). As shown by a blue arrow, the dreaded "gun show loophole" was relevant in 3% of aggregate transfers and involved NO background check 22% of the time. Over the past two years the gun shows were 4% of transfers, none without a background check. So the loophole is rarely applied and the background check is rarely avoided, but whatever.
Meanwhile (highlighted in red) roughly 40% of transfers are purchases from a family member, friend or acquaintance (10%), gift or inheritance (25%) or unknown(4%). Call me crazy, but background checks on birthday presents from a devoted spouse to his or her significant other may not be the national crisis with which we need to contend.