Monday, January 23, 2012

Underreported Victims of a Gun Happy Society

When we have a collective debate on gun issues, sometimes we lose sight of the often underreported victims of careless gun policy. We often get bogged down in political grandstanding, legislative victories or false bravado and lose sight of important real world consequences. All-too-often the larger media follows us in that pattern and doesn't spend as much time on the many different victims of gun violence in our country.

For example, we don't see nearly enough reported about how gun violence disproportionately impacts women. The data over the years has repeatedly confirmed this disturbing reality.
  • In 2008 7,451 women were treated in emergency rooms for gunshot wounds. A disturbing 66 percent of those incidents were assault related.
  • 16 in every 1,000 women in the U.S. have been threatened with a firearm.
  • Based on data from 16 states, 73 percent of female murder victims are killed in the home. That is compared to 45 percent of male murder victims.
  • U.S. women's firearm death rate is 12 times higher than the combined rate of 22 other populous, high-income countries.
  • Gun owners are 7.8 times more likely than non-gun owners to have threatened their partners with guns.
  • Firearms appear to be more common in homes where battering has occurred (36.7 percent) than in the general population (16.7 percent)

This kind of troubling data is certainly why advocates against domestic violence stand against legislation like the so-called Castle Doctrine recently passed in Wisconsin. It essentially gives people a free pass from prosecution if they (even wrongfully) kill a person believed to be an intruder in their home. At the time the legislation was being considered, Tony Gibart, policy coordinator for the Wisconsin Coalition against Domestic Violence made the following case against it:

We're concerned that the bill might be used in ways that shield domestic abusers and people who perpetrate domestic violence homicide from accountability.

In addition there is the tragic and uncomfortable subject of suicide and the role that easy access to guns plays in that horrible problem. Again, the facts and reality show that we pay a heavy price in this area.

  • 17,352 U.S. residents killed themselves with a firearm in 2007.
  • Seventy percent of suicide attempters decide to kill themselves on an impulse - less than an hour before their attempt.
  • More than 90 percent of suicide attempts with a gun are fatal only 3 percent of attempts with drugs or cutting are fatal.
  • States with high household gun ownership have more suicides than states with low household gun ownership.
  • Eighty-five percent of youths under age 18 who died by firearm suicide used a family member's gun, usually a parent's .

In an ideal world even the gun lobby would more often consider some of these underreported victims of gun violence before insisting on their broad and often radical policies. In an ideal world the larger media would do a better job of reporting all of the ugly realities of gun violence. In an ideal world the public would become more aware of all victims of gun violence and push for long lasting and life saving changes rather than feeding an increasingly gun happy society.

This post is written as part of the Media Matters Gun Facts fellowship. The purpose of the fellowship is to further Media Matters' mission to comprehensively monitor, analyze, and correct conservative misinformation in the U.S. media. Some of the worst misinformation occurs around the issue of guns, gun violence, and extremism, the fellowship program is designed to fight this misinformation with facts.

No comments: