A Hunter’s Heritage #5 – Gun Violence and Critical Thinking
So, I have a confession to make. As you can probably tell from the initial posts in this blog series, I am an advocate for hunting. I hunt as often as I can; I’ve been fortunate enough to have taken game in Africa; I love to eat meat, especially game; my research has always focused on aboriginal hunting; and I basically believe that the salvation for our ecosystem and wildlife problems around the world can be addressed by hunting. Having said that….I’m not much of a hunter.Look, when I think of true hunters, I’m way down on the bottom of the totem pole. I think instead of California NWTF’s biologist, Kevin Vella, who hunts constantly (and has missed board meetings because of hunting!), including with his wife, who took her own nice antelope this year! I think of our California NWTF President, Joe Pecsi, who has, on more than one occasion, joined us at a board meeting after a long morning of duck hunting (and as a former game officer, dedicated most of his life to protecting our hunting heritage from illegal activity). I definitely think of my brother, Keith, who has killed a California buck every year since his 12th birthday (he’s in his 50s now) – not an insignificant feat in this state – and who is known for “Star Trek” hunting (going where no man has gone before!). And ultimately, I think of my father, who at age 74 and 75 recently completed his North American Sheep Grand Slam with a Rocky Mountain and Desert Bighorn, respectively. These guys are hunters in the Steve Rinella and Michael Waddell sense of the word.Me? Well, I like it and go when I can (I certainly rarely turn down an opportunity to go with someone who invites me)…but truth be known, I don’t spend a lot of effort at it. I don’t go out and scout every weekend, or make sure all my out-of-state points are up to date. It’s not for lack of opportunity or resources. I just happen to spend most of my resources on shooting rather than hunting.Case in point: there are probably two Montana mule deer hunts tied up in that rifle I’m holding on to in the photo!I just love to shoot. My favorite part of hunting is “hearing the gun go bang!” and seeing whether or not I was on target (when my father reads this he’ll no doubt remind me of the three does I missed antelope hunting with him this year! Hey, I never said I was a GREAT shot!). So, where all this is going is that I will, from time to time, write about firearms and shooting in this blog. Obviously, firearms and hunting go together, but I’ll probably also take the discussion to other areas (just a hint: I firmly believe that the Second Amendment has NOTHING to do with hunting….).That said, I was again perusing internet articles when the following caught my eye: Americans are Closer to Gun Violence Than They Think. The opening line: “Nearly all Americans are likely to know a victim of gun violence within their social networks during their lifetime”. Ok…being a scientist by training and a proponent of critical thinking, there were a number of things that I had questions about right off the bat. The first question (and one shared by my wife) was, how do they define “gun violence”? The article clearly implies that violence is defined as something that will be imposed on individuals from outside sources with little or no control on the part of the person being affected. However, a significant proportion of gun violence, as the study is counting it, consists of accidental (I prefer “negligent” for reasons I’ll discuss in a later post) shootings and suicides in addition to individuals who are victims of illegal gun uses. These are not the same thing. Injuries from negligent firearm uses (I would count suicide among these) are, quite frankly, self-imposed. I simply do not accept these kinds of situations as “gun violence” in that, for the most part, they do not directly impact individuals who do not wish to be impacted. One could argue that negligent discharges can affect innocent bystanders, which is true, but even these can be significantly reduced by those trained in handling firearms. The primary reason I convinced my daughter to learn about firearms at a young age was so she would recognize when she was around those who were incorrectly handling firearms and could potentially be a danger to her. The fact is, that most of us (justifiably) discount negligent firearms use in the same manner as we discount negligent vehicle use. If we take the responsibility of firearm use seriously, we are just not likely to be exposed to “gun violence”. What concerns us is the true exposure to gun violence that we all may face: illegal use of a firearm (i.e. criminal activity) that may directly affect any one of us. The tenor of the study seems to suggest that we are all subject to “gun violence” and implies that the logical conclusion to draw is that removing guns from society would lower the exposure. But the vast majority of gun violence, as they define it, has no impact on us.I also have my doubts about how social networks are defined, which is not described (and the original article is behind a firewall, so I can’t look at the raw data). My wife and I, in thinking about our own social networks, could only come up with one “gun violence” situation – a relative who negligently shot himself…doing something negligent and completely within his power to avoid, given serious attention to proper firearm handling.What’s really interesting is the area of firearm use that is wholly dismissed by the anti-gun crowd: the instances where a firearm was used to thwart an imposition of violence. I can think of three instances in my social network where a weapon was used to successfully defend oneself. None of the events resulted in the discharge of a weapon (and therefore would not be registered in ANY database as “gun violence”) and yet all resulted in the direct protection of the individual wielding the firearm.Typically, when thought about critically, these kinds of studies tell you more about what’s not happening than what is….