“The new look for the 250-by-20-foot billboard along the Massachusetts Turnpike near Fenway Park will feature a digital counter displaying the number of American children and teenagers killed by guns daily,” boston.com reports. “A figure that will increase by 8 every day, based on the statistical average, according to John Rosenthal, founder of Stop Handgun Violence, a Newton group.” One: guns don’t kill people. People kill people. Two: children and teenagers includes gang bangers and other hardened criminals under the age of 21. Three: this stat also includes suicides. Four: this billboard will actually hurt the cause of gun control for one simple reason. Call it the McDonald decision . . .
Nope. Not the Supreme Court’s McDonald decision, which incorporated the Second Amendment (made it trump local and state law). I’m talking about McDonald’s decision not to list how many people they’ve served on their billboard.
In Blazing Saddles, Mel Brooks goofed on the old Mickey D’s sign, depicting it with the words “17 served” or suchlike. When I was a kid, the under-arch advertising listed 17 million served. Now, it’s just “billions and billions.” Because, at some point, numbers becomes meaningless.
Eight “children” a day “killed by guns.” From a propaganda POV, that works. You can imagine eight people. Hence the stat’s survival—despite the intentionally deceptive distortion. 5,463? Not so much. 12,834? Even less.
It’s the same stat OD that bedevils automobile safety campaigners. According to census.gov, thirty-thousand American died in car crashes in 2008. That’s down from just under 40k, which was a far more effective stat PR-wise. Thirty-five thousand defies easy understanding. Or dramatic impact. Which is why you don’t hear it anymore.
In cases where numbers are too large to compel, spinmeisters often combat incomprehensibility with the “X die per hour/minute” ploy. As the Firesign Theater used to say, no soap radio. It’s both too specific and too abstract; everyone knows that death doesn’t happen like clockwork. And if it does, what can YOU do about it? Time marches on.
The Mayors Agains Illegal Guns go with 34 dead American per day, even though their stat includes accidental deaths (oops!) and suicides. Boston’s anti-ballistic activists would have a better time of it if 12 “children” a day died from gunfire. Then they could say “In American, a gun kills a child every two hours.” [Sic] And sick. But that’s how these info wars are fought.
Recently, we’ve seen this stat battle on dueling billboard trucks. The Mayors Against Illegal Guns’ “gun death” truck and CCRKBA’s “lives saved” truck have been duking it out for press coverage on the streets around the nation.
As I explained above, the antis risk apathy. On the pro side, “Gun Saves Lives” is a ridiculous, incalculable stat. Given that brandishing isn’t usually reported and criminals are notoriously reluctant to fill out surveys, how do you measure something that doesn’t happen? Are you sure it isn’t 2,192?
Both sides of this “debate” are running out of steam. Despite mainstream media lap-doggery and old-time liberal lever pulling, gun control advocates have to rely on mass killings to hit the headlines. And now that the Supremes have done their thing for the Second Amendment, gun rights advocates’ gun-grabbing rhetoric seems increasingly shrill and, more importantly, impotent.
The lines are still drawn, but they must shift. It’s time for gun rights advocates to stop worrying about bunkering behind/with the NRA, go out and do the grass roots thing. They need to put guns into the hands of citizens. That’s how they’ll defend and extend Americans’ constitutional right to keep and bear arms.
I was thinking about this issue whilst exercising the Schnauzers. I passed more than a few single women walking their dogs in the woods. I imagined a sign at the entrance to the park:
ATTENTION THIEVES! Rhode Island women have the right to keep and bear arms. Some of them may be in this park.