Reuters recently published the results of a study about children involving “weapons violence.” From whbl.com: “Millions of children are being exposed to violence involving weapons, and many of them are victimized by guns and knives, with an elevated risk of trauma and serious injury,” said lead study author Kimberly Mitchell, a scientist at the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire. The author is a highly educated woman . . .
It’s hard to believe that she deliberately made such an egregious error in English as to ascribe motivation and volition to guns and knives. Yet that is exactly what she did. People are not victimized by guns and knives. People are victimized with guns and knives. The difference is profound. By ascribing motivation and volition to inanimate objects, the author removes responsibility from the persons involved.
It’s clear that the author has an agenda. Exposure to weapons is not the same as violence. A pediatrician quoted in the article attempts to conflate the two different phenomena.
Children who are repeatedly exposed to weapons, whether it’s domestic violence or gangs or bullying or fighting at school, are at risk for particularly troubling outcomes, said Dowd, who wasn’t involved in the study.
The logical jump that we are supposed to swallow without critical thought: guns and knives = violence. That is a false assumption. Cultures in the U.S. that have the most guns often have the lowest levels of violence. You need only look at Vermont, Maine, and Utah to see that this is so.
The author has collected some mildly interesting data, though it does not seem particularly alarming or surprising. Children who live in violent cultures are exposed to violence. When you use the definition of weapons that includes all objects that can be used to inflict harm, such as sticks and bottle and rocks, I am surprised that the number of children so exposed does not approach 100 percent.
Why the study left out the personal weapons of hand and feet is not obvious. They seem to be trying to claim that a person who is shown a knife or a gun is more traumatized than someone who is choked, hit, or kicked.
From the actual paper (pdf), in a side note, we find this gem.
WHAT’S KNOWN ON THIS SUBJECT: Firearms are among the 10 leading causes of injury-related
death for youth and continues throughout the life span. Annually youth homicides and assault-related injuries result in an estimated $16 million in combined medical and work loss costs.
This is not a result from the study. It is a false assumption before the study even started. “Firearms are among the 10 leading causes of injury-related death for youth…” You could as easily and truthfully state “Hospitals are among the 10 leading causes of death for youth”, with as simplistic a solution. Get rid of hospitals, and you end all hospital deaths. It should be noted that the vast majority of those firearm “injury-related deaths” are intentional homicides.
An instrument is not a cause. I do not see people saying “Automobiles are among the 10 leading causes of injury-related death” or “Swimming pools are among the 10 leading causes of injury-related death”. The reason is simple: there is a difference between a cause and an instrument, especially in a study such as this, where the instrument is being purposefully used by another person.
For a study that claims to have policy considerations for firearms, I could not find any table that broke down the category of “high lethality weapon” which included guns and knives, to find the percentage with guns and the percentage with knives. Nor did I find any break down between long guns and handguns. Perhaps those numbers are available somewhere. It seems a strange way to separate out weapons.
Here is the last sentence in the conclusions:
Further work on improving gun safety practices and taking steps to reduce children’s exposure to weapon-involved violence is warranted to reduce this prevalent problem.
When you start with false assumptions, it is hard to reach correct policy decisions. One wonders what the $60m Congressional Democrats want to throw at the Centers of Disease control for “gun violence” research will yield. Or not.
©2015 by Dean Weingarten: Permission to share is granted when this notice is included.