There’s an old parody New York Times headline that pokes fun at the paper’s obvious biases – World Ends Tomorrow; Women and Minorities Hardest Hit. It’s only funny because it so closely matches their actual editorial output. But look out, Gray Lady. There’s a new kid in town and he’s a real contender…
Futurity.org describes itself as featuring “the latest discoveries in all fields from scientists at the top universities in the US, UK, and Canada.” OK then.
So what’s the chuckle-inducing lede?
Stray Bullets Often Injure Women – The first nationwide study of stray-bullet shootings shows more than 80 percent of the victims were unaware of the events leading to the gunfire and more than 40 percent were women.
I never did well in the more numerically oriented classes I was forced to endure while becoming ‘educated.’ But doesn’t the inverse – or is it the converse – of these results indicate that men are the most likely to be struck by stray bullets? Something on the order of (checking my math here…) 60% of the time?
But somehow that just doesn’t seem quite as seksi, does it? “Men Most Likely to be Struck by Stray Bullets.” What a snoozefest. Not much more news-breaking than “Sun to Rise in East Tomorrow.” Then there’s the fact that it doesn’t fit the narrative very well. Gun violence affecting the softer, fairer sex draws more sympathy and generates outrage toward those damned guns.
UC-Davis professor of emergency medicine Garen Wintemute is the director of the school’s Violence Prevention Research Program. He’s also the author of Ring of Fire: The Handgun Makers of Southern California. For the (no doubt federally funded) study, he used a year’s worth of Google reports containing the phrase “stray bullet” to compile his data. I’m not sure how scientifically valid that is, but let’s run with it.
He defined stray-bullet shootings as situations where a bullet escaped an intended sociogeographic space and resulted in the injury of at least one person, either from the gunshot itself or a secondary mechanism, such as an injury from glass sent flying by a stray bullet. Typical scenarios included violence, shooting sports, celebratory gunfire, and related activities. Cases also included shootings of bystanders who had no active role in a violent incident, and unintentional gunfire when the shooter and the person shot were not the same person.
So, if I shoot at Home Invader #1, miss, and hit Home Invader #2 standing twenty feet behind him, has the bullet escaped Home Invader #1’s sociogeographic space? Just checking.
“Stray-bullet shootings create fear and insecurity in many communities,” says Wintemute. “People stay indoors, don’t let their children play outside, and alter the patterns of their daily lives to avoid being struck by a bullet meant for someone else. Yet no research has been conducted at the national level to explore the epidemiology of these shootings. Such information is often important to identifying preventive measures.”
I’ll take a shot in the dark here and guess that stricter “common sense” gun control measures are Dr. Wintemute’s prescription. From his bio:
Recognized as one of the nation’s foremost scholars addressing violence as a public health problem, he has weathered death threats, complaints about his scientific integrity and demands for dismissal from his job. A gun company president once advised him to keep his life insurance premiums paid up. He has published numerous scientific articles on gun violence, testified on the subject before Congress, the California Legislature and various local governments, and provided comments to Frontline, CNN, the Washington Post and other media outlets.
Perhaps of greatest importance is Dr. Wintemute’s longstanding commitment of service to federal, state and local policymakers and law enforcement agencies. He collaborates regularly with staff at the California Department of Justice and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.” His vigorous and unrelenting leadership in the fight to end gun violence is an outstanding example of scholarly public service.
So unlike Futurity’s furious spinning, people – male or female – being hit by stray rounds isn’t a bit funny. No matter if the source is a drive-by, “celebratory fire” or Dick Cheney bird hunting. So let this be a lesson to you kids out there. Rule number four – learn it, live it, love it. Know your target and what’s behind it. And if you can’t think of any other reason, do it for the women.