Regarding Mojo’s and the Reverend’s Admonishment Concerning Handguns in the Home, in the March 13th edition
I confess to being startled upon reading the Rev. Dr. Watkin’s assertion that “If you have a handgun in your home, there is a 70% chance that it will be used by one member of your family against another member of your family.”
Does he really mean to say that in 70% of households with a handgun one family member will eventually shoot another with that handgun? Simple arithmetic and a few facts prove that this cannot be true.
First we note that there are an estimated 50 million US households having a gun. It is also believed that of those households which have firearms, 61% will have a handgun (they may also have other guns or multiple handguns). This implies that there are around 30.5 million homes in the US which have handguns (61% of 50 million).
Now, if we are to believe the good Reverend, 70% of these 30.5 million households will eventually suffer a member being shot with a handgun in the home. This will produce, over some period of time, a total of 21.35 million shooting victims, a truly prodigious number. How long might it take for all these shootings to occur? An upper limit to the rate of shootings must surely be the annual incidence of all shooting victims in the US.
We know that in 2008, a representative year, there were 78,622 non-fatal firearm injuries in the US, and we also know that there are roughly 30,000 fatal firearm injuries each year in the U.S. Therefore, we can’t accumulate the Reverend’s victims at a rate any faster than about 108,000 per year. That means that it would take a little over 197 years for all of the Reverend’s handgun victims to meet their fate. It seems that he may be overstating his case.
I will readily confess to having read with mild amusement many of the good Reverend’s letters, and have always been disinclined to respond in writing.
I have considered his claim of a literate and conversant canine companion to be a generally harmless delusion, one which may provide the good Reverend some measure of comfort in his dotage. However, in this instance I felt compelled to respond as he is giving truly bad advice.
I am of the contrary opinion, namely that a prudent, law-abiding citizen is much more likely to benefit from having a handgun in his home than he is to suffer from its presence. The proof of this claim is beyond the scope of a simple letter. I trust that I have demonstrated how unlikely the Reverend’s claim is.
Lance Duvall, MD
Response to Jim Watkins
op-ed, Thursday, March 14
Just like Dr. Watkins and Mojo, I recently returned from a week of visiting family. Also like Dr. Watkins, I have a pet. My compadre is assuredly not as precocious as Mojo, but he is far easier to clean up after and lighter on the food budget.
Before Daimones Argyreoi, my rather good-natured pet rock, received a doctorate in igneous petrology, he was required to provide meticulous citations for his dissertation “Rubidium-strontium method of dating magma particulates peculiar to the Aleutians is superior to the Potassium-argon method.” Unlike Dr. Watkins, Dr. Daimones (yes, I know he's just a rock, but he's overly sensitive about titles), had to cite facts to please the academia wonks who craved those pesky details.
I digress. After we got home, Dr. Daimones and I snuggled in front of the fireplace as we sometimes do, and read the paper. Believe me, we were the embodiment of a Norman Rockwell painting.
All was well until Dr. Daimones read Dr. Watkins's op-ed. Now my rock does not shake and roll easily, but the bone rattling tremors that erupted from his core charted at least 6.9 on the Richter. I'm just the messenger on this one Dr. Watkins, so keep me out of the mix.
Speaking for one rock doctor to another however, Dr. Daimones was speechless. Actually, unlike Mojo, the rock is always speechless. Nonetheless, he took out his frustration by pounding on his homogeneous metamorphic slate brother that lines the fireplace hearth. Chipped and broken, the slate silently took the beating as if it were granite.
The gist of what Dr. Daimones said, uh, thumped was, when do professional standards no longer matter. Graduation? Even before the rock was a doctoral candidate, he always attributed sources.
You wrote, “Mojo knows that my doctoral work was in criminal justice. He has often heard me quote a sobering statistic. If you have a handgun in your home, there is a 70% chance that it will be used by one member of your family against another member of your family.”
From which study did you mine that gem, Dr. Watkins? Even Dr. David Hemenway's flawed study of gun violence did not skew the statistics as you did. Couldn't have come from the research of Dr. Gary Kleck, cited in the Supreme Court's landmark “District of Columbia v. Heller” decision, striking down the D.C. handgun ban and held that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to keep and bear arms. In fact, Kleck's research suggested a conclusion that was the polar opposite of yours.
Regardless, let's use your number and one of mine. My number — between 47 and 53 million American households, have guns. Your number — a family member will use a handgun against another family member in seventy percent of those households. Stated differently, between 33 and 37 million victims of domestic violence. Statistics for 2007 record 21,000 accidental shootings in America of which 613 were fatal. In 2008, there were 10,886 homicides by firearms. Taken together, less than 31,000 annually. Just for argument's sake, I'll use the number 100,000, as touted by the liberal organization, Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. At that rate, it would take 329 years to match your claim of 70%.
Seriously, Dr. Watkins? Dr. Daimones Argyreoi wants me to ask, did the university from which you received a doctorate condone playing fast and loose with the facts? I suggest you check Justfacts.com.guncontrol for a dispassionate look at the numbers.
Mojo and handguns letter
Regarding the latest letter from that dynamic duo, Mojo and Rev Dr. Jim, I ask that the source of that ambiguous statistic be revealed (there is a 70% chance that a household handgun will be used by and against a family member).
And since my household, and others of course, include steak knives, please enlighten me about the odds of that item being used against me or another family member.
Good grief, guys, get a life!
Opinions that appear on this page in Letters to the Editor or in columns do not necessarily reflect the opinions of this newspaper.
Leave a Response
Notice about comments:
The National Transportation Safety Board is recommending lowering the legal blood alcohol content limit for drivers from .08 percent to .05 percent. They say it will decrease the number of traffic fatalities. Do you agree with this idea?