Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Bats, hammers, and handguns

By Frank Moraes

Brian Palmer over at Slate takes on a widely circulated myth that I hadn't even heard of before, Baseball Bats and Hammers Do Not Kill More People Than Guns. Apparently, a lot of conservatives run around saying things like, "There are more people killed with baseball bats and hammers than are killed with guns." This isn't just said by idiot bloggers; this quote is from idiot Georgia congressman Paul Broun.

Let's look at the stats first. In 2011, 8,583 people were murdered with guns in the United States. That same year, 496 people were bludgeoned to death. That's roughly 20 times more people murdered with guns. And note: of those 496 murders, various objects were used including electric guitars. So Palmer asks the question: why are conservatives going around saying something that is patently false? (I know, I know: that's what defines a conservative! But stay with me because this is fascinating.)

This all goes back to a specious argument that goes something like, "People get killed with baseball bats as well as guns; why not ban them both?!" This argument can be taken to ridiculous extremes: "Baseball bats kill people just like nuclear warheads; why not ban them both?!" But in 1993, an article in the Washington Times noted that, "baseball bats kill more people than AK-47s in at least one big city." Here's the thing: that's not only specifically true; it is generally true. In 2011, the year where 496 people were bludgeoned to death, only 323 people were killed with rifles of all kinds and 356 were killed with shotguns.

So you can see how this went. From a true statement (AK-47s are used to kill people less often than baseball bats), you get message distortion. Before long, it is rifles are safer than bats. Then it is guns are safer than bats. I don't know when hammers were thrown into the mix, but I bet it has something to do with Ann Rule. And let's face it: this is how most "facts" that everyone knows are passed on.

This whole story highlights the fact that the real problem we face is handguns. But few people want to talk about this. Somehow, it seems natural to have a handgun in a home for protection. It seems to me that a shotgun is a better choice. It is less likely to be involved in accidents or suicides. (I'm especially concerned about guns and suicide.) But calling for an end to handguns seems to make people think of tyranny. I think if we offered a program where people could trade in their handguns for shotguns, it might do some good.

Regardless, as horrible as it must be to have some Al Capone wannabe kill you with a baseball bat, bludgeon murders are just not a major issue in this country. Unfortunately, even if we straightened out the likes of Paul Broun, it wouldn't help. It seems that liberals are primarily interested in banning assault weapons. And in that case, baseball bats and hammers really are comparable problems. Anyone for a handgun ban?

(Cross-posted at Frankly Curious.)

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