February 12, 2014
Correcting the Record on Criminals and Victims
A recent study made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Despite mainstream media suggesting alarming numbers of children accidentally injured by firearms, the study is actually a description of violence among young men. The vast majority of the incidents included in the study, 84 percent, involve individuals in the range of 15-19 years old.
Nearly two-thirds of the cases examined are assaults, and, not surprisingly, almost all of the assault victims were between 15-19 years old. This is likely an undercount, as it is conceivable that a teenager may report an injury as unintentional when actually the result of an assault to avoid legal trouble or retribution.
The study also notes the significant role that income levels and race play in the incidence of firearms injuries. Of the hospitalizations, two-thirds (66.2%) were either covered by Medicaid or were uninsured, a proxy for low-income individuals.
When examining the incidents by race/ethnicity, the authors found that about 54 percent of the assault victims were black, and another 21 percent were Hispanic. The authors also note that 70 percent of hospitalizations among black males could be attributed to assault. This raises important questions about the unacceptable incidence of violence among these populations and need for a focus on criminal enforcement, but not about firearm safety in the home.
What the study failed to look at was the criminal records of the unfortunate victims. Data from cities across the country show that the overwhelming majority of homicide victims have criminal records themselves. In 2012, over 82 percent of homicide victims in Baltimore had criminal records. A similar story plays out in Boston, Chicago, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Worcester and other urban areas.
Each year there are fortunately fewer crimes committed with firearms. And while no one disputes the plagues of violence and crime in urban areas, mainstream media does its readers a disservice by ignoring the frequent overlap between criminals and victims.