If the person standing next to you without a face mask sneezes, you’re probably the target
Has there been a time when the same set of numbers was watched so closely by virtually all of America as we are experiencing right now? We are getting daily—sometimes hourly—updates on the number of confirmed coronavirus virus cases and deaths, with the particularly big numbers in New York getting extra attention because they are so damn frightening. But, as important as it is to monitor these numbers, and as imperative as it is for our policy makers to use the numbers when determining national, state, and local management of the issue, we need to be aware that these numbers are no more reliable than so-called “gun violence” numbers. And, if we’re being honest, they’re being used for pretty much the same purpose.
Gun owners are painfully aware of the way that statistics on “gun violence” are misunderstood, misused, and misrepresented by left-leaning figures and the media. I have been making the point in conversation lately that, for statistics to be a meaningful foundation on which to formulate pandemic policy, they need to be meaningful and accurate. Equally important, they need to be presented as objectively and honestly as possible. Otherwise, they are just noise.
Whether you call this the coronavirus, COVID-19, the Wuhan Virus, or the Kung Flu, it is a serious and deadly condition and we should not play games with it. Most people who get it won’t get seriously ill, and many of those that do won’t require hospitalization. But those that do end up needing it are in serious trouble. While, like the “normal flu” in many ways for most people, when it becomes different than typical influenza, the differences quickly become deadly.
This isn’t all that different than gun use. The overwhelming majority of gun owners never have the slightest problem with their arms. They are generally law-abiding and not prone to violence, and neither they nor the people around them are in any real danger of getting hurt. But, obviously, guns are designed to be dangerous, and care must be exercised with them. When someone does get hurt with a gun, it’s often quite serious. And when criminals use guns to hurt others, the results are often deadly.
Clearly, the keeping and bearing of arms is a serious issue that needs to be treated seriously by serious people. In this respect, also, it’s not unlike the coronavirus. Those arrayed against gun owners, in fact, often refer to gun violence as a pandemic of violence and the CDC, of all organizations, has devoted time and money to studying the dangers of guns in America. But how can we make good decisions about gun violence when so many of the numbers used in the discussion are so unreliable or so misused?
The first example that comes to mind, of course, is the suicide number. Most people seem to be completely unaware that around 60% of gun deaths in the U.S. are suicides. Now, one can argue that suicide is a serious problem and needs to be addressed, and that access to guns by suicidal individuals needs to be discussed. But when people are telling us about the shocking number of gun deaths in America, they want us to be scared.
Why do they include suicides? To pad the numbers because big numbers are more convincing. If you can present a little problem so it looks like a big problem, you’re more likely to get big problem type traction. If people realize it’s a little problem, they’re less likely to take it seriously.
If you tell people that the ocean levels are going to rise a few inches over the next century, people won’t care enough to listen. So, you tell them that coastal cities are going to be flooded out and that we have only twelve years to do anything about it.
Did you know that doctors don’t even need to confirm that a deceased patient had the virus and to list the death as caused by it? And what are the odds that someone who tests positive and then dies will be judged to have died from anything except for coronavirus? In Italy, it’s reported that bodies were tested after a death listed as from other causes, and if the coronavirus was detected, the cause of death was changed. Regardless of what probably killed the patient.
In the U.S., if doctors judge that the coronavirus could have been a “contributing factor” in a patient’s death, they might list it as a coronavirus death. In many cases they’re going to be right to do so.
But what about the leukemia patient who has been hovering on the verge of death for weeks, contracts the virus on Tuesday, and dies on Thursday? Does it help our nation’s leadership make informed decisions and craft sound, reasonable policy by counting that death as a coronavirus death? No. In fact, it actively works against sound, reasonable policy. Especially when that number isn’t going to be reviewed next month or next year by administrators and policy experts but in a few hours by everyone on the planet.
Listing suicides by guns—or shootings by law enforcement or shootings in self-defense—works against the creation of sound, reasonable gun laws. And this is not an accident. Not by the people pushing the numbers who clearly have an agenda and they don’t think that the correct statistics will support their narrative. If they thought so, they wouldn’t think they needed to lie quite so much.
America should demand good, reliable data so we can make good decisions. In the meantime, stay healthy out there. And stay skeptical.