Saturday, November 15, 2003

I think Dowd ascribes to the "Michael Moore school" of fact-checking. If anyone hasn't seen Bowling for Columbine, his central thesis is that the media culture, as imposed on suburban white kids, is the reason for America's extrodinarly high rate of gun deaths compared to other industrialized nations. His main proof for this was an interview with one old prosecutor who says that's what he thinks the problem is.

Just by looking at one site, you can see this is just a plain old lie. From an email I sent to Ben last year:

Here’s some useful data:

Percent of total deaths by assault (homicide):

White: .4%

Black: 2.8%

Almost ten times more white people died than black people in 2000 (2,071,287 white vs. 285,826 black), yet, get this, blacks and whites had almost the exact same aggregate amount of deaths due to assault (8,339 white vs. 7,867 black). That’s huge, and I bet the vast majority were by guns. In fact:

Gun homicide is the leading cause of death for black males aged 15 to 34.
Source: National Center for Health Statistics. National Vital Statistics Reports. Vol. 47 (19), June 30, 1999.

That’s just a remarkable statement if you ask me. For white males of that age group, homicide of any type, let alone guns, isn’t even close to the top. Accidents (usually car), suicide, and cancer make up close to 70% of deaths, while homicide makes up less than 5%. Almost 50% are just from accidents. If you’re a black male between 15 and 34, you are more likely to be murdered by a gun than you are to die in an accident. That’s unbelievable!

To me, this means there is an extraordinary gun crime problem in black neighborhoods. I know, I know, that’s not news, but I didn’t realize it was this bad. If I was black, I’d feel totally ignored by the government, because it’s insane this isn’t being treated as a crisis.

It also shows how misleading Bowling for Columbine is. He glosses over the black gun problem by interviewing a prosecutor who says the problem is the suburbs more than the black communities. Give me a break. Basically, black gun death is the problem. Our numbers are only a little higher than other developed countries if black gun homicide is removed. Bowling for Columbine gives us some reasons why we still have that “little higher” rate. But the main problem is clear. I think the fact that Bowling for Columbine focuses on minor aspects of the problem is actually dangerous. We’ve got to recognize where the problem is.

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