Letter to the Editor in The Oregonian, Friday October 16, 2015

When the Oregonian/OregonLive published an editorial asserting that we “lack defensible information” connecting gun ownership and gun deaths, I could not let it pass. And so I did the most old-fashioned and civic-minded thing that came to mind: I wrote a letter to the editor telling them why they’re wrong. Below is the full letter, unedited. A somewhat sorter and hyper-linked version appears online. Beware the online comments section!

Dear Oregonian/OregonLive:

The Oregonian is wrong to assert in its October 11th editorial that we lack “defensible information” connecting gun ownership with gun violence. As both Politico and Slate have reported, gun owners are far more likely to die from gun violence than non-gun owners and almost never use their guns in self-defense. This matters because “personal safety” is the number one reason (63%) that Americans buy guns (Gallup). But this belief is based on anecdote and misinformation, not fact.

As the non-partisan Gun Violence Archive has shown, Americans recorded fewer than 1,600 verifiable instances of DGU (defensible gun use) in 2014. Even if that number were doubled to account for unverifiable instances, it pales beside the 30,000 gun deaths that Americans annually record, 20 times more than any comparable country. The American Journal of Medicine (Oct 2013) agrees: “[t]he number of guns per capita per country was a strong and independent predictor of firearm-related death in a given country.”

The NRA will, of course, cite a now 23-year old study that estimates 1.5 million DGUs per year (Kleck and Getz). But this study’s findings have since been proved “mathematically impossible” (Politico). It concludes, for instance, that 845,000 burglaries resulted in DGUs, but we know that only 1.3 million burglaries were committed during their study’s stated window, and of those only a third of the victims (429,000) were awake at the time. Even if every burglarized home contained a gun, the NRA’s numbers just don’t add up.

The Oregonian then misleads its readers when it states that “deep irrefutable data” on gun violence is lacking. Both “The Myth Behind the Defensive Gun Ownership” (Politico) and “The Myth of the Good Guy with the Gun” (Slate) cite multiple, peer-reviewed studies that prove that we Americans do not lack the data to tackle our gun problem, we lack the political will. I would invite the Oregonian to reconsider their position, and perhaps join me in supporting Australian style gun control measures, as that country instituted in 1996 and 2003. Unless, of course, they missed that story too. It was covered in The Washington Post on June 23, 2015.

Derek Mong

Southeast Portland