Fun with Numbers

by Jonah Goldberg

Bart Hinkle writes:

More than 900 black males between the ages of 14 and 17 killed somebody in 2007. Should we be scared of young black guys?

Of course not. There are roughly 3 million black males in that age group in the United States. It would be horribly unfair to toss around the first statistic without mentioning the second; doing so would be misleading, if not malicious.

Now consider this statistic: Concealed handgun permit holders have killed 107 people since 2007. That news, from the Violence Policy Center in Washington, D.C., sounds pretty bad — until you put it in context. How many Americans have been issued a permit to carry a concealed weapon?

The Violence Policy Center doesn’t say. And it’s probably impossible to pin down a precise number, because records are kept on a state-by-state basis, and reporting criteria differ from state to state. But NRA estimates put the number in the neighborhood of 5 million, as of a couple of years ago. . . .

If that’s true, then the percentage of concealed-carry permit holders who have killed someone with a firearm comes to two one-thousandths of 1 percent. Yet to listen to the VPC’s Kristen Brand — who says “concealed handgun permit holders are killing people over parking spaces, football games, and family arguments” — you’d think the cohort of permit holders was as dangerous as the gang at Rikers Island.

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