I am sure regular readers of this site are not overly surprised by that revelation, but it bears repeating as often as is necessary.
As was pointed out to me by a “gun control” extremist who eventually blocked me when I pointed out the lie in question (What is it with those people being incapable of defending their positions or admitting they are wrong?), in 1999, the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun
Violence Ownership makes the following claim:
In fact, more Americans were killed with guns in the 18-year period between 1979 and 1997 (651,697), than were killed in battle in all wars since 1775 (650,858).
Statistics on total U.S. gun deaths (including suicides and unintentional shootings), as compiled by the National Center for Health Statistics, have only been collected since 1979. But between 1979 and 1997, 651,697 Americans lost their lives to gun violence, including 334,870 suicides, 278,865 homicides, 28,964 unintentional shootings, and 8,998 from unknown causes.
On the surface, that looks pretty straightforward, right? Well, let us delve deeper.
To begin with, the National Center for Health Statistics is now part of the Centers for Disease Control, and for the life of me, I cannot find any records going back past 1981. However, comparing the numbers the Brady Bunch claims between 1981 and 1997, if anything, it looks like they underestimated their figures, so we will instead use updated figures where we can, and take the numbers for 1980 and 1979 at face value, leaving us with 686,691 Americans killed through the use of firearms by all intents.
So is this error the lie? Of course not. Datasets get updated over time, and we cannot hold the 1999 Brady Campaign responsible for not having access to 2011’s information (though we can hold them responsible for not updating their pages appropriately).
No, the lie is far more pernicious than just that.
One thing we must make clear is that the Brady Campaign counted all firearm deaths from all intents – this includes “unintentional” (accidents/negligence), “homicide”, “legal intervention”, “suicide”, and “undetermined intent”. Ignore for a second the fact that bulking “legal intervention” in with the rest is a shameful number-warping tactic and invalidates the entire dataset, and ignore that suicide substitution indicates that people who want to kill themselves are going to regardless. Instead, just pay attention to how the Brady Bunch was counting all deaths related to firearms, no matter the circumstances.
On the other hand, the Brady Campaign made itself quite clear that it was only counting “battle” deaths when it comes to war. Well that is no big deal, right? Wrong. So where is the problem? “Battle deaths” require direct enemy action to count as such – in other words, a helicopter being shot down by an enemy surface-to-air missile counts as “battle deaths”. On the other hand, a helicopter crashing into a mountain due to bad weather in a defined war zone is counted as “other deaths” or “in-theater deaths”. However, both “battle deaths” and “other deaths” are counted by the United States Military when they are tallying the total deaths for wars. Why? Because it only makes sense. In-theater deaths would not have transpired if there were not a theater to be in, and for a substantial part of American history, the majority of wartime deaths were not due to direct enemy action, but rather a result of poor medical care, poor conditions, poor planning, etc. A guy shot during the Civil War might not have died from the musket ball, but he may have died from pneumonia a few weeks later and thus become an “other death”.
In other words, the Brady Campaign maliciously phrased their argument that it gives them the “best” possible number in both circumstances, rather than striving for accuracy and using equivalent numbers. If they are going to count “accidents” and “negligence” and “undetermined intent” and “legal intervention” for one dataset of numbers, they must also count the equivalent numbers for the other dataset – doing otherwise is intentionally misrepresenting the debate to cast your argument in a better light. In other words, lying.
The problem, of course, is that when one approaches the argument honestly, their take on it disintegrates.
If one looks at all wartime deaths due to all intents (just like the Brady Campaign looked at all firearm-related deaths due to all intents), the total number of war fatalities comes out to be somewhere around 1,262,389 (counting all major wars, all major military operations (like the Brady Bunch did), and a best-guess as to Confederate losses) – just under double their initial claim. Hell, that number even demolishes their follow-up claim of:
National statistics on gun homicides have been collected since 1933. Between 1933 and 1997, 591,528 Americans were murdered with firearms. Even the number of gun homicides since 1933, taken by itself, exceeds the total number of Americans killed on the battlefield during this century.
That, right there, is a bald-faced lie, as the numbers tallied by the government clearly show.
In the end, it does not really matter how many people died by way of someone using a firearm here in America versus someone using a firearm somewhere overseas (or here in America, in the case of some of those wars); it is simply an irrelevant comparison, and meaningless to the larger picture, because other people misbehaving is absolutely no basis for the government to restrict my rights. Or, as Tam said:
Where the hell do you get off thinking you can tell me I can’t own a gun? I don’t care if every other gun owner on the planet went out and murdered somebody last night. I didn’t. So piss off.
However, it is important to call out lies when and where you see them, lest they get accepted into “common knowledge”, and from there become treated as fact, no matter how inaccurate or incorrect they may be. And always pay attention to how someone phrases a statement – the lie may not be in what they explicitly say, but rather how they constructed the argument to begin with.