Target: Attorney General Eric Holder
Goal: Demand reform in negligent reporting of firearm-related death
A recent New York Times study found that, due to inconsistencies in the manner in which accidental firearm-related deaths are reported, inaccurate statistics on such accidental deaths have been on record for over two decades. This discrepancy has allowed pro-gun lobbyists, such as those working for the National Rifle Association, to downplay the risks of having firearms in the home, and therefore influence both local and national firearm policies. The only solution to this problem is a federal reform of the manner in which firearm-related deaths are reported, followed by an independent study of the actual causes of these deaths.
These statistical inaccuracies stem from a lack of consistency in how courts report deaths by accidental discharge of firearms–particularly in the case of children, these are often reported simply as “homicide” or more rarely “negligent homicide,” with little further elaboration. This can happen even in cases like that of Joshua Skorczweki, who was acquitted following the accidental death of his son, which the court ruled was completely accidental. Despite this verdict, his son’s death was still classified as a homicide.
While at first this type of misfile may appear to be a simple clerical issue, the reality is that groups such as the aforementioned National Rifle Association often cite these inaccurate statistics in an attempt to fight gun safety laws. For example, in 2012 the Washington branch of the N.R.A. successfully prevented a safe-storage law from being passed, claiming that children were “more likely to die from choking on their dinner [than accidental shooting].” Unsurprisingly, the New York Times study found that Washington was one of the states where the reporting issue was worst, along with Minnesota, Georgia, and North Carolina.
It is absolutely critical that pundits on both sides of the gun-control debate have access to accurate statistics, to prevent misinformation. Attorney General Eric Holder should immediately take action to reform the manner in which state courts file these statistics by creating a strict set of guidelines for what constitutes homicide versus accidental death.
Dear Attorney General Eric Holder,
A recent New York Times study found that rates of death by accidental shooting were being severely under-reported due to inconsistency in state courts. These inaccurate statistics have since been used by pro-gun groups to further their cause by claiming that accidental shooting is virtually a non-issue. If rates of gun-related homicide versus accidental shooting were handled more consistently, this would not be the case.
The reasons for this startling inconsistency, whether they are partiality or simple laziness on the part of state courts, are unknown. It is critical, however, that you as Attorney General create a strict set of guidelines specifying for local courts what does and does not constitute homicide in terms of accidental death by gunshot, so as to provide accurate information for our public and policymakers.
[Your Name Here]
Image Credit: Pete Souza via Wikimedia Commons