Is Violence the New Norm in U.S. Politics?
Our good friends at The Trace have evidently begun to get concerned about how many people visit their site every day. I can’t figure out any other reason why they would post some content which gives us a completely misleading idea of what gun violence in this country is all about.
I am referring to the Newsletter they sent out yesterday (thanks GL) which references a report by an outfit that calls itself the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED — whew!) which appears to come out of someplace on the internet although it’s not clear exactly where.
Anyway, what this group evidently attempts to do is track ‘reported’ political violence all over the world, in order to ‘bring clarity to crisis,’ whatever that means.
Let’s not forget that political violence is something we associate with undeveloped countries who have weak governments (if any real governing systems at all) whereas what happened at the Capitol on January 6th was for us an unprecedented event.
On the other hand, the appearance of armed people was not only a new and disturbing feature at Trump rallies, but the whole idea of showing up with an AR-15 was behavior that Trump actively encouraged and always condoned.
The ACLED report covers 2020 through 2021, when armed people showed up at 1,646 Trump rallies at least 112 times. The percentage of armed demonstrations taking place on legislative grounds increased from 14.5% (70 out of 482) in 2020 to 33.6% in 2021 (44 out of 131). In other words, political gatherings in the United States have become more frequently targeted (pardon the pun) by the AR-15 schmucks but note that the actual number of gatherings which attracted gun nuts fell by almost half from 2020 to 2021.
If you take the trouble to download the complete report, however, the idea that the United States is awash in political events which attract guns and result in violence doesn’t really work, and the fact that The Trace is hyping the idea that guns have ‘invaded’ American politics and portend more violence may increase their click-rate but is simply not true.
Leaving aside the fact that any data aggregated from open (media) as opposed to official sources has to be handled with extreme care, particularly data from less-developed countries where political violence and violence of all kinds is underreported like crazy, the number of violent political events and the number of fatal injuries which occur at these events show how remarkably non-violent American political gatherings tend to be, guns or no guns.
From October 12, 2020, through October 12, 2021, there were 298 violent political events in the United States which resulted in 98 reported deaths. Right now, the United States contains 4.25% of the world’s population. In the 12 months which U.S. violent events and deaths were 298 and 98 deaths respectively, the reported worldwide numbers were 99,359 violent events and 151,076 fatalities.
So, in the United States, the odds that you might attend a political event where enough violence occurred that someone gets killed was 1 out of 3. In the rest of the world, the odds were better than 100%. In other words, for all the putzes toting their assault rifles around political rallies in the United States, these guns are rarely used in comparison to how guns are used at political events in the rest of the world. And let’s not forget that we’re the country with all the privately-owned guns, right?
Th attempt by The Trace to push the idea that political violence is becoming a serious threat in the United States is just another riff on the liberal narrative about how we are headed towards a civil war, or a fascist takeover, or worse.
When it comes to how many guns are privately owned, the United States continues to be an outlier in terms of a number that is higher, much higher, than anywhere else.
When it comes to how all these guns create a political climate of violence, the United States is also an outlier, but the profile runs the other way. Our friends at The Trace don’t need to sensationalize what gun ownership is all about.