Tuesday, May 14, 2013

What's Working?

Directly across the street this morning is a scene that reminds me that the working world has, for all practical purposes, left me alone at the bus stop. There's work being done on trees which loom over a hundred feet above street level. A guy near the top is calmly trimming branches and tossing them down to a guy below who feeds them through the scariest (to me) of all power equipment, a large chipper, which turns the limbs into a wooden substance about the consistency of sand. The noise is huge, to say nothing of just the idea of feeding the chipper protected by nothing more than a pair of gloves. I may not faint, and perhaps it would be scary for them to act out stories for little children, as I still do, but to me the whole thing is more than a little unsettling.

I still have the (not always good) daily habit of checking the church-owned newspaper published in Salt Lake City. Lately, they have published four separate lists: the 10 states with the strictest and  most lenient gun laws, and the 10 states with the most and least gun violence. Someone else did the researching and compiling, and the paper itself has not used the information as a tool for leverage to support or oppose any legislation, either proposed or already enacted. This, of course, does not stop the paper's readers from doing exactly that in their online comments, which can be pretty forceful since they are composed and sent anonymously. Whenever I enter the daily cyberspace mano-a-mano, it's under the name Mark B, with the point of origin, Eureka, CA.
Anyway, some of the results of this study are a little surprising. Wisconsin, for instance, turns up on the "most lenient laws" list. More urban states are not necessarily the most violent. New York and New Jersey are both on the bottom ten for actual gun violence. Woodsy places like Maine and Minnesota are on the list of least violent states, along with wide open places like Iowa and Nebraska.
But the natural thing to do is to see if there are states with either high or low violence rates which  could be traced to the strictness (or leniency) of state laws. This survey found no state with strict laws (or, at least the ten most strict) on the top ten for gun violence. No state among the 10 most lenient laws achieved the top ten of lowest gun violence.
Three states with lenient gun laws paid (or are paying) the price of having higher gun violence: these states (do we dare call them "self inflicted"?) are Arizona, Alaska and Louisiana. All three are solidly Republican these days.
Five states on the "least violent" list might, in part, credit their strict laws, which are also "top ten". These states (dare we call them "self regulating"?) are Rhode Island, Hawaii, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. Politically, these are stats that lean Democratic.
I realize that massaging statistics is second nature to people set on a particular legislative or political goal. Sometimes what is not included is as important as what is. You could see the whole business for yourself on the site of the Deseret News. You can find the comments easily. Anyway, I can find them, so no one else should have a problem.   



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