Deaths from automobiles and suicide have always been higher, despite the steady decline in automobile deaths over the decades. The trend of the overall homicide rate (all causes, including firearms) in the United States has been that after spiking in the 1970s and again in 1990, it has been on a downward decline since 1990, reaching historic lows by 2014 and staying close there since. Reports of recent “spikes in violent crime” are due to slight upticks from that historic low rate.
That’s what’s actually happening. Note, this steady downward decline happened before the 1994 AWB (Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act or Federal Assault Weapons Ban) was passed and continued downward after that law sunset in 2004. This occurred while provisions for the concealed carry of handguns in public increased throughout the United States. Also note, this data is from the CDC, the same organization that has since declared firearm ownership is a “public health crisis”.
The Causes of death in the US
chart above is from OurWorldInData.org
. On left are the percentage breakdowns of the actual causes of death
in order of the likelihood of occurrence, leading with Heart Disease (30.2%), Cancer (29.5%), Road Incidents (7.8%), Lower Respiratory Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes. Suicide is near the bottom of that list (1.8%). Terrorism and Homicide added together comprise 0.91% of total actual deaths. However, the New York Times
and The Guardian
reporting on Homicide and Terrorism constitute about 58% of their coverage, while Heart Disease and Cancer combined constitute about 15%.
And that’s the issue with an emotional appeal: it ignores facts and creates a ridiculously large amount of attention to rare events while ignoring real and important issues.
Emotional Appeal in Practice
Some examples of how this works in practice.
Steve Booth-Butterfield created HealthyInfluence.com, self-described as “Healthy Influence is the new way to get what you want … with words. Take years of persuasion science out of the research labs, test it in the real world, then translate it into tools for action.”
For that organization, Frank O'Brien, Al Quinlan, et. al. published a “messaging guide”. This was described as being “… intended to help organizations and individuals choose effective arguments and language when communicating with the public on behalf of stronger public policies to prevent gun violence.” Some key points from that guide: