In response to the letter from Rich Wieland (“Delaware needs to do more about gun safety”), May 2), I offer the following. Mark Twain, in 1907, is often attributed with the following: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” The numbers used by Mr. Wieland are just statistics that don’t show the truth.
How about some facts?
First, Mr. Wieland states that, according to the National Rifle Association, Delaware is one of the “easiest” states in which to purchase a firearm. What does he mean? Every firearm purchase, with a few exceptions for those that are law enforcement or concealed carry permit holders, have to have a federally mandated background check done. Further, last year, the Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association was fundamentally involved in getting an enhanced background check system instituted here in Delaware. It is called the Firearm Transaction Approval Program. Even though the governor and certain Democrats took credit for the program, the bill was actually written by the association at the request of Sen. Gerald Hocker, R-Ocean View. Bottom line: Delaware’s process is not easy.
The state of Delaware’s Statistical Analysis Center each year publishes a report entitled “Crime in Delaware.” The report is readily available from their website. So let’s look into some of the facts that the state of Delaware reports.
A portion of the report deals with the number of shootings in Delaware for each year. Since most of us live in Delaware, let’s stick to what is happening in our own backyard and not the rest of the country. The total number of shootings includes homicides. First, let me say that I am not disputing Mr. Wieland’s numbers; however, I would really like to see where he is getting them from. Not sure if he is including suicides in the gun death percentage, but, if he is, that skews the numbers and is extremely misleading. In 2011, there were 48 homicides; in 2019, there were almost 40. Since Mr. Wieland does not provide the breakdown of the gun deaths, I suspect I might be correct in believing he is including suicides. Not sure where he got his numbers, but I can guess they are coming from groups such as Moms Demand Action and Everytown for Gun Safety.
Back to the truth. In 2011, there were 149 shooting incidents reported. This resulted in the injury or death of 158 victims. Interestingly, over 50% occurred in the city of Wilmington. There were 210 suspects implicated. Seventy-three suspects were arrested. Here’s the really interesting part — 85.9% of the known suspects and 70.9% of the victims had prior arrest histories in Delaware. What kind of arrest histories? For the sake of brevity, I will only list these categories — 45.1% of the suspects and 32.3% of the victims had prior felony arrests for weapon-related offenses.
Fast-forward to 2019, the last year the figures are available. There were 173 shooting incidents reported. Interestingly, in over 56% of the incidents, no suspects were identified. Of the known suspects, 93.1% of them and 87.5% of the victims had prior felony arrests in Delaware. Of those, 62.8% of the suspects and 54.3% of the victims had prior felony weapon arrests.
What does that have to say about the gun violence here in Delaware? Plainly speaking, it is bad guys shooting bad guys. Over 80% of the violent crime that occurs is in urban areas and is directly related to drugs and gangs.
Delaware legislators do need to take action, but that action should not infringe on the rights of law-abiding citizens to exercise their right to keep and bear arms under both Delaware’s Constitution and the U.S. Constitution.
President, Delaware State Sportsmen’s Association