I have to take a break from my series of posts on the civilian gun training industry to address some blowback I received for comments I made that were printed in a story about road rage and guns in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Back in February (5 months ago), I had a fairly lengthy and interesting conversation with a reporter for the Star-Telegam, Jeff Caplan, who was working on a story inspired by a homicide in a Kroger grocery store parking lot during an argument over a ding in a car door.
He wanted my perspective on how this event fit into broader changes in American gun culture, especially increases in legal gun carrying made possible by changes in concealed carry permitting laws.
Nothing came of that conversation until recently when Caplan contacted me again and said his story had been back-burnered but was revived by a some recent road rage incidents in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. He said he still wanted to use some of the material from the interview and asked if I wanted to review the transcript of what I said. I said my views had not changed since we spoke and he was welcome to use what he wanted.
I had forgotten about this until I logged into my personal Twitter account (@davidyamane) today and found I was getting blown up by @JenniferKillin (could be a pseudonym because she is killin’ it on Twitter with over 13,000 Tweets). @JenniferKillin had Tweeted at me 18 times about my comments in the story, which ran on 17 July 2017 under the title, “When road rage leads to gunfire from the stranger beside you.”
Although the words don’t always come out as precisely or eloquently as I would like when I am speaking with the media, I do always try to choose my words carefully. Therefore, it is important to show what I actually said to Caplan, who did quote me accurately, though in the second paragraph he extends what I was actually talking about (parking lot disputes) to broader impulsive rage scenarios. In any event, the few sentences of the (quite long) article that actually quote me are as follows:
Gun Culture 2.0
David Yamane, a sociology professor at Wake Forest University, is researching what has been called “Gun Culture 2.0,” the shift over the past few decades from the primary reason for gun ownership being hunting and recreation to self-defense.
Yamane said the jury is still out on any definitive declaration that members of the general public are at an increased risk of being victims of gunfire if caught in a road rage or other impulsive rage scenario.
“I can always come up with lots of examples where something like this [the Kroger shooting] happened, but it’s not something that I think is happening multiple times every day,” Yamane said. “It’s one of the reasons why we tend to focus in on them is because they are so exceptional. If people were getting shot over dings in parking lots every day in every major city in the United States, it would be a different sort of conversation.
“Although, with the growing number of people who can legally carry, there’s a question as to whether these types of incidents might become more and more common.”
Enter @JenniferKillin: “@davidyamane Dude, people ARE getting shot over pkg lot ding equivalents daily in evry major U.S. city! Do hmwk!”
So, I am talking about people getting shot over dings in parking lots and @JenniferKillin is talking about parking lot ding “equivalents.” Despite changing the subject, @JenniferKillin tells me to do my homework! About a topic I am not even discussing.
Thankfully, as you can see in the posts following her initial Tweet at me, @JenniferKillin decided to do some homework for me. Remember I said there were 18 Tweets at me? Well, most of those Tweets were @JenniferKillin giving examples of “argument leads to shooting.” #1, #2, #3 . . . all the way to #14 (actually, the 13th example, she skipped #13, perhaps due to superstition?). She then adds a 14th case, and then adds a Tweet about Jordan Davis (whose case I DID write about, over 2 years ago), and then adds a Tweet about #FloridaMan Jorge Jove who shot up an AT&T truck the other day.
Of the 14 cases Tweeted by @JenniferKillin, 5 were from July 2017, 2 from June 2017, 3 from May 2017, 1 from March 2017, and 2 were from 2016. But surely if “people ARE getting shot over pkg lot ding equivalents daily in evry major U.S. city!” @JenniferKillin could come up with 10 examples just in the last week. She shouldn’t have to go back to 2016 to come up with examples, or back to 2012 in the case of Jordan Davis.
So, in fact, @JenniferKillin actually demonstrates the exact point I was making in my conversation with the Star-Telegram reporter:
“I can always come up with lots of examples where something like this [the Kroger shooting] happened, but it’s not something that I think is happening multiple times every day,” Yamane said. “It’s one of the reasons why we tend to focus in on them is because they are so exceptional.”
We remember the case of Jordan Davis — killed at a gas station by now convicted first-degree murderer Michael Dunn who was upset by loud music coming from Davis’s car — five years later because it is exceptional, not because it is common. Still, @JenniferKillin felt compelled to conclude her Tweet-fest by Tweeting @MomsDemand, “David Yamane, quoted in article, doesn’t believe people r shot b/c of minor arguments daily in US.”
But, of course, anyone whose eyes are not totally blinded by their own cause can see I said nothing of the sort. Are people shot over minor arguments daily in the US? Surely, but that is not what I was talking about. I was talking about people “getting shot over dings in parking lots every day in every major city in the United States.” To suggest otherwise is either utterly stupid or completely ingenuous, or perhaps a healthy dose of both.
Indeed, although I was not interviewed about road rage more broadly, I would willingly adapt what I said about parking lot arguments to road rage: If people were getting shot in road rage incidents every day in every major city in the United States, it would be a different sort of conversation.
Despite @JenniferKillin insistently Tweeting examples at me, data is not the plural of anecdote. Data matter to me. In fact, the tag “Data” is the biggest word in the word cloud that appears in the right column of this blog. Even the data cited in the article from the #GVP #GunSense reporting organization The Trace supports my assertion. Using data from the Gun Violence Archive, The Trace found 620 cases of road rage in 2016, fewer than 2 per day on average over the course of the year. Even if the Gun Violence Archive underestimates road rage by half, there still would not be people “getting shot in road rage incidents every day in every major city in the United States.”
The story also notes that the number of road rage incidents in the Gun Violence Archive is up dramatically from 247 cases in 2014. But the attention we pay to road rage is also up since 2014, which could lead to more news stories about road rage appearing in the Gun Violence Archive. Other data in the Star-Telegram story suggest a less dramatic increase in the extent of road rage/aggravated assault from 2016 to 2017. According to Dallas police, there were 104 offenses through July 9, 2016 compared to 114 offenses through July 9, 2017.
Whether that represents a blip or a trend remains to be seen. Indeed, as I was quoted as saying the story, “with the growing number of people who can legally carry, there’s a question as to whether these types of incidents [car ding shootings] might become more and more common.” So if I read clear and convincing data that not only documents a rise in car ding shootings or road rage incidents but ALSO connects the rise in car ding shootings or road rage incidents to the expansion of concealed carry, I will take that seriously.
In the end, words also matter to me. I try to use them carefully. As I wrote recently, I am pro-truth. Therefore, when someone says I said something I didn’t, I take offense. To put it bluntly, @JenniferKillin lied about what I believe. For which she should apologize. But I’m not holding my breath, because who is @JenniferKillin anyway?