Is there an epidemic of doorbell and driveway shootings we aren’t aware of?

How the media transformed three isolated accidental shootings into a commentary on race and the radical irresponsibility of gun owners in America, creating an entirely new category of ringing doorbells while black and promoting what can only be seen as the confiscation of firearms.

The mainstream media, at least exemplified by CNN, is in a tizzy over a recent string of accidental shootings prompted by a case of mistaken identity.  First in Kansas City, MO, a black teen, Ralph Yarl, was shot twice by an 84-year old white man when he rang the doorbell of the wrong house on his way to pick up his brother on April 13.  Predictably, this incident was immediately framed as racially motivated because the shooter was white and the teen, who fortunately survived, was black.  For several days, the main storyline, repeated over and over again was “White homeowner accused of shooting Black teen,” “White man suspected of shooting Ralph Yarl, a Black teen,” “Ralph, a Black teenager, was allegedly shot twice by a White Man when he rang the doorbell at the wrong address last Thursday.”  The racial angle was aided by the Clay County Prosecutor who, before any of the real facts were in declared, “I can tell you there was a racial component to this case.” Kansas City Mayor, Quinton Lucas, agreed.  “I think that this has everything to do with race,” he said. “The defendant’s fear of Black people, Black men, Black boys. I think that’s why we are all discussing this now. … I think that if the young man wasn’t Black, we wouldn’t be here today.”  Civil rights attorneys Ben Crump and Lee Merritt, representing the Yarl family, claimed  it was “horrendous and unjustifiable.”  “Gun violence against unarmed Black individuals must stop,” the attorneys said. “Our children should feel safe, not as though they are being hunted.”  The Daily Beast noted “a family friend whose wife works with Ralph’s mom, a nurse in Kansas City, [said] he didn’t think a white woman would have been shot had she been in the same situation.”  Even the man’s grandson chimed in, describing him as a typical white Christian, which we assume must be a racist.

The racial angle was so prominent that President Joe Biden himself felt the need to phone the Yarl family and post on social media, inserting himself into the conversation as he has done so many times before.  “Last night, I had a chance to call Ralph Yarl and his family.  No parent should have to worry that their kid will be shot after ringing the wrong doorbell.  We’ve got to keep up the fight against gun violence.  And Ralph, we’ll see you in the Oval Office once you feel better.”  Vice President Kamala Harris echoed these thoughts, saying “Let’s be clear: No child should ever live in fear of being shot for ringing the wrong doorbell.”  In the pantheon of presidential statements, it is hard to find one more inane or nonsensical, equivalent to claiming that no parent should live in fear of a tragic accident of any kind, but the message was clear:  America is such a racist country that heavily armed white people were laying in wait for unsuspecting black teens to accidently arrive at their houses so they could shoot first and then claim self defense, hunting them for sport like a deer from a blind.  Thus, it took a single story in a country of 340 million for Democrats and the media to create an entirely new category of fear for black people, ringing doorbells while black, and suddenly every black parent in America was supposed to believe this is a real concern. The President said so.

Alas, the racial perspective began to fall apart two days later after a 20 year old white woman, Kaylin Gillis, was killed in much the same manner.  She and her boyfriend were shot at for accidentally pulling into the wrong driveway in upstate New York on April 15.  At first, this story got little media attention.  There were no civil rights attorneys, no statements or phone calls from the President, effectively no coverage at all – until there was a third incident a few days later that could be framed in a manner similar to the first two.   On April 18, two cheerleaders were shot when they tried to enter the wrong car in a grocery store parking lot outside of Austin, TX.  This was clearly not the same as the others, having occurred in a public place and involving a mistaken car, but apparently it was close enough for the media that the narrative was suddenly rewritten.  Race wasn’t the problem, guns were.  CNN’s Jill Filipovic took the lead, claiming she knew the “reason Americans are getting killed in driveways,” even though one incident wasn’t even in a driveway.  “It’s another Only in America news cycle: Four young people, in three different states, shot by strangers – all reportedly because they had the bad luck to approach the wrong house or the wrong car. And all because America allows far too many people to arm themselves with deadly weapons.”  In her view, “Many Americans, particularly leading Republicans, like to point out that most gun owners are law-abiding citizens – not people who buy guns with the intention of committing a crime. The problem, though, is that any society as gun-saturated as ours isn’t going to see senseless violence just from criminals. It’s going to see senseless violence from people who were law-abiding citizens, until they used a gun to kill or maim someone.”

This is nominally true.  Gun owning is not without risk and accidents will happen, but the same can be said of many other things.  Cars, for example, are safe most of the time, until someone gets distracted, runs a red light and accidentally kills someone.  Ironically, Ms. Filipovic identifies the licensing and insurance process surrounding automobile ownership as a potential source of inspiration to improve gun control laws.  “America very obviously needs to make a change. Owning a gun should be significantly more difficult than owning a car: Our laws should require extensive training, the passing of a strict test, reasonable limits on what type of weapon one can own, insurance mandates, safety rules and regular checks of one’s mental health and physical abilities.”  The proposal sounds reasonable enough on its face, until you consider the numbers. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that there were 42,915 people killed in automobile accidents in 2021 across 278,063,737 vehicles registered in the United States, presumably the great majority of these were properly licensed and insured drivers.  By comparison, the National Safety Council estimates that there were 549 accidental gun deaths in the same year across some 400,000,000 guns.  In other words, there are 78 times as many traffic fatalities, despite stricter regulations, and more guns.  If we account for the greater number of guns than cars, that jumps to 112 times.   This differential does not prevent her from continuing to rail against gun owners.   “Over and over, gun owners make radically irresponsible and dangerous choices, whether that’s having a gun in the home when they know that their child is emotionally disturbed or violent, killing someone hastily and claiming a ‘stand your ground’ defense or shooting at a stranger over a knock at the front door or the chime of a doorbell.” Of course, the same could just as easily be said for drivers when the top causes of traffic fatalities are distracted driving, drunk driving, running stop lights, and speeding.

Are they, who are responsible for far more deaths, making radically irresponsible and dangerous choices? The only obvious answer is yes which leads one to ask which problem Ms. Filipovic is trying to solve.  Every death is tragic, but in a country where over 4,000 people drown in any given year, to cite another obvious example, why is she obsessed with a far lower number of accidental gun deaths, impugning gun owners as a whole?  She is not alone at CNN either.  Her colleague, Zachary B. Wolf reached much the same conclusion while managing to weave in a classic toxic masculinity narrative for additional points on the woke scale.  “This is not a story about mass shootings, AR-15s, or really even about gun laws. At least not yet.  It’s about a country with more guns than people, where whatever inspires the 30% of Americans, who are most likely to be men, who own firearms has converged in dangerous and deadly ways with whatever fear, frustration or paranoia leads someone to shoot at a stranger or a car that’s driving away.”  More precisely, it is white toxic masculinity that is to blame.  “About three in 10 adults say they own a gun and four in 10 say they live in a household with a gun, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center Survey cited by CNN’s Harmeet Kaur last year.  But there are certain groups that are much more likely to own a gun. Nearly half of White men, compared to less than a quarter of White women and non-White men, said they owned a gun in the Pew survey. Just 16% of women of color said they owned a gun.”  Like his colleague, Mr. Wolf would benefit from actually citing the statistics for gun deaths, which completely undermine his argument.  The very liberal Center for American Progress reports that “Young Black Americans (ages 15 to 34) experience the highest rates of gun homicides across all demographics.  Black Americans are 10 times more likely than white Americans to die by gun homicide.  In 2020, 12,179 Black Americans were killed with guns, compared with 7,286 white Americans: While Black Americans made up 12.5 percent of the U.S. population that year, they were the victims in 61 percent of all gun homicides.”  Given that less than 10% of black homicides are caused by white people (8% in the latest data I could find), why is Mr. Wolf railing against white, legal gun owning males?

I should be clear to note: I’m well aware that direct comparisons between guns and cars, or guns and pools, or guns and whatever are not entirely accurate and cannot capture the full picture.  Cars for example are used far more than guns, therefore we should expect more accidents to play devil’s advocate to my own argument.  Nor is this to suggest that there is no room for improvement in our gun laws, or more precisely the implementation of them considering we already have a myriad of background checks that are supposed to include mental health and red-flag laws, none of which appear to be effective, at least to this observer.  It is not even to suggest that the initial shooting was not racially motivated.  The shooter could well have been a card carrying member of the Ku Klux Klan for all I know, except a single incident occurring at a private residence would not make a difference given there are local and federal hate crimes laws already on the books, and he would surely be prosecuted were the shooting primarily caused by race.  Rather, I seek to make two points.  First, none of these recommendations would do a single thing to take a single gun off the streets.  If the problem, indeed, is too many guns in the country, there will still be too many guns in the country after any additional firearm licensing requirements.  Ms. Filipovic, Mr. Wolf, and others know this, of course, which leads many, myself included, to believe their real plan is to confiscate guns.  They will not come out and say this, but it is hard to read their recommendations another way when they identify the root cause of the problem as the number of guns and yet make no recommendation addressing it.  How else can you reduce the number without simply taking them away?

Second, the media’s laser focus on an issue that, while tragic, occurs a mere handful of times in a country populated with hundreds of millions of people and even more guns, belies their strictly political motivation.  For whatever reason, they loathe guns and gun owners as typical white Christians, and that is their sole motivation behind the ranting.  Thus, they choose to devote time and energy to transform thankfully rare incidents into some kind of dangerous trend, frightening people of color and parents alike for no legitimate reason.  The odds of your son or daughter, whatever their color, being shot in a case of mistaken identity are about the same as being struck by lightning.  In other words, the media would rather distract you with a non-issue than reveal the reality of what is happening in the country, and that alone should tell you all you need to know.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s