QUESTION: It seems like frequently we read about a fatal shooting here in Longview, or some not fatal, just a shooting. How do the past six months or so compare to the past history of Longview? Either we’re getting more publicity or we’re shooting more.

ANSWER: Statistics can be viewed from all sorts of angles, but I think they show fewer incidents of violence involving guns in Longview. It does appear, though, that Longview could see more homicides this year than in the previous year since the city has already matched the number of homicides that occurred in 2019 in the first few months of 2020. (Keep in mind not all homicides involve guns, though. Also, you might have seen a recent News-Journal story in which Mayor Andy Mack praised the police department for reduced homicides through 2019 compared with previous years.)

So, let’s start with homicides involving a gun. According to reports form the Longview Police Department — remember these are the number of reports, not the number of people killed — homicides involving some type of gun were reported: nine times in 2015, nine times in 2016, eight times in 2017, twice in 2018 and four times in 2018. You’ve also seen news reports of four shooting deaths this year. (Note that homicides could mean incidents classified as “murder,” “justifiable manslaugther,” or “negligent manslaughter,” for instance. Also, remember these are incidents involving guns. Other homicides involved knives and other methods of killing people in some of those years.)

Another statistic to consider is aggravated assaults with a firearm. These report totals from the Longview Police Department could include incidents in which a gun was displayed but not fired, and do not necessarily mean that someone was injured every time: 100 in 2015, 118 in 2016, 77 in 2017, 92 in 2018 and 99 in 2019. This year has logged 20 such reports through Feb. 23.

The News-Journal also reported in October on the FBI’s 2018 Uniform Crime Report for the Longview metro area, which includes Gregg, Harrison, Rusk and Upshur counties. Some highlights were:

Homicides inside the city decreased 33 percent between 2017 and 2018

Robberies in the city of Longview were reduced in half compared with the previous year, and reports of rape and motor vehicle thefts across the multicounty area also decreased

Longview saw double-digit percentage decreases in nearly all violent crime categories.

As to your question of are there more shootings or are we just getting more publicity — certainly the ways in which we receive news have increased — in your newspapers, in your newspaper online which is updated continually throughout the day, television news, Facebook notifications, notifications on your phone and other electronic devices.

Q: I was just reading the news about this virus going around. I had my flu shot earlier. Is it necessary to take a second flu shot, since it was September that I had one last year?

A: I’m going to assume you’re talking about COVID-19, the new type of coronavirus that’s become a worldwide concern. There is no vaccine or antiviral medication that protects us against that virus at this time, and getting another flu shot won’t prevent you from becoming ill with COVID-19.

That said, A.J. Harris, the Gregg County Health Department administrator, said it won’t hurt you to get another one. Flu vaccines are effective for about six months, which is about how long the flu season lasts. If you got one in early September, you’re just about outside that window.

“We’ve already peaked for the flu season. We’re kind of on the downward slide,” Harris said, but health officials are telling people to go ahead and get a flu shot if they haven’t had one. More vulnerable populations such as people who are 65 and older should consider getting the high-dose flu vaccine.

“The flu has killed more people than the coronavisus has, so with it still being the tail end of the flu season, you need to afford yourself some kind of protection,” Harris said. Also, people who are age 65 and older should get a pneumonia vaccine if they havne’t already, he said.

— Answer Line appears Thursday and Saturday. Email questions to answerline@news-journal.com, leave a message at (903) 232-7208 or write P.O. Box 1792, Longview, TX 75606.