Tag Archives: gun laws

Correlations

Spend much time debating gun rights on-line, and you’ll be told that “stronger” gun laws correlate to better outcomes in terms of deaths.

All right, let’s find out. I’m drawing data from the following sources:

1. Homicide rates by state, 2013: http://www.deathpenaltyinfo.org/murder-rates-nationally-and-state

Numbers are homicides per 100,000.

2. Suicide rates by state, 2012: http://www.worldlifeexpectancy.com/usa/suicide

Numbers are suicides per 100,000.

3. Brady Campaign state scorecard, 2013: http://www.bradycampaign.org/2013-state-scorecard

Their methods are their own, but since they are opposed to gun rights, I presume that their scoring favors gun control over loose gun laws.

Both graphs use an X axis with values from 0 to 4 and a Y axis from 0 to 30. The X values are keyed to a four-point grade scale:

A: 4
A-: 3.75
B+: 3.25
B: 3
B-: 2.75
C+: 2.25
C: 2
C-: 1.75
D+: 1.25
D: 1
D-: 0.75
F: 0

The Y numbers are suicides or homicides per 100,000.

First the homicide numbers compared to the Brady score:

Homicide to Brady score

Notice the lack of a pattern, other than groups of states with the same gun laws having homicide rates at wild variance from each other? If the Brady Bunch were correct, there should be a strong correlation, not nothing.

Now let’s consider the suicide numbers:

Suicide to Brady score

Here, there is a low negative correlation, though as with homicide rates, the large grouping at X = 0 is significant.

Of course, as any student of statistics knows, correlation doesn’t imply causation. But if there is causation, there must be correlation. The lack of correlation in homicide rates and the weak correlation in suicide rates demonstrates that we cannot claim that the strictness of gun laws determines lives saved.

Feel free to share this next time you’re dealing with someone promoting gun control.

Reducing Gun Violence

Regular readers of this weblog will know that I am a believer in the basic right of all human beings to own and carry firearms. I have as much right to be armed as I do to have my tongue and my opinions with me wherever I go. I may be justifiably asked to keep my mouth shut and other matters concealed, but no one has the right to require more than that.

That being said, I do recognize that we have a problem of gun violence in America. Every year, around 30,000 of us die by gunfire. More than half of those deaths are due to suicide, but regardless of the cause, the number is too high. So what do we do?

Some propose restrictions on ownership and carry, while wanting to ban some types of firearms altogether. This approach makes no sense, given the more than 300,000,000 guns in private hands in this country and our long and porous borders. But there are things that we can do:

1. Create a functioning and available mental healthcare system. This ideally would be a part of general healthcare reform for everyone. I don’t have much faith in Obamacare, given its lack of a public option and the weak and mealy-mouthed manner of its passage and implementation, but that’s a step in the right direction. More–specifically the public option–needs to be done. Note that I don’t mean involuntary commitments or the violations of privacy. What I’m suggesting here is healthcare available to all who need it.

2. Reduce poverty. In my previous article on Alexandria, I named an educational system as a necessary element of any working democracy. I add to this the idea that education, such as I discussed here is a way out of poverty. Other intelligently run programs would have the same effect. We can debate at length whether poverty causes crime, but certainly living in poverty puts a person at greater risk–both for being a victim and an offender of violent crime. (Being wealthy brings a whole different class of crimes to commit, but that’s not generally related to guns.)

3. End our foolish drug laws. Much of our violence is related to illegal drugs. Treat drugs as a health problem, not a crime problem, and that motivating factor goes away. Al Capone didn’t sell beer nuts, after all.

We often hear from the gun control freaks that Europe is a model for good gun laws. Most countries in Europe have strict gun control–the Czech Republic being a shining exception for the moment–and those countries have lower gun violence than America. The difference is not actually that great, especially compared to other parts of the world, but the fact remains that Europe has fewer acts of gun violence than we do. But let’s note that Europe also has the three items that I just proposed. Certainly, it’s in doubt whether the Europeans will be able to afford the first two much longer, but in many cases, the problematic countries have chosen the California approach to government–lots of goodies, paid for by borrowing. Effective work for the first two can be done without requiring deficit spending–provided we are willing to pay for it. The third item would in fact save us money, both in prison and court costs and in expendatures for public health.

My three solutions have the advantage of not infringing on the rights of those who did nothing wrong in the vain hope of restraining those who make a life of doing bad acts. My answers also would show benefits in a variety of areas unrelated to gun violence. They are measured responses to a problem that has been getting better over the last two decades.

Perhaps they lack the quality of breathless bloviating, but I see that as a feature, not a bug.