Suck On It, Sarah Brady et al.

Sunni's picture

Those of us who have longed for international comparisons on firearms ownership and various crime rates have something to sink our teeth into. A taste for you [reformatted, footnote numbering removed, emphasis in original]:

[M]anifest success in keeping its people disarmed did not prevent the Soviet Union from having far and away the highest murder rate in the developed world. In the 1960s and early 1970s, the gun‐less Soviet Union’s murder rates paralleled or generally exceeded those of gun‐ridden America. While American rates stabilized and then steeply declined, however, Russian murder increased so drastically that by the early 1990s the Russian rate was three times higher than that of the United States. Between 1998‐2004 (the latest figure available for Russia), Russian murder rates were nearly four times higher than American rates. Similar murder rates also characterize the Ukraine, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and various other now‐independent European nations of the former U.S.S.R. .... While American gun ownership is quite high, Table 1 shows many other developed nations (e.g., Norway, Finland, Germany, France, Denmark) with high rates of gun ownership. These countries, however, have murder rates as low or lower than many developed nations in which gun ownership is much rarer. For example, Luxembourg, where handguns are totally banned and ownership of any kind of gun is minimal, had a murder rate nine times higher than Germany in 2002.

The same pattern appears when comparisons of violence to gun ownership are made within nations. Indeed, “data on firearms ownership by constabulary area in England,” like data from the United States, show “a negative correlation,” that is, “where firearms are most dense violent crime rates are lowest, and where guns are least dense violent crime rates are highest.” Many different data sets from various kinds of sources are summarized as follows by the leading text:

[T]here is no consistent significant positive association between gun ownership levels and violence rates: across (1) time within the United States, (2) U.S. cities, (3) counties within Illinois, (4) country‐sized areas like England, U.S. states, (5) regions of the United States, (6) nations, or (7) population subgroups ....

[T]he undeniable result is that violent crime, and homicide in particular, has plummeted in the United States over the past 15 years. The fall in the American crime rate is even more impressive when compared with the rest of the world. In 18 of the 25 countries surveyed by the British Home Office, violent crime increased during the 1990s. This contrast should induce thoughtful people to wonder what happened in those nations, and to question policies based on the notion that introducing increasingly more restrictive firearm ownership laws reduces violent crime. Perhaps the United States is doing something right in promoting firearms for law‐abiding responsible adults.

Much more for your perusal at Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murder and Suicide? A Review of International and Some Domestic Evidence [PDF] by Don B. Kates and Gary Mauser. Thank you, gentlemen!

Supporting statistics are nice

Statistics supporting gun ownership are nice, but no statistic has anything to do with my right to defend the lives of myself and my family against attacks by criminals, be they garden variety or uniformed. Statistics can change. Our rights do not.

Of course.

For me, it isn’t about the statistics themselves, Bill, but the fact that this research takes away a good chunk of the gun-grabbers’ rhetoric.

and more

For me, the whole 'take the guns away' is rather silly, as the focus only applies to law abiding citizens, not to criminals, and not to agents of the current government.

Govts often act in ways contrary to the wishes of the population, so (even if it were possible, which it is not) how can they be trusted to provide the mythical levels of personal protection that would be needed if individual citizens were to give up that responsibility?

The gun grabbers lobbies work like any other - on emotional persuasion, not facts and figures and reality. (Some may actually believe what they say, but that doesn't help either, or legitimise their argument any more than telling me that I'll go to hell if I don't go to church on Sunday)

I'll take a stab at another example - I won't do any research either, but bear with me: I'd guess that cigarettes kill a lot more people each year than guns (no, let's not start debating cigs either. The links between cigs and death are obvious, for smokers and innocent passive smokers alike, including their children and bystanders). But have cigs been banned? No. In Australia, they get taxed heavily, and a lot of money is spent telling people how silly they are. But the means of death - the money making cig - remains. I'd like the gun grabber lobbies to tell me what the difference is between these and guns, and why one should be banned and one it stands, my health is constantly at risk when I venture into any public place, from cigarettes...

There is a problem with empirical data...

And it's one that statisticians have more or less wish-washed and tap-danced their way around for decades. We don't learn anything about the principle causes of such data by the mere observation that it exists. We learn only of the existence of instances of certain principles being applied in reality. For example, we can know that ten million apples fell off trees in 2004, but in 2003 only three million, but this doesn't tell us anything about the action of gravity.

The study of simple rates in this fashion has the same effect. People look at such data and commit a smorgasbord of fallacies, especially the "post hoc, ergo propter hoc" fallacy. There's no real reasoning but an instinctual clutching at straws. I've found in personal experience that it's basically impossible to have serious discussions with people about the whole matter on a 'public utility' argument, because on their own terms, they're ill-equipped to consider and evaluate the problem they lay before themselves. On a natural law push I can make some progress usually, and discussions I've had on this where such fundamentals were discussed were interesting. They went places and once the lines got hedged, we all kind of went our separate ways. Such discussions were very rare, however. Challenging the fundamental under-pinnings of one's personal views can be painful, to tear down idols even more so.

PS, my Firefox spell-checker doesn't know that smorgasbord is a word.

An interesting argument ...

And one I’ve not heard – outside the “correlation doesn’t imply causation” statement so many people know. But now that my brain is more fully engaged (thanks to a caffeine infusion), aren’t you just reframing the ever-present problem of inferring population principles based on a sample from it? Is there some kind of study on the firearms issue that could be done that would persuade you, whichever way the results come up?

Are you familiar with the book Statistics as Principled Argument?

P.S. I find that many spellcheckers have problems with most foreign words that have been assimilated into English. That’s just one reason why I don’t have much use for them.

The Implications are Slightly Different

First, I'm not familiar with that book, but I'll read it (it's on a list, but pretty far down, I'm afraid) when I get the chance.

Second, no statistical argument could convince me. All such arguments hinge on the assumption that the past will repeat itself. That folks get proven wrong on that assumption on a frequent basis is enough cause for me to discard it. Deductive logic tells anyone that firearms are not the agency of crime, but tools of individual criminals. Following the necessary steps afterwards, one is left with the conclusion that firearms do not, per se, have an effect on crime rates.