moldybluecheesecurds 2

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Guns = violence | gun control = less violence

The Virginia Tech shooting - 33 dead, 25 wounded - was another spark for the gun control debate in the United States. The National Rifle Association continues its campaign on the erroneous belief that the 2nd Amendment confers individual gun rights, and gun control advocates fight a rearguard action against some of the more heinous assault weapons (the linked gun can empty its 30-round magazine in 3 seconds).

I'd like to offer two thoughts on gun control:
  1. If gun control doesn't help reduce violence, then why was the Irish Republican Army asked to destroy its weapon caches as part of the peace process in Northern Ireland?
  2. If gun control doesn't help reduce violence, then why has the United States insisted that the Iraqi Prime Minister disarm the militias?
I'm sure those must be the wrong questions to ask - after all, guns are a matter of inalienable rights, not rationality. But what's the evidence? Here's a few tidbits from peer-reviewed scientific studies and economic analyses:
Despite the overwhelming evidence that guns are not a social good, lobbying groups like the NRA continue to advocate for "right to carry" or "concealed carry" legislation. While such legislation is unrelated to higher gun ownership rates, it also has no deterrent effect on crime.

The facts show that gun ownership is correlated with gun crime, homicide, suicide, and violent deaths of children. The judicial review of the 2nd Amendment says that there does not exist a Constitutional individual right to gun ownership (with one major case pending). What are we waiting for?

18 comments:

Guav said...

Gun ownership is correlated with GUN crime, GUN homicide and GUN suicide, but does not correlate with overall crime, homicide and suicide rates. Removing guns from a population does not lower the suicide rate, for example—it just lowers the GUN suicide rate. People use other means to kill themselves when guns are not available.

I think I will drop dead from shock if the day ever comes where I encounter a gun control advocate who actually knows anything about guns. The "heinous assault weapon" you linked us to is ALREADY ILLEGAL for Americans to import or own.

If I had a dollar for every person I encountered who thinks the "Assault Weapon Ban" made machine guns illegal, I'd be a millionaire.

jff said...

From Guav,

Removing guns from a population does not lower the suicide rate, for example—it just lowers the GUN suicide rate.


Higher gun ownership is correlated with higher homicide rates and suicide rates, period. The studies did indicate that the findings were limited to suicides or homicides committed with guns.

The "heinous assault weapon" you linked us to is ALREADY ILLEGAL for Americans to import or own.

The weapon I mentioned was one of those targeted by the Brady Bill, which expired in 2004. I can only assume that if Congress needed to name the gun in the original ban, it was legal previously and that with the expiration of the ban, it would again be legal. If you have any evidence to suggest that the gun is still banned, I'm happy to read it.

If I had a dollar for every person I encountered who thinks the "Assault Weapon Ban" made machine guns illegal, I'd be a millionaire.

Good for you! If I had a buck for every time I got blanket assertions in the face of facts, we'd be in the same tax bracket!

thirdpower said...

No, the weapons you linked to were in no way covered by the AWB. The AWB covered SEMI-AUTOMATICS, not fully-automatics like the linked weapons. Europe and Japan have higher suicide rates than the US and exponentially lower firearm ownership. Russia, Mexico, and S. Africa have much higher homicide rates and low legal firearm ownership while Canada, Switzerland, and Finland have high ownership and low homicide rates. Period.

jff said...

thirdpower said...

No, the weapons you linked to were in no way covered by the AWB.


According to the Brady Campaign, "The bill bans, by name, the manufacture of 19 different weapons:

* Norinco, Mitchell, and Poly Technologies Avtomat Kalashnikovs (all models);
* Action Arms Israeli Military Industries UZI and Galil;
* Beretta Ar70 (SC-70);
* Colt AR-15;
* Fabrique National FN/FAL, FN/LAR, and FNC;
* SWD M-10; M-11; M-11/9, and M-12;
* Steyr AUG;
* INTRATEC TEC-9, TEC-DC9, AND TEC-22;
* revolving cylinder shotguns such as (or similar to) the Street Sweeper and Striker 12."

I repeat, I'm happy to be proven wrong, but this description of the bill is unambiguous.

Europe and Japan have higher suicide rates than the US and exponentially lower firearm ownership.

Good for them. The data I cited show that in the United States, greater firearm ownership in a state correlates to higher suicide rates. Do you have any study that shows otherwise? Combining your data with mine, we have the hypothesis that if the Japanese owned more guns, they'd have even more suicides.

Canada, Switzerland, and Finland have high ownership and low homicide rates.

Once again, combining your information with mine, we could conclude that all three of these countries could reduce homicide rates by lowering gun ownership, if the studies in the United States could be applied to those countries.

However, I don't suggest in any way that the American studies apply to these other countries. They apply to the United States and are unambiguous in their conclusion that higher gun ownership is correlated with higher homicide and suicide rates.

thirdpower said...

Ah, you're using the Brady Campaign as a source. No wonder you're confused. Accuracy is not one of their strong suits. Neither is honesty. Read down on your linked page a little further:

Only semi-automatic guns with multiple assault weapon features are banned (see below).

Now read the earlier link:

The AR-70/90 is a gas operated, magazine fed, selective fire weapon.

The actual ones listed are covered under the 1936 Gun Control Act. Not the AWB. Here's a nice little overview of it:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_assault_weapons_ban_%28USA%29

Suicide rates /= gun ownership rates:

http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/suiciderates/en/

Homicide rates /= gun ownership rates. I notice you ignored the examples of low ownership and high murder rates. You may also notice that from 93-2004 crime went down by double digits even though millions more firarms entered circulation and dozens of states enacted CCW laws and "castle doctrine" while even the CDC has stated that gun laws haven't been shown to effect crime.

Guav said...

Higher gun ownership is correlated with higher homicide rates and suicide rates, period.

Unless the Harvard study shows that the households with firearms have higher suicide rates than households without them, comparing overall statewide firearm ownership levels with total suicide rates isn’t very useful. Correlation and causation are not the same thing.

There are many things that cause suicide rates to fluctuate slightly—they go down in times of war, and increase when the economy is bad—but in general suicide rates in most countries (regardless of firearm availability) remain constant.

I believe we have the highest firearm suicide rate on the planet. But there are least a dozen countries with much higher total suicide rates than us—obviously lack of firearm availability is not preventing them from killing themselves, so I don’t know why it would be expected to affect our total suicide rates.

According to an abstract from the Canadian National Institute of Health:

BACKGROUND: This paper examines the trends in youth suicide from 1979-1999 and the association with changes in the firearms act in 1991.

RESULTS: Although the overall rates did not change from 1979-1999 in youth aged 15-19, there was a substantial change in the methods used. In particular, the rates of suicide by firearms dropped from 60% to 22% while suicide due to hanging/suffocation increased from 20% to 60% in this age group over this period of time.

CONCLUSION: These results suggest a possible association between changes in the firearms act in 1991 and the methods used by youth to complete suicide. However, the overall rates of suicides did not change over this same period. These trends underscore the need for broader prevention interventions that do not solely focus on methods of suicide but rather, their underlying causes.

In other words, people who want to commit suicide will do so, regardless of gun availability. Gun availability influences the choice of suicide method—when guns are available, people do use them to commit suicide more than other methods—but it has no effect on the overall suicide rate. Where guns are less available, there is complete substitution of other methods of suicide.



The weapon I mentioned was one of those targeted by the Brady Bill, which expired in 2004 ... If you have any evidence to suggest that the gun is still banned, I'm happy to read it.

Like I said, you simply do not understand what is being discussed here, nor do you understand what type of guns the 1994 AWB actually banned—all you know are scary-sounding names of "assault weapons."

You said the AWB banned a weapon capable of "emptying a 30-round magazine in 3 seconds." That rate of fire belongs to a fully-automatic TRUE military assault rifle, otherwise known as a "machine gun." But machine guns have been highly regulated for civilian ownership since 1934, illegal to import since 1968, and illegal to manufacture for civilians since 1986.

What the AWB actually banned were 19 "military style" weapons—semi-automatic rifles that LOOKED like their military, full-auto counterparts. A semi-automatic "assault rifle" functions just like a semi-automatic hunting rifle or a semi-automatic handgun: you pull the trigger once, one bullet comes out. You then release the trigger and have to pull it again to get another bullet to fire.

Furthermore, the AWB did not ban the millions of these weapons that had already been manufactured—they could still be possessed and sold. Therefore, it never removed a single weapon from civilian hands.

Guav said...

P.S. the second paragraph after the "CONCLUSION," although italic, is me writing, not a quote from the abstract—I closed the HTML tag in the wrong place, sorry :)

Guav said...

P.P.S. I can't stress this enough: the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban did not ban fully-automatic machine guns—which were already illegal—and fully-automatic machine guns did not become legal once again when the ban sunsetted in 2004.

jff said...

The AR-70/90 is a gas operated, magazine fed, selective fire weapon.

The actual ones listed are covered under the 1936 Gun Control Act. Not the AWB. Here's a nice little overview of it:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Federal_assault_


You are correct. Thanks for the clarification.

Suicide rates /= gun ownership rates:

I feel the need to clarify:
1. I don't disagree that suicide rates are explained by far more than gun ownership. There's definitely not a 1:1 relationship between gun ownership and suicides.
2. The study I quoted on suicides and guns notes that higher gun ownership is correlated with higher gun suicides AND with higher overall suicide rates (probably because of higher gun suicide rates). The correlation coefficient was .59, implying that a doubling of gun ownership rates (per 100,000) increased suicide rates by 59% (per 100,000). So you could say that there's a 1:.59 relationship between gun ownership and suicide.

On the other hand, there may be risk factors for suicide which are far more powerful than gun ownership (and lower cost to combat), which I would agree would be a perfectly reasonable route to reducing suicide rates.

Given the low gun ownership in several other countries with high suicide rates, it obviously pays to look at other causes of suicide rather than gun ownership, since ownership is unlikely to have as strong a correlation as in the United States.

I got interrupted in the course of writing this, so it's probably incoherent. Anyway, thanks for the thoughtful points.

Here's a question back at you. If reducing gun ownership is a bad way to reduce gun crime, then what IS a good way to reduce crimes with guns?

jff said...

Guav,

Thanks for the follow-up. I was incorrect in my attribution of the Brady Bill to the Beretta weapon (and could probably be fairly described as a gun ignoramus).

The study on suicide rates from Canada looks interesting and I agree with the conclusion that it would be counterproductive to solely focus on the methods of suicide. My initial question - before reading the study - is whether the overall suicide rate was reduced (i.e. did the reduction in availability of guns cause fewer suicides to succeed?). Perhaps not, but I look forward to the read.

If you comment again, I will reply, but after I spend some more time doing work :-)

thirdpower said...

My personal opinion on reducing crime is to go after social/cultural factors such as poverty, education, glorification of violence etc as well as increasing police training and availability. Unfortunately, it's not just one simple solution. For example, poverty rates among Blacks and Hispanics are proportionately similar however Blacks commit a much larger percentage of crimes than any other demographic. The UK has effectively banned all firearms yet is seeing an increase in violent crime. I don't claim that "less guns = more crime" but I do attribute it partially to the increase in violent "Chav" or "Ghetto" culture and a decrease in police accountability.

Guav said...

You are correct. Thanks for the clarification.

No problem. Confusing the public in regards to the difference between these weapons is a stated strategy of the gun control lobby. Josh Sugarmann, formerly of the National Coalition to Ban Handguns, and presently head of the Violence Policy Center, authored a strategy memo in 1988:

"The semiautomatic weapons' menacing looks, coupled with the public's confusion over fully automatic machine guns versus semiautomatic assault weapons—anything that looks like a machine gun is assumed to be a machine gun—can only increase that chance of public support for restrictions on these weapons."

In other words, instead of educating the public, their strategy was to further misinform the public and basically trick them into supporting the AWB by making them think it banned machine guns. And it worked. That's why people like you, who I believe mean well, are so confused on the topic.

The study I quoted on suicides and guns notes that higher gun ownership is correlated with higher gun suicides AND with higher overall suicide rates (probably because of higher gun suicide rates).

My problem with the Harvard study is just that the methodology does not make much sense to me. If you want to know if gun ownership increases suicide rates, you compare the suicide rate in households with guns to households without guns, you don’t just say “states with high gun ownership have high suicide rates" and assume that the guns cause the suicides. Is it a causative trend or merely a parallel trend? After all, you have similar if not worse rates of suicide in a lot of Northern European countries which in many cases have far fewer firearms per household, and Japan has a higher suicide rate than us and no civilian firearm ownership whatsoever.

Australia is worth examining because following the the Port Arthur massacre in 1996, the government instituted sweeping gun control legislation, banning all semiautomatic firearms (rifles and handguns), including .22 caliber rifles and duck-hunting shotguns and spent half a billion dollars buying citizens’ newly-illegal guns from them.

Let’s go to the Australian Bureau of Statistics. They are not pro or anti-gun control, they just keep track of things. In their summary of the report Suicides: Recent Trends, Australia, 1993 to 2003, they state:

In 2003 the most common method of suicide was hanging, which was used in almost half (45%) of all suicide deaths. The next most used methods were poisoning by ‘other’ (including motor vehicle exhaust) (19%), Other (15%), poisoning by drugs (13%), and methods using firearms (9%). This distribution was consistent with that of the previous few years. However, over the decade strong trends were apparent such as the increase in the use of hanging, and a decrease in methods using firearms. See Table 4 for data on broad groupings of method of suicide. [emphasis added]

Let’s look at Table 4 where they directed us (Page 13 of the PDF). You will see that in 1993, 435 of the suicides in Australia were with firearms. In 1997, only 330 Australians killed themselves with firearms. By 2003, that number had dropped to 194! That’s an amazing decrease in firearm suicides.

Yet in 1993, the total number of suicides in Australia was 2,081. In 2003, the total number of suicides was 2,213—it was actually higher. So although the number of firearm suicides steadily declined over that decade, the total number of suicides remained basically the same, fluctuating between a low of 2,081 and and a high of 2,720.

Remember, they basically banned firearms in 1997. And predictably, firearm suicides decreased. But more people started hanging themselves.

I only want to drive this point home because gun control advocates tend to think of us gun people as simply not caring at all about the fact that people die from guns. We do—of course we care. We're just unconvinced that banning guns has any positive effect on the problems that we as a society face. It may be "common sense" that less guns = less crime, but common sense is often wrong. Common sense tells us that the earth is flat, after all.

The truth is that no study of gun control has ever shown that it has lowered our homicide, suicide or overall crime rates. Even when you go to the Brady Campaign, they are clever and tout the fact that after the Brady Bill passed, firearm suicides dropped dramatically. Ok, great—but did the overall suicide rate change at all? No. It did not. Therefore the legislation did not save lives in regards to suicide.

Judging from other countries experiences with virtually complete gun bans, there’s no indication that people who are so miserable that they want to end their lives will not do so regardless of whether or not they have easy means to do so.

If reducing gun ownership is a bad way to reduce gun crime, then what IS a good way to reduce crimes with guns?

That's the wrong question. Why would I be concerned with reducing crimes "with guns" at all? I am not specifically concerned with reducing rapes committed with guns, I'm concerned with reducing rapes. I don't care about lowering the rates of firearm suicides any more than I am concerned with lowering the rates razor suicides or specifically concerned with asphyxiation suicides. Guns are a tool that some people use in the commission of their crimes, but they are not the motivation or cause of the crimes.

CRIME is the problem, not crime with guns. And the causes of crime are social, cultural and (probably mostly) economic. Treating one of the symptoms—gun crime—as the main problem is clearly the wrong approach.

Guav said...

As an additional side thought, do you support assisted suicide? I do. Suicide is tragic, but I do think that people actually have a right to kill themselves if they want to. This is relevant to the gun debate because of the people who die from firearms every year (30,000), well over half of them (17,000) are suicides.

We’re talking about suicide as if it’s something that happens to people instead of something that they purposefully do to themselves. I don’t think we can legislate suicide away.

Anonymous said...
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Randall said...

Those who believe gun control measures impact violent crime mean well. However, they will be disillusioned if they research what has happened to Great Britain.
Great Britain has banned handguns for over ten years and has stringent gun control laws. Yet, their gun violence is skyrocketing (Log onto any British paper and do a “gun violence” search. You will be amazed at the number of articles.)
Prof Joyce Malcolm of Bentley College and one time gun control advocate has written a number of articles and books on British history leading up to the 2nd Amendment.
As early as 1971, Cambridge University released a study "Firearms control: A study of armed crime and firearms control in England and Wales" by Colin Greenwood. The study concluded that gun laws had little impact on violent crime. Rather, social and cultural mores affect the level of crime.
Earlier in the century Great Britain had a very low crime rate even with no gun laws. Criminals could legally purchase firearms. But the social milieu at the time prevented violent crime. Since then that order has faded.
The King's College of London's study "Illegal Firearms in the UK" in 2002 concluded the same.
Switzerland on the other hand enjoys a low level of violent crime. This is a country who has its citizens keep their military fully-automatic weapons at home. Additionally, the government encourages keeping a stockpile of ammunition at home. This is a measure of their age old preparation for a national emergency.
Don Kates, graduate of Yale's Law School and author of "Restricting Handguns - The Liberal Skeptics Speak Out" (a compilation of work by liberal scholars opposing gun control) as well as quite a number of articles and other books on this subject states that blaming guns and the gun lobby is an easy political solution when there's a call from some people to "do something". Unfortunately, those laws will not impact aberrants in our society. The long term solution, even though more difficult, is to identify those variables in society that create violent people and affect changes.

Doc Merlin said...

"If gun control doesn't help reduce violence, then why was the Irish Republican Army asked to destroy its weapon caches as part of the peace process in Northern Ireland?"

Actually northern Ireland enjoys and has for quite some time, a lower violent crime rate than most of europe. Finland which has a higher percent of homes with a firearm in them than the US does also enjoys a lower crime rate.

Doc Merlin said...

"Higher gun ownership is correlated with higher homicide rates and suicide rates, period."

This is patently untrue.

Look at countries with the highest gun ownership rates (percent of households with guns):

Here are the countries in the world with the highest rates of gun ownership per household:
Taken from: http://www.allcountries.org/gun_ownership_rates.html

US: 39%
Norway: 32%
Canada: 29.1%
Switzerland: 27.2%
Finland: 23.2%
France: 22.6%
New Zealand 22.3
Australia 19.4
Belgium 16.6
Italy 16


Now here is one per capita (numbers given per 100 residents):
Taken from : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_countries_by_gun_ownership

US: 90.0
Yemen 61.0
Finland 55.0
Switzerland 46.0
Iraq 39.0
Serbia 37.5
France 32.0
Canada 31.5
Sweden 31.5
Germany 30.0

From this you can see, there seems to be no real correlation between *overall crime* and gun ownership.

Crow said...

yo moma even though gu contral is bad but whats the point people will not oby the law and still will shoot someone like using iillegal drugs and giving kids cigerrets kids still smoke under 18 soooooo really theres no point of gun control you cant control the minds of other all you can do is perswae the mind of others.

-TSL