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Correlation on Brady Rankings and Crime

I decided to run the Brady State Rankings through Excel, and see if there was any correlation to violent crime rates. The short answer, no. You can see the scatter chart here:

Brady State Ranking Versus Violent Crime

I’m no good at Excel charting, so what I did was plot the violent crime rate (per 100,000) for each state (y-axis) against its Brady Grade (x-axis). I’ve seen folks picking certain data from one side or another to support the assertion that Brady rank means higher violent crime. In truth, there’s no correlation. If you run the r-squared correlation on the two data sets, you get 0.0005, which is effectively uncorrelated. This shouldn’t make anyone at the Brady Campaign too excited, because while it would seem that passing gun control laws doesn’t make violent crime go up, it doesn’t make it go down either. There’s a much stronger correlation, for instance, between annual mean temperature of a state, and violent crime, which means global warming will surely kill us all.

UPDATE: It occurs to me that Justice Breyer seems to want a statistical based test for scrutiny for the Second Amendment. From the McDonald oral argument transcripts:

There are two ways. One is that — look at — all you have to do is look at the briefs. Look at the statistics. You know, one side says a million people killed by guns. Chicago says that their — their gun law has saved hundreds, including and they have statistics — including lots of women in domestic cases. And the other side disputes it. This is a highly statistical matter. Without incorporation, it’s decided by State legislatures; with, it’s decided by Federal judges.

I wonder how he would interpret this pretty damning data on the effectiveness of gun control laws.

44 Responses to “Correlation on Brady Rankings and Crime”

  1. LC Scotty says:

    http://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?pid=4676521&id=686399533

    I played the same game with firearms murder rate and Brady rankings-I got pretty much the same result.

    The data set I used was here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2009/oct/05/us-homicide-rates#table1

  2. Matthew Carberry says:

    So this more or less supports the conclusions of the CDC study of gun control laws?

  3. Hank Archer says:

    Sebastian,
    Here’s another similar study of this data:

    http://wmbriggs.com/blog/?p=1989

  4. Carl from Chicago says:

    Sebastian … it was Justice Breyer who went on about statistics, gun crime, and standard of review.

    I worked on this last year, but did it with Spearman Rank correlation. I don’t think the data are amenable to parametric statistics.

    The result I got also was no correlation … but when DC was added as a “state”, there was a significantly positive correlation between Brady score and violent crime rate.

    Still … what strikes me as most telling is that considering the Brady’s primary thesis … strict gun laws reduce crime … there is no such relationship at all.

    As a rule of thumb, isn’t no legislation better than ineffective legislation? When legislators pass laws simply to pass the time of day … we are all in big trouble.

  5. Andrew says:

    Hi there,

    I don’t think the Brady State Rankings are really relevant to the level of violent crime. Making the comparison between the ranking and the level of violent crime suggests that state gun laws have an impact on gun availability within the state. That seems reasonable enough, except ….

    that criminals can get guns from states will less restrictive gun laws and sell them/move them to states with more restrictive gun laws.

    A more appropriate comparison would be a Brady ranking for other states/geographic areas where gun laws exist and the borders are controlled (e.g. Japan, Europe).

    For example, it would not make much sense to compare the Brady rankings of France and Germany to their respective levels of violent crime because citizens of both countries can move freely between them without being searched. Assuming that the French let anyone buy a gun and the Germans let no one buy a gun, their Brady rankings would be very different. However, the effective Brady ranking of Germany would be that of France because Germans could go to France, buy guns, and go back home.

    This is the situation we have in the USA, buy a gun in Georgia, drive to NYC. Brady rankings are only as ‘good’ as the lowest ranking.

    Hopefully didn’t offend anyone. I don’t fall neatly to one side of this issue. I am personally pro-gun control but would like to own a handgun in NYC (where I live) for target practice. It’s very difficult to get one, but that’s comforting to me … as long as someone from Georgia hasn’t driven up and sold a gun to a gang member up here.

  6. kaveman says:

    Since the Brady Bunch reads your blog, I’m sure they’ll show up any minute and explain everything.

    I’ll hold my breath and wait.

  7. Sebastian says:

    Maybe so, Andrew, but it at least suggests that passing state level gun control is a useless endeavor.

  8. Andrew says:

    Well, my guess is the Brady people had two paths:

    1) change the constitution making gun laws federally controlled, then make those laws restrictive of gun ownership
    or
    2) change all state gun laws to increase their restrictiveness.

    They understood that 1 wasn’t an option (completely and totally impossible to pull off) so they went with 2.

  9. Carl from Chicago says:

    And they failed at 2 as well.

    Which makes me happy. Also happily, there are many avenues open to reducing crime, without taking arms from the people.

  10. Jujube says:

    State level gun control works pretty well in Hawaii. ;-)

  11. I for one think the Brady rankings are VERY helpful. For example, my desire to live in a state is inversely proportional to its score…

  12. Weer'd Beard says:

    Andrew you’re basing your opinion on two VERY shaky legs.

    #1. That Gun control laws actually prevent criminal elements under their umbrella from acquiring guns.

    #2. That Gun Control laws actually prevent violent crime.

    #1 is quickly debunked by the AFT trace data noting point of origin and time-to-crime numbers. Now these numbers are noted by the ATF to not be calibrated very well for criminal numbers, as ATF traces can be done on lawfully carried and owned guns, or FFL inventory, also point-of-origin can be confused by somebody moving from state-to-state and retaining their possessions. ie: I grew up in Maine, but now live in Mass, if I had guns when I lived in Maine, then moved to Mass, my guns would legally be Mass guns….but trace via ATF back to Maine. Even with all that noise, the data generally points that guns are NOT being smuggled in any large numbers from friendly to unfriendly states (also even if that WAS happening, buying and transporting guns in this way is a FEDERAL crime, so your claim that the Brady numbers are irrelevant because there are permissive states already flies in the face of your claim that gun control laws work) and are not being used for crimes in any proximity to their lawful purchase date. The majority of guns in criminal hands are acquired by theft from people in their own state.

    #2. As a Massachusetts resident I’ll first up point out despite our restrictive gun laws, our crooks still manage to get guns, and actually from police reports the guns on the street aren’t very many. Seems that a gang will only have a few guns, and they stash it in a known place and members essentially check it out like a library book, then return it. It allows more gun use for a smaller number of guns, also it makes the Police’s job a lot harder, as the criminal doesn’t retain possession of the gun after the crime, so actually FINDING the crime gun is difficult, also when a crime gun is actually found, pinning it to any other crime is difficult because it’s changed hands so frequently.

    Also when people can’t get guns they still manage to kill each other pretty well. Lots of bodies are found with knife holes, or people who are beaten to death.

    So, Andrew, while your heart appears to be in the right place, I’d point out your support of gun control likely isn’t accomplishing what you’d like it to, and certainly there is NO evidence that supports claims of safety made by groups like Brady. So shouldn’t we err on the side of Freedom, rather than the other way around as you propose?

  13. 2) change all state gun laws to increase their restrictiveness.

    Let’s accept your premises for the sake of argument:

    – Gun control can reduce violence.

    – Uncontrolled borders make individual states’ gun laws useless, so high crime rates for Brady-favored states are understandable.

    – Federal regulation is impractical, so the Brady campaign can only achieve useful results by creating similar levels of restriction in all states individually.

    If this model is correct, then even complete gun bans in 49 states would be ineffective if Wyoming still had fairly free gun laws. Clearly, it’s the “weakest” states that need Brady’s attention under this policy.

    So then why do anti-gun advocates fight so hard to make and maintain extreme restrictions in places that are already hardcore outliers on gun control? Why sink resources into defending Chicago’s handgun ban, for example, if uncontrolled borders make it useless, and almost all other states have dramatically “weaker” laws than Illinois has? Yes, it’s symbolic. But it’s also costly (both in therms of money and of credibility) and probably doomed to fail. Shouldn’t a movement based on those three premises be pushing hardest in, say, Vermont?

    I see only two possibilities: Either Brady doesn’t believe the “state laws are ineffective due to uncontrolled borders” hypothesis, or their policies aren’t actually motivated by a reasoned, consistent plan for reducing violence.

  14. Weer'd Beard says:

    I would argue that the Brady Campaign knows the ONLY thing accomplished by their efforts is their paychecks.

  15. BadIdeaGuy says:

    If you run these through the IPCC’s climate change formula, you should be able to see a hockey-stick graph.

  16. Andrew says:

    @Weer’d Beard

    #1: I’d love to see some data on gun smuggling across state lines. I’d point you to this article, http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/05/21/cbsnews_investigates/main2833664.shtml , where it appears that guns used in crimes in NYC were not bought in-state. “Data from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms traced 137 guns used in New York City crimes between the mid-1990s and 2002 to the seven Virginia dealers.” Now, of course, I’d like to know what percentage of guns used to commit crimes in NYS came from out of state (from states/cities with lower Brady rankings) as opposed to being bought in-state/in-city.

    Regarding the fact that transport of guns illegally across state lines is a federal, and not state, crime …
    Your criticism, I believe, is that if I say state gun control laws don’t work, because of permissive state laws and porous borders between them, and suggest that federal laws would work, I’m caught by the fact that federal laws don’t stop gun smuggling in the first place… hence federal gun control laws don’t work. I concede to you that Federal gun control laws as they pertain to smuggling do not work. That is due to the fact that the feds are not allowed to stop and search your car at the border between your state and the next. I’m not suggesting that giving them such powers would be effective or right. I am suggesting that if Federal gun control laws regulated the purchase/sale of all firearms, that yes, they would be effective in reducing crimes committed with firearms. As evidence, I would point you to any number of developed countries with restrictive national gun control laws and extremely low number of deaths due to gun violence.

    Addressing your statements regarding purchase date to crime use data. I fail to see how that is relevant. It’s entirely possible that you are attempting to bolster an argument against a line of debate I haven’t thought of.

    I’d also like to see data, or some source quoting the data, backing up your assertion that “The majority of guns in criminal hands are acquired by theft from people in their own state.” I don’t need a spreadsheet, just an article (like the one I posted above) from a source that is generally considered unbiased.

    #2: Gun control laws prevent violent crime.
    You make the point that “Also when people can’t get guns they still manage to kill each other pretty well. Lots of bodies are found with knife holes, or people who are beaten to death.”

    I make no assertion that gun control laws prevent violent crime (that was just the basis on which Sebastian made his post.) I’d make the assertion that gun control laws prevent crime committed with guns.

    Regarding your statement “So, Andrew, while your heart appears to be in the right place, I’d point out your support of gun control likely isn’t accomplishing what you’d like it to, and certainly there is NO evidence that supports claims of safety made by groups like Brady.” I agree, the evidence, as presented by Sebastian does not support claims of safety made by groups like Brady.

    That’s not really the point. The point is that there IS a large body of evidence that supports the claim that crimes committed with a gun and deaths due to gun violence is decreased dramatically when there are National-level gun laws. Now, you may not like Brady, but I will quote their statistics on this one. If you go to http://www.bradycampaign.org/facts/ you will see murders committed with a gun in 2006 in a number of developed nations. I admit, their data is not standardized (they don’t present the numbers as a percentage of total population) but you’ll see that it makes no difference because the numbers are so shockingly low as compared to ours. For example, 60 Spain 10,177 USA. Even if they are standardized, Spain looses .0000014% of it’s citizens to gun murders while the USA looses .000033% of it’s citizens to gun murders. If Spain had the same death rate due to gun violence as we have in the USA, they’d have 1,342 deaths instead of 60. That’s approximately 22 times the number of deaths. Whatever they’re doing, I think we should do it, because if we had their death rate due to gun violence we’d only have 454 people dead instead of 10,177. Population statistics from the CIA Fact Book. Spanish gun laws translated here: http://translate.google.com/translate?js=y&prev=_t&hl=en&ie=UTF-8&layout=1&eotf=1&u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.guardiacivil.org%2Fquesomos%2Forganizacion%2Foperaciones%2Ficae%2Flicencias.jsp&sl=es&tl=en

    cheers,
    Andrew

  17. Dannytheman says:

    Didn’t John Lott have some facts and statistics he wrote a book about called More Guns, Less Crime?
    What does he think of this chart? He has some interesting data. He even has a chapter defining the objections of his data collection. Something I liked was this below.

    “Murder rates decline when either more women or more men carry concealed handguns, but a gun represents a much larger change in a woman’s ability to defend herself than it does for a man. An additional woman carrying a concealed handgun reduces the murder rate for women by about 3 to 4 times more than an additional man carrying a concealed handgun reduces the murder rate for men. “

  18. Sebastian says:

    There’s been questions raised about the validity of his methodology. No one has ever been able to show gun control reduces crime, or that concealed carry increases crime, but it doesn’t seem to be the case that anyone else has been able to validate Lott’s work.

    I’ll be honest, I appreciate the value of Lott’s work from a political point of view, but personally, the hypothesis seems a bit fantastic. I’m not saying it’s wrong, but it just seems far fetched to me. If 1/3rd of the population were regularly carrying guns, I might believe there’s a strong deterrent factor. But that’s not the case. You have 4-5 million people with licenses to carry guns in this country, and the vast majority of them only carry from time to time. The number of people carrying regularly might only be a few hundred thousand.

    That’s not to say I think the hypothesis is total bunk. Hot burglaries do seem to be a lot lower in jurisdictions with a lot of gun ownership, but there are a lot more homes with guns than people carrying them on the streets.

  19. I make no assertion that gun control laws prevent violent crime (that was just the basis on which Sebastian made his post.) I’d make the assertion that gun control laws prevent crime committed with guns.

    Are you suggesting that restricting other citizens’ choices is worthwhile if it makes criminals stab 12,000 Americans to death each year rather than shooting them to death?

    I am suggesting that if Federal gun control laws regulated the purchase/sale of all firearms, that yes, they would be effective in reducing crimes committed with firearms.

    Congratulations. We have mandatory background checks on all dealer sales, and it’s illegal to buy a handgun (the only type of gun that’s a real problem in crime) outside your home state.

    You’re presumably talking about private sales at gun shows, a non-issue that gun control groups have tried to make a boogeyman out of. In real life, the overwhelming majority of straw purchases are committed by friends or family of the criminal, who know that he’s a prohibited purchaser. That’s a trend you simply can’t stop without ending all sales of guns to civilians. On that note:

    Whatever [Spain is] doing, I think we should do it, because if we had their death rate due to gun violence we’d only have 454 people dead instead of 10,177.

    Except that the world doesn’t work that way. Violent crime is a function of your society, and fixating on the tools criminals use accomplishes nothing.

    Britain is a sterling example of an Anglic country that tried to address crime by adopting Continental-style gun prohibition. The fact that their crime rate has climbed since then doesn’t prove that gun control causes crime, but it most definitely proves gun control doesn’t lower it.

    Thinking that we’d have Spain’s crime rate if we had their gun laws is like saying we could have their crime rate if we drank as much wine as they do. You’re cherrypicking your data and assuming causation at the same time.

  20. Andrew says:

    @elmo iscariot
    “If this model is correct, then even complete gun bans in 49 states would be ineffective if Wyoming still had fairly free gun laws. Clearly, it’s the “weakest” states that need Brady’s attention under this policy.”

    Just because one state with less stringent gun control law weakens all states that have more stringent gun control laws is not a viable argument against lobbying for those stringent controls. The model is slightly more complex than you suggest, because the cost (money, time, effort etc.) associated with getting a gun in a state increases when the state enacts stringent gun control laws; it becomes harder to purchase a gun inside than outside the state. If you had to go from Florida to Wyoming to get an illegal handgun, or if someone had to smuggle them across that distance, the time, effort and cost of that gun would go up, decreasing the number of people who would illegally buy and, we assume, use in the commission of a crime. Therefore, more stringent gun control in any general area (accepting my premises for the sake of argument) does decrease the chances that a crime will be committed with a gun in that location.

  21. Therefore, more stringent gun control in any general area (accepting my premises for the sake of argument) does decrease the chances that a crime will be committed with a gun in that location.

    In which case Brady needs to answer for the lack of correlation between their rankings and crime rates.

    You can’t have it both ways: If the extremely, anomalously strict local laws Brady pushes so hard for are an effective means of decreasing crime rates, then they don’t get to wave off the lack of correlation by invoking gun smuggling from “lax” states. If they want to say that gun smuggling from “lax” states undermines their local efforts to the point of destroying _all_ correlation, then working to maintain anomalously strict laws in a few anti-gun enclaves is an insane waste of energy. The lack of correlation proves it isn’t working.

    Again, either Brady doesn’t really believe that interstate gun trafficking undermines their local efforts to the point of uselessness, or they aren’t proceeding rationally toward their stated goal. Their statements, their actions, and the statistical evidence don’t add up; one of those things can’t stand in a rational assessment. Take your pick.

  22. And let me be clear; the “every state but Wyoming” thing was an exaggeration for effect, but nearly the opposite case is true. We have a generally free nation punctuated by islands of strict gun control. Even in those enclaves, an American is rarely more than a few hours’ drive from a free state. If Brady ever actually tried to justify its “make them mountains higher” strategy by saying the travel time would add enough cost to make the illegal gun trade unprofitable, it’d be an outrageous lie.

  23. Andrew says:

    @Dannytheman & Sabasian
    “Murder rates decline when either more women or more men carry concealed handguns, but a gun represents a much larger change in a woman’s ability to defend herself than it does for a man. An additional woman carrying a concealed handgun reduces the murder rate for women by about 3 to 4 times more than an additional man carrying a concealed handgun reduces the murder rate for men. “
    Lott’s statement is probably highly dependent upon the environment in which more men or women decide to start carrying a concealed handgun. Let’s take Spain as an example (as that’s the one I chose last time, not because I have any particular affinity for the Spanish.)
    Low Murder-with-Gun Rate
    In Spain 60 people were murdered in which the weapon used was a gun. If 50% of Spaniards started carrying guns, the likelihood that murder with a gun would go down is absurdly small. Their murder-by-gun rate is so absurdly low that adding guns to their environment is highly unlikely to negatively impact that rate. In fact, it could be argued that adding guns to that environment might increase the murder-with-gun rate.
    High Murder-with-Gun Rate
    If, by contrast, we were talking about Johannesburg, South Africa, known for its high rate of general crime (and for sake of argument we’ll assume a high rate of crime committed with a gun), the situation is reversed. If lots of South Africans bought and started carrying guns in that environment it is more likely that crimes committed with guns (or committed generally) would drop significantly.
    Though, of course, this assumes that Weer’d Beard assertion that “The majority of guns in criminal hands are acquired by theft from people in their own state” is incorrect. If Weer’d Beard is right then adding guns to this environment might increase the number of guns in criminal hands. One would have to know the relative rates of gun purchases and gun thefts to know the impact.
    Take home point: Lott’s statement is inaccurate because it is improperly bounded, i.e. he doesn’t define the context/environment in which people start to carry concealed. That context highly impact the veracity of his statement.
    Another thought on this topic. If I am in NYC, where most people do not carry concealed or otherwise, a criminal is likely to assume that I don’t have a gun on me as I walk down the street. If I make the decision to carry concealed in such an environment I do not decrease the chances that I’ll get attacked/mugged etc. I only decrease the chances that it ends badly for me (which makes me happy). What I’m pointing to is the fact that it takes a community wide decision that a lot of people in the community will carry concealed to drive the crime rate (successful crime or not) down. If you just happen to carry concealed in a neighborhood with low carry rates you’re not any less likely to get targeted by a criminal. Therefore, carrying a gun concealed doesn’t, in and of itself, decrease the chances of getting targeted by a criminal. Only if a large portion of the community carries, and it is well known, does carrying have an impact on crime rates. The problem is that carry concealed doesn’t transmit information for criminals to ‘read’.

  24. Andrew says:

    @ elmo iscariot
    “And let me be clear; the “every state but Wyoming” thing was an exaggeration”

    Admittedly, that was an exaggeration on your part, but it did highlight the impact that strict guns laws have on likelihood of having a gun, even with less stringent laws a few hours drive away. Admittedly, the cost is not so incredibly high as to make illegal ownership non-existent, but the cost (not just money) does go up enough to have, I would guess, an impact.

  25. …but the cost (not just money) does go up enough to have, I would guess, an impact.

    Fortunately, we don’t need to guess. The complete lack of correlation between Brady ranks and violent crime rates proves that this theory, sensible as it may be in a thought experiment, turns out not to be the case in real life.

  26. Andrew says:

    @ elmo iscariot
    I’ve got to run, but I’ll be back later tonight to address the points you raised. I can’t answer for the Brady people, but I think I can tease apart their logic. It probably has something to do with the fact that the impact in not linear in nature but exponential so that small impact doesn’t lead to small gain, but large impact does. Small steps would be necessary to eventually get large impact. I’ll be back to covert that and address what you said at 3:50 in more detail.

  27. Reputo says:

    I took the correlation analysis further and guess what? Still found no correlation.

    Andrew, as to a reference on the source of guns, the Bureau of Justice Statistics found that 39.6% of guns came from family/friends and 39.2% came from street/illegal source in 1997, this is little changed from 1991. If friends/family are knowingly providing a firearm to someone who is a prohibited person, that is a felony. If someone is getting a gun from an illegal source (stealing) that is also illegal. In actuality, I would bet that a fair number of the purchased firearms listed in this report were straw purchases (also a felony). The report later states that between 9% and 12% of the inmates surveyed said that they had stolen their firearm. This of course does not include those other sources which may have stolen their firearm before selling/loaning it to the inmate.

    Couple this with the fact that there are somewhere between 300000 and 600000 firearms stolen each year, and only about 600000 crimes committed with firearms each year and one could safely assume that the majority of guns used in crime were stolen. (Whether they were stolen in one’s state or not is a mystery, although I highly doubt that someone from New York is going to drive down to Georgia to steal a firearm – there are plenty of guns in New York already).

  28. Matthew Carberry says:

    If restrictive gun laws made a difference on a national level then we should see a corresponding decrease, not in a single year,but in trending. In the past 25 years access to gunsfor the law abiding has increased as has the ability of the law abiding to carry them in public. The total number of guns in American society has increased both on a per capita and total basis.

    Yet our overall violent crime and homicide rates over the same period have trended downward on a per capita basis. I’m not saying that is because of the increase, but it sure blows the “crime goes up with more guns around” meme out of the water.

    If you like to compare us with our neighbors across the pond. Check the violent crime and crime with gun rate trends for Britain over the same period.

    Britain, an island, which at the beginning of the period was winding down an insurgency, which started out with far, far fewer guns in lawful private hands and has steadily increased the restrictions on lawful possession and access since, and has actually by their own numbers decreased the total numbers lawfully in private hands through a variety of effective (if not absolute) bans of entire classes over that period of time.

    Which trend lines are headed which direction? If the rates of change continue, they aren’t that far, on a per capita basis, of trading places with us.

    Restrictions on lawful access and ownership (and even carry) simply have no correlation (much less causation) to decreased crime or decrease in public safety. To claim so not only ignores the evidence but also betrays ignorance of the most current criminological work on the root causes of crime.

    Since we have an individual right, the burden of proof is on the restrictor to conclusively demonstrate that any restriction bears at least an ephemeral relationship to a societal goal. Gun control can’t meet even the weakest of the standards.

  29. Andrew says:

    @elmo iscariot

    “Are you suggesting that restricting other citizens’ choices is worthwhile if it makes criminals stab 12,000 Americans to death each year rather than shooting them to death? “

    Don’t equate a gun with a knife. The number of people one individual can kill before being taken down by the police or other bystanders is far greater when that individual has a gun than when he has a knife. This is due to the ability a) to engage multiple targets almost simultaneously and b) engage both near and far targets almost simultaneously. Also, while a small contribution to the death rate by guns, it’s really hard for an innocent bystander to get hit by a stray blade in a knife fight.

    “You’re presumably talking about private sales at gun shows, a non-issue that gun control groups have tried to make a boogeyman out of. In real life, the overwhelming majority of straw purchases are committed by friends or family of the criminal, who know that he’s a prohibited purchaser. That’s a trend you simply can’t stop without ending all sales of guns to civilians.”
    The data was indeed shocking to me (I looked at the pdf that Reputo posed) because, yes, the private sales at gun shows loophole is a big argument used by gun control groups even though it’s actually a really small source of weapons for criminals. The data is that 20% of guns used by criminals are purchased legally and 40% are purchase/obtain through friends/family. You continue to be correct in that, the only logical way to stop this trend is to end all sales of guns to civilians. That’s not a conclusion you’d want someone in favor of gun control to come to, but you that’s the one you led me to (after lots of attempts on my part to find a hole in the logic/data related to this point.) No need to point to the constitution; I’m well aware of the right to bear arms and I don’t want to get into a constitutional literal vs. living document interpretation debate (save that for another time.)

    “Except that the world doesn’t work that way. Violent crime is a function of your society, and fixating on the tools criminals use accomplishes nothing. Britain is a sterling example of an Anglic country that tried to address crime by adopting Continental-style gun prohibition. The fact that their crime rate has climbed since then doesn’t prove that gun control causes crime, but it most definitely proves gun control doesn’t lower it.”

    Absolutely true that crime is somewhat related to the nature of the society. Fixating on the tools used accomplishes a lot if you can stop them using the kind that kill really quickly and efficiently. And as far as Britain goes, BBC article discussing the recent 8% drop in crime: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8472007.stm I’m not saying that proves my point, but what does prove a point is that they have way less hand guns and way less murders committed with guns.

    But let’s get back to the Spanish …

    Me: “Whatever [Spain is] doing, I think we should do it, because if we had their death rate due to gun violence we’d only have 454 people dead instead of 10,177.”

    You: “Except that the world doesn’t work that way. Violent crime is a function of your society, and fixating on the tools criminals use accomplishes nothing.”

    Ok, how’s about this then. If I understand you correctly, you are claiming that violent crime is a function of the society in which you live and that laws don’t impact the death rate due to gun violence. I’d say that assault is pretty violent; I’d also say it’s a good metric for the violence of a society because, after all, it doesn’t take much to punch someone in the face, now does it? I don’t need special tools or waiting periods for that; I can just go with my/for his gut.

    In Spain there are 2.2 assaults per 1,000 citizens. In the USA there are 7.5 assaults per 1,000. You, sir, are correct. The USA has a culture of violence. To be precise, I’d say we are 3.2 times more culturally violent than the Spanish.

    Now let’s look at the respective firearm homicide rates. In Spain there are .24 firearm homicides per 100,000 citizens. If you were correct in your assertion that violence with a gun is a function of the cultural violence of a society, uncontrollable by laws that the society can decide to enact to restrict itself, then there should only be .768 firearm homicides per 100,000 American citizens (3.2 times greater than Spain’s rate, because we are 3.2 times more violent). In the USA the rate is not .768 but 3.6 firearm homicides per 100,000 citizens. Clearly there is no relationship between the level of cultural violence in a society (as measured by assaults) and its firearm homicide rate, as our rate is a whopping 15 times greater than theirs while we are only 3.2 times as violent. That much greater for a crime that is harder to commit because it requires a tool? What do the Spanish do? They make it really hard to get that tool. The consequence? Fewer murders committed with that tool.

    Stats:
    http://www.nationmaster.com/red/country/us-america/cri-crime&all=1
    and
    http://www.nationmaster.com/red/country/sp-spain/cri-crime&all=1

    Also, @ elmo iscariot and Matthew Carberry
    Can we stop comparing gun restrictive laws and violent crime and start comparing gun restrictive laws and murder or injury with a firearm? The comparison would be more appropriate and therefore more relevant to the points we are respectively trying to make. I don’t care if the Brady people say more guns more crime or less guns less crime, I’m saying less guns less crimes committed with guns. And yes, there is a caveat to that statement as I mentioned in a previous comment. If crime is really high, more guns may actually equal less crime. If crime is low, more guns may equal more crime.

  30. Andrew says:

    @elmo iscariot

    Me: … Admittedly, the cost is not so incredibly high as to make illegal ownership non-existent, but the cost (not just money) does go up enough to have, I would guess, an impact.

    You: “Fortunately, we don’t need to guess. The complete lack of correlation between Brady ranks and violent crime rates proves that this theory, sensible as it may be in a thought experiment, turns out not to be the case in real life.”

    The issue here is that in real life the case hasn’t been run to the full conclusion. You and I agree on the end points, 1 state with restrictive laws, 49 without restrictive laws and that one state’s laws are useless (1-49). Similarly, if there are 49 states with restrictive laws and 1 state without restrictive laws that one state’s laws have little impact in increasing the availability of guns through smuggling (49-1). In between these two points I’d argue that there is an exponential function or relationship.

    In other words, increase the states with restrictive laws fivefold so that it’s 5-45 and you won’t see a fivefold decrease in gun available in those five states. Make it 25-25 and assume the states in each group are geographically contagious and you might be getting somewhere. When it’s 48-2, who cares about those two hold out gun lovin’ states? They don’t impact the system much.

    If this relationship I propose is a reasonable approximation of reality (which I posit it is due to the increased cost of obtaining illegal guns when more states are restrictive), then you won’t see a correlation between Brady ranks and murder with firearms because so many states have such low rankings that the stats will be (in fact they are) indistinguishable from random chance.

    Of course, having seen how weapons are obtained generally, it seems to me, as I said in the previous post, that the only way to reduce the transfer of guns to criminals is to drastically reduce the overall gun sales to citizens. At least hand guns and fully automatic weaponry (they seem to be the most owned/used based on the pdf stats referenced earlier.)

    Also, I’ve got another comment awaiting moderation because of links.

  31. Andrew says:

    @Matthew Carberry
    You: “If restrictive gun laws made a difference on a national level then we should see a corresponding decrease, not in a single year,but in trending. In the past 25 years access to gunsfor the law abiding has increased as has the ability of the law abiding to carry them in public. The total number of guns in American society has increased both on a per capita and total basis.

    Yet our overall violent crime and homicide rates over the same period have trended downward on a per capita basis. I’m not saying that is because of the increase, but it sure blows the “crime goes up with more guns around” meme out of the water.

    Restrictions on lawful access and ownership (and even carry) simply have no correlation (much less causation) to decreased crime or decrease in public safety. To claim so not only ignores the evidence but also betrays ignorance of the most current criminological work on the root causes of crime.”

    Absolutely, no one here is claiming that guns are the sole driver of crime. The state of the economy and future economic prospects have lots to do with crime rates as criminals weigh the cost/benefit analysis of committing a crime. NYC is a great example. More restrictive gun laws, better economy. Which one is responsible for drop in crime? Zero tolerance policy? Ah, now the police force and politicians can play a role.

    Regardless, I don’t really care about the crime rate relative to gun control because the link is too tenuous and weak. A much stronger one, and the one I’ve been sticking to throughout is that restrictive gun control laws when applied in such a way as to prevent guns from entering a geographic territory drive the murder by gun rate down. The “crime goes up with guns around” is totally context dependent. The statement is neither true nor false; it is way too general.

    You: “If you like to compare us with our neighbors across the pond. Check the violent crime and crime with gun rate trends for Britain over the same period. “

    Regarding the Brits, I think banning drinking in public would drop their crime rate drastically. Guns have nothing to do with it one way or the other in their context.

    You: “Since we have an individual right, the burden of proof is on the restrictor to conclusively demonstrate that any restriction bears at least an ephemeral relationship to a societal goal. Gun control can’t meet even the weakest of the standards.”

    See, that last sentence just is not true. Developed countries with high levels of gun control meet the societal goal of fewer murders with a firearm. And no one here has yet pointed to another variable to explain why the Europeans have less firearm murders. elmo Iscariot suggested that American’s are culturally more violent but I believe I pointed out the hole in that theory (though it might apply in other contexts it doesn’t in Spains.) If you suggest the economy as a reason why we’ve got more gun violence, I’d point out that on a national level our economy does way better than Europe’s. (at least for the time covering the statistical data … now, who knows whose economy is doing better/worse.)

    I’ve proposed that developed European countries successfully combat gun violence/murder by firearm through the use of restrictive gun control laws. I don’t believe, for reasons detailed previously, that culture or economy explain away the relationship between gun violence and gun control laws. If you can point to something that makes invalid my use of European (or other developed countries) as models for decreasing firearm murders then please do.

  32. Andrew says:

    @ Reputo

    This of course does not include those other sources which may have stolen their firearm before selling/loaning it to the inmate.
    Couple this with the fact that there are somewhere between 300000 and 600000 firearms stolen each year, and only about 600000 crimes committed with firearms each year and one could safely assume that the majority of guns used in crime were stolen.

    Are you suggesting, not with facts but supposition, that the chain of gun possession between manufacture and illegal use contains at least one theft of the weapon because 10% of guns used in crimes are stolen, and because another 40% of guns come from friends and family (and who knows how they acquired them?) When I say ‘not with facts but supposition’ I mean no disrespect, I just mean to clarify that I’m not missing a logical chain of equations but am instead hearing a theory posited about how gun possession chains function. It seems, as a theory to be reasonable enough.

    (Whether they were stolen in one’s state or not is a mystery, although I highly doubt that someone from New York is going to drive down to Georgia to steal a firearm – there are plenty of guns in New York already).

    No, my gang won’t drive to Georgia to steal a firearm but my gang may have an agreement with a gang down their and drive down to purchase from them. The Georgia gang can obtain the weapons, sell them to the NY gang and not fear that the weapons might be used against them, because they have no territorial competition, being so far apart.

  33. Matthew Carberry says:

    Cross-cultural studies are problematic in sociology, that isn’t really debated within the field.

    I would direct you to Kopel’s ” The Samurai, the Mountie and the Cowboy” for the weaknesses of such comparisons on the firearm issue in particular. It came out in ’92 so I tend to assume most people interested in the topic are familiar with it.

    While some argue with his conclusions about what America in particular should do about its own gun issues, since its publication it has not been seriously challenged on its sociological demonstrations as to why other culture’s gun laws fail to provide any useful information for the US.

    http://www.amazon.com/Samurai-Mountie-Cowboy-Controls-Democracies/dp/0879757566

  34. Steve says:

    I don’t know if Andrew is still following this thread, but I frequently recommend the pdf you can download @ http://www.gunfacts.info/. There are lots of studies referenced & you can do your own research to check their validity.

  35. Weer'd Beard says:

    I would like to point out that Andrew seems to be in love with the unit invented by the anti-gun lobby “gun crime” and “gun death” which is only relevant if you believe crime without guns, or death without guns is somehow preferable.

    Also he seems to avoid the gun-control elephant-in-the-room, which is lawful self-defense. When guns are looked at through the polarizing filter of crime and violence, only one direction is clear.

    Furthermore his admission that other factors have far more impact on violent crime rates than gun control, and then makes assertions of further restrictions on individual liberties for “the greater good” raises some serious red flags for me.

    Andrew, your heart is in the right place, but what you propose is flawed, dangerous, and I will not stand for.

  36. Andrew, two things I’d appreciate your take on:

    …increase the states with restrictive laws fivefold so that it’s 5-45 and you won’t see a fivefold decrease in gun available in those five states. Make it 25-25 and assume the states in each group are geographically contagious and you might be getting somewhere.

    Exactly my point. We _have_ approximately five states with extremely restrictive gun laws, and gun-control activists are spending most (not all) of their time and energy trying to make those states more restrictive or protect extreme laws that have nothing to do with “trafficking” (like DC’s ban on concealed carry*). Under the proposed model, a rational organization would be putting its efforts into raising the number of states with purchase restrictions, not piling more and more extreme and burdensome laws onto the states that already have purchase requirements fundamentally more burdensome than the rest of the nation.

    …I don’t really care about the crime rate relative to gun control because the link is too tenuous and weak. A much stronger one, and the one I’ve been sticking to throughout is that restrictive gun control laws…drive the murder by gun rate down.

    Once again, I feel like I must be misreading you. Are you saying that, even if the same number of people are brutally murdered, we should have burdensome restrictions on the law-abiding just to shift criminals to different deadly weapons? Why exactly are you concerned with reducing “gun murders” if it doesn’t change the rate of “murders”?

    [* - I'm obviously using "state" loosely. ;) ]

  37. Let’s cut some of the chaff. Here’s the core issue:

    Can we stop comparing gun restrictive laws and violent crime and start comparing gun restrictive laws and murder or injury with a firearm?…Don’t equate a gun with a knife. The number of people one individual can kill before being taken down by the police or other bystanders is far greater when that individual has a gun than when he has a knife.

    You seem to be saying that decreasing the rate of “gun crime” will lead to a decrease in the overall number of _murders_, because guns are deadlier than other weapons. It’s a reasonable assumption.

    But we can cut the need for this assumption out completely and deal with the facts by simply looking not at how the rate of “violent crimes” _or_ “gun crimes” are affected by gun control, but how the rate of _murders_, in particular, is affected by gun control.

    However reasonable the thought-experiment conclusion is (and again, it _is_ reasonable), if a nation adopts strict gun control and its _murder_ rate goes up; or a nation loosens its gun restrictions and the _murder_ rate goes down, then the previously-reasonable idea that restricting access to guns saves lives becomes very hard to defend.

    As the US has loosened its gun laws since the 1980s, our murder rate has gradually declined. As Britain has dramatically increased its restrictions on guns, their murder rate has gradually increased. Unlike a lot of my pro-gun friends, I _don’t_ claim this proves that guns reduce crime, but it _does_ dramatically undermine the thought experiment. Any murders prevented due to the “increased difficulty” of killing with a knife over a gun seem to be balanced by other unintended consequences of gun control*. No matter how reasonable and obvious the hypothesis is, you need to discard it when it doesn’t fit the edvidence.

    So I rephrase my question: If gun control turns out not to reduce the _murder_ rate when countries adopt it, what’s the point of it?

    You continue to be correct in that, the only logical way to stop this trend is to end all sales of guns to civilians. That’s not a conclusion you’d want someone in favor of gun control to come to…

    Actually, that’s exactly the conclusion I want you to come to. We must both understand what we’re talking about: “closing the gun show loophole” and “banning assault weapons” and “one gun a month” and carry restrictions and interstate purchase prohibitions… They’re all useless burdens on the law-abiding that manifestly fail to save any lives. The _only_ policy that has any chance of reducing criminal access to guns is a flat ban on civilian sales, period. We’ll only get anywhere if we can have that debate openly, rather than quibbling over the kind of useless security theater advocated by modern US gun control groups. If we think we must to do something to reduce criminal access to guns, we must have the fight over flat-out banning guns. If we’re not prepared to ban guns, then kindly stop telling me I can’t carry my handguns or buy a rifle with a pistol grip.

    [* - I don't want to speculate in too much detail in this discussion, but I suspect it's because bans prevent self defense with firearms. Since defensive gun use is almost always non-lethal, it probably causes an overall decline in the total number of violent deaths.]

  38. Reputo says:

    @ Andrew

    Are you suggesting, not with facts but supposition, that the chain of gun possession between manufacture and illegal use contains at least one theft of the weapon because 10% of guns used in crimes are stolen, and because another 40% of guns come from friends and family (and who knows how they acquired them?) When I say ‘not with facts but supposition’ I mean no disrespect, I just mean to clarify that I’m not missing a logical chain of equations but am instead hearing a theory posited about how gun possession chains function. It seems, as a theory to be reasonable enough.

    Yes, I am using supposition to state that the chain from manufacture to crime includes a theft. From the FBI report we know automatically that 10% had a theft. Then there is another 40% from friend/family and an extra 30% from street/illegal source that may have been stolen in their past. I highly doubt that the friends and family of criminals (who by probability have a greater incidence of criminality themselves) bought their weapon from a legal source. Furthermore, I don’t think that a significant amount of the 300,000 to 600,000 guns stolen each year are used by Joe Blow for target shooting and hunting.

    No, my gang won’t drive to Georgia to steal a firearm but my gang may have an agreement with a gang down their and drive down to purchase from them. The Georgia gang can obtain the weapons, sell them to the NY gang and not fear that the weapons might be used against them, because they have no territorial competition, being so far apart.

    Then your gang is stupid, since when Granny Smith down the street goes out to do her shopping, you can easily break into her apartment and swipe the .32 ACP she keeps for protection. Criminals will get guns in the easiest way possible, and making entrepreneurial deals with other gangs a thousand miles away are not it. Those entrepreneurial deals are made for items that cannot be sourced locally (such as drugs), and even those are limited to the nearby area (a group in Florida imports the drugs, sell them to a group in Georgia, who sell them to a group in Virginia, who sell them to a group in Pennsylvania, who sell them to a group in New York – almost like grocery distribution except not as centralized). The ATF trace data (while not comprehensive) show that the majority of guns for almost every state that are traced are from that state. Coincidentally, the states nearby are the next largest source of guns, regardless of whether the state has lax gun control. Case in point, DC. The biggest supplier state for guns traced from DC: Maryland which has a lot more restrictive laws than Virginia. Far away states that “supply” guns are usually a function of state population. For instance, California shows up in the top 15 “suppliers” for lots of Eastern states, however, this is because there are more guns in California (very restrictive state) to be supplied than Utah (no restrictions according to Brady). By sheer coincidence, California has nearly 15 times the population of Utah.

  39. Weer'd Beard says:

    And of course total bans increase the black-market pressure. Simply look at our illegal drug trade, we have people converting their attics to hydroponic gardens. We have hidden shipments of cocaine that then get cooked into crack in makeshift laboratories. We have meth labs where junkies who dropped out of highschool are able to cook household chemicals into illegal stimulants. And of course there’s the black market pressures to get prescription pain killers onto the streets.

    We could ban guns 100% across the globe, and the criminals would still have them:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oGVianQJsmQ

    And we’d be unarmed to defend ourselves.

  40. Weer'd Beard says:

    The above post is a spammer, please delete as well as my comment.

  41. Weer'd Beard says:

    Looks like Andrew gave up on it.

    Shame so many are like him…

  42. Andrew says:

    No no, I’m still here. Last few days have been hectic, but I’ll have more time this coming week. I like to do full research before I post and this isn’t my topic (I’m not an activist) so the numbers aren’t at my fingertips. It’s also one of me and multiple people presenting reasonable arguments and points against my stance so it takes me longer than it take any one of you.

    I am going to get to basically everything from comment 38 on down … to gun murders “crime without guns, or death without guns is somehow preferable” and why I think it’d be better if we were all limited to knifes (and the guns viewed through the lens of crime vs. protection). Also going to address the black market gun issue. Also the validity of the cross cultural study (which I had not heard of … my excuse is that I wasn’t that old in ’92.)

  43. Weer'd Beard says:

    Fair enough. Good luck with the research. I was in your shoes about 10 years ago. I was very surprised with what I found (as you might be able to guess)

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