Our opponents are currently going hog wild over a blog post appearing Art on the Issues, by Dr. Art Kamm. I suspect they like it because Dr. Kamm runs some numbers which make gun ownership look weak, but I find his methodology suspect:
In examining the crude firearm homicide rate per 100,000 inhabitants in countries that have a population exceeding 3.8 million and a GDP per capita, adjusted for purchasing power, in excess of $20,000 (World Health Organization, 2002), the US rate dwarfs that of any other industrialized country(ref). The firearm homocide rate in the US was 5.5 times higher than Italy (the next highest) and several European Union countries reported insignificant levels of firearm homicides: only 45 were reported in the UK, 15 in Denmark, 10 in Norway, and 7 in Ireland. Whereas the US reported a total of 10,801 firearm homicides in 2000, the European Union, having a population of over 376 million (exceeding that of the US) reported only 1,260 firearm homicides. And in Japan, where less than 50 handguns were present (they are reserved to athletes participating in international shooting competitions), only 22 firearm homicides were reported.
Why is it legitimate to only examine homicide by firearm? Isn’t a better measure overall violent crime, or perhaps homicide in general? I’ve done some calculations on homicide rates as to whether there’s correlation to levels of gun ownership in industrialized countries (defines as GDP > 14,000) and there was none. I even threw out countries that would have made my numbers better, because they were highly undemocratic, or unstable.
What Dr. Kamm is doing here is essentially proving, to take this to another context, that countries that have a higher ownership of automobiles per capita have a higher rate of fatal accidents. That is hardly startling, given it takes owning an automobile to have a fatality with one, but it would tell us little overall about the dangers of automobiles compared to other forms of transportation. The question is whether firearms ownership has any effect on violent crime overall. I’ve found you can get correlation, but only by reducing the size of the sample set by choosing an arbitrarily high number for GDP, which excludes virtually all of Eastern Europe (some of which have high gun ownership rates, but low murder rates, and some which have very low gun ownership rates, and very high murder rates.) Barron Barnett has done some excellent work in this area as well on the domestic front.
I also note Dr. Kamm mixing firearms homicides (which does not include suicide) and firearm deaths (which does). As I’ve mentioned before, treating firearm suicide as a reason for restricting the rights and freedom of others is inappropriate in a free society. Research also bears out that internationally there is no correlation between gun ownership and suicide rates.
Dr. Kamm’s research on NRA’s funding sources is also very poor. A quick analysis of their publicly available form 990s (some of which I’ve done here, in a different context) show that NRA gets the vast majority of its funding from its individual members, rather than from corporations or large donors. While NRA’s recent efforts in seeking larger donors are paying off, its bread and butter is still fundraising from its membership base, much to the chagrin of many of its members. Dr. Kamm also fails to note that MidwayUSA, the largest corporate donor to NRA, raises that money through a “round up” program, that asks customers to round up to the nearest dollar to support NRA. This money may have a corporate source, but its a grassroots effort. It is not something easily matched by our opponents, because there’s no anti-gun shop, where you could source “round up” donations from.
Our opponents are far more reliant on donations from large foundations than NRA is. That they don’t come close to matching our grassroots muscle is probably the reason may of them are angry, bitter, and lashing out.
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