For the Children, Part MDCCXXIII

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.

26 thoughts on “For the Children, Part MDCCXXIII”

  1. I don’t go in for “credentialism,” but some people do. I’ve noticed that “DR” Art Kamm makes sure that you know that he’s got a PhD. If that matters to you, it’s a PhD in Biochemistry, not anything that relates to firearms, crime, or economics.

    1. Interesting point, on the one hand, but on the other hand, it could be a PhD in underwater basketweaving and it should still mean he has enough intelligence and understanding of statistical analysis to see those ‘errors’ in his sleep.

  2. Another way to illuminate the fact that they are cherry-picking Northern European countries is that they are effectively only including majority white countries, with the exceptions of Japan, Singapore and Hong Kong. (You know, the “civilized” non-white people.)

    You’ll even catch them slipping and saying “civilized” instead of “industrialized” all the time in posts and conversations. Of course, “civilization” for them effectively ends at the Oder.

  3. “Why is it legitimate to only examine homicide by firearm?” Because they are perfectly fine with you being raped, murdered, assaulted, or whatever, as long as it’s not done with a gun. They’re only against gun violence.

    1. Well, actually, they care about other forms of violence too. As “Great” Britain demonstrates, after they ban the guns, they’ll all of the sudden become distressed by all the knife violence, and start demanding a ban on knives!

      (And they’ll quietly ignore the rising gun violence rate, except to report that it’s still lower than other countries’ rates.)

  4. I have some ocean front property in North Dakota to sell the professor. Italy’s homicide rate, like most of the countries Wikipedia defines as part of Europe, has been rising. For 2003 the official combined murder and homicide totals (yes, they are reported separately) was 2,617 bodies for an estimated population of 58 million. A rate of 4.5 – excluding the Rom and other “undesirable minorities.”

    If a “Roma thief,” or an Albanian, Bulgarian, Turk, or some other “subhuman trash” winds up dead in a puddle of his own blood, that is regrettable, but there is no reason for the police to investigate. Much less file a report.

    Much the same goes for France, where the “official” homicide rate is 1.7 and the real rate is above 5. Germany is also above 5, Poland was 6.5 in 2009, etc., etc. And all those rates are rising as the economy sours.

    As far as separating firearms homicide rates from the total, it makes a better argument against guns. Most reasonable people would rather be shot than beaten to death but the irrationals ones do not consider that.


  5. As an addendum, excluding Russia, which is pretty much like Chicago or Philadelphia, the most violent country in Finland. The official rate is 23, and the real rate is close to 30 per 100,000 population. Finland reported 1,242 murders in an estimated population of 5.8 million for 23 per 100,000.

    But, like most of Europe, the Finns usually do not count dead Muslims, Roma, and other minorities. Something left over from the 1930’s, if you are wondering.

    Japan? The aging Japanese people do not kill each other with the frequency they did when they were younger. The mean for the 20th Century was 4.8, the same as the 2010 US rate, and the current homicide rate is 1.5 per 100,000 – essentially counting only ethnic Japanese. If you count “foreigners,” the rate is currently above 4.1.

    I could go on – but you get the picture.



    1. Japan is also in the top 5 for suicide rates if I recall, and nearly no civilian gun ownership.

  6. Stranger,

    Is your data available from any one source? I’d like to add it to my reference library of this stuff.

  7. Stranger is absolutely right. I had done similar research as Dr. Art but gave up because any available crime statistic in EMEA had huge anomalies.

    In some countries, they only count crimes that a conviction is won. A murder isn’t a murder until someone is convicted. I think Belgium is this way.

    If you are an illegal, your murder won’t count either. Alot of criminals don’t report murders so they don’t attract police attention. The family just buries the body and moves on.

    In the UK, victims of crime will NOT call the cops. In the rare occasion that the cops come to the crime scene, alot of times they harass or arrest you for trying to harm the criminal.

    Our murder stats are based on bodies … illegal, muslim, criminal, etc. they are in the numbers. You can’t bury a body that has bullet holes unless the cops/medical examiner is called. We can’t say that about the enlightened Euros.

  8. “Gun Death” and “Gun Suicide” as well as “Gun Crime” are metrics solely developed for the purpose of proving gun control policy.

    The theory also hinges that if you eliminate “Gun Death” by eliminating guns in private hands, that the crimes and death won’t be replaced by other forms of violence.

    We all know that isn’t true:

  9. So if in Japan they have only 50 firearms and 22 gun homicides, that means that if yo look at the ratio of gun deaths to firearms owned, it is just over 2:1. So, if the U.S. is the same or worse, that means 65 million people had to die by gunfire here in the same period. I am pretty sure that didn’t happen.

    If you look at the homicide rates compared to the gun ownership rates, you will find that the U.S. is much safer with our guns than any of their Cherry picked countries. England and France have 5x the rate of homicides per civilian owned gun as the U.S.

  10. Japan’s suicide rate is about twice ours. I blame it on depression, resulting from the inability to own firearms.

  11. Back when I first started DOOT, one of the first posts I made was an email I received from the Swiss Federal Statistics Office over a discrepancy in the UN homicide report. The UN had combined completed and ‘attempted’ homicides into one number, doubling the Swiss rate.

    Dear Mr Thirdpower,

    Thank you for your mail
    Unfortunately, data from the UN reports are not correct. The figure of 213 refers to ‘completed’ and ‘attempted’ homicides and the figure of 127 to the attempted ones.

    We apologize for the error and thank you very much for having brought it to our notice.

    And another email from INTERPOL:

    In response to your enquiry, INTERPOL’s International Crime Statistics are no longer being made available to the public.

    The decision to remove the statistics was taken as some users and some members of the media were making comparisons between countries based on these statistics, when different collection methods make such comparisons problematic.

    So it’s comparing apples and oranges depending on who is doing the reporting and what they’re adding/withholding from it. But don’t let facts get in the way of a good anti-rant.

    1. Congratulations Mike! For once I think you make a really good point :)

      My response would be that carrying a firearm is a relatively minor burden, whereas wearing body armor is a relatively major one. What you are suggesting would be akin to not only suggesting it’s a good idea to carry a fire extinguisher in your automobile, but that it would also be a good idea to keep full nomex fire gear in there as well. In the same context, it would also be like arguing that since you’re worried about being attacked, why not carry a rifle? Again, the reason is the relative burden of each.

      Everybody makes tradeoffs in this regard. A four point safety restraint in an automobile is more effective than a three point harness combined with airbags. That’s why racing cars use four point restraint, rather than the three point/airbag combination. But we put the less effective measure in our passenger cars as a tradeoff for comfort vs. safety.

      So that would basically be my answer. But it was a reasonable point.

      1. The difference, mikeyb, is that we don’t FORCE anyone to go along with us (ie for this example, carry nomex gear in the car) or impose stupidly huge monetary penalties for not following us.

        Sebastian – I wouldn’t mind openly carrying a select-fire rifle as long as no-one questioned me about it. It’d be kinda hard to dance with it though so I’ll stick with my Glock 19s.

      2. +1 when body armor becomes light, flexible, and breathable enough that it offers no more burden and discomfort to my daily garb as my daily carry rig (which indeed ads weight, and cover garments can add insulation on warm days) and the price and law isn’t prohibitive to their use, I’m all about it.

        Not that he’ll respond as this was yet another troll.

    2. Did anyone of us say its safe in the US? We are pointing out that the antis are using inaccurate/incomplete data to prove that Europe is safer than the US. They are fudging the data and lying with thier research. I say lying because anyone who collects and studies this data can immediately identify the inconsistencies and holes.

      Frankly, any comparison of crime between countries or states is a fraud since there is no way to account for demographics, socio-economic conditions, illegal drug usage, gangs, etc. that have a bigger impact on crime than gun-ownership. The best one can do is look at what happens around the change in the gun laws to see what the impact is. See this report:

    3. For the same reasons your side keeps saying it’s too violent in the US because of (illegally used) guns and other weapons – there certainly IS a reason to own firearms now!

  12. The reason you don’t use body armor and those other protective garments is that you have an unrealistic fantasy-driven opinion of the power of your being armed. Random violence could strike so suddenly that all your situational awareness and the gun you carry and the other precautions will do nothing to protect you. But a vest would and those tourniquet pants could.

    But you’re not interested because you live in that fantasy world in which you come out on top, superior to the lowlife who dares to attack you.

    1. If there is a fantasy about being armed, why the hell do police even carry guns anyways?

    2. Do you have statistics, or even anecdotes, to back up your arguments? Since you’re so eager to accept bogus statistics when they defend your position, and are so eager to cry “spin doctor!” when we debunk those statistics, you should be ready to back up your claims with statistics, right?

      As for us, we have strong statistical arguments on our side! At least, as strong as you can get, when you try to eek out the other factors…at worst, guns have no effect on rates of violence, and they may also decrease it. And we *certainly* have anecdotes that illustrate how guns can prevent violence, or save lives when violence is used, or *could* have saved lives had a gun been present in the right hands.

      Unfortunately, as it stands, there’s a major flaw in your argument: all but the most expensive, and most burdensome, armor is effective only against bullets, and only against pistol bullets at that. If a criminal has a knife, then it’s going to punch right through. I’m not sure what a bat would do, but if you’re not wearing a helmet or leg protection as well, then my guess is that armor isn’t going to do all that well against bats, either.

      And certainly, armor is going to be useless against someone with a can of gasoline and a match!

      I don’t know what fantasy world you live in, though, because armor would only make sense out-doors. I am not going to want to sleep in my armor, nor am I going to want to wear it all day around the house–and so armor is going to be useless for defense against home intruders. Nor am I going to want to make sure my children always wear armor. They grow too fast!

      No, the best solution to rare violence is to carry a weapon when you’re awake, have it by your nightstand when you are asleep, be aware of your surroundings as much as possible, and be ready to fight for your life, and the lives of those you love, when attacked by someone who is intent to do you harm.

  13. Mike,

    First off, pointing out that the cherry-picked countries used to prove the US is “bad” for violence aren’t as “good” as claimed is not the same as saying the US is absolutely safe. It’s simply demanding apples be compared with apples when facts are being asserted and public policy concerning the infringement of fundamental civil rights is being discussed.

    Second, we don’t wear bulletproof vests because there are far more violent crimes that don’t involve firearms than those that do. -All- violent personal crimes, committed with any weapon or even bare hands, are dissuade-able (not absolutely, but the extant actual science definitely indicates effectively) by defensive use of firearms; a vest could only partly protect against the least likely.

    Which is why police officers are usually always armed but typically only wear vests while on the job. When working they are required by their job to seek out and confront violent criminals who otherwise are not actively targeting them (the officers) and in the course of doing so run the risk of being shot by other officers as well. None of which, statistically, applies to non-LEO defensive gun carriers. (We’ll set aside the proven protection a vest provides in case of a crash, which police, who often drive all day and engage in hi-speed pursuits, are more likely to experience than the non-LEO gun carrier).

    Seriously, take a logic class and/or do a little more research prior to trying for “gotchas”.

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