Literary Politick

Ever curious

Guns, Violence, and International Evidence: More Guns, More Crime

with 28 comments

The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary is still fresh in our minds, and the debate on what should be done in response, if anything, is at full tilt. There are so many angles on the issue: gun ownership as a protection against tyranny, limiting the freedom of responsible members of society to reign in the harmful few, gun ownership as a crime deterrent or enabler, to name a few. I have talked about the first item in previous blogs (most recently concerning the Arab Spring and previously with respect to Gabrielle Giffords), arguing that guns no longer serve as any sort of protection against tyranny.

The second issue—limiting the rights of all to prevent the unstable few from committing atrocities—can be addressed rather quickly. We already do this in many areas of life, including weaponry. We do not allow people to buy bazookas, tanks, jets, missiles, etc., despite the fact that this is limiting the freedom of people who mean no harm, because the weapons are capable of causing such vast devastation. On a more mundane level, we limit the speed of cars on the road because of the safety hazard they pose, and we require people to wear seat belts (in most places) because it saves lives. In all of these cases we have chosen to forego some liberties to promote the greater good (saved lives). This is the nature of the social contract – give up some rights to gain greater benefits.

This simple acknowledgement of the way modern states function shows the absurdity of the “guns don’t kill people; people do” argument. The same could be said of speeding cars or bazookas, and yet we still place limits on such things.

That said, my primary purpose in this blog is to address the last issue in my list: does gun ownership increase or decrease violent crime, especially homicide? I am particularly interested in what gun ownership rates around the world have to do with homicide rates and the common arguments on the topic. To that end, you may have seen this graph floating around the internet recently (or others like it; here’s another one):

guns 1

This looks pretty convincing. You’ve got some really high homicide rates in countries with low gun ownership, and then much lower homicide rates as you move to the right. But the problem with data-based arguments is that they tend to be accepted without any critical analysis.

Here we have several problems.

First, and most importantly, the graph implies that civilian-owned firearms cause lower homicide rates. Clever economist that he is, Mr. Davies knows he can claim no such thing with this graph and merely states that countries with higher firearm ownership rates also have lower homicide rates. Just because two variables are correlated does not mean either one causes the other. But the clear implication of causation in producing the graph at all is very misleading on the part of Mr. Davies.

Second, sometimes it does not make sense to compare every country in the world. Economists are big fans of global data, and sometimes such data can be very helpful, but other times global data actually confuses the matter by making unjust comparisons. This is one of those cases. El Salvador, with the highest homicide rate in this graph was due almost entirely to gang violence, which has raged for years in that country (here is a recent article about gangs there). The gangs there have access to heavy weaponry, including assault rifles and grenades, which they use to prosecute their conflicts. In such a case, guns for self-protection are not the point – the violence is occurring between people who already have plenty of guns. When gang violence is the key driver of violence, what is needed is stronger law enforcement and rule of law, along with an attempt to address the roots of gang conflict.

Similarly, Ivory Coast has been in and out of civil war since 2000, the main source of its violence. More guns will not solve the problem – violence from wars only stops when one side wins and sets up a legitimate and stable government. In Honduras and Jamaica, drug trafficking and gang violence contribute to the high rates of homicide, again, unrelated to the rate of civilian gun ownership. In fact, in the data I use below, which was trying to approximate the data used for the above graph, 18 of the top 20 countries by homicide rate are in the Caribbean, Central America, or major drug production areas of South America.

When drug cartels and gangs are the main source of violence in a country, normally the bulk of the violence occurs between members of those groups, who already have plenty of guns. More guns for the civilian population who live around the conflict (but are not key players) will not end the violence. That is, if Gang A and Gang B are fighting and already have plenty of guns, arming group C (the civilian population) will not reduce conflict between A and B. Group C just wants to stay out of it. Fighting will continue until the root causes of the conflicts are addressed (e.g., the lack of economic opportunities for gang members, the high price and demand for drugs, etc.).

The problem with all of this is that murder in some countries has very different causes than in others. In wealthy countries like the US, murder is not due to civil war, country-wide gang violence, or massive drug cartel armies battling it out. So comparing such countries with the US and other wealthier countries is completely absurd and tells us nothing significant about gun ownership.

So I set out to look at the data from a different perspective. First, I tried to recreate the data from Mr. Davies’ graph above, using this data, so that I could compare the results with his. The data is not precisely the same, as Davies did not link to his precise sources, but I used similar time frames (2007). The graph I created is below:

guns 2

It looks very similar. The US is still way to the right. Honduras is up top. My main point here is to show that the data is similar to Mr. Davies’ (I think the other differences are due to fluctuation year to year in some of the worst conflict zones).

Then I decided to add GNI per capita (similar to GDP per capita, a simple measure of average income; data from the World Bank) and graph that against homicide. The results are below:

guns 3

The thing to notice here is that the graph looks very similar to the plots of firearm ownership and homicide. My point is that it is not hard to create a graph that shows murder rates going down as some other variable goes up. I’m sure we could produce similar graphs with variables like years of education, lifespan, and many others. Except in the case of income and homicide, there is some theoretical reason to think the relationship may be causal. After all, drug cartels and gang violence do not thrive in rich countries because they have stronger law enforcement, better prospects for their citizens (so they don’t turn to gangs), and diversified economies that provide many legal sources of income for their citizens. Many problems improve as countries get richer. Nonetheless, the relationship looks weak. So now let’s consider something else.

guns 4

Now this is a much different picture, isn’t it? This graph shows firearm ownership and homicide rates in OECD countries (a club of rich countries) that also have a GNI per capita of more than $25,000. As you can see, among wealthy nations similar to the US, as firearm ownership increases, so does homicide. This is completely different than the depiction of the data when looking at the whole world, comparing incomparable countries. And of course, that nation on the upper right, with very high firearm ownership and murder rates, is the US. The implication is obvious: even if guns are sometimes used to protect the innocent, any deterrence of homicide is outweighed by an even larger increase in homicides due to the availability of guns.

So if anything, we should expect that more guns will lead to more violence, not the other way around.

But, as I have discussed, correlation is not causation. So, in this new case, are the higher gun ownership rates causing higher homicide rates?

This possibility is supported by a number of studies, particularly by David Hemenway, Matthew Miller, and Deborah Azrael. A good summary of some of their main findings (on this topic and related ones) and a few of their articles are cited here: Harvard Injury Control Research Center. There are some fairly obvious candidates for why this relationship may exist. For instance, the availability of a gun may lead to fatal escalation in moments of anger and passion, when otherwise fists or less lethal knives would have been the weapons of choice. Guns may be taken by other members of a household (besides the gun owner) and used contrary to the owner’s will, simply because they are available. Attempts at deterrence by a gun-owner untrained to actually fight in such situations may lead to an even greater use of lethal force by criminals. These are just some of my own hypotheses, but I think the first one is probably the most likely.

My main point in this article is to show that the oft-cited data about guns and crime internationally is often misread. However, I also acknowledge that there are opposing views, most especially by John Lott and his collaborators (one of whom was my former professor, for whom I have immense respect). Lott and Mustard’s original article that started this debate can be found here, but it only deals with the right to carry concealed weapons, not overall ownership, and not in comparison to other countries. Lott’s later book that fleshes out his argument is called More Guns, Less Crime, and he wrote another book later again responding to critics. A good critique of his second book is here. Finally, another good summary of info on gun violence in the US is here. Overall, I think that research in recent years has largely shown that more guns does NOT equal less crime, contrary to Lott.

I do not believe all guns should be banned, nor do I think that such an outcome is at all possible in the US any time soon. But strict controls on who can buy guns and the types of weapons and accessories available for purchase would reduce gun violence in this country (if also combined with efforts to reduce the vast quantity of guns already floating around the US).

As many have pointed out, the same day of the Newtown shootings, a man attacked young students at an elementary school with a knife in China. While it was also horrible, without the gun the outcome was very different. The man in China wounded 23, but none died. If only that had been the outcome in Connecticut.

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28 Responses

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  1. If only it were so easy. The gun control issue is only a fraction of the bigger picture.

    In the case of Newtown:

    1) The guns did not belong to Adam Lanza, but to his mother.
    2) Banning types of guns would not have made much difference. He carried a rifle and hand guns that would not be on any proposed ban list (CT is already a strict state in this aspect).

    Meanwhile, Lanza spent a lot of time playing first-person shooter video games, and my guess is probably watching violent movies. The irony of Hollywood and the media addressing guns, while previewing the latest Texas Chainsaw 3D every time I turn on a supposedly G-rated football game, is the pinnacle of hypocrisy and irony. We have deeper moral issues in this country that need to be addressed, and the media available for our consumption in the name of “freedom” is a major elephant in the room, contributing to all sorts of social ills.

    Andrew

    December 29, 2012 at 11:34 pm

    • The issue of how to effectively prevent guns from getting into the wrong hands is certainly complex, and I don’t pretend to have all the answers. In this case, smaller clip size may have helped, but you are right that preventing all atrocities is probably impossible. At the same time, if the general moral fiber of America has weakened, then Europe’s certainly has as well (more so even, based on the sorts of things you mention), and yet Western European countries are doing much better on murder rates. This suggests to me that even considering the violence that permeates our media, reducing gun availability would still have a positive effect. Of course, I could be wrong.

      jonathanwaldroup

      December 30, 2012 at 10:24 am

      • There are plenty of studies that indicate an opposite trend – that more guns lead to less crime. Of course, there are plenty of other factors involved, mostly who has the guns.

        The problem is, it is a slippery slope. How many guns is too many? How many in a clip? Who gets to decide? These things are already closely regulated, even in CT. And in the case of Newtown, would not have made much difference when the killer can reload rapidly and is carrying multiple weapons.

        Meanwhile, in the last century we had nations like Germany, China, and the Soviet Union who disarmed their people and then systematically murdered millions. I’ll take my chances on citizens with guns.

        Due to the current proliferation of weapons in this country and state of gun control laws, our best bet is not more laws on guns, but working to understand what leads a person to take the lives of 20+ elementary aged children. Unfortunately, this requires too much self-examination to make newsworthy sound bytes, and would require real change beyond what some legislator in far away Washington can do. And we don’t like when the fingers get pointed back at us.

        Andrew

        December 30, 2012 at 9:46 pm

  2. The author makes a spurious and unsubstantiated assumption, that lowering the rate of gun ownership must necessarily lower the rate of homicide. That simply does not follow.

    Prof. Gary Kleck’s study has indicted that over 2 million crimes are foiled by guns every year, including 441,000 instances where the gun-bearing citizen believed his life was in danger. If we take an extremely conservative assumption that only 10% of these instances were genuinely life-threatening and the other 90% were exagerating, this leaves over 44,000 lives that were SAVED by guns every year. Without guns, the US homicide rate would QUINTUPLE!

    I won’t even go into the fact that homicide is not synonymous with murder. How many of the gun homicides last year were of people with extensive crimina background who died while pursuing their crimes.

    Hamlet's Ghost

    January 15, 2013 at 7:03 pm

    • Thanks for your comment.

      I think you may have missed some of my statements:

      “But, as I have discussed, correlation is not causation. So, in this new case, are the higher gun ownership rates causing higher homicide rates?

      This possibility is supported by a number of studies, particularly by David Hemenway, Matthew Miller, and Deborah Azrael. A good summary of some of their main findings (on this topic and related ones) and a few of their articles are cited here: Harvard Injury Control Research Center”

      I do not claim that the relationship is definitively causal, but that it may be and that there is evidence supporting it (see the links in the article). I also point out immediately following this that:

      “My main point in this article is to show that the oft-cited data about guns and crime internationally is often misread. However, I also acknowledge that there are opposing views, most especially by John Lott and his collaborators (one of whom was my former professor, for whom I have immense respect). Lott and Mustard’s original article that started this debate can be found here.”

      Finally, concerning homicide, I should have labeled the axes of my graphs differently. They are actually of “intentional homicide,” which in my understanding is the same as murder. But you are right to point out that labeling issue. My main concern is that this data is frequently cited by both sides of the debate as a relevant indicator of murder.

      jonathanwaldroup

      January 15, 2013 at 8:36 pm

  3. Since the gun ban in australia armed roberries went up 69 percent, assualt with guns went up 28 percent, and gun murders went up 19 percent: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQwEnihQq8c
    When you ban guns it creates a black market for guns so now only the criminals can get the guns and the criminals know that the non criminals cant get the guns. That is what happened in chicago. After guns were banned in chicago the crime rate in chicago went up to the highest in the us. The states and cities that allow citizens to do concealed carry which means allow the citizens to carry guns evreywhere they go have the lowest crime in the usa and lower crime than all of europe. The sandy hook shooting and all of the school shootings and all the shootings have gone on in gun free zones which means gun control does not work.

    jhon (@jhon_fli)

    January 16, 2013 at 2:46 am

    • Thanks for your comment.

      The black market issue is of course a valid concern. In the US, however, this issue is aggravated by the fact that local firearm controls make it very easy to bring in firearms from nearby where they can be purchased legally. So I agree in that local firearm bans are not very effective.

      Concerning Australia, I do not find the video you posted very convincing, as it contains only four statistics and then a bunch of “personal anecdotes,” which, frankly, prove absolutely nothing. I went to the Australian Institute of Criminology and found quite a different picture than the one depicted in the video, showing homicide decreasing since the gun ban – http://www.aic.gov.au/statistics/homicide.html . Here is another study showing similar results: http://injuryprevention.bmj.com/content/12/6/365.full

      The most recent homicide data I could find were from 2010, and they are in a similar, lower amount compared to 1996-97: http://www.aic.gov.au/documents/0/B/6/%7B0B619F44-B18B-47B4-9B59-F87BA643CBAA%7Dfacts11.pdf

      Also, I haven’t looked deeply into this, but I’m fairly certain there is no “right to bear arms” in Australia similar to our own 2nd Amendment rights in the US. So a depiction of the evil government stealing away every average Joe’s guns is a bit exaggerated, since I believe their average firearm ownership rate was much lower than ours to begin with.

      jonathanwaldroup

      January 16, 2013 at 10:49 am

  4. You, sir, are an idiot. Or a shill for the government. Try re-reading the constitution. If there is any doubt in your mind after that, try reading the federalist papers.

    If there had been one or two armed teachers, Sandy Hook might not have happened. Same for Aurora and so on. How about looking at some graphs of how many killings, robberies, rapes, and so on have been prevented by people carrying guns. If you want to enjoy your freedom to go gun-free, by all means, please do. If someone with a gun happens to come to your rescue, you may just have an “aha” moment.

    David V

    January 16, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    • Ad hominem attacks always win the day. Well done.

      jonathanwaldroup

      January 16, 2013 at 7:53 pm

      • How is the constitution or facts about gun owners preventing crime an ad hominem attack?

        David V

        January 16, 2013 at 10:05 pm

        • I was referring to your first two sentences. In any case, I have included links in the article both to the main scholarly works in favor of your position, as well as critiques and other scholarly research which I believe is stronger on the other side. And just so you are aware, Columbine had armed-guards on the campus and it did nothing to prevent the massacre. Many teachers do not seem to want to be armed anyway, as they are already juggling too many responsibilities.

          And I have read the Constitution, quite a number of times, and have posted about it in relation to gun rights. For my thoughts on that matter, see my previous posts on the 2nd Amendment and related issues: http://jpsurvey.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/political-rhetoric-the-second-amendment-and-the-tucson-tragedy/ and http://jpsurvey.wordpress.com/2012/03/19/revisiting-the-2nd-amendment-evidence-from-the-arab-spring/

          jonathanwaldroup

          January 16, 2013 at 10:17 pm

          • My son is a school teacher. Here is one example of where a gun made a difference. There are many more.

            http://bcove.me/izksjhl2

            I don’t care about your thoughts on the matter. If you want to change it, work on a constitutional amendment. Otherwise, you ARE an idiot. Ad hominen or not.

            David V

            January 16, 2013 at 10:42 pm

            • My wife, my brother, my sister, my mother-in-law, and several of my very close friends are teachers.

              There are anecdotes on both sides. None of them prove anything about trends, which is exactly why I took the larger scale, data-based, research-backed argument that I did in the post.

              jonathanwaldroup

              January 16, 2013 at 10:47 pm

              • OK. Peace brother. I’ll agree to disagree. I think you should research how many crimes have been prevented by gun owners, but that’s your choice.

                David V

                January 17, 2013 at 12:42 am

              • The British home office has a substantially different definition of violent crime. The British definition includes all crimes against the person including simple assaults, all robberies and all sexual offenses. Due to fundamental differences in how crime is recorded and categorized it is impossible to compute what the British violent crime rate would be if it were calculated the way the FBI does it, but if we must compare the two, my estimate would be something like 776 crimes per 100,000 people. In 2010 the USA had 403 incidents per 100,000 people. The violent crime rate in Britain which has banned guns while difficult to pin down is at least 776 per 100,000 people. It is still nearly twice the rate of the US. According to a report by Mother Jones since 1982 there have been at least 62 mass shootings in 30 states. Of the 142 guns possessed by the killers, more than three-quarters were obtained legally. The large number of guns used 68 were semi-atomic handguns. assault rifles were about half that number at 35. So when the argument is made that the way to protect children is to ban assault rifles and high capacity magazines statistically that number does not hold up. According to FBI numbers in 2011 among those murdered by guns 119 children ages 12 or younger the vast majority killed with handguns: http://www.dailypaul.com/270729/reality-check-an-apples-to-apples-comparison-of-us-and-uk-violent-crime-rates

                jhonflinflam

                January 17, 2013 at 3:46 pm

          • The British home office has a substantially different definition of violent crime. The British definition includes all crimes against the person including simple assaults, all robberies and all sexual offenses. Due to fundamental differences in how crime is recorded and categorized it is impossible to compute what the British violent crime rate would be if it were calculated the way the FBI does it, but if we must compare the two, my estimate would be something like 776 crimes per 100,000 people. In 2010 the USA had 403 incidents per 100,000 people. The violent crime rate in Britain which has banned guns while difficult to pin down is at least 776 per 100,000 people. It is still nearly twice the rate of the US. According to a report by Mother Jones since 1982 there have been at least 62 mass shootings in 30 states. Of the 142 guns possessed by the killers, more than three-quarters were obtained legally. The large number of guns used 68 were semi-atomic handguns. assault rifles were about half that number at 35. So when the argument is made that the way to protect children is to ban assault rifles and high capacity magazines statistically that number does not hold up. According to FBI numbers in 2011 among those murdered by guns 119 children ages 12 or younger the vast majority killed with handguns: http://www.dailypaul.com/270729/reality-check-an-apples-to-apples-comparison-of-us-and-uk-violent-crime-rates

            jhonflinflam

            January 17, 2013 at 11:21 pm

  5. Reality Check: An “Apples to Apples” comparison of U.S. and U.K. violent crime rates

    jhonflinflam

    January 17, 2013 at 3:23 pm

  6. The British home office has a substantially different definition of violent crime. The British definition includes all crimes against the person including simple assaults, all robberies and all sexual offenses. Due to fundamental differences in how crime is recorded and categorized it is impossible to compute what the British violent crime rate would be if it were calculated the way the FBI does it, but if we must compare the two, my estimate would be something like 776 crimes per 100,000 people. In 2010 the USA had 403 incidents per 100,000 people. The violent crime rate in Britain which has banned guns while difficult to pin down is at least 776 per 100,000 people. It is still nearly twice the rate of the US. According to a report by Mother Jones since 1982 there have been at least 62 mass shootings in 30 states. Of the 142 guns possessed by the killers, more than three-quarters were obtained legally. The large number of guns used 68 were semi-atomic handguns. assault rifles were about half that number at 35. So when the argument is made that the way to protect children is to ban assault rifles and high capacity magazines statistically that number does not hold up. According to FBI numbers in 2011 among those murdered by guns 119 children ages 12 or younger the vast majority killed with handguns: http://www.dailypaul.com/270729/reality-check-an-apples-to-apples-comparison-of-us-and-uk-violent-crime-rates

    jhonflinflam

    January 17, 2013 at 3:44 pm

  7. Good post. I don’t have any objections, I just wanted to bring up a few related issues. Specifically…

    1) The Newtown tragedy was appalling and horrific. Same for the Aurora shooting, Columbine case, Virginia Tech murders, and other high profile mass killings. However, in terms of the overall US homicide statistics, such mass murders are atypical and can give us a false impression about why America’s rate is so high compared to other OECD countries. For starters, America’s murder rate is high not because of huge numbers of mass killings but because of thousands of yearly single-victim homicides. The huge majority of homicides in America involve only 1 victim. According to Bureau of Justice statistics, for every year between 1976 and 2005, less than 5% of homicides involved more than one victim, and in 2005, 0.05% of homicide incidents involved 5 or more victims. (http://www.bjs.gov/content/homicide/multiple.cfm#multiple)

    2) The vast plurality (and often majority) of homicides in recent years have been committed with handguns. Of the 16,692 homicides in 2005, 8,478 (50.79%) were perpetrated with handguns. (In case you’re interested, 2,868 were committed with other types of guns, 2,147 with a knife, 671 with a blunt object, and 2,528 with other weapons.) (http://www.bjs.gov/content/homicide/tables/weaponstab.cfm)

    3) Homicide perpetrators and homicide victims are not evenly distributed across the population. Specifically, young black men are disproportionately likely to be both the perpetrators and the victims of homicide in America. According to the BJS statistics, a black person is 6 times more likely to be the victim of a homicide than a white person and 7 times more likely to be the perpetrator of a homicide. (http://www.bjs.gov/content/homicide/race.cfm#vrace) In 2005, for every 100,000 black people, 26.5 committed a murder. The rate for whites was 3.5 per 100,000 and the rate for other races was 2.8 per 100,000. (http://www.bjs.gov/content/homicide/tables/oracetab.cfm)

    4) As alarming as the above statistics about racial homicide disparities are, they mask the driving factor behind their reality: high poverty, high crime neighborhoods where young men — especially young black men — are killing each other. I highly recommend the book, “Don’t Shoot: One Man, A Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America” by David M. Kennedy. Here is an interesting quotation about the racial disparities in homicide rates:

    ‘..The rich have gotten richer and safer but neither can be said for the nation’s urban poor.’ … the homicide rate for young black men in the high-crime area of Rochester, New York … was 520 per 100,000. The math means that more than one in two hundred are murdered every year.
    That small increase in New York City’s homicides in 2010? Driven entirely by black dead, mostly young black men. White deaths were down 27 percent, black deaths up 31 percent. Young black men fifteen to twenty-nine were 3 percent of the city, a full third of the murdered. (Kennedy, page 14)

    Kennedy goes on to convincingly argue that the vast preponderance of this young black-on-black inner-city violence is driven by gang-related or drug-related disputes (or both). He offers examples of many cities where community leaders and law enforcement officials have used effective strategies to cause major declines in the murder rate. In my opinion, Kennedy’s policy prescriptions would be a great place to start in beginning to address America’s embarrassingly high homicide rate. Definitely read his book if you get the chance.

    danielwaldroup

    January 17, 2013 at 11:50 pm

    • All the shootings have happened in states that severely restrict the right to keep and bear arms or locations that have banned guns completely. Also the cities and states that allow have concealed carry which means you are allowed to have your gun everywhere you go if you have a concealed carry permit have the lowest amount of crime in the US, and a lower amount of crime then all of Europe. .

      jhonflin

      January 18, 2013 at 12:45 pm

    • Very important information, thanks for commenting. I will check out the book, surely!

      jonathanwaldroup

      January 18, 2013 at 10:20 pm

  8. Piers Morgan, host of Piers Morgan Tonight on CNN, has Larry Pratt, Executive Director of Gun Owners of America, on his show as a guest for a second time to continue their debate on gun control: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3C1d4onZsyw&list=UUFJ2K2gUJJ1ecBU6Sxc3bCA&index=4

    jhonflin

    January 20, 2013 at 5:00 pm

  9. How can you compare the United States to every OECD country with a GNI >$25,000 per capita?

    The only countries in that designation that have anywhere near a similar history and lack of homogeneity would be Mexico, Canada, Australia, and (possibly) Chile.

    Why is El Salvador excised, but El Paso remains?

    Gadfly

    January 22, 2013 at 6:45 pm

  10. Chinese Survivor of Tiananmen Square Cautions Against Gun Control in America: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I6_vCbi0JeI&feature=youtu.be

    jhonflin

    January 23, 2013 at 2:21 am

  11. Your post unfortunately contains factual inaccuracy.

    “Bazookas, tanks, missiles, jets, etc” are all legal in some capacity, providing that the proper licensing procedures are followed. The ATF classifies bazookas as “destructive devices” and are subject to taxes and licensing, but legal to own. Tanks are not specifically regulated, the weapon on top may be licensed separately depending on what it consists of. Holders of model rocketry licenses can obtain explosive rocket engines which weigh hundreds of pounds and are large enough to be, for all intents and purposes, missiles. In reality the economics of obtaining the weapons mentioned makes them essentially self regulating.

    In addition, I would like to see your second graph done using the rate of firearm ownership instead of the number of guns, since a person with 100 guns is not more likely to use one of them in a crime than a person with only one, and in reality is likely less prone. I imagine you would see an increase in your correlation if you redid the graph using the rate of ownership instead the total number per capita, which could be a bellweather for a richer, less violence prone country instead of one in which guns are more prevalent. What made you choose $25,000 as the threshold value?

    And lastly, as you noted, there are other factors involved. What happens when you compare the US states, which have similar culture, reporting rates, and data availability? Does the correlation remain?

    Craig Harmon

    January 26, 2013 at 3:01 am

  12. Am I the only one that thinks an R^2 value of .4 is pretty low? I know that I would never have been allowed to draw a definitive conclusion with such a low correlation in any of my college research papers.

    Jared

    January 27, 2013 at 10:07 pm

    • Jared, you are quite right. R^2 of .4 is not very high. But when inserting the line of best fit into the earlier graph with all countries (which had been used to show that more guns decreased crime), the R^2 is .0013, so the new one is a huge improvement. But in any case, you certainly couldn’t draw definitive conclusions from the new regression. That’s why immediately after I propose that the relationship is not the one suspected by gun advocates, I point out that my graph doesn’t prove anything, but merely suggests a possible path and then provide links to more evidence:

      “So if anything, we should expect that more guns will lead to more violence, not the other way around.

      But, as I have discussed, correlation is not causation. So, in this new case, are the higher gun ownership rates causing higher homicide rates?

      This possibility is supported by a number of studies, particularly by David Hemenway, Matthew Miller, and Deborah Azrael…” etc.

      jonathanwaldroup

      January 27, 2013 at 10:14 pm

    • PS, I should also point out that this graph in Excel used only the one independent variable. This was not at all a rigorous multiple regression controlling for other variables. My point in producing the graph at all was to show that the original graph, produced by an economist who would have been more capable of actually doing a proper statistical model, was misleading. If anything, the most simplistic bivariate case points to the relationship I showed when incomparable countries are omitted.

      jonathanwaldroup

      January 27, 2013 at 10:19 pm


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