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Gun Control Statistics That Reasonable People Should Know

firearmsfacts

What would a reasonable person do if he actually wanted to know the truth about gun control? Put aside emotions for a second, and really think about setting out to save as many precious individual human lives as possible . Wouldn’t you want to look at national, international, time-series and historical stats to find out if your opinion is, you know, true?

Anyone can have an opinion based on wishes; it just behooves us to know what’s going on in that place called “reality” before we set off on some self-defeating, quixotic crusade. And “crusades” often get people killed. Lots and lots of people killed. (See DDT and malaria; or consider that the ‘long peace’ since the end of World War II is almost entirely due to nuclear arms proliferation to great powers).

With an open mind and a heavy heart, let’s take a look at 11 contextual and specific facts about mass murder, gun violence, and violence trends in the United States, and compare the U.S. to countries abroad:

  1. Mass shootings rose between the 1960s and the 1990s, and dropped in the 2000s. Mass killings actually reached their peak in 1929. (According to Grant Duwe, criminologist with the Minnesota Department of Corrections.)
  2. “States that allow law-abiding citizens to carry concealed handguns enjoy a 60 percent decrease in multiple-victim public shootings and a 78 percent decrease in victims per attack.” John Lott, Jr. and Bill Landes, “More Guns, Less Crime.”
  3. “With just one single exception, the attack on congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in Tucson in 2011, every public shooting since at least 1950 in the U.S. in which more than three people have been killed has taken place where citizens are not allowed to carry guns.”– John Lott, Jr. Co-author with Bill Landes of “More Guns, Less Crime.”
  4. “Until the Newtown horror, the three worst K–12 school shootings ever had taken place in either Britain or Germany.” [John Fund, NRO. “The Facts About Mass Shootings.”]
  5. Total violent crime from 1973 to 2009 decreased 65%, or is about one-third as high. (Bureau of Justice Statistics)
  6. The U.S. murder rate decreased 8.1% between 2008 and 2009, and has fallen every year since 2006. (Bureau of Justice Statistics, based on FBI data).
  7. The United States ranks 24th in the world in terms of its murder rate. It also has the most highly armed civilian population.
  8. “International evidence and comparisons have long been offered as proof of the mantra that more guns mean more deaths and that fewer guns, therefore, mean fewer deaths. There is a compound assertion that (a) guns are uniquely available in the United States compared with other modern developed nations, which is why (b) the United States has by far the highest murder rate. Though these assertions have been endlessly repeated, statement (b) is, in fact, false and statement (a) is substantially so.” (Kates & Mauser, Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Vol. 30, No. 2)
  9. “The political causation is that nations which have violence problems tend to adopt severe gun controls, but these do not reduce violence, which is determined by basic sociocultural and economic factors.” [Then why does Luxemburg have nine times the murder rate of Germany?] (Kates & Mauser, Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Vol. 30, No. 2)
  10. “The Middle Ages were a time of notoriously brutal and endemic warfare. They also experienced rates of ordinary murder almost double the highest recorded U.S. murder rate. But Middle Age homicide “cannot be explained in terms of the availability of firearms, which had not yet been invented.” (Kates & Mauser, Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Vol. 30, No. 2)
  11. The odds of being in a victim of a mass shooting are far less than that of being struck by lightning.

Only when one gets the big picture view, then can we see the intra-national view: heavily urbanized gun control states tend to have gun murders that are just as high or higher on average than states that are rural or urbanized with concealed carry laws or relaxed gun permit laws. Beyond the timid phrase ‘gun control doesn’t work,’ which would imply we might as well implement them anyway just to make us feel good, they actually put Americans in more danger. This is not to say we shouldn’t do anything policywise to prevent as many rampage killings as feasible. We should do something — both personally and policywise.

Ultimately, why do spree killers go on their inhuman rampages? There are many different reasons, and a common causal factor is hard to say for certain. There are millions of people who are picked on, are lonely, or have bad families who don’t snap and kill others.  But simply looking at commonalities among spree killers is not sufficient; it’s an error in political science called “sampling on the dependent variable.” One has to look at the entire universe of individuals in a society more broadly and find the causal factors or cluster of factors that are significant and unique to the qualified cases at hand. What we can do is exclude the reasons spree killers don’t go on their murderous rampages.

The largest scientific study ever conducted at the time was published in 2000 at the NY Times, of all places. What was published is definitive and follows logically and empirically: rampage killers “are not drunk or high on drugs. They are not racists or Satanists,or addicted to violent video games, movies or music.”

The study examined 100 cases, including the Columbine massacre.  Among the findings: “While the killings have caused many people to point to the violent aspects of the culture, a closer look shows little evidence that video games, movies or television encouraged many of the attacks. In only 6 of the 100 cases did the killers have a known interest in violent video games. Seven other killers showed an interest in violent movies.”

It is irresponsible and self-defeating to rush to adopt public policies just because they make us feel better or well-intentioned or because we think we should do something. The history of humankind shows: understand first, then act.

Editor’s note: This article was edited to streamline the argument.

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Comments (47)

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  1. Kevin Banet says:

    Many good points about false ideas of gun control in this article. If you want to learn more about why gun control doesn’t stop murders, and about our Second Amendment rights, go to the above website. It’s author, Bradlee Dean, also talks about the conflicting reports around mass murders such as Sandy Hook.

  2. Progressive Paul says:

    Your graph is in error. The CDC stats list “all homicides” and “firearm homicides”. “Non-firearm homicides” would be all homicides minus firearm homicides, or 5,306.

    There are roughly 3 firearm homicides for every non-firearm homicide.

  3. JaneTxTn says:

    I’d like more specifics on the source and scope of these statistics. The FBI reported 2011 homidide stats show 67 percent of homicides were from guns. http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-7

    Of course we all knows stats are fun to play with.

    • bart says:

      Not just fun to play around with, they can be manipulated in all sorts of interesting ways, depending on what kind of results you’re trying to achieve. ;-)

      We could also say that everybody who wears a rabbit costume is safe from being shot by a sniper, because that has probably never occured and could be statistically proven…

  4. bart says:

    Most people die because they live too long, should we ban living as well?

  5. Jan Brown says:

    Jan & JanBROWN are not the same person. BOTH are beautiful & brilliant, but may have different opinions. Sooo..please don’t send her my hatemail & I don’t want hers…however I will take her love notes & praise as my supply is sparse.

  6. Jan says:

    +
    Why in the world didn’t you put deaths of human beings by abortion on your graph?

    1,243,564 in 2012 in the U.S. alone at this point in time: http://www.numberofabortions.com/

  7. Dave P says:

    Most retarded comparison ever. What is your conclusion? Ban cars and falling over? Wake up!

    • Jay says:

      You would have to be pretty dense to walk away from this article thinking that it implies anyone should ban cars or anything else.

      The point, which most high schoolers would be able to figure out without my explaining, is that since no one calls for the ban of substances that cause higher death rates than guns, we need to examine whether to ban guns based on statistics that provide more information than just the number of people killed by guns.

      I would suggest you take some classes on basic logic before you advise anyone else to wake up.

  8. Jan Brown says:

    LAWS are written to ‘protect’ the physical well being capable of understanding them & the consequense of not adherring to them…It does not & cannot predict the mental state of those incapabele of that & are rendered useless. Nor do laws ‘choose’ to be ignored/unenforced. In New York, a known felon broke the law by having guns, In Sandy Hook, a person stole guns from a legal owner (his mother). THE LAWS state these a crime..period! …In BOTH, as well as Colorado tragaties, NONE OF THE GUNS used are on the “list” of assualt weapons that many wish to ban….Perhaps we should direct our attention on ‘the source’ of the problem…the lack of mental health support (or lack of) rather than getting caught up in mass hysteria of ‘more laws’ let’s make it posibl for law enforcement & mental health persons to do what they are trained for…..

  9. informant says:

    still, 11500 deaths a year for nothing, only a facist would consider this alright

    • Bruce Miller says:

      A homicidal maniac will find a way, you can hide all the guns, knives, spears, cross bows, only to find a gasoline bomb in your cafeteria? Difference is made in Canada at least, with sweeping legal powers given to Doctors, health care workers, police and astoundingly effective free mental health care for all. Powers given to our medical practitioners are totally unconstitutional in U.S., same with our police powers. In fact: Mandatory courses in the care and treatment of the mentally ill, elderly, disabled, folk are happening here every day. You want a peaceful,humane,and responsible society, you fucking well pay for it and demand it and get it or call an election !

      • Aaron says:

        give all your possesions away. A thief will find a way to steal them anyway.

        • Bruce Miller says:

          Native Americ<n philosophy, and it follows close to Jesus instruxtions? Fact is: Better mental health care is like a condom – only preventative medicine but the best we have in hand! A better world is so very possible, just in sight but just out of reach for the hairless monkey.

      • j says:

        Free mental health care for all? What fantasy version of Canada do you live in?

        I’ve been asking every few months for mental health care FOR OVER FOUR YEARS. I’ve gotten absolutely no help.
        In fact, I’ve been told that the illnesses I have been diagnosed with (by doctors) are not even real things (told to me by a SECRETARY, who then refused to put me on callback lists or waitlists because of his opinion). When I complained through official channels, I was ignored. When I asked to speak to other people, I was told that was impossible as that was the only person who spoke to people who were not already patients there at the only place we can get free care in our town.