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Gun Control Statistics That Reasonable People Should Know

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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?
[adToAppearHere] 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.
[adToAppearHere] 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.

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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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About Kyle Becker

47 comments

  1. 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. 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. 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.

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

  5. 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. +
    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. Most retarded comparison ever. What is your conclusion? Ban cars and falling over? Wake up!

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

    • 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 !

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

        • 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.

      • 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.

  10. Now compared to countries with incredibly high gun control like England or Germany. Gun control in the US is simply pathetic and saying MOAR GUNS will solve the problems of people shooting eachother is like pouring gassoline on a fire expecting it to go out.

  11. Marijuana usage deaths: 0
    Multi person deaths (from one use) caused by tobacco: 0

  12. #7. Are you pulling these out of your ass?
    The United States ranks 24th in the world in terms of its murder rate. It also has the most highly armed civilian population.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_firearm-related_death_rate

    Pretty sad when you start out by saying “want the truth?” and a ton of other garbage, then you come out with this 3-foot yule log.

    I’d also cite Canada’s low murder/gun death rate, but they just aren’t like us – guns aren’t part of the culture like they are here, yet somehow they manage to survive day-to-day with no guns, no religion in their schools all the while watching the same TV and movies and playing the same video games as us.

    You tell me what the difference is.

  13. The problem isn’t the law, its the culture. We are by far and undeniably the most gun crazy country in the world, and its definitely caused us problems. Wax poetic about the founding fathers and your rights all you want, just remember:

    A) The second amendment mentions gun ownership in relation to the ability to form a militia, which was necessary due to the fact that the US had no standing army after the rev. war (obviously not the case now)

    B)they lived in an extremely rural, unexplored land where not having a gun meant death, and all citizens would ALWAYS know the ins and outs of the firearms he carried, based on necessity.

    C) the largest city IN THE WORLD was still shy of 1 million people, not to mention the fact that the largest city in the US was New York at around 35000.

    D) The best guns around were only effective to about 100 yards, and fired 3 shots a minute, maybe. Again, today this is not the case.

    My point is, the founding fathers were great and all, but there is no way they could have ever conceived of this. Just as we have little constitution to guide us in the debate over internet usage and privacy, we’re in a period where the constitution just isn’t nearly as relevant anymore, so why keep ourselves tethered to it?

    It isn’t those who are using guns responsibly that anyone is concerned with, its those who think that just because they have the right to have a gun means that they need a gun. That’s my fear about conceal and carry as well. irresponsible people doing irresponsible things with something they know nothing about.

    • tx, good points here, didn’t think of a couple of these (population, gun range)

    • I think you presuppose that most people are stupid.

    • A LITTLE GUN HISTORY
      In 1929, the Soviet Union established gun control. >From 1929 to 1953, about 20 million dissidents, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated.
      In 1911, Turkey established gun control. From 1915 to 1917, 1.5 million Armenians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. 
      Germany established gun control in 1938 and from 1939 to 1945, a total of 13 million Jews and others who were unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated. 
      China established gun control in 1935. From 1948 to 1952, 20 million political dissidents, unable to defend themselves were rounded up and exterminated
      Guatemala established gun control in 1964. From 1964 to 1981, 100,000 Mayan Indians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. 
      Uganda established gun control in 1970. From 1971 to 1979, 300,000 Christians, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. 
      Cambodia established gun control in 1956. From 1975 to 1977, one million educated people, unable to defend themselves, were rounded up and exterminated. 
      Defenseless people rounded up and exterminated in the 20th Century because of gun control: 56 million. 
      You won’t see this data on the US evening news, or hear politicians disseminating this information. 
      Guns in the hands of honest citizens save lives and property and, yes, gun-control laws adversely affect only the law-abiding citizens. 
      Take note my fellow Americans, before it’s too late! 
      The next time someone talks in favor of gun control, please remind them of this history lesson. 
      With guns, we are ‘citizens’. Without them, we are ‘subjects’.
      During WWII the Japanese decided not to invade America because they knew most Americans were ARMED! 
      If you value your freedom, please spread this antigun-control message to all of your friends. 
      SWITZERLAND ISSUES EVERY HOUSEHOLD A GUN!
      SWITZERLAND’S GOVERNMENT TRAINS EVERY ADULT THEY ISSUE A RIFLE. 
      SWITZERLAND HAS THE LOWEST GUN RELATED CRIME RATE OF ANY CIVILIZED COUNTRY IN THE WORLD!!! 
      IT’S A NO BRAINER!
      DON’T LET OUR GOVERNMENT WASTE MILLIONS OF OUR TAX DOLLARS IN AN EFFORT TO MAKE ALL LAW ABIDING CITIZENS AN EASY TARGET. 
      Spread the word everywhere you can that you are a firm believer in the 2nd Amendment!

      It’s time to speak loud before they try to silence and disarm us.
      You’re not imagining it, history shows that governments always manipulate tragedies to attempt to disarm the people.

  14. I forgot to include that I am 100% behind the U.S. Constitution, including the 2nd Amendment.

  15. My first thought is directed to that old Constitution & it’s amendments & how so many are willing to ignore it or toss it aside. After that I am reminded that opinions are like certain body parts & everyone has them…some better than others…& on this issue there is no ‘one size fits all’…IF one is truly interested in making their schools more secure, perhaps it would behoove you to meet with your community leaders & school officials to craft methods suited to your locale….We tend to be drawn to the stats that validate our own thinking & dispute anyone that has researched & presented any different discovery. NO STATS OR FACTS CAN REPLACE GOOD COMMON SENSE….just guide it. I should’ve prefaced my comments with the fact that I am a gun owner, a long time member of NRA & live where a carry permit is available. These guns are secured. I discovered that a bullet travels faster & farther than a knife. In all of these years not one of these guns hurt anyone. Kyle’s sources are much the same as I found, but then he does due diligence better than most. I find I can disagree with him & not have to play ‘gottcha’ to make my point. Stats alone don”t tell the story, they only make the outline.

  16. Thank you very much for the very useful service of pulling all these statistics together.

    While were about it, how about the deaths caused by kindly, gentile, compassionate socialist regimes–you know, like the Soviet Union, NSDAP Germany, Peoples Republica of China, Khmer Rouge Cambodia, etc.) versus non-socialist regimes.

  17. Here have a look at some real statistics from a paid researcher about guns in the states.

    http://globalsociology.com/2012/12/15/on-the-guns-thing-i-would-just-like-to-point-out/

    • Oh golly, a paid researcher? I happen to be a paid researcher with graduate degrees in International Studies and Political Science, and let me tell you what I think:

      1. You cannot compare gun control and gun homicide rate only, because there are alternative ways to kill people in the absence of legal firearms availability. The U.S. has the highest gun possession rate in the world, far more than Russia, which has five times the murder rate. That’s one example. The U.S. ranks 24th in the world in murder rate, and that puts it behind countries: Russia, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Belarus, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Poland, Georgia, Jamaica and others.

      2. Luxemburg was taken out, and it has very strict gun control laws and nine times the murder rate of relaxed gun law country Germany. This is one case cited in the Harvard journal article cited above. There are others.

      3. If you look within the United States, 37 states have concealed carry laws, a few are in dispute, and about ten have very restrictive gun permit procedures. These strict gun control states do not enjoy reduced handgun violence. On the contrary, states that allow concealed carry see reductions in many types of gun-related violence.

      4. Disarmed populaces are easy for statists to bully around and to force into whatever arbitrary policies they want. This may not mean much to ignoramuses, but it means something to people who have read a history book outside of high school or outside of their carefully assigned college curricula.

      4. I could put any statistic in the world here, and you are just going to believe what you want anyway. It likely makes you feel good to think you’re morally superior for not liking guns, and to think any differently is against what liberalism is about — feeling first, thinking second.

      • You should not compare the USA to failed states but to it’s economic developed European neigbours which are much more close socio-economic wise. There you see that the gun possession and murder rate is of the chart for the USA.

        If you look at the heatmap in from the link I posted, you see that gun murder rates are the lowest in New England, and the heighest in the conservative south, where I guess the most lax gun laws are.

        Europe has much more blood per square foot of soil than the USA, so don’t lecture us about history. We have been in the killing bussiness much longer than the USA exists, and decided there are smarter ways than everybody having guns and war all the time. (Yes the USA got us out of the last big war, but we aren’t starting any anymore in Europe).

        And to take away some of the fake counter arguments I have second post for you in which the author of the first link targets also these with data:

        http://globalsociology.com/2012/12/16/on-the-guns-thing-part-2/

      • The part of your chart regarding non-fire arm homicide is incorrect. The CDC had the same number you said but it had TOTAL homicides, not non-fire arm homicides. I just checked the CDC website.

    • From The Telegraph: http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/jan/10/gun-crime-us-state

      The US has the highest gun ownership rate in the world – there are 89 guns for every 100 Americans, compared to 6 in England and Wales.

      “In 2011 – the latest year for which detailed statistics are available – there were 12,664 murders in the US. Of those, 8,583 were caused by firearms.”

      The U.S. has a population of 311,000,000 people. This means a gun murder rate of 2.75 for every 100,000 people. But like I pointed out to no avail, the overall murder rate is highly relevant.

      This is a map of the U.S. by intentional homicide rate. Not so much of an outlier now, is it?
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Map_of_world_by_intentional_homicide_rate.png

      • Ok, so you do think it is correct to compare the USA with failed States? Does is fall within that category?

        • I went out of my way to prove they aren’t “failed states.” Like I listed and you ignored, the biggest spree killings of K-12 children before Newtown happened in Britain and Germany. If we extend out that age group, the gun-free zone of Norway was the largest such mass murder. These are failed states in the liberal imagination?

          You don’t like guns and neither do I, personally (though I know how to shoot), but banning guns is stupid and dangerous. Can’t be any more plain than that.

          • You forgot to say what Britain did after the school massacre. Hand guns are now illegal. Assault weapons always have been because we are not demented.

            Our society hasn’t exactly fallen apart since the law was passed.

            I believe it did go a bit far and was passed for the wrong reasons – any politician who called for less than a total ban suddenly found themselves without a career for being “out of touch”.

            Banning guns is neither stupid nor dangerous. There was a time when Americans did need to be armed to assure their continued safety and freedom. You aren’t new nation on untamed ground, beset with threats any more, it’s time to grow up and stop pretending you are.

            The biggest threat you have these days comes from the people you live with, the solution is societal, not holding on to the ability to blow them away.

            Your stats are a little wobbly. If you have unintentional injuries in there, you should split out gun-related ones. Big-picture, I think the stats unhelpful due to intentionality. It doesn’t make sense to compare errors and accidents to homicide simply because the outcomes are the same.

  18. the arguments made in this article are f***** stupid.

    ppl own baseball bats for sport. can use them as a weapon.

    what are ppl owning guns for? many ppl that own guns may be fine.

    but how about the mentally insane?

    tho you have to question what ppl are going to do with a gun if they own one.

    • Didn’t read the article, did you, Ed?

    • I’m not going to argue any points here but you want to know what people are going to do with guns they own. Not sure of you’re talking about everyone in general but here is an answer. I own 6 guns one of them being an assault rifle. Only one firearm is loaded and its for home defense. The others are because I’m fascinated by them. Just like car guys are to cars. I am an avid and often target shooter. I am responsible and of sound mental health. I do not conceal carry yet I don’t believe its a bad idea. Most people will never use their guns in a defensive act or a senseless violent one. The over used saying does apply here.

    • There are dozens of sports you can participate in with a firearm and only one with a baseball bat. What are you talking about? Are you mentally insane?

  19. Comparing high powered Murder on children to accidents is STUPID, selfish politicizing and insensitive.

    • Not knowing the facts or refusing to listen is stupid.

    • It’s called an incidence rate, “Progressive Man.” Conservatives aren’t arguing to expand concealed carry laws, they are only defending themselves against progressives who want to blindly and dangerously expand gun control laws because it will make them feel better. In other words, progressives are offensively politicizing this, literally by turning to politics instead of reasoned discourse, and conservatives are defending themselves with evidence and reason.

      • Conservatives aren’t calling for expanded concealed carry laws? Do you live under a rock? That is their only “solution” to our epidemic of gun violence.

        As for progressives not providing evidence, you are clearly wrong, since a few comments up, William321 linked to a website provident an evidence based argument. I consider looking at statistics part of a “reasoned discourse”, instead of relying on meaningless sayings like “guns don’t kill people” or “if guns are criminalized, only criminals will have guns” which what 99% of gun advocates do.

        I’ve yet to see a gun advocate respond to any of the stats that progressives produce, including the comparisons with other developed countries (such as Japan, which only had 11 gun deaths in 2011).

        Anyways, here is some more evidence you will ignore: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/research/hicrc/firearms-research/guns-and-death/index.html

        • Spewing stats as evidence for your assertion without any further supporting argument (other than referring to more stats) is meaningless and a logical fallacy known as affirming the consequent.

        • or, rather, post hoc ergo propter hoc

          • Gunslinger: You are on target, my friend. Statistics are not always correct and are often used to “cook the books”. What the progressive, liberal, socialist Democrats most likely do is include justifiable homicides in their stats. Then they scream, “We need more gun control!” because a higher homicide count is shown by not researching those stats. The truth of the matter is that justifiable homicides are, in fact, included as a homicide until such time as the case is cleared as a justifiable homicide and then it is required to be removed, with the justification, as a homicide from the Uniform Crime Report. Many times justifiable homicides are not cleared for months and can lead into the follwing calendar year. That being the case, the prior year homicide stats must be updated. If the stats are compiled and published before the justification clearence, then those stats are incorrect and misleading.

            As a 30+ year law enforcement veteran, I have encountered my share of homicides by firearm. Most were committed by people previously convicted of violent crimes, including gang members and others. In those instances every one of the firearms used were stolen, as persons previously convicted of violent crimes are not permitted to possess any firearms.

            There are enough “firearms restriction” laws already on the books. The problem is NOT the firearms themselves but, rather the criminals that use the firearms as a tool to commit crimes of violence and, the Judges that reduce, or suspend their sentences.

            There needs to be a MANDATORY 15 year prison sentence, without the benefit of “earning time off for good behavior”, for anyone that uses a firearm in the commission of any type of crime, without allowing Judges any discretion in sentencing, in addition to any additional conviction for the crime that was committed while using a firearm. The same must be implemented for conviction on the charge of a “Felon In Possession of a Firearm” if the criminal is simply in possession or, committed a crime without using the firearm but, still possessing a firearm on or about his person.

            There should also be mandatory notification to law enforcement authorities in each state that are responsible for the NIC check and regulated firearms purchases about people that are being continuously treated for mental illness. Those people will not be able to purchase firearms. As it is now, they can lie on a firearms purchase application about their mental status and still buy a firearm, which happens and will continue to happen until that problem is addressed by the legislators in Washington.

            Another situation that I have realized is that our children are exposed to upwards of 220,000 murders by the time they reach age 18. Their exposure is by way of violent movies, violent video games and violent television shows. Hollywood and video game designers must be brought to task for poisoning the minds of our children, and adults, with the midset of “killing people is okay.”

            Okay, I said my piece.
            ‘Nuff said….

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