My comments on this article by Don Kates.

Mr Kates does readers of the History News Network a grave disservice
with his article. He pretends to provide them a criminologist’s
perspective on the guns-crime question, but only quotes from pro-gun
criminologists. He carefully selects the evidence he presents to
prevent his readers from learning about facts that contradict Mr
Kates’ thesis. The analysis that he does present is simplistic where
it is not flatly wrong.

Kates claims to present extant social science evidence but nowhere
does he address or even the mention the work of Zimring and Hawkins [1]
or Cook and Ludwig [2]. Now, it is possible that these criminologists
are wrong, but it is misleading to pretend, as Kates does, that there
work does not even exist.

Now look at the words from the criminologist that he does quote, Gary
Kleck: “when aggressors have guns, they are … (3) more likely to
kill the victim, given an injury. Further, when victims have guns, it
is less likely aggressors will attack or injure them” [3]. Kates
fails to mention that Kleck was forced to correct his claims in the
passage quoted above. The first claim: “Kleck and McElrath misstated
their results bearing on this issue, due to a misinterpretation of one
of their statistics. … the presence of a handgun is associated with
an absolute increase in the probability of the victim’s death of 1.4
percentage points. Since the overall death rate in all incidents was
0.36%, this represents a relative increase in the probability of death
of about 3.9.” [4, p242] The second claim: “while defensive gun use is
generally safe, it does not appear to be as uniquely safe among
self-protection methods as data from earlier NCVS data suggested.” [5,
p291]

It is puzzling as to why Kates appears to be unaware of these
corrections by Kleck. One appears in a chapter that Kates cited in
his article. The other appears in a book that Kates co-authored with
Kleck.

Next we turn to Kates’ creative use of statistics: “over the 25-year
period 1973-97 the number of handguns owned by Americans increased
163%, and the number of all firearms increased 103% — yet homicide
declined 27.7%” Notice that Kates is comparing the total number of
guns with the homicide rate, the total number of homicides divided
by the population. Needless to say, this biases the comparison in the
direction Kates prefers. In any case, criminologists, whther they be
the pro-gun ones that Kates quotes, or the pro-control ones that Kates
does not mention seem to agree that the total number of guns sold is a
poor measure of gun availability. It does not seem reasonable that
guns are twice as available to someone with two guns as someone with
one gun. Consequently criminologists usually consider whether or not
a person or household has a gun as the important independant variable.

Lastly, we look at the international comparisons. Kates does not tell
us what the few European nations that are endlessly compared with the
US but presumably England is one of them. England has a much lower
homicide rate the the US, and a much much lower gun homicide rate.
Criminologists on both sides seem to agree that this fact, by itself,
doesn’t mean very much since there are many other difference between
the US and England other than gun availability. He argues that

  1. These nations far exceed the US in political homicides

  2. They don’t even count political homicides in their statistics

  3. Russia has a higher homicide rate than the US.

I note that

  1. The US far exceed England in political homicides. Has Kates been
    in a cave for the past year?

  2. Scotland, at least, does include political homicides in its
    statistics. If you look at the homicide figures for Scotland [6]
    it is obvious that the deaths at Lockerbie caused by a terrorist bomb
    were included. As for other countries, the burden of proof lies with
    Mr Kates.

  3. Russia is more different from the US than England is.

[1] Zimring and Hawkins “Crime is not the problem” (1999).
[2] Cook and Ludwig “Gun Violence: The real costs” (2000).
[3] Gary Kleck, Address to the National
Academy of Sciences/National Research Council Panel on the
Understanding and Prevention of Violence (1990).
[4] Gary Kleck, “Targeting Guns: Firearms and their Control” (1997).
[5] Gary Kleck and Don B. Kates “Armed: New Perspectives on Gun
Control” (2001).
[6] World Health Organization Statistical Yearbook (1985-1995)