More guns, more homicide

A Harvard School of Public Health Press Release describes a new study by Miller, Hemenway and Azreal:

In the first nationally representative study to examine the relationship between survey measures of household firearm ownership and state level rates of homicide, researchers at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center found that homicide rates among children, and among women and men of all ages, are higher in states where more households have guns. The study appears in the February 2007 issue of Social Science and Medicine

Earlier studies on the relationship between firearm ownership and crime had to use proxy measures for ownership because there was no national survey data available at the state level. The press release continues:

Analyses that controlled for several measures of resource deprivation, urbanization, aggravated assault, robbery, unemployment, and alcohol consumption found that states with higher rates of household firearm ownership had significantly higher homicide victimization rates for children, and for women and men. In these analyses, states within the highest quartile of firearm prevalence had firearm homicide rates 114% higher than states within the lowest quartile of firearm prevalence. Overall homicide rates were 60% higher. The association between firearm prevalence and homicide was driven by gun-related homicide rates; non-gun-related homicide rates were not significantly associated with rates of firearm ownership.

Naturally pro-gun bloggers have attacked the study. Glenn Reynolds says they were funded by the Joyce Foundation:


I’m pretty sure that these guys would call anyone who accepted grants from the NRA bought-and-paid-for. But the Joyce Foundation is every bit as biased as the NRA, and has a history of paying for scholarship that would be treated as a scandal if it were engaged in by pro-gun folks.

His “paying for scholarship” link goes to a post where he says that it isn’t unethical, so I guess he isn’t saying that it is scandal just that “these guys” would. Or something. Certainly Reynolds called it a “vicious smear” when people attacked John Lott because he was funded by the Olin Foundation.

Reynolds also links to criticism by Jeff Soyer. Unfortunately, Soyer has not read the study, so his criticism is very wide of the mark. Soyer writes:

In the current study, they claim they’ve “controlled” for factors such as unemployment, etc. I’d be interested in seeing how they accomplished that statistical dance.

No problem. They used negative binomial regression.

Once again though, this study uses the same flaw of lumping a bunch of states together, dividing all the states into just four “groups”. If you take the states with the highest gun ownership, and here’s a handy WaPo chart, you find that they must have lumped North Dakota, Wyoming, and Alaska (and Montana, Idaho, etc.) which have high suicide rates in with Alabama and Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana, states with high homicide rates. In my opinion, that’s the only way for him to reach his statistical goals.

They only grouped states into four groups in an additional analysis that they did as a check on their results. Their results do not depend on such a grouping. The study looks at homicide, not suicide. The word “suicide” does not even appear in the body of the paper.

But here’s the clincher. From that same chart, the “state” with the highest homicide rate in the U.S.? By a factor of almost four times the rate of ANY other state? It’s Washington DC. It’s the place where gun ownership is for all practical purposes forbidden, that is, where gun control has become a total ban on guns.

Washington DC is not a state. It’s part of a city. It is simply wrong to compare it to entire states.

As long as Miller continues to lump suicide and homicide together, his arguments are specious at best and full of crap at worst.

Again, Miller et al did not lump suicide and homicide together. This study does not consider suicide at all.

Back to Reynolds:

I find much of the public health literature on guns to be highly biased and deeply untrustworthy. It starts with an agenda, rather obviously, and then constructs “research” to confirm it. In this it resembles far too much of the politicized social science we see today, which explains in part why people are far less persuaded by social science claims than they used to be.

Unfortunately the reference Reynolds gives to support his claim about the public health literature on guns is itself highly biased and deeply untrustworthy.

Comments

  1. #1 ben
    January 13, 2007

    Finally, a gun post. It’s been a while.

    The Joyce Foundation funds a mass of specious “research” and have a clear anti-gun agenda. They do not seem to pay for unbiased research. That in and of itself certainly does not negate the study at hand, but is something to keep in mind, if in fact they did fund the study we are discussing.

    Yes, DC is not a state, that’s why it was referred to as a “state”. Note the quotes. It is noteworthy that the cities with the toughest gun control typically have the worst violent crime (Chicago, Detroit, DC). Do they have the worst violent crime because they restric gun ownership, or do they restrict gun ownership because of their violent crime problems?

    I’m off to read the study, but I have a feeling it will get the smackdown treatment, much as the Kellerman study go the same.

  2. #2 Voolfie
    January 13, 2007

    There are plenty of studies that purport to “clearly demonstrate” one side or the other on this topic. The bottom line for most people, I would think, is that out in the real world, far away from the ivory towered number-crunchitoriums, where gun control has been implemented most strenuously, we see that gun violence not only remains, but often worsens. Common sense should then tell us that guns are but a small factor in the problem and that focusing on “gun control” is a waste of time and resources.

  3. #3 ben
    January 13, 2007

    I’ve not read the study yet because they want $30 for it and I’m poor. However, there is this bit quoting Hemenway. He goes on and on about “reasonable” measures that *could* help with the criminal gun violence problem in the USA.

    The first problem with this is that he’s using the new language of the Brady Campaign and their ilk, citing their proposed methosds as “reasonable” ad nauseum. Over and over and over again they try to stress that what they want to do is “reasonable”.

    Second, his has essentially zero evidence to back up his claims that his proposed “reasonable” regulations would have any positive affect at all. Everything he asks for comes straight from the Brady Campaign wish list.

    And then they come out with their study. I’m looking forward to finally reading it, once I find a copy.

  4. #4 Gsnorgathon
    January 13, 2007

    The correlation between prevalence of guns and their use is such an obvious thing that I’d say the burden is on those who wish to demonstrate otherwise (though I’d be curious to see what the numbers are depending on the type of gun).

    The best policy for reducing gun deaths is a more open question. Given how well the current crop of wingnuts do on science policy and the war in Iraq, one might do well to guess that not listening to wingnuts would be a good place to start.

  5. #5 ben
    January 13, 2007

    The correlation between prevalence of guns and their use is such an obvious thing that I’d say the burden is on those who wish to demonstrate otherwise

    Done. Kellerman’s data inadvertently showed that the homicide rate among caucasions only in Vancouver BC is slightly higher than the same for Seattle Washington. This is an apples to apples result. If guns were at fault for higher homicide rates, then Seattle should have beat Vancouver hands down. This result is also in conflict with the results of the study in question by Hemenway.

  6. #6 Tim Lambert
    January 13, 2007

    ben, the “smackdown treatment” for Kellermann involved lots of specious arguments akin to Soyer’s above. See [here](http://timlambert.org/category/guns/kellermann/).

  7. #7 ben
    January 13, 2007

    None of those are what I had in mind. Kellerman’s data shows what it shows. I just found that his study was not very interesting, nor did it show anything that was relatively important. He was able to show a relative increase in risk that was measureable, but so what? It was small on an absolute scale compared to things that most of us do not care about, such as “a dog in the home” for example.

    Kellerman’s main contribution was the unintendid result I mentioned above, in my opinion.

  8. #8 ben
    January 13, 2007

    This is how to deal with Kellerman. Kleck is a serious researcher and is cited in this criticism.

    And this is another way to look at it.

  9. #9 Thomas
    January 13, 2007

    How does Reynolds support the charge that the Joyce Foundation is every bit as biased as the NRA? This nonsense attacking disinterested foundations as hotbeds of political activism seems to always go unchallenged.

  10. #10 Roman Werpachowski
    January 13, 2007

    “The bottom line for most people, I would think, is that out in the real world, far away from the ivory towered number-crunchitoriums, where gun control has been implemented most strenuously, we see that gun violence not only remains, but often worsens. Common sense should then tell us that guns are but a small factor in the problem and that focusing on “gun control” is a waste of time and resources.”

    Since you put anecdotal evidence above statistical analysis, here’s an anecdote for you: I live in a country which has gun control. I have never, ever saw a civilian (not a policeman, not a soldier, not a security guard) brandishing a gun in public. I have never, ever heard a gunshot fired in anger. I have never, ever heard about any of my friends, colleagues, acquaintances or neighbours killed or wounded by gunshot. And I live in a capital city.

    How does that sound to ya?

  11. #11 Davis
    January 13, 2007

    Done. Kellerman’s data inadvertently showed that the homicide rate among caucasions only in Vancouver BC is slightly higher than the same for Seattle Washington. This is an apples to apples result. If guns were at fault for higher homicide rates, then Seattle should have beat Vancouver hands down.

    Yes, because one data point is clearly sufficient in coming to a conclusion.[\sarcasm]

  12. #12 Davis
    January 13, 2007

    The Joyce Foundation funds a mass of specious “research” and have a clear anti-gun agenda. They do not seem to pay for unbiased research. That in and of itself certainly does not negate the study at hand, but is something to keep in mind, if in fact they did fund the study we are discussing.

    Oh, and can you cite some evidence of this claim?

    I really don’t have a strong opinion on this research one way or the other, but I find your attitude toward the paper extremely grating — throwing a bunch of crap to see what sticks, without actually supporting your allegations. You might be right about the Joyce Foundation (I know nothing about it), but I’m certainly not going to believe that based solely on your say-so.

  13. #13 Roman Werpachowski
    January 13, 2007

    How does Reynolds support the charge that the Joyce Foundation is every bit as biased as the NRA?

    They have an opinion, so they must be biased ;-)

  14. #14 Ben
    January 14, 2007

    This nonsense attacking disinterested foundations as hotbeds of political activism seems to always go unchallenged.

    and

    Oh, and can you cite some evidence of this claim?

    It is nearly trivial to show that the Joyce foundation is anything but disinterested.

    Yes, because one data point is clearly sufficient in coming to a conclusion.

    It is a perfectly acceptable counter to the contention that more guns = more homicides, especially in the USA. All else remaining more or less the same, except that the number of guns is vastly greater in Seattle, and maybe a more generous “social safety net” in Vancouver. Yet Seattle and Vancouver are the same in terms of homicide for the predominant racial group.

    I have never, ever saw a civilian (not a policeman, not a soldier, not a security guard) brandishing a gun in public. I have never, ever heard a gunshot fired in anger. I have never, ever heard about any of my friends, colleagues, acquaintances or neighbours killed or wounded by gunshot. And I live in a capital city.

    Ditto, but I pack heat, and so do many around me. It just goes to show that gunfire and brandishing are rare occurrences.

  15. #15 Ben
    January 14, 2007

    Their results do not depend on such a grouping. The study looks at homicide, not suicide. The word “suicide” does not even appear in the body of the paper.

    I think that Jeff was referring to the old 2002 paper, but like you said, he doesn’t have access to the new paper (I’ll see if I can fix that) so he’s making assumptions.

  16. #16 Ian Gould
    January 14, 2007

    “Yet Seattle and Vancouver are the same in terms of homicide for the predominant racial group.”

    You assume that the two “racial groups” are otherwise equivalent.

    You also omit to mention whether the Vancouver figures include the highly anomalous year when the victims of the Red River Killer were found.

  17. #17 SG
    January 14, 2007

    Ben, you “pack heat”? Do you “pack heat” when you are like, going to the shops, hanging out with friends, at a cafe or in a bar? Is that what you mean?

  18. #18 Thomas
    January 14, 2007

    Ben, the link you posted that is purporting to show that the Joyce Foundation is biased takes me to some Web page that doesn’t prove anything and is replete with dead links.

    Please research a little harder before posting the first Web page that Google finds for you.

  19. #19 mndean
    January 14, 2007

    Hey, wanna have some fun with Ben? Sneak up behind him, yell “GUN!”, duck, and when the shooting stops, see how many innocent bystanders he’s shot. It’d be a lot more fun than reading his chimplike libertarian/objectivist crap-flinging.

  20. #20 Herb West
    January 14, 2007

    Are there similar studies that distinguish between homicide by a stranger and homicide by a household member?

  21. #21 QrazyQat
    January 14, 2007

    Again, Miller et al did not lump suicide and homicide together. This study does not consider suicide at all.

    Glenn is engaging in projection; the rightwing has been doing a little semantic dance with the term “suicide bombers” so long that now they’ve forgotten that there is a difference between suicide and homicide, and they project that error unto others.

  22. #22 dhogaza
    January 14, 2007

    Ditto, but I pack heat, and so do many around me. It just goes to show that gunfire and brandishing are rare occurrences.

    Well my anecdotal experience has been somewhat different than yours. I live in Portland, Oregon, a safe city by US standards (homicide rate about 1/5th that of Philly, for instance).

    I’ve experienced:

    One young friend losing his lower leg when the friend’s mom he was staying with heard a noise, got out the 12-gauge, stumbled and accidently shot him from close range, putting a fist-sized hole in his thigh.

    My ex-father-in-law was shot in the gut by a guy robbing his neighborhood store. He lived but due to his vascular system being somewhat rearranged had various troubles including the inabilty to have an erection (that oughtta get Ben’s attention).

    One block from my house, there was a running gunfight, guy in a van vs. police. And the end the guy committed suicide, about 250 from where I live.

    Another gunfight, police vs bad guy, four blocks from my house resulting in the bad guy’s being shot to death.

    Either Ben lives in a very quiet place or he’s got cotton stuffed in his ears.

  23. #23 Herb West
    January 14, 2007

    After reading the paper I’ve concluded that this research is what is kindly referred to as “low impact.” The single novelty is that the data comes from a new telephone survey about firearm ownership. While that’s interesting (sort of)the paper doesn’t shed any light on debates about gun control policy.

    Instead, the paper presents a correlation between firearm ownership and firearm homicide which is a trivial result. We already know that guns (wielded by people) kill. The important debates on firearms are over what kinds of *laws* minimize crime and minimize violence.

    From the paper: “Multivariate analyses adjust for several potential confounders….”. These are described as (1) rates of aggravated assault and robbery (2) urbanization (3) unemployment (4) alcohol use (5) percentage of population 18-34 years of age (6) percentage divorced (7) living in the southern census region (8) median family income (9) percentage of families beneath the poverty line (10) family income inequality (11) percentage of population that is black and (12) percentage of families headed by a single female parent.

    That seems thorough… except that it neglects any measure of gun control laws, licensing laws, concealed carry laws etc. These are the very policies that are at our disposal to limit gun violence. These are the very policies that make up the gun violence debate but they’re not even examine in this study. Trivial and low impact indeed.

    Another large limitation is that the data only spans 2001-2003 and that’s not a long enough period to examine differences in gun violence before and after changes to gun control laws. Maybe the authors can produce something more informative after another 5-10 years of data accumulation.

    Other limitations are that the study doesn’t distinguish between illegally owned firearms and legal firearms. It doesn’t distinguish between homicides caused by strangers and homicides caused by a household member. It doesn’t address non-fatal gun violence.

    Lastly, the data comes from a telephone survey! The paper says that only 4% of 200,000 respondents refused to specify how many firearms they own. Firstly, I find it very hard to believe 96% of people will share truthful personal information (about guns no less) over the phone. Secondly, a more relevant statistic is what percentage of firearm owners refused to truthfully specify how many firearms they own. Thirdly, based on news reporting last year we know that political pollsters increasingly distrust phone surveys; I imagine that they would voice skepticism over the CDC’s phone surveys too.

  24. #24 Ben
    January 14, 2007

    Ben, you “pack heat”? Do you “pack heat” when you are like, going to the shops, hanging out with friends, at a cafe or in a bar? Is that what you mean?

    Something like that. This is America after all.

    Hey, wanna have some fun with Ben? Sneak up behind him, yell “GUN!”, duck, and when the shooting stops, see how many innocent bystanders he’s shot. It’d be a lot more fun than reading his chimplike libertarian/objectivist crap-flinging.

    Uh-huh.

    Glenn is engaging in projection;

    That was Jeff, not Glenn.

    Wow, Dhogaza, you live in a pretty nasty place. Your friend’s freind’s mom needs to learn more about firearms safety. Where my father lives in Vancouver he’s had more than a couple elderly neighbors suffer from “home invasions” where they were terrorized, tied up, beaten and robbed. The world is an unsafe place and you do what you can. There is no perfect solution.

    Why, I know a guy who was burned by the frying pan when he accidentally touched it. Funny thing was that he didn’t think getting rid of the frying pan was a good solution to his frying pan safety problem.

    Lastly, I was wrong, I have one friend who’s heard gunshots in public. My lab mate heard shooting outside his condo near the University of Washington one night. It’s a pretty scummy neighborhood, all sorts of bad eggs hang out there. I won’t go there at night unarmed.

    Ben, the link you posted that is purporting to show that the Joyce Foundation is biased takes me to some Web page that doesn’t prove anything and is replete with dead links.

    Sorry about the dead links, that post was from a while back. The only link you need is still active and right at the top from geek with a 45

    And lastly, about the red river killer. I’m not sure what that is? Are you mixing up the guy who killed all the prostitutes and fed them to his pigs in Abbotsford BC with the Green River Killer in the Pierce County region of Western Washington? I’m pretty sure that the Kellerman study does not overlap with any mass killings. The Kellerman study I’m thinking of “Handgun Regulations, Crime, Assaults, and Homicide: A Tale of Two Cities” is from 1988, if that helps. I think Tim and I were thinking of two different papers, and in fact I was got them kinda mixed up. The I just mentioned compares gun violence between Vancouver and Seattle, and the other one is about risk associated with guns in the home. Sorry about the confusion.

  25. #25 Ian Gould
    January 14, 2007

    Ben: “I’m not sure what that is? Are you mixing up the guy who killed all the prostitutes and fed them to his pigs in Abbotsford BC with the Green River Killer in the Pierce County region of Western Washington?”

    Yes, I should have checked my facts before posting.

    The thing is you can take a stack of data (i.e. homicide rates in Seattle and Washington) and dissect it any number of ways.

    If the caucasian v caucasian comparison doesn’t yield the result you want you look at gender or age or income levels until you find a subgroup for which the Canadian homicide figure is higher.

    Fro that matter, what’s the definition of “Caucasian” – Americans tend to distinguish between “white” and “hispanic” where Australians don’t for example.

    You also have a major drug growing and smuggling business in BC and Washington. If Seattle is anything like the rest of the US there’s probably a significant African-American element in the drug business there. Given that the percentage of African-Americans in Canada is lower, their Canadian counterparts are more likely to be Caucasian.

    (Note: I’m not suggesting a link between race and criminality but between poverty (both absolute and relative) and criminality. Unfortunately being black in America is a pretty good proxy for being poor.)

  26. #26 Ben
    January 14, 2007

    If the caucasian v caucasian comparison doesn’t yield the result you want you look at gender or age or income levels until you find a subgroup for which the Canadian homicide figure is higher.

    But that was never the point. The study was intended to show how Seattle suffered more gun homicides that Vancouver because there were more guns in Seattle all else being similar culturally and geographically.

    I’ve lived many years in both cities, and the Caucasian populations of both are nearly identical in terms of culture (except for maybe the affinity for Hockey Night in Canada up north).

    The very interesting fact was that between the two most culturally similar groups, availability of guns didn’t make any difference in the homicide rates. There was ZERO cherry picking here. It wasn’t even intended by the authors of the study.

    It certainly, at the very least, warrants further consideration and study.

  27. #27 Ron
    January 14, 2007

    Can anyone tell me what the incidence of gun deaths is in cites versus rural areas? I am no scientist, but I’ll be my house on it that the cities have the higher crime rate per capita. Then factor in the fact that there are many, many more legal guns owned in rural or suburban areas (look at CA for example there is a lot of real estate outside the main cities and the bulk of gun ownership is there, but not the high crime), and you have identified the problem: cities. This is no surprise though. Considering these facts the high incidence of gun deaths with high gun ownership is merely a correlation and not causative. Hardly scientific.

  28. #28 Ian Gould
    January 15, 2007

    “Considering these facts the high incidence of gun deaths with high gun ownership is merely a correlation and not causative. Hardly scientific.”

    I’m afraid I’m not following your reasoning here Ron.

    If the per capita gun ownership was higher in rural areas but gun deaths were concentrated in urban areas, then gun deaths wouldn’t be correlated with gun ownership rates.

  29. #29 Kevin P.
    January 15, 2007

    Kevin Baker points out that in the last ten years or so, the number of guns legally in civilian hands in the US increased by 30 million, of which 10 million were likely handguns.

    Yet, during that time period, violent crime in the US generally declined sharply.

    But we are supposed to believe that states with higher gun ownership have more homicide.

  30. #30 Kevin P.
    January 15, 2007

    mndean :

    Hey, wanna have some fun with Ben? Sneak up behind him, yell “GUN!”, duck, and when the shooting stops, see how many innocent bystanders he’s shot. It’d be a lot more fun than reading his chimplike libertarian/objectivist crap-flinging.

    This is called projection. It means that you think poorly of your own capacity for self control and fear that keeping or carrying a firearm would somehow make you murder strangers. Since you can’t admit it to yourself, you project your irrational fear upon other people.

  31. #31 Kevin P.
    January 15, 2007

    Herb West:

    Lastly, the data comes from a telephone survey! The paper says that only 4% of 200,000 respondents refused to specify how many firearms they own. Firstly, I find it very hard to believe 96% of people will share truthful personal information (about guns no less) over the phone. Secondly, a more relevant statistic is what percentage of firearm owners refused to truthfully specify how many firearms they own. Thirdly, based on news reporting last year we know that political pollsters increasingly distrust phone surveys; I imagine that they would voice skepticism over the CDC’s phone surveys too.

    Amen to this. I would never tell a stranger who called me on the telephone that I owned guns. I know very many gun owners who would never do such a thing.

    This entire business of trying to precisely pinpoint gun ownership in America is really pointless and a waste of time. Other than the most general statistics – 300 million guns, 80 million handguns, somewhere between 1 in 3 to 1 in 2 households, etc., few Americans are going to cooperate with nosy strangers about the guns that they may or may not own. Moreover, our laws rightly protect the privacy of gunowners by forbidding goverment registration of individual firearms to individual citizens in most cases.

    However, this evidently doesn’t prevent some bright professors from using telephone survey numbers to run multivariate statistics to tell us what they want us to believe.

  32. #32 SG
    January 15, 2007

    Ben, you`re a Barbarian. I have never in my life met anyone who goes anywhere armed with any kind of weapon of any sort. Maybe you should ask yourself why you think you need such macho accessories when you live in an ostensibly “civilised” country.

  33. #33 Tim Lambert
    January 15, 2007

    ben, I don’t think that the Seattle/Vancouver comparison tells us very much, since it is just one data point. But the fact is that Seattle had a higher murder rate. Now presumably you want to argue that that is because they are different in some way other than guns. But then the same argument applies to your comparison of just the whites.

    Kevin P, only 4% refused the question so your claim that no-one would tell a stranger if they had guns is just wrong. Now if the guns they had were illegal they might not have told the interviewer about them, but this does not help your case at all. Suppose the result of stricter gun controls in a state is fewer legal guns and more illegal guns so that the real rate of gun ownership doesn’t change but the rate reported in surveys goes down. Then the fact that this study still found that more reported guns was associated with more homicides suggests that the restrictive gun laws reduce homicides.

  34. #34 Davis
    January 15, 2007

    All else remaining more or less the same, except that the number of guns is vastly greater in Seattle, and maybe a more generous “social safety net” in Vancouver. Yet Seattle and Vancouver are the same in terms of homicide for the predominant racial group.

    You seem to have missed my point — this is only one data point (comparing one pair of cities). No matter what your hypothesis is (more guns=more violence, more guns=less violence, more guns=no effect), this one data point can be consistent with that hypothesis due to statistical noise.

  35. #35 Harald Korneliussen
    January 15, 2007

    Anecdote from Norway, which is far from gun-free, but free from guns for “personal protection” (it’s all hunting and automatics stored by reservists at home a la Switzerland – the latter are not without their problems, but that’s for another post): Only guy I know who was shot, shot himself in the foot with a shotgun on his first hunting trip… He spent some time in hospital, but he’s fine now. Just some soles in his shoe or something. Oh, and I visited a court case where some sad guy had fired warning shots with his hunting rifle to scare away a taxi driver awaiting payment, but that’s it.

    There is one thing I’ll give to the pro gun people in this crowd. When considering a policy, it’s best to compare places where a policy was put into effect (if at all possible). Up here, some smart fellow noticed that youths who start drinking at a late age, drink less as adults. They then started campaigns assuming that youths who start drinking at a late age _for whatever reason_ will drink less as adults. The campaigns (targeted at adults, to keep them from giving alcohol to their children, and at youths, basically saying “you’re not mature enough, little man”) are spectacularly unsuccessful.

  36. #36 MaverickNH
    January 15, 2007

    Think of countries where firearms that kill citizens are NOT those kept in the home…

    Are you thinking of police death squads, paramilitary insurgents, military dictators, etc? Places where the populace is unarmed and awaits the knock in the night?

    The paper is based on “States with firearm prevalence more than one standard deviation above the mean: Alabama, Arkansas, West Virginia, Mississippi, South
    Dakota, Idaho, Alaska, Montana, Wyoming”, which comprised < 6% of the US population at time of survey. Those are some pretty weak numbers. In terms of causes of injury we should be addressing, firearms comes in way, way down the list.

    As in most of this Harvard group’s work, their difficulty is not in trying to say something true, but is in trying to say something important.

  37. #37 Eli Rabett
    January 15, 2007

    Harald, that was an interesting point, which I believe (ok, I’m too lazy to go looking it up) is contradicted by the evidence on smoking. Perhaps this is a measure of the relative addictive potentials of the two habits?

  38. #38 Kevin P.
    January 15, 2007

    Tim Lambert:

    Kevin P, only 4% refused the question so your claim that no-one would tell a stranger if they had guns is just wrong.

    Tim, this is the difference between being a professor in the bubble of Harvard and being a gun owner in the great American gun culture. You place your faith in the academic study. I live in the gun culture and I don’t. This is similar to our earlier discussion where you defended another academic study that found that burglars target homes and neighborhoods with “high gun ownership”. I pointed out that there is no frigging way that any burglar can find this out in the America that I live in and I know. As far as I know, you have never accepted that you are plain wrong in defending that study either.

    Your defense of these studies in the face of so much contrary empirical evidence is religious in nature. At some point, you start to sound like an Amish person talking about racing cars.

  39. #39 Ben
    January 15, 2007

    Ben, you`re a Barbarian. I have never in my life met anyone who goes anywhere armed with any kind of weapon of any sort. Maybe you should ask yourself why you think you need such macho accessories when you live in an ostensibly “civilised” country.

    There are plenty of us. About 40 states in the Union issue permits to any law abiding citizen who wants one. I’m certainly not alone.

    Barbarian, eh? If you say so.

    But the fact is that Seattle had a higher murder rate. Now presumably you want to argue that that is because they are different in some way other than guns.

    Yes, Seattle has a significant black population. The data shows indisputably that young black men are responsible for far more than their share of homicides, as both perpetrators and victims. Of course this is not caused directly by their race, but instead has to do with many historical factors, but that is not the discussion here.

    The fact remains that while my point is not proof, it is very compelling evidence. Further study is warranted. Especially when data on the country as a whole shows that for Caucasians only again, our homicide rate is on par with Europe, and yet we have da guns.

  40. #40 Ian Gould
    January 15, 2007

    Eli: “Perhaps this is a measure of the relative addictive potentials of the two habits?”

    Tobacco is the anomaly here. The evidence I’ve seen (which I’ll admit to not having studied very critically) suggests that if you haven’t become addicted to cigarettes by the age of 18 you never will.

    Sadly, probably every reader knows of at least one person who became addicted to alcohol or some other drug at an older age than that.

  41. #41 ron
    January 15, 2007

    Ian, read my whole comment, don’t pick and choose. There are lots of rural areas in states that have big cities with high crime/homicide rates. I gave CA as an example. The study talks about states. So a state could have high gun ownership in the rural areas and low gun ownership in the cities, but high homicide rates in the cites. This turns the study on its head–low gun ownership in the city would then be correleated with high homicide rates. CA is the perfect example as we have LA, Oakland, SF, SJ, SD.

  42. #42 Ian Gould
    January 15, 2007

    Ben: “The data shows indisputably that young black men are responsible for far more than their share of homicides, as both perpetrators and victims.”

    Well they account for far more than their share of murder convictions. But I’m sure that has nothing to do with the US legal system.

  43. #43 Kevin P.
    January 15, 2007

    Ian Gould:

    Well [young black men] account for far more than their share of murder convictions. But I’m sure that has nothing to do with the US legal system.

    Oh, come on, don’t be coy, tell us what you really feel about the US legal system.

    Out of curiosity, are you British?

  44. #44 Archibald
    January 15, 2007

    Kevin, could you further explain your argument? Are you arguing that all academic studies are bunk or that only studies which disagree with your intuition are flawed?

    I think the public often has a weak understanding of how academia actually works…
    Most people who do data analysis become quickly used to results which contradict their a priori understanding. The assumptions which are required to do complex statistical analysis (or in my case econometrics) mean that there will always be limits to what can be established using data. Because of these issues most professionals default not to an intuitive stand but rather to “more research needs to be done before we can say…” Outside of academia the perception is often that academics think they know everything. Inside of academia it would be extremely unusual for someone to claim that they know anything at all even when the point is seemingly mundane. I doubt that if we asked Tim to list three ‘facts’ regarding gun control he would be willing to make such a commitment. I am surprised how often an academic actually become less confident in their understanding the more they study a subject!

  45. #45 Kevin P.
    January 15, 2007

    Archibald:

    Kevin, could you further explain your argument? Are you arguing that all academic studies are bunk or that only studies which disagree with your intuition are flawed?

    I have a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering and work in the semiconductor industry. As a process engineer, I routinely used statistically designed experiments to improve process and chip performance. I rapidly learned that you can easily play with your statistical models to tell you whatever you would like to hear.

    In my line of work, it was easy to verify the model by running a new experiment on actual living and breathing wafers. This kept everyone honest.

    This unfortunately does not apply to the social sciences. You (usually) cannot run a verification experiment to prove that your model was correct. In this particular case, that would involve actually enumerating gun ownership by visiting and searching every private home in the target area. This is of course impossible – you can’t search even a single home without a warrant. The study then is unverifiable. I suspect that most social science is like this but we don’t hear much about it because many of these studies may be on uncontroversial subjects.

    But this is of course on the subject of gun control. There is a systematic effort, funded by the Joyce Foundation in recent years to the tune of millions of dollars to investigate the private lawful ownership of guns contributes to crime. Coincidentally, almost all of these studies find that private lawful gun ownership contributes to crime, and recommends various gun control methods. The entire field has become poisoned. While it is possible to find honest scholarship in this area, Joyce Foundation studies are not the place to go looking for them.

    Furthermore, if a study contradicts real world experience, it must be able to explain the contradiction in a compelling way. In my real world experience, the gun culture is composed of tens of millions of law abiding Americans who take responsible care of their firearms. A very small number of criminals, concentrated in geographic and demographic areas are responsible for the vast majority of crime. Studies conducted in the liberal bubble of Harvard, far removed from the gun culture of America lack any kind of real world experience or perspective. Unsurprisingly, their findings mirror their authors’ prejudices (and their funders’ desires).

    Here is more information on the Joyce Foundation. Full disclosure: I am the author of the graph.

  46. #46 Davis
    January 15, 2007

    Yes, Seattle has a significant black population.

    That’s news to me. The population of Seattle is only 8.4% African-American, compared to a 12.8% of the national population. Seattle only has a “significant black population” if you’re comparing it to Vancouver (which, however, still has a larger fraction of minorities overall).

  47. #47 Davis
    January 15, 2007

    I have a Master’s degree in Chemical Engineering and work in the semiconductor industry. As a process engineer, I routinely used statistically designed experiments to improve process and chip performance. I rapidly learned that you can easily play with your statistical models to tell you whatever you would like to hear.

    Sheesh, it’s always the engineers.

    Sure, it’s possible that this is what’s happening in this study, and it is certainly possible that the research is biased due to funding sources. However, your form of opposition is dangerously close to the anti-science approach — dismissing the conclusion because (a) you don’t like it, (b) you can identify a source of potential bias, and (c) some aspect of it runs counter to your personal experience.

    As far as (b) goes, potential sources of bias can be used to explain why some result is erroneous, once it has already been shown to be so (for example, if there is a significant body of research contradicting the result in question). And (c) is why we take the scientific approach in the first place — the most likely person I will fool into believing something incorrect is myself, often based on personal experience.

  48. #48 Kevin P.
    January 15, 2007

    It is true, engineers tend to be skeptical people, because they have to make things work in the field and have been burned all too often by the fancy theories coming out of headquarters :-)

    I’ve been a practicing engineer for 20 years so I feel comfortable with my understanding of how science works. You should explain your point of view to the Harvard School of Public Health :-)

  49. #49 Archibald
    January 15, 2007

    Kevin, I feel like we are talking past one another to a certain extent. I have not read the report in question and certainly did not intend my comment as a response to its specific points. If you read my comment again then your response I think you will find we are not particularly far apart in our views. I am highly critical of social science research as a whole and I believe my post reflects this fact. Where we seem to differ is as to whether the social sciences are in fact aware of these limitations. You said:

    “Tim, this is the difference between being a professor in the bubble of Harvard and being a gun owner in the great American gun culture. You place your faith in the academic study. I live in the gun culture and I don’t.”

    This suggests you believe academics place high confidence in research; I often find that this is not the case. I often less confident in their perceptions of how society functions than other people. Most professional researchers are painfully aware of the limits to their knowledge BUT are also very skeptical of individual experience as a methodology for explaining the world. It appears that we have different views of what the null hypothesis should be. You seem to suggest that academic researchers assume that barring stronger evidence they accept weak evidence. You are more critical and suggest that barring stronger evidence you accept personal experience. I suggest that for most reputable researchers if the evidence is only weak then we cannot say anything at all about the real world. (I realize that I am claiming to speak for other researchers so am braced for disagreement…)

    Finally, (I think we are all glad that I am near the end) you seem to believe that academics do not recognize how easily research from partisan groups can be tainted. I know nothing about the Joyce Foundation but note that you did not extend your criticisms to pro-gun groups like the NRA. I find it particularly ironic that you claim anyone in these comments are unaware of such potential conflicts as the entire reason this blog exists is to examine exactly such partisan claims. I doubt anyone posting here is unaware of these critiques but rather suspect that they disagree about the specific details!

  50. #50 Andrew Leigh
    January 15, 2007

    Makes plenty of sense. I’ve always regarded Duggan’s 2001 JPE paper as the leading piece of reserach on the topic, so it’s not surprising that these guys arrive at similar conclusions. If I’d been refereeing it, my only comment would’ve been to get them to also do the analysis at an MSA level.

  51. #51 Dano
    January 15, 2007

    There are few things better, in my view, than gun nuts defending their phallic-object fetishizing and stroking.

    And lil’ Ben packing heat around the scarrrrry UW campus? Riiiiight, tough guy. Those big ol’ bums on the Ave or runaway skater punks with dreads too much for you to handle when you go up for lunch?

    Best,

    D

  52. #52 ben
    January 15, 2007

    And lil’ Ben packing heat around the scarrrrry UW campus?

    Nope, firearms not allowed on campus. I don’t feel it’s worth it to lose my RA over that.

    Those big ol’ bums on the Ave or runaway skater punks with dreads too much for you to handle when you go up for lunch?

    I guess you didn’t get the memo.

  53. #53 Ian Gould
    January 16, 2007

    Hevn P: “Oh, come on, don’t be coy, tell us what you really feel about the US legal system.

    Out of curiosity, are you British?”

    Australian actually. But that’s okay I know we all look a like to you.

    A couple of quick questions for you?

    1. Are African-Americans, on average, poorer than the national average?

    2. Do you agree that people who can afford to hire good lawyers are more likely to be acquitted?

    As it happens, my views on the American legal system are based heavily on my research into the Australian legal system and how it dealt with Aborigines undertaken for the Queensland Office of the Cabinet a little over a decade ago. Aborigines were no more likely than whites to commit criminal offences but were about ten times as likely to end up in prison as a result.

  54. #54 Harald Korneliussen
    January 16, 2007

    Eli were you referring to “When considering a policy, it’s best to compare places where a policy was put into effect (if at all possible)” ? But I do think that this would have been better with smoking as well, because it would be harder for the hacks to dismiss. But anyway it would be a stretch saying that inclination to smoking and lung cancer had a common, unrelated cause – it’s far more reasonable to think that heavy drinking as an adult and heavy drinking in youth may have common, unrelated causes.

  55. #55 SG
    January 16, 2007

    let me get this right Ben. Someone walks up to you in the street and sticks a knife in your face, says “gimme your wallet”, and you think you can draw your gun and threaten and/or shoot them before they stab you? Is this how the self-defence argument works? Or does it work by you pulling your gun before they pull the knife, i.e. shooting them if they look threatening?

  56. #56 Dano
    January 16, 2007

    Ben,

    your attendance at Greek fratboy parties to get lunch, while like certainly, like, dude is phat, could like be safer like dude if you like laid off the huhhuh like beer bong dude.

    You wouldn’t have to be such a big man that way.

    Best,

    D

  57. #57 Graculus
    January 16, 2007

    It is true, engineers tend to be skeptical people

    Is it?

    Got any stats comparing engineers to people with equivalent education in other fields, using more than one measure of what constiutes a stupid belief?

    Too many go-rounds with Creationist and other woo-woo engineers makes me skeptical of your claim. ;-)

  58. #58 Davis
    January 16, 2007

    It is true, engineers tend to be skeptical people…

    I don’t know about that, they tend to think quite highly of their own intuition. That’s what we need to be most skeptical of. Intuition is no substitute for actual data and research.

    (And I say this knowing numerous engineers, including my brother.)

  59. #59 Davis
    January 16, 2007

    Nope, firearms not allowed on campus.

    Do you seriously carry a gun around Seattle? This is an absurdly safe city; I can’t imagine that actually being useful.

  60. #60 Eli Rabett
    January 16, 2007

    Hi Harald, I don’t think that at all. Tobacco is attractive because people are easily addicted to nicotine. They throw the cancer in for free.

    Interestingly enough one of the research problems was finding an animal model that enjoyed smoking and would suck the stuff into its lungs. That was one of the principle holdups in investigating second hand smoke issues.

  61. #61 MarkP
    January 16, 2007

    SG said: let me get this right Ben. Someone walks up to you in the street and sticks a knife in your face, says “gimme your wallet”, and you think you can draw your gun and threaten and/or shoot them before they stab you? Is this how the self-defence argument works? Or does it work by you pulling your gun before they pull the knife, i.e. shooting them if they look threatening?”

    No, SG, he thinks if he pulls his gun, the knifewielder will see the gun and will flee. And he is substantially correct. People wield weapons mostly for bluff. If the knifewielder had wanted to just have a fight, he would have stabbed Ben without asking for the wallet.

    The only thing funnier than paranoid gun nuts protecting their phallic symbols are gun-phobes revealing that they cannot think logically about guns for one second, and know nothing about the real world. I suggest this be alleviated by talking about “weapons” rather than guns, since guns are only the most effective weapons at killing, but certainly not the only ones. Just ask the people in Rwanda.

    Incidentally, Time magazine once chronicled the details of every gun death in America for a week, and it was very illuminating. I took the time to categorize them:

    Half were suicides, usually middle aged men.

    The next largest group, tragically, were the wives of the suicidal husbands.

    The bulk of the remainder were citizens shooting criminals in self-defense, cops doing the same, and criminals shooting each other. Once I got down to what (I think) we are all really concerned about, average Joe citizen minding his own business and getting shot, or a child finding a gun and dying, the numbers were very small, something like 15% of the total, if memory serves.

    Of course, the people that toss around the number of “gun deaths” rarely tell you any of this. Take Time’s cover photo (they had photos of most of the victims). Had Time been objective and put the typical victim on the cover, it would have been a middle aged depressed man. But no, they put a young girl whose friend shot her with dad’s gun.

    Kudos to the people that did this study for at least restricting it to homicides. But more delineation is needed.

    Tim, I don’t think Kevin’s point is complicated. Studies based on surveys assume the answers will be (to a large extent) correct. You can’t do that with gun owners, because paranoia is correlated with that. Non-gun owners are going to answer honestly and say “no guns here”, and many gun owners will lie and say the same. So it taints the study, just like Chagnon’s famous Yanamamo geneology study which turned out to have all made up names, because in that culture it was considered rude to talk about the dead.

    For the record, I’m an actuary, I own a gun but don’t carry it, and have no particular love for them.

  62. #62 ben
    January 16, 2007

    your attendance at Greek fratboy parties to get lunch, while like certainly, like, dude is phat, could like be safer like dude if you like laid off the huhhuh like beer bong dude.

    You wouldn’t have to be such a big man that way.

    What the hell are you going on about? I have a wife and two kids, live in a super safe neighborhood, and loathe partying. My labmates and friends all know I’m a gun nut and don’t care. We give each other crap all in good fun, but it’s more a live and let live sorta thing. Nobody feels unsafe around me, and I never ever carry a gun in someone else’s house, unless they’re of the nut persuasion also.

  63. #63 ben
    January 16, 2007

    let me get this right Ben. Someone walks up to you in the street and sticks a knife in your face, says “gimme your wallet”, and you think you can draw your gun and threaten and/or shoot them before they stab you? Is this how the self-defence argument works? Or does it work by you pulling your gun before they pull the knife, i.e. shooting them if they look threatening?

    It works like this: If I thought my life was in danger, then I’d draw and shoot if necessary. If not, then he can have my wallet, car and any other inanimate object he likes.

  64. #64 Purple Avenger
    January 16, 2007

    I don’t know about that, they tend to think quite highly of their own intuition.

    “Intuition” doesn’t keep planes in the air, bridges from collapsing, and allow the computer you’re typing on to work.

    Engineers (I’m an INTJ engineer) “think quite highly” of what works – in the flawed imperfect real world.

  65. #65 Kevin P.
    January 16, 2007

    Amen to that, Purple Avenger. Engineers are always very interested in what works reliably and predictably, and above all, can be reconciled with actual experience. In my line of work, there are plenty of processes that could theoretically work very well, but don’t fare quite so well in the real world.

    Gun control theory is much like this. At one time, I believed in it myself. Over time, after finding out how badly it fared when it came face to face with actual criminality, I came around 100% to the opposing view.

    There is some gun control that I support, provided that it does not actually affect law abiding people. I support locking up convicted violent felons caught possessing guns, although more because it puts them in prison where they can’t do much harm than because of the gun law per se.

  66. #66 Kevin P.
    January 16, 2007

    Davis to Ben:

    Do you seriously carry a gun around Seattle? This is an absurdly safe city; I can’t imagine that actually being useful.

    I wonder why Seattle Police Officers carry guns then.

    I have walked in downtown Seattle after dark and it is not as safe as you think. For some reason, the city seems to tolerate a large crowd of bums who harass people.

  67. #67 Kevin P.
    January 16, 2007

    Ian Gould:

    A couple of quick questions for you?

    1. Are African-Americans, on average, poorer than the national average?
    2. Do you agree that people who can afford to hire good lawyers are more likely to be acquitted?

    This is trivially true, yes. However, there are plenty of poor people of other ethnicities who don’t commit crimes at the same rate.

    As it happens, my views on the American legal system are based heavily on my research into the Australian legal system and how it dealt with Aborigines undertaken for the Queensland Office of the Cabinet a little over a decade ago. Aborigines were no more likely than whites to commit criminal offences but were about ten times as likely to end up in prison as a result.

    Since we have few, if any Australian Aborigines in America, perhaps your research is inapplicable to a discussion of African American criminality. Unfortunately, there is a culture in the African American inner city, where traditional families are hard to find, young men get raised without a positive male role model and are far likelier than the rest of the population to engage in criminal conduct, starting with drug dealing and extending to violent crime, usually committed against fellow African American victims. Crime rates in this inner city culture are far higher than the rest of the population and it is silly of you to imply that they are comparable to the rest of the population. They aren’t.

  68. #68 Kevin P.
    January 16, 2007

    Here a reference by Juan Williams, who is an African American journalist for National Public Radio: Enough

  69. #69 Kevin P.
    January 16, 2007

    Dano:

    There are few things better, in my view, than gun nuts defending their phallic-object fetishizing and stroking.

    Dano appears to be engaging in projection as well.

    Alas, these kinds of phallic comparisons happen way too often with gun control advocates. This prejudice even infects people who should know better.

  70. #70 mgr
    January 16, 2007

    Kevin–any other prejuidices you care to air out? Why it’s perfectly reasonable to carry a concealed weapon to protect yourself from the homeless. That’s certainly what I did living in LA, and when traveling around by bus no less. However, I understand the difference between assertiveness and agressiveness.

    Ian’s observation is perfectly valid–that possibly your perception that the majority of gun crimes being performed by inner city African Americans is biased by the conviction rates. Out here in rural California, we see violence performed with guns by whites, at per capita rates comparable to Los Angeles.

    One other point, how is it that a partiarchy is better than a matriarchy?

    Mike

  71. #71 Dano
    January 16, 2007

    Kevin P:

    Downtown Seattle (Pike Place) is where a Seahawk got killed (head bashed in), a small area known to be scary & I don’t go there late. Downtown Denver is where DW just got shot by a little man with a little p*nis who got dissed and had to be a big man.

    The majority of Seattle is very safe and every time I left my front door unlocked in Wallingford nothing happened, and no one hassled me on the street (I’m kinda big, tho) no matter where I went, ask me about Sacramento or SFO.

    My point is that if ben is so manly, he shouldn’t be afraid to walk up the big scary Ave, populated by young teen runaways and that singing guy. Ooooh. Veddy skeddy.

    And he has a very safe neighborhood, yet can’t watch his mouth so he has to pack a gun.

    Best,

    D

  72. #72 Kevin P.
    January 16, 2007

    Mike:

    Kevin–any other prejuidices you care to air out? Why it’s perfectly reasonable to carry a concealed weapon to protect yourself from the homeless. That’s certainly what I did living in LA, and when traveling around by bus no less. However, I understand the difference between assertiveness and agressiveness.

    Mike, this is a confused paragraph. I don’t quite understand what you are trying to say.

    What prejudices are you referring to?

    Against homeless people? I certainly have a prejudice against anyone, not just the homeless who hounds and harasses citizens who are walking down the street minding their own business. On her last visit to downtown Seattle, my wife suffered a small burn on her arm from a cigarette thrown in her direction by a bum.

    Against African Americans? I don’t live in the inner city and have no animus towards African Americans. They seem to be having a big debate about their own inner city culture. Are you suggesting that we should not dare speak about their culture? I would go for that if everyone would leave gun owners alone in return.

  73. #73 Davis
    January 16, 2007

    I wonder why Seattle Police Officers carry guns then.

    I’m sorry, but this is just an idiotic comment.

    I have walked in downtown Seattle after dark and it is not as safe as you think. For some reason, the city seems to tolerate a large crowd of bums who harass people.

    Did you get mugged? I agree that some of the homeless here are pushy (I just had an annoying encounter in Pioneer Square the other night), but I don’t consider that to be a situation that calls for carrying a gun.

    Personally, in the 6+ years I’ve been in this city (which includes being out at all hours in various parts of town), the only experiences I’ve had that would justify carrying are the occasional drivers who get irrationally angry that I’m a cyclist in the road.

  74. #74 Kevin P.
    January 16, 2007

    Davis:

    Did you get mugged?

    See above.

    I agree that some of the homeless here are pushy (I just had an annoying encounter in Pioneer Square the other night), but I don’t consider that to be a situation that calls for carrying a gun.

    I respect your judgment and suggest that therefore you should not carry a gun in downtown Seattle after dark.

    However, you don’t have the right to coerce other people into following your belief. I haven’t seen Ben demand that YOU carry a gun. What business of yours is it if he does? He knows his situation better than you do.

  75. #75 mndean
    January 16, 2007

    I’m tellin’ ya, the more I read Ben, the more sure I am that I have him nailed. Yell “Gun!” and he’ll pull that substitute penis of his out and blaze away like there’s no tomorrow. It’s that wonderful mixture of anger and fear.

  76. #76 mgr
    January 16, 2007

    Kevin:

    1.) You seem to imply that the disparity of violent crime with guns is due to inner city blacks. Unfortunately, the numbers do not work, blacks are disproportunatly imprisoned for non-violent drug offenses:

    “The national war on drugs has perhaps been the primary factor behind the extraordinary rates at which blacks are incarcerated. Drug offenses account for nearly two out of five of the blacks sent to state prison. More blacks are sent to state prison for drug offenses (38 percent) than for crimes of violence (27 percent). In contrast, drug offenders constitute 24 percent of whites admitted to prison and violent offenders constitute 27 percent (Figure 3).”

    http://www.hrw.org/backgrounder/usa/incarceration/

    2.) As to that inner city lifestyle, that debate may just be a manifestation of a larger laissez faire racism. (By the way, the better scholars to appeal to regarding the African American experience are not Bill Cosby,or Dinesh d’Souza but Larry Bobo)

    http://www.russellsage.org/publications/workingpapers/Laissez%20Faire%20Racism/document

    3.) The observation that problems for black males are due to a lack of a male head of household ignores that such does not provide such an effect to white families without a male head of household.

    4.) Finally, the power of anecdote– A bum burned my wife with a cigarette.

    So what you have are three fallacies and one second hand account–I would say your scepticism a fancy way of saying I’m a bigot.

    Mike

  77. #77 Ian Gould
    January 16, 2007

    “The bulk of the remainder were citizens shooting criminals in self-defense, cops doing the same, and criminals shooting each other. Once I got down to what (I think) we are all really concerned about, average Joe citizen minding his own business and getting shot, or a child finding a gun and dying, the numbers were very small, something like 15% of the total, if memory serves.”

    Let’s assume your recollection is correct and that that one week is typical and also assume that there are approximately 8-10,000 gun deaths in the US each year. (I’m working from memory here and that figure may be either too high or too low I suspect its too low seeing as we’re discussing suicides as well as homicides), then around 1,200 to 1,500 Americans in the categories you suggest we should be “really concerned about”

    So we have 50% or more of the death-toll from the 9/11 attacks every year and roughly double the annual American death-toll in the Iraq war.

  78. #78 Ian Gould
    January 16, 2007

    Kevin P “Amen to that, Purple Avenger. Engineers are always very interested in what works reliably and predictably, and above all, can be reconciled with actual experience.”

    In many cases, they also seem to be convinced they are somehow unique in this regard and therefore possess some near-mystical ability to understand issues entirely outside their professional field.

  79. #79 Eli Rabett
    January 16, 2007

    In my experience engineers are easy marks for someone with a bridge to sell. Because they are taught to ignore theory they often are trapped by appearance. You need a balance between the two. For example, I once knew a guy who swore he could beat the second law using memory metal (an interesting material that you can use temperature to force into a previous configuration, they guy had rigged it up as a little engine that rotated around two idler wheels when the metal was heated.

  80. #80 Ian Gould
    January 16, 2007

    Kevin P: “Since we have few, if any Australian Aborigines in America, perhaps your research is inapplicable to a discussion of African American criminality.”

    Funny, coming from someone who appears to believe that his experience in the semiconductor industry makes him an expert on gun control.

    If you’re going to fetishise “real world experience”, you can’t really ignore direct real-world evidence that it is POSSIBLE for very large differences in conviction and incarceration rates to be caused by factors other than differences in the underlying offence rate.

    But you have your theory – it’s the godless blacks with their promiscuity and their crack and their rap music.

    Best not to look any further in case the facts have the bad taste to try and contradict you.

  81. #81 Ian Gould
    January 16, 2007

    Ben: “Nobody feels unsafe around me, and I never ever carry a gun in someone else’s house, unless they’re of the nut persuasion also.”

    How does that work?

    Do you leave your gun at home? Do you actually feel more threatened when you do so?

    I’m sure you don’t leave your gun unsecured in your car.

    What do you do if you’re unexpectedly invited to someone’s house? Decline? Ask their view on gun control before accepting?

  82. #82 Davis
    January 16, 2007

    However, you don’t have the right to coerce other people into following your belief. I haven’t seen Ben demand that YOU carry a gun. What business of yours is it if he does?

    You have to twist my words quite a bit to interpret them as me trying to coerce anyone. I simply expressed incredulity that anyone would feel the need to pack heat in Seattle.

    I don’t even have a problem with guns; I enjoy going shooting (especially skeet), though I haven’t done it in years. At the same time, I’m interested in research on gun control, because I really am curious whether it can have a positive effect on certain types of crime. I find the kind of knee-jerk commentary exhibited early in this thread unhelpful and uninformative, however.

  83. #83 Ian Gould
    January 16, 2007

    “My point is that if ben is so manly, he shouldn’t be afraid to walk up the big scary Ave, populated by young teen runaways and that singing guy. Ooooh. Veddy skeddy.”

    I used to work in a shop in Fortitude Valley, probably the most violent part of Brisbane.

    Every Friday night, I’d walk out of the shop with the takings from late night shopping.

    On warm summer nights, I’d walk home over the Story Bridge via Kangaroo Point and Woolloongabba and through Musgrave Park, home of most of Brisbane’s homeless.

    I never carried a gun, I never felt I needed one.

    Before anyone starts on the whole “It’s okay for you but what about people who can’t defend themselves?”, I’m five foot six, overweight, wear glasses and have spinal injuries from a bus crash when I was a teen.

    I also happen to be smarter than the average mugger, pretty observant and think fast on my feet.

    The idea that guns are either necessary or sufficient to defend yourself is just plain silly.

  84. #84 Archibald
    January 16, 2007

    I cannot speak as to whether Ben prefers that I be armed but there are cerainly groups which are putting that forth as their position. Recent ordinances noted in this blog require gun ownership and I am led to believe that John Lott has recommended it from time to time. Speaking of which, I followed a link there a few days ago and realized that his comments are either turned off or heavily censored. The same post in Marginal Revolution led me both here and to Lott’s blog. Does he (Lott) turn on comments for specific topics (a la MR)?

  85. #85 MarkP
    January 16, 2007

    Ian Gould said: Let’s assume your recollection is correct and that that one week is typical and also assume that there are approximately 8-10,000 gun deaths in the US each year … then around 1,200 to 1,500 Americans in the categories you suggest we should be “really concerned about”

    If that’s what the data is, then that’s what it is. My point is that if we are going to make a sound decision on policy, we need good, relevant data, not politically-massaged data. We need to be skeptical of any data on this issue since it is so politically charged. Along with the deaths “that matter” (an admittedly debatable definition), we also have to subtract the deaths that were avoided by the presence of guns (self-defense, etc.), a more difficult figure to discern, but it is certainly not zero.

    There is too much blind defense from the pro-gun side. Dismissing studies that conflict with one’s personal experience re large populations is the surest way to keep one’s opinions unsullied by facts. Ditto with dismissing a study because it might be flawed. All studies might be flawed. To dismiss it, one needs to know that it is flawed.

    Likewise, there is too much shrill nonsense from the anti-gun side. Implying that gun owners are trigger-happy goofs is intellectually dishonest. Likewise, tacitly presuming that all gun deaths are the same leads to a distorted view. Finally, gunphobes seem to act like death by gun is worse than death by other causes. You see this in studies that proport to show the (to me) trivial claim that more guns = more gun deaths. So?! I don’t care about minimizing “gun” deaths, I care about minimizing deaths!

    Is 1,500 undesired deaths annually (just to pick a number) worth the values freedom of gun ownership brings? We can’t make that decision well without good data, and the intellectual honesty to deal with the data, regardless of our perceived “personal experience”.

  86. #86 mgr
    January 16, 2007

    MarkP:
    “Likewise, there is too much shrill nonsense from the anti-gun side. Implying that gun owners are trigger-happy goofs is intellectually dishonest. Likewise, tacitly presuming that all gun deaths are the same leads to a distorted view. Finally, gunphobes seem to act like death by gun is worse than death by other causes. You see this in studies that proport to show the (to me) trivial claim that more guns = more gun deaths. So?! I don’t care about minimizing “gun” deaths, I care about minimizing deaths!”

    I think the defenders of gun owners commenting here are ones coming across as ignorant trigger happy goofs.

    But you employ a strawman regarding gunphobes–the use of a gun in the heat of anger is far more difficult to undo, on average, than say the use of a bat; and in the absense of anger, even more so. I read the data as including ‘accidental discharges’ since these will be treated as potential manslaughter or assault charges. You don’t accidentally bludgeon someone.

    However, I do agree with you. We need to recognise that this is a public health issue, but it does not necessitate the loss of the right of firearms ownership, but may require assuming additional responsibility with that right. Frankly in the extreme, I see myself willing to accept the outright ban on handguns, but would not with rifles and other hunting paraphenalia.

    Mike

  87. #87 MarkP
    January 16, 2007

    Mgr says: I think the defenders of gun owners commenting here are ones coming across as ignorant trigger happy goofs.

    Quote one. I haven’t seen anyone here defending gun ownership say anything as stupid as “Someone walks up to you in the street and sticks a knife in your face, says ‘gimme your wallet’, and you think you can draw your gun and threaten and/or shoot them before they stab you? Is this how the self-defence argument works? Or does it work by you pulling your gun before they pull the knife, i.e. shooting them if they look threatening?”, and some of the other reality-removed sneers I’ve seen here on the anti-gun side.

    Mgr says: But you employ a strawman regarding gunphobes–the use of a gun in the heat of anger is far more difficult to undo, on average, than say the use of a bat; and in the absense of anger, even more so. I read the data as including ‘accidental discharges’ since these will be treated as potential manslaughter or assault charges. You don’t accidentally bludgeon someone.

    I agree with you, and don’t see how this relates to what I said. I am speaking to the many statements I’ve seen from people who were anti-gun that seemed consistent with the idea that dying by gun is worse than dying some other way. Celebrating a reduction of gun deaths irrespective of deaths by other means was one example of that.

    Some statements, and conversations I’ve had with many such people, reveal a state of mind I can only describe as “phobic”. It’s not meant as an ad hominem, but as describing a real psychological state. As an example, I once had a friend dress as a cowboy at halloween, complete with real guns in his holsters and real bullets around his belt. This made one of the guests very nervous, and rightly so at that point. Then he showed her that not only were the guns unloaded, but he had carefully selected guns and bullets that were incompatible (.22 pistols and .45 shells, if memory serves), so that even if someone had tried to load the guns and shoot someone, they couldn’t do it, and he demonstrated this for us. She was still just as uncomfortable, and after our attempts to explain it and calm her failed, she left in a righteous huff.

    Now I’m sorry, how else might one describe such an attitude except phobic? It’s akin to a person who can’t handle having a spider on them even after it is explained that the spider is plastic. Sadly, I hear and see this attitude about guns all-too-frequently.

    It’s displayed every time someone (Bill Maher sadly is one example) can’t admit the obvious: that had some of the people at a multishooting tragedy (Columbine, Luby’s, the church who’s name escapes me, the McDonalds 20+ years ago, pick your favorite) been armed and trained, it is likely fewer innocent people would have died. The flip side of that coin are the people that resist the obvious fact that if more people were armed, there would be some situations where people would die who wouldn’t have before.

    My point is dispense with this nonsense, deal with reality, get the best data we can, and make an informed rational decision, based neither on macho male posturing, nor peacenick idealism.

  88. #88 Justin Moretti
    January 16, 2007

    The sneering attacks against Ben indicate very clearly the lack of maturity of the people who make them. References to Freud and penis substitutes only detract from their arguments.

    The arguments for and against open or concealed carry permits are legion, and it’s a situation that cuts both ways. Anti-gunners (some but not all) DO have a tendency to behave as if their opponents are uncontrolled, dangerous nuts who blast everything in sight, and whose existence is morally dubious at best; this does nothing for the objectivity of anti-gun campaigners.

    Personally, I am a shooter. I shoot smallbore rifle indoors, and my victims are paper targets. If I had the time and the money, I’d make a full time sport of it and a pitch at the Olympics in 2012 or ’16. I’d like the time to do pistol as well, but I just don’t have it.

    If it were permitted (it’s not), and if I were going to carry concealed 24/7 (I probably wouldn’t), I would think it would be irresponsible to issue me with a concealed carry permit if I were the sort who was just going to blaze away because some anti-gun nut walked up behind me and yelled “Gun!”.

    Ultimately I think that anyone who carries for self defence must accept that as soon as they draw, they are essentially committed to killing somebody; there will be no time for hesitation, and “shooting the knife out of the mugger’s hand” is for the movies. Anyone who carries should be trained to make this decision appropriately. Anyone who can’t demonstrate this sort of capacity should not be given a permit to carry on their person.

    I am firmly in favour of free ownership of guns, so long as a purpose can be demonstrated (even as simple as “recreational shooting with historical firearms”), and that the shooter ought to carry out their activities at least partially under the umbrella of a club or association – which, apart from the companionship being good for the soul, means that if they are going off the rails or having lapses of judgement, other people can notice and they can be quietly pulled aside and dealt with (and hopefully helped) before an explosion happens. And that we don’t have isolated people accumulating stockpiles of weapons with nobody to notice what they are doing. (Of course farmers who have them for pest control are another matter.)

    I would argue that possession of automatic weapons should not be permitted the general public (unless in the context of a reservist scheme like Switzerland’s); I am undecided about non-military self-loading longarms.

  89. #89 SG
    January 17, 2007

    Ben and MarkP, you are really eager to live the phrase “from my cold, dead hands” aren`t you?

    Let me suggest a little experiment for you Ben: get a mate around to your house with a reasonably soft 6″ long object that resembles a knife; have him wave it a foot in front of your face, in a situation which might suggest your life was in danger; then pull that gun. I give you maybe 20 or 30 tries, and you are still dead every time. Even if you use the old fake wallet trick, you`ll still be dead.

    MarkP may think this is a “reality-removed sneer” but I wouldn`t take his word for it if I were you. Give it a go.

    Justin Moretti, this kind of situation is about more than being trained “to make the decision” – you need years of training to be able to defend yourself against a knife when you are prepared and ready with another knife in your hand, let alone in your pocket. It`s a complete fantasy to suppose otherwise.

  90. #90 Ben
    January 17, 2007

    Much as you might like that particular scenario, SG, that’s not all there is to it. There are approximately one million defensive gun uses in the United States every year. Much as you’d like all those folks to have been unarmed victims, it fortunately wasn’t so.

  91. #91 SG
    January 17, 2007

    I don`t understand Ben. Everyone in this scenario is armed. Perhaps you misinterpreted my suggestion of a floppy fake knife as an implication that your assailant would be pretending to be armed? I merely recommended it for the purposes of keeping the experiment safe.

  92. #92 Ian Gould
    January 17, 2007

    Can I say that I agree with Justin that the personal attacks on Ben are unwarranted. Without rereading the whole thread I don’t immediately recall any such attacks on Mark, if they are in there though, they are also unwarranted.

    I agree with previous posters that the US situation is muddied by too much advocacy posing as research – but as John Lott demonstrates this is by no means limited to the pro-control side. (This is not intended to reflect on all pro-gun researchers, Dr. Kleck is frequently mentioned as an eminent Academic advocate for gun ownership.)

    I also think that the ease with which handguns in particular can be transported between US states makes a state=by-state analysis problematic. It also makes an assessment of the effectiveness of municipal or state-wide gun control laws problematic.

    however, the massive difference in murder rates between the US and other developed countries suggests that PART of the difference is almost definitely attributable to the greater availability of handguns.

    I think American advocates of a broad interpretation of your Second Amendment would do everyone a service if they acknowledged that, focussed on trying to define exactly how much of the higher murder rate is attributable to gun laws and argued their case on the basis that the higher murder rate was an acceptable cost for what they see as the benefits of gun ownership. (Nobody likes road fatalities but nobody seriously suggests reducing them by cutting the speed limit to 20 MPH; requiring cars to be covered in foam rubber and requiring drivers and passengers to wear crash helmets.)

  93. #93 SG
    January 17, 2007

    There are approximately one million defensive gun uses in the United States every year

    Has this figure already been debated ad Nauseum on this blog? Sorry if it has, but according to the National Crime Victimization Survey the figure was about 100,000, not a million as Ben claims. Am I missing something?

  94. #94 Dano
    January 17, 2007

    I agree that my comments about Ben’s fears were over the line, and I apologize. Few things get me going more than gun nuts, and knowing this I shoulda stayed in line.

    Again, apologies.

    BTW, I used to be a marksman. And if Federal judges keep getting fired in this country, I’m going to have a gun in every f’n room as an answer to Gonzales’ Homeland Security thugs coming into my house looking for my hard drives.

    Best,

    D

  95. #95 John Humphreys
    January 17, 2007

    Congrats ben on your continued decent behvaiour despite the pathetic behaviour of dano, mndean and the like.

    Unfortunately, bigots always need some group to abuse, and in Australia some left-wing bigots have decided that shooters are an easy target.

  96. #96 Tim Lambert
    January 17, 2007

    SG asks: “Has this figure already been debated ad Nauseum on this blog?”

    Depends on what you mean by “ad nauseum”. I have [58 posts](http://timlambert.org/category/guns/dgu/).

  97. #97 Ben
    January 17, 2007

    SG, try that same experiment, except this time just beg for your life. Is that somehow more satisfying?

    Hmmm, 1M did seem sorta high.

    “BTW, I used to be a marksman. And if Federal judges keep getting fired in this country, I’m going to have a gun in every f’n room as an answer to Gonzales’ Homeland Security thugs coming into my house looking for my hard drives.”

    That’s the idea.

    “I think American advocates of a broad interpretation of your Second Amendment would do everyone a service if they acknowledged that, focussed on trying to define exactly how much of the higher murder rate is attributable to gun laws and argued their case on the basis that the higher murder rate was an acceptable cost for what they see as the benefits of gun ownership.”

    Like I said before, for Caucasians only, we’re about just like much of Europe. Besides that, we have the historical record on our side for our interpretation of the 2nd Amendment. It means what we think it means, and its primary purpose is for what Dano eluded to above.

    Lastly, there’s the recent study by Kleck, “Resisting Crime: The Effects of Victim Action on the Outcomes of Crimes.”, that shows active self defense is the statistically best option as a response to crime. In the past it was unclear if one should resist or not. Many, especially the Brady Group, advocated passivity in the face of crime, as the best way to avoid injury. Kleck, for example, looked at whether or not injury happened as a result of fighting back, or if the injury occurred first and then the resistance later.

    The end result was that resisting crime has the least likelyhood of resulting in injury, and a gun was the best means of resistance, IIRC.

  98. #98 mgr
    January 17, 2007

    MarkP–you don’t understand, I consider myself a ‘gunphobe’. I don’t have one, will not allow one in my house, and will not tolerate it in the ordinary discourse of my life. Aside from the violence aspect, they are noisy, and pollute the environment.

    MarkP: “Quote one.”

    Since there are only two, you assumed the pickings were slight, but here goes–

    Ben:
    “‘Ben, you “pack heat”? Do you “pack heat” when you are like, going to the shops, hanging out with friends, at a cafe or in a bar? Is that what you mean?’”

    “Something like that. This is America after all. ”

    I consider this exchange immature and inflammatory on Ben’s part. I certainly do not wish to encounter Ben in anything but broad daylight where his Barney Fife logic might get me and several bystanders blown away.

    The fact that someone comes to a party with realistic ordinance, probably to get a rise out of some of the guests; and you expect those targets to calm down after explaining that its all dummy rounds and empty chambers, is not a characterization of phobia, but of immaturity on your friend’s part and on you for rationalizing it as a phobia. What other response were you expecting? If it were me, I would have thown your sorry asses out without a by your leave by the host or hostess. Sure, I’m going to take your word that they are dummy rounds, after you pulled this stunt?

    If you wish to have folk take your position on gun ownership seriously, you need to stop the argument that it’s OK to carry.

    I talk to co-workers about hunting (my son wants to bow hunt), and the first thing out of one of their mouths is getting him into a fire arms safety class. I am not hearing this from any of you advocates in this discussion, and quite frankly, I want to get fire arms out of the hands of you Clint Eastwood addled boobs, until you can show the sensitivity of what brandishing a weapon means to others not so desensitized to what weapons can do.

    Mike

  99. #99 Ben
    January 17, 2007

    Mike, how is that inflamitory?

    The ONLY times any of my friends knows I’m carrying is when we go hunting/hiking/camping/fishing or to the shooting range. Otherwise, if it’s to a suitable public place (i.e. NOT a bar) then I carry discretely and nobody ever knows. I NEVER carry in anyone else’s house.

    I obey the law, NEVER brandish, as that is illegal unless my life or the lives of others are at stake.

    And yes, by all means take a safety course. That was the first thing I did when I got back to the USA and got re-interested in firearms after living in Canada for many years.

    And yes, they are noisy. That is among the primary reasons why I would be loath to use a gun, even in self defense. My ears permanently ring already from going to concerts with unprotected ears in the days of my youth. I don’t want to make that worse, it’s not worth any amount of money or property.

    Within that vein, I’ve been attempting to change the laws in Washington State that say I can *own* a firearm sound suppressor, but I can’t actually use it. This law makes about as little sense as a law allowing me to own a jar of peanut butter as long as I never eat it.

  100. #100 Chris Doan
    January 17, 2007

    “let me get this right Ben. Someone walks up to you in the street and sticks a knife in your face, says “gimme your wallet”, and you think you can draw your gun and threaten and/or shoot them before they stab you? Is this how the self-defence argument works? Or does it work by you pulling your gun before they pull the knife, i.e. shooting them if they look threatening?”

    Haha you forgot the best option. Give him your wallet and then shoot him the back as he runs away. That would probably be the most just way of dealing with the criminal.

    Seriously though, the burden does lie with the study to prove that gun ownership causes gun violence. I live in Canada where they have gun control laws that would give gun contol advocates wet dreams at night, and the Canadian city with the toughest gun laws, Toronto just went through the “summer of the gun”. It was pretty awful, school kids getting shot and horrible things happening. It was a record year for gun violence. The cause? Gang violence over drugs. I think the root cause of gun violence in America and Canada isn’t gun ownership but rather illegal narcotics. People get shot over drugs and drug money, not because of the lack of gun control. It’s the high price of drugs that causes gun violence and streets to be unsafe, not the “prevalence of guns.”

    If you guys would legalise narcotics you’d have “gun violence” more than half solved.

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