Another Lott cherry pick

Lott has teamed up with Eli Lehrer for another cherry picking exercise. In an op-ed drafted in National Post they get straight to it with an outrageous cherry pick in just the second sentence:

Gun control has not worked in Canada. Since the new gun registration program started in 1998, the U.S. homicide rate has fallen, but the Canadian rate has increased.

i-dec5473c4486bf930415768466401c43-canhom.png On the left you can see a graph of Canadian homicide rates for the last ten years (data from Statistics Canada). Since 1998 the homicide rate has pretty obviously gone down. So how were Lott and Lehrer able to come up with an increase? Simple. In 1998 the rate was 1.84, while in 2002 the rate was 1.85 (details). They picked the year after the law with the highest homicide rate (2002). Then they picked the year before the law with the lowest homicide rate (1998). Even then they got numbers with the smallest possible difference in rates. But they didn't tell you that, trying to make it seem that the increase was significant.

Lott then goes on to cut and paste his previous cherry picked statistics purporting to show that crime in England and Australia has increased. I dealt with these in a previous post.

Lott and Lehrer continue with:

violent crime has fallen even faster in right-to-carry states than for the nation as a whole.

This is not true. The most comprehensive study on this (Ayers and Donohue's Stanford Law Review paper) finds that crime has tended to fall faster in the states without carry laws.

The states with the fastest growth in gun ownership have also experienced the biggest drops in violent crime rates.

This is from an analysis (page 114 of More Guns, Less Crime) based on two surveys of gun ownership (conducted in 1988 and 1996) that purported to show that a 1% increase in a state's gun ownership causes a 4.1% decrease in the violent crime rate and a 3.2% decrease in auto theft.

Lott's two polls indicate that gun ownership increased by 50% in just eight years, from 26% to 39%. This is contradicted by everything else we know about gun ownership:

Since 1959, there have been at least 86 different surveys on gun ownership *. There doesn't seem to have been in any increase over that period, let alone over 1988-1996. The percentage of the population that declared they were gun owners varied between 25% and 35%, but there was no clear trend. It seems that the changes in the numbers are caused by sampling error, differently worded questions, and changes in the willingness of people to admit to gun ownership. Lott's apparent increase is an artifact of his having looked at just two polls instead of many.

My thanks to Carl Jarret for first pointing out Lott's cherry picking of the Canadian statistics.

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When you say "Since 1998 the homicide rate has pretty obviously gone down." you typoed -- it should read "since 1993".

Another equally important thing about using Canadian homicide stats is that they are so much lower than in the USA that even a few extra homicides a year easily skew the ratings. For instance, last year or this the Vancouver police included 15 homicides of young women which actually occurred in previous years but which were only proven to have occurred this year.

Addding to the comment by "QrazyQat" - if you remove those 15 homicides from 2002, the rate drops to 1.80. This is below 1998.

Additionally, while the law was passed in 1998, registration did not go into effect until 2001.

By Carl Jarrett (not verified) on 21 Jun 2004 #permalink

Yes, they were put in in 2002 -- I had the year wrong in my comment. They therefore accounted for nearly 3% of the entire Canadian murder rate for that year, while in the US something like that would hardly make a blip on the graph. You have to be careful when dealing with small numbers, and Lott has shown in the past that he isn't careful at all about that.

Interesting though, apparently if you restrict to only the non-black, non-hispanic populations in Vancouver and Seattle, Seattle has the lower murder rate. This shows something fundamentally different between the US and Canada, unrelated to guns at all.

I used to live in Vancouver (about 10 years) and now I live in Seattle, btw.

While you're taking out chucks of Seattle's population, why don't you just remove ALL non-whites and see what you get? After all, Vancouver has many more Asians than Seattle, so if you are actually trying to remove all non-similar people, you can't include them... unless the reason for removing some and not others is itself more cherry-picking.

Then look at Toronto and Montreal too and ask why on earth the rates are still so damnably low despite their size and large ethnic populations.

yes, that is true. All those things would be interesting to do. The problem I was getting at is that the US is somewhat unique, and doesn't have much to do with gun control, otherwise, wouldn't Mexico have a much lower rate than the US (apparently they have stronger gun control there)? Their non-firearm homicide rate exceeds our TOTAL homicide rate. Mexico's firearm homicide rate is between 2x and 3x our firearm homicide rate. See

All I'm saying is that culture plays the most important role, and our culture (USA) has some peculiarities.


One of the strongest factors influencing murder rates appears to be poverty.

Mexico has a very high murder rate compared to developed countries, so do most latin American countries and many Eastern European countries.

America is an anomaly because it has a much higher murder rate than other equally rich western countries.

By Ian Gould (not verified) on 23 Jun 2004 #permalink

yes, but we have a large portion of our population that lives somewhat like those in the non-rich countries. The thing is also, all the money in the world won't change the murder rate in the poor countries. So, although poverty might go hand in hand with high homicide rates, it certainly does not CAUSE them. In fact, the cause of the high homicide rate is probably the same as the cause of poverty. It is cultural.

How can you make that assumption, ben -- because it is an assumption if you have no evidence. Is it not also at least as likely that poverty, or a relative imbalance in wealth (as seen in the US) is a root cause of murders? And how you can make the additional assumption that extra money (assuming it went to address the imbalances in money genenrally seen in such countries rather than merely enrich the already rich) would change nothing in poor countries is beyond me.

"Since 1998 the homicide rate has pretty obviously gone down."

Tim, get real. Look at the scale of the graph. Since 1998 the homicide rate has barely changed. Hell, since 1996 it's barely changed. Lott and Mauser are cherry picking AND inflating reality. You're just inflating reality. Whoopee.

Comparing the average for 1993-1998 with that for 1999-2002 shows a drop of about 10%. It is not accurate to say that it "barely changed".

QrazyQat, it seems to me that you are also making an assertion without evidence when you say imply that poverty itself is a "root cause of murders." This is a blog, and there really isn't room in the comments pages to give detailed justification for one's opinions. So it is pointless to bring that up here.

What I am conjecturing is that the two are certainly related, but that they are both caused by the same thing, that is, characteristics of the culture (Mexico) or sub-culture (USA).

I suppose that if you believe the Marxist line that the poor are poor because they were exploited by the wealthy blah blah blah, then you would be inclined to think that the poverty and exploitation is the CAUSE of all the bad things that happen to that poor group. On the other hand, if you recognize (and it's painfully obvious, really) that the thing that CAUSES their poverty is also the thing that CAUSES the high murder rate, which are problems within the culture.

You might like to read Thomas Sowell. He grew up poor and brought himself out of that to become a professor of economics. If I recall correctly, he asserts (with evidence) that substantially more people who begin life in the bottom 20% (or 30%) of income earners will end life in the top 20% (or 30%, I don't quite recall) than will end life where they started in the bottom. So apparently, by your logic, poverty causes wealth! How about that!?! Actually, this is not so far from the truth, it's just that it works indirectly.

Please, Tim, be consistent.
You wrote: Since 1998 the homicide rate has pretty obviously gone down."
Then you wrote: "Comparing the average for 1993-1998 with that for 1999-2002 shows a drop of about 10%. It is not accurate to say that it "barely changed"."
You changed the time scale. SINCE 1998 the homicide rate has been almost a flatline. The gun registration program started in 1998, not 1993. This means the rate was trending down prior to passage of the registration law (with the singular exception of 1996 which appears to be an anomaly). Passage of the registration law does not appear, at this time, to have influenced that trend, except possibly to have caused it to become a more shallow descent. Data for 2003 and 2004 might give us a better idea.
Once again, implementation of new "gun controls" - in this case a billion-dollar investment - has produced no noticeable effect after five years.
Yet gun control proponents expected (and have never seen) an immediate massive increase in gun violence with the passage of "lax" concealed-carry laws.
I restate my position: "Gun control" doesn't work.

ben, you flatly claimed that poverty was not the cause of murders. I said "Is it not also at least as likely: when I offered up the possibility that you were wrong. I have to say that my reply was nuanced and merely asked, while yours simply stated your conclusion as a fact.