Friday, January 25, 2013

Reason #273: ...Or Give Me Death

I like for this blog to be equal parts philosophy and pragmatism, but today I'm not going to talk about the philosophy of gun violence; I just want to talk about What Is Actually Happening. While my selection of facts is undoubtedly biased, not everything you will read below is uniformly anti-gun; this is nothing if not a complicated issue.

  • Per the chart above, guns are the leading cause of violent death for everyone over the age of 14, and horrifyingly, ages 5 to 9 as well. For people ages 15 to 34, gun homicides are followed in succession by gun suicides--those in that age group are more likely to shoot themselves than be murdered in any other fashion, and those that do shoot themselves outnumber all other forms of suicide with the exception of children between 10 and 14.
  • While the actual rate of gun deaths in the United States has roughly leveled off for the last decade or so, it is expected to exceed the traffic accident fatality rate by 2015, for the first time ever. This is due to motor vehicle fatalities falling rapidly over the last several years. Whether the extensive licensing and regulatory policies involved in driving a car--far more extensive than those for gun owners--are wholly responsible for that decline is open to interpretation.
  • By a significant margin, most American murderers are roughly college age - 18-24. For a brief period in the 90s, you were far more likely to be murdered by a 14-17-year-old than anyone over 25. Combined with the fact that you are far more likely to be murdered by a gun than any other weapon, it could be said that guns don't kill people, 20-year-olds with guns kill people.
  • In 2006, the four highest gun death rates were in Louisiana, Alabama, Alaska, and Mississippi. All four are states with little to no gun regulations, though it should be noted that the highest gun ownership rates are generally in the sparsely-populated "ranch" states like Montana and Wyoming--places where you're far more likely to have to fend off coyotes than muggers. Guns don't kill people, Southerners with guns kill people.
  • The gun homicide rate does not appear to have been affected at all by the ten years of the previous Assault Weapons Ban. The rate did decrease overall during that period, but the homicides related to both assault weapons and other firearms tracked more or less evenly--and had been declining since before the ban went into effect. Add in the fact that Columbine happened smack in the middle of the ban period, and it doesn't look like there's much of a correlation between what we regard as "assault weapons" and mass shootings like Newtown. Assault weapons don't kill people, weapons kill people.
  • Another thing that tracks very evenly is the handgun homicide rate and the number of handguns being produced. Whether increased gun murders lead to increased gun sales or vice versa is debatable, but neither option paints a very nice picture of gun manufacturers. Gun manufacturers don't kill people, but they do profit from it.
  • While one highly suspicious small-scale study infamously found that guns were 43 times as likely to kill family members as criminals, the vast majority of the "family member deaths" counted in the study were suicides. This particular factoid I found in a pro-gun research paper, whose author apparently feels that that made it better somehow.
  • Last, but not least--despite Mike Huckabee's claims to the contrary, there is essentially no correlation between the regular church attendance of a population and said population's gun homicide rate; and statistically speaking, what little correlation does exist is in the opposite direction: more-religious states have more gun deaths, not less.
...which brings me to the only absolute conclusion one can possibly draw from all this: guns don't kill people, God kills people. Everything else just helps.

Further Reading

Guns kill people, in one chilling graph

American Gun Deaths to Exceed Traffic Fatalities by 2015

Walls of the City - Graphics Matter

Wikipedia - Homicide Offenders By Age

Separating Emotion From Facts in the Gun Control Debate

Alabama No. 2 in gun deaths

Guardian interactive map: State gun laws in US

The Geography of Gun Ownership

Assault Weapons Ban Not Correlated With Decrease In Homicides

More handguns means more homicide from handguns

Is My Own Gun More Likely to be Used Against Me or My Family?

God and Guns

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