Chad Perrin: SOB

2 June 2009

Statistics 101: US Gun Crime vs. UK Knife Crime

Filed under: Cognition,Geek,Humor,Liberty,RPG,Writing — apotheon @ 01:09

All too often, I find myself reading some line of nonsense about how gun control legislation is important to protect the lives of citizens, all "proven" by gun crime statistics in the US. In one discussion in particular, some hoplophobic idiot tried to tell me that the fact guns account for the weapon of choice in more murders than all other weapons combined means they're too dangerous to allow people to have. This says nothing at all about the actual murder rate, and the effect of gun control legislation on the murder rate — just that, even if the murder rate is lower in the presence of firearms, guns end up having the largest share of the murder market in the US.

An alternative theory of the statistic might go something like this:

  1. More guns in the hands of private citizens discourage people from committing murder with knives.

  2. The number of murders with knives declined, and the number of murders with guns remained constant.

  3. The overall number of murders decreased because of the decline in knife murder rates, so the percentage of murders committed with guns increased even though the number of gun murders remained constant.

I don't have any idea whether that's an accurate explanation for the higher rate of gun murders than knife murders in the US. The statistical basis for proving or disproving this kind of theory of the effect guns have on murder rates doesn't exactly exist. It certainly is a plausible-sounding hypothesis, though, and no less supported by the lone statistic of 68% of murders in the US in 2006 being committed with guns.

The same guy, in the same comment where he pointed out that more murders are committed with guns than with any other weapon in the US, also linked to UK gun crime figures. Well, sure, let's compare crime rates in the UK with those in the US. We've already established that gun crimes are more numerous in the US than knife crimes, and I'll stipulate for the sake of argument that gun crimes are more numerous in the US than in the UK (though there are niggling holes in that comparison, too). Let's try a different comparison. Note that I'm probably overestimating the UK population and underestimating the US population in these statistical comparisons, which favors the UK in terms of estimating low crime rates (since these rates are measured per capita). The same goes for the fact I'm underestimating UK crime incidences and overestimating US incidences. Despite heavily favoring the UK for determining the per capita statistics, I think you'll find the results illuminating:

  • In or about 2006, there were about 60 million (actually closer to 58M, but we'll use the rounded-up number to be kind to hopolophobes) people in the UK as a whole, including Scotland.

  • In England and Wales alone — discounting Scotland — there were over 163 thousand knife crimes.

  • By the end of 2006, there were more than 300 million people in the US as a whole.

  • In the US as a whole, there were fewer than 400 thousand gun crimes.

  • In the UK, based on these numbers, there was one knife crime commited for every 374 people (rounded down).

  • In the US, based on these numbers, there was one gun crime committed for every 750 people — less than half a gun crime per 374 people (about 0.4987 gun crimes per 374 people, actually).

  • That means that, based on these statistics, you are more than twice as likely to be a victim of knife crime in the UK as you are to be a victim of gun crime in the US.

Statistical studies can be great tools for determining the results of policy changes, but the devil lies in the details. Simply picking a number out of thin air — like the fact that 68% of murders are committed by the use of a firearm in the US — in no way proves anything other than that 68% of murders are committed by the use of a firearm. That alone doesn't mean you're in more danger in the US because of laxer gun control legislation than in the UK, where firearms are all but entirely prohibited (hey, at least the police can check them out of the supply room under very extreme circumstances — right?).

Note that even the statistical comparisons I present here are not sufficient to prove a case. There are too many other variables in comparisons between crime rates in the UK and in the US to reasonably expect any real certainty about exactly what effect gun control laws have in either country. A far more reliable statistical comparison for purposes of determining the effect of gun control legislation is, as I pointed out in gun control arguments aren't exactly "rigorous", to compare crime statistics before the passage or repeal of a gun law to those after the passage of the law — say, the three years prior and the three years after. Other factors will come into play, but given enough case studies, trends will definitely be seen to emerge.

If you aren't prepared to produce statistics like that, you aren't prepared to produce statistics that prove anything worthwhile about the efficacy of gun control legislation.

statistical sources:

116 Comments

  1. It only makes sense — if someone wants to commit violence, they'll use the best weapon they can get their hands on. So the question remains, why are so many more people willing to be violent in the UK? Is it perhaps that they aren't worried about their intended victim having anything more than a knife for self-defense?

    Comment by Chip Camden — 2 June 2009 @ 04:29

  2. So the question remains, why are so many more people willing to be violent in the UK? Is it perhaps that they aren't worried about their intended victim having anything more than a knife for self-defense?

    That's definitely a possibility, if more people are willing to engage in acts of criminal violence in the UK than in the US. Judging by the statistics I've seen, the jury is still out on that score, but at the very least they do seem suggestive of the idea that firearms prohibitions may actually contribute to higher rates of criminal violence.

    In fact, judging by the statistics I've seen, the matter of whether increased prevalence of legal gun ownership correlates with higher violent crime rates should probably already be considered a settled matter. The statistics seem to indicate that, at worst, a greater prevalence of legally owned firearms has no measurable effect on violent crime rates, and may in fact reduce the incidence of such crimes. Passage of shall-issue legislation and other laws that significantly contribute to increased legal presence of firearms tend to correlate strongly with drops in violent crime rates. Surveys of inmates convicted of violent crimes seem to support this evidence, as they overwhelmingly agree that there's more to be feared from an armed citizen they target than from the police.

    . . . and I absolutely believe myself safer due to the fact I have, and use, a CCW permit.

    Comment by apotheon — 3 June 2009 @ 01:54

  3. There are some small problems with your argument here:

    a) you're using an extreme estimate of knife crime in the UK, and comparing it to a mean estimate from the US. The other estimates in the newspaper article you link to put the figure at 60,000. Using the worst case estimate isn't the best plan. You have a sensitivity interval of between 1/3 the rate you present (slightly lower than US) and equal to the rate.

    b) You haven't included the rate of knife crime in the US. According to John Lott 6% of victims of violent crime in the US are victims of knife crime, which takes the total figure for knife crime in the US to 360,000 based on BCS figures. That's half the rate of the UK, but it's still high (and assumes we're comparing like categories in the two countries' definitions of "violent crime", which we're not).

    c) BCS figures for total violent crime in England are 1000000 in 2006/07. John Lott estimates 12% of all violent crimes are knife-related, giving 120000 knife crimes. Using an equivalent definition of "violent" to the US figures gives a total violent crime figure of 900000, dropping your total knife crime rate even lower.

    d) England is the most degenerate OECD nation – if you lived here (as I do) and saw the way these people behave you would be banning their access to anything sharper than a plastic fork within about 20 seconds. You should compare these figures with a civilised nation that also has gun control – like Australia, Japan or NZ (which have 3 different layers of gun control).

    The studies you allude to are extremely difficult to do in the US because of the porous nature of state boundaries and the difficulty of time series analysis without clear controls. This is why ecological studies are the main method of analysis. This isn't the fault of gun control advocates' weak logic – it's a problem with the available range of experimental designs. But the fact remains that you are much, much more likely to die as a result of violent crime in the US than you are in another civilised nation (like Australia), and even more likely to die of gun crime (I think the rate is 20-fold, but it's getting late and I'm not going to bother hunting those stats).

    Comment by faustusnotes — 4 June 2009 @ 04:37

  4. Thanks for making my point for me — that statistical evidence shouldn't be used as "proof" of anything without extreme care. Note that I only used the above statistics to show how the more-simplistic style of statistical analysis all too often used by others in support of strict gun control legislation is far less than useful for arriving at an informed conclusion. In fact, a direct quote:

    Note that even the statistical comparisons I present here are not sufficient to prove a case.

    . . . so the fact you have shown further reason to believe that to be the case doesn't at all surprise me. In fact, your own statements support the notion that what you provided doesn't actually prove anything either without a lot more information added to the pile and carefully sifted.

    The studies you allude to are extremely difficult to do in the US because of the porous nature of state boundaries and the difficulty of time series analysis without clear controls. This is why ecological studies are the main method of analysis. This isn't the fault of gun control advocates' weak logic – it's a problem with the available range of experimental designs.

    What's the fault of gun control advocates' weak logic is their asinine, unsupported, overly simplistic arguments.

    But the fact remains that you are much, much more likely to die as a result of violent crime in the US than you are in another civilised nation

    Prove it.

    I could point out some other failings in your statements — things that ring false, come across as unsupported biases and irrelevant digressions — but just as your statements to which I could refer appear largely irrelevant to the subject at hand, my responses would also be largely irrelevant, so I'll try to stick to the subject.

    Comment by apotheon — 4 June 2009 @ 05:13

  5. You seem to be arguing with yourself in the first part of this comment, apotheon. I'd like to know what things "ring false" or come across as unsupported biasses and are irrelevant to the subject at hand. As to the death thing – I will add a point about that later when I have time, if you care for it.

    Also, it'd be nice if you could engage with my point about the inability to do proper time series studies, instead of sneering. This topic is actually an important public health topic, and what can and can't be done is well understood. Claiming an argument is asinine because the experimental conditions to support it can't be replicated is a bit mean-spirited, particularly when you're dealing with people from other countries (UK, Australia) for whom gun control is not a matter of lunatic leftist fringe thinking (as it is in the US) but a central plank of conservative social policy.

    Comment by faustusnotes — 5 June 2009 @ 03:13

  6. You seem to be arguing with yourself in the first part of this comment, apotheon.

    How do you figure? I started the comment with "statistical evidence shouldn't be used as "proof" of anything without extreme care", which was the whole point of the above SOB entry.

    I'd like to know what things "ring false" or come across as unsupported biasses and are irrelevant to the subject at hand.

    1. You haven't included the rate of knife crime in the US.

      Irrelevant. I was demonstrating how the comparison of the "gun crime" rate in the UK to that in the US doesn't say anything valuable about how safe it is in one country vs. the other, and this statistic

    2. assumes we're comparing like categories in the two countries' definitions of "violent crime", which we're not

      Quite true, but fails to argue against my point. If anything, it reinforces it — that the statistical argument against which I was presenting a counterargument is insufficient to prove what it was intended to prove.

    3. BCS figures . . .

      Also irrelevant, for the same reasons as above.

    4. England is the most degenerate OECD nation

      WTF? Seriously? That's your argument . . . ? The word "bias" comes to mind. By the way, I haven't lived in the UK, but I've been there, and I didn't see anything that would suggest a violation of individual rights to the extent of banning anything sharper than a plastic fork is a good idea — certainly not within 20 seconds. This statement just screams of biases.

    5. the fact remains that you are much, much more likely to die as a result of violent crime in the US than you are in another civilised nation (like Australia)

      I smell more bias, and that statement certainly rings false, as for many reasons I've brought up above, some that you've brought up, and some that haven't been mentioned at all, the accuracy of such a statement isn't actually supported by the statistical studies anyone has done (as far as I'm aware) is at best unprovable.

    6. even more likely to die of gun crime

      I've pointed out before that dying of "gun crime" isn't special, and actual murder rates should be evaluated rather than gun-related murder rates. For a very clear reiteration of that point, see Sterling's comment above. Any attempt to make the case that guns should be outlawed simply because a greater number of the crimes that have been committed happen to involve guns is circular at best, and indicative of biases so deep that one is unable or unwilling to confront the simple fact that "gun crime" rates alone in no way prove anything about how dangerous it is to have guns available. I suppose it might be indicative of extreme simplemindedness, instead — so if not biased, maybe you're just a simpleton. You tell me.

    Also, it'd be nice if you could engage with my point about the inability to do proper time series studies, instead of sneering.

    I didn't sneer. I pointed out that you're going off the path of what I was saying, attacking a straw man. I tried to point out the main point in more direct terms so you'd understand what I had actually said.

    What I had said was not that hoplophobes I've encountered don't have enough statistical evidence to back them up, so they're always wrong. What I said was, in fact, that hopolophobes I've encountered have a tendency to use evidence that could, in fact, be used more easily for an RKBA argument as if it supported a gun control argument, because most of them aren't willing or able to think past the initial knee-jerk "guns r bad" impulse prompted by their hopolophobia.

    It's true that it can be difficult to develop statistical analyses of any sort that definitively prove anything about the effect of greater prevalence of firearms may have on crime rates. There, I've engaged it. Thanks for making my point for me.

    Claiming an argument is asinine because the experimental conditions to support it can't be replicated is a bit mean-spirited

    One more time, just so you'll get the fucking point:

    I didn't claim an argument was asinine because the experimental conditions to support it can't be replicated. I claimed the argument was asinine because it simple-mindedly assumed that something as pointless as comparison of "gun crime" rates between two countries, in a vacuum, could prove anything about this "public health" topic.

    Comment by apotheon — 5 June 2009 @ 09:18

  7. apotheon, to the extent that you are producing an argument, you seem to be suggesting that there is a relationship between knife crime and gun crime rates. Two of your 3 alternative theories rely on the relationship between gun crime and knife crime rates. So you need to include both figures before you can explore any of your theories. You didn't, so you haven't for example ruled out that knife and gun crime is higher in the US – this would rule out both your first 2 alternative theories, at least in the international comparison. This is why contingency tables were invented.

    Your points 2 and 3 are just quibbling over technical points (i.e. references) in my exposition, which is intended to show that knife crime rates in the US remain very high – evidence against the theory that British people are "switching" crime methods on a 1:1 basis in the absence of guns.

    You seem surprised by my claim that Britain is degenerate. I really think you're unaware of just what a wretched hive of scum and villainy this place is. If people in this place could concealed carry, you can bet your arse that they would be shooting each other as soon as blink. Visiting here doesn't even give you a hint of how quickly these people turn nasty, and how many of them spend their entire day looking for a reason to – or how drunk and aggressive most of them spend most of their lives getting. Gun control and strict licensing laws didn't spring out of the aether in this country – they're a response to the massive inequality, the poverty and the violence of everyday life for the majority of people. And yes, I'm biassed, because I live here and in one year I've seen more violence than in my whole life to date, in parks, in taverns, in the street and in trains and busses. (For what it's worth I'm British, but spent most of my life in Australia).

    Your argument seems to be essentially in support of gun control. You point out that Britain has lower rates of gun crime and higher rates of knife crime than the US. The UK had a homicide rate of 1.5 per 100,000 in 2006/07 (BCS figures), while the US had a rate of 5.9 (averaging the 2006 & 2007 figures from Wikipedia). That means that, while the UK had (by your dubious figures) twice as many knife crimes as the US had gun crimes, it had 1/4 the homicide rate. You seem to be providing only evidence to support the fundamental premise of gun control – that shifting violent crime to less fatal tools is an effective way of preventing death.

    Also, your argument in comment 2 that possession of guns reduces overall violent crime doesn't seem to fit the stats either. The US has a total violent crime rate of 20 per 1000 (BJS statistics); in the UK it's 15 per 1000 (BCS figures).

    Of course, all this stuff has been covered in great detail in crime research literature in the last 20 years. The statistical literature is out there. It's unfortunate that we can't do proper controlled intervention studies to assess the direct impact of a law change, but in the absence of that the conclusions are pretty clear. Countries with similar rates of total violent crime tend to have a lot less murders if they have gun control, because violent criminals use less violent methods to do their dirty work. This is the purpose of gun control. Your "statistics 101" course is simply a lesson in how to present half the statistics to support your own premise.

    Comment by faustusnotes — 5 June 2009 @ 11:48

  8. apotheon, to the extent that you are producing an argument, you seem to be suggesting that there is a relationship between knife crime and gun crime rates.

    Nope. That only seems to be the case to you because you resolutely refuse to grasp my actual argument, which is that using a single statistic — like "68% of murders in the US are committed with guns" or "the US has a higher gun crime rate than the UK", or even both put together — doesn't prove what the example hoplophobe thought it proved. The only reason I brought up possible relationships between gun and knife crime rates was to show alternate theories of how those statistics came about, demonstrating that those statistics alone prove nothing about the thesis of the person who initially produced them as "evidence".

    So you need to include both figures before you can explore any of your theories.

    Since exploring those theories wasn't the fucking point, this is irrelevant. Why are you so dead-set on missing the point?

    You didn't, so you haven't for example ruled out that knife and gun crime is higher in the US

    Cluestick:

    I don't fucking care. That wasn't the point. Please, do yourself (and me) a favor, and read the SOB entry again. Do so with an open mind. Take what I say at face value — particularly the parts where I explain something about the point I'm trying to make.

    this would rule out both your first 2 alternative theories, at least in the international comparison.

    No, it wouldn't. You seem to have the same problem with statistics that the example hoplophobe has, trying to claim statistics prove something when they don't. The fact I didn't sufficiently support the alternate theories to prove them does not mean they have been disproved, and I can't believe you made such a bone-headed mistake. I know you're smarter than that.

    Your points 2 and 3 are just quibbling over technical points (i.e. references) in my exposition

    That's why I said I didn't want to address irrelevancies and indications of bias that didn't serve to progress the discussion meaningfully, but you insisted that I elaborate on them for you. You got what you wanted. Why are you complaining?

    knife crime rates in the US remain very high – evidence against the theory that British people are "switching" crime methods on a 1:1 basis in the absence of guns.

    That's not meaningful evidence against that theory in and of itself, which is another fine example of my point. It seems you need a refresher course in statistics.

    You seem surprised by my claim that Britain is degenerate.

    I'm only surprised by your use of the term "degenerate" as if, somehow, being British makes people worse than other people.

    I really think you're unaware of just what a wretched hive of scum and villainy this place is.

    In my experience, every population center is, from certain angles, a wretched hive of scum and villainy. I came home from the Army with the dust of many lands still clinging to my boots, and one of the things I learned from that is that good and bad exist everywhere. I didn't find London and outlying areas to be any exception.

    If people in this place could concealed carry, you can bet your arse that they would be shooting each other as soon as blink.

    I remain unconvinced.

    Visiting here doesn't even give you a hint of how quickly these people turn nasty, and how many of them spend their entire day looking for a reason to – or how drunk and aggressive most of them spend most of their lives getting.

    Among other places I've visited in London are places that serve alcohol to aggressive people. I still remain unconvinced.

    Gun control and strict licensing laws didn't spring out of the aether in this country – they're a response to the massive inequality, the poverty and the violence of everyday life for the majority of people.

    Those are certainly the politically motivated justifications offered by people who submit such bills for passage in legislations everywhere, but that doesn't mean they're the real reasons.

    And yes, I'm biassed, because I live here and in one year I've seen more violence than in my whole life to date, in parks, in taverns, in the street and in trains and busses.

    I'm pretty sure I've seen worse in other places — and it wasn't a lack of gun control that made it worse.

    Your argument seems to be essentially in support of gun control.

    The only way I can imagine you thinking that is by recognizing just how fucking far off-plot you've gone.

    while the UK had (by your dubious figures)

    Those were the UK's figures, and served well enough to make my point — that saying something like "68% of murders in the US are committed with guns" and "there's more gun crime in the US than the UK" doesn't actually prove anything about whether or not gun control legislation is a good idea. Perhaps you could stop setting up straw men just to try to knock them down again, now.

    You seem to be providing only evidence to support the fundamental premise of gun control – that shifting violent crime to less fatal tools is an effective way of preventing death.

    Um, no, you are providing such evidence — and it, just like all the other evidence that came before it in this discussion, is insufficient to prove any such thing.

    Also, your argument in comment 2 that possession of guns reduces overall violent crime doesn't seem to fit the stats either.

    That wasn't an argument. It was an alternate explanation for the statistics provided by the example hoplophobe. Why aren't you able to grasp that simple fact?

    The US has a total violent crime rate of 20 per 1000 (BJS statistics); in the UK it's 15 per 1000 (BCS figures).

    The idea of trying to prove anything about the relationship between gun control legislation and violent crime rates by comparing violent crime rates between the US and UK is absurd, for a number of reasons.

    1. There's the simple fact that cultural differences, very politically different neighbors, and very different geographic realities alter the face of gun control influence on crime rates significantly.

    2. There's the fact that so many laws are so significantly different that many reported crimes don't even exist elsewhere, and simply cannot be committed (such as certain "gun crimes" not even existing in one place where they do in another).

    3. There are significant differences in how crime rates are reported and categorized.

    4. There's also, perhaps most importantly, the fact that the US doesn't have a single set of gun laws. In many cases, the laws in one state (such as Massachusetts) may be more different from those in another (e.g. Montana) than they are from those in the UK. Hell, the city where I live allows (in accordance with the state constitution) open cary without a permit, and concealed carry permits are issued in all cases where the applicant passes a background check. It also has a lower murder rate than the lowest I've found for the UK in the last decade or so.

    It's unfortunate that we can't do proper controlled intervention studies to assess the direct impact of a law change, but in the absence of that the conclusions are pretty clear.

    No, they aren't. I could provide tons of sources for statistical studies suggesting the opposite of your thesis, but I'd rather just point you at a summary of only one of the many sources that point out what everybody seems unwilling to confront: the fact that it's much, much more difficult to prove a direct relationship between gun control legislation and crime rates.

    Your "statistics 101" course is simply a lesson in how to present half the statistics to support your own premise.

    No — it's a lesson in how only providing one or two statistics doesn't fucking prove anything, and if you weren't so blinded by a burning desire to argue against legal firearms ownership, you might have noticed that simple fact.

    It is, by the way, apparently a lesson you could stand to learn.

    Comment by apotheon — 5 June 2009 @ 03:36

  9. well you don't actually prove your point very well by doing your statistical counter-argument equally badly, using cherry-picked numbers. Particularly when the numbers all support the same conclusion unless you come up with another vague set of unobservable variables to explain them away.

    Comment by faustusnotes — 5 June 2009 @ 04:49

  10. well you don't actually prove your point very well by doing your statistical counter-argument equally badly

    You totally fucking missed the point if you think that the counter-argument has to be a rigorous, comprehensive statistical study to show how completely broken the original argument was.

    using cherry-picked numbers.

    I didn't use cherry-picked numbers. I literally used the first statistic I could find in each case.

    Particularly when the numbers all support the same conclusion unless you come up with another vague set of unobservable variables to explain them away.

    That doesn't even make any fucking sense.

    Comment by apotheon — 5 June 2009 @ 10:35

  11. I literally used the first statistic I could find in each case.

    Except that the figure you used for British knife crimes is the third figure in the Telegraph article you link to. The "literally" first statistic is a figure of 60,000. You chose the highest number in a range, without giving a sensitivity estimate. That's the literal definition of cherry-picking (well, fruit aside).

    That doesn't even make any fucking sense

    Well it's a statistical term, it should make sense in a statistics101 course. Your 4 points in comment 8 are searching for either unobserved variables (cultural and legal differences), bias (point 3) or an ecological fallacy (point 4) to explain away a strong statistical finding – that higher rates of gun ownership or gun-related violent crime predict higher rates of murder. Hopolophile arguments often flounder on this. For example, to explain this probably outdated graph using unobserved variables is extremely difficult. What cultural difference between nations can explain 0% of intentional firearm deaths in the UK but 90% of intentional firearm deaths in the US, and all other differences on a sliding scale in between those two extremes? An argument based on ecological fallacies might work (there is an elegant example for US voting patterns which someone in the hopolophile community could try and reproduce if they had the statistical skills) but unfortunately the "statistical" analysis you linked to in comment 8 strongly hints at the possibility that the ecological fallacy doesn't apply in gun crime stats.

    Cherry-picked stats are the norm in internet debate. But there is a solid and cautiously-reasoned body of research literature out there, you can even see hints of it if you just flick over to google scholar for a moment. You might find it heavy going, but I think you'd be surprised at how solid the evidence is that America's ludicrously high murder rate is completely preventable.

    Comment by faustusnotes — 6 June 2009 @ 03:56

  12. Except that the figure you used for British knife crimes is the third figure in the Telegraph article you link to.

    That wasn't the first source in which I found it. I don't, off the top of my head, remember where I found it. I linked to the other source, then decided it was a crappy source, so I looked for something else that corroborated the statistic. When I found that article, I decided that was a better source with more depth, and swapped out the citation links.

    That doesn't even make any fucking sense

    Well it's a statistical term, it should make sense in a statistics101 course.

    There was a statistical term in the sentence. The sentence as a whole, however, was grammatically challenged.

    Your 4 points in comment 8 are searching for either unobserved variables (cultural and legal differences), bias (point 3) or an ecological fallacy (point 4) to explain away a strong statistical finding – that higher rates of gun ownership or gun-related violent crime predict higher rates of murder.

    The fact that they're unobserved variables doesn't change the fact that you're trying to draw clear conclusions from a wildly uncontrolled statistical study where damn near anything could throw your conclusions completely off the mark and you wouldn't even know it.

    What cultural difference between nations can explain 0% of intentional firearm deaths in the UK but 90% of intentional firearm deaths in the US, and all other differences on a sliding scale in between those two extremes?

    Why does it even matter whether anyone can explain cultural differences between the number of intentional firearm deaths in the UK and the number of intentional firearm deaths in the US? The tool used is immaterial to the matter of cultural influences on the number of intentional deaths, period, in each case.

    It's beginning to seem like you, too, show signs of hoplophobia. You're somehow convinced that you must attribute magical moral character to firearms related deaths that don't apply to deaths by way of other tools, now. What's up with that? Please explain how this particular variable is important to your estimation of whether strict gun control is a good thing.

    But there is a solid and cautiously-reasoned body of research literature out there, you can even see hints of it if you just flick over to google scholar for a moment.

    I've read a lot of it — and ultimately, most of it is merely evidence that when outside variables aren't strictly controlled, statistics can "prove" anything.

    You might find it heavy going, but I think you'd be surprised at how solid the evidence is that America's ludicrously high murder rate is completely preventable.

    There are a lot of factors involved in the murder rate across the US, and most of them apply to cities and states that have the strongest gun control policies, the strongest drug prohibition policies, and the strongest welfare and "affirmative action" policies. The War on Some Drugs alone may well account for most of the difference in murder rate between the US and the UK.

    Comment by apotheon — 6 June 2009 @ 10:24

  13. The fact that they're unobserved variables doesn't change the fact that you're trying to draw clear conclusions from a wildly uncontrolled statistical study where damn near anything could throw your conclusions completely off the mark and you wouldn't even know it.

    I think you aren't entirely au fait with the term "unobserved variables", or you wouldn't have written this sentence.

    Why does it even matter whether anyone can explain cultural differences between the number of intentional firearm deaths in the UK and the number of intentional firearm deaths in the US?

    Because I was answering your point 1. Your point 1, which uses the term "cultural differences" (then goes on to blame mexicans) is, as I said, an attempt to invoke unobserved variables as an explanation for the different murder rates.

    You're somehow convinced that you must attribute magical moral character to firearms related deaths that don't apply to deaths by way of other tools, now.

    No, I'm attributing the number of firearms deaths to the number of guns. Your unobserved variable 1 (cultural and geographic differences) is invoking a magical moral character of gun-owning societies, which would explain away the apparently quite strict mathematical relationship between the number of lethal weapons being used in a country, and the number of people being killed by them.

    There are a lot of factors involved in the murder rate across the US, and most of them apply to cities and states that have the strongest gun control policies, the strongest drug prohibition policies, and the strongest welfare and "affirmative action" policies.

    So now you're arguing for a multi-level model, as I was alluding to above. But strangely enough, these models are floating around in the academic literature, and they don't support your claim. You also seem to be arguing that the states with the social models closest to the UK and Australia have the highest gun crime rates. How come Australia and the UK don't have such high gun crime rates?

    Comment by faustusnotes — 6 June 2009 @ 11:54

  14. I think you aren't entirely au fait with the term "unobserved variables", or you wouldn't have written this sentence.

    I think the fact you said that indicates you still aren't up to speed on the actual topic of the above SOB entry, and are still trying to argue some point that nobody made.

    Because I was answering your point 1. Your point 1, which uses the term "cultural differences" (then goes on to blame mexicans) is, as I said, an attempt to invoke unobserved variables as an explanation for the different murder rates.

    Here, again, you miss my point — which is that specifying "firearms deaths" in particular, as if it proves anything, is immaterial to the subject at hand and a strange waste of breath under the circumstances of discussion.

    No, I'm attributing the number of firearms deaths to the number of guns.

    Who cares?

    If, for the sake of argument, two places are exactly identical except for the prevalence of guns, and both have a murder rate of 2.3, I don't think it much matters for purposes of determining gun control policy that in one case 68% of those murders are committed with guns while in the other case 68% are committed with sousaphones. So go ahead and attribute the number of firearms deaths to the numbers of guns if you like, but that doesn't say anything about whether the number of murders in general actually has anything to do with firearms at all.

    Hell, if the number of firearms deaths was, in and of itself, so important, we should definitely be outlawing bathtubs, cars, and hearts long before we consider outlawing guns.

    Your unobserved variable 1 (cultural and geographic differences) is invoking a magical moral character of gun-owning societies, which would explain away the apparently quite strict mathematical relationship between the number of lethal weapons being used in a country, and the number of people being killed by them.

    The fact you seem to think there is such a "strict mathematical relationship" is a testament to your confirmation bias, and not to the actual statistics.

    So now you're arguing for a multi-level model, as I was alluding to above.

    So what? I never argued against the notion that there are multiple factors involved. In fact, I've pretty explicitly referred to that fact myself, before this.

    But strangely enough, these models are floating around in the academic literature, and they don't support your claim.

    You haven't been reading a wide enough range of the literature, then. It's very easy to get caught in an eddy of the mainstream, where everything is self-reinforcing and relentlessly ignorant of some of the facts.

    You also seem to be arguing that the states with the social models closest to the UK and Australia have the highest gun crime rates.

    I have not said, suggested, insinuated, or otherwise supported such a statement in this discussion. I have offered varying theories of causation for woefully insufficient statistics that might suggest that solely as a means of pointing out how useless those statistics are to the original gun prohibition argument, but in no way, shape, or form have I held up such alternate theories as serious arguments in and of themselves. Even in those hypothetical, unserious arguments, I never suggested higher gun crime rates; I have, instead, tended to mock the notion that "gun crime" is somehow special in the realm of crimes with tools that may be used to do others harm, since if someone kills me, I'm not going to much fucking care whether the act was committed with a gun, a knife, or a sharpened kewpie doll.

    I really, really wish you would grasp this fact and stop stalking the same straw man so relentlessly.

    How come Australia and the UK don't have such high gun crime rates?

    Assuming that's true in a systematic, rather than anomalous, sense — it's probably because it's more advantageous to commit much the same crimes in other ways in those jurisdictions. That's really irrelevant to the point at hand, though. See above.

    It's amazing how many thousands of words I've wasted here telling you, over and over again, about the straw man you've been wasting thousands of words attacking over and over again.

    Comment by apotheon — 6 June 2009 @ 02:07

  15. Knife crime..

    Knife crime in the UK means – for the most part "CARRYING A KNIFE"

    That is what 88.4% of "Knife crime" in the UK is.

    Look at DEATHS

    273 knife deaths in un in 2008

    23,145 gun deaths (over 80% homicide) in the USA

    Don't mix apples and pears and pretend to come up with meaningful stats.

    Carrying a knife is illegal in the UK. If you are searched (and people often are) and one is found. That is a knife crime.

    Look at deaths..even injuries..not "crimes".

    Hell if carrying a gun (anywhere other than a range) was a crime in the US how many millions would that add to your poorly researched figues ?

    Comment by Paul Clarke — 11 June 2009 @ 04:39

  16. Oh and that means that nearly 90% of knife "crimes" in the UK don't have a victim as such. No -one needs be threatened, or even see the knife.

    Even pretending to carry a knife, and (conversely) carrying a "pretend" knife are knife crimes in the UK

    So your victim stats are so far out of skew they are laughable.

    23,000+ gun DEATHS in USA each year – over 80% homocide

    Try and justify it however you want, it is still massively out of proportion with all murders (no matter how committed) pro rata in the UK

    Live with it (or get killed by it)

    Don't worry..King George isn't planning to be reincarnated any time soon – the only thing that will happen to US citizens in your life time is that over one million of them will shoot and kill about one million others.

    Put another way. That's about the same number of deaths EACH YEAR that actually occurred in the War of Independance. (just under 25,000)

    Carry on and kill yourselves, but understand why you are doing it. Knifing someone is a terribly personal thing. You have to feel the flesh tear and probably end up covered in blood yourself. Not many people have the bottle for it.

    Gun. Easy..do it from a good distance (both in reality and emotionaly) There's your difference !

    Comment by Paul Clarke — 11 June 2009 @ 05:58

  17. ok lets start this easy

    the quote "guns dont kill people people kill people" is very true if someone wants to kill you they will use what ever they can to do it. banning guns wont stop murder look at the UK guns are banned then tell me why there are gun crimes there? since when did a law stop a criminal from doing something? criminals want an easy target and if they know a house has guns in it they wont go there. just like everyone else they dont want to die.

    it all comes down to the fact that criminals dont go to your local gun store for their gun. i have known criminals and all of them have told me they get their guns with their drugs shipped in from other places. they get shipments of drugs with large shipments of guns.

    so tell me how telling a violent criminal NO will stop them? they are already braking the law why stop there? people need to wake up and realise you cant just outlaw guns and poof they disappear. if that were so then the uk should have a zero next to gun crime. but wow for some reason they dont. it is a childish belief that you can say its illegal and it will disappear. and dont use the at least we tried argument because it isnt trying if you know it wont do anything to help but try to say it will its called politics.

    thanks

    Comment by morg — 27 June 2009 @ 05:05

  18. Your stats are wrong. In the UK, having a knife is a crime, so those are included in the total knife crime.

    Comment by boynamedsue — 12 July 2009 @ 04:55

  19. So what? There are scads of ridiculous gun laws in the US that all count as "gun crime", too. Until this summer, one could accidentally become guilty of a "gun crime" by driving too close to a national park, and one can still accidentally become guilty of a "gun crime" by driving from Missouri to Kentucky across a series of bridges because of a space of a couple miles in which you'd be in Illinois. How often do you think people accidentally commit knife crimes in the UK?

    . . . and it doesn't matter that the stats don't really prove anything. The point was that the arguments to which this was a response don't work for exactly the same reasons this argument could be constructed in the first place. Do you need a pre-statistics class before you'll understand Statistics 101?

    Comment by apotheon — 13 July 2009 @ 10:17

  20. http://www.unicri.it/wwk/publications/books/series/understanding/19_GUN_OWNERSHIP.pdf

    you may find this research interesting. its from a little while ago but i think it is still quite relevant

    USA homicide with a gun per million = 44.6 England and Wales total homicide per million = 6.7 (with a gun 0.8)

    Comment by Joe — 23 July 2009 @ 04:39

  21. Three things:

    1. Those statistics are a bit out of date. The UK numbers have roughly doubled since then, and the US numbers have been cut roughly in half. During that time, thirty-some states have adopted "shall issue" policy for CCW permits, and gun ownership has climbed substantially (especially in the last year), while UK gun laws have only gotten more strict.

    2. Your "gun crime" statistics are not really relevant to determining whether guns make society safer or less safe. The effects of the presence of guns on all murders is far more relevant than any statistic specific to murder with guns. Would you rather live somewhere with four murders per million per year, all of them committed with guns, or somewhere with 400 murders per million per year, all of them committed with rubber hoses or chopsticks because guns weren't available?

    3. Ultimately, comparing two locations so separated from each other, geographically, socially, et cetera, on the matter of total crime rates is kind of a lost cause for developing useful data on the matter of gun control laws anyway, because there are far too many other variables to account for. As I pointed out in gun control arguments aren't exactly "rigorous", you must narrow your focus to situations where you can actually eliminate (or at least greatly reduce) the influence of other variables, which is why before/after statistics related to changes in the law, or strong correlations with legal trends over time, are far more convincing to someone with an even rudimentary understanding of statistics than something overly simplistic like comparing crime in the US to that in the UK. All a US vs. UK comparison can "prove" here is that someone's wrong when they say something about the primary cause of violent crime rates.

    You seem to have missed the whole point of this SOB entry, anyway. It's not to prove that the UK has worse crime because of an absence of guns: it's to show how piss-poor the US vs. UK argument that permissive gun laws are "dangerous" actually is. Good job going with the facile "argument", and ignoring that fact, though.

    Comment by apotheon — 24 July 2009 @ 10:32

  22. I just wanted to point out that 'gun control' is widely used as some sort of synonym for 'gun prohibition'. In fact, it more accurately means, keeping guns out of the hands of people who should not have them, such as violent criminals and the mentally ill. That is something that I would hope gun owners should be in favor of. I would really like to see gun owners take the lead in figuring out how to keep guns out of the hands of people who are likely to commit crimes.

    Comment by Peter Piper — 25 July 2009 @ 05:56

  23. Also, instead of comparing the US with the UK, we ought to be comparing the US with Canada since the countries are much more similar to each other.

    Comment by Peter Piper — 25 July 2009 @ 06:01

  24. I just wanted to point out that 'gun control' is widely used as some sort of synonym for 'gun prohibition'. In fact, it more accurately means, keeping guns out of the hands of people who should not have them, such as violent criminals and the mentally ill.

    Tell that to the gun prohibitionists who are appropriating the much more media-friendly term "gun control" for their own purposes, then.

    I would really like to see gun owners take the lead in figuring out how to keep guns out of the hands of people who are likely to commit crimes.

    Unfortunately, we're far too busy trying to protect the right to keep and bear arms for responsible, law-abiding citizens from evaporating. It's not like felons (and, in many cases, the mentally ill) aren't already prohibited from legally obtaining firearms, anyway.

    Tell me how the "gun control" groups trying to ban "evil black rifles" and magazines that hold more than tend rounds are in any way focused on keeping weapons out of the hands of violent criminals and the mentally ill, please — and how, with a full-time battle being waged on Capitol Hill between them and those of us just trying to retain access to the means of self defense, there's any time left for gun owners to "take the lead" when we know damned well the moment our backs are turned any such provisions we support will be turned against us.

    Also, instead of comparing the US with the UK, we ought to be comparing the US with Canada since the countries are much more similar to each other.

    The US should not be compared with Canada, nor should it be compared with Somalia, nor should Canada be compared with Somalia, nor should either be compared with Antarctica or Mars, unless any of these comparisons can be used to definitively debunk very specific statements of causality. Even between neighboring States within the United States, such as Arizona and California, or Illinois and Missouri, culture, economics, and politics are so substantially different that comparisons by location are almost meaningless — especially for the kind of simplistic comparisons that people seem to want to make about the (non?)relationship between gun laws and crime rates.

    . . . and that's even leaving aside the absurdity of comparing the US as a whole with any other country, considering that the legal differences between States within the US is more widely varied than between member states of the EU. For some reason, though, people persist in trying to "prove" something by comparing the US as a whole to some specific cherry-picked member of the EU (for instance).

    As I have said many times before, we'll get a lot further in developing actually useful statistical data by comparing violent and property crime rates from before and after a major change in firearms laws for a given jurisdiction than by trying to compare different jurisdictions with different laws.

    Comment by apotheon — 25 July 2009 @ 06:42

  25. You state that comparisons can only be made by comparing a locality before and after a major change in firearms laws. Unfortunately that sort of comparison doesn't work either.

    Even if a location banned all handguns anyone can simply drive to any nearby state with no restrictions and buy up as many guns as they want. So any sort of restrictions in one state or city are pretty much meaningless because you can always go to the place where they are the easiest to get and buy up a truckload of them.

    This shows the futility of making any sort of local (statewide or citywide) restrictions.

    Comment by Peter Piper — 25 July 2009 @ 09:21

  26. The fact it's an imperfect option doesn't mean it isn't much, much better than comparing the US and the UK — and the same objections you have to it apply to comparing different regions, too, since people can still import guns to two separate regions (legally or illegally), just as easily as they can do so in one single region where before and after statuses are being compared.

    Comment by apotheon — 25 July 2009 @ 09:53

  27. Apotheon i fear you may have misinterpreted the statistics. It is not a case of living somewhere with 400 murders by chopstick and hose or 4 murders by gun. It is more of a case of living somewhere with 400 murders by gun and 4 by chopstick, hose or whatever weapon you care to think of. The overall homicide rate of England and Wales, using any weapon or none at all, was far lower the homicides involving guns in the USA, excluding homicides with any other weapons.

    I also take issue with your argument that we cannot compare the USA and the UK in crime statistics. As far as i can tell they are, socially and culturally (albeit not geographically, though i hardly see why this would matter), very similar nations. The UK basically founded what was to be the USA after all and our shared language has meant that our cultures have always mixed together.

    Admittedly the statistics are old. Nevertheless they are still shocking. What difference (law enforcement wise) was there between these two nations that was great enough to cause this massive contrast, other then the greater presence of guns in the USA?

    Comment by Joe — 27 July 2009 @ 09:57

  28. Apotheon i fear you may have misinterpreted the statistics. It is not a case of living somewhere with 400 murders by chopstick and hose or 4 murders by gun. It is more of a case of living somewhere with 400 murders by gun and 4 by chopstick, hose or whatever weapon you care to think of.

    I think you failed to grasp the point of my hypothetical example — which is that it doesn't matter what tool is used to commit murder, as long as the murder happened, for determining what's the safest environment. I wasn't drawing an analogy between hypothetical and real locations; I was making a point about attitudes toward crime statistics (specifically, how silly it is to value statistics about what tool is used to commit a crime over statistics about how likely one is to fall victim to that crime).

    The overall homicide rate of England and Wales, using any weapon or none at all, was far lower the homicides involving guns in the USA, excluding homicides with any other weapons.

    Let me know when you're done waving your hands about comparisons between regions that are so culturally, legally, and physically distant that such comparisons cannot possibly account for enough additional factors to provide any useful information about the efficacy of weapons laws through direct comparison. Either provide a convincing case for such comparisons being worthwhile despite the obvious flaws in such comparisons, or prepare to be ignored and/or ridiculed.

    As far as i can tell they are, socially and culturally (albeit not geographically, though i hardly see why this would matter), very similar nations.

    Oh, well, if that's the case as far as you can tell, I guess it must be the case in reality! I guess we can just ignore all those troublesome details like how statistical sciences actually work.

    What difference (law enforcement wise) was there between these two nations that was great enough to cause this massive contrast, other then the greater presence of guns in the USA?

    You seem to have a really big problem grasping the fact that single-variable comparisons don't tell us much when the comparison is between complex systems with effectively infinite relevant variables. It's not like this very fact hasn't been addressed many times both on this page and on pages linked from here. Why do you so strongly oppose trying to reduce the number of variables that might interfere with a useful analysis of statistics? Are you just so invested in believing in a particular outcome of analysis that you refuse to consider the possibility that the one comparison you've cherry-picked, and know to be (very superficially) supportive of your thesis, is the only one you'll ever consider, even if much more useful statistical comparisons are available?

    If you aren't willing to actually use reason for discussing the matter, and have an open enough mind to recognize that better comparisons — in that they eliminate many external variables — are tautologically better, it would probably be better for all involved if you just shut the hell up and stopped wasting my time, my readers' time, and your time. I will not be convinced by your sophistry and bad grammar.

    Comment by apotheon — 27 July 2009 @ 10:20

  29. As far as i can tell they are, socially and culturally (albeit not geographically, though i hardly see why this would matter), very similar nations.

    On the contrary, Joe — racial and cultural clashes in the US are, IMHO, quite a different problem in the US and the UK. The landscape of poverty in the US is also quite different, and certainly affects crime rates.

    Comment by Chip Camden — 27 July 2009 @ 10:36

  30. [...] some reason, a number of people who read Statistics 101: US Gun Crime vs. UK Knife Crime completely missed the key points. In summary, those points [...]

    Pingback by Chad Perrin: SOB » Statistics 101 Lab: Examples — 27 July 2009 @ 12:49

  31. I'm sure why you guys want to compare the US with the UK when the US and Canada are a lot more similar in terms of geography, demographics, culture, etc and would make an easier comparison.

    Canada's rules on handguns are stricter than the US. It is not impossible to get a handgun but in order to get a handgun permit you have to show that your life has been threatened, or that you are a bona fide collector. However there is virtually no restriction at all on rifles and shotguns. So you are still able to protect your home and property with a gun, though I imagine most US handgun owners would not be happy with a shotgun or rifle.

    Of course the argument that 'the bad guys can always get a gun' is still true, though the argument should read, 'the bad guys can always get a gun — in the US'. Anyone can simply drive over the border to the US and buy one. Of course there are strict penalties for bringing in a gun into Canada without a permit, but it's not as if they can search every car going into the country.

    I suppose the next thing would be to check whether the gun laws in Canada are effective. Not that it really matters anyway since I can't really see the US adopting gun laws on the order of Canadas. Even if a locality such as New York City or Washington DC adpots a strict handgun law it means very little since you can simply drive to a nearby state and buy any sort of gun you want.

    Comment by Peter Piper — 28 July 2009 @ 11:48

  32. That last message was supposed to read: "I'm NOT sure why you guys want to compare the US with the UK ..." Sorry about that!

    Comment by Peter Piper — 28 July 2009 @ 11:49

  33. I'm [not] sure why you guys want to compare the US with the UK when the US and Canada are a lot more similar in terms of geography, demographics, culture, etc and would make an easier comparison.

    Who are "you guys" in that statement? If you're including me, you're missing a key point: I don't want to use a comparison of the UK and the US as "proof" of anything related to the correlation between "gun control" legislation and public safety. In fact, that's the whole point, and I'm mystified that people still aren't getting that fact. The point is that such a comparison doesn't account for other factors, and as such isn't a reasonable means of developing statistical evidence.

    Comparing the US and the UK like that is akin to saying that, because heart disease is the number one killer of redheads in the US, redheads must be particularly susceptible to heart disease. It ignores other factors, however — such as the fact that heart disease is the number one killer of everyone in the US. The statistical influences on violent crime rates include many more significant variables that simply cannot be eliminated in a comparison between the US and UK than any such problematic statistical factors in the example of redheads dying of heart disease, though, which makes the UK vs. US comparison an even worse choice for trying to prove anything, even while it seems more valid because there isn't a clear counterclaim of causality to get the point through even the thickest of skulls. Ironically, it's the very muddiness of the statistical realities that both make the US vs. UK comparison such a bad one and make it so appealing to people who don't really understand anything about statistical analysis.

    For more about why comparisons of different jurisdictions is such an awful idea — as well as an example that looks much more appropriate to "proving" strict gun control laws are a bad idea than the US vs. UK example is to "proving" the converse — have a look at Statistics 101 Lab: Examples.

    In short, I don't want to compare the US and the UK, the US and Canada, or even Illinois and Indianapolis, to try to determine the relative benefits and problems of "gun control" legislation, because that kind of comparison is a bullshit way to try to prove anything. It's meaningless, and serves only as a great way to prove that one can "prove" anything with statistics, regardless of whether it's true.

    One more time, from this SOB entry:

    A far more reliable statistical comparison for purposes of determining the effect of gun control legislation is . . . to compare crime statistics before the passage or repeal of a gun law to those after the passage of the law — say, the three years prior and the three years after.

    Comment by apotheon — 28 July 2009 @ 01:56

  34. One more time, from this SOB entry:

    A far more reliable statistical comparison for purposes of determining the effect of gun control legislation is . . . to compare crime statistics before the passage or repeal of a gun law to those after the passage of the law — say, the three years prior and the three years after.

    While you are correct in saying that a before-and-after comparision would be much more valid — theorectically. Unfortunately this type of comparision doesn't really work either when we're talking about the U.S.

    If NYC were to ban handguns but anybody can still simply drive to Pennsylvania and buy one, then how has the ban changed anything at all? Unless someone wants to implement a border check between New York and Pennsylvania, customs inspection, or something like that, there is nothing to stop anyone from buying all the guns you want and bringing them back. Local gun laws seem really quite useless if they are so easy to circumvent.

    The argument that is commonly made that, 'gun laws don't stop the bad guys' etc is quite true in the context of the United States. There is always some other jurisdiction where you can go to buy your guns.

    But really, I'd like to see people who are in favor of handguns come up with some solutions to keep handguns out of the hands of people who shouldn't have them. All I ever hear is, 'they need to enforce existing laws'. But from the amount of those laws don't seem to be working.

    Maybe it's time for people on both sides of this debate to work together instead of shouting at each other.

    Comment by Peter Piper — 28 July 2009 @ 09:06

  35. Umm, that sentence was supposed to say, "From the amount crime involving guns..." Sorry about that.

    Comment by Peter Piper — 28 July 2009 @ 09:08

  36. Also, in support of your claim that you can't really compare two different jurisdictions:

    Seattle and Vancouver are often compared because they are a similar size, have similar rates of poverty, are in the same region, etc. Yet crime rates in Vancouver are significantly lower.

    Why? Well could be anything. Could be that there are better employment and educational opportunities making crime less worthwhile. Could be that it is colder there so crooks stay inside watching TV more. Could be that crime stats are reported differently there. Could be that poverty is measured differently. Could be anything really. So you are right, it is quite difficult to make a sensible comparison between two different localities.

    But the before and after scenario you suggest doesn't work either unless we're talking about an island somewhere where they changed the laws AND guns are not readily available nearby.

    Comment by Peter Piper — 28 July 2009 @ 09:36

  37. If NYC were to ban handguns but anybody can still simply drive to Pennsylvania and buy one, then how has the ban changed anything at all?

    It would have changed the ability of law-abiding citizens to get guns legally.

    Local gun laws seem really quite useless if they are so easy to circumvent.

    That's part of the problem that proponents of gun prohibition legislation don't seem to want to confront. It doesn't even necessarily take going to another jurisdiction to get guns, either. As Professor Nicholas J. Johnson of Franklin & Marshall College put it:

    The notorious AK-47 can be assembled from a kit of roughly-machined parts using only hand tools. Gun prohibition then is not the same as banning DDT or leaded gasoline. It is more like banning fire.

    That might be relevant.

    The argument that is commonly made that, 'gun laws don't stop the bad guys' etc is quite true in the context of the United States. There is always some other jurisdiction where you can go to buy your guns.

    Is there somewhere you can't do that — or make your own, if it comes to that? Hell, I could make a rudimentary gun out of parts from Home Depot for about $20, and I'm not exactly an expert in the manufacture of firearms (my "expertise" is more related to using them).

    The most difficult part of a modern firearm to make — the only part your average machinist probably couldn't make — is a rifled barrel. As long as you're willing to use a smoothbore, though, that's not so much of a problem.

    Maybe it's time for people on both sides of this debate to work together instead of shouting at each other.

    Start telling that to the people on the gun prohibition side. As long as they keep doing what they're doing, those of us on the RKBA side are going to have to waste a lot of energy defending ourselves.

    But the before and after scenario you suggest doesn't work either unless we're talking about an island somewhere where they changed the laws AND guns are not readily available nearby.

    The only actual claim I'm trying to make about that comparison is that it's much better than comparing two separate locales. If it doesn't work either, think about what that says about the uselessness of comparisons between separate jurisdictions.

    Comment by apotheon — 29 July 2009 @ 09:35

  38. The argument that is commonly made that, 'gun laws don't stop the bad guys' etc is quite true in the context of the United States. There is always some other jurisdiction where you can go to buy your guns.

    Is there somewhere you can't do that — or make your own, if it comes to that?

    In Europe, there are no other countries anywhere nearby where you can just walk into a shop and walk off with a bunch of handguns. So if handguns are banned in one country there is no way to easily access them, at least not by just driving a couple hundred miles to buy them.

    I never heard that you can construct a gun out of materials from home depot, but I suppose that's true. Wouldn't it be easier just to go buy a shotgun or rifle than to try to assemble a bunch of parts from home depot?

    I also get the feeling that you are equating gun control with gun prohibition. I haven't ever heard that argument before, but now it makes me understand why gun proponents are so 'up in arms' over gun control. If they believe that gun control = gun prohibition then that explains what they are so angry about.

    Banning machine guns and military weapons is interpreted as an attempt to take their guns away. Background check is interpreted as an attempt to take their guns away.

    (Do gun proponents really feel that the public should have access to military style weapons?)

    It's too bad this is the way the debate is going as it would be great to actually have people who are in favor of handguns be involved in the debate in some sort of constructive way.

    I don't really see this national 'debate' ever coming to anything constructive since it has mostly devolved into people glaring angrily or shouting at each other.

    Comment by Peter Piper — 29 July 2009 @ 10:43

  39. So if handguns are banned in one country there is no way to easily access them, at least not by just driving a couple hundred miles to buy them.

    That's debatable — but you also managed to ignore the possibility of making guns from scratch.

    I never heard that you can construct a gun out of materials from home depot, but I suppose that's true. Wouldn't it be easier just to go buy a shotgun or rifle than to try to assemble a bunch of parts from home depot?

    Of course it would — not cheaper, but easier, and you'd end up with a much better gun. What does that have to do with the applicability of what I said?

    I also get the feeling that you are equating gun control with gun prohibition. I haven't ever heard that argument before, but now it makes me understand why gun proponents are so 'up in arms' over gun control.

    You must not have paid much attention to the politics of "gun control", then — because every time someone starts advocating "gun control", the steps toward prohibition embodied by the "gun control" measures being advocated are obvious.

    Banning machine guns and military weapons is interpreted as an attempt to take their guns away.

    Um . . . banning a type of gun is taking guns away. There's no interpretation involved.

    Background check is interpreted as an attempt to take their guns away.

    No, it isn't — at least, not in any case I've seen. It can, however, be something of a hassle sometimes.

    (Do gun proponents really feel that the public should have access to military style weapons?)

    Why not?

    Comment by apotheon — 29 July 2009 @ 11:13

  40. (Do gun proponents really feel that the public should have access to military style weapons?)

    Why not?

    So basically no restrictions at all on any type of weapons including machine guns and bazookas, hand grenades, etc?

    Hmmm...

    Comment by Peter Piper — 29 July 2009 @ 10:13

  41. What about states or cities where a majority of people prefer to restrict gun ownership in some way. (ie. banning machine guns).

    Should they be allowed to adopt their own solution? (Even though local laws seem pretty useless to me considering that it is so simple to drive to some other state and buy whatever you like.)

    Comment by Peter Piper — 29 July 2009 @ 10:20

  42. And if you feel that military weapons should be unrestricted, that also means bazookas 50 mm guns and even anti-aircraft guns?

    Comment by Peter Piper — 29 July 2009 @ 10:24

    1. Do you know how to construct a single comment post with more than one sentence in it?

    2. "Hmm..." is not an argument.

    3. I'm not a huge fan of mob rule. Would you advocate mob rule as justification for governmental violation of the right to free speech?

    4. I believe you're just looking for excuses to think I'm crazy, so I'm done talking to you.

    Comment by apotheon — 29 July 2009 @ 11:04

  43. ["hmmm...' in this context means 'let me think about this for a minute' and yes, it meant as an argument. ]

    Well I've been trying to understand your way of thinking. As I understand it, basically you feel there should be no restrictions on any kind of guns whatsoever.

    And with no restrictions on guns, people should be able to buy and use machine guns and assult rifles. If that's the case then it becomes sort of a small-arms arms race. what good will a shotgun do against someone armed with a handgun and what good will a handgun do against someone armed with a machine gun?

    In my previous post, I was asking whether, if peoples elected representatives (or via a referendum) decided there should be some restrictions on guns, for example banning ex-felons and the mentally ill from purchasing them. Would you consider that mob rule?

    By that reckoning, democracy, which is based on the principle of majority rule, could also be called a form of mob rule. Some people have called democracy 'tyranny of the majority', though theoretically at least our system is supposed to be based on consultation and compromise.

    Comment by Peter Piper — 29 July 2009 @ 11:56

  44. That was supposed to say, "no it was not meant as an argument." (I really should proofread before posting.)

    Comment by Peter Piper — 29 July 2009 @ 11:57

  45. I'm interested, as well, on why people should be allowed to have military-grade weapons. I can understand a handgun for defending oneself, though the reality in which that would be necessary is quite distant, but certainly a machine gun would be pure overkill.

    If one were interested in reducing crimes, one would do well to consider such problems as poverty, racism and mental illnesses (depression, say). Some potential solutions: Social security, actually accepting that racism exists and is a problem, and, uh, smaller communities, maybe? At least tighter communities.

    Comment by Tommi — 30 July 2009 @ 08:13

  46. Peter Piper:

    Fine, I'll answer some more questions — against my better judgment.

    what good will a shotgun do against someone armed with a handgun and what good will a handgun do against someone armed with a machine gun?

    You clearly don't actually know anything about firearms. In a home defense scenario, a shotgun is generally better than a handgun, and I'm having a really difficult time imagining the benefit to shooting up your house with a machine gun. Furthermore, carrying a "more powerful" gun (whatever the hell that means to you — probably a more scary-looking gun) in no way makes one immune to the effects of a 12g shotgun.

    Different firearms have different advantages. The fact movies and the news media hype up the dangers of "machine guns" and "assault weapons" doesn't in any way render shotguns useless.

    In my previous post, I was asking whether, if peoples elected representatives (or via a referendum) decided there should be some restrictions on guns, for example banning ex-felons and the mentally ill from purchasing them. Would you consider that mob rule?

    No, you asked whether restrictions on gun ownership like "machine guns" should be allowed because of a majority wish to do so. That's not the same as restricting people who have proven they are unwilling to respect the rights of others, or incapable of doing so, from bearing arms. Anyone trying to enforce a ban on others who have not proven themselves unwilling to respect the rights of others, or incapable of doing so, is a violation of rights, though — so now that I think about it, in a way, people should be able to restrict firearms by majority rule. They should just be able to enforce such restrictions only for themselves and others who want to pass laws that violate people's rights.

    By that reckoning, democracy, which is based on the principle of majority rule, could also be called a form of mob rule.

    Democracy is only a means of running a government. It isn't good or bad on its own. What makes it good or bad is the mechanisms in place to limit its excesses, and how well people conform to the rules of those mechanisms. Generally, a truly benevolent dictator is likely to actually be better for the rights of a country's citizens than a democracy, in the short run. The problem with a benevolent dictatorship is that there's nothing to stop it from turning into a tyrannical dictatorship at some point (such as upon the benevolent dictator's death). For some reason, though, a cultish worship of "Democracy" has flourished over the last couple hundred years.

    Clearly, the founders of the United States didn't share that cultish devotion, as we have the Constitution to limit the excesses of democratic processes.

    Tommi:

    I'm interested, as well, on why people should be allowed to have military-grade weapons.

    A better question is "Why should people be prevented from owning military small arms?"

    If one were interested in reducing crimes, one would do well to consider such problems as poverty, racism and mental illnesses (depression, say).

    True.

    Some potential solutions: Social security, actually accepting that racism exists and is a problem, and, uh, smaller communities, maybe? At least tighter communities.

    Those are worth examining as possible improvements — though I can tell you right now that "social security" is more of a shell game than the Great Promise as which it's advertised. It takes only a modicum of reasonable knowledge of economics to start seeing the holes in that kind of plan in the real world.

    Comment by apotheon — 30 July 2009 @ 09:10

  47. Well I'm glad to see the temperature of this discussion turned down a few notches. This is actually one of the more intelligent debates on this question that I've seen which is why I've dared to my questions here.

    You are quite right. I admit I don't have much experience with firearms. But that doesn't disqualify me from debating the pros and cons, does it? You can always correct whatever erroneous assumptions I've picked up.

    I do agree that people should have some way to protect their home and property. To me a shotgun would do the job just fine and would reduce the risk for other people in the house. Small children would have difficulty accidentally shooting other small children in the house. It is also more difficult (although not impossible) to shoot yourself with a shotgun.

    I don't see that there is much legitimate use for machine gun-type weapons outside of the military, except maybe target practice under some controlled environment like a shooting range.

    Comment by Peter Piper — 1 August 2009 @ 11:57

  48. Small children would have difficulty accidentally shooting other small children in the house.

    Why are shotguns more difficult to fire accidentally? If they're loaded, it's still just a cock and squeeze away. I was taught how to aim and fire a .410 when I was five — and I don't believe that weapon had a safety on it.

    Comment by Chip Camden — 1 August 2009 @ 12:06

  49. > Why are shotguns more difficult to fire accidentally? If they're loaded, it's still just a cock and squeeze away.

    I'm guessing that a shotgun is harder for a five year old to handle. It's longer, and heavier than a handgun. Probably harder for a five year old to cock it as well especially for small children who have not been taught to do that.

    Guess we'd need some scientific studies to see if it is any safer for small children. But then again, you can poke holes in any scientific studies and with the unfortunate political climate surrounding the debate over firearms, few people believe the results of studies they don't agree with anyway.

    Comment by Peter Piper — 1 August 2009 @ 12:25

  50. It's difficult to imagine a scientific study on this subject that wouldn't suffer some form of confirmation bias.

    Comment by Chip Camden — 1 August 2009 @ 01:08

  51. Considering the most important reason to include something like the 2nd Amendment in the US Constitution is to ensure that government doesn't divest citizens of the most effective tools for resisting tyranny, I'd say that there's a better reason for private citizens to have (and practice with) military-style arms than for most other firearms.

    . . . though there's a strong argument to be made for arms similar to military arms, but designed more for semi-auto than fully automatic firing, since ammunition may be more difficult to come by for the private citizen resisting a tyrannical government than for the government's forces, at least in the early stages of such a conflict.

    Comment by apotheon — 1 August 2009 @ 02:06

  52. Are we really at that point where we have to arms ourselves with military weapons – just in case our own government turns on us?

    The downside of military style weapons in the hands of civillians is that sooner or later some of them will flip their lid, go into a McDonalds, a train, a church, a school, and start shooting. If that happens, at least I'd rather see them with a 6-shooter rather than an automatic weapon.

    Citizens of the former East-block countries discovered the secret of a bloodless revolution. The government may be able to shoot 1000 people, but they can't very well shoot 500,000 or one million. And if things have progressed to that point it's quite likely that the army will side with the people rather than the government.

    Comment by Peter Piper — 1 August 2009 @ 03:45

  53. Are we really at that point where we have to arms ourselves with military weapons – just in case our own government turns on us?

    Have we not always been at that point? If we give up the right to do so, explicitly or implicitly, any tyrannical government that may arise will certainly not cede such right back to us when we need it.

    As John Philpot Curran said:

    It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance; which condition if he break, servitude is at once the consequence of his crime and the punishment of his guilt.

    The common, erroneously attributed to Jefferson, summary of that statement is "The price of freedom is eternal vigilance."

    The downside of military style weapons in the hands of civillians is that sooner or later some of them will flip their lid, go into a McDonalds, a train, a church, a school, and start shooting. If that happens, at least I'd rather see them with a 6-shooter rather than an automatic weapon.

    The downside of military style weapons in the hands of civilians is much less terrible than people seem to think, especially considering that it is no worse than that of many other things in the hands of civilians — including large trucks, cleaning chemicals, and the tools of mass communication, any of which could conceivably produce far greater harm and terror in the hands of someone who has "flipped his lid" than a machine gun. That's not even considering the rapid end to a rampage with a machine gun that could result from another armed civilian with better intentions who happens to be on the scene, while the police are twenty minutes away.

    Citizens of the former East-block countries discovered the secret of a bloodless revolution. The government may be able to shoot 1000 people, but they can't very well shoot 500,000 or one million. And if things have progressed to that point it's quite likely that the army will side with the people rather than the government.

    It took Eastern bloc countries decades to reach that point, and in fact that only occurred when there were more-free countries elsewhere insinuating their ideals into the Soviet Union through communications media and commerce, after a long period of liberalization (in the prescriptive, rather than politically descriptive, sense). Consider the generations of crushingly oppressive rule under Stalin, where people were far too afraid to even voice their fears, let alone demand a change in government. It is only when the weight of tyranny was lightened enough to allow a bloodless rebellion to occur — with the complicity of the government itself, in fact — that it was successful in the former Soviet Union.

    I don't know how old you are, but I imagine you cannot have been terribly aware of events in the Soviet Union prior to its breakup if you think there was a purely grassroots effort to throw off the yoke of soviet tyranny there. The new direction of government in the USSR was, in fact, spawned at the top more than at the bottom. Terms such as "glasnost" and "perestroika" may be good places to start your search for more information on the subject.

    I, for one, would rather have the opportunity to end a tyrannical reign before hundreds of millions of people were killed by it, rather than wait generations for it to dismantle itself, after hundreds of millions have already died. A bloodless revolution after a long and bloody reign is not superior to a bloody revolution that sets things right before the first hundred million have died for nothing.

    Comment by apotheon — 1 August 2009 @ 04:29

  54. [...] from a comment I made in discussion following an earlier SOB [...]

    Pingback by Chad Perrin: SOB » Bloodless Revolution — 2 August 2009 @ 09:02

  55. I read Gorbachev's book Perestroika back in the late 80s. I remember being struck by his apparently sincere belief in the possibility of an open form of communism. Either he didn't realize the rapid consequences of the forces he helped to set in motion, or he was not being quite so genuine about his goals.

    Comment by Chip Camden — 2 August 2009 @ 11:00

  56. Either way, he was clearly aiming at an end to the tyrannical basis of Soviet governance.

    Comment by apotheon — 2 August 2009 @ 12:11

  57. >I don't know how old you are, but I imagine you cannot have been terribly aware of events in the Soviet Union prior to its breakup if you think there was a purely grassroots effort to throw off the yoke of soviet tyranny there. The new direction of government in the USSR was, in fact, spawned at the top more than at the bottom. Terms such as "glasnost" and "perestroika" may be good places to start your search for more information on the subject.

    You should be cautious about pegging people based on a statement or two. I am actually familiar with the terms Perestroika and Glasnost, having lived them first-hand. I went Hungary for a month 1984 and returned to live there from 1986-87, eventually working as a free-lance translator in Hungarian. I remember going to the Soviet embassy to pick up a visa for the transiberian 'express'. Yeltsin had recently fallen out of favor in the Kremlin and had lost his post as party boss of Moscow. I had to laugh when in the first part of the pamphlet he wrote "People should be allowed to make mistakes" and in a later part of the pamphlet he stated "Mistakes must be avoided at all costs". Yeltsin had apparently lost his post by daring to criticize Gorby's wife's supposed interference in state affairs. Yeltsin had his revenge a few years later when as head of the Russian Federation, he met with the leaders of the other soviet republics and declared an end to the Soviet Union, leaving Yeltsin as head of a newly free Russia and Gorbachev with no further official role. Ironically the nail in the coffin of the the Soviet Union came about because of internal rivalry and Yeltsin's desire to back-stab Gorbachev. Of course this wouldn't have been possible without Gorbachev's liberalization program. I was still a bit surprised that the country had managed to cast off Gorbachev who had brought th country forward about 50 years in the space of seven, for the drunken, slightly thuggish Yeltsin.

    Comment by Peter Piper — 2 August 2009 @ 07:51

  58. I stand corrected — apparently you were aware of goings-on, but just decided to be disingenuous here when you characterized it as being a purely grassroots "revolution" to suit your rhetorical ends. Shame on me for assuming you were arguing honestly.

    Comment by apotheon — 2 August 2009 @ 10:58

  59. > I stand corrected — apparently you were aware of goings-on, but just decided to be disingenuous here when you characterized it as being a purely grassroots "revolution" to suit your rhetorical ends. Shame on me for assuming you were arguing honestly.

    In any case, I still believe the 'revolutions' in Tczechlosovakia and East Germany were grass-roots movements. The authorities in those countries at that time were opposed to change. East Germany was particularly opposed to Glasnost. (Erich Honecker, East German leader: "Would you change your curtains just because your neighbor is doing it? ") The changes in the Soviet Union helped encourage the opposition and gave them an indication that their governments would not get any help from the Soviet Union in using force against their own people, but the Soviet govt did not give encouragement or help to the opposition in those countries.

    You'd really have a more constructive discussion if you didn't immediately dismiss someone else's opinion, or assume that they are arguing dishonestly or disingenously. The way to have an interesting discussion is to be genuinely interested in what the other person in telling you — that doesn't mean you have to change your opinion — just listen to what they are saying. Just because someone may have a different opinion doesn't automatically make them wrong, or a bad person, or someone not worthy of having a discussion with.

    Comment by Peter Piper — 3 August 2009 @ 10:19

  60. That's the point — I didn't assume you were arguing dishonestly, and thus misjudged your awareness of Soviet policy.

    . . . and this particular difference isn't over "opinion". It's over what actually happened. Pretending that what happened in East Germany (for instance) wasn't influenced by events outside the country, especially when generations of oppression east of the Berlin Wall went unopposed by those on the inside before things finally accelerated toward collapse of the Soviet system, is naive and probably quite thoroughly colored by confirmation bias.

    Would you prefer I simply assume you're stupid?

    Comment by apotheon — 3 August 2009 @ 10:54

  61. I think perhaps we're just defining the word 'grassroots' differently. I readily admit that events in East Germany were heavily influenced by events outside the country, but were not directed or organized from outside. Even the French Revolution was influenced by the American Revolution but I'd still call it a grass roots movement.

    Just as an aside (and I'm not trying to make any point here), I remember one time going from West Berlin to East Berlin and having the 'authorities' X-ray a box of Corn Flakes that I was bringing over gave me a bit of a creepy feeling. About a year and a half after the border was abolished (but still stood) I visited again. It felt a bit eerie to walk through the empty border posts where stern , humorless officials used to sit. Now there was only broken glass and some empty desks.

    Comment by Peter Piper — 3 August 2009 @ 11:47

  62. Gotta love stats;

    People have to realize that guns and knives don't kill people...white bread kills people. What I mean by this is simple; if you go into a prison UK or US and poll how many of the convicts ate white bread you will find a vast majority will say they did. The result more people who eat white bread commit crimes. I know this is a bunch of crap, but it goes to show how stats can be manipulated to get just about any result you want. One of the best I heard was in Texas where after changing the gun laws to allow people to carry a weapon, the murder rate went down. The flip side was that the number of deaths remained about the same, the reason...they were ruled as self defense. It's all in how you play the numbers.

    Comment by Ian — 9 September 2009 @ 07:48

  63. [...] Chad Perrin: SOB ? Statistics 101: US Gun Crime vs. UK Knife Crime [...]

    Pingback by DA: No charges against man who shot suspect - Charlotte - North Carolina (NC) - Page 21 - City-Data Forum — 23 September 2009 @ 04:23

  64. [...] Originally Posted by dojah People would adapt to the situation at hand. Gun crime would go down but others would take its place, like stabbings etc... i missed that quote from earlier, i do know that after the uk passed their gun ban, the number of knife crimes skyrocketed. Knife Crime Facts / Knife Culture in the UK Knife crime to replace terror as police priority – Times Online Chad Perrin: SOB Statistics 101: US Gun Crime vs. UK Knife Crime [...]

    Pingback by Pro Gun Control? - Retro Uprising — 7 October 2009 @ 07:33

  65. You know, the OP will win this argument despite the fact that he's wrong because he has a gun.

    Comment by misterstupid — 21 October 2009 @ 04:33

  66. misterstupid:

    Your username is appropriate.

    Comment by apotheon — 22 October 2009 @ 09:12

  67. I live in New York. So I want to give a New Yorkers perspective. There are approximately 8 million people living in New York City. In the neighborhood where I live I feel very safe and don’t recall a gun crime committed in my area. But I do know that if I drive a half hour to East New York or to other parts of Brooklyn I am likely to get caught in middle of a gun fight.

    Recently I decided that it would be a good thing to have a Gun in my residence and was curious to see how difficult it was to acquire a Gun. Simply put, almost impossible. There was a boat load of paperwork and various witnesses that are needed to receive a permit and that’s not even to get a concealed weapon.

    So my question is what does the New York City laws help to reduce gun crime by making it prohibitive for an average law abiding citizen to buy a Gun? Not sure. Crime statistics have been going down. But we all know that authorities are always busy twisting the statistics to pat their own backs. And Gun Control Laws haven’t changed recently; it has been in effect for 20 years or so. In addition crime rates started plummeting when mayor Giuliani decided to radically change how crime was addressed.

    From what I see there are two separate types of gun crimes. One is the gang related crime. And one is the average criminal activity. Gangs don’t seem to care too much about whether or not the other guy has a gun or not. There is a lot of peer pressure to get the rival gang member or snitch and I don't think gun control or relaxing gun laws for that matter will make a difference. Gang guns come from the same places that the drugs come from and I don't see how the war on drugs effectively stopped the imports of drugs. Therefore I believe gangs will continue to have guns no matter what. From what I understand the UK doesn’t have the prevalence of Gangs as does the US.

    The second type of gun crime is your average bad guy thief, rapist or murderer. He is afraid to die and is usually a coward. If they know there is a chance that the pending victim has a gun they will keep away.

    I think if you have a clean criminal record and have no history of mental illness you should be allowed to have gun. It is my right to be able to protect myself adequately against a serious threat that if you like or not exists, guns.

    One more fact which I believe to be very true. The second amendment was specifically directed to our Government. Unlike most countries, where the people have to answer to the government, the constitution was written to our government from the people (Know: We the People). That was the whole point. The government has to answer to the people. The only way the government can take away the power from the people is by stripping away the freedoms that we have. One of those freedoms that the Government fears (not overtly) the most is the Guns.

    A revolution is much harder when there is an armed civilian population. Of course now it is not even the slightest speculation of such of thing partly because subconsciously they know the backlash would be devastating and they are not willing to take the chance.

    Comment by Mannyny — 29 October 2009 @ 10:08

  68. [...] certainly like to make people’s blood boil by hitting the comments. Maybe you should get (another) degree from law [...]

    Pingback by Ruining My Friday… « Old School Rant — 5 March 2010 @ 04:47

  69. [...] no better than ours,and by the statistics, I would say that we are better than you... take a look...http://sob.apotheon.org/?p=1323. So please, get off your high Brit horse, learn a little bit, and then respond intelligently. [...]

    Pingback by Guns are for pussies who can't fight. — 17 May 2010 @ 01:33

  70. I've read through the article and comments, and I appreciate the dialog. One thing I'd like to add about statistics, is that whether one is 'more likely to be harmed' in such and such country really depends upon a lot of statistics.

    Are you going to the U.S. to join an inner city gang? If so, the danger might be high for you. Are you going there as a tourist? If so, its fairly safe. The influence of Gangs in the U.S. doesn't really extend far outside of their inner city territories, where few people ever see, including most American.

    The other area where gun violence is an issue, and this, in my mind is the main issue – is when something very emotionally disturbing occurs – oh I'll just take a random example, say you catch your wife in bed with another man – at that moment, grabbing that gun may seem like a good idea. But in fact, its not.

    Add to that the occasional hunting accident.

    All of which is extremely unlikely to be applicable to you, as a tourist to America. In fact, its quite safe here, I have lived here all my life – I've never seen a single incident of gun violence in 'real life' – only on TV, and thats because all that violence is safely sequestered in areas where I am not.

    And Americans aren't crazy, if we were really dealing with gun violence, we'd do something to stop it, don't you think?

    Comment by Rob — 2 July 2010 @ 09:21

  71. people need to wake up and realise you cant just outlaw guns and poof they disappear.

    It works for drugs. Oh? Wait. Never mind.

    Comment by M. Simon — 4 July 2010 @ 06:29

  72. Rob and M. Simon:

    Thanks for commenting. Each in his own way has contributed something through-provoking to the discussion.

    Frankly, I think the biggest driver of "gun violence" in the US is the "war on (some) drugs". Eliminate that, and we'll have eliminated much of the gang violence in this country — and much of the spillover into other parts of US society.

    It's worth noting, as well, that police shooting civilians (whether they're criminals, bystanders, or wrongly accused) are also counted in most "gun violence" and homicide rate statistics. Fun.

    Comment by apotheon — 5 July 2010 @ 01:38

  73. Listening to two intellectuals discussing a comparison of knifes and gun statistics is a fruitless effort of comparison when the discussion should be based on the right for a law abiding citizen the protection of a gun. You notice I said law abiding. The criminal mine will acquire a weapon no matter what! knife, gun or even baseball bat. That’s why they are criminals, rapists and murderers. I can see the logic of a law-abiding citizen carrying a concealed weapon for protection against a criminal. Only people of importance have the full time protection of body guards and police that are usually armed with guns. Politicians that have vowed to honor the constitutional rights of the 2nd amendment have allowed many states in the United States to offer concealed permits to be issued to their law abiding citizens after classes are given on how to operate a handgun safely. Now it is time to look to the numbers on how the crime rate has dropped in the states that offer this right. Most citizens are killed because of the lack of defense. There were no police officers within earshot to prevent the crime. You could probably come up with some believable numbers on people who would be alive today if they had processed a weapon when they were attacked. Australia has recently come to the conclusion that their gun control law backfired after relieving the general population of their guns. They forgot the meaning of criminals and why criminals are now superior to law enforcement in Australia. You don’t take away from criminals, they take away from you. For them laws are made for breaking. The murder rate is now at an all record high in Australia and it is not the knife that is killing the law abiding citizens, it is the gun. One must also look at history and read about what happened to most nations when guns were taken away from their citizens. The word citizen suddenly changed to comrade and suddenly there was no protection for life or liberty. GC

    Comment by Gary — 26 October 2010 @ 10:50

  74. Sorry but this is complete arse. If you read the telegraph article accurately the number of knife crime you suggest is the highest estimate possible within the very unreliable figures. If you take the lowest estimate possible the figures show around 40,000. compare that and you're looking at a huge difference in crime rate.

    The other element you don't take into account is that out of that number the majority of incidents are caused by repeat offenders. The percentage of people using knives for criminal activity is a very very small proportion of the population mostly waging gang war on each other. The average person in the UK will rarely ever see a knife used in an offensive manner.

    Instead far more accurate is to look at the murder rate of gun crime in the US vs Murder rate from knife crime in the UK. Then you can see the true effect of the UK gun laws. It saves lives...

    Oh and those who critise our gun laws should remember the Dunblane Massacre in Scotland where 14 very young children were were brutally murdered in their school gym by a pedophile. That kind of news in the US surely would make people feel differently about hand gun ownership?

    Comment by Jim — 2 November 2010 @ 09:50

  75. Sorry, Jim — it appears you completely missed the damned point, and went on to use exactly the same asinine, stupid arguments everybody else uses: misused statistics that assume correlation implies causation and single-variable comparisons in multi-variable contexts are not useful for arriving at reasonable conclusions. They only serve to confirm unwarranted biases. Go back to second year primary school and start over; you obviously didn't learn anything.

    Comment by apotheon — 2 November 2010 @ 04:05

  76. Every time I read these statistical analysis there's someone hysterically pointing out isolated massacres by some crazed lunatic. If you go into a prison and ask them to show you some of the weapons guards find among prisoners you would be astonished at the diabolical ingenuity of what they have made from scratch. You can outlaw guns and knives but someone who wants to kill his wife, or rob a bank, or defend his drug dealing turf will find a weapon to do so.

    One factor that has not been noted in the above study is the large social safety net that the U.K. has versus the United States, where there is a culture of rugged individualism and it's more every man for himself. What does that mean? It means little welfare, pensions and health care results in a lot more desperation among the poor in America's ghettos hence...a much higher murder rate brought on by a lifestyle of crime.

    This is further illustrated by comparing Canadian crime statistics where social benefits are roughly half or less than those of the U.S., but are much higher than those in the U.K. Not so coincidentally, the crime in each country tends to reflect the amount of social spending on the poor.

    It doesn't seem possible to develop a mathematical model that would eliminate the effect of social spending on the crime rate, but only then would you be able to compare U.S. figures versus U.K. figures, and again you would still have other socio-economic factors to deal with.

    In the end we have to ask ourselves if gun laws and knife laws are only a band-aid solution. We also have to ask what the price of a free society is versus one that is secure and not free. The quick way to destroy a free democracy is to prey on people's fears. Realistically both gun and knife crimes are relatively rare, and usually are a characteristic of a deviant lifestyle. It is just too easy to scare people into giving up their freedom for safety, whether real or imagined.

    Comment by Bullseye — 11 December 2010 @ 01:04

  77. Am I the only one that sees a glaring error in this? You have to compare like for like, ie: knife crime in US vs knife crime in UK and gun crime in US vs gun crime in UK.

    Then compare the total.

    To compare gun to knife crime and insinuate it is far more dangerous to live in the UK is just stupid.

    If you're going to go about comparing it like this, a better start would be comparing MURDER rate of the two and then look back at your ridiculous gun laws and tell me 'they are working'

    Comment by Matt — 15 December 2010 @ 05:28

  78. Good job. You managed to completely miss the point, Matt.

    Comment by apotheon — 17 December 2010 @ 01:32

  79. Explain?

    Comment by Matt — 17 December 2010 @ 02:38

  80. Read the "alternative theory" near the top (ordered list) and the following paragraph again. Basically, that is the point.

    The point is that simplistic, single-variable comparisons prove nothing in terms of causation. A statistical comparison of the number of "gun crimes" does not prove gun legality is to blame for the difference, in either direction; it neither proves guns reduce crime rates, nor that they increase crime rates.

    Statistical support for an argument that depends entirely on a possibly coincidental correspondence between two statistics in no way proves that one of those statistics is the cause for the other. In fact, even if violent crime rates and legal private gun ownership rates did correspond exactly (which they do not — quite the contrary, the amount of correspondence varies wildly), given nothing to go on but two numbers there is nothing to say that the relationship doesn't mean high or low crime (pick one) causes stricter or looser gun laws (pick one). The relationship doesn't have to be from gun laws to crime rates, even if there is a relationship, which nobody has really proven exists anyway.

    The reason for this is that it's really difficult to find a situation where the comparison is not muddied by other factors getting in the way. What we do know is that several other cultural factors have much stronger correspondence (in well-verified, heavily repeated, observed examples) with violent and property crime rates than the status of gun laws. The only cases that come immediately to mind as examples where one might find a strong correspondence between gun laws and crime rates are cases like Switzerland and Kennesaw, GA — both of which have had laws requiring people to keep guns in their homes experienced low violent and property crime rates relative to neighboring regions (and the world in general, for that matter).

    Comment by apotheon — 17 December 2010 @ 10:17

  81. I agree apotheon. If you get 20 juristictions with and without gun and knife laws and compare them the results will be inconsistent. It is a common pattern for people to try to correalate two factors in an environment and draw conclusions, but that is simply bad science. You will find a similar problem when comparing motorcycle helmet law states vs non motorcycle helmet law states. When aggregated, the numbers show helmet laws have no effect on the fatality rate.

    It's no secret that there is a kind of "nuclear deterrent" mentality in places where guns are carried – if you shoot someone you can expect to be dead in seconds because guns are commonly carried.

    Comment by Bullseye — 18 December 2010 @ 05:59

  82. Re: the "nuclear deterrent" — it's worth noting that this doesn't always work, either — and that nobody is claiming that it does. Just to head off a spurious counter-argument.

    Comment by Sterling Camden — 18 December 2010 @ 12:49

  83. A survey of criminals who have actually been caught by the police revealed that they overhwelmingly feared armed private citizens more than the police. Fear of death is a great deterrent.

    Comment by apotheon — 18 December 2010 @ 12:53

  84. It makes sense, because (at least in our country) police are trained to use restraint (despite the highly publicized exceptions) — whereas citizens defending their life and property are less predictable. If anything, they are apt to apply excessive force to be certain of victory.

    Comment by Sterling Camden — 18 December 2010 @ 01:06

  85. Off topic but...I do not understand how you can compare crime statistics between the US and the UK other then murders. A dead body is dead body but what is a knife crime? Both countries have very different views about what a "crime" is. There would need to be a constant in order for the statistics to be comparable and that constant would need to be one set of laws and that obviously doesnt exist between the two countries.

    Comment by murf — 20 December 2010 @ 07:41

  86. *One set of laws and standards for what a crime is

    Comment by murf — 20 December 2010 @ 07:42

  87. Hey Chad, thanks for the distraction, I read most of the way through the comments. You really got your ass kicked there, didn't you, especially by the British guy. Maybe you should stop with the armchair statistician bit and stick to being an idealized 'hoplophile'. (BTW the phrase 'hopolophobic idiot' is spelled wrong in the original article, beautiful irony I thought.) Better yet, hunt down all the naysayers and shoot em. That'll teach these lefties!

    Comment by Booth — 5 January 2011 @ 02:20

  88. murf:

    That's not off-topic. That's the whole point. Good comment.

    Booth:
    1. You are clearly an idiot — and possibly hoplophobic. That's not sufficient reason to censor you, though, so I approved your comment. Are you really so stupid as to be incapable of noticing when people miss the point and think they have a strong statistical argument that runs afoul of the exact same fallacious reasoning as the original SOB entry pointed out as its main point? Maybe you're not quite that stupid natively, but your biases blind you to the stupidity of your own response.

    2. Oops. "Hopolophobic" was a typo. I don't see how a typo is a "beautiful irony" to you, though. Thanks for pointing out the typo; it has been fixed. I guess you aren't completely useless.

    3. Booth? Is that you, John Wilkes?

    4. Try reading what murf said. He/she obviously got the point. Why you can't get it it with the extremely succinct, clear demonstration of the point in murf's commentary immediately above your own is beyond me.

    Comment by apotheon — 5 January 2011 @ 03:05

  89. Hi Chad, smee again, Booth!

    Thanks for not censoring me, I'm honored.

    1. No, no, wait... YOU'RE an idiot! Ha ha! Come on now, seriously, where's the love, the kinship, the revelry of spirited debate?

    2. Glad to be of service.

    3. Yes.

    4. Admittedly I didn't read what Murf wrote. Probably because of some deep-seated subconscious aversion to Irish people. I bet he's from Fermanagh. Don't worry Murf, they'll win the Ulster championship one of these years.

    So I'd like to get your opinion, with no implied reference to guns or anything else – why is the murder rate in the U.S. so much higher than other rich nations?

    Comment by Guiteau — 7 January 2011 @ 02:42

  90. > Come on now, seriously, where's the love, the kinship, the revelry of spirited debate?

    It's not "debate" if one of the parties involved cannot be bothered to read and address the actual points offered by the other party.

    > So I'd like to get your opinion, with no implied reference to guns or anything else – why is the murder rate in the U.S. so much higher than other rich nations?

    It's higher than some; not higher than others. A number of cultural and legal factors play into things, not least of which is the incredibly ill-advised "war on drugs".

    That's kinda the point, too: comparing one single variable between two nations does not prove the source of the variance in another single variable between two nations. Correlation does not prove causation. Hell, considering the significant differences between, say, the US and the UK, one could just as easily blame variance in crime rates on things like the quantity of high fructose corn syrup in a population's diet, the per capita rate of military spending, the level of activity of copyright industry lawyers, or the accessibility of science fiction programs on TV.

    Comment by apotheon — 7 January 2011 @ 05:04

  91. The "war on drugs" is the most significant portion of the US government's criminalization of the consensual activities of its citizens. Combine that with large concentrations of people below the poverty line who have been systematically conditioned to mistrust authority and form their own gangs, and you end up with whole neighborhoods that are criminal by default. It doesn't matter what weapons are legal — those folks are going to kill each other.

    Comment by Sterling Camden — 7 January 2011 @ 06:18

  92. All right then guys, topical time. Who wants to take a stab (loose pun intended) at explaining how gun rights played no part in this weekend's shooting?

    Comment by Booth — 9 January 2011 @ 02:04

  93. Simple. That was the act of a madman, inspired by a demagogue. It could as easily have involved a homemade bomb with roofing nails for shrapnel. As far as I know, there has been no revelation about the actual motivation for the attack, as indicated in an article in the Guardian, quoting left-wing anti-gun President Obama:

    Barack Obama spoke of the events as a national tragedy, and promised to get to the bottom of it. "A suspect is currently in custody, but we don't yet know what provoked this unspeakable act."

    So . . . how exactly does an issue of the right to own the tools of self defense get to be the whipping boy for an act of mass murder by a fucking lunatic for no confirmed (at this time) reason? If we had to guess at some political motivation, the most likely seems to be Gifford's stance on healthcare "reform". An at least equally probable reason is just that the guy was a nutbag, and will likely grasp at any straw (including blaming some political issue) to get out of too much time in jail.

    Correlation does not imply causation, and leaping to conclusions does not prove those conclusions correct.

    Comment by apotheon — 9 January 2011 @ 02:37

  94. The Arizona massacre, as I'm sure it will come to be known by the political opportunists, wouldn't even have required a nail bomb. This sadly detached invidual could (and probably would) have done more damage with a Roman short sword. What saved most was the fact that it was probably among the worst gauge of gun (9mm) for killing people. The bullets tend to go right through you. The Hell's Angels always use .22 calibre for assassinations. Again, truly the work of a madman, and he only killed two people. The U.S. has 300,000,000 people, if you do the math you understand that statistically the Arizona incident is not out of line with anywhere else in the world, like the terrorist bombs in the U.K. or Italy or anywhere else.

    Comment by Bullseye — 9 January 2011 @ 05:54

  95. That is a pretty half-assed statistic seeing that you should include the amount of knife crime in the US and the amount of gun crime in the UK. Yes I get it, "gun control is bad" but why don't you show us all the numbers, not just the ones that prop up your cause.

    P.S. the overall murder rate in the US (per 100k inhabitants) is FOUR TIMES the one in the UK.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_rate

    Comment by toni — 10 January 2011 @ 09:31

  96. Chad,

    Because it's so easy for 'fucking lunatics' to buy guns in this country, legally, as in this case, or otherwise. There are 'fucking lunatics' all over the world, but the damage they cause in the U.S. is far greater than most other places because of the laughable ease with which they can obtain guns. And I'm not ascribing any political motivation to the shooter.

    And Bullseye, ha ha, give me a break. A fucking sword? This skinny fucker couldn't have picked one up, never mind killed 6 (not only 2) and critically injured another 13. And as for "statistically the Arizona incident is not out of line with anywhere else in the world"... Jesus wept.

    Handguns, whose only function is to kill and maim people, make killing a child's play. Killing people with sharp (or for that matter, blunt) instruments requires physical strength, brutality, emotional intensity – a far more personal and risky act than killing with guns. Making bombs requires technical know-how, resources, patience, and runs a high risk of detection or failure. Killing with guns, in this country, requires a driver's license, even if you are a noted 'fucking lunatic'.

    If you accept these all too frequent incidents as a consequence of citizen gun rights, fine, at least you can defend your position with some credibility. But claiming that the right to own guns in this country does not inflate homicide rates denies you any.

    Anyway, a very fucking sad story all around. I'll be off. Nice to chat with you.

    Comment by Booth — 10 January 2011 @ 01:14

  97. toni:

    Your reference to statistics at Wikipedia bears no meaning for this discussion.

    1. You have ignored all the discussion of how statistical conclusions are distorted by additional variables. You make the exactly same asinine mistake Booth made in his/her original comment here. You ignored the entire fucking point of the original SOB entry that all this discussion follows.

    2. That murder rate says nothing about whether murders were committed with firearms, nor whether gun control laws would in any way have altered those murder rates. In fact, for all we know, murder rates might have been increased with greater strictness of gun control laws.

    3. A lot of those homicides are a necessary consequence of the "war on (some) drugs", and would occur regardless of gun control laws.

    4. Let us also not forget that while your link says "murder rate", the actual article is about homicide rate, which is not the same thing. Murder is a subset of homicide, where killing someone in self-defense as a justified act that ultimately saves the lives of dozens of others from the same criminal later on also qualifies as "homicide".

    5. Seriously. Learn bout isolating variables in statistics. It's important, and was the whole point of this — which you completely missed, despite the fact it was explicitly mentioned many times.

    Booth:

    Because it's so easy for 'fucking lunatics' to buy guns in this country, legally, as in this case, or otherwise.

    It's also much easier to buy (and carry) knives here than in the UK.

    Once again, correlation does not imply or prove causation.

    There are 'fucking lunatics' all over the world, but the damage they cause in the U.S. is far greater than most other places because of the laughable ease with which they can obtain guns.

    You are so far from actually proving this connection as to appear almost satirical in your use of such categorical statements.

    A fucking sword? This skinny fucker couldn't have picked one up

    Funny — I've known quite a few "skinny fuckers" would could have picked up swords and swung them around (and actually did so). That's what comes of a wide range of experience, though. Maybe you don't have the benefit of such a wide range of experience behind you.

    And as for "statistically the Arizona incident is not out of line with anywhere else in the world". . . Jesus wept.

    You've already stated your position. Repeating it in the form of ridicule does not support your position; it merely restates it while at the same time making you look like an asshole.

    Handguns, whose only function is to kill and maim people

    Handguns are among the least effective of common firearm types as weapons of aggression. Their truly optimal purpose is defensive, and not offensive. This is why infantrymen are issued rifles, and only people who are on machine gun or artillery crews, who serve in positions of authority that rarely engage the enemy directly, and otherwise are not tasked with small arms assaults on the enemy, are routinely issued handguns in the military.

    This is why, even in an open carry state like Colorado, people get concealed carry permits so they can carry handguns around more comfortably and easily: to carry a firearm that is more suitable to the purpose of defense.

    I can only assume, based on your fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of a handgun, that you have little or no experience or knowledge of firearms beyond what TV and Hollywood provide.

    Anyway, the reason something was designed is not really at issue here. The effect of the availability of something is what's at issue — and, by that standard, swimming pools should be outlawed long before firearms.

    Killing people with sharp (or for that matter, blunt) instruments requires physical strength, brutality, emotional intensity – a far more personal and risky act than killing with guns.

    Thank you for making a point for the other side — my side, that is. Handguns, as defensive weapons, provide a means for the weak to defend themselves against the strong. They introduce an element of extreme risk to the act of attacking a stranger you outmass by 50 pounds of muscle, making a profession of victimizing the physically weak into a very risky profession indeed.

    Making bombs requires technical know-how, resources, patience

    Not bloody much. It could take as little as five minutes on Google, half an hour at a hardware store, and fifteen minutes at home putting it together.

    and runs a high risk of detection or failure.

    . . . as opposed to running around with a handgun killing people. By contrast, bombs can be set when nobody is looking and detonated with the culprit standing far away. The risk of detection and failure (especially if the culprit being killed on the scene is considered "failure") is actually much greater for killing people with a handgun.

    Killing with guns, in this country, requires a driver's license

    . . . and not accidentally shooting yourself in the head, and waiting for a background check, and a fuckton more money than a homemade bomb, and selecting an area where your victims are unlikely to be unarmed.

    If you accept these all too frequent incidents as a consequence of citizen gun rights, fine, at least you can defend your position with some credibility.

    Even if things were as bad as you said, that would not justify restricting my ownership of an inanimate object that can improve my ability to defend myself.

    But claiming that the right to own guns in this country does not inflate homicide rates denies you any.

    Actually, the claim is that there's no credible proof that it inflates homicide rates — and there are many other factors that come into play. You still seem to have missed that core point.

    Comment by apotheon — 10 January 2011 @ 01:51

  98. If we can agree that the rate of violent crime in the UK and the US is comparable (in fact most statistics indicate that the rate of violent crime in the UK is higher than in the US), then how do we explain the fact that the homicide rate in the US is three to four times higher than that in the UK?

    By logicial analysis, it leads to the conclusion that more violent crime in the US results in death than in the UK. So one must then ask why is this the case?

    If we assume that level of aggression by those committing violent crimes in the UK is comparable to that in the US, then it would seem to me that the only conclusion we can draw is that the weapons used to commit violent crimes in the US are far more likely to result in death than the weapons used in the US.

    I think we would all agree that knifes in the UK are just as sharp as those in the US and that lead pipes can cause the same amount of damage in the UK as in the US. Consequently, the only difference we are left with is the prevalence of guns and gun ownership in the US compared to that in the UK.

    Also, I think we should draw a distinction between gun deaths as a result of gang violence or by career criminals as opposed to gun deaths resulting from gun rampages and massacres such as those at Columbine, Virginia Tech, Arizone and elsewhere.

    While gun crime is on the rise in the UK and gangs are increasingly getting their hands on guns, the prevalence of gun rampages and massacres in the UK is far less than in the US. The reason is that in the US it is so easy for someone who is disturbed or on the verge of snapping to get a gun, assuming they don't already own one. Because guns are not so readably available in the UK, the ease with one someone can obtain a gun is far less and thefore, the prospect of someone snapping and then pulling a gun out their bedside drawer or stopping off at WalMart to buy a gun is much less.

    I really think it is sad indictment on American society, that we believe the way to stop gun crime is for everyone to own a gun. For a number of reasons, this hypothesis is flawed. The element of surprise will always, or at least almost always, be in the side of an attacker. A peace-loving citizen who happens to be carrying a gun is most likely to react to an attack by ducking out of the way before shooting back. Assuming that such peace-loving citizen is accurate in incapacitating the attacker with one shot, how many people has the attacker already shot and killed. Also what if the peace-loving citizen misses? Who else might get hit.

    Is this really the solution?

    Comment by Edge — 11 January 2011 @ 06:02

  99. If we assume that level of aggression by those committing violent crimes in the UK is comparable to that in the US, then it would seem to me that the only conclusion we can draw is that the weapons used to commit violent crimes in the US are far more likely to result in death than the weapons used in the US.

    I think you mean "UK" with that last usage of "US". I'll proceed on that assumption.

    You're overlooking uncounted scads of other reasons. For instance:

    1. "Intentional homicide" (the actual statistics that are generally used show such a distinct disparity) includes more than just murder by the legal definition. It also includes non-criminal killing, such as self-defense and criminals killed by law enforcement officers.

    2. Murder, by legal definition in the US at least, includes more than a subset of "intentional homicide", too. It includes accidental homicide in cases of depraved indifference — which can be a huge percentage of murders in a country like the UK without ever being factored into the "intentional homicide" statistic.

    3. Drug gangs intend to kill each other more often than muggers (for instance), and drug gangs in the US are huge and quite numerous thanks to a combination of factors like massive open spaces in which to operate and to go to ground when fleeing law enforcement, contiguous dry land shared with neighboring nations (one of which as an even worse drug gang problem than the US), and a strong black market motivation to kill witnesses and competitors where legal commerce would would not have such motivations to engage in lethal violence, among others.

    Consequently, the only difference we are left with is the prevalence of guns and gun ownership in the US compared to that in the UK.

    Wrong. As I pointed out with only a very small sampling of alternative differences that bear on the issue just now, right off the top of my head without doing any research at this time, there are many, many other differences. Please go back and read the original SOB entry at the top of this Webpage to re-educate yourself on the futility of garnering any useful statistical data for the purpose of honestly nailing down a root cause for a difference in "intentional homicide" statistics, thanks to the inability to reasonably isolate relevant variables. I can see a lot of additional influences on the resulting statistics that you can't, evidently. I suspect the reason why is simply that I start looking for influencing factors before I develop a conclusion, whereas you start with your conclusion ("Guns are bad, mmkay?") then look for evidence to back it up. In short, I think your arguments are so facile because they're based more on confirmation bias than an honest inquiry into the roots of the problem.

    gun crime is on the rise in the UK

    Funny you should bring that up. "Gun crime" is on the rise in the UK despite ever-stricter gun laws, while "gun crime" has been dropping pretty reliably in the US ever since Florida enacted its highly publicized "shall issue" policy on concealed carry permits, sparking a wave of other states imitating it (I think we're up to about 36 states with such a policy now, up from something in the neighborhood three back then if I recall correctly). The percentage gun ownership in the country has also climbed pretty steadily during much of that time, too. By your standards of correlation implying causation, this should mean US "gun crime" would have climbed like crazy while UK "gun crime" should have dropped steadily.

    The reason is that in the US it is so easy for someone who is disturbed or on the verge of snapping to get a gun, assuming they don't already own one.

    Really? Cite me some evidence of this direct relationship. Show me some evidence that doesn't take into account how easy it is to get other hazardous materials and devices, like the truck and knife used to kill at least seven people and maim at least fourteen more in Akihabara shopping center in Japan by a lunatic mass murderer a couple years ago. Try the 2001 Osaka school massacre, where eight students were killed by a single knife-wielding assailant — as opposed to the two assailants at the Columbine massacre in the US, who only netted six dead victims each.

    The highest death tolls in school massacres come from weapons other than guns, in fact — and not only are they higher: they dwarf most of the firearms death tolls. The Bath School Disaster in Bath, Michigan used explosives and resulted in 45 deaths, and is the single highest school massacre death toll in US history. Meanwhile, the very first school massacre in the US was committed primarily with tomahawks, before there really were any "gun control" laws to speak of in this country. The Cologne School Massacre in Germany is up there with the highest firearms death tolls in US school massacres, where the assailant killed eleven and injured another 22, primarily through the use of a homemade flamethrower jury-rigged from a pesticide sprayer. The Hanzhong School Massacre in China killed ten with a knife. The Shiguan School Massacre in China resulted in the deaths of twelve by the use of petroleum fuel (gasoline/petrol). China's recent history is chock full of mass stabbings at schools, by the way (plus at least one hammer attack). The biggest death toll that comes to mind at the moment is the Kyanguli School Massacre in Kenya, where fire was the only weapon used: 67 dead.

    Y'know where the highest firearm death toll for a lunatic school massacre happened prior to 2005? It happened in the UK, at the Dunblane Massacre, in a country where even the police mostly don't carry firearms. This is not all that abnormal; most of the highest death tolls for firearms related school massacres (upper teens for the number of dead) took place in Western European countries (I'm counting Germany, despite its east/west split before the '90s, here).

    I really think it is sad indictment on American society, that we believe the way to stop gun crime is for everyone to own a gun.

    The Virginia Tech Massacre in 2007 was stopped by private citizens with guns — who had to run across campus to get their guns from their cars, because school policy prohibited them from carrying on campus despite their concealed carry permits — before the police arrived. Too bad the Dunblane massacre wasn't similarly halted.

    Note that I left out school massacres committed by terrorists and governments — even in the case of 154 dead when students sympathetic to the Taliban barricaded themselves in their school in the middle east — because that's not the same situation as a "rampage" shooting.

    The element of surprise will always, or at least almost always, be in the side of an attacker.

    . . . for the first few seconds. Longer, if people have to run across campus to get their guns. Longer still if they have to wait for the police to arrive.

    Assuming that such peace-loving citizen is accurate in incapacitating the attacker with one shot, how many people has the attacker already shot and killed.

    Fewer than if the peace-loving citizen didn't have a gun — and fewer than in the Bath School Massacre, which didn't involve any guns at all.

    Also what if the peace-loving citizen misses? Who else might get hit.

    Nobody, if the person has some familiarity with firearms safety — as most US gun owners have.

    Is this really the solution?

    It's not exactly "the solution". It's not "the problem", either.

    Anyway, even if it was "the solution" or "the problem", there's no way to prove it either way. There are too many variables involved in trying to collect statistics that mean anything in terms of a connection between cause and effect — which is the one argument nobody in the UK or other overwhelmingly anti-defense-tool countries seems willing to acknowledge and address. Rather than recognize that the situation is much more complicated than a simplistic, bias confirming relationship between two cherry-picked factors, they and their sympathizers (meaning you) persist in offering more unbelievably simplistic, logically void, evidenciarily bankrupt, statistically confused "arguments" that prove nothing other than their inability to properly apply their power of reason.

    Comment by apotheon — 11 January 2011 @ 09:37

  100. This is your best response yet, Chad. I only hope future respondents will read it (#100!) before they re-rehash all of the arguments that it refutes.

    It strikes me that the "UK attitude" (for lack of a better term) is to treat citizens like children: they can hurt themselves with guns, so let's take the guns away. It ignores not only the individual liberty of adults who should be allowed to make decisions for themselves, but all other differences between the parent/child analogy and the government/governed relationship.

    Comment by Sterling Camden — 12 January 2011 @ 09:08

  101. Thanks, Sterling.

    Unfortunately, I've made the same points over and over again, dozens of times, and every single time I do so the same thing happens:

    Someone comes along and says "Your statistics suck. Mine are better, and because of that, I can draw a simplistic line illustrating a causal relationship between two variables cherry-picked out of literally millions of influencing factors to confirm my biases." It's not even just "somebody" that comes along and does that — it's many people, one after another, each doing exactly the same thing as the previous, following exactly the same pattern, with only the most superficial variations.

    I only hope future respondents will read it (#100!) before they re-rehash all of the arguments that it refutes.

    In short . . . I doubt it. Even if they do read it, future respondents will probably miss the point and try to come up with examples or statistics to "refute" mine, as if they completely ignored the actual point of what I said — because I cynically believe that most people ignore the point of what others say when it doesn't fit into their convenient, simplistic world-views.

    I hope to be pleasantly surprised; I always hope to be pleasantly surprised, despite the relentlessly consistent evidence that suggests I will not. I'm not going to hold my breath, though.

    Comment by apotheon — 12 January 2011 @ 11:15

  102. Chad,

    Thank you for the response. I find your arguments interesting although rather misguided.

    I understand and share you caution for raw statistics. However, I find your reluctance to place any weight on wide spread statistical data to be more than a little disingenuous. Based on every study that I seen, the number of deaths a result of crime (which you can define any way you want: homicide, murder, manslaughter, self-defense etc.) all indicate that the per capita number of deaths a result of crime (which for the purposes of this post I will define as murder) is higher in the US than the UK. I admit I have not read every study out there but if there is a study that comes to a contrary conclusion I would like to see it.

    I also agree that there are a number of factors that influence the per capita murder rates in the US and the UK but again I belive you are being more than a little disingenuous to deny the fact that gun ownership and gun control may be one factor. The reason that the US and the UK are often compares is because socio-economically the countries are similar, which helps isolate and limit many of the variables that impact murder rates. As I just stated I am aware that variable do exist but I am not blind to the fact that one of those variable is gun ownership and gun control.

    Your assertion regarding gang violence is also somewhat troubling. There are numerous gangs in the UK and there is also much gang violence in the UK. I haven't seen a study that compares gang membership rates and the level of gang violence in the US and the UK, but to imply as you do, that the murder rate is higher in the US than the UK simply because gang members want to kill each other, is misguided and confuses the issue. You seem to ignore the fact and implicitly seem to admit that the reason that gang members in the US kill each other so easily is because of gunss. Based on your general premise that gun ownership prevents crime and makes society safer, if guns are readably available and widespread among gangs then surely such high levels of gun ownership would decrease the level of gang related murders.

    Further my admission that gun crime is on the rise in the UK by no way indicates that gun control does not and is not working in the UK. My admission is simply that I am aware of the reality of the situation and am not blinkered to the fact that gun control is all encompassing solution. I posit to you, that were it not for gun control in the UK, the rate of gun crime in the UK would be far higher than it is now. Since the opening of borders as a result of the UK joining the EU, the ease with which people and contraband goods can enter the UK has increased dramatically. In fact, there has been a significant increase in organized crime in the UK as a result of the influx of predominatly Eastern Europeans into the UK. Gun control will never completely stop guns getting into the hands of criminals and eliminate gun crime. But gun control does make the ease with which such a criminal element can access guns much more difficult. I, of course, cannot prove my assertion that gun crime would be worse in the UK were it not for gun control but based on your analysis that gang violence, involving gun, is big factor in gun crime statistics, then I think you would have to agree that if guns in the UK were more readably available to gangs in the UK, the level of gun crime would increase.

    Another item you seem to overlook in your general analysis is that the vast majority of murder is not premeditated and planned. The vast majority of murders are crimes of opportunity and circumstance. The opportunity to kill someone and the degree to which violent crime can escalate into murder is far greater when guns are present. For example, if I get in a dispute with someone in a bar that is taken outside, the likelihood of someone getting killed with fists or a bottle is far less than if a gun is present.

    With regards to mass shootings and killings, I am willing to admit that someone determined to kill and maim will find a way to do so regardless of whether they can buy a gun at their local WalMart. However, the widespread availability of guns does make the opporunity for such massacres much more likely. If we compare such massacres in the US and the UK, I can only think of three in the UK in the last 25 years:

    Cumbria in 2010 (12 people killed); Dunblane in 1996 (17 people killed); and Hungerford in 1987 (16 peeople killed).

    The list in the US is as follows:

    Tuscon, AZ in 2010 (6 killed); Manchester, CT in 2010 (9 killed; Appomattox, VA in 2010 (8 killed); Fort Hood, TX in 2009 (12 killed); Binghamton, NY in 2009 (13 killed); Carthage, NC in 2009 (8 killed); Santa Clara, CA in 2009 (5 killed); Geneva County, AL in 2009 (10 killed); Northern Illinois University, IL in 2008 (5 killed); Omaha, Nebraska in 2007 (8 killed); Virginia Teach in 2007 (32 killed); West Nickel Mines Amish School, PA in 2006 (5 killed);, Red Lake High School, MN in 2005 (9 killed); Brookfield, Wisconsin in 2005 (7 killed); Edgewater Technologies, MA in 2000 (7 killed); Honolulu, Hawaii in 1999 (7 killed); Atlanta, GA in 1999 (9 killed); Columbine, CO in 1999 (12 killed); Springfield, OR in 1998 (4 killed); Jonesboro, AK in 1998 (5 killed); Killen, TX in 1991 (23 killed); and Jacksonville, FL in 1990 (10 killed).

    I will not deny that when such events occur in Europe that the number of dead is greater and I will not deny that gun ownership by the general public, or lack thereof, may well be the reason. However, it just seems that the rate at which such events occur in the US is far higher.

    Finally, I understand your premise that gun safety courses help the general public handle guns but I worry as to how someone might react in a combact situation as opposed to the calm of a classroom.

    I look foward to receiving your reply. As I stated at the outset, I have found this discussion and your comments very interesting. I do not intend to try to persuade you that my reasoning is correct. Rather I intend to explain why I believe the way I do and likewise, I have enjoyed learning why you believe the way you do.

    At the end of the day, I think we both agree that there is too much crime. Where is disagree is how the problem of too much crime should be addressed.

    Comment by Edge — 12 January 2011 @ 12:00

  103. @Edge: your list is made to appear impressive, but it fails to take into account that the population of the US is roughly five times that of the UK.

    Comment by Sterling Camden — 12 January 2011 @ 12:23

  104. Based on every study that I seen, the number of deaths a result of crime (which you can define any way you want: homicide, murder, manslaughter, self-defense etc.) all indicate that the per capita number of deaths a result of crime (which for the purposes of this post I will define as murder) is higher in the US than the UK.

    . . . which proves nothing about the relationship between the availability of firearms and the rate of crime. Once again, I have to hand out an F at the end of the semester to someone who completely missed the point of Statistics 101.

    Just for shits and giggles, though, in the US in 2009, the CDC reports the following intentional/violent injury rates:

    1. 1,252,175 Other Assault Struck By/Against
    2. 209,977 Self-harm Poisoning
    3. 103,369 Other Assault Cut/Pierce
    4. 81,452 Self-harm Cut/Pierce
    5. 63,096 Sexual Assault All Injury Causes
    6. 56,747 Self-harm Other Specified
    7. 51,537 Legal Int. Struck By/Against
    8. 44,377 Other Assault Firearm Gunshot
    9. 38,652 Other Assault Other Bite/Sting
    10. 12,119 Other Assault Fall

    Then, of course, there's the fact that your basis for comparison of "murder" rates doesn't even take into account real murder rates. It's an "intentional homicide" rate, which includes suicide, legal intervention (like number 7 on the injury list above), and self-defense — and does not specify solely firearms deaths.

    I've made such comments already, though. You have had plenty of opportunity to see them above, and to read (and grasp the basic concepts of) the Statistics 101 entry at the top of the page that spawned all this discussion. You have failed to do so. You have failed to address such concerns over your inexpert, loose-as-hell misuse of statistics you do not even understand (obviously, since you can't tell the difference between "murder" and "intentional homicide"), and you have failed to even reach the same basic conclusions as noted left-leaning humorous political commentator Jon Stewart, who has recently emerged as a voice of reason while idiots like you who probably idolize the guy pull the complete opposite approach to "reason".

    Another item you seem to overlook in your general analysis is that the vast majority of murder is not premeditated and planned.

    I "overlook it" because it's not relevant to my point. My point is that what you think proves some preconceived notion of yours doesn't prove any such thing — because you don't know how to isolate variables to arrive at reasonable conclusions and, in this case, there's no reasonable way to isolate those variables.

    The opportunity to kill someone and the degree to which violent crime can escalate into murder is far greater when guns are present.

    The opportunity to defend yourself and the degree to which your defense can be effective is far greater when you have a gun.

    Two statements, both equally subject to plausible believability. Neither proves anything about public safety at large.

    If we compare such massacres in the US and the UK, I can only think of three in the UK in the last 25 years:

    Let's look closer at your examples, using your numbers, without even bothering to check on their accuracy or whether you conveniently left out some important incidents:

    1. The US examples average 9.7 dead, and the UK examples average 15 dead, making UK rampage massacres more deadly on average than US rampage massacres. That's even including an obvious statistical outlier (the VA Tech massacre) in the US.

    2. As Sterling pointed out, the US has roughly five times as many people as the UK. That means that if we take the US population as the basis of comparison, a total death toll comparison requires multiplying the UK death toll by five, resulting in a final score of 214 US vs. 225 UK. The UK gets more total rampage massacre deaths per capita than the US using your numbers.

    3. The majority of rampage massacre killings in the US in the last 25 years had death tolls under 10. All your examples in the UK had death tolls over 10. This is beginning to look like a trend.

    4. Despite the fact that actually analyzing the numbers — rather than showing that one list is longer than the other — makes it look like the UK is the worse place to live for purposes of avoiding dying in a rampage massacre, using your numbers, I stand by my original statements: the world is too complicated to honestly come to such facile conclusions. You're bending statistics to your own ends, confirming your own biases, rather than looking at the facts available and coming to the obvious and intellectually honest conclusion that we simply can't come to meaningful conclusions of proof based on such simplistic comparisons of a couple of simple data points cherry-picked out of millions.

    5. Oh, yeah — and these sample sizes in your numbers are laughably small. There are not enough rampage massacres to come to any reliable conclusions about them, let alone about their relationship to gun control laws — which have fluctuated and changed over those 25 years anyway, thus altering the conditions you're trying to compare from one massacre to the next.

    You know (almost) nothing about the proper use of statistics to produce meaningful conclusions, or you intentionally abuse statistics. One of the two is the case. Once again, my decision to issue you an F in Statistics 101 is proved to be a good one.

    Finally, I understand your premise that gun safety courses help the general public handle guns but I worry as to how someone might react in a combact situation as opposed to the calm of a classroom.

    I worry about that too. I also worry about the likelihood of a rampage killer to miss a target, or to have the opportunity to kill me because I've been prevented from carrying a firearm for self-defense, or the likelihood of a mugger to kill my SigO because he's bigger and stronger than her and she's somewhere that she isn't allowed to carry a firearm for self defense.

    I have two main points here:

    1. You should learn something about statistics before you try to use them to prop up your preconceived notions.

    2. You basically argue that my SigO should be unable to defend herself against a larger, stronger assailant so she can be raped and murdered.

    Fuck you.

    Rather I intend to explain why I believe the way I do and likewise, I have enjoyed learning why you believe the way you do.

    See that "fuck you" up there? That's why I believe the way I do. I have a right to defend myself, and other people I care about have a right to defend themselves. People who try to prohibit us from having the tools to defend ourselves are infringing on that right, and as far as I'm concerned they can go to Hell.

    I do try to convince them to stop being idiots from time to time, but frankly, I believe that such people — you included — will continue to encourage government to infringe on our rights and take from us the ability to effectively defend ourselves, regardless of reason, logic, and incredibly simple lessons in how to evaluate evidence. It's bound to happen, because people are more interested in adhering to their preconceived notions than they are in arriving at reasonable conclusions or even withholding judgment until such reasonable conclusions are possible.

    The truth is that while I believe public safety is enhanced in the aggregate by the availability of small arms to private citizens, I withhold ultimate judgment on that because there is simply not enough proof.

    Every time some jackass ignores the importance of taking such a cautious approach to arriving at facile conclusions, God kills a kitten — or maybe an innocent victim unable to defend himself or herself from a more physically capable assailant who cares nothing about what tools he or she is allowed by law to use in the commission of a crime.

    Comment by apotheon — 12 January 2011 @ 01:45

  105. For someone who claims to be an expert on statistics your general fear of and inability to draw logical interpretations from statistics is truly remarkable.

    Perhaps much of this stems from your misunderstanding of some of the general terms we are trying to compare. Intentional homicide does not include suicide. The legal definition of homicide is the killing of a human being as a result of the act or omission of another. Last time I checked, suicide involved killing oneself. Your claims that suicide (murder suicide is a different beast) should be considered in interpresting murder or homicide statistics brings into quesiton your credibility on this issue.

    To break things down very clearly for you, here are some statistics:

    1. According to the FBI Crime statistics, in 2009, the number of murder victims as a result of firearms offences, was 9,146. This number excludes justifiable homicide.

    2. According to the Home Office, the number of homicides (murder, manslaughter, and infanticide) in England and Wales in 2009, was 648. The number of homicdes in Scotland in 2009, based on the same criteria, was 99 and the number of homicides in Northern Ireland in 2009, again based on the same criteria, was 22. This bring the total number of homicides in the UK in 2009 to 769.

    Based on our assumption that the US has a population of 300,000,000 which is five time more than the UK's population of 60,000,000, if we multiply 769 by 5, the number of homicides in the UK based on a population equal to that in the US is 3,845.

    What this means is that you are still 3 times more likely to get murdered by a gun in the US than you are to be a victim of all forms of homicide in the UK.

    I understant that there are a number of factors that influence crime statistics but to ignore the influence of gun is truly ridiculous. I posit to you that the major reason these number are so disparate is because of guns. I have lived in both the US and the UK for considerable portions of my life. As I have previously stated the general presence of crime is largely equal in the US and the UK and socio-economically the countries are very similar. Yet the homicide rate between the two countries is extremely different. There is no factor that explains this difference more than guns.

    As I mentioned in my previous post, the number of victims of shooting massacres is negligible compared to the total number of shooting victims. I also conceded that the rate of death in such massacres is greater in the UK than the US. But what I was trying to demonstrate is that the prevalence of such massacres is greater in the US (22) than the UK (3). Again, I admit the sample size is very small but to deny that the prevalence of gun relates death is greater in the US than the UK is truly ridiculouis.

    Your general tone of anger in your last post is clear evidence to me that I have backed you into a corner and that you can see the holes your arguments. As with a disease such as cancer, my hope is that we can prevent the disease from occuring rather than treat it once it occurs. This is also my view on gun control.

    I have said all I need to say on this issue. I am happy to have been able to enlighten you, although I imagine you will continue to live in fear.

    Comment by Edge — 12 January 2011 @ 07:14

  106. For someone who pretends to have read anything on this page, your reading comprehension is pretty damned piss-poor.

    For someone who claims to be an expert on statistics

    Show me where I claimed to be an expert on statistics. I'm not an expert. I'm maybe competent. I'm just a fuckton more aware of the pitfalls of statistics than you evidently — and any honest statistician would agree with me.

    Intentional homicide does not include suicide.

    Actually, intentional homicide statistics often do include suicide, even when the reporting agency's legal system does not define homicide as including suicide. By the same token, some countries report "crib death" as death from illness, others as death from unknown causes, some as general purpose "infant mortality", others as a result of negligence, and still others not at all (in some cases because they just don't report that statistic, and in others because they do not recognize "crib death" or equivalent terms as valid diagnoses).

    The legal definition of homicide is the killing of a human being as a result of the act or omission of another.

    Most legal definitions of homicide do not include "omission", at least in the general case.

    Your claims that suicide (murder suicide is a different beast)

    Assisted suicide is still suicide, by the way — as well as homicide. Some jurisdictions actually count the death twice.

    Based on our assumption that the US has a population of 300,000,000 which is five time more than the UK's population of 60,000,000

    You are aware you're rounding down in the US and up in the UK — right? Just checking.

    What this means is that you are still 3 times more likely to get murdered by a gun in the US than you are to be a victim of all forms of homicide in the UK.

    I'm not. Maybe someone in a drug gang is, or someone likely to get raided by the police for living near someone in a drug gang, or for growing Japanese maples for that matter. Thanks for ignoring my fucking point again.

    I understant that there are a number of factors that influence crime statistics but to ignore the influence of gun is truly ridiculous.

    I don't ignore it. I simply refuse to be an idiot about it, unlike you — because, you see, I also don't ignore all those other factors and declare as a result that I know the relationship between guns and crime statistics is what accounts for the relationship between crime statistics in one country and the crime statistics in another. You, on the other hand, are doing just that.

    I posit to you that the major reason these number are so disparate is because of guns.

    I know you do. I posit to you it's because reptilian aliens run the government in the UK, and their mind-control rays are able to more successfully suppress the population's violent instincts than the CIA's mind-control rays, which are not nearly as technologically advanced.

    . . . 'cause it's almost just as well supported by the evidence, given that there's far too much evidence that interferes in our ability to isolate variables to be able to arrive at this facile, fucking stupidly simplistic conclusions of yours.

    I have lived in both the US and the UK for considerable portions of my life.

    I've been all over the goddamned world, just about. I've seen how people live in the UK, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Tunisia, Mexico, Canada — fucktons of places. You know what I've seen?

    Life is complicated. You can't boil crime statistics down to a single cause without labeling yourself as a simpleton in the eyes of people who know what the fuck they're talking about.

    I suppose you think the rate of murder in Somalia is due to the presence of firearms, too.

    There is no factor that explains this difference more than guns.

    Prove it. Don't just say it: prove it.

    You can't, of course, but it might be fun watching you try.

    Do you even know anything about guns that you didn't get from movies and television?

    As I mentioned in my previous post, the number of victims of shooting massacres is negligible compared to the total number of shooting victims.

    . . . and yet, you tried to use rampage massacres as "proof" that guns are the cause of homicide rates. Now you're trying to cover your ass. Your intellectual dishonesty is rapidly reaching some pretty staggering proportions.

    But what I was trying to demonstrate is that the prevalence of such massacres is greater in the US (22) than the UK (3).

    Barring the fucking stupid, simpleminded analyses of the numbers from people like you, I'd rather have twenty-two massacres with 214 dead than three massacres with 225 dead. Idiot. You aren't even willing to cop to the fact that your own numbers make the UK look more dangerous.

    Again, I admit the sample size is very small but to deny that the prevalence of gun relates death is greater in the US than the UK is truly ridiculouis.

    I was referring to your talk of rampage massacres when I offered those numbers — based on your own statistics.

    . . . but I don't give a shit about whether the number of "gun related deaths" is higher in one than the other. I care about whether the total number of murders is higher, and the actual causes of those murders, regardless of the weapons used. I care about things like whether, in the US, banning legal private ownership of guns would result in two out of 300 murders being stopped but fifteen more taking their place. You, apparently, do not: you only care whether you can cherry pick a couple of numbers and use that to support your preconceived notions.

    Your general tone of anger in your last post is clear evidence to me that I have backed you into a corner and that you can see the holes your arguments.

    That's funny, considering I was tearing BIG GAPING FUCKING HOLES in your arguments, while you keep basically blowing off mine without actually even bothering to deconstruct them or, in some cases, notice I made them.

    I'm angry because fuckwads like you insist on being intellectually dishonest, then accuse others of the same because they simply don't agree that you have all the answers. Hypocrisy pisses me off. Your willful ignorance is offensive. In fact, willful ignorance is one of my biggest pet peeves, which is pretty sad considering how much of it there is in the world.

    As with a disease such as cancer, my hope is that we can prevent the disease from occuring rather than treat it once it occurs.

    To do that, you have to address why people kill each other — not the specific shape of the hunk of metal used to do it.

    I am happy to have been able to enlighten you, although I imagine you will continue to live in fear.

    Yes, I live in fear of the effect willfully ignorant clods have on the world when they're allowed to vote. Voting while intentionally closing your mind to the blatantly obvious should be a punishable offense, and I fear the damage fuckwads like you are going to do to the human race.

    Comment by apotheon — 12 January 2011 @ 08:04

  107. Oh dear ... your arguments really are falling apart.

    I really don't know what crib death has to do with a discussion of firearm offences and intentional homicide rates. You seem to be throwing up smokescreens to avoid confronting the comparisons I am making. I provided statistics from the FBI regading murder victims as a result of firearm offenses in the US and victims of all forms of homicide in the UK. For some reason, you have retorted with hyperbole regarding suicide, crib death, and the terminology used by many reporting agencies in other countries. I am talking about the US and the UK, I thought that was what this thread was about, and comparing statistics that exclude suicide and crib death, as all conventional definitions of murder and homicide do. Please try to stay focussed!

    You also seem obsessed with de minimis issues. Contrary to your assertions, I in fact round down both the population in the US and the UK for ease of comparison. According to the US Census Bureau, the population in the US in 2009 was 307 million. According the World Bank,the population in the UK in 2009 was 61.8 million. Based on these numbers, and the crime numbers I used were from 2009, I am actually being favorable to the US as the US population is 4.96 times that of the UK rather than 5 times as I used in my calculations. Again, this is such a de minimis differnces that I am really not too concerned. Feel free to run the exact numbers, they really don't change much. Again, more smokescreens from you to avoid the obvious.

    Your next big issue is that keep dismissing the difference in the rates I cited to gangs. Well lets take a look at that. According to the FBI in 2009, of the 9,146 murders in the US as a result of fireamrs, 824 are attributable to gang killings. Even if we attribute the 3,449 firearms murders in 2009 that the FBI terms as unknown to gang killings we are still left with 4,873 firearms murders which is still more than all homicides in the UK (murder, manslaughter, and infanticide)on a population adjusted basis. I have been very favorable to the US in this comparison and as you can see, your attempts to appportion the difference to gang killings is simply incorrect.

    Further, your reference to Somalia and in prior posts to countries other than the US and the UK shows a complete lack of integrity. I belive we both agree that because there are so many variables that factor into this analysis, we need to compare countries that are as similar as possible in order to isolate the extent possible many of these variable. As I have discussed ad nauseum, the US and the UK provide such an opportunity. Yes, there are still differences but the socio-economic situations in both countries is quite similar. If it makes you feel better to compare the US to Somalia, a country that has been in a state of almost complete lawlessness for the last 50 years then go ahead. But those of us in the gun control crowd hold ourselves to a much higher standard and expect better of this country than to be pleased that crime here is less than in Somalia. I have attemped to as "intellectually honest" as possible by sticking to the comparison of the US and the UK, you are the one who keeps interjecting with comparisons from other countries.

    As far as my claim that no factor explains the differnce between murder/homicide rates more than guns do I have provided ample statistical evidence for that conclusion. Your keep referencing a list of other factors, which so far seems only to include gangs, but fails to provide any statistical evidence to back up your conclusions. Your debate tactics seems to get angry and use course language, rather than to actually articulate reasoned hypothesis. So I ask you, how do you explain the statistical differences? I am very curious. You are accusing me of being willfully ignorant, so here I ask you with all sincerity to educate me on what factors you think account for such differences.

    I agree that what we ultimately need to do is address why people kill each other. But until we solve that problem don't you think it makes sense to limit access to the most common medium in the US with which people kill each other? The reason the armed forces use firearms as their weapon of choice is because firearms are the most effective at killing and maiming.

    Finally, I find your increasing level of anger as tantamount to an admission on your part that your arguments are falling apart, or rather have fallen apart. I have attempted to address our differences of opinion in a civil manner, you for some reason are unable to return the same courtesy. I understand that you be may be frustrated that I am missing some of the points you are making but I have always been taught that communication is a two way street. Have you ever stopped to wonder that perhaps the arguments you are making really aren't that clear?

    Comment by Edge — 13 January 2011 @ 02:22

  108. I really don't know what crib death has to do with a discussion of firearm offences and intentional homicide rates.

    Your inability to recognize an analogy when it bites you on the ass is your problem — not mine.

    I provided statistics from the FBI regading murder victims as a result of firearm offenses in the US and victims of all forms of homicide in the UK.

    . . . and ignored my main point, which renders that presentation of statistics irrelevant, again.

    For some reason, you have retorted with hyperbole regarding suicide, crib death, and the terminology used by many reporting agencies in other countries.

    If you cannot recognize the importance to meaningful statistical analysis of incompatible reporting terminology, there's zero hope for you ever understanding my point.

    I am talking about the US and the UK, I thought that was what this thread was about

    Once again, you display your willful ignorance. Read the SOB entry at the top of this page, titled Statistics 101: US Gun Crime vs. UK Knife Crime. Pay particular attention to the second-to-last paragraph, which sums up the whole point: "here are too many other variables in comparisons between crime rates in the UK and in the US to reasonably expect any real certainty about exactly what effect gun control laws have in either country." It's also worth noting that the same paragraph says "A far more reliable statistical comparison [than comparing different countries is] to compare crime statistics before the passage or repeal of a gun law to those after the passage of the law", which is something I notice you seem inclined to avoid like the plague — given it would be as fatal as the plague to your feeling of unassailable superiority in defending your preconceived notions with cherry-picked data points.

    My actual use of statistics in Statistics 101 was, it should be blatantly obvious to anyone with two brain cells to rub together, solely for the purpose of pointing out that insufficient evidence can be manipulated to support just about any end you like — which is exactly what you do with insufficient evidence, over and over again.

    According to the US Census Bureau, the population in the US in 2009 was 307 million. According the World Bank,the population in the UK in 2009 was 61.8 million.

    Criminy. Everything I said about getting statistics from different sources that count things differently just went right over your head.

    . . . and last I checked, the US population has been around 311 million for a while.

    Again, this is such a de minimis differnces that I am really not too concerned.

    Nickels and dimes add up.

    According to the FBI in 2009, of the 9,146 murders in the US as a result of fireamrs, 824 are attributable to gang killings.

    Those are unlikely figures. I'm thinking you misread them, the FBI misreported them, or they're more narrowly constrained than how you represent them. Around 50% of crime in Los Angeles alone is gang related. In any case, I think the FBI's gang statistics generally discount international drug gangs that operate within the US.

    . . . to say nothing of the fact that "murders" are not the sum total of drug-related intentional homicides. You're forgetting about other things like legal intervention. Compare like figures; that's your first goal if you want honest comparisons. The second is to isolate variables. You have yet to demonstrate you can do the first, and the second is essentially impossible given the fact you want to compare the UK and the US.

    your attempts to appportion the difference to gang killings is simply incorrect.

    Your attempts to read what I have said result in failure. I did not attempt to "apportion the difference to gang killings". Read more closely. Don't be an ass-weasel.

    Further, your reference to Somalia and in prior posts to countries other than the US and the UK shows a complete lack of integrity.

    Your unwillingness to engage in honest discussion shows a complete lack of integrity. You've misapplied what I said about Somalia, then claimed the misapplication is my fault. Fuck off.

    I belive we both agree that because there are so many variables that factor into this analysis, we need to compare countries that are as similar as possible in order to isolate the extent possible many of these variable.

    No, we don't. You're an idiot. I believe that because no two countries are sufficiently similar to meaningfully isolate variables, we should not make such facile, asinine comparisons. You believe that because the UK vs. US comparison supports your position at first glance, using the numbers you selected, we should limit our comparisons to US vs. UK. Clearly, we do not agree.

    Yes, there are still differences but the socio-economic situations in both countries is quite similar.

    Bullshit. The entire legal culture is substantially different, starting with "innocent until proven guilty" and snowballing from there. Even bleatings about common law do not change that, given that many US jurisdictions aren't even common law jurisdictions.

    The truth of the matter is that the US is actually not one country; it is fifty of them, tied together by something administratively akin to the EU charter. You're going to have to pick a specific state as your point of comparison if you want to get closer to a worthwhile comparison — but even that will be significantly off-base, given that the cultural, legal, and geographic differences between the US and the UK become even more visible when looking at specific states than when looking at the whole union.

    If it makes you feel better to compare the US to Somalia, a country that has been in a state of almost complete lawlessness for the last 50 years then go ahead.

    Remember when I said you misapplied my mention of Somalia? There's a great example. Moron.

    But those of us in the gun control crowd hold ourselves to a much higher standard and expect better of this country than to be pleased that crime here is less than in Somalia.

    It's great that you hold yourself to a much higher standard than your own straw man. Too bad it's a lower standard than mine, or that of an honestly diligent statistician (which is even higher than mine).

    I have attemped to as "intellectually honest" as possible by sticking to the comparison of the US and the UK, you are the one who keeps interjecting with comparisons from other countries.

    If you bothered to read what I wrote, you'd realize I brought up other countries to point out how comparing different countries is not productive. Moron.

    Your keep referencing a list of other factors, which so far seems only to include gangs,

    That's because you can't read, or hold more than one idea in your head at a time, apparently.

    Your debate tactics seems to get angry and use course language, rather than to actually articulate reasoned hypothesis.

    I've rephrased the same thesis probably a couple dozen times on this page alone. The fact you're incapable of understanding basic English is a problem of your reading comprehension, and not my willingness to articulate my "hypothesis".

    So I ask you, how do you explain the statistical differences?

    I explain them by saying "They're too fraught with additional factors that influence the results to come to meaningful conclusions based on those simplistic selections of numbers." In short, I don't have to explain them, because my point is that they're essentially unexplainable in any way supported by honestly applied hard evidence.

    I've already pointed this out many times, though. I don't expect you to get your head out of your ass now any more than you did the last [however many] times.

    You are accusing me of being willfully ignorant, so here I ask you with all sincerity to educate me on what factors you think account for such differences.

    Learn to read. That's the first step.

    I agree that what we ultimately need to do is address why people kill each other.

    Nah. Your belief is that people kill each other because they have guns. You don't agree with me at all.

    don't you think it makes sense to limit access to the most common medium in the US with which people kill each other?

    Not if it might conceivably result in my death, I sure as shit don't. Asshole.

    The reason the armed forces use firearms as their weapon of choice is because firearms are the most effective at killing and maiming.

    You obviously haven't ever been in the military.

    Finally, I find your increasing level of anger as tantamount to an admission on your part that your arguments are falling apart

    I know you think so. I think that's because you think you're some kind of Internet psychologist, and because you don't want to admit to yourself that my distaste for you is based entirely on your unwillingness to engage in meaningful discussion, resorting to mere hypocritical trolling instead.

    you for some reason are unable to return the same courtesy.

    I'm perfectly able. I just stopped trying when it became obvious you would rather be "right" in your own mind than actually acknowledge my arguments in a straightforward, honest manner.

    I understand that you be may be frustrated that I am missing some of the points you are making

    Almost all of them, actually.

    I have always been taught that communication is a two way street. Have you ever stopped to wonder that perhaps the arguments you are making really aren't that clear?

    I have stopped to wonder that. Oddly, the fact that about 50% of the people who read my arguments get it, and the other half are people exactly like you in that they refuse to consider anything beyond the ridiculous belief that the UK and US are functionally identical aside from crime rates as reported on specific, carefully selected sites — and only specific, carefully selected statistics from those sites — and, of course, gun laws.

    You don't understand my arguments because you don't want to. That, or you're stupider than I thought.

    Comment by apotheon — 13 January 2011 @ 06:50

  109. text blocked from HTML display for trolling

    Comment by Edge — 14 January 2011 @ 09:07

  110. We have included mass shootings in this debate, but missing is the inclusion of mass bombings as a substitute for guns. The U.K. historically has been rife with bomb attacks versus the U.S. which until the Oklahoma bombing remained relatively bomb-free. There were the occasional anomalies like the Unabomber, but generally bombs have not been the choice of criminals as they have been in the U.K. Simply put, if we use the term "mass killings" versus "mass shootings" the numbers might take a strange turn. Naturally there are those here who will want to include 9/11, but that would only account for one incident vs the numerous in the U.K. and Europe for that matter.

    As always, an interesting subject. I tend to lean to the freedom of choice argument myself. The U.K. has always had a paternalistic and Lordly streak of condescension toward its public and in the absence of a binding constitution there was nothing stopping them from trodding on democratic rights.

    It might seem like common sense where a bar brawl breaks out that damage would be less without guns. However, fewer brawls happen when people know there are going to be guns involved. Can you imagine how long English soccer hoodlums would last throwing projectiles at a U.S. hockey game? Riots rarely happen because you might get shot dead, forever.

    In fact, incidents of terrorist groups in the U.S. are exceptionally rare, and religiously motivated radicals keep a low profile, ever fearful of uncompromisingly nationalist Americans who are armed and ready to back authorities against any threat. Though many would desperately beg to differ, these patriots are in fact the arms-bearing militia guaranteed by the U.S. constitution.

    In contrast, the British government was ever fearful of the old Home Guard it created to defend the country against a German invasion. It's an interesting cultural difference. But I digress. We were talking about gun vs knife statistics. I prefer the right to own a gun for home defence. To me that's just reasonable common sense.

    Comment by Bullseye — 15 January 2011 @ 09:57

  111. This is very misleading. Really you should add up all the knife crime and gun crime in the UK and the US to see if gun crime is having an added effect. Correlation between two different crimes does not equal causality.

    Comment by Ryan — 5 February 2011 @ 08:13

  112. Ryan:

    It's only "misleading" if you expect it to lead somewhere other than it does. As an end result, you mislead yourself, and completely miss the point.

    Good job.

    I'm tired of explaining the point over and over again for people who have not read carefully enough.

    Comment by apotheon — 6 February 2011 @ 09:59

  113. FURTHER COMMENTS DISALLOWED

    I'm tired of responding to trolls who don't even bother trying to understand the entry at the top of the page, let alone read any of the comments that address the exact same failures to understand over and over again. I'm disallowing comments on this SOB entry henceforth.

    113 is enough.

    Comment by apotheon — 2 March 2011 @ 01:59

  114. [...] Knives must be limited, you see, because Once we get rid of the guns, knife murders will increase. [...]

    Pingback by Knife Control | Bobknowsall — 29 May 2011 @ 05:11

  115. [...] remind you Mr. Younge that YOU are more than twice as likely to be a victim of knife crime in the UK as you are to be a victim of gun crime in the [...]

    Pingback by The Dark Hysterical Liberal Rises « Kristina in Americaland — 20 July 2012 @ 01:42

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