As I was en route to searching for something else (mortality stats for the USA) I came across a recent article from the Guardian UK' "DataBlog". This blog has an interesting signature: "Facts are Sacred".
This was published just after the Sandy Hook tragedy as world attention was drawn to America's [pick one: fascination with/love affair with/addiction to] 'The Gun', not further specified.
There are a number of charts and a useful interact US map with state-by-state date. I am not posting the charts: the Guardian article is basically short and to the point and provides quite a bit of data at a glance.
Interestingly, there are no data for Alabama and Florida regarding murders by fire arms for 2011. No mention was made of why this was.
The first thing I wanted to highlight is:
Just like the UK, the United States has seen a long-term decline in crime, with firearms offences seeing a steeper fall than other crimesAgain, no particular reason is cited for this apparent decline, but it is quite relative: There were about 10,225 firearms-related murders in the US in 2005
And the murder figures themselves are astounding for Brits used to around 550 murders per year. In 2011 - the latest year for which detailed statistics are available - there were 12,664 murders in the US. Of those, 8,583 were caused by firearms.A slight decline. All other murder rates remained oddly flat over time: knives and cutting tools came in second, followed by "other" (no specifics), and "personal weapons" - hands and such.
Of course this slight decline is somewhat meaningless given that all but truly accidental or intentionally planned firearms injuries/deaths are technically avoidable preventable. The upside is that something somewhere is either working or changing: it would be nice to know what it is as people scramble to find solutions to both mass public shootings as well as day-to-day firearm crimes.
Another 'fact' or stat' the article asserted was the '89 guns per 100 Americans" number. I have no clue if that is truly correct or how one would arrive at such a number BUT I tend to trust it because I thought it was actually higher than that. For the sake of argument, I am considering it to be relatively in the ballpark. That is a LOT of guns.
The last graph is a state-by-state breakdown of firearms crime - crime, now, not accidents and I think suicides are not counted in this either - broken into a variety of subcategories.
Here in Georgia in 2011, total fire arms murders were 370, working out to be a 2% decrease from last year; Firearms were involved in 71% of all murders yielding a firearm murder rate of 3.93 per 100000; Firearms used in robberies - 72.48 per 10000; firearms used in assault - 58.64 per 100000.
You can click on the sub-categories and arrange the findings. North Dakota had 6 murders sending their firearm-related murder stats up 50% while Hawai'i had 1 - ONE - murder and an 83% decline. What's going on there?
California - with some of the tightest gun regulation in the US - lead the nation with twice as many murders as Texas, yet even this reflects a 3% decline in such crime. Texas showed a 13% decline. No, really.
Connecticut, which has some of the most stringent gun regulation in the nation (WaPo) , has about 1/3 the firearm murders of Georgia, which wants to loosen gun laws as a result of the tragedy. It has a slightly higher rate of murder by firearm but HALF the rate of firearm-related robbery and just 1/3 the firearm-related assault. That seems significant....
There is another interactive map at the WaPo link which shows gun control laws stae-by-state: The map is
from the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, which is in favor of gun control. As you can see, Connecticut is ranked as having one of the strongest gun control regimes in the country, ranking in the second tier behind only California.I highlighted Connecticut, of course, because of the heinous nature of the event. It occurred in a state with what the above data might suggest to be more effective gun regulation that my state (which, again, wants a gun leaning in every corner), resulting in far fewer firearm assaults overall.
So, all other things being equal (which they aren't) there do appear to be firearm regulations which do result in fewer incidences of violent crime and robbery with a firearm. Oddly, despite wanting a gun in every corner, if you use a firearm in any crime in Georgia, you face an additional mandatory 5 years. That's on top of any other sentences you might get.
The guy who shot all those children got hold of a gun in his own home and which belonged to somebody else. The end result was a massacre and a suicide: a murder-suicide event. Though a rather eloquent article at Slate, Murder-Suicide Research Sheds Little Light on Sandy Hook, suggests it's just not so clear because it doesn't totally fit the mold. What I got from that article, which I suggest you review, is that he started this spree at one house, went to another, and then to the school. While that may expand the pattern for murder-suicide researchers, my guess is most would agree there were some psychological/emotional disturbances at work.
All this could be arranged to suggest that the utter portability of that semi-automatic firearm with its high-capacity magazine, helped facilitate and amplify an incident whose roots may have developed and festered over time. And the most obvious intervention would be to somehow limit people's access to large capacity magazines: it would be the simplest and most basic approach.
What I think the data in the Guardian article show is that, as we all know, America has 8500 murders via firearms last year, far more than any other country on the planet and we have 89 firearms per 100 people, far more than any other country on the planet.
Sometimes the data shows looser gun restriction lead to more crimes of violence and that more gun control/'regulation tends to cut down some to a lot on crimes in general.
But just as the car insurance companies can tell you how many red sports cars will be in accidents in February, they can't predict which cars will be involved. Accidents continue to decline because a a wide variety of ongoing interventions, curtailing drunk driving being a big one, but they still occur with great regularity.
Again, something is working in states with more regulation and this should obviously be studied.
NOTE: I feel rather in the middle of an imaginary spectrum of 'gun control': neither rabidly pro-gun ownership (I don't own real firearms) yet very wary of approaches that would be 'too restrictive' specifically because of the potential to encourage a black market, pretty much defeating the purpose of trying to make us all safer. This article is posted in the spirit of trying to find that which really does work because something somewhere clearly is.
Please keep discussion civil and productive.