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I’d appreciate feedback on by gun deaths database and analysis. Comments, criticisms, suggestions, etc. are welcome.

With the recent Sandy Hook murders, NRA suggesting we arm teachers, others arguing stricter gun control laws, and possible new legislation on guns ownership, I’ve been reading up a bit on the issue. Among modern industrial nations, U.S. murder rates and overall gun deaths are an extreme outlier. There are case studies and correlational studies supporting a variety of conflicting theories. But correlation is not causation and these studies rarely statistically control for possible extraneous variables.

Additionally, these reports don’t release their raw data for further analysis and even if they did, databases often don’t include variables you would want to control on.

Thus, I decided to start my own State level database and include as many variables that others have suggested impact our high murder and gun related death rates. I chose State level data because that is where I could obtain the largest number of key variables. And using multiple regression I could go beyond mere correlation. So far the database includes the dependent variables of gun murders, all murders, percent of murders using a gun, suicides, all gun deaths, using a gun in a robbery, and using a gun in an assault. The independent variables include poverty rate, economic inequality (GINI index), percent college degrees, percent urban, percent white, gun control laws, and importance of religion.

Thus the database is State level (N=50) with most data coming from government sources (FBI crime data, poverty from Census, college degree from Dept of Ed). Gun control law ranking is from Open Society Foundations and 2000 ranking. While there have been State law changes since, it was the only ranking by State that I’ve found so far - suggestions welcome. Full references below.

Findings: The findings are below. The left column is the dependent variable - in this case the death and crime rates. The right column includes the independent variables in the order of their influence using step-wise multiple regression. They number range from 1 to 4 depending on how many additional variables are statistically significant (.05 level). The number in parentheses (#) after each is the adjusted R-square value or the amount of variance explained. The number associated with the second variable (if there is one) will always be larger as it includes variation explained by both that variable and the previous one. Subtracting the first value from the second will tell you how much the second adds to explaining the variance. Ditto for additional variables. The step wise analysis stops when adding another variable does not improve on predicting the value of the dependent variable.

Note: I inserted a “+” or “-”  sign in front of the R-squared value to indicated whether the impact of that variable increased or decreased the value of the dependent variable. Thus for “Gun Murders” higher poverty rates and higher economic inequality (GINI) were both associated with higher murder rates. For “All Murders,” poverty rate increases all murders while percent white reduces all murders.

Dependent        Independent variables include: poverty rate 2010/11 average, economic inequality (GINI), % own gun, White%, Urban%, college degree%, gun regulation score,

Gun murders        Poverty rate (+.385), GINI (+.435)
All murders        Poverty rate (+.478), White% (-.516)
Gun robberies        White% (-.409)
Gun assaults        Poverty rate (+.311)            
Suicides        % own gun (+.386), urban% (+.471), GINA (-.517), College% (-.589)
All gun deaths        College degree (-.609), % own gun (+.692), urban% (+.719)
Guns as % murder    GINI (+.179)

Conclusion: The most important factor for gun related murders is the State’s poverty rate and its economic inequality. Poverty is also the most important factor explaining gun related assaults. Race is the best predictor of gun use in robbers where States with lower minority populations have lower rates of robberies using guns. States with the highest rates of college graduates have the lowest rates for gun deaths, with gun ownership and percent urban contributing to more gun related deaths. The greater a State’s level of inequality, the more likely a gun is used in murder cases.

States with the highest rates of gun ownership have the highest suicide rates with greater urbanization having a contributing effect. Interestingly, greater inequality and college degrees are also contributing factors but they reduce the suicide rate.

Not shown in the above, is analysis of variables by region (Northwest, Midwest, South, West). For murder rates, gun murder rates, gun robbery rates, and gun assault rates, the South has rates from 50% to 300% greater rates than the other regions. The West has higher suicide than the other regions.  

And evangelical friend suggested that I include a measure of religiosity. The State level measure I was able to find was a Gallop poll asking about the “Importance of Religion” in respondents’ daily lives.

Personally, I did not think this would have an impact. However, as you can see from the data below “Importance of Religion” is one of the better predictors. For gun murders, all murders, gun robberies, and guns as a percent of all murders, the importance of religion has a positive impact. That is States with a higher percent of their population claiming religion is important in their lives have higher murder rates. Important of religion was negatively associated with suicide rates.

Dependent        Independent variables include: poverty rate 2010/11 average, economic inequality (GINI), % own gun, White%, Urban%, college degree%, gun regulation score, importance of religion (God)

Gun murders       Poverty rate (+.385), God (+.459), GINI (+.515)
All murders            Poverty rate (+.478), God (+.543), White% (-.577)
Gun robberies         White% (-.409), God (+.465)
Gun assaults              Poverty rate (+.311)            
Suicides                     % own gun (+.386), urban% (+.471), God (-.579), College% (-.682)
All gun deaths            College degree (-.609), % own gun (+.692), urban% (+.719)
Guns as % murder       God (+.198), GINI (+.302)

Things to consider. First, the level of analysis is States, not individuals. N=50 or 49 for gun murders, robberies, assaults, and percent murder by gun as there is no data on those 4 variables for Florida. Second there are probably better measures for some of the variables. Most problematic is the gun regulation score. It is from 2000 and a composite score. Some States have changed their laws in the past decade and it might be more helpful to look as specific nuances of these laws. Finally, these data and analysis are no time series so we cannot see how changes in the dependent variables might impact the dependent variables.

A special note on suicide and percent urban. Numerous studies find the suicide is more common in rural than urban areas. In the data here, we see a positive impact from percent urban on suicide rates. That positive correlation is after controlling on percent of gun ownership. The bivariate correlation between percent urban and suicide rates is -.354 with a p-value of .011.


All gun deaths (suicide, murder, accident)

Murder rates

Gun crimes 2011 (murder, burglary, assault, percent of murder by gun)
Does not include Florida. Also Alabama is covered up on the summary page (xlx file) but you can get those values from the linked data sheets for the individual crimes.

Gun ownership by State

Gun control law ranking (2000):

Poverty Rate 2010-2011 average

GINI index

College degree percent by State

Percent Urban (Table 29)

Importance of Religion in your daily life

Originally posted to SocioSam on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 10:01 AM PST.

Also republished by Shut Down the NRA and Repeal or Amend the Second Amendment (RASA).

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (9+ / 0-)

    I don't know what consciousness is or how it works, but I like it.

    by SocioSam on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 10:01:58 AM PST

  •  fun diary! (4+ / 0-)

    thanks for all the hard work.

    Conclusion: The most important factor for gun related murders is the State’s poverty rate and its economic inequality.
    wish i could say your results were surprising, but it is wonderful to have another voice in the chorus pushing social policy antidotes as solutions to (gun) violence!

    Please don't dominate the rap, Jack, if you got nothin' new to say - Grateful Dead

    by Cedwyn on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 10:15:48 AM PST

    •  "Guns don't kill people, poverty kills people ..." (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Hey338Too, SocioSam

      I am amazed (and I really shouldn't be because your coreligionists keep proving it again and again) how religious fundamentalists take any piece of data and twist it to mean whatever their sacred text tells them.

      Then they came for me - and by that time there was nobody left to speak up.

      by DefendOurConstitution on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 05:26:07 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  d00d...we all got your comment (0+ / 0-)

        the first 100 times you posted it.

        if you haven't any actual, cogent points to make, then just go away.  srsly. because barfing up the same "religionists" claptrap any time someone mentions guns only tells people they are not to take you seriously.

        find something to actually add to the convo or STFU.

        Please don't dominate the rap, Jack, if you got nothin' new to say - Grateful Dead

        by Cedwyn on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 05:53:55 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Different level of data that might be of interest (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    You might be interested in the National Violent Death Reporting System (CDC) which has a number of surveillance reports (based on 13-16 or so states depending upon the year) which looks at all violent deaths but does have quite a bit about the role of firearms (although last summary seems to be 2009).

    The reports I've glanced through didn't have any breakdowns by state although there may be some that do.  I haven't checked but it is possible that those states that get funding support from CDC to report their data to CDC may publish reports on their state health department web sites.

    National Violent Death Reporting link.


  •  A must read book on the subject (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    The Insanity Offense, by E. Fuller Torrey is a vigorous ringing of an alarm bell by a psychiatrist who is a leading practitioner and a former assistant director of the National Institute for Mental Health.  He founded the Treatment Advocacy Center which has an excellent website.  

    He cites statistics, studies, and case analysis defining the national crisis that was begun when the institutionalization of long term mentally ill was ended, but community centered treatment was not, as anticipated, instituted as follow up.  

    This caused hundreds of thousands of people with serious mental health issues to be dumped on the streets, and in the 40 or so years since this happened, the system has bogged down at every level.  

    One of the prime consequences of this is a large element of gun violence, that can be studied and quantified.  

    Most people are pretty much unaware of this because the whole issue of mental health in this country is out of sight and out of mind.  The press is not able to follow it.  So they ignore it.  

    hope that the idiots who have no constructive and creative solutions but only look to tear down will not win the day.

    by Stuart Heady on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 11:11:26 AM PST

  •  Questions (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I have some questions:

    1) Is your analysis specific to one state, or an analysis of the country as a whole based on data collected by state agencies.

    2) Is data collected by a state agency more or less reliable that data collected by a national organization (i.e. FBI)?

    3) The data on the variable gun deaths is from 2002.  Are all the other variables specific to 2002?  If data is collected at different points of time, does that add an unexplained confound to your analysis?

    4) Can you shed some light on how the data "gun ownership by state" was collected?  I didn't see that in any of the links.  What is your sugestion for the best way to determine number of gun owners in a population when some gun owners prefer to be unidentified?

    5) You do understand that correlation and regression use the same math, and that r and r-squared have a mathematical relationship?  And to criticize one method invites similar criticisms of the other method?

    6) This reader is a little confused about the presented r-squared values.  You claim they are aggregates, so for the outcome measure Gun Murders, you claim that Poverty rate contributes (+.385) to the measured variance and the meausre GINI contributes another 0.05 to yield of sum r-squared of +.435.  The use of "+" and
    "-" to indicate positive and negative contributions is VERY confusing.  I suggest you present the "raw" r-squared values, because it is easy for readers to think the measure GINI explains much of the variance of Gun Murders, when in fact it explains very little.

    And some commnets:
    I applaud your effort to use empiric data to make an argument about guns in America.  This is vastly preferable to using fact-free opinions (which is how most people talk about guns).

    "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

    by Hugh Jim Bissell on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 11:30:42 AM PST

    •  Let me try to go through your list (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      1. The database has an N of 50 - one case per State except for several variables for which Florida data are missing.

      2. As I understand the FBI data, they are collected by State agency that legally must report this incidents. There are items that States can report optionally but I think all these are required.

      3. Good point. I tried to get the last data. The variable you mention is 2002 and the gun law scale was 2000 as I noted. The poverty data are 2010-11 averages and the gun measures are 2011. Your question is relevant and I wish all values were from exactly the same year. However, the relative values have changed little - by that I mean there was not a switch between Mississippi and Massachusetts on gun violence in the past decade. I originally had poverty data for 2004. The the predictor variables were the same after I updated the data to the 2010-11 averages.

      4. I think I listed the website in references. The site says it is 2007 data. If you have a better site I'd love to have the link.

      5. You are correct, both are just linear math and regression uses correlations to build its model. The advantage is that regression does add some controls on other variables and "tries" to sort and eliminate spurious correlations. For example, the bivariate correlation between gun deaths and the gun law scale is over .5 yet it is never a factor in any of the models. And as I noted on suicide, the impact with urban is positive after controlling on other variables where it is negative at the bivariate - a correlation that many others cite in their bivariate correlations.

      6. Sorry about the confusion. In your example, you are correct that poverty explains .385 of the variance in gun murders and GINI adds another .5 (.435 - .385). The pluses and minuses are not commonly reported in this manner as all squared values are positive. You get the direction from looking at other model figures. Rather than add a bunch of confusing numbers, I thought this was an easy way to convey the concept of direction for the reader. Where increases in poverty or inequality generally increase the value of the dependent variable, increases in college graduates largely decrease the value of the dependent variable. I just wanted to make that clear. And as noted in the urban variable on suicide, a reader familiar with the literature might have just assumed that urbanization had a negative impact on suicide rates where it is positive after controlling for gun ownership.

      Hope this helps.

      I don't know what consciousness is or how it works, but I like it.

      by SocioSam on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 12:23:25 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Oh, and another thing (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I'm sorry.  I've left a long comment previously and I just thought of another important point I think you need to emphasize.

    Your analysis compares data from state to state.  As such, the r-squared values of the explanatory variables only explains state by state variations in the outcome variables.  The r-squared values DO NOT explain the data of the outcome variables; only the state by state variations in the outcome variables.

    This is an important distinction, one I think you need to emphasis in your article.

    My apologies for posting two comments.

    "The fool doth think he is wise: the wise man knows himself to be a fool" - W. Shakespeare

    by Hugh Jim Bissell on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 11:46:16 AM PST

  •  It may also be worth looking at (0+ / 0-)

    gun deaths that turned out to be legally defensible, either by would-be victims who defend themselves (and the police agree that they were not to be charged) as well as firearm deaths at the hands of police and security personnel in the line of duty. Accidents, perhaps, as well.

    There have been attempts to present "gun murder statistics" in the past that included legal defensive gun use by police and civilians, as well as accidents, as a way to inflate raw numbers. It was an early Brady strategy from the '90's.

    While accidental deaths and suicides suck, they are not quite the same as an intentional murder at the hands of a person who intends ill will, and then legal defensive uses by either civilians or police are yet another category.

    One of the problems with "legal defensive gun use" is that if the display or threat of a gun by a would-be victim results in a criminal moving on to seek easier prey, it is rare for the person to call the police to say "well, a crime almost happened, but then it didn't". Florida State criminologist Gary Kleck is the only person who tried to quantify that in a serious, peer-reviewed study, but because records aren't kept and the study necessarily had to incorporate a certain level of statistical probability and extrapolation from samples then it is hard to determine how applicable it is. It was done years ago as well, also in the 90's.

  •  Lots of work in there (0+ / 0-)

    Impressive. Have you considered trying to break it down by population density? This may further correlate with some of your other variables and may also interact with the "gun control law" ranking (upstate NY would be a lot different than NYC).

    The UK has a number of public databases on these topics, though obviously the gun numbers will be smaller. It would provide a good comparison for non-gun violent crimes if you are including the overall murder rate in your calculations.

  •  Thanks for the well reasoned and logical diary, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Sharon Wraight

    the statistics is over my head, but I get the meaning.  Some NRA apologists among us have tried to re-phrase your analysis to mean that "guns don't kill people, poverty kills people," but I think you are trying to understand the variables that make gun deaths more likely in some states than others.  This data is very valuable and I think we need more data, so keep it coming.  We will also have to analyze the data to include access to guns and number of guns per state in order to normalize your data, won't we?

    One warning, you will be attacked by some for including suicides (because suicides are a "life choice" and they would have done it no matter what), but I think your analysis needs to continue including suicides.

    Then they came for me - and by that time there was nobody left to speak up.

    by DefendOurConstitution on Sun Jan 06, 2013 at 05:23:08 PM PST

    •  % gun ownership is (0+ / 0-)

      the primary factor for suicide. And this measure is not just gun suicide but all suicide. Guns are very "effective" methods with little chance to change your mind.

      True the data can be misused to advocate against gun control legislation. But in many regards, States don't differ on many issues like magazine size and guns go easily from one State to another. Thus I'm going to try and build a database of nations where gun control legislation varies more widely.

      One thing this shows is that poverty is a key element and I suspect that is related to drug traffic. Decriminalizing drugs would probably lower murder and gun deaths significantly.

      Finally, economic inequality above and beyond poverty is a key factor. I've noticed that the gun folks are always pointing to other nations with higher gun deaths than the U.S. and they tend to be in Latin America where the highest GINI indexes are today.

      I don't know what consciousness is or how it works, but I like it.

      by SocioSam on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 06:55:34 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Sam, I hope you don't mind... (0+ / 0-)

    ... I referenced this diary in this 2nd amendment diary.

    I haven't been here long enough to be considered a Kossack, does that mean that I'm just a sack?

    by Hey338Too on Mon Jan 07, 2013 at 02:20:07 PM PST

    •  I'm fine with the reference (0+ / 0-)

      Looking for input. Might try to construct a nation database on the same variables.

      I don't know what consciousness is or how it works, but I like it.

      by SocioSam on Tue Jan 08, 2013 at 12:51:57 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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