19 August 2013

The US Gun Control Debate

So I have been following the recent gun control debate in the USA lately. Gun lobbyist argue that gun control laws are against the constitution (2nd amendment). Opponents argue that the 2nd amendment requires gun owners to be in a well regulated militia.

There's also the debate whether a higher gun possession increase the crime rate. Famous are the stories of American towns and villages who enforce mandatory gun-ownership. These places seem to have the lowest crime rates. But that by itself doesn't prove anything. I've decided to look up some basic statistics on Wiki. Whilst Wiki is in my book a political correct leftist leaning website, the sources they used for homicide rates and gun-related crimes I consider more or less reliable. So here we go:

I took the UK as a test case to compare overall homicide rates and gun-related homicides with the US. In a debate on CNN between Larry Pratt and Piers Morgan, Pratt claimed that England had 700 gun-related homicides in one year. He said this within the context that less guns do not decrease violence. So off I went checking out the stats. Could not find it easily for England, but here's UK:
In 2011, 648 murders were committed, of which 58 were caused buy a gun or firearm. The murder rate is about 1.15. The rates of firearm related crimes have increased somewhat, despite lowering homicide numbers. The source is the 'Office for National Statistics'. The numbers are provided by the Police.

But does it prove anything? Now let's examine Switzerland. Relative to Europe, Switzerland has less restrictive gun laws. Switzerland is #4 in the world with respect to gun ownership (45 for the Swiss versus 90 for the US per 100.000 citizens). But Switzerland has 7 x less gun-related homicides! The Swiss gun related homicides is about the same as the UK's despite the fact that the Swiss have far more firearms per citizens on average! The total homicide rate in Switzerland is only 0.7 (again per 100.000 citizens) though! Ccompare with UK's 1.15 and USA's 4.8. The gun related homicides in Switzerland is only 0.5 (compare with 3.6 in the USA and 0.5 of the UK).

Here's the table (rates are per 100,000 citizens):

Country Homicide Rate Gun Related Homicide Gun Possesion
UK 1.2 0.05 6.7
Switzerland 0.7 0.05 45.7
USA 4.8 3.6 94.3

Mind you that 'Homicide' can also mean suicide and accidents amongst others.

So the conclusions are:
  • Both Switzerland and the USA have a very high gun possession rate compared to the rest of the world, yet the US has a much higher homicide and gun related homicide rate.
  • The gun possession rate of the UK is lower than most others in the West of Europe, including Spain and Portugal, but the homicide rate is about equal as the rest of West Europe.
Therefore, the statement that less guns means less homicides, or more guns means more homicides (one does not exclude the other), cannot be proven with these numbers alone. Another example is that both Chicago and Los Angeles have tougher gun regulations yet the crime-rates are no better than Texas, which is a state known for it's most lenient gun regulations.

Here's a quote from Wiki:
A quarter of robberies of commercial premises in the United States are committed with guns.[62] Fatalities are three times as likely in robberies committed with guns than where other, or no, weapons are used,[62][63][64] with similar patterns in cases of family violence.[65] Criminologist Philip J. Cook hypothesized that if guns were less available, criminals might commit the same crime, but with less-lethal weapons.[66] He finds that the level of gun ownership in the 50 largest U.S. cities correlates with the rate of robberies committed with guns, but not with overall robbery rates.[67][68] A significant number of homicides are the consequence of an unintended escalation of another crime in which firearms are present, with no initial intent to kill.[64][69] Overall robbery and assault rates in the United States are comparable to those in other developed countries, such as Australia and Finland, with much lower levels of gun ownership.[66][69]
Common sense - a scientifically dangerous type of thinking - tells us that the availability of guns increase deaths as a by-product of crime. Yet statistically Americans do not resort faster to guns than Europeans. Both countries are flooded with guns, so the number of available guns can't be it. For example, Honduras has an extreme gun-related homicide rate, yet the rate of gun-ownership equals that of the UK! El Salvador is another country with about the same statistics as Honduras. So the people in these countries resort much faster to a gun.

Another interesting aspect is the accidental deaths by guns; The us has a rate of 0.3 accidental deaths per 100k citizens, which is far higher than other Western oriented country (West Europe).

Far more important:, why has the US such an overall high homicide rate to begin with (compared to Europe)? Suppose it's because of the high availability of guns, then why are Americans so much less in control of their guns compared to the rest of the Western world?

All in all, from a mathematical point of view there's not much which can be proven in favor of one or the other. But the real issue isn't statistics. Most members of the NRA do not agree with the NRA's tough stance against gun regulation. But the NRA realizes where the fierce regulation-lobby comes from. Its enablers are the anti-gun lobbyists. Regulation of this magnitude could be a first phase towards banning guns entirely. I have no doubt this would be the case and the NRA has no doubt either. A second reason the NRA wouldn't be interested in regulation is because of gun sales. Whilst the NRA doesn't sell guns directly, they have strong ties to gun sellers. Because of their behaviour one may question whether the NRA is a pro-member or a pro-corporate association.

It will end to the disadvantage of gun owners and the NRA.

The NRA has reached its maximum capacity. Meaning, they have a very large membership count. I can't imagine it will grow significantly. And secondly, there's nothing significantly to gain regulation-wise for the NRA and gun owners. Therefore, the NRA and their members have only things left to lose. The courts do not cooperate for now, but there are loopholes and most importantly, the 'gun regulators' will persist. Slowly but surely they'll get there. It may take another thirty years, but they won't give up.

Also, I would be pro-gun if I would be an American. I'm pro-gun anyway. The seond amendment gives a hint on why this is so important: it's to protect the common perosn against its own government if needed. Governments were never friends of the common people. One should not forget. I'm also pro ownership of automatic weapons, and any other weapon which can be carried as such is the second amendment in my view.

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