With the subject of public opinion trends already discussed in a previous post, we now turn our attention to gun control laws that generally fall under three categories (concealed carry, types firearms or accessories, and restrictions on how one may acquire a gun or possess one). Let’s begin with the effects of gun ownership in general for this post. We will be looking at international comparisons, concealed carry effects, and Kellerman’s fallacy.
Crime Rates and Concealed Carry
This is the most overarching topic in the debate over gun control, and one that the pro-gun side has luckily managed to make amazingly high legal progress in! This comes in the form of both a supreme court case (DC vs. Heller) as well as the state-by-state spread of concealed carry laws in the US over the past couple decades. Here is an excellent GIF that shows the progress year by year of that latter trend:
So what have the effects of gun ownership and concealed carry been on crime rates? Given that both are already widespread, what should we make of critics who say banning such things would put fewer lives at risk? We now turn to international data and data on crime within the United States. Take a look at this image from NoProhibition:
I actually made a post a while back on the DefCad forums in which I mentioned more or less the same things. When using international laws and respective crime rates to make a point about what legislation we ought to pass, it’s pretty typical for people to just quote the raw death rates by firearms alone. Michael Moore did this in “Bowling for Columbine” and Piers Morgan did the same on national TV on more than one occasion. But as the graphic above makes clear, this completely sweeps all sorts of factors that are behind those death counts under the rug.
1. We begin here by adjusting for population differences – the most trivial step of them all. Many official sources like to use per capita rates by using the number of deaths per 100,000 people; fine by me.
2. Next make sure you’re using total homicides by any cause, not just firearms. Someone’s life doesn’t become meaningless just because they were murdered in a manner that didn’t involve the use of a gun.
3. In fact, make sure you really are citing total homicides in a given country. Murders aren’t reported until after they’re solved in the UK – which can be hard to come by. US homicides would also appear to be far lower by that same standard.
4. One important point that I was unaware of until I saw this video is the fact that US crime is centered in mostly large metro cities. With so many more such places in the US, crime rates have far less to do with firearms as a result.
5. Finally, stop using cross-sectional analysis in statistical comparisons. Compare crime rates before and after a given law is passed. Right to carry laws seem to be correlated with reduced crime as they’ve been adopted (see above GIF image).
This last point brings us to the question of data about the US itself. It’s one thing to show that international crime rates do not support the thesis that more gun control means less violent crime. Let me drive that point home even further with this link to Australian crime rates before and after a sweeping gun ban, and this picture:
Now comes a final question regarding what a gun in the home is likely to be used for. You likely have heard a statistic that originated from a man named Arthur Kellermann that says something to the effect of, “A gun in the home is 43 times more likely to be used against yourself or a loved one than to be used in self-defense.” Okay, so he later revised that number to 22 times because he admittedly screwed up, but you get the point.
Variants of this argument still circulate to this day. While the kinds of measurement used in such studies is often flawed to begin with (assuming the only way a gun can be used defensively is to actually kill someone for instance), there is an even bigger flaw. Let the point of this image below sink in for a moment:
The point of this meme is that you could apply Kellermann’s logic to just about anything. Recently people have twisted the logic to say gun ownership puts women at risk because they are more likely to be victimized with a firearm than to use one defensively. Yes, a lawmaker (Democrat) said this to a rape victim. Yet these refer to cases in which someone else (other than the victim) is using the gun. If someone argued that physical force was more likely to be used against women than by women defensively, should we ban all women’s self-defense classes by that logic? In fact, you could argue for banning martial arts classes altogether using the logic of Kellermann’s study.
Any way you look at it, gun ownership can’t be causally tied to an increased personal risk of death. And yes, this is even the case for suicide rates – as we can see in this image of multiple countries of differing gun laws:
As I made clear in the first post of this series, public opinion is increasingly in favor of allowing people to carry concealed firearms. In my next post, I will drill it down to the debate over specific types of firearms and accessories – namely so-called “assault weapons,” magazines that hold “too many” rounds, and even things like suppressors. This is where the general public becomes more divided over various proposals, and it’s important that gun rights activists learn how to put these issues to rest.