Gun Control Laws and Homicide Rates -- Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics

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In most discussions of gun control, the question arises, "Do gun control laws make us safer or not?" The argument usually goes that, where there are fewer firearms, there are few homicide by firearm, and fewer suicides by firearms. The assumption is then made that gun control laws result in fewer guns in the population, ergo, there will be fewer homicides and suicides committed by firearms. (Since the point is to look for negative correlations between gun control laws and homicide and suicide rates, the studies usually neglect to look at the rates of homicides and suicides committed by other means.)

In my research, I came across a paper published in the Journal of Community Health 29.4 (August 2004) by James H. Price, Amy J. Thompson and Joseph A. Dake entitled "Factors associated with state variations in homicide, suicide, and unintentional firearm deaths."

This paper indicates that, when all other factors are held constant, the presence of gun control laws actually has a positive correlation with firearms homicide rates.

Firearm Homicide Death Rates

Prior to adjusting, several state-level variables were significantly associated with age-adjusted firearm homicide death rates (Table 1). Percent of state population that was African American (r = .752), the violent crime rate (other than homicide) (r = .679), and firearm prevalence (r = .422) were the most strongly positively correlated with firearm homicide death rates. Neither the combination of all gun laws nor any of the gun law categories were significantly associated with homicide death rates.

In order to investigate the individual relationship between each of these variables and firearm homicides, partial correlation coefficients were calculated. The partial correlations were adjusted for each of the other variables in the table. After adjusting for the other variables, the percent African American variable was still significantly related (r = .491) although much less strongly. The prevalence of firearms in the state also remained significant with a stronger relationship found (r = .516). In fact, over 50% of the variation of firearm homicides from state to state was associated with the prevalence of firearms (27%) and the proportion of the population that was African American (24%). After controlling for potentially confounding variables, it was found that the combination of gun laws was significantly positively associated with homicide death rates (r = .311). The gun control laws were associated with 10% of the variation in firearm homicide rates. None of the individual categories of gun laws were found to be significantly related.

(COPYRIGHT 2004 Plenum Publishing Corporation)

This result, that the presence of gun control laws correlates to higher homicide rates, may seem surprising to some people. There are several explanations. The first is that the r=.311 figure is a partial correlation coefficient, with means all other factors are held constant. In other words, if the rate of firearms ownership were the same, the states with gun control laws would have higher firearms homicide rates. The contention, however, is that gun control laws reduce the prevalence of firearms. (Anecdotal evidence indicates that this has not been the case in D.C.) The unadjusted coefficient is -0.062, which, while negative, is statistically insignificant. So even if the prevalence of firearms is reduced, the homicide-by-firearms rate is not significantly reduced by the existence of gun control laws.

The second possible explanation is that cause and effect are reversed, that more firearms homicides spur lawmakers to enact gun control laws, but those laws have not been in force long enough to take effect. Again, however, the evidence is against that theory. When the draconian gun control laws went into effect in D.C., the rate of homicides by firearms did decrease immediately and markedly. Unfortunately, the black markets quickly filled the void, and the criminals became well armed while the populace was disarmed. Furthermore, we have seen murder rates (and the rates of all other violent crimes) go down markedly with the passage of concealed-carry laws.

A third explanation is that gun control laws are ignored by criminals, so the bad guys have guns and the good guys don't.

In the final analysis, the existence of gun control laws seems to do more harm than good.

























Correlation Coefficients of State-Level Firearm Homicide Deaths by Selected Potential Risk Factors
Potential Risk FactorsPearson
Correlation
Coefficients
(Crude
Correlations)
Partial
Correlation
Coefficients
(Adjusted
Correlations)
Firearm Prevalence 0.422 *** 0.516 ****
Number of Firearm Dealers -0.198 -0.085
Race
....Percent African American 0.752 **** 0.491 ****
....Percent Hispanic 0.160 0.112
Presence of Gun Laws (combined) -0.062 0.311 **
....Crime Deterrence Laws -0.040 0.239
....Government Control Laws -0.192 -0.123
....Possession Laws -0.030 0.220
....Safety Laws -0.115 0.041
....Sales Restrictions Laws 0.056 0.061
Per Capita Alcohol Consumption -0.080 0.033
Level of Urbanization 0.079 0.186
Violent Crime Rate (other than homicide) 0.679 **** 0.267 *
Socioeconomic Status
....Poverty Rate 0.389 *** -0.016
....Unemployment Rate 0.236 * 0.085
....Percent College Graduate -0.311 ** -0.032


Note: Partial correlation coefficients are controlled for each of the other variables identified. Firearm homicide death rates are age adjusted rates.
* p [less than or equal to] 0.10;
** p [less than or equal to] 0.05;
*** p < 0.01;
**** p < 0.001.

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19 Comments

stay puft said:

not bad. you've clearly become smarter as a result of our discussions. I'll look that article up and respond as soon as I get a minute.

for now let me just point to one issue I don't agree with; the idea that people need guns because criminals will have them anyway. It's a bit of a cop out.

in the DC example, the bottom line is that when there were fewer guns in the city, there was a drop in *crime* rates (not just gun crimes). the rate increased when guns made it back into the city.

jacob said:

Marshmallow,
The possession of a firearm is an innate right as listed in our constitution. People should not need to demonstrate a 'need' to own a gun. So I agree, it is a cop out; as a 'need' for ownership is not necessary. The 2nd amendment is not about hunting rights.

I will say that probably criminals do not like breaking into homes when the owner _might_ be armed. So I could imagine that there is an inherent deterrence value to the responsible citizenry being armed.

Jack said:

It is not that criminals have guns, puffalump, but that there are criminals at all. How do you propose my mother should protect herself against criminals? What weapon would you allow her to use that would put her on an equal footing with a criminal?

As I have stated many times, the violent crime rate in Canada is twice as high as it is here. The rate of occupied-home break-ins is over four times the U.S. rate. The Canadian criminals do not fear an armed victim.

One other thing, if we allow the government to take away our right to keep and bear arms, how will we be able to keep them from taking all the others?

G.Stone said:

Fact- Gun Control has NEVER worked and NEVER will.It is fundmentally flawed. Gun Control sets logic and reason on its ear.
The evidence is endless.
Anyone suggesting that Gun Control works is just wrong.

They can close their eyes, click their heels together and pray for it to be different, but it will never happen. The facts are the facts.
Gun Control is a failed public policy and too sing its praise is a complete waste of time, energy and breath.

gstone

Jack said:

Non-sense, G. Gun control HAS worked. It worked in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, red China, Great Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and Australia.

The problem is that you think the purpose is to reduce crime. It is not. The purpose of gun control is to disarm the sheeple, so that they are both dependent upon the government for protection, and impotent when the government takes away the rest of their rights.

stay puft said:

hey, I didn't say the gov. should take guns away. Just that fewer guns = less violent crime. So, if we're determined to stick to this novel experiment of having practically unrestricted access to HANDguns, we (collectively, ie. the government) should take measures to reduce the negative effects of that policy. First of all, a handgun should cost $1,500. Not only would that reduce the demand for guns (ie, you can have one, if you really want one)

The extra thousand or so dollars should go to police gun buy-back programs in high crime areas. you give $100, $50 per gun, you could remove 10-20 unregistered guns. think of it, +1 legit gun, -10 illegit guns. People should be free to exercise their constitutional rights, but I'm sure you'll all agree that freedom isn't free...

I don't know Jack, how would your mother defend herself when she rounds a corner and finds a gun in her face and a guy saying, "give me your purse" I guess it depends on how fast a draw she is.

most gun control types are honestly concerned with public safety, and do not have secret designs to erode other rights (and visa versa)

on the other hand, I understand that when when the feds roll into NOVA with their M1s and AH64s and A10s and all that, your 9mms are going to be your weapons of choice, and I would not want to see an outright ban on handguns. But unregistered guns begin with someone legally purchasing it. It's either stolen or sold to some black market types, and it gets into the wrong hands. Getting guns out of the wrong hands requires resources, namely money.

So if you or your mother wants a gun, that's great. We don't question that she should pay for the metal in the gun, the craftsmanship, the technology. She should also pay for the risk that her decision puts on the rest of society.

stay puft said:

ok, in a sense I did say the gov. should take guns away (namely the unregistered ones) I didn't say that guns should be outlawed, or that the 2nd amendment should be overturned

Dan said:

Requiring gun registration and taking away those that aren't registered is not taking away the 2nd amendment ?

Taking away your unregistered porno is abridging your 1st amendment rights, but taking away someone else's unregistered gun isn't an infringement on their 2nd ?

Yes, this is a well thought out position..

Gun control, types are NOT concerned with safety. They are concerned with the ILLUSION of safety. Sacrificing those many thousands of folks who defend themselves from crime each year with the lawful use of a lawful firearm is a sacrifice they are willing to make to help foster that illusion. Of course, as long as it is someone else who is the victim...

Crime is the leading cause of gun ownership, not the inverse.

Devin P said:

Quote, "First of all, a handgun should cost $1,500. Not only would that reduce the demand for guns (ie, you can have one, if you really want one)"

Wow. I like how raising the price of guns will really only affect law-abiding citizens.

Interestingly, there is no solid plan presented, only an idea, and a poor one at that. Why do I say poor idea? Result: Instant black market for cheap guns for criminals.

Here's an example: Why don't we legalize drugs, and make the price of cocaine $500/gram?

Result: Instant black market for cocaine.

This idea to artificially inflate the price of guns, ostensibly as a 'tax' is about as dumb as making bullets illegal. Criminals can still get them, there are reloading kits available. Jeez.

A machinist can make a serviceable weapon for less than $1500, and now you've just created a market.

Duh.

Here's a better idea: If you really want to increase the price of guns, you need to increase demand. This can be done through implementation of a firearm education program, showing the public how crime would drop if we put MORE weapons in the hands of law-abiding citizens.

Duh.

stay puft said:

Dan

"Requiring gun registration and taking away those that aren't registered is not taking away the 2nd amendment ?"

No. (see "yelling 'fire!' in a crowded theatre"

"Gun control, types are NOT concerned with safety. They are concerned with the ILLUSION of safety. Sacrificing those many thousands of folks who defend themselves from crime each year with the lawful use of a lawful firearm is a sacrifice they are willing to make to help foster that illusion. Of course, as long as it is someone else who is the victim..."

bullshit.

Devin,

you don't seem to understand. Apparently there already is a black market for guns. example; the current situation in DC. Guns are purchased legally and either sold on the black market or are bought legally and stolen and end up on the black market. either way, those guns that "end up in the wrong hands" start their journey there by being purchased legally.

so the fewer guns are purchased legally, the fewer will find their way to the black market

additionally, if guns are taxed, and the money goes to remove unregistered guns, that the tax will play two roles: reducing the demand for guns (and by extension the # of them that get to the black market) and funding programs to reduce the current number of guns on the black makret (through buy-backs, etc.)

as I said, guns are purchased legally first, and end up on the black market. The more guns on the black market, the more dangerous our society is. So when an individual makes the decision to purchase a gun, society bares the risk that that gun could end up on the black market. solution: you want to buy a gun, you can pay for efforts to reduce the risk that society incurs as a result of your decision.

Jack said:

"you want to buy a gun, you can pay for efforts to reduce the risk that society incurs as a result of your decision."

Haven't you been paying attention, puffy? Did you even read the post? Guns in society REDUCE the violent crime rate. Not much, but it is there. Thus, by your logic, people's gun purchases should be SUBSIDIZED, or those who do NOT buy a gun should be taxed.

Sanity said:

Stay Puft,

You don't understand Republican logic. Let me help:

1. Giving everyone a big, fat, super-blaster firearm will ELIMINATE gun deaths!

2. Reducing taxes to zero will give us a huge SURPLUS!

3. Learning everything from one, 2000-year old book, and ignoring our smartest people will make us BRILLIANT!

4. Kicking out 12,000,000 people that want to be here and work hard, and adding 1,000,000 unwanted (almost all poor) children each year will make us WEALTHIER!

If this doesn't clear it up, then you obviously just don't get it. Sorry.

Jack said:

inSanity:

1) Go to the follow-up post, you will see that the variations in gun possession account for only 4% of the variance in violent crime, and 0.07% of the variance in murders.

2) Eliminating capital gains taxes and corporate income taxes would have a tremendous positive effect, yes. So would replacing the income tax with a sales tax.

3) Those are the Islamists, and it's not that old.

4) That's one million PER YEAR. If the children murdered since Roe v. Wade were alive, there would be plenty of workers without the unlawful aliens.

ACTivist said:

Jack,

Who is putting up all this money so that the "almost all poor" can have these abortions? I was of the understanding that most abortions were happening to the middle/upper middle and above classes that don't have time for kids because it would upset there career goals.

Also, these 12 million (closer to 20 but who has taken count) people (what he meant to say was illegal aliens) that want to stay here and work hard; where is he getting this information? Did he poll them all or just listen to the spinsters spinning their garbage?

Dan said:

"1. Giving everyone a big, fat, super-blaster firearm will ELIMINATE gun deaths!"

No more so than universal healthcare will cure all illness.

MARJORIE said:

WHAT I FAIL TO SEE WRIITEN HERE IS THE BASIC RIGHT OF ALL AMERICANS

THE RIGHT TO BEAR ARMS.

GUN SAFETY IS THE OWNERS PRIORITY. IF YOU OWN A GUN, LEARN TO USE IT. FIND A GUN RANGE TAKE LESSONS. FIND A RANGE THAT RENTS WEAPONS SO YOU CAN TRY A VARIETY BEFORE YOU JUST PURCHASE ONE.

IF YOU ARE UNCOMFORTABLE WITH A FIREARM DO NOT OWN ONE. PERIOD

ALL OF YOU OUT THERE THAT ARE ANTI-GUN, LEAVE THOSE THAT OWN A WEAPON ALONE: RESPECT OUR RIGHT TO OWN ONE.

THE GUN DOES NOT FIRE BY ITSELF. IT TAKE A PERSON
TO USE IT. SO REMEMBER THAT WHEN YOU SAY GUNS ARE BAD, SO ARE KNIVES, ROPES, SAWS, BASEBALL BALL BATS ETC. THEY ALL REQUIRE A PERSON TO USE THEM.

MARJORIE said:

OOOOOOOOOP'S BEAR...CORRECTION BARE...YO BOO BOO SAID YOGI

Linda B said:

Marjorie, I was with you the first time. I agree with the right to bear arms. I cannot, however, get on board with the right to bare arms. Some people absolutely should be required to cover them up.

MARJORIE said:

LINDA,

I MUST HAVE HAD A BAD DAY FOR SPELLING. THANKS FOR THE LAUGH.......BUT YOU ARE CORRECT.

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