A Centrist View on Gun Control, Part II

In my first post on gun control, I expressed a total openness to new gun laws. I want to reiterate that point as clearly as I possibly can. I also encouraged my liberal friends to avoid the usual rhetoric and, instead, bring some data to the debate. I remain open to any and all debate and new laws restricting gun use, if someone can show me meaningful data supporting the potential efficacy of such action. Sadly, I have not had any takers on the left.

However, I have seen some data that argue in the opposite direction, namely that more gun control could make the real problem worse. My buddy, Mark, recently posted a link to an article by Howard Nemerov, a former pro civilian disarmament guy. Nemerov’s article is replete with all kinds of data, to which he applies a very strict criterion: none of it can come from the NRA or any other pro-gun source. As in my prior post, I am NOT (I repeat, NOT) advocating Nemerov’s or anyone else’s point of view. I am just plagiarizing some of his data, which I find to be credible given his sourcing criterion.

His article is much longer and data-filled than this post is going to be. There was a lot of interesting stuff in his article and I encourage you to read it, but two data tables really caught my eye. The sources for both are the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. I think we can all agree neither of these organizations has an agenda to increase gun ownership.

The Brady Campaign gives a grade to each state based on the strictness of their gun control laws. A Brady Grade of A typically means a state has very tough gun control laws (e.g., no right to carry) and a grade of F would suggest very lax gun control laws (e.g., easy to obtain a right carry permit). The following table shows the correlation between violent crime rate (per 100,000 population) as a function of Brady Grade.

This table shows an inverse correlation between violent crime rate and strictness of gun control laws

This table shows an inverse correlation between violent crime rate and strictness of gun control laws

It’s obvious from the table what’s troubling me here. The tougher the gun laws (i.e., Brady Grade of A), the HIGHER the violent crime rate. In fact, states with a Brady Grade of A have nearly twice the violent crime rate of states with a Brady Grade of F. I studied enough statistics to understand the difference between correlation and causation, but we clearly have a very high correlation here. If it’s not causative, someone needs to explain why such a strong correlation exists.

I think the following table may shed some additional light and it is the one that really frightens me as we embark on this discussion about gun laws.

This table shows that Blacks are safer in states with looser gun control laws while Whites are safer in states with tighter gun control laws

This table shows that Blacks are safer in states with looser gun control laws while Whites are safer in states with tighter gun control laws

This table shows the Black and Caucasian homicide rates by gunshot as a function of Brady Grade. There are two totally different stories told by these data, but the conclusions are clear and very scary. If you are Black, tighter gun control (i.e., fewer legal guns) means HIGHER homicide rates by firearms. Conversely, if you are White, tighter gun control means LOWER homicide rate by guns (the standard liberal viewpoint).

Again, I do not have the research or data to prove causality in these data, but the correlative implications are really stark and must somehow figure into the gun control debate. Let me just put this out there as provocatively as I can because it is what scares me the most. Here we go. Middle class suburban white folks are outraged by mass murders like Newtown. They should be. We all should be. Their first instinct is to clamor for more gun control. The table above shows that, indeed, these suburban middle class white folks would be safer with tighter gun laws – two times safer from top to bottom, if these data are to be believed.

But, and this is the most provocative part and the one that really bugs me, these same suburban White folks are instinctively not outraged in the least by the real gun problem, which is Black on Black gun violence, mostly in the inner cities. If they were, and if they were looking at the same data I’m looking at, they would categorically be arguing for looser, not tighter, gun laws.

This point is made even more clear by the graph below, which I pulled directly off the CDC website. The firearm homicide rate for non-Hispanic Blacks is 23 times higher than it is for Whites. TWENTY-THREE times. It is 7.2 times higher for Hispanics than it is for Whites. THAT is the real gun violence problem in this country and, unless, liberals are willing to step up to that painful truth, I don’t see how we get anywhere with the gun control discussion.

Blacks are dying by gun violence at 23 times the rate of whites

Blacks are dying by gun violence at 23 times the rate of whites

I know this makes you uncomfortable and it was intended to do so. But, pray tell, how can we have a meaningful discussion about gun control, a discussion I am truly open to, while ignoring these data? Let me repeat them, lest you got lost in the data tables. The firearm homicide rate for Blacks is 23 times higher than for Whites in the United States. Blacks are twice as likely to die by firearm in states with very tight gun control laws than they are in states with looser gun control laws. Whites, conversely, are twice as likely to die by firearm in states with loose gun control laws than in states with tight ones. Therefore, these data suggest that when we middle or upper class suburban White folks argue for more gun control, we are very clearly asking for more safety for ourselves while putting Blacks, who are 23 times more likely to die by gun violence, at much greater risk. Until someone finds the hole in this analysis, I am not willing to solve a problem for Whites at the risk of making the more serious problem for Blacks much worse.

Back to Newtown. It was awful. I remain barely able to speak about it with friends. We need to figure out ways to ensure that the next Newtown doesn’t happen. But, as outraged as I am by Newtown, I am more outraged by Southeast DC, the Southside of Chicago, or the Watts area of LA. I am sickened by the 20 young children who died in Newtown, but I am equally or more sickened by the 21,645 Black people, most of them young men in their prime, who are murdered by guns annually. We simply can’t solve one problem without addressing the other. The data suggest that solving one might make the other worse. We simply can’t do that.

I remain open to dialogue. I remain open to new and stricter gun laws. Please, I just ask the we all look very carefully at the data and not react with emotion or, worse, self interest.


About Bruce Robertson

Bruce Robertson is an amateur writer and professional provocateur
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16 Responses to A Centrist View on Gun Control, Part II

  1. Kelly says:

    Very interesting. Though I would pose this question: why gun control? Or better yet, Why now? Why are we talking about gun control now? Newton. Columbine. People do not want this kind of tragedy to happen again. So, in order to make it stop, which group of people need limited or no access to guns? White males with possible mental health issues. My take on this whole issue is that folks want to keep guns from the people who commit these unspeakable tragedies, but don’t really care much who else can have guns. Period. Your statistics, while compelling, and disturbing, will be swept under the rug. However, if the demographic of the serial shooter changes, folks will lift up the rug and conger out your stats again. Disheartening, I know. We have the chance right now, while people are listening, to bring about real change, to change the odds for young black males in our country. I suspect, however, that the outcome will be a much narrower solution. Mentally ill white males will have a tougher time obtaining guns legally, and that’s all.

    • Kelly, thanks for the comment. If we can enact legislation that makes it harder for mentally ill white males to get guns, without any collatoral damage, that would probably be an OK outcome. But, I doubt that’s what we’ll get. My concern is that liberals will use this tragedy to pursue the civilian disarmament agenda, which is neither practical nor, if you look at the data, necessarily productive. It’s just an agenda. My hope in writing about this stuff in a more balanced way is the engender more open and data-driven dialogue about what the real problems are and what might work to solve them. Sadly, I do agree with your position that the real problems will be swept under the carpet. This remains part of the liberal hypocrisy I have written about in the past.

  2. Mark says:

    Bruce, I am also a data driven person, and therefore am struggling with the issue. In your data on Brady grade versus violent crime, there is really no correlation for grades B, C, and D. So, the correlation is driven by high crime in “A” states, and low crime in “F” states. I suspect that the “A” states have densely populated cities (Massachusetts, New York, California…), and the “F” states are mostly rural and sparsely populated (Wyoming, South Carolina, North Dakota….). So, the “A” states responded to high crime rates in cities with gun laws. This may still say that “local” gun laws have been ineffective in reducing crime. But it is also probably likely that weak gun laws do not decrease crime.

    My gut feel is that extremely strict gun laws are effective at reducing gun violence. But extremely strict gun laws, like those in the UK, are impractical in the US after 300 years of widespread gun ownership.

    • Mark, A few other readers have posited the same hypothesis on these data – namely that they are skewed by selection bias. That is entirely possible and I regret that I don’t have the “data behind the data” to vet this question. But, your question illustrates my broader point. It would be crazy to start randomly enacting new gun laws without a thorough understanding of all the data. One topic I haven’t done much reading on yet is the issue of how many violent crimes/murders are deterred by guns used as self-defense. I’ve linked a long article on the topic, published in the Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology. I haven’t read the whole thing yet, but the upshot of this study suggests that we prevent a lot of violence with guns. Again, it would be insane to enact new gun laws without a thorough study of that dynamic as well.

  3. rodneynorth says:

    We’ve now lived in Boston and Providence for the last 17 years and per Bruce’s pt it does seem that the vast majority of the gun violence is committed by minorities upon other minorities. Also, I recently finished reading a book (“Deer Hunting with Jesus”) but an otherwise staunchly liberal journalist whom Bruce would abhor that had a chapter that supported Bruce’s notion that gun ownership in the cities does seem to prevent more killings (maybe many more) than it causes.
    But with that said I’m not ready to come to a conclusion about this aspect of the gun control debate.
    Further, the pt I’d really like to make is that the assault rifles and/or high-capacity clips that were used in at the Sandy Hook Elementary school, and the ambush of first responders in Webster, NY, and Aurora, and VA Tech, and Columbine don’t seem to play much of a role, if any, in the aforementioned urban gun violence. And certainly people aren’t preventing rapes or armed muggings thanks to having an AR-15 in their purse.

  4. While admitting that I still haven’t read any of the articles that you are citing (sorry – I’ve been on vacation!), I’m a little concerned by how you are going about thinking about this. You have republished some tables that are pretty wide open to interpretation, and disallowed any replies that don’t contain their own tables or data. In my business (French horn performance), we come across very little data regarding gun control – or anything else. I don’t think I know many people, and possibly I know none, who have access to that data. Yet we should be permitted to think and opine about the issue, which is relevant to us all.

    What if this argument were about – to choose an extreme example – children’s access to crack? If the ground rules are that nobody can weigh in without data on the effect of crack on children, with particulars about the breakdown of math and English scores on various standardized tests, then you are disallowing a whole slew of common sense arguments that carry the day. For instance, I don’t want children to smoke crack. Period.

    I understand that you are concerned (back to reality here) about unintended consequences, but it is very hard for me to see what these might be. Are you pointing out, with your charts, that a gun control law might actually lead to an increase in gun violence? I find this hard to believe. Let’s consider a city that has problems with gun violence. How about New York? A city with a vast swath of poverty and basically too many people in too little space, as I know since I used to live there. Such a place has plenty of black on black violence (and plenty of other kinds, too), since there are large numbers of impoverished blacks, lots of drugs, gang activity, etc. So the city enacts gun control measures. It is now a city with gun control that still has way more gun violence than a small town in, say, New Hampshire. The real question is, did the gun control laws lead to lower levels of gun violence over time, or higher levels? The charts you quote do not address this issue, as far as I can tell.

    While I can’t produce such charts myself, I can still think about the issue. I’m having trouble seeing the mechanism by which gun control laws would lead to higher levels of violence. This would presumably be the “unintended consequence” you fear, and I think you are suggesting that the charts you reproduce show would might happen in the face of such laws. Frankly, I’m not buying it. The more guns on the street, the more violence. The more powerful those guns, the more deadly that violence.

    Bad guys will always get guns. We can’t legislate that away, sadly. Good guys with guns (I’m talking citizens, not police) will not stop those bad guys. Frankly, a world in which everyone goes around with guns in case there are bad guys around is not a world I care to inhabit.

    So, I guess I challenge you to tell us HOW gun control could lead to greater violence.

    As for the lone crazy white guy who wants to commit mass murder in a school, that seems a perfect example of the kind of person who would be stopped by gun control laws.

    • “In my business (French horn performance), we come across very little data regarding gun control – or anything else.”

      C’mon Dan, you can do better than that. My profession is every bit as far removed from gun control data as yours. Yours just requires more talent than mine. There’s this neat little thing called the Internet that is replete with data. I have been very careful throughout my 2 posts to acknowledge that there may be other, conflicting data sources. I’ve made it clear we should carefully consider all of them before forming any opinions. But, your approach of “I have no data, but my gut sense is fewer guns means less gun violence, therefore I must be right” is really weak. And, recall that I am NOT opposed to new laws restricting gun purchases.

      The “unintended consequences” you refer to are not obtuse. There is, in fact, a solid amount of data suggesting that armed civil defense is a deterrent to gun violence. From some of my reading, the leading reason that mass murders like the Newtown tragedy end is that the murderer is confronted by someone with a gun. There’s certainly a rationale argument to suggest that we should make it easier for someone to confront him with a gun. In fact, you even state “Bad guys will always get guns.” OK, then why do you find it so important to take guns away from good guys when there is data showing that good guys in fact do stop bad guys. Or, at least deter them. You say that’s not true simply because you want it to not be true. My requirement to come to the debate with data is precisely to avoid that type of legislation-by-gut-feel. It’s too important to get it wrong.

      I’m just baffled by your desire to make laws with nothing more than your innate sense of things vs. knowing what the data actually say, especially when most conservatives I know are absolutely prepared to stiffen gun laws, if it can be done in a way that decreases violence. You won’t even read the articles I have suggested you read that might have data that might change your mind. I have changed my mind dramatically on this topic in the past 5 years to the point that I am very willing to consider new gun laws. Why won’t you even entertain articles and data that might change yours?

      So, in summary, no soup for you. Go get your data and come back later.

  5. Rob says:

    New York City actually has fairly low gun violence. It finished 2012 for example at about 2/3 the total number of murders that Chicago had, despite a population almost 4x higher. This is a fairly widely discussed topic on the “pro-gun” community blogs (yes, there are such things!)

    One thing NYC does that distinguishes it from other cities (ALL other US cities as far as I know) and which is the key: “stop and frisk”. NYPD has wide latitude to randomly stop people and search them for drugs, weapons, etc. They “stop and frisk” blacks at about 4x the rate they do whites, and adjusted for population they stop blacks at about 10x the rate they “stop and frisk” whites. A very high number of black males in NYC have gone to prison for simple possession of a firearm (Plaxico Burress I’m looking at you). The imprisonment rates are down over the last two years though the total number of “stop and frisks” hasn’t changed significantly. It seems people are getting the message.

    To summarize, liberal NYC has controlled gun violence using a method that liberals wouldn’t tolerate if done elsewhere or by non-liberals: blatant racial profiling of black males.

    Just another example of the liberal hypocrisy Bruce has commented on elsewhere. Something to keep in mind when Mayor Bloomberg (with his 7 armed bodyguards) calls for stricter gun control.

  6. I’m finding this a fascinating discussion. I just read the Larry Correia blog post about guns, and I found it remarkably free of political accusation (not totally, but still impressive). Gun control is one of a set of many topics that could be much better debated without assuming that the other side is filled with evil intent. In particular, I am convinced that Mr. Correia cares deeply about safety in our society, and I join him in that.

    One thing that saddens me greatly is the idea that we just have to get used to the fact that our country is filled with violent criminals. I can see the divide opening up here, where half of us say “Given all the criminals, we need citizens to be armed” and the other half of us say, “What are we doing wrong that is creating so many violent criminals?” At that point, each side does its best to demonize the other.

    Our history is certainly filled to the breaking point with crime, killing, horrible acts perpetrated by both governments and individuals. Personally, I hope that there is a better solution than to just arm ourselves and protect our own bailiwicks. On the other hand, I believe that you can’t just deny history. However our country has been in the past, has led to how it is now. Perhaps there is room for some collective action to take charge of our future.

    These mass killings seem always to be committed by people with huge psychological problems (I know that this is tautological). Is there nothing we can do with such people? Is it worth spending money on mental health? This is a problem for conservatives, who don’t want to spend money collectively in such a fashion, but perhaps there could be some give. We’ll all be better off with a better system of mental health care. Costs some money. Count me in.

    Education: if we are have a better educated populace, will we lower crime? I just found in a Google search (yes!) that, according to the Justice Policy Institute, a 5% increase in male graduation rates would lead to a $5 billion annual savings in crime expenses (I don’t know how much that 5% increase would cost us). And 9 out of 10 states with the highest proportion of high school graduates have violent crime rates lower than the national average. This second statistic is not much to cheer about (though it is good), but the first statistic should appeal to people on both sides of the spectrum. My state is cutting way back on education funding, which I think is a mistake. Education is a good investment. Costs some money. Count me in.

    Policing is a good investment, too. When I was living in NY, the crime rate was plunging, and, while nobody knows why for sure, one likely theory is that the Police Commissioner was putting more cops out on the street, and that keeps crime down. In order to do this, you have to pay cops. Again, this seems like a good investment. Can we really not afford these things? I know they cost money. But I’m in.

    Your reader Rob, in his comment above, notes that racial profiling in the stop-and-frisk policy has led to lower crime rates, and adds a dose of criticism to “liberal hypocrisy” in the process. Rob, I don’t know who you are, but I would like to assure you that liberals understand that we are all trying to find the correct demarcation lines between safety and invasiveness. We could lock up all black people in New York on the theory that there’s a lot of crime committed by blacks. We could lock up all Jews, or all men, or all white people. We’d catch a lot of criminals in each scenario. I think we can all agree this would not be the moral thing to do. So I guess I’m saying that a lot of energy is being expended saying the other side is filled with assholes instead of trying to find solutions to the problems which plague us.

    This is why I liked the Correia blog. He sees a problem and a solution. I’m not sure I’m on board with his solution (nor the frisk-and-search solution as it is implemented), but I like the non-accusatory approach.

    My biggest concern, and I thank you (Bruce) for opening up the topic, is the thought that we just have to live with the fact that our society is too rotten to fix, and that arming ourselves is the only way to find some personal safety. Because that is not the kind of world I want to live in. I’m eager to explore basically any idea that leads to a better society.

    • Rob says:

      Dan – I’m Bruce’s boss. Nah, just kidding. I’m merely another one of the millions following this blog. You’re right though, my zing at “liberal hypocrisy” was probably gratuitous, though I squeezed it in since Bruce referenced it in a different blog post.

      Your point about increased policing is a good one – and dare I say a policy loudly advocated by conservatives for close to 50 years. The situation in New York is interesting – as I said before they’re essentially engaged in blatant profiling of black males. If you’re a black male in NYC and you routinely carry a firearm, there is a very good chance you will be caught and sent to jail for it. At some point a NYPD officer will think to himself “there’s a black guy standing there…I’m going to see if he’s carrying a gun”. I’m not sure how many people liberal or otherwise know that’s what’s actually happening.

      To be clear I’m generally in favor of much looser gun laws so I doubt we have much common ground on this topic. I’m merely saying that if a given locality wants gun control to actually prevent crime, NYC’s approach is one of the few that actually works and as such should be examined more closely.

      Your points on mental illness are good and it seems as more people become aware of the issues, would agree with you. I’m not sure at all that conservatives would be opposed to spending money on it. We’re opposed to feel-good legislation that does nothing or actually makes the problem worse (e.g. most gun control laws).

      If I’m not mistaken, the lax policies around mental illness were most heavily put into place during the Carter administration, while the general view that mentally ill people that aren’t a threat to themselves or others should not be institutionalized was part of the 60’s era “soft on crime” nonsense. You may recall a large increase in “homeless” in the early 80’s (which the liberal press loved to blame on Reagan). We now know the vast majority of the homeless are mentally ill or addicted to drugs/alcohol and in a different era, would have been institutionalized. I’m a conservative and would very much support increased spending in this area. Offset of course by large cuts elsewhere!

      • Hey, we’re working this out on my cousin’s blog! That’s fun. Let’s agree that, whoever’s fault it was letting drug addled loonies out of their facilities, it’s worth paying tax money to get them back in. I think you’ll even agree that it’s worth spending a little extra to have these facilities NOT be Midnight Express style torture houses, but real medical facilities that have a prayer of helping people.

        We can agree that “feel-good legislation,” as you call it, is pointless. Laws shouldn’t be passed unless they help society. No brainer, right?

        We can agree that we want to live in safe cities. Another no-brainer. I’m guessing that, even though you say you are “in favor of much looser gun laws,” that you don’t mean people should be shooting each other over who picks up the check at the restaurant. I suspect that you don’t favor a might-makes-right society where the biggest gun or the best shot gets his way. It sounds like what you think is that allowing people to carry guns will make people safer, not less safe.

        If all this is true, then we reduce an insoluble political problem to a few questions that may be able to be resolved. One: how can we let people have guns but not let them fire them unless they have to? We know that you can’t legislate good judgment into people, so we’ll really have to think this through. Two: is there anything we can do to keep guns out of the hands of people who do NOT have the judgment to use them properly? That includes future criminals, people with a screw loose, and so on. Three: can we beef up our policing without violating people’s rights so as to make cities safe places where the police aren’t feared (or aren’t feared by one targeted group)?

        It seems to me that we need a real regulatory structure here (if we’re going to allow guns). I’m wondering – and I have to say that guns scare the shit out of me, so I’m only considering the case where we decide guns are here to stay, which seems likely – if our beloved Congress is up to figuring out how to balance the rights of people defending themselves with the rights of people not wanting to get shot. Let’s agree that Republicans are going to have to get behind some kind of regulation, and Democrats are going to have to get behind a realistic view of what’s facing us.

        I’ll also add that something about our society is VERY sick when we have so many mass shootings. It might behoove us to look into this.

  7. Rob says:

    Dan, nice to “meet” you, so to speak. Once we’re done with guns we should spend time badmouthing Bruce!

    Now we’re wandering back into ground Bruce covered in his initial post: let’s look at the data. The trend towards “must issue” laws in states (laws that clearly define what people can not obtain a concealed weapons permit – thus removing discretion from county sheriffs or state AG’s that were abusing that authority – denying permits to their political opponents, that sort of thing) started in the early 90’s. I remember when the Virginia legislature was weighing the legislation the anti-gun crowd was full of all sorts of hysterical predictions – people shooting it out over fender benders, that sort of thing. It was actually both revealing and a tad depressing to learn what people really think of their fellow citizens. Anyway, so we now have close to 20 years of data on what loosened gun laws will lead to and drumroll please…no increase and in many cases a decrease in gun crimes. Being a data guy, I freely concede that there could be numerous other causes leading to a decrease, but it is clear that the loosening did not lead to an INCREASE.

    There are now something like 37 states with “must issue” laws, one state with no law against carrying a concealed weapon (Vermont), and most have reciprocity. I have a Florida concealed weapons permit and that allows me to also carry a concealed weapon in: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

    So to answer your question of “how can we let people have guns but not let them fire them unless they have to?” This really gets to a fundamental difference between liberals and conservatives – the almost reflexive liberal desire that other people be managed or told what to do/not do. I would suggest we assume people will behave responsibly and leave them alone. The data clearly show that people with no criminal history tend to stay that way. When applying for my Florida permit, I had to attend a full day class which mostly covered what you’re allowed and not allowed to do (e.g. waving a gun to win a verbal argument constitutes “brandishing” and is a felony), demonstrate that I could load, fire, and unload a gun, then wait while the state did a background check. I have no criminal record nor history of mental illness, so there was no reason to not allow me to carry a concealed weapon. I’ve had the permit for 3 years and have yet to commit a violent crime – which the data could have predicted: very few people reaching the age of 40 without a criminal record will subsequently become criminals.

    I would also disagree that we need a regulatory structure, certainly at the federal level. If the history of federal regulation has demonstrated anything at all, its that the regulators can be counted on to botch their job. Exhibit A would be the mortgage debacle, Exhibit B would be the 9/11 hijackers receiving their visas AFTER the hijacking. An entity that annually spends $1 trillion more than it takes in should absolutely NOT be trusted with additional tasks or authority.

    To your last point about mass shootings: its not clear that we have more than we used to. Mass shootings are so infrequent as to be statistical anomalies. They’re certainly news worthy, but when looking at the data as a whole, they’re statistically insignificant. Did you know that the weekend after Sandy Hook 16 people were shot to death in Chicago, a number of them juveniles? Why wasn’t that national news? Because most were one at a time, or because in all 16 cases the victims and the suspected perpetrators were blacks?

    • Hi Rob,

      I had to take a break from gun control, but I’m back. You say, “I would suggest we assume people will behave responsibly and leave them alone. The data clearly show that people with no criminal history tend to stay that way.” So perhaps we can agree, you and I, and perhaps Bruce as well, that finding out whether people have a criminal history when they want to buy a gun is of paramount importance. And while that is being checked, any psychotic episodes would also be relevant. So, even though you and Bruce are purely data driven, can you agree that we should get rid of the loophole on background checks at gun shows and in private sales?

      I agree with you that these mass killings are anomalies compared to the regular slaughter in, say, Chicago. Nonetheless, I would be very interested in preventing them, as well as preventing black-on-black inner city murder. I am sorry, but I remain unconvinced by data that show that gun violence rises when gun control is instituted. For instance, imagine a scenario (Bruce hates it when I do this!) where gun violence is on the rise in your city, for whatever reason. So, the state or even the city government passes gun control regulations. Meanwhile, does gun violence immediately drop? Of course not. It continues to rise, since your city is saturated with weapons and with poverty, which is a dangerous mix. So your data the next year show a correlation between gun control and the rise of gun violence. QED, gun control does not work.

      The real problem, as far as I’m concerned, is that there are too many weapons in the hands of too many bad guys. I just don’t see arming the rest of us as the solution. And I’m not in the least persuaded that increased gun control leads to increased gun violence, because statistics are so easy to interpret any way you want. On the other hand, I AM persuaded that things like gun-free school zone posters are counter-productive. I understand that huge ammo clips are not that hard for private citizens to manufacture, but making them illegal might discourage people from doing it even though it’s not that hard.

      Furthermore, I’m not going to argue that gun control will solve our problems right away, or at all. I’m looking to reduce gun violence as a realistic alternative to eliminating gun violence.

  8. Rob says:

    Hi Dan, welcome back. You say “can you agree that we should get rid of the loophole on background checks at gun shows and in private sales?” Sure happy to…as soon as you produce some data on how many crimes are committed with guns bought at gun shows or private sales as well as some evidence that banning them will help. Remember, what you’re proposing creates additional tasks for over-burdened and generally incompetent governments (regulating and tracking the sales) and imposes restrictions on law-abiding people. For me to be in favor of that there needs to be a clear benefit.

    In your 2nd paragraph I think you’re confusing correlation with causation. I don’t think either Bruce or I argued that gun violence increases when gun control is instituted. I argued that gun control has been repeatedly shown to be ineffective. There are too many variables at play to be able to isolate the effect gun control has on gun violence: average age of the relevant population, racial makeup of the relevant population, frequency of other sorts of crimes, severity of punishment for various crimes, etc. But when a given state/city/municipality institutes gun control (i.e. you introduce a single variable to an existing situation) and it doesn’t work, it’s safe to assume the introduced variable is ineffective. It’s much easier to show what something does not do than to determine what CAUSES something.

    I’d agree with your 3rd paragraph and would add that in most cases we know either who the bad guys are or who they’re more likely to be. We choose not to act on that information for a variety of reasons, some good and some bad. Well, unless you’re Mayor Bloomberg, then you just stop-and-frisk blacks at hugely disparate rates and pack them off to prison for carrying guns. I’m not sure why the liberal-o-sphere gives him a pass on that. My belief is they don’t shrilly protest about Bloomberg’s policies because lots of them live in NYC and benefit from the policy. I also believe that the liberal-o-sphere would go berserk if say, Chicago instituted a similar policy.

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  10. Pingback: Gun Control – I Told You So | Bruce's Blog (til I come up with a catchier name)

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