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.
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 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.
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.