Kevin Jersey of the Los Angeles Valley College Valley Star has decided to grace us with his thoroughly researched, amply foot-noted fact-based analysis of campus shootings and the broader question of “gun violence”. Or not. “Early this month, seven people were killed at Oikos University in Oakland, Calif. A former nursing student, upset that he had been expelled, entered a classroom, told the students to line up against the wall and opened fire. Each of the seven deaths from that day is tragic. But just as tragic is the fact that thousands of Americans are killed each year by guns and nothing is being done about it. This must change.” . . .

What was tragic was that those seven people, disarmed by law and policy, and disinclined by education and training to defend themselves, stood like sheep waiting to be slaughtered. As long as our campuses remain Victim Disarmament Zones, as long as we continue to teach our children that all violence, even that used in self-defense, is bad and as long as the mentally ill are with us, there will continue to be these sorts of mass murders, and people like you will continue to bleat that the people who didn’t do it should be disarmed.

As for the thousands of Americans … killed each year actually there is something being done about it; the roughly 17,850 murders each year (11,800 of which are committed with firearms) are investigated by police and, when caught, perpetrators are prosecuted and frequently incarcerated.

The Second Amendment of the Constitution guarantees the right to bear arms, and Americans have taken full advantage of this right. There are currently around 270 million guns in America, nearly one for every person in this country. That is despite the fact that guns are created for only one purpose: to kill.

Yes it does guarantee that right, and yes we have and do take full advantage of it. But no, guns are not created solely to kill, they are created to threaten or utilize deadly force, but they are used far more often to save lives than they are used to criminally take them. Even if that were not the case, however, I would remind you that the freedom to own and carry the weapon of your choice is a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and Constitutional right — subject neither to the democratic process nor to arguments grounded in social utility.[1]

Guns have killed an average of more than 32,000 people per year over the past three decades, according to a report from the Firearm & Injury Center at the University of Pennsylvania. That’s almost a million lives that could have been saved if guns weren’t so easily available.

Actually no, people have used firearms to commit homicide an average of 13,450 times a year (according to the CDC’s WISQARS) between 1981 and 2009; they have similarly used firearms to commit suicide 17,600 times a year. Since, however, repeated studies have shown that suicide rates are independent of means, you can’t blame guns for suicides (see chart). That brings your a million lives number down to a little over 400,000.

Yes, almost half a million murders are nothing to boast about, but, oddly enough, over the last three decades gun ownership has been going up while homicide rates have been going down. If gun availability were some sort of causative factor, we should be seeing murder rates on the rise. The below graphics, one comparing U.S. handgun supply to murder and suicide and the second comparing murder rates to gun ownership rates pretty well puts a stake in the idea that they correlate.

Advocates argue that guns are necessary for self-defense and that they have a right to protect themselves and their property. Yet, a study from the American Journal of Public Health shows areas with higher rates of gun ownership have significantly higher rates of gun fatalities.

Now the Journalist’s Resource mentions such a study, (but since Kevin is not specific I am unable to verify that it is the one he is citing) and as they point out, the authors do not provide any information about causation and as the antis are so wont to remind us (especially when Dr. Lott’s work is being discussed) correlation does not equal causation. In addition, since they were unable to get data on specific states’ gun ownership rates they used a “proxy” value:

At the state level, published data on reported household gun ownership are available for only a nonrandom sample of 21 states. To analyze all 50 states, we used a proxy for household firearm ownership: the fraction of all suicides in a state that involve a firearm, referred to hereafter as FS/S.

Not being a statistician I am unable to judge whether this is a valid proxy, but one problem leaps immediately to mind: States with low overall gun ownership tend to be those where it is difficult and expensive to get a gun, so when someone in such a state is looking for a method of committing suicide 1) they may well not think about using a gun because they don’t have one and aren’t used to the idea of having them and 2) because it is difficult and expensive to get a gun.

Aha! shrieks my inner anti; tough gun laws do save lives! To which I must point out that repeated studies have shown that overall suicide rates are independent of method. Just because guns are hard to get doesn’t mean someone is going to give up on the idea, they are just going to use a different method.

Additionally, people carrying guns are no less likely to be injured during a crime than unarmed people. In fact, guns increase crime rates rather than bring them down. For every person killed by a gun, more than 35 others are victims of a crime that involved a gun, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

Again that is simply not true: As stated in Gun Facts ver. 6.0 (quoting the British Home Office):

You are far more likely to survive a violent assault if you defend yourself with a

gun. In episodes where a robbery victim was injured, the injury/defense rates were:

Resisting with a gun 6%
Did nothing at all 25%
Resisted with a knife 40%
Non-violent resistance 45%

And for every person killed by a gun-wielding thug, at least two peoples’ lives are saved (see here for the analysis). Which, again, is completely immaterial because, the freedom to own and carry the weapon of your choice is a natural, fundamental, and inalienable human, individual, civil, and Constitutional right — subject neither to the democratic process nor to arguments grounded in social utility.[2]

People are killed at work, at home and, like those at Oikos University, even at school. These are places that are supposed to be sanctuaries of safety, free from danger; but, as long as people continue to carry guns, no place is ever completely safe. Since the infamous 1999 Columbine massacre, there have been more than 170 deaths in school shootings—including 32 at Virginia Tech in 2007. And, as tragic proof that not enough is being done to eradicate campus gun violence, two more people were killed at Virginia Tech in 2011.

I agree, people are killed in all of those places. And what characteristic does every (with the exception of Tucson) mass casualty shooting in the U.S. share? They were all committed in supposedly gun free zones. You have it exactly backwards Kevin; as long as law-abiding people are prevented from carrying guns, no place is ever completely safe. As for the “two people” who were killed at VA Tech last year, one was a cop killed from ambush and the other was the shooter who suicided, and, let me point out, the school was still a “GFZ”.

Despite all this, gun advocates adamantly oppose any kind of gun regulation. The National Rifle Association pushes laws like Florida’s controversial “Stand Your Ground” law, which famously led to the killing of Trayvon Martin in February.

No, not “despite all this” rather because of all this. You cann’t blame “SYG” for the Trayvon Martin shooting. First because the law did not change the circumstances under which deadly force is authorized, it merely removed the duty to retreat. Second, I think the bashing George Zimmerman’s head on the concrete probably had more to do with it that SYG.

Politicians are quick to lend their support, with presidential candidate Mitt Romney speaking at the NRA’s annual convention last Friday to assure gun owners that he’s on their side.

Obviously Kevin did not listen to Mitt’s speech. He did practically nothing to try and convince the people there that he was on our side in the civil rights battle, he just said he wasn’t Obama.

They continue to believe the solution to gun violence is to have more guns when, in fact, the opposite is true. Quite simply, if there are guns around, they are going to be used to kill people.

Mine must be defective. I’ve had guns around for more than a decade and haven’t killed anyone yet (although my landlady did use one to put down her dog). And again, your assumptions are not supported by the facts. As Dr. Lott pointed out in this piece:

Among peer-reviewed national studies by criminologists and economists, 18 find that right-to-carry laws reduce violent crime, 10 claim no effect, and just one claims one type of crime temporarily increases slightly. The possibility that permit holders might lead to more crime is easily evaluated by looking at how incredibly law-abiding they are, with them losing their permits for any firearms-related violations (usually trivial ones) at hundredths or thousandths of 1 percentage point.

Did you catch that Kevin? Permit holders are losing their permits at the rate of hundredths or thousandths of a percent.

This is a violent country, but it doesn’t have to be. Fewer people should have guns, and there should be fewer guns available. Laws making it easier for people to obtain guns are the cause and not the solution to the problem of gun violence. And until people realize this, no one will be truly safe.

Actually this is not a particularly violent country; with the exception of murder, violent crime in the UK and Australia are significantly higher than in the U.S. and since our non-firearm homicide rate is also much higher than theirs you can’t blame the guns for our homicide rate. Laws making it easier for people to get and carry guns just plain don’t increase crime (see above about the 28 studies). I know it is counterintuitive, but complex systems often react counterintuitively, that’s why people do studies and publish their results.

And that’s why journalists should do some research before opening their ill-informed yaps.

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24 Responses to Higher Education Analysis of the Day: Blame the Guns

  1. The argument “there will always – always – be guns in this country and legal methods of owning them” is a profoundly powerful one; sadly it’s one I’ve never really considered in the past.

    If you accept that premise and you accept the premise that folks can go bonkers or make stupid decisions at any time, then you accept that sooner or later, on sheer probability alone, you’re going to have some whacko with a gun.

    The whacko doesn’t care about the law. The whacko doesn’t have to think rationally. The whacko isn’t bound by the same morals and ethics we expect others to run on. The whacko is dangerous.

    Based on what we know so far – eventually, there will be a dangerous whacko with a gun and there’s nothing Brady, Bloomberg, and all the rest can do about it – what do you want to do about it? I see only two somewhat reasonable solutions:

    1) Have police/military everywhere to deal with the potential threats. I’m sure this is appealing to the folks we don’t need to appeal to but for reasons that don’t need to be explained to the sane among us this plan is unfeasible.

    2) Have more folks legally armed – by merely allowing them to exercise their constitutional rights without restrictions.

    (There’s a third option, of course – do nothing – but I’m discounting that entirely.)

    Which of these two options would you choose?

    I’d love to see some liberal responses to that.

  2. I agree that in America, there has been no increase in crime when the number of guns has increased ( probably true almost everywhere, but I don’t want some to bring up Somalia or a war zone). The one area that there might be a connection between guns and a negative outcomes is in some types of suicides. At our local university, there have been a number of suicides over the past two years. I know that three of these deaths came about when the young men were rather inebriated. I am not sure (and no one can be) that these three would have taken their own lives had there not been the combination of a depressant and a firearm. Thomas Joiner’s work, Why People Die By Suicide, argues that a threshold must be breached if one is to commit suicide. A person, who might not in normal frame of mind commit suicide, might well kill himself when drinking because it both increases the depressive feelings and the inhibitions that come from natural desire of self preservation. I know that the numbers of suicides have been going down, according to the chart in the article, but I am just saying that there might well be one type of suicide that would not happen if a firearm was present.

    Dan, I am not sure if you noticed an earlier comment, but Clinton did not say “urban area.” That quotation was a generalization of what Clinton said, written by the AP reporter. Clinton said “Chicago,” which might be a racist code word, but I don’t think so.

  3. We should be proud of Kevin. He validates everything we believe about the American university system.

    No wonder trade school grads are employed and liberal arts grads are not.

    • Indeed.

      When I dispense advice, observations and wisdom from a successful career to kids today, I try to show them with actual numbers the financial ruin that can befall them for taking the much-favored road to a useless liberal arts degree.

      Seeing as how so many liberal arts majors have made poor choices by not examining the numbers that would predict their own lives of indentured servitude to student loan lenders, I find any use of numbers they make to advance any political position to be highly suspect.

    • That’s my story. After graduating high school all it took was one year of community college before I said screw that. I enrolled in the IBEW local 640 apprenticeship and ended up making decent money while learning a trade and not accruing ridiculous amounts of loans. It was tough. I’d work 8 to 10 hours outside in the Phoenix summer wearing 15 lbs. of tool belt then have a few hours of class after that before I could go home and rest. It’s through the blood and sweat of tradesmen that these academics have a place to spout their idiocy.

      Every chance I get I espouse the merits of the trades. When real estate tanks, internet jobs dry up, retail is down etc. there will almost always be construction and remodels. If times are tough a fella can usually make the bills pulling smaller side jobs which I know from experience. Big shops will charge stupid amounts of money for small jobs which means I can walk in, make $30 an hour and still save the client money. And yes, side jobs are prohibited for union members which is one of the many reasons I parted with the union. I didn’t much like paying dues while bills piled up when I was out of work.

      This guy is yet another in a long list of academic schmucks more in tune with school books and theory than the real world.

  4. I am qualified to criticize statistical methods, and I assure you that the fraction of suicides that use a firearm is a terrible proxy. Using a gun is a predominantly male means of suicide, which means it could be affected by anything that influenced the relative rate of male suicide. This problem is worse when it’s used to look at the effect of guns on crime because both male suicide and crimes committed by men, which is most crime, could be driven by the same factors.

    • Indeed.

      I knew two men who, late in life and suffering from cancer, killed themselves with firearms. They weren’t ever the sort of people one would have expected to kill themselves, but their conditions got to a point where the pain was overwhelming them, and thanks to our obsessive “war on drugs,” no doctor would write them a prescription for the level of pain killers that would have eased their last months of suffering.

      At some point, they couldn’t withstand the pain, so they each up and shot themselves, one with a shotgun to the chest, the other with a .22 under the jaw. Their decisions were completely understandable, and in light of their circumstances, attempts to prevent them access to guns to “lower the suicides from guns” could be seen as cruel. They were going to die soon anyway, that was certain. The use of a gun in their circumstances is a footnote, and attempts by gun banners to use suicides like this for their agenda smacks of savage hypocrisy.

      • I feel for those two men I do. While taking your own life, and in this instance it was with good reason, they were not breaking laws or hurting anyone else. While I am sure it is a loss for their families, they were not criminals. Using the statistics for suicide doesn’t really apply as to whether or not banning guns makes sense.
        I can’t imagine being in their positions how ever I hope the found peace and comfort in the end.

      • Had a prominent lawyer aquaintence who commited suicide with a .38 revolver to the head. He was dying of cancer.

  5. “But just as tragic is the fact that thousands of Americans are killed each year by guns and nothing is being done about it. This must change.”

    I agree wholeheartedly that this must change, which is why I support campus carry, the slackening of gun control laws, Constitutional carry, and every other method that would make being a criminal the most dangerous profession in the country.

  6. Ok after some coffee and a cigarette I am going to sit down and read the original article. Actually read the comments, ha I think a lot of TTAG minded folks decided to reply to him.

    Here is a statistic for you. The first shooting in San Jose State Universities history, which predates the 1970 formation of the SJUPD, involved a married couple murder suicide. “The slayings are believed to be the first shooting deaths in the 150-year history of the 30,000-student San Jose campus. -KCRA News” To that end prior to that there were San Jose Police or night watchmen keeping the law over the campus which is gun free. The police are there 24×7 and they are armed police just like city police. Amazing just a small number of high profile armed people on campus and no issues like VA Tech.

    I have to admit though. Allowing students to carry, gets me scratching my head some times. Teachers by all means, I want teachers at every grade level to be trained and armed to protect my kids.

    Let’s face it numbers can be screwed any way you want them so If you present to me a number if different number studies involving different aspects, and properly outline the data source, and correlation methods I might believe you.

    Also from my own personal experience living in Israel which has a lot of folks who carry. Yes they have strict gun laws, but everyone in the army carries, and my uncles and even aunts carried. I found this statistic here: http://www.guncite.com/gun_control_gcgvinco.html

    Please note I am looking to how this source data was collected which I can not verify, and wish there were newer statistics, but I don’t think things have varried that much. Simply stated gun related homicides are 0.72 % for Israel and 3.72 % per 100,000 per capita rate. That is a big difference no matter who you are. The only place I know I can’t carry in Israel BTW is when entering a court room unless I am a active duty soldier, or past the security check point in an Airport. The baggage areas, and drop off and pick up areas are fine. Kids who go out on field trips for school usually have at least one, usually more teachers who are carrying. This is not always concealed carry either this is an m-16 on your back or a pistol in a belt holster.

    Also to the article writer, do criminals care about the laws? I mean ban guns in California all together. this would be a good litmus test. when criminals start going on shooting sprees and people are dying left and right then we can point to the number and say see! Guns save lives…
    Ok need coffee..

  7. The two Washingtons:

    D.C. – Where guns are extremely regulated, and the process to procure is long, arduous, and expensive. Almost no one is allowed to legally carry outside the home, and armed self defense is highly discouraged, to say the least. Murder rate: 24.2 per 100,000.

    State – Where guns are very loosely regulated, and getting guns is very easy. If you don’t have a CPL there’s a five day waiting period. However, with the CPL, which is shall issue, and must be issued within an absolute maximum of 30 days, you can go into any gun store, pay your money, fill out your paperwork, and assuming the phone call goes well, take that gun home. To top all that off, the law and law enforcement is generally favorable to the defender, including a stand your ground provision. Murder rate: 2.8 per 100,000.

    Source: U.S. Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Uniform Crime Reports, Return A Master Files.

    Of course, there’s a lot more that goes into a murder rate than just the availability or not of guns, but that’s the point. If guns really were the cause of so much mayhem, then the situations above should be reversed. Highly gun-controlled Washington D.C. should have a much lower murder rate than gun happy Washington State. Yet somehow you’re more than eight times as likely to be murdered in our nation’s capital than in the Evergreen state.

    Oh, and if anyone wants to make the point that Washington, D.C. is a city and Washington state has a lot of rural areas that traditionally have lower murder rates, and that’s the reason for the difference, I calculated the murder rates for Washington, D.C. and Washington State’s largest city specifically. (Source: FBI Uniform Crime Reports, Crime in the US 2010, Table 6)

    Washington, D.C.
    Population: 601,723
    Murder rate: 21.9.

    Seattle
    Population: 620,195
    Murder rate: 3.1

  8. I also found another article which makes my case as well.
    http://www.smdp.com/Articles-c-2010-06-15-69804.113116-Crime-drops-while-gun-ownership-soars.html

    This is an interesting fact in that article that sort of drove the point home:
    “For the last 22 years the people of Florida demanded the right to carry a firearm, and struck down failed gun control laws. Over the last 22 years, the state of Florida has processed 1.59 million concealed-carry permits and has only had to revoke 167 for firearm-related infractions. Statistically, the Florida permit holders commit fewer felonies than police officers.”

    This of us who will choose to carry, will be law abiding. those of us who take that responsibility do so seriously, and make sure we follow the law, and work with law enforcement. Personally if I was able to open carry in CA, and a police officer stopped me and asked to see my permit or what ever I have no issue with that at all. They are doing their jobs, and I am doing what I feel is right. Simple right?

  9. Los Angeles Valley College? Never heard of it although I’ve lived in LA for 25 years. Must be a fine institution,

  10. “These are places that are supposed to be sanctuaries of safety, free from danger;…”

    Umm… no, they aren’t. I don’t know who told you that you are ever completely “free from danger” but they were wrong.

    Also, WTF is non-violent resistance? Is fleeing resistance?

  11. “There are currently around 270 million guns in America, nearly one for every person in this country. That is despite the fact that guns are created for only one purpose: to kill.”

    Even going by the figure of 32,000 firearms deaths per year, with 270 million guns in this country, that comes out to approx 1.18 deaths for every 10,000 guns. So if guns are only created to kill, that must mean about 9,999 out of 10,000 guns are defective. (Perhaps NBC should do a story about all of these ‘defective’ guns that have not fulfilled their purpose of killing.)

  12. Well done! Of course you will be dismissed as a “pseudo-intellectual” on the wrong side of this issue by the “true” intellectuals, but please keep on blogging.

  13. I suspect that, as they were being lined up to be executed, precisely ZERO of those students thought to themselves, “Man, I sure am glad I don’t have a gun.”

  14. I can tell you that the 2A advocates are out in force on that article. Pretty much no one that commented agrees with him.

  15. “And that’s why journalists should do some research before opening their ill-informed yaps.”

    This ^^^^, +1

    Bruce, you officially win this round (as usual).

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