There’s a study floating through the depths of the internet written by a couple of University of California mathematicians who have attempted to create a model to describe how increased gun control would impact the murder rate. That’s the stated goal, at least. As one might expect from a couple of UC perfessers, the whole thing sucks from start to finish. Let me explain . . .
Here’s the study in full as written by Dominik Wodarz and Natalia L. Komarova. Read it if you want, but here’s the overview.
They start by making a direct correlation between firearms ownership and the national firearms-related homicide rate which, on its face, doesn’t really make sense. Well, it makes sense if you care more about being killed with a gun than being killed via other means, but it doesn’t account for the possibility that criminals will shift from gun-based murder to knife-based murder depending on the availability of the weapons.
Common sense would seem to indicate that criminals will find a way to knock off their victims and opponents even if guns aren’t available. That’s what we’ve in England and other such countries that have tried radical gun control and confiscation. Since this entire analysis is based on the idea of seeing how different levels of gun control impact the murder rate, it doesn’t make sense to restrict your view to gun-related murders as the results will be basically useless. Which, in this case, they are.
In addition, performing a straight comparison of gun owners to the gun-related homicide rate suggests that legal gun ownership is a direct cause of murders. Even worse, the authors don’t differentiate between legal gun owners and criminals who have stolen or illegally purchased their guns. Grouping them all into one big pot and assuming that they commit murders at the same rate is lazy, disingenuous and offensive. All at the same time.
To be fair, Wodarz and Komarova do actually provide a function in their calculations to account for defensive gun uses. But since they’re only looking at firearms-related deaths, they miss out on the knife-related and other homicides that gun owners prevent, not to mention all the rapes, muggings, burglary, kidnapping, jaywalking…. Basically, their focus is so narrow that they can’t properly account for the benefits of gun ownership even if they wanted to do it properly. Which is doubtful.
Once they have that correlation hammered out, they add on a mathematical function to account for gun control. And that’s where we really run into problems.
First, the gun control function is a straight mathematical function that assumes all gun owners would turn in their guns immediately upon the passage of new and more restrictive laws. This assumption includes the sub-assumptions that incremental increases in gun control would correspondingly lower the number of guns in circulation, and that all guns have an equal probability of being used in a crime. However, as we all know from the recent focus on “assault weapons,” the scary black guns make up only 2% of guns used in a crime. In short, their assumptions are wildly inaccurate.
They base their premise of voluntary disarmament on exactly…nothing. Not even historical data. And since they don’t differentiate between legal and illegal gun ownership, the function assumes that even criminals will turn in their guns once a new law is enacted. It’s a flat-out WAG (wild-ass guesstimation), and one that severely undermines their credibility and prevents them from producing any data even remotely accurate enough for decision-making purposes. It might be nice if a mathematical model could predict the effects of gun control, but without any historical data backing it up, the Wodarz-Komarova is no better than Dianne Feinstein’s utterly uninformed opinions on the matter.
But they didn’t stop there! Based on their handy-dandy linear mathematical model of gun control, the authors also included a function to determine the availability of illegal guns. The function, as described, is basically an inverse proportion to the level of gun control, which assumes that (A) the guns used in crimes are currently perfectly legal – that contradicts the ATF’s statements that the majority of guns used in crimes are stolen – and (B) that formerly legal gun owners will happily sell their now illegal guns to criminals or use the guns themselves. Again, the authors assume that legal gun owners – not just criminals – will “snap” and kill people. Because that happens so often.
But the biggest issue I have with this paper is that in their model, the probability of being attacked remains constant. It doesn’t change with the implementation of gun control measures. It’s obvious that the authors didn’t read the FNS-9 contest winner post that told of his personal first-hand experience of gun control unleashing a crime wave in Iraq. If they had, it might have made the authors of this study think twice about their assumptions. Or not.
Even worse — the authors actually increase the probability of an attack taking place as a function of the availability of guns. So in their minds – as in those of most anti-2A types – more guns equal more crime, no matter the legality of those guns. Don’t believe me? Here’s an excerpt.
In other words, if more guns in the population increase the frequency of attacks and at the same time increase the danger of being killed in an attack, then the no-guns policy would be the optimal strategy. Moreover, any amount of gun control in this situation would lead to increases safety of the individuals.
I’m sure John Lott would have something to say about that idea.
Since, in their world view, the crime rate is a function of the number of guns available, and all parties are assumed to voluntarily hand over their guns the moment gun control is enacted, then the obvious conclusion is that increased gun control is better. But that conclusion, as we just saw, is based on the assumptions that (A) the gun-related murder rate is dependent on gun ownership levels, (B) the gun-related murder rate will decrease if gun control is enacted, and (C) you ignore all other crimes other than gun-related murders. In that narrow focus, with those constraints, no other conclusion was ever possible.
This study is little more than a poorly disguised wolf in sheep’s clothing. It talks the talk, striving to be a source for good data on gun control in an emotional debate, but it’s so shoddily constructed and skewed from the outset that it does little more than add another thinly sourced talking point for gun control advocates.
Given the right assumptions, people can twist and contort a study like this into saying whatever they want. But when you dig a little deeper, you can see the personal biases of the authors on full display. This isn’t science — this is propaganda.