The recent mass murder in Isla Vista California has reignited, at least to some degree, the debate over guns, mental health, and sexism in our culture. Due partly to my career in academia, I have been faced with a barrage of claims about how we need to remove the tools for mass murder from our society. I’m sure we all hear claims about how much gun control works on a daily basis. During a particularly heated debate last weekend, I was motivated to re-examine the information to assess whether gun control really was a solution to the United States’ violence problem . . .
I’m sure this information has been available in many sources, and will not be new to many readers. I make no claim to this being any kind of original research or groundbreaking information. That being said, there are very interesting correlations that we can find in the data, and my purpose for writing today is to try to increase awareness and provide concrete statistics that gun advocates can use in day-to-day debates.
First I began with a simple comparison. I compared the gun murder rates (GMR) for the 10 states with the highest and lowest gun ownership, and then compared the top half to the bottom half. These were the results (excluding DC):
|Average Rate||Actual Rate|
This may come as no surprise, but both the average rate (the sum of the rates divided by the number of states) and the actual rate (Murders/Population) are lower for the states with the highest gun ownership. Plotted in a chart we get the following graph:
Excluding Washington DC, we get the following:
From these, we can safely assert that gun ownership rates do not positively correlate with gun murder rates. I hesitate to assert that gun ownership negatively correlates because of the sources of the data I’m using (self-reported ownership statistics) and the relatively small negative correlation.
But this doesn’t say anything about gun control laws. All it says is that more guns in private hands doesn’t correlate to a higher GMR. So let’s look at gun control’s correlation with GMR.
These are the states that have a gun murder rate less than or equal to 1 per 100,000 people (this puts many of these states in European ranges: Vermont, New Hampshire, Hawaii, North Dakota, Iowa, Idaho, Maine, Utah, Oregon, Wyoming, Minnesota, South Dakota.
Of these 12 states, only one is a strict gun control state (Hawaii). Two states are “1 star” states according to the Brady Campaign (Minnesota and Oregon).
When we graph GMR as a function of the Brady score, we received this:
As Brady score increases, so (very slightly) does the GMR. Again, we should not take from this that gun control causes higher gun murder rates, but it at least provides evidence that gun control doesn’t lower gun murder rates.
Interestingly that does seem to correlate positively with GMR’s population density. The lowest 25 from the chart above have a population of 220,780,595, whereas the highest 25 have a population of 88,481,910.
When charted against population density of each state, we get this:
So there we have it. I doubt that this information is going to support something substantive in the pro-gun direction. It would be a mistake to use this too forcefully to try to support loosening gun laws. I hope this compilation of data can provide an arsenal for gun control advocates to readily counter the gun control crowd.
Information for the above has come from the following sources:
http://www.bradycampaign.org/sites/default/files/2011_Brady_Campaign_State_Scorecard_Rankings.pdf I have used the 2011 scorecard because most of the murder rate information is for 2010. The 2013 Brady rankings are available here.