The Cause of America’s Gun-Death Epidemic? It’s Guns

Actually, what makes guns, right now, kill more people than they did before Antifa-BLM / All Cops Are Bastards / Defund The Police! changed the way Blue cities police crime?

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1980s Yugoslavia was replete with guns but that didn’t prevent mass arrests and expulsions of armed persons unlucky enough to be an ethnoreligous minority in their place of residence. Men will kill when they feel they have been disenfranchised by this that or the other. This article failed miserably at adressing the relationship between high rates of gun ownership and poor social cohesion in countries with high murder rates. I don’t have a ton of data off hand, but in the cases of three seemingly first world countries with 2nd world homicide rates, America, South Africa, and Serbia, I can point to ethnic conflicts that drove high rates of gun ownership among law-abiding citizens.

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AR-15 is 60 years old. Shooting up schools became a thing only 20 years ago. Giving the shooters massive press exacerbates the likelihood of a subsequent shooting.

Allowing teachers with concealed carry permits to carry inside schools would be an improvement in my view, despite what the teacher unions say. Stossel’s YouTube on this issue is convincing to me. And if you look at the average of student deaths from school shootings, it’s 11 per year from 2000-2015. So school shootings are less common by far than other student fatalities, although they cause more emotional response and press.

How many mass shootings are committed with illegally obtained firearms? Not many in the few that get the press.

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Well, I’m kinda surprised. There are more of us racist-sexist-homophobe gun nuts out here in Quilletteland that I expected. Who knew?

So, gun deaths in the US are about 9 per 100,000.

Homicide death rate in the US is about 6 per 100,000. (Of course, 55% of homicides are black on black, 8 times the white homicide rate).

Road traffic deaths in the US are abouit 12 per 100,000.

But here’s the thing. If you educated and evolved rulers want to take our guns away from us, “experts agree” that you need to spend 20 years earning our trust, by never calling us “racists,” never calling us “white oppressors,” and never calling us “gun nuts,” and never using poll-tested code words like “gun violence” and “assault rifles.” Then, after 20 years, when we trust you, you can take away our guns and do with us what you will.

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Hi there EK-1, this board typically has a lot of pretty well thought-out comments, so I was surprised to see yours. You seem to blame me for something they do in some parts of California, for some reason (I don’t even live there any more, but even if I did, I only have one vote). Also, what do Gascon, Boudin et al even have to do with federal gun laws, besides some general connection via the progressive movement?

But, I’ll play the game. What part, exactly, of what I said do you think is laughable? That gun enthusiasts place the value of owning a gun above an extreme level of non-violence? That in a democracy people have varying opinions?

Quillette is heterodox, so people here are free thinking and have opinions which vary from the party lines. Of course, like almost everyone here, I think progressive DAs are ridiculous and awful. However, gasp, I also don’t think it’s the end of the world if Joe Blow can’t own an AR-15. If you think the article, or my post, is wrong, maybe explain why.

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Perhaps the strict gun laws have been enacted in response to high levels of gun violence and are a symptom not a cause.

As the article points out, massacres usually involve the most lethal available weapons and we should not be surprised that zero massacres (recently) have involved full auto guns simply because full auto guns are not legally sold in their hundreds of thousands – no machine guns, no machine gun massacres. It is simple honesty to admit that the same thing would happen if semis were entirely abolished too – they simply wouldn’t be there to be bought by deranged teenagers. True, criminals are always going to get their hands on pistols whether they’re banned or not, but school slaughters always involve semi-auto rifles.

As I said above, I wish Americans of your persuasion would just admit that they want their guns – to prevent tyranny among other things – more than they want their children. Perfectly fine to make that choice but it should be made honestly.

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Couple points:

  1. It doesn’t really make sense to me to bring up other causes of death besides guns. Should we stop trying to cure cancer because some people die in traffic accidents? Anyway, gun deaths are scarier than lots of other kinds, so it’s reasonable that people want to prevent them.

  2. You state that there is more gun violence in states with the strictest gun laws, but this article has a figure showing the exact opposite. I mean, we need to agree on the basic facts, if possible.

  3. There are lots of countries which are not tyrannical but where they don’t have guns. However, I do sympathize with people wanting to have a way to resist authority - it’s the most compelling of the gun lobby positions for me.

  4. I may be wrong, but I think I read somewhere that there were actually high levels of gun deaths in the 1700s, 1800s and early 1900s. Violent times.

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You hear some things so often that you end up believing them out of mental exhaustion, that’s one of them.

More than scary. The clinical number of kids killed in Uvalde – numbers on a spreadsheet compared to other numbers on a spreadsheet – are not high but there is a certain something, as the French say a certain je ne sais quoi, about having a few dozen kids massacred in their school that just doesn’t translate into numbers on a spreadsheet. If my kid dies in a traffic accident that’s a tragedy but if she dies in a massacre that’s an outrage. I have nothing but contempt for the sort of person who does these statistical comparisons as if one can be compared to the other – they can’t be compared.

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As Shermer says, while the phenomenon of gun deaths is not mono-causal, the final common pathway certainly is. You’d have to be…well…to borrow from @RayAndrews , pretty nutty to not realize, or fail to acknowledge, that.

And the Port Arthur reference reminds me of that hilarious Jim Jeffries bit on gun control…‘after Port Arthur, the Australian government said “No more guns!”…and we said…“yeah alright ok that makes sense”…’. Obviously the same can’t and won’t be said here. And so @RayAndrews nails it again here: people place more value on the preservation of this particular hobby over the Uvaldes and such. And that’s fine, and it is what it is. But people should at least own that.

It also seems to me that 2A was not about the right for people with their guns to simply get their rocks off; it was to actually serve a purpose at a time of nation building. People who make claims about it being the counterbalance to government tyranny are at least invoking 2A in its OG intent. But I’d note that there are many first world western nations which are not tyrannical AND do not have gun fiascos. And the folks who invoke 2A with the honest to goodness fear of tyranny should also note, as Jeffries did, that the government has drones.

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In 2000 I was introduced to John Platt and his Strong Inference article.

http://knowledgecontext.org/COSMOS/Strong_Inference_(Platt).pdf

The synopsis I took away from this article was that something even in the early 1960’s was terribly wrong with society and in particular the scientific community had forgotten logic and the scientific method(s). Platt promoted the ideas of keeping an open mind (entertaining multiple hypotheses) and instead of looking for data to support your hypotheses instead devise a test for them, in other words try to disprove them vigorously. If one fails to disprove one’s pet hypothesis then one can infer that it might be correct.

The opposite approach unfortunately is used widely. By collecting data to instead support hypotheses we spin a good story but we can “prove” false things to be true. Miracle on 34th street “proved” the existence of Santa by using the USPS. The flat earth society members routinely “prove” the earth is flat using a variety of techniques that would be only be possible with a flat earth and the civil disarmament movement “proves” that firearms are a bad idea in civil society.

This last hypothesis is disproved by various data sets noted below. In this article data is carefully selected to make or rather infer this point. One example of this is the focus on “gun deaths” rather than looking at overall mortality statistics like homicide and suicide even though the substitution argument is tangentially mentioned.

Data sets that disprove the civil disarmament movement hypothesis include the time series Data in Australia where after the 1996 laws were past homicide spiked before continuing its already downward trend established in the prior decade. The general time series data sets for the US post WW2 are others that disprove this.

Firearms post WW2 were quite a lot more widely available in households yet the homicide rates in the US were world normal until the civil right movement. After about 1965 violent crime and its surrogate homicide were rampant in what I think of as the Dirty Harry era. Homicide peaked around 1990 yet by that point a lot fewer households had firearms. I include one such collection though these are widely available.

This time series data is repeated throughout the developed world but the scale is different by culture. So how can it be that firearms are the issue if homicide was actually lower in an era with fewer gun laws and wider access to guns?

In the US context another data set which disproves the “guns are the problem” hypothesis is demographic. It turns out that if you pull two demographics, Hispanic and African American out of the US population that homicide drops to world normal for the developed world. In other words homicide follows culture not the guns. Again how can this be if guns are the problem?

This data is available from the FBI:

The last data set I’m aware of is startlingly similar to the data in the 2nd set of figures in this article and is discussed including how it is manipulated here:

Personally, however I prefer to look at overall suicide and overall homicide the latter especially is a surrogate for violent crime of all kinds in my experience. As it turns out when you remove firearms from civil society all that happens is we loose a civil liberty and no fewer people actually die than would have otherwise.

Finally there is one statement that is abjectly false or at least highly misleading in the article.

“Gun-control legislation does not mean outlawing guns”

Gun control AFAIK has invariably lead to the outlawing of entire classes of sporting firearms. Recent cases in point are New Zealands banning of a huge variety of long guns, Canada’s recent ban of 1500 common long guns and the upcoming ban on all handguns. This latter ban was done very cleverly to reduce inevitable civil disobedience.

Firearms like any weapon are a source of power. It’s not really a surprise that the establishment doesn’t really like that kind of power in the hands of the people.

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I think a more calm way of saying this is that many people believe that a society is better off with firearms in the hands of the civil population than without. I tent to agree.

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The other thing about school shootings is they represent a vanishingly small number of deaths i.e. the likelihood is smaller than getting struck by lightening.

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So far all the ‘freedom’/militia types we’ve seen take on the ‘tyranny’ of their government have ended up dying on some hill in Idaho or in some other bloody rout. Sometimes not before blowing up and office building tho, but such actions have not had the effect of rallying people to the Cause Of Freedom as they might have hoped. The foundational myths of America celebrate the Patriot with his musket, the Minute Man responding to Paul Revere’s call and so on, but I doubt that future insurrections are going to look very much like the battle of Lexington where you do at least have a nice, clean battle-line. They will rather look like Jan 6, but with more guns. To be honest I suspect that most of the AR-15 militia groups in the country are mostly playing dressup and like to come to various leftie events looking dangerous – just yesterday was it, a U-haul was pulled over full of militia types out to disrupt a gay parade, was it? Nope, these outfits will collapse like a $5 suitcase if they ever have to face the United States Army. Tyranny notwithstanding.

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I wish you would have that comment through. If you had, you would never have pressed “enter”.

You know the answer: culture. When my nephew Nick was about 10 I bought him a hatchet. I told him it was dangerous and that he had to be careful with it and to be prudent as to what he chopped down. He was neither, so I took the hatchet away from him and gave it back several years latter when he was mature enough to own it responsibly. Devolving into barbarism as America is, it no longer has the maturity to be a society in which guns are freely accessible. It’s just that simple. Should civilization one day come (back?) to America then we’d all look forward to the day when gun restrictions could be dialed back. In an ideal society there would be no need for regulation of anything at all.

That is calmer indeed but also very abstract. If one just had to identify the body of one’s little girl in the Uvalde morgue, one might be inclined to view the subject in more visceral terms. Your calm perspective also frames the question as a binary which it is not. Much could be done to keep firearms in the hands of the civil population while minimizing the number of firearms in the hands of demented teenagers.

I suspect the mothers and fathers of Sandy Hook and Uvalde would not feel comforted by your statistical detachment.

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I don’t think that figure is nearly as effective at supporting the author’s argument as he claims. To my eyes, it shows significant disparities between gun ownership and gun deaths among the states. Just a few examples:

  1. Arkansas and North Dakota have the same gun ownership rates, but AR has nearly a 2x higher gun death rate.
  2. New Hampshire and Nevada have the same gun ownership rates, but NV has more than a 2x higher gun death rate.
  3. Conversely, South Dakota has nearly triple the gun ownership rate as California and Illinois, but the same gun death rate.
    That seems like WAY too much variability to make much of a correlation, much less a causation, claim.
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Our national experiment at outlawing alcohol (by Constitutional amendment, no less) is pretty indicative of the effectiveness of bans.

Interestingly, nearly a century later we continue to tolerate one of the highest drunk driving rates in the world . . . .

I don’t necessarily disagree with you about the bans, but I will push back a little bit. The ban happened during an era when enforcement was rather more difficult, the technology since then has evolved and might be harder for criminals to get organized with law enforcement being able to listen in and monitor the people. Alcohol and drugs are a lot easier to manufacture in basements and shitty trailer parks. It is a lot easier to smuggle a pound of cocaine over the border, which can then be sold in grams by dealers who carry it in their pockets and it is virtually impossible.
Now how would that look with black market guns. I for one would have no idea how to get a gun illegally, do you go down to the shady part of town and approach the gangsters on the corner and ask them? Do these criminals pop open their trunk and here have your pick? Are they walking around in bars and clubs and yelling guns for sale, I can tell you it is true about drugs. They actively advertise in bathrooms, I doubt the same would be true about guns.
I suspect if guns were to be banned, there might be a considerable uptick in deaths for at least a generation, where criminals realize that the populace is not armed and would probably be more bold. However once the criminals are weeded out, guns are confiscated, it will just get harder and harder to get a gun. Once all the existing guns brake down, get old, get confiscated we might be able to live a more peaceful life. I could be wrong, maybe banning guns will turn the US into Somalia, where gangs rule the unarmed population.
The problem is really that the gun culture is not something that can be changed overnight, so some form of leap of faith is necessary.

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Huh? Is there a plan for that?

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Still he makes a very good point. Causes and effects, desired or otherwise, can take a long time to show up. The classical example being that one can save money on the infrastructure budget this year and point out that nothing particularly bad happened, but 20 years latter half the bridges in the country are unsafe and the money ‘saved’ in fact went into an invisible but very real compounding debt account. Changing a law is part of changing a culture, which of course can take generations, so results should not be expected to show up right away.