Paul Revere by Cyrus Dallin, North End, Boston



Monday, December 17, 2012

Some facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States


More information from the Washington Post to help us understand America's gun culture and its deadly influence:

Shooting sprees are not rare in the United States. 

 Mother Jones has tracked and mapped every shooting spree in the last three decades. “Since 1982, there have been at least 61 mass murders carried out with firearms across the country, with the killings unfolding in 30 states from Massachusetts to Hawaii,” they found. And in most cases, the killers had obtained their weapons legally. 2. 15 of the 25 worst mass shootings in the last 50 years took place in the United States. Time has the full list here. In second place is Finland, with two entries.

Lots of guns don’t necessarily mean lots of shootings, as you can see in Israel and Switzerland.* 

As David Lamp writes at Cato, “In Israel and Switzerland, for example, a license to possess guns is available on demand to every law-abiding adult, and guns are easily obtainable in both nations. Both countries also allow widespread carrying of concealed firearms, and yet, admits Dr. Arthur Kellerman, one of the foremost medical advocates of gun control, Switzerland and Israel ‘have rates of homicide that are low despite rates of home firearm ownership that are at least as high as those in the United States.’”

 *Correction: The info is out-of-date, if not completely wrong. Israel and Switzerland have tightened their gun laws substantially, and now pursue an entirely different approach than the United States. More details here. 

Of the 11 deadliest shootings in the US, five have happened from 2007 onward.

That doesn’t include Friday’s shooting in Sandy Hook, Connecticut. The AP put the early reported death toll at 27, which would make it the second-deadliest mass shooting in US history.

America is an unusually violent country. 

But we’re not as violent as we used to be. Kieran Healy, a sociologist at Duke University, made this graph of “deaths due to assault” in the United States and other developed countries. We are a clear outlier.

As Healy writes, “The most striking features of the data are (1) how much more violent the U.S. is than other OECD countries (except possibly Estonia and Mexico, not shown here), and (2) the degree of change—and recently, decline—there has been in the U.S. time series considered by itself.”

The South is the most violent region in the United States. 

In a subsequent post, Healy drilled further into the numbers and looked at deaths due to assault in different regions of the country. Just as the United States is a clear outlier in the international context, the South is a clear outlier in the national context:

More guns tend to mean more homicide. 

The Harvard Injury Control Research Center assessed the literature on guns and homicide and found that there’s substantial evidence that indicates more guns means more murders. This holds true whether you’re looking at different countries or different states. Citations here.

States with stricter gun control laws have fewer deaths from gun-related violence. 

Last year, economist Richard Florida dove deep into the correlations between gun deaths and other kinds of social indicators. Some of what he found was, perhaps, unexpected: Higher populations, more stress, more immigrants, and more mental illness were not correlated with more deaths from gun violence. But one thing he found was, perhaps, perfectly predictable: States with tighter gun control laws appear to have fewer gun-related deaths. The disclaimer here is that correlation is not causation. But correlations can be suggestive:



Jerry Critter said...

"States with tighter gun control laws appear to have fewer gun-related deaths. The disclaimer here is that correlation is not causation".

Rue, but LACK of correlation proves that less strict gun control laws do not reduce gun-related deaths.

Anonymous said...

No amount of figures, or dead 6 year old children will change the minds of those who want to protect their right to own killing machines

S.W. Anderson said...

"America is an unusually violent country."

We've always had a high-risk culture, with the risk spread very, very unevenly.

Just this year, two unarmed black teenage males killed by gun-wielding middle-aged white guys in Florida. Neither killer was in mortal danger. This is the latest in a long, shameful history of black males being at risk of severe injury or death at the hands of white men, all out of proportion to any provocation.

The victims of our many mass killings, their families and friends, in a real sense paid the freight for all the rest of us who aren't being levied the cost of a big enough, good enough, proactive enough mental health care system. Thus, we have some more money in our pockets. Thus, some of our politicians have one less necessary but unglamorous service to fund adequately — and have to justify levying taxes for.

This is a win-win-lose situation in which chance decides winners and losers. Be in the wrong place at the right time — bang, bang, you're dead. Or your loved one or friend is dead.

In more-responsible countries with lower-risk societies this approach is considered uncivilized and intolerable. They don't have a Second Amendment whose archaic language they can argue over interminably while children are killed at their day care or elementary school. Those other countries simply don't allow citizens to buy and own combat arms, and keep a tight rein on the guns they do allow, and who can have guns.

We call our system freedom. Those more-civilized countries call their system civilized and sensible.

When was the last time you heard of a despotic Danish or Dutch regime that an oppressed citizenry had to take up arms against? Ditto for Japan, India and Australia. When was the last time you heard an American half wit proclaim the need to be ready to resist with gunfire when the feds or U.N. black helicopters land and the men in black jumpsuits come after people's guns, which they have a God-given right to own and carry wherever they wish?

Shaw Kenawe said...

From the San Francisco Chronicle:

"I still carry a bullet in my lung, scars on my body, an actual hole in my chest (and a much bigger one in my heart) that remind me daily about this madness and how small your chances are in front of a killer in a rage armed with semiautomatic handgun. I've felt the torque of bullets plowing into me, seen loved ones' eyes roll back in their heads and mouths that will never speak or kiss again. So don't give me your twisted red, white and blue rhetoric that it's un-American to establish sensible gun laws.

What is un-American is that we stand by and do nothing as our loved ones are slaughtered!

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the right to bear arms is protected by the Constitution, but what type of weapon and where and how it can (and can't) be used and owned can be regulated.

Where do we start?

We get the assault weapon ban that sunsetted during the Bush era reinstated. We stop permitting the sale of extended magazines that permit these monsters to fire hundreds of rounds of death just as fast as they can pull a trigger. We unify background checks throughout the nation, and we close the gun-show loophole that permits unlicensed sellers to peddle their wares without so much as showing a driver's license in some states. All of these are just common sense. None of these laws impedes the right of a safe and legal gun owner.

The NRA and the gun lobby are at the core of most of this bloodshed. Not the rank and file. I've spoken to many, many NRA members who share my views on safe and sensible gun laws. It's the gun lobby hierarchy that crafts and distorts the message and conversation to make it all about America, the Constitution and whatever other drivel they can make up to keep their coffers and political influence fat and their paranoid and fear-driven propaganda flying. They are insidiously evil entities that make the tobacco lobby look like the Make-A-Wish campaign by contrast."

Silverfiddle said...

The Ezra Klein article was interesting, but it brought up a few thoughts.

Shouldn't we have seen gun murder rates and suicide rates go down as these countries move to make their gun laws more restrictive?

This article shows that the rates have gone down for Switzerland, but it was before the policy to remove guns from homes was put into place. Even then, only 55% of homicides were performed with a gun.

Here is a source to further investigate such data:

Switzerland's gun-related deaths have trended downward somewhat, and it started before they changed their gun possession policy, but Israel's overall rate has not.

Japan has much lower gun ownership than the United States, but a higher suicide rate.

So clearly, while guns do give someone a quick way to end it all, there are other factors in play, and I do support Israel's efforts to reduce suicides by soldiers.

Finally, I must take issue with your last assertion, that states with stricter gun laws see less gun violence. FBI data simply does not support such a statement.

For example, gun-happy Colorado has less gun violence per capita than your own state. I'm not engaging in regional chauvinism here, just pointing out facts. Even a comparison of Denver to Boston shows Boston has a higher rate.

Illinois, DC and California, all gun control states, experience frightening levels of gun violence, so again, this points to other factors, most likely societal, which would probably explain higher rates in the south as well.

Here is the link to a great Guardian article that uses FBI statistics. You can download the data yourself or sort it right there on the web page.

Great discussion! We definitely need more exchanges of information. This is a complex issue that cannot be solved by simply passing more laws.

Silverfiddle said...

S.W. Just this year, two unarmed black teenage males killed by gun-wielding middle-aged white guys in Florida. Neither killer was in mortal danger. This is the latest in a long, shameful history of black males being at risk of severe injury or death at the hands of white men, all out of proportion to any provocation.

Does it make you feel good to say things like this?

The real tragedy is that young black men are being shot and killed overwhelmingly by other black men in the sweltering slums they are imprisoned in.

One important point here is that we are a violent and adventurous nation.

Besides murdering each other more than our European cousins, we also experience more traffic fatalities and death and injury by sports and outdoor adventurous activities.

Shaw Kenawe said...

BTW, Massachusetts as a STATE has one of the lowest rates of death by gun violence in the nation.

The Boston-Denver rate compares two cities, but overall, Mass. has a lower firearms death rate per 100,000 . It is ranked #50, only Hawaii is lower, with Wash. DC, the highest.

Shaw Kenawe said...

More stats on STATES with lowest deaths by firearms. Mass. is next to lowest.

Shaw Kenawe said...

Business Insider published this online yesterday:

This Chart Proves There Is Something Profoundly Wrong With How The US Handles Guns

The United States has the highest gun ownership rates in the world and the second highest rate of gun deaths among industrialized nations.

That's not a coincidence. Looking at developed nations, the U.S. is the end point of a staggering trend where the higher the rate of gun ownership, the more people die from gun wounds.

In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, Mark Reid, a machine learning researcher at Australian National University, has run a quick statistical analysis of gun death data in industrialized nations.

His charts show how unique the U.S. is among its peers when it comes to the way the country handles guns.
The first chart shows gun deaths per capita graphed against gun ownership per capita.

Notice the upward trend — the more guns per capita, the more gun deaths per capita. The US has the most guns, ergo it has one of the highest rates of gun deaths.

Shaw Kenawe said...

A Land Without Guns: How Japan Has Virtually Eliminated Shooting Deaths

Death by suicide is not the same as being mowed down by a crazed gunman.

Japan has a culture where suicide is considered an honorable way for people to deal with the shame or disgrace that they bring on themselves or family. I don't agree with it, but that is their culture. With suicide, a person takes his/her own life. Not the same as what the killer did in Newtown.

Silverfiddle said...

Shaw: Point taken on Japan, and exactly the point I was making. There are other factors besides guns, like culture.

Mass may have a lower gun death rate, but it has an overall higher gun violence rate.

Maybe Mass criminals' aim is not as good as those from Colorado?

The point here, is that there is no clear correlation between laws and consequences.

Shaw Kenawe said...

I disagree about the laws.

Look at gun deaths in Japan and the United States.

Also there is this:

Germany, France, Italy, the UK, Spain, Canada, Australia and the Netherlands have a combined population of almost 391 million, as compared to the US's less than 312 million.

The total number of GUN HOMICIDES in those countries in the latest available year--2010 for Germany, 2009 for the others-- was 906.

In the United States in 2010, that number was 9,960, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime.


Shaw Kenawe said...

And this:

In Australia, in 1996, a man killed 35 people in the course of an afternoon rampage. Australia soon went from having relaxed gun laws to having tough gun laws, including such common-sense measures as character witnesses for people who want to own a gun, and the purchase of a safebolted to the wall or floor. There are still plenty of hunters in Australia, but it hasn’t had a mass killing since.

South Africa may be an even better example. For many years, South Africa was a country every bit as gun-soaked as America. I have a friend, Greg Frank, a hedge fund manager in Charlottesville, Va., who lived in Johannesburg during a time when it had become so crime-ridden that people felt the need to own guns to protect themselves. He, too, owned a gun as a young man: “I made the excuse that I needed it for self-protection.”

The guns didn’t make anybody safer. People who were held up while waiting at a red light rarely had time to pull out their guns. And the fact that so many homes had guns became an incentive for criminals, who would break in, hold the family hostage, and then order that the safe with the guns be opened. “Everyone knew someone who had family or friends who had experienced gun violence,” he said.

Silverfiddle said...

But the comparison between non-gun deaths of different countries are also out of proportion, again suggesting that there are other factors at play in the US besides guns.

That is why I brought up Japanese suicide rates.

Anonymous said...

Back to arguing statistics
Back to getting nothing done
Highly crass to argue statistics over the dead bodies of 6 year old children

Jerry Critter said...

If there is "no clear correlation between laws and consequences", why do we have any laws? Come on, you are smarter than that!

Shaw Kenawe said...

Comment on Andrew Sullivan's blog:

"Andrew, my NRA card is in the trash this morning. I'm with Joe Scarborough--all my previous beliefs have been upended. Allowing such easy access to these military-style weapons is madness--how could I have not seen it before? And no one needs hollow point bullets and high-capacity magazines. I am a committed Republican. But if they can't do the sane thing here, they've lost me. And I know you don't know me, but if they've lost me, they are truly doomed. I couldn't give a damn right now about my taxes going up. (I have two six year old kids)."

Shaw Kenawe said...


"But the Left must come to grips with the fact that even if we do enact some sensible restrictions, there will be a lot of guns in this country still. Having responsible, armed citizens isn't an inherently bad idea. There are police officers in every school in New York City, and guess what? No mass shootings there. Trick is to make sure the right people have them and the wrong ones don't. Also, if this debate stops and starts with guns, that will be its own tragedy. Mental illness and the depravity of our popular culture (seen the last episode this year of Boardwalk Empire?) must also be addressed.

I voted against Obama twice, but I'm praying for him to give us true, non-partisan leadership on this one."

Silverfiddle said...

Jerry: Go look at the stats and then you tell me...

The correlation is not there because there are more factors than just laws and guns.

I applaud Shaw for bringing facts to the discussion, and I have brought more. I particularly like the Guardian's presentation, as well as

One size does not fit all, and you will find as much resistance to such broad brush 'solutions' in liberal Oregon and Vermont and you will in Wyoming and Colorado.

I know Shaw is not, but there are people screaming for uniform federal laws, confiscations and outright bans, which is unconstitutional.

My stock answer is, once government disarms the criminals, then we can talk about disarming the rest of us, once you amend the constitution.

Silverfiddle said...

Trick is to make sure the right people have them and the wrong ones don't. Also, if this debate stops and starts with guns, that will be its own tragedy. Mental illness and the depravity of our popular culture (seen the last episode this year of Boardwalk Empire?) must also be addressed.


Shaw Kenawe said...

Here're stats on mentally ill people who commit violent crimes. Surprise. They're very low. Most violent crimes are committed by people on alcohol and drugs:

"...there is overwhelming epidemiological evidence that the vast majority of people with psychiatric disorders do not commit violent acts. Only about 4 percent of violence in the United States can be attributed to people with mental illness.

This does not mean that mental illness is not a risk factor for violence. It is, but the risk is actually small. Only certain serious psychiatric illnesses are linked to an increased risk of violence.

One of the largest studies, the National Institute of Mental Health’s Epidemiologic Catchment Area study, which followed nearly 18,000 subjects, found that the lifetime prevalence of violence among people with serious mental illness — like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder — was 16 percent, compared with 7 percent among people without any mental disorder. Anxiety disorders, in contrast, do not seem to increase the risk at all.

Alcohol and drug abuse are far more likely to result in violent behavior than mental illness by itself. In the National Institute of Mental Health’s E.C.A. study, for example, people with no mental disorder who abused alcohol or drugs were nearly seven times as likely as those without substance abuse to commit violent acts."


Silverfiddle said...


Here is an article by a socially liberal, fiscally conservative, small government libertarian woman. I agree with all of it and think it is a reasonable summary of what we are facing:

There's Little We Can Do...

Anonymous said...

Just don't ban red wine.

Dave Miller said...

Silver... really? Are you going to tell your kids and grandkids to rush towards a crazed killer and try to overpower him as opposed to trying to get away?

This stupid suggestion alone should be enough to discredit her.

Part of the problem is that somehow conservatives got the idea that libs, including President Obama are agitating for the repeal of the 2nd Amendment.

While there are a few far left people calling for that, the great majority are not, and every sane conservative knows that, even if they refuse to acknowledge it.

What a great majority of Americans, from both the left and the right struggle with is the proliferation of semi-automatic guns and large magazine ammo clips.

These are the weapons that police across the country, coincidentally some of the most conservative people in America, want to eliminate or restrict.

I think the NRA and others that reflexively hide behind the notion that nothing can be done ought to explain and give a rationale for ownership and the need for these types of weapons.

I for one see no need for any citizen to have in his or her possesion any type of semi automatic weapon or any type of weapon that can easily be converted to automatic status.

Further, I would ban all weapons that use large scale ammo magazines.

No one is using these for hunting, so no sportsman should oppose this.

We should then make it 100% illegal to own these guns, making ownership of this class of weapons a crime.

The government can buy back these weapons at fair market prices.

None of this makes gun ownership illegal, just certain guns, unless you have a legit reason to have one such as a job requirement like law enforcement.

Everyone can get a drivers license, but not everyone gets a license to drive a semi. Why would this not work for guns?

Does the right really believe that if no one had these weapons, no lives would be saved?

it's a sensible start and it is a small step in the right direction. We could then work on the mental health component.

The problem there of course is that your side will be against the government helping people get that kind of help, as evidenced by their rejection of a health care plan modeled on GOP ideas of just a few years ago.

This small steps idea is the exact same approach favored by the GOP in regards to immigration, so they should be in favor of getting agreement on the "easy" parts of this now while public pressure is heavily on the side of more gun control.

Dave Miller said...

Finally Silver... Gun Control is not Gun Elimination...

Paul said...

Don't ban alcohol!
Our guns would be no fun without alcohol.

Silverfiddle said...

I can only assume you are being purposely provocative and condemnatory by focusing in on one sentence of that article, which is not a recommendation of hers but rather a device of comparison, so I suppose I'm wasting my breath here.

Finding one thing and using it to discredit the author so you can shut your ears and refuse to listen it a tiresome tactic that does not advance the dialog.

I find many of the ideas of you and your ideological friends here objectionable, but I treat you as serious interlocutors worthy of my time it takes to hear your thoughts.

I never accused everyone of wanting to destroy the 2nd Amendment. I said that there are some out there who do.

Your comments do not address the problem and betray perhaps a lack of knowledge on your part about guns.

Any weapon that accepts a magazine could accept a large capacity one, so it's the magazine, not the gun.

Before one more person uses the term 'assault weapon' they need to define it so we know what we're talking about, and just because you can 'see no use for it' doesn't mean it must be banned.

Are you really making good use of those free speech rights? Offended anybody lately?

BTW, I agree with this (other than his ignorant assumption that a 'military style' weapon is more lethal than a less scary one), and I was surprised. I saw that it was written by Jefe Maximo Bloomberg and I was prepared to be in violent disagreement:

Silverfiddle said...

I also recommend this scholarly paper:

Would Banning Firearms Reduce Murders and Suicides?

Dave Miller said...

SIlver, a statement such as that one is so out of bounds as to call into question the logic of the person making the argument.

SIlver, I made a good faith effort to explain what I would do, and I believe if we lived in a world with those types of what i call reasonable restrictions, we'd all be better off.

I've asked a lot of my gun favoring friends, and I have a lot of them, about the need for assault style weapons and large ammo clips.

None of them, when pressed can offer any real need beyond the existential "what if" scenario.

When I've asked my law enforcement friends, who are mostly conservative, where they stand, almost to a person, they come down on the side that their job would be easier of assault weapons and large ammo clips were banned.

One told me the reality is that he would still be facing a pretty gnarly rifle with a pistol. he preferred that over an AR 15.

The question I have, which conservatives refuse to consider is this... Does government have a right to limit the types of guns Americans can own?

Your thoughts?

Silverfiddle said...

Based upon your statement, Dave, you want to ban all but single shot firearms, with perhaps allowing us to keep revolvers, which can be fired like a semiauto.

So your terminology is confusing. I get the large capacity magazine argument (I don't own any, they are notorious for jamming and not feeding properly.), but it's not clear what guns you want to ban.

Maybe we can pick up the conversation in Shaw's more recent post?