Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Let's talk about guns, baby: Part 2

Frequently, both sides of the gun control debate shout at each other about the relationship of gun ownership and violent crime.  For the gun control advocate, they like to say if we just lower the amount of gun ownership, we’ll lower the amount of crime.  The gun rights advocate will either argue about conceal-carry, argue the opposite, or they’ll likely state that it doesn’t matter about guns because people are violent and will use anything to kill people.  In a 2004, research study written by David Hamenway and Lisa M. Hepburn found that “where there are higher levels of gun prevalence, homicide rates are substantially higher, primarily due to higher firearm homicide rates."  They also found that “in high-income countries with more firearms, both men and women are at higher risk for homicide, particularly firearm homicide."  But they noted that these findings do not indicate causation.  This means, they did not prove that the higher gun rate causes more crimes to happen.  The National Research Council found, in 2004, that in studies comparing similar geographical areas that violence is “positively associated with firearms ownership.”  But, in comparing larger geographical areas, such as countries, they found contradictory evidence.  Hemenway, who is the director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, stated that he would bet a lot of money that all things being equal, the prevalence of guns increase homicide.  The Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence ranks all 50 states on 29 policy approaches to regulating firearm and ammunition.  The top 10 states with the strongest gun laws, according to them, were California, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Hawaii, New York, Maryland, Illinois, Rhode Island, and Michigan.  The top 10 states with the lowest grade were South Dakota, Arizona, Mississippi, Vermont, Louisiana, Montana, Wyoming, Kentucky, Kansas, and Oklahoma.  Seven of the top ten states with the strongest gun laws (Hawaii, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Connecticut, and California) were in the top 10 for lowest gun death rates.  The other three states to round out the top 10 were Minnesota, Iowa, and Maine.  The ten states with the highest gun death rate were Alaska, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Montana, Wyoming, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee.  Or to put it more simply, 5 out of the 10 states that had the highest gun death rates also had the “weakest” gun laws.  Out of the 25 states that had a higher than average gun rate death, 24 of them received a grade of “D” or lower for their gun laws. 
Crime rates are going down but gun ownership is going up.  Doesn’t this indicate that more guns = less crime?  It is certainly true that we own more guns than before and that we’re producing more guns than before, too.  The truth is the gun manufacturers should personally thank Barack Obama for winning the presidency.  Guns produced (minus exports) were at 3.5 million in 1998 and at 3.7 million in 2007.  In 2011, that number is at 6.1 million.  Background checks have similarly exploded going from 11 million in 2007 to 16 million in 2012, with December not counted.  Background checks are not a good indication of sales, because they’re not always required.  While there may be more guns an estimate from 230 million in 2001 to 270 million in 2007 (with the explosion that we know happened after that) the number of households reporting that they have guns is actually declining.  Either more people are stockpiling weapons or they’re not reporting that they have them in surveys.  Since, we don’t register gun owners, we have to rely on survey data for who actually owns guns.  But credit the NRA for helping to drive up sales for guns during the Obama administration.  Anyways, if the number of guns is increasing while the number of gun owning households are decreasing, what does that mean?  Does that mean anything?  Well, it’s important to note that gun homicides have declined each year.  The homicide rate in 2010 was 3.6 per 100,000 people.  This was the lowest mark since 1981.  This is taken from the CDC.  The CDC uses figures from the National Vital Statistics Systems which collects death certificates that have to be filed from each state.  The FBI uses voluntary reporting from law enforcement agencies.  Anyways.  Overall gun violence has declined, too.  The FBI tracks the use of firearms in three types of violent crimes, aggravated assault, murder, and robbery.  Robberies with guns declined 21 percent and aggravated assault with guns declined 12.5%.  But the number of gun injuries is on the rise.  There were over 55,000 non-fatal injuries resulting from guns in 2011, according to the CDC.  There were just over fifty-four thousand in 2010 and just over forty-four thousand in 2009. 
Comparing the United States to more advanced countries, we have the highest amount of guns and the highest amount of gun homicides.  But, countries in Latin America have lower amounts of guns and more homicides.  This is what was meant when describing contradictory evidence.

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