Guns, Murders, and the Rule of Law: Running the Numbers

When I was eighteen years old, I went down to the government office in Olympia, Washington with my friend Steve (no, not that Steve) and signed as the character witness on his application for a concealed carry permit for his handgun. I was probably stoned at the time; I often was back then. (FYI, I grew up with guns in my house — stored in the gun locker up in the attic, but we took them out and shot targets now and then, cleaned them, took care of them. I went hunting several times as a kid.)

Steve and I are still buds, and he still carries. He even stays at my place sometimes when he’s working up here in Seattle, but he leaves the heat in his car. I guess he doesn’t feel the need to scare off the dangerous girl gangs that are forever threatening to invade my houseboat and have their way with us. (Yeah: wildest dreams.)

You won’t be surprised to hear that Steve and I have been going at it on Facebook since the Newtown horror (cordially, if you can believe that). I point to the numbers — less guns, less murders — and he points to countries like Mexico, which have gun control laws but still have high levels of gun homicide. I point out: those countries don’t have strong rule of law; corruption and criminal intimidation is rampant in the police, the judiciary, and the legislatures.

Those countries’ problem is not that they don’t (try to) control guns. It’s that they can’t control guns.

Curious as always, this led me to wonder: in countries like ours that do have a strong, well-institutionalized rule of law — countries that can control guns if they choose to — do less guns mean less gun killings?

Short answer, Yes:

firearms 3

CL is Chile. MK is Macedonia. FI is Finland. You know what US stands for.

The WJP index looked like a good measure among those I found on the web; you can choose others if you wish. I used .55 as the cutoff because it’s the line above which all European countries are included, and the resulting list seemed to consist of countries that (at least in aggregate) are fairly comparable to ours. Here’s the list:

Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Chile, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Macedonia, Malaysia, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Singapore, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay.

The firearms and homicide data is from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, but it’s laid out in a conveniently sortable table with a linked Google spreadsheet at this Guardian page.

Steve also pointed me toward a blog that includes, among other things, a time-series analysis of gun violence and gun restrictions in the UK. I’ll simply say: if you live in the U.S. instead of the U.K., you are 43 times as likely to die of a gunshot.

So are your children.

Cross-posted at Angry Bear.

 

  1. Conservativelibertarian
    December 24th, 2012 at 11:15 | #1

    With great respect to your Article I must disagree with your premise.

    This analysis assumes that we the people believe that our government is not corrupt and that we disregard the Drug war that is happening in Mexico. We still have no answer for the Fast and Furious Debacle and no reprimands have been made for the Benghazi catastrophe. So we have a Government that arms our enemies and denies it to the public. Why should we trust them to provide our ultimate security.

    CL

  2. Kez
    December 26th, 2012 at 12:59 | #2

    Plot Firearms vs. Homicides, period, if you want a truly comparable statistic. The questions everyone asks: aren’t firearms also a deterrent? And, absent firearms, will violent folks still kill, with other means?

  3. Neil
    December 26th, 2012 at 13:04 | #3

    What happened to Switzerland?

  4. Floyd R Turbo (American)
    December 26th, 2012 at 18:19 | #4

    Which just goes to show you how delusional the libtards get when you challenge their religious beliefs.

    Here is a list of countries by intentional homicide rate (per 100,000 annually) – at the bottom of the post. The US is 108 on the list (there are 210 countries in the world).

    The US is number one in the world in terms of the gun ownership rate, but 108th in terms of the homicide rate.

    Does it REALLY make sense to compare the US EXCLUSIVELY to European countries when 13% of our population belongs to an ethnic minority that accounts for between 55% and 75% of all the violent crime in the US?

    Have you FAILED to notice that MOST African countries have FAR HIGHER rates of violent crime than the US?

    Have you FAILED to notice that the more Southernly states in the US have HIGHER populations of blacks and that this may account for the higher rates of gun violence in more Southernly states?

    Have you FAILED to notice that big cities in BLUE States have HIGHER rates of gun-crime than rural areas and that they also have HIGHER percentages of blacks in the population, and TIGHTER gun laws that the criminals IGNORE?

    Finally – is the ONLY meaningful statistic the number of firearm homicides vs the number of firearms? Isn’t it ALSO important that civilian firearms are used to prevent violent crime between 2.5 and 4.5 MILLION times annually in the US WITHOUT BEING FIRED?

    Great Britain has a lower gun homicide rate than the US but it has had a lower gun homicide rate for 200 years during most of which time neither country had any gun control at all. Great Britain has seen a precipitous rise in ALL violent crime since Dunblane INCLUDING gun crime. The UK now leads the US in violent crimes in all areas except gun homicides and it is fast catching up. you are six times more likely to be mugged in London than in New york City.

    UNODC murder rates most recent year (full table here)
    Country Rate Count Region Subregion
    Honduras 91.6 7,104 Americas Central America
    El Salvador 69.2 4,308 Americas Central America
    Côte d’Ivoire 56.9 10,801 Africa Western Africa
    Jamaica 52.2 1,430 Americas Caribbean
    Venezuela 45.1 13,080 Americas South America
    Belize 41.4 129 Americas Central America
    U.S. Virgin Islands 39.2 43 Americas Caribbean
    Guatemala 38.5 5,681 Americas Central America
    Saint Kitts and Nevis 38.2 20 Americas Caribbean
    Zambia 38.0 4,710 Africa Eastern Africa
    Uganda 36.3 11,373 Africa Eastern Africa
    Malawi 36.0 5,039 Africa Eastern Africa
    Lesotho 35.2 764 Africa Southern Africa
    Trinidad and Tobago 35.2 472 Americas Caribbean
    Colombia 33.4 15,459+ Americas South America
    South Africa 31.8 15,940 Africa Southern Africa
    Congo 30.8 1,180 Africa Middle Africa
    Central African Republic 29.3 1,240 Africa Middle Africa
    Bahamas 27.4 94 Americas Caribbean
    Puerto Rico 26.2 983 Americas Caribbean
    Saint Lucia 25.2 44 Americas Caribbean
    Dominican Republic 25.0 2,513 Americas Caribbean
    Tanzania 24.5 10,357 Africa Eastern Africa
    Sudan 24.2 10,028++ Africa Northern Africa
    Saint Vincent and the Grenadines 22.9 25 Americas Caribbean
    Mexico 22.7 25,757+ Americas Central America
    Ethiopia 22.5 20,239 Africa Eastern Africa
    Guinea 22.5 2,152 Africa Western Africa
    Dominica 22.1 15 Americas Caribbean
    Burundi 21.7 1,726 Africa Eastern Africa
    Democratic Republic of the Congo 21.7 13,558 Africa Middle Africa
    Panama 21.6 759 Americas Central America
    Brazil 21.0 40,974 Americas South America
    Equatorial Guinea 20.7 137 Africa Middle Africa
    Guinea-Bissau 20.2 294 Africa Western Africa
    Kenya 20.1 7,733 Africa Eastern Africa
    Kyrgyzstan 20.1 1,072 Asia Central Asia
    Cameroon 19.7 3,700 Africa Middle Africa
    Montserrat 19.7 1 Americas Caribbean
    Greenland 19.2 11 Europe Northern Europe
    Angola 19.0 3,426 Africa Middle Africa
    Guyana 18.6 140 Americas South America
    Burkina Faso 18.0 2,876 Africa Western Africa
    Eritrea 17.8 879 Africa Eastern Africa
    Namibia 17.2 352 Africa Southern Africa
    Rwanda 17.1 1,708 Africa Eastern Africa
    Chad 15.8 1,686 Africa Middle Africa
    Ghana 15.7 3,646 Africa Western Africa
    Ecuador 15.2 2,638 Americas South America
    North Korea 15.2 3,658 Asia Eastern Asia
    Benin 15.1 1,262 Africa Western Africa
    Sierra Leone 14.9 837 Africa Western Africa
    Mauritania 14.7 485 Africa Western Africa
    Botswana 14.5 287 Africa Southern Africa
    Zimbabwe 14.3 1,775 Africa Eastern Africa
    Gabon 13.8 200 Africa Middle Africa
    Nicaragua 13.6 785 Americas Central America
    French Guiana 13.3 30 Americas South America
    Papua New Guinea 13.0 854 Oceania Melanesia
    Swaziland 12.9 141 Africa Southern Africa
    Bermuda 12.3 8 Americas Northern America
    Comoros 12.2 85 Africa Eastern Africa
    Nigeria 12.2 18,422 Africa Western Africa
    Cape Verde 11.6 56 Africa Western Africa
    Grenada 11.5 12 Americas Caribbean
    Paraguay 11.5 741 Americas South America
    Barbados 11.3 31 Americas Caribbean
    Costa Rica 11.3 527 Americas Central America
    Togo 10.9 627 Africa Western Africa
    Gambia 10.8 106 Africa Western Africa
    Peru 10.3 2,969 Americas South America
    Myanmar 10.2 4,800 Asia South-Eastern Asia
    Russia 10.2 14,574 Europe Eastern Europe
    Liberia 10.1 371 Africa Western Africa
    Nauru 9.8 1 Oceania Micronesia
    Bolivia 8.9 884 Americas South America
    Mozambique 8.8 1,925 Africa Eastern Africa
    Kazakhstan 8.8 1,418 Asia Central Asia
    Senegal 8.7 1,027 Africa Western Africa
    Turks and Caicos Islands 8.7 3 Americas Caribbean
    Mongolia 8.7 239 Asia Eastern Asia
    British Virgin Islands 8.6 2 Americas Caribbean
    Cayman Islands 8.4 5 Americas Caribbean
    Seychelles 8.3 7 Africa Eastern Africa
    Madagascar 8.1 1,588 Africa Eastern Africa
    Indonesia 8.1 18,963 Asia South-Eastern Asia
    Mali 8.0 1,157 Africa Western Africa
    Pakistan 7.8 13,860+ Asia Southern Asia
    Moldova 7.5 267 Europe Eastern Europe
    Kiribati 7.3 7 Oceania Micronesia
    Guadeloupe 7.0 32 Americas Caribbean
    Haiti 6.9 689 Americas Caribbean
    Timor-Leste 6.9 75 Asia South-Eastern Asia
    Anguilla 6.8 1 Americas Caribbean
    Antigua and Barbuda 6.8 6 Americas Caribbean
    Lithuania 6.6 219 Europe Northern Europe
    Uruguay 5.9 199 Americas South America
    Philippines 5.4 4,947 Asia South-Eastern Asia
    Ukraine 5.2 2,356 Europe Eastern Europe
    Estonia 5.2 70 Europe Northern Europe
    Cuba 5.0 563 Americas Caribbean
    Belarus 4.9 473 Europe Eastern Europe
    Thailand 4.8 3,307 Asia South-Eastern Asia
    Suriname 4.6 24 Americas South America
    Laos 4.6 279 Asia South-Eastern Asia
    Georgia 4.3 187 Europe Eastern Europe
    Martinique 4.2 17 Americas Caribbean
    United States 4.2 12,996 Americas Northern America

  5. Walt
    December 27th, 2012 at 00:36 | #5

    Did you notice your graph shows there is a NEGATIVE correlation between gun ownership and homicide? If it were true that more guns were a cause of more homicide, in the very least we should expect to see a 1-to-1 correlation between the number of firearms and the number of deaths due to those firearms. But we don’t even see that much. In fact, your graph shows the exact opposite is the case: as the number of firearms increases, the number of deaths from those firearms decreases. With a population of 100,000, 100 guns kills 10 people in some countries, while 900 guns kills only 30 people in the United States. A gun in Greece has a 10% chance of killing someone, while a gun in the United States has a 3% chance of killing someone.

  6. Walt
    December 27th, 2012 at 00:51 | #6

    “do less guns mean less gun killings?”

    –Yes, just as less knives mean less knife-killings, and less consumption of alcohol means less drunk-driving incidents. The number of premature deaths due to alcohol are about the same as guns. But does this number of alcohol related deaths justify a policy of banning alcohol? If not, what is the relevant difference between guns and alcohol if your goal is to save as many lives as you can? Are we willing to sacrifice the 2nd Amendment to secure a small amount of safety, and a very tenuous safety at best?

  7. Spoke Umbra
    December 27th, 2012 at 09:47 | #7

    The list that gets the US into 108th place, especially compared to the premise of this article has two glaring faults, both showing manipulation of variables to favor a bias … it includes all countries rather than a selection based on the sophistication of their self-government & economy, so it is introducing an uncontrolled variable; and secondly, it is excluding variables, namely accidental and intentional death by firearms. Suicide by gun is one of the leading causes of death for men. If you look at gun ownership by state, you find that the states with the most guns have the most deaths by guns; that fact excludes all of the social/economic/political variables that are problematical. As a matter of fact, correlational statistical methodologies, such as ANOVA, would screen for variables and produce a more accurate picture than these simplistic mean/rate statistics being discussed right here.

    Secondly, “banning guns” isn’t what most people are talking about. Its banning or controlling assault rifles and high capacity clips. I would also support increasing manslaughter penalties for accidental death by handguns.

    Third, the 2nd amendment includes the words “well-regulated militia,” so, in fact, gun control IS part of the 2nd amendment so nothing in our precious rights is getting dumped.

  8. Spoke Umbra
    December 27th, 2012 at 09:50 | #8

    The list that gets the US into 108th place, especially compared to the premise of this article has two glaring faults, both showing manipulation of variables to favor a bias … it includes all countries rather than a selection based on the sophistication of their self-government & economy, so it is introducing an uncontrolled variable; and secondly, both are excluding variables, namely accidental and intentional death by firearms. Suicide by gun is one of the leading causes of death for men, and of course there are other accidental deaths as well. If you look at gun ownership by state, you find that the states with the most guns have the most deaths by guns; that fact excludes all of the social/economic/political variables that are problematical. As a matter of fact, correlational statistical methodologies, such as ANOVA, would screen for variables and produce a more accurate picture than these simplistic mean/rate statistics being discussed right here.

    Secondly, “banning guns” isn’t what most people are talking about. Its banning or controlling assault rifles and high capacity clips. I would also support increasing manslaughter penalties for accidental death by handguns.

    Third, the 2nd amendment includes the words “well-regulated militia,” so, in fact, gun control IS part of the 2nd amendment so nothing in our precious rights is getting dumped.

  9. Spoke Umbra
    December 27th, 2012 at 09:52 | #9

    So, what are the delusional liberal perspectives in these facts?

  10. Spoke Umbra
    December 27th, 2012 at 09:56 | #10

    @Floyd R Turbo (American)
    What is your source for this comment (please include who paid for the study):
    “…civilian firearms are used to prevent violent crime between 2.5 and 4.5 MILLION times annually in the US WITHOUT BEING FIRED?”

  11. Derek Wilson
    December 27th, 2012 at 12:37 | #11

    @Spoke Umbra

    Your reading of the 2nd Amendment to the Constitution of the United States is flawed. A “well-regulated militia” means a militia that is well trained and ready to defend the state. What idiot would believe that the new formed Government of the United States would speak about regulations (modern meaning) and not actually codify any in the law.
    The Dictionary meaning of regulate:to adjust so as to ensure accuracy of operation, to put in good order, to adjust to some standard or requirement, as amount, degree, etc., to control or direct by a rule, principle, method, etc.
    I am also quite sure that in your version the 2nd Amendment “grants” a right to keep and bear arms. It does nothing of the kind. The 2nd Amendment recognizes a preexisting right to keep and bear arms and tells the government to leave it alone.
    A simple reading of the writings of the founding fathers will make their intent perfectly clear.

  12. JA
    December 27th, 2012 at 12:47 | #12

    So what happened in Connecticut, a blue state, was a fluke, right? Which would, of course, been prevented by banning all guns! That is what all the discussion is about, isn’t it, or don’t all of you talking heads and so called intellectuals have the honesty and integrity to admit that? Yeah, that’s what I thought, spoken like a true political spokesman. You should be in Washington,D.C. We all know how safe it is there.

  13. chuck
    December 28th, 2012 at 06:11 | #13

    this data seems useless to me. There is really nothing detailed enough to discuss, I would like to comment on the statement of what our forefathers intentions were with respect to the second amendment. Seeing as to how most of our forefathers were involved in agriculture and possessed and used firearms for hunting and protection I believe their thoughts on this subject should be fairly clear to all.Also,in the 1700’s people were more concerned about people than animal rights so hunting was very widely practiced without prejudice.

  14. adromida
    December 28th, 2012 at 08:52 | #14

    You are basing your argument on flawed data, where you have not controlled for statistically relevant variables. It is very disingenous to proselytize some idea using flawed data.

  15. monk
    January 1st, 2013 at 23:11 | #15
  1. December 24th, 2012 at 08:09 | #1