“In developed nations gun ownership levels directly correlate with the number of firearm murders.”

This is a comment by John Smith on the post “Incentivizing Violence: When Will the Insanity End!?

John Smith said:

“Actually, gun ownership per capita in Canada is less than half that of the US, despite the much larger amount of the population living in areas where carrying a gun is vital for safety from wildlife. 88.8 per 100 vs 30.8 per 100.  England and Wales, somewhere with very strict gun laws, 6.2.

“The US has 4.14 firearm murders per 100,00 per year. Canada 0.76. The  England and Wales 0.07. In developed nations gun ownership levels directly correlate with the number of firearm murders.

“Regardless of who is committing the murders the problem highlighted by the articular is the fact that attitude and ownership of guns is at the route of the problem. It is no good saying “NRA members and hunters don’t commit the murders” when they are the ones who are so staunchly against any form of control stopping guns getting in to the hands of more violent members of society. They may not be committing the murders but there lobbying most certainly makes them at least worthy of mention when discussing the route cause of gun violence.” 

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  1. Also, in the article, they mistakenly use the word “ROUTE” (direction in which something travels) for the word “ROOT” (place of origin). I really hate grammatical errors.

  2. First and foremost–a “correlation” is not a proven fact nor a proven data set. When something correlates, it means it demands more research, because some of the data seems to have a cause/effect relationship or some other relationship. You can find a correlation between ANYTHING–a correlation however, is not a justification. Secondly–gun control does nothing but prevent honest people from obtaining tools for hunting or protecting themselves from the THUGS who illegally purchase them. Stricter laws do not prevent criminals from getting more guns. More laws do not make something illegal any less obtainable (drugs, prostitutes, weapons–you can pretty much name it).
    Furthermore, what data are you using? Are you using crime rates for a particular country in a given year? In how many of those cases did the shooter legally own the gun used to kill someone? How many deaths were caused my mistake or user error (manslaughter is still a form of murder!)? That guy needs some unbiased research conducted–that is the biggest problem with correlations–they are looking for a specific relationship, and can often find it if the proper controls are not considered.

  3. Break down the murder rates by race/ethnicity and you quickly learn that Euro-Americans are no more criminally inclined than Europeans. Culture matters.

    Also… in developed nations the gun ownership level INVERSELY correlates with the probablity of genocidal holocausts. So EVEN IF (highly dubious, but, FTTOA let it pass), even if gun controls could prevent a few dozen psycho killings and a few thousand criminal killings per year (most, FYI, of fellow crimninals)…. they do so only at the price of facilitating government sponsored massacres of MILLIONS. Remember that the government is always armed.

    The world CANNOT be made perfect, there is only a tradeoff of risks. I’ll take my chances with crooks and psychos, rather than risk another Holocaust (which might or might NOT target the same people as the last one, it could be ANYBODY, so EVERYBODY should be concerned.)

  4. LOL….the picture reminds me of a VERY old Saturday Night Live spoof: “Show Us Your Gun”
    What a classic!!!

  5. The Wet One says:

    On this topic, Mr. Stephen Pinker presented a different, and in my view, a better explanation for the rates of violence in the U.S. vs. Canada vs. Europe.

    In a nutshell, it’s this: law and order came late to large parts of the U.S. as opposed to Europe where law and order has been long established, and compared to Canada where the law was in place before colonization.

    Consider these ideas (supported by history):

    1. Kings and rulers reduced the European continent to one of peace and security within the borders of their sovereign states long ago. Their “Wild West” days have been gone for centuries, and the culture of violence and personal weapon ownership that went with it have been gone for a long time.

    2. Both Canada and the U.S. are relatively new countries compared to their European counterparts. In the U.S., the colonizers preceded the presence of effective government. Thus the “Wild West” and all the events that go with it. Did you know that the rates of violence in the Wild West were vastly higher than they are now, (as high as 1,500 homicides per 100,000)? This only 120 – 150 years ago. The culture from that time period is not entirely gone yet (just look at U.S. gun culture, which is unlike that seen anywhere else in the world).

    3. Canada, which was settled at around the same time, had the North West Mounted Police on the frontier BEFORE the settlers arrived en masse. When the settlers arrived, law and order was already established (and don’t forget the U.S. and Canada had largely the same SOURCE of settlers, namely Europe). What was the effect of the law being in place before the settlers arrived? One, a much more orderly society with respect to violence (1/3 the rate of homicide as the U.S. for decades in modern times). Two, a really different culture with respect to guns despite relatively similar histories (except we had the Mounties on the frontier and Americans did not). Three, totally different histories from the same time period. We can all name famous U.S. outlaws of the Old West and think of a few famous gunfights and shootings (Billy the Kid and the Shootout at the O.K. Corral anyone?), but I for my part cannot one instance of the same thing or things in Canada’s history. I’m sure it happened, but it’s not the stuff of legend, myth and movies.

    4. As a final supporting point, consider this. What are the homicide rates in the U.S. in the original 13 colonies vs. the newer states? Pinker found that violence increases as you go south and west. The south and the west are the areas that were settled last and where law and order has been playing catch up since early days. New York and Boston don’t have the same history with respect to law and order as the rest of the U.S. and have been under the aegis of “law and order” longer, with differing results.

    Pinker does a better job of explaining this in his book “The Beter Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined,” but these are the basics. His explanation of the history is by far, the most persuasive explanation of why gun ownership and violence (two intertwined things) are so different in the U.S. vs. Europe and elsewhere. The history of the U.S. and its “civilizing process” proceeded quite differently than elsewhere in the world (including Canada) and produced differing results (as would be expected). In time, the U.S. will get to be like Europe (as will Canada), but it has some ways to go.

    Anyways, I’ve written enough and now my fingers hurt. Time to go squeeze off a few rounds before dinner!

    The Wet One

  6. I’m not sure that the pro- gun crowd perpetuates a lot of violence…
    AZ & CO are places where it is very easy to carry a firearm & nobody from a well regulated militia stepped up during the Gifford or Batman shootings.
    Guns, to a certain extent, may- no, probably- contribute to fatality incidents during violent encounters…
    We are a violent people in the US- but then we are still in our infancy as a nation.
    Maybe it is something in the water in the Western hemisphere- people were pushing each other off of property, practicing genocide & hunting species into extinction for 10-50 K years [depending on which dating is in vogue now] prior to our 400 years here.

  7. It’s the “root” of the problem, not the “route”. Perhaps Mr. Smith should do some research on his word usage as well as research on on violence (gun-related or otherwise) in both the countries he speaks of and the US. Where do those stats on gun ownership come from? Do you really think criminals in any country who are barred from possessing firearms would admit to they do anyway? The statement “Regardless of who is committing the murders the problem highlighted by the articular is the fact that attitude and ownership of guns is at the route of the problem,” is irresponsible and far from being a fact.

    It DOES matter who is committing murders and why. For a time, I was a crime scene photographer, and I saw firsthand a lot of young men dead from gunshot wounds — young men who were involved in gangs, sometimes obviously involved in drugs, and who were very, very often non-white ethnicities who lived in the poorest parts of a large urban city in the US. I say this not to convey blame, but to help convey the sense of tragedy that the lives and potential of these young men were cut short due in part to the environment they lived in and what they may have seen as one of their few viable options in life. Mr. Smith, like many in the anti-gun crowd, fails to acknowledge that countries like Canada and the UK have more social support programs than the US (universal health care, anyone?) to help keep the poorest citizens from falling through the cracks and into desperation. I once read that the only factor that most strongly correlates with crime is poverty, and I wish I could find that reference again; basically, poverty goes down, crime goes down, and vice versa. I suspect we in the US could do a lot to reduce violence by reducing poverty and improving opportunities.

    Where I blame the pro-gun crowd is in the typically conservative attitude that “people just need to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps”. If the pro-gun crowd helps perpetuate violence (and by extension, fear of guns) in any way, I think it is, ironically, in their conservative, anti-welfare stance that leaves people they don’t give a damn about to rot — the same people who live among and perhaps turn to gangs, drugs and violence as a way of life. Welfare, health care, etc, wouldn’t be the only solution to the violence, however, because gangs are powerful, self-propagating organizations, and breaking their hold over entire neighborhoods is no small matter.

    These are just a few issues in a very complex matter that most journalists and even academics fail to properly address, say nothing of Mr. Smith’s emotional, poorly outlined (and poorly written) argument. Mr. Smith, at least, could attempt to do a better job of both research and writing before he spouts off.

  8. John Schtoll says:

    Where do people get the idea that DV is ignored in North America, FAR FROM IT in fact.

  9. So, we capture/turn-in/destroy all the guns. K….then the police will not need any guns, right?

  10. Take away firearm murders and the US still has a higher rate of homicide than those other countries. There is no gun control that will keep people safe, just as there are no laws that stop people from getting illegal drugs. Above all, there is no excuse for abridging anyone’s right to self-defense. The root of the problem has nothing to do with guns and everything to do with violence. Repeal the drug laws that incentivize violence, remove the legal restrictions that make it hard for the poor to improve their economic situation, and work to build a culture where domestic violence is abhorred instead of ignored.

  11. And further to this, you light find this paper illuminating: http://www.garymauser.net/pdf/KatesMauserHJPP.pdf

  12. Now what are the rates in Finland and Switzerland, which are also countries with high rates of gun ownership, on a par with the US and Canada?

    What do those data points do to your hypothesis?

    • wellokaythen says:

      From what I understand, Israel is a pretty heavily armed place. What’s their firearms murder rate?

      I’m also wondering about regional differences. Even if everyone in Wyoming owns a gun, does that mean that the murder rate is really high there? Somehow I doubt it. The specific areas with high rates of ownership may not be the places with the high rates of murder. I bet there is an even higher correlation to population density – the larger the population density, the higher the murder rate. Maybe we should restrict the size of cities as well?

      Correlation is not causation. I say all this as someone who would like to see a lot more restrictions on gun ownership. I just don’t think this factoid is conclusive enough for my taste.

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