In response to another in a long line of studies showing that higher rates of gun ownership correlate to higher rates of gun death, Power Tool John Hinderacker responds,
But what jumps out at you when you read Fleegler’s article is that the decrease in fatalities that he documents relates almost exclusively to suicides. What his study really shows is that strict gun laws have little or no impact on gun homicides.
See, only homicides count. Suicides, accidents, all the times small children take Dad’s loaded gun out of the night stand and shoot themselves, those don’t count as problems. Only homicides are problems.
My responses: First, it’s common to dismiss suicides in gun violence statistics because it is assumed that if people didn’t have guns, they would just find some other way to kill themselves. And that’s logical. But data say otherwise. The data show that where there are more guns, there are more suicides.
There are several reasons for this, the first one being that other methods are less reliable. People don’t take enough pills, or they are found and revived. It is speculated that some suicides by firearm are impulsive, spur-of-the moment actions; other suicide methods require some planning. It’s also noted that suicide rates are higher in rural than in urban areas, and rural areas also tend to have higher rates of gun ownership. Or maybe a few of those suicides weren’t suicides. Many things are possible.
However it happens, I find the attitude that suicide deaths don’t count as a factor in gun violence to be, well, cold. Where there is someone still alive who wouldn’t be alive if he had access to a gun, that counts.
But moving on — The Power Tool’s headline is “NEW STUDY FINDS FIREARMS LAWS DO NOTHING TO PREVENT HOMICIDES.” We could easily turn that around and say “NEW STUDY FINDS INCREASED GUN OWNERSHIP DOES NOTHING TO PREVENT HOMICIDES.” One of the things the absolutists keep saying is that arming society prevents violent crime, because criminals fear “good guy” citizens with guns. We’re told over and over that millions of Americans have defended themselves with guns; that if citizens cannot carry weapons everywhere they go they risk becoming victims; that “an armed society is a polite society”; that more guns equals less crime.
And I’ve been saying for years that these claims are hooey. You can easily dig up data going back years on which cities/states have the highest and lowest rates of homicide and assaults in the U.S., and there is no clear and consistent correlation between violent crime rates and gun laws in those places. Glad to see the Tool agrees with me.
A big reason for the lack of correlation, of course, is that lax gun purchasing laws in some states put a big hole in the effectiveness of gun laws in other states. It’s just way too easy to legally purchase firearms in the Southeast and re-sell them on a black market in the Northeast. It’s long been known that most guns used in violent crimes in New York were purchased legally in the South, primarily Virginia. There’s every reason to think that some national regulation on firearm purchasing would dry up some of this supply, and then we might see a stronger correlation between gun laws and violent gun crime.
And I also keep reminding people that accidents can kill you just as dead as crime. The absolutists keep bringing the conversation back to gun crime, as if accidents and suicides don’t count, because as long as the argument is about scary bad people who are about to break into your house and kill you, they feel they win the argument.
See also Prairie Weather.