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Name: Sean
Gender: Male
Hometown: Asheville NC
Home country: USA
Current location: Arlington VA
Member since: Sat Jun 27, 2015, 01:01 PM
Number of posts: 2,493

Journal Archives

WaPo Article Contends "Zero" Correlation Between State Gun Laws and State Homicide Rates

The WaPo has had a number of articles relating to gun control/violence since the shooting in Oregon. Eugene Volokh, a law professor at UCLA, had an opinion piece today in which he contends there is "zero correlation between state homicide rate and state gun laws." The article can be found here - https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/10/06/zero-correlation-between-state-homicide-rate-and-state-gun-laws/.

He explains that his methodology examines whether states with more stringent gun laws have lower overall homicide rates -- not just gun homicides, but total homicides -- because if you enact strict gun laws and just see a rise in knife murders then you've not really made an overall difference. Anyway, I'm sure that this article won't sway one side or the other but found it interesting and the conclusion unsurprising.

The correlation between the homicide rate and Brady score in all 51 jurisdictions is +.032 (on a scale of -1 to +1), which means that states with more gun restrictions on average have very slightly higher homicide rates, though the tendency is so small as to be essentially zero. (If you omit the fatal gun accident rates, then the correlation would be +.065, which would make the more gun-restricting states look slightly worse; but again, the correlation would be small enough to be essentially zero, given all the other possible sources of variation.) If we use the National Journal data (adding the columns for each state, counting 1 for each dark blue, which refers to broad restrictions, 0.5 for each light blue, which refers to medium restrictions, and 0 for each grey, which refers to no or light restrictions), the results are similar: +0.017 or +0.051 if one omits the fatal gun accident rates. You can also run the correlation yourself on my Excel spreadsheet.

He concludes:

But since people have been talking about simple two-variable correlations between gun laws and crime, I thought it would be helpful to note this correlation — or, rather, absence of correlation.

WaPo Fact Checks President's Claim That States With Most Gun Laws Tend To Have Fewest Gun Deaths

Washington Post fact checkers give two Pinocchio's to President Obama's claim that states with the most gun laws tend to have the fewest gun deaths, which means the statement included "significant omissions and/or exaggerations," although the author notes he waivered between two and three Pinocchio's, with three being in the "mostly false" category. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/fact-checker/wp/2015/10/05/obamas-claim-that-states-with-the-most-gun-laws-tend-to-have-the-fewest-gun-deaths/?tid=pm_politics_pop_b

In the article the WaPo explains that when you exclude suicides, which account for 60% of gun deaths, then there is a significant change in where a state might rank in the number of gun deaths per 100,000 people.

First, the WaPo notes that the data is "mixed" on whether stricter gun laws lead to fewer suicides:

Some might argue that it is wrong to exclude suicides from the data, as less access to guns might result in fewer suicides. The data on that is mixed. Gun-related suicides might decline, but studies have shown little connection between suicides and access to guns. A 2004 report published by the National Academy of Sciences concluded that “some gun control policies may reduce the number of gun suicides, but they have not yet been shown to reduce the overall risk of suicide in any population.”

Japan, for instance, has among the world’s most-restrictive gun-control regimes — and yet also has among the world’s highest suicide rates, almost double the U.S. suicide rate.

Second, once you exclude suicides:

Alaska, ranked 50th on the National Journal list, moved up to 25th place. Utah, 31st on the list, jumped to 8th place. Hawaii remains in 1st place, but the top six now include Vermont, New Hampshire, South Dakota, Iowa and Maine. Indeed, half of the 10 states with the lowest gun-death rates turn out to be states with less-restrictive gun laws.

Meanwhile, Maryland — a more urban state — fell from 15th place to 45th, even though it has very tough gun laws. Illinois dropped from 11th place to 38th, and New York fell from 3rd to 15th.

The WaPo concluded that:

While gun suicides are certainly a serious issue — and account for more than 60 percent of gun deaths — the evidence is mixed on whether restricting gun purchases would affect the overall suicide rate. In any case, the president’s policy proposals are aimed at mass shootings, not suicides.

In short, I, along with almost all of the people on DU, support toughening our gun laws to include UBCs and additional training. But stricter gun laws isn't the panacea it is made out to be, and in some states -- notably Maryland -- such laws have had little impact on gun violence.
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