Lies, Damned Lies, and (Gun Control) Statistics
It's true that more "gun deaths" are in red states, but dig deeper to find the real point.
In Chapters from My Autobiography, beloved American humorist Mark Twain wrote, “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” And maybe nowhere in the spectrum of the American political debate are statistics used more deceptively than in the debate over gun control.
At first glance, there is one statistic that is particularly damning for opponents of gun control; namely, that most of the Top 10 states for highest rates of gun deaths are conservative, pro-Second Amendment “red” states. In other words, the states most determined to protect their gun rights are the states most likely to suffer from high mortality rates due to “gun violence.”
Furthermore, gun-control advocates claim that in “blue” cities/states like Chicago, where death rates from firearms are high, neighboring states like Indiana and Wisconsin (with more lenient gun laws) are to blame, allowing criminals to easily obtain firearms that are then transported across state lines.
As you might have already guessed, there’s more to the story.
Logically, it makes no sense to blame Indiana and Wisconsin for Chicago’s high rate of violent crime. First, fewer guns used in Chicago crimes originate from Indiana and Wisconsin (less than 30%) than originate from Chicago (40%). And logic would dictate (if the pro-gun-control argument is to be believed) that the rate of violent crime would be highest where guns are most easily accessible, and would drop with distance from the epicenter. Conversely, crime would certainly should plummet in a place like Chicago, where guns are largely prohibited and strictly regulated.
Statistically, the argument is also too simplistic. Yes, the highest rates of gun deaths are in “red” states with more lenient gun laws, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. For example, in the state with the highest rate of gun deaths per capita, Alaska, suicide accounted for 80% of those deaths. In the state with the second-highest rate, Alabama, suicides accounted for 52% of gun deaths. Nationally, suicide accounts for nearly two-thirds of all gun deaths. Universal background checks would not do much to prevent someone from committing suicide who is determined to do so.
There is also the fact that, since 1968, federal law has declared anyone who “has been adjudicated as a mental defective or has been committed to any mental institution” is barred from possessing or acquiring firearms.
So what we should really be focused on is reducing the number of homicides in which guns are used. The question is, where are these homicides occurring?
According to an analysis of the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) statistics, 54% of all U.S. counties had ZERO homicides in 2014 (latest data available), and 70% of the counties had no more than one homicide. In fact, 68% of all homicides occurred in just 5% of U.S. counties, with over 50% of all homicides occurring in 2% of the counties.
So, in these Republican “red” states, the vast majority of homicides are concentrated in places like Atlanta, Birmingham, Memphis, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, etc. All of these cities have been controlled by Democrats for decades, and most have stringent gun laws. In fact, the U.S. cities that have far and away the highest murder rates are all Democrat-controlled — St. Louis, Baltimore, Detroit, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Kansas City, Cleveland, Memphis, Newark, Chicago, etc.
Louisiana is a perfect example. It has the cities with the fourth- and fifth-highest murder rates in the country, with New Orleans (39.5 murders per 100,000) and Baton Rouge (38.3 murders per 100,000). Yet the average for the entire state plummets to 12.4 murders per 100,000, meaning that outside of those two cities, the state is actually pretty safe.
The murders tend to be highly concentrated even within counties. For example, the vast majority of murders in Los Angeles County are in the southeastern part of the county, with virtually none in the northwestern section. In Washington, DC, virtually all murders occur in the eastern part of the city.
The caricature of gun owners in general, and NRA members in particular, as gun-totin’, backwoods hillbillies looking for a reason to shoot someone is nothing more than intellectually lazy character assassination. One has only to look at concealed-carry weapons (CCW) permit holders to realize that.
CCW permit holders are even more law abiding than sworn law-enforcement officers. Criminal-justice statistics show that CCW permit holders commit crimes at roughly 1/8th the rate of law-enforcement officers, who themselves commit crimes at a fraction of the general population. CCW holders and NRA members are CCW holders and NRA members precisely because they have a deep respect for Rule of Law, the Constitution, and societal safety and order. Their driving desire in carrying a weapon is to protect their own lives, the lives of their families, and innocent people around them from violent criminals. Most hope to never have to draw their weapon but are ready if they must.
Yes, it’s easier to engage in the character assassination of gun owners than it is to deal with the reality that the vast majority of gun crimes are committed in the urban poverty plantations cultivated by Democrats for decades.
But that won’t save any lives.