Jan 032013
Gun-hating Senator Schumer with a hammer.  Where is his outrage over hammer murders?  What hammer controls does he propose?

Gun-hating Senator Schumer with a hammer. Where is his outrage over hammer murders? What hammer controls does he propose?

The sheep are predictably bleating in response to the Sandy Hook School shooting.  Ban this!  Restrict that!  Outlaw the other thing!

The gun grabbers are leading this chorus with glee, while the sheep rush to sacrifice not just their liberty and freedom but also yours and mine too; all in the naieve ridiculous hope that the bad guys will voluntarily also sacrifice their liberty and their freedom.

Most of the focus seems to be on restoring the useless ban on ‘assault rifles’ (although Senator Feinstein’s definition of ‘assault rifle’ for her ban provision would also include any pistol capable of having a greater than 10 round magazine, which means just about every modern semi-auto pistol).  There’s something about the sight of a modern sporting rifle that creates a knee jerk hate response with gun banners – it seems they wish that only guns that ‘look nice’ with gentle curves and pastel colors should be allowed.

But – let’s stop a minute and smell the roses.  Just how many people are killed by rifles each year?  The answer might surprise you.

As reported here, the FBI uniform crime statistics show that in a typical year, about 300 – 450 murders were committed with a rifle.

But – in the same typical year, more people are killed with hammers than with rifles.  For example, in 2011 (the most recent year for statistics) there were 323 people killed by rifle, and 496 people killed by hammers and clubs.

A typical year shows half as many people again killed by a hammer or club than by a rifle.  And – get this – a typical year also sees twice as many people are murdered with nothing other than the killer’s bare hands (see this table for five years of recent data).

And don’t get us started on the slaughter from knives and cutting instruments – four to five times greater than that from rifles.

So, where is the outrage against hammers and clubs?  Against knives and cutting instruments?  What restrictions are being mooted against a person’s bare hands and feet?  Should there be a ban on hammers weighing more than 1 lb?  What about people with large hands or strong legs?  Should they be required to have surgical alterations?

We urge you to write your representatives and point them to these statistics and ask them to prioritize their actions to reduce violent crime.  Why focus solely on rifles when they are a small part of the problem, and already subject to dozens if not hundreds of rules and restrictions?  Why should honest people have their access to rifles restricted, when dishonest people will ignore any new laws and restrictions, the same as they have ignored all the previous restrictions that already exist.

By focusing on the tool – be it a rifle, knife, hammer, or even a killer’s bare hands – we are avoiding focusing on the real root cause, which is human nature and the propensity for bad people to do bad things, whatever way they can.

Dec 062011

More guns were sold the day after Thanksgiving this year than on any previous day, ever

Here’s something to delight all of us who equate more guns with more freedom and more safety.

The FBI has just released figures which show that calls to their ‘instant check’ NICS background checking service (necessary as part of buying a gun from a dealer) were higher on Black Friday (the day after Thanksgiving) this year than on any other day, ever, since they first started their NICS service back in 1998.

This new record was a very decisive one, too.  The total calls – 129,166 – were 32% higher than the previous highest number (Black Friday of 2008).

For the entire month of November, NICS calls were 16.5% up on November last year, and already in the first 11 months of this year, there have been more NICS calls than in all of 2010.  Total NICS calls for 2011 will be nearly twice as many as was the case not even ten years ago.

At the risk of getting boring and technical, I should explain that a call to NICS is not the same as a new gun being sold.  One single call and request for NICS approval can sometimes be for a person buying multiple guns in a single transaction.  So that would suggest that more guns are sold than the count of NICS calls.

But not all NICS calls are for gun sales.  For example, many states will also get a NICS clearance before issuing a concealed weapons permit.  So that requires a negative adjustment down from the NICS total.

The National Sports Shooting Association estimates that overall many fewer guns are sold than NICS calls are made, so perhaps the 129,166 calls represents ‘only’ 100,000 new guns sold on Black Friday.

But whatever you do with the numbers, the unavoidable twin truths (unavoidable unless you’re a gun-hater, of course) are that gun sales continue to steadily trend upward, while violent crime figures continue to drop, continuing the trend we analyzed in our article back in May – Gun Sales Continue to Increase, Crime Rates Continue to Decrease.

No wonder that there is a general increase in people supporting gun ownership.

May 292011
Guns for sale in a US gun shop

15 million guns will be purchased in 2011

The entire logic of people who oppose free ownership of guns is that gun ownership causes crime.  They seek to restrict and control who can own guns and what sort of guns people can own, on the basis that the fewer the people who own guns, and the fewer the guns that are owned, the safer that society will become.

But there is no evidence to support their contention.  Quite the opposite – there is irrefutable evidence to completely contradict their claims.  The number of guns sold each year continues to steadily increase, while crime rates are equally steadily dropping rather than rising.

The FBI is the agency charged with collecting, collating and publishing uniform crime reports in an attempt to get a consistent national picture of crime in the US, and it has been doing this since 1930.  It draws data from nearly 17,000 different law enforcement agencies across the country, and their reporting is considered the ‘gold standard’ on which to measure crime rates.

They have just released a preliminary report for 2010.  And it is full of good news for us as citizens.  Robbery is down 9.5%, murder and manslaughter down 4.4%, forcible rape is down 4.2% and aggravated assault down 3.6%.  Overall, violent crime is down an average of 5.5%, and all four regions of the country showed decreases.

This decrease in violent crime isn’t a one time aberration, either.  Their report includes a table showing that in addition to the 5.5% decline in 2010, there was a 5.3% decline in 2009, and lesser declines of 1.9% in 2008 and 0.7% in 2007.

Prior to 2007, an earlier FBI report shows that for the ten years 1997 – 2006, violent crime dropped in total by 13.3%.  Reaching back even further, for the four years 1993 – 1997, violent crime dropped by 6.9%.  (I stopped looking further back when reaching 1993 due to laziness and the fact that surely 17 years of data is enough to accurately establish a clear trend.)

These statistics are all the more remarkable when you consider that at the same time the number of crimes are dropping, the number of people living in the US is increasing – for example, the 6.9% decrease in the four years 1993 – 1997 would be a 10.2% if expressed in terms of crimes per (eg) 100,000 people.

So, the good news that everyone can welcome is that violent crime is down, down, down.  In total, for every 100 violent crimes reported in 1993, it seems that today there are only 70 crimes reported.  At the same time, the US population has increased from 258 million in 1993 to 309 million in 2010.  So, if we adjust for the population increase, the actual reduction in crime per constant number of people is from a base count of 100 in 1993 to 59 in 2010.  Violent crime rates have almost halved.

Now what about gun ownership?  The same period of time has seen a resurgence of gun ownership in the US.  More and more states have allowed concealed and/or open carry of weapons, and gun sales have steadily increased.

It is hard to know both how many guns there are in private ownership, and how many people or households actually own guns.  But since late 1998, it has been possible to at least get an approximate understanding of how many new guns are being sold.

Almost without exception, all new firearms sold in the US now require the purchaser to get an authorization from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), a system instituted in late 1998 and operated by the FBI.  This provides a convenient measure for gun sales activity.

However, one check can sometimes result in the purchase of two or more guns, but offsetting this, some second hand gun sales are also processed through the NICS system.  A second hand gun sale does not represent a new gun added into the population, but instead is simply a transfer of a gun from someone presumably no longer needing/using it to someone who is likely to value, need, and use it more than the seller.

For the sake of estimating, it perhaps is acceptable to say that the number of second hand gun transfers is balanced by the number of multiple gun transactions authorized by a single NICS check, so let’s approximately equate NICS checks with actual new guns sold.

Rates of gun sales, as empirically measured by NICS checks, have been increasing steadily every year without exception since 2002 (when 8.45 million checks were conducted).  2006 was the first year in which more than 10 million checks were carried out, and by 2008 checks were being carried out at a rate 50% greater than in 2002 (12.71 million).

In 2010, a new high of 14.41 million checks were carried out, and for the first five months of 2011, checks have been running at a rate about 10% higher than 2010, suggesting a total for 2011 in the order of nearly 16 million checks – nearly twice the rate of nine years earlier.  You can see the NICS statistics here.

In total, from the start of the NICS system in November 1998 through the end of April 2011, there have been 130 million checks conducted; which can be considered to imply about that many new guns purchased in the US.  Let’s say sales were occurring at a lower rate of 7.5 million a year prior to that.  So, during the same time frame 1993 – 2010 that violent crime rates have dropped 41%, there have been 170 million new guns sold.

It is not known how many of these purchases are replacement guns, to replace guns that have been lost or destroyed or rendered unusable by accident or design.  But most firearms have a very long life – it is not uncommon to see 30 or 40 year old guns, and because they don’t drop in value greatly as they age, few people simply throw away an ‘old’ gun, but instead will either keep it or give it away or sell it.  So most of the new guns being purchased are additional guns rather than replacement guns.

It is also not known how many of these purchases are to existing gun owners simply choosing to buy another gun to add to their existing gun or guns (although in this latter case, sometimes a current gun owner buying an additional gun will then sell one of his previously owned guns via a private sale to someone else, without the transaction needing to be processed through NICS).  It is probably fair to say that half the guns sold each year are to existing gun owners – in other words, while the number of guns in the country may be increasing, the number of gun owners is increasing more slowly.

However – and here is the point – whatever the numbers are, gun ownership is steadily growing in the US.  And, at the same time, crime is steadily dropping.

I don’t necessarily claim there to be a direct or close link between the two statistics.  But what I do very strongly point out is that the main reason gun control advocates use to justify their claim that guns should be restricted and controlled – a claim that guns ’cause’ crime – is utterly wrong.  Notwithstanding a surge in gun ownership, and many more states allowing concealed carry of weapons, murder rates are down, rape rates are down; indeed, all violent crime rates are significantly down and have been consistently reducing year after year after year.

To summarize this morass of statistics, and for the period 1993 – 2010 :

  • Violent crime rates reduced by 41%
  • 170 million guns sold
  • With less than 130 million households in the US, this is an average of 1.3 guns sold per household
  • Rates of gun sales are increasing and rates of violent crime reduction are similarly accelerating

So where is the harm in gun ownership?

As far as the numbers tell the story, and accepting the anti-gunners own claim that there is a linkage between the prevalence of guns and crime in society, more guns clearly reduce crime, not increase it.

So, my question to the would-be gun-grabbers :  With 170 million new guns in circulation in the US, and a 41% reduction in violent crime rates over the same period, where is the harm you allege guns are causing to society?  Shouldn’t you be advocating for more gun sales?

Feb 152011

These houses at the foot of the Swiss Matterhorn probably have full auto guns in them

I bet you didn’t see a headline in your local newspaper, or a lead story on television news this week about the Swiss rejecting a plan to restrict the ability of their citizens to lawfully own and keep fully automatic weapons in their homes.

Amazingly, a French website tells us what our local gun hating media prefer to pretend did not happen, in an article headlined ‘Swiss overwhelmingly reject plan to tighten gun control in referendum‘.

The profusion of guns in Switzerland (it is estimated there are between two and three million guns in 3.4 million households) has been blamed for a ‘high’ suicide rate.  But let’s look at the numbers.  According to this table, the suicide rate in Switzerland is 15.1 deaths per 100,000 people per year.  But this is not a high suicide rate – it is actually less than neighboring France (17) and adjacent Belgium (17.6).  Sure, it is more than Germany (9.5) but really, what these numbers show is that suicide rates vary widely, even among similar seeming countries.

The wide variation in suicide numbers may be a transient thing (ie one year rates are higher than the next year for whatever reason) or it may be a cultural thing (Japan has a suicide rate of 24.4) or it may be an economic thing (poorer countries have higher suicide rates) or it may even be partly dependent on the data collection methodology and how readily deaths are categorized as suicides (ie a very low suicide rate is shown in Italy – 5.2, a strongly Roman Catholic country where suicide is considered a mortal sin).

All we can say about the suicide numbers is that Switzerland scores lower than some comparable countries and higher than others, but is in no measurable amount unusually different to other countries around it.

Another thing the profusion of guns can not be blamed for is a high murder rate.  Quite the opposite – perhaps it could be credited for a very low murder rate, because there are very few murders in Switzerland.

Here’s a table of intentional homicide rates by country.  You’ll have to scroll almost to the bottom to find Switzerland, with a rate of 0.7 homicides per 100,000 people per year.  In comparison, France has a rate of 1.4, Germany 0.86 and Italy 1.2.

Of course, the anti-gunners want to ‘have their cake and eat it too’ – they’ll blame guns for what in truth turns out to be a normal, average suicide rate, but they go completely silent when trying to link the much broader variations in murder rates to gun ownership.

Even rabidly anti-gun Britain has a significantly higher homicide rate – 1.28 – than does Switzerland.

Of course, the same factors that apply to how you assess suicide rates also must apply to murder rates.  Murder rates vary for social reasons, for economic reasons, and many other things, quite unrelated to the presence or absence of guns.

It is always a grave mistake to try and take only one factor or variable and link it solely and exclusively to another factor or variable, when in truth there are many reasons why the measured variable changes.

But there is one situation where murders and other violent crimes can be weakly but somewhat correlated to the presence or absence of guns in the population as a whole, and that is in the US (due to it being a somewhat more homogenous society with fewer other variables).  Study after study in the US shows that the freer the access to guns, the lower the rates of violent and gun-related crime.

And that’s another story you probably don’t see in the media, either.

The Swiss have also recently passed referendums to ban the building of minarets on mosques and to automatically deport foreigners found guilty of committing serious crimes or benefit fraud.  Two more stories that may not have made the media.