Tom the Dancing Bug: Our Nation's Leaders Analyze the Data on USA's Gun Violence

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/05/23/tom-the-dancing-bug-our-natio.html

Tom the Dancing Bug, IN WHICH our nation’s leaders analyze the data on USA’s gun violence

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USA! USA! USA!

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The “It’s about us” line on the cartoon is insightful: “Guns don’t kill people, Americans with guns kill people.”

That’s reductive, of course, but I do believe there’s a cultural factor at work. Any explanation of American gun violence that addresses only the easy availability of guns, and doesn’t talk about the way that guns (and violence) are fetishized in the US is going to be missing part of the picture. Where exactly that comes from is open to debate. Sure, the NRA has consciously promoted this fetishization, and ‘gun culture’ has further weaponized the ideal of violent masculinity. But even that’s just a case of riding an existing wave, rather than creating it from nothing.

Sadly, wherever this comes from, however it’s maintained and propagated, it’s something that isn’t so easy to address with background checks.

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I think Americans without guns also kill people. The non-firearm homicide rate of the US is higher than the total homicide rate for many developed countries.

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http://www.nybooks.com/daily/2012/12/15/our-moloch/

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When you actually talk to the gun aficionados, they always have a ready Wall of Links to copy-paste their point. THIS is what you get when you suggest that we might have a problem in the US:

Stats for gun violence:
I’ll start with the most uncomfortable stat:
Of the roughly 10,000 homicides in 2013, 50% were perpetrated by African Americans, even though they are only 13% of the population. Even that is misleading, it is almost entirely black MALES in particular, who are only 6% of the population. So yes, the US has a higher homicide rate than most of Western Europe, but it’s a socioeconomic problem more than a gun problem. https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in-the-u.s.-2013/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/expanded-homicide/expanded_homicide_data_table_6_murder_race_and_sex_of_vicitm_by_race_and_sex_of_offender_2013.xls Don’t believe me? Look at Vermont, which has some of the most lax gun laws in the country. You don’t even need a permit to carry a firearm on you wherever you go. Yet their homicide rate is 1.6 per 100,000 people, roughly the same as France (which has strict gun control). Vermont is racially homogeneous, 95% white. It isn’t that white people are “better”, it is that black people are disproportionately poor. Poverty is probably the biggest predictor of violence there is. New Hampshire is an even better example. They allow open carry without a permit, and their gun homicide rate is the lowest in the Country at 1.1 per 100,000. The Brady Campaign gives NH a D- and Vermont an F for not having strict gun laws. They gave Washington DC a “B” for having a hefty amount of gun control. DC’s homicide rate? 13.9 per 100,000. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy/wp/2015/10/06/zero-correlation-between-state-homicide-rate-and-state-gun-laws/?utm_term=.bd091734a7a4 Now, mass shootings are predominantly done by white males in the US (with the occasional radicalized Muslim thrown in). But mass shootings are a tiny fraction of homicide. The vast majority of gun homicide is done with pistols, usually involving gangs. Rifles kill around 300 people a year - you are actually more likely to die from kicks and punches than a rifle. In 2013, handguns killed 5,782 people. Rifles? 285. “Hands, fists, feet”? 687. https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in-the-u.s.-2013/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/expanded-homicide/expanded_homicide_data_table_8_murder_victims_by_weapon_2009-2013.xls Yet most people seem to want to ban rifles, rather than fighting the two main causes of gun violence - 1. Suicide 2. Black on black homicide
Countries by homicide rate per 100,000. The US is at 4.88. That is higher than western Europe, but we have been falling for the last three decades after peaking at 10 in 1980. This reduction comes as we’ve had only more and more guns in civilian hands. A couple notes on what to watch out for: 1. I use overall homicides, not “gun homicides”. In my view, if you take away guns and people still just murder with something else, then you have taken away liberty without reducing murder. As someone else put it, I don’t really care if I am shot to death or stabbed to death, I’d like to avoid either. 2. Suicides are not included in gun homicide stats, but make up more than half our gun deaths. While guns are the weapon of choice in many suicides here, overall, we don’t have a particularly high suicide rate. We are at around the same as france, and lower than Japan (where almost no one can have a gun). 3. Watch the sleight of hand in some stats for “gun deaths”. Gun deaths count homicide, suicide, AND justified homicide. It’s a bullshit stat meant to make you think all gun deaths are created equal. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate
*Homicide by state. Notice how some of the states with few gun laws (Vermont and NH in particular) have the fewest homicides, with rates comparable or lower than “gun-free” western europe. Yes, there are counter examples. Alaska is lax on gun laws, but has a high 7 homicides per 100,000. But it works the other way too - you might look at Massachuseets being the fourth-lowest homicide rate in the nation and say “wow! gun control success!” …You’d be ignoring Illinois and Maryland, which have lots of gun control but around 8 homicides per 100,000 people. There really is no correlation between homicide and gun laws, as the first article I posted showed. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._states_by_homicide_rate
Finally, the even bigger issue than homicide - suicide. That makes up the majority of our gun deaths. And white people lead the pack, 15 per 100,000 people. Black people are only at 5.6. Firearms are used in about half our suicides. There is no denying that firearms make a suicide attempt far more likely to succeed. Once you pull that trigger, it’s done. There is no pumping of stomachs and such. However, as I said earlier, our overall suicide rate is about the same as gun controlling france and lower than no-gun Japan. So it seems that people who are determined to kill themselves will find a way sadly. https://afsp.org/about-suicide/suicide-statistics/
To conclude, you take this, and other gun data, to it’s ultimate conclusion and it shows that poverty rate and population density are the two largest factors leading to not just gun violence, but all violence. https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/urban-nation-narrowing-the-gun-violence-map * The 50 largest metro areas (includes 62 cities) in the US account for 60 percent of US firearm homicides. * There is a .72 correlation (very strong) between city unemployment and firearm homicides. This is just really scratching the surface of where this stuff goes when you take a deep dive into it. Some important notes - * Think of poor education and high unemployment as sub-sections of poverty. They are all linked. * As u/kmoros mentioned keep a keen eye out for “gun deaths”. This is the stat anti’s will use to skew the data to match their agenda. Most importantly this term lumps in suicides, which are mainly a suburban phenomenon. Remember, their stated goals for “common sense gun legislation” is to prevent gun violence and mass shootings. Suicide statistics have no relevance if that is their true goal (hint: It’s not) So what does this all mean? Well lets work through this logically. The stated goal of those who wish to enact restrictions on firearms is to prevent gun violence, mass shootings, gang violence, “If we can save just one.” But, wait a minute. The facts tell us that the absolute quickest and most effective way to reduce gun violence is to decrease the poverty rate. Things like better education, lower unemployment, easier geographic and socio-economic movement. So shouldn’t these be the goals of those who want to prevent violence? Wouldn’t the tens (maybe hundreds) of millions of dollars spent each year on gun control lobbying and propaganda do so much more for reducing violence when applied to reducing poverty? Let’s keep going…We know that reducing poverty is the best way to reduce gun violence and save lives. Why wouldn’t those, whose stated goal is saving lives and reduction of violence, focus their efforts here? There is really only one logical answer. The goal of saving lives and reducing violence is NOT the real goal. What other goals could they have? The ulterior motives are many and varied. Most politicians, regardless of ignorance on the topic, are knowingly appealing to emotion for votes. “Look what I did!! I saved the children by banning bump stocks!” The money men like Bloomberg and Soros are looking to get their candidates elected in exchange for political favors, but they’re also looking to stroke their egos with what they think will be part of their legacy. “Only someone as great and important as me could improve America so much.” Ultimately, it’s so much easier to appeal to emotion, to dump some cash into propaganda, to pass nonsense legislation and say you did something, then it is to address poverty. Poverty, education, unemployment - these things are hard. They take real, honest, effort. They don’t leave much time for campaign fund raising, cronyism, and K street. And yes, at some level it’s about power and control. Guns for me (armed guards, police, and military) but not for thee. A disarmed population is ultimately easier to control.

If you make the mistake of replying to that wall, you get another wall:

Here’s some more shit for you to choke on:
Also you fucked up. You’re comparing a country of 350 million to countries like Norway or Belgium with only a few million.
When it’s apples to apples your argument fails.
Here are a few links in regards to mass public shootings. Links are provided along with sources.
• The US has the more firearms than any country nowhere near the most firearm homicides
https://crimeresearch.org/2014/03/comparing-murder-rates-across-countries/
• Comparing mass public shootings US and EU. The EU has more mass public shootings per capita than the United States
https://crimeresearch.org/2015/06/comparing-death-rates-from-mass-public-shootings-in-the-us-and-europe/
• US becoming safer compared to Europe in both fatalities and frequency of Mass Public Shootings
https://crimeresearch.org/2016/01/compared-to-europe-the-us-falls-in-rank-for-fatalities-and-frequency-of-mass-public-shootings-now-ranks-11th-in-fatalities-and-12th-in-frequency/
• All but one of the 20 worst mass public shootings, 45 of the worst 50, occurred outside the United States
https://crimeresearch.org/2017/01/with-39-killed-in-tunisia-attack-the-top-three-mass-public-shootings-are-outside-the-united-states/
• France had more casualties from mass public shootings in 2015 than the US suffered during Obama’s entire presidency (532 to 527)
https://crimeresearch.org/2017/02/france-suffered-more-casualties-murders-and-injuries-from-mass-public-shootings-in-2015-than-the-us-has-suffered-during-obamas-entire-presidency-508-to-424-2/
Let’s look at the UK. How’s gun control going there?
• Gun crime in London up 42%
http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-39578500
• Gun crime in England and Wales up 27%
http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-41822965
Also you’re more likely to die falling out of bed than in a mass public shooting. Here’s the reason the US has so many firearm homicides.
• “Criminal gangs commit as much as 80 percent of the crime in many communities, according to law enforcement officials throughout the nation. Typical gang-related crimes include alien smuggling, armed robbery, assault, auto theft, drug trafficking, extortion, fraud, home invasions, identity theft, murder, and weapons trafficking.”
https://www.fbi.gov/file-repository/stats-services-publications-national-gang-threat-assessment-2009-pdf
• Gangs behind 80% US crime
http://abcnews.go.com/TheLaw/FedCrimes/story?id=6773423
https://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2009-01-29-ms13_N.htm
• 75% homicide victims has prior criminal convictions in Boston
https://www.jstor.org/stable/1192213?origin=crossref&seq=1#page_scan_tab_contents
• Gangs figure in many homicides in New York as well, but recent polls by The New York Times suggest that the gang problem may be worse in Chicago…In Chicago, gang disputes are clearly a big part of homicides, said John Hagedorn, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago who studies Chicago gangs https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/05/18/us/chicago-murder-problem.html
• 54% US counties had zero murders while 2% of US counties accounted for 51% of homicides
https://crimeresearch.org/2017/04/number-murders-county-54-us-counties-2014-zero-murders-69-1-murder/
• When gun sales go up crime goes down
https://www.forbes.com/sites/larrybell/2013/05/14/disarming-realities-as-gun-sales-soar-gun-crimes-plummet/?c=0&s=trending#41289a0e3f7c
• No, states with high gun ownership don’t have more gun homicides
http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/no-states-with-higher-gun-ownership-dont-have-more-gun-murders/article/2573353
• Crime rates before and after gun bans
https://crimeresearch.org/2013/12/murder-and-homicide-rates-before-and-after-gun-bans/
• The racist roots of gun control
https://firearmsandliberty.com/cramer.racism.html
• 80% police officers think armed civilians help fight crime
https://www.gunowners.org/news01212015.htm
• Flaws with Kellerman (guy behind the study saying you’re 40 times more likely to die by your own firearm in your home than use it in self defense)
https://www.firearmsandliberty.com/kellerman-schaffer.html
• Deconstructing Kellerman http://www.thetruthaboutguns.com/2011/01/william-c-montgomery/editorial-deconstructing-kellermann/
• The CDC’s anti-gun past
https://www.forbes.com/sites/larrybell/2013/02/12/why-the-centers-for-disease-control-should-not-receive-gun-research-funding/#5f8b011d282d
Finally, Obama’s own CDC study (you probably never heard about in the media) found this:
• Armed citizens are less likely to be injured by an attacker
• Mass shootings and accidental firearm deaths account for a small fraction of gun-related deaths, and both are declining
• Defensive uses of guns are common stating: “defensive gun uses by victims are at least as common as offensive uses by criminals"
http://www.gunsandammo.com/politics/cdc-gun-research-backfires-on-obama/

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Isn’t the majority of the anti-guncontrol crowd also anti-doing those things as well?

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Speaking about US uniqueness, another inexplicable graph to ponder about:


Edit: sorry @petzl, this should be a reply to the original post, not to your comment.

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The only analysis our nation’s leaders are doing is how many single issue gun votes can they get. Period.

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This is a classic example of bad statistics. By looking at the graph we can clearly see that there is not much correlation in the non-US data; the US is an outlier both on guns and mass-shootings. Therefore we are relying on a single data point to conclude there is a correlation (and thus presumably a causation, another faux-pas) between guns and mass shootings. If we remove the outlier we have no such evidence from this graph.

It’s also not clear why we’re making this plot - “guns” vs. “mass shootings” in absolute quantitites? The US has an enormous population - surely we want to correct for that? Otherwise we’re just looking at a graph of (mostly) population vs. population, not very meaningful.

This graph is much nicer, and throws some cold water on this argument (though I make no claims about the quality of the underlying data, I just found it on DuckDuckGo):

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There is probably some addition to do with that sweet, sweet lobby money too.

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I guess that the Serbians got it all out of their system a few years back. Maybe America needs another civil war to clear the air.

That chart could be used as an example of how to make a misleading chart. We are interested in the difference between 1, 2, 5 and 8, not in knowing the Honduras has a terrible violence problem. On that chart it looks like the US states in the 40 area for gun ownership aren’t really that much higher than Switzerland. They are staggeringly higher.

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The other question, is do we count number of guns per X people, or number of gun owners? Is someone who owns 20 guns really 20 times more dangerous than someone who owns one?

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Agreed, but realistic measures and enforcement of said measures to ensure that they are treated like the deadly weapons they are would go a long way. There is something dark and sinister in this country that no policy will ever be able to address.

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There is a distinction to be made between “homicides”, “firearm homicides”, and “mass shootings”.

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This is the problem with simple, reductionist arguments based on two statistics. In Ruben’s original graph India is presented as a nice safe point- meanwhile Naxalites control half of the country and trains are routinely boarded and robbed by armed bandits. Numbers hide nuances.

Guns kill far more people through suicide. For me the relevant question is not gun deaths, but overall death by suicide or homicide, and whether we can actually solve those problems by removing guns. Its not clear to me we can.

Bolling’s graph is also part of a cartoon. I assumed it was entirely made up. The axes don’t even have values.

I think it’s fair criticism to say that making it look like a graph may actually mislead people into thinking it is based on real values that are being meaningfully compared. People are weird about graphs.

It’s true that we shouldn’t extrapolate trends by looking at a single outlying point. I don’t think the current rage against the NRA or American gun culture in general is extrapolated from data like this. It comes more from the dead bodies of children that people keep seeing on the news. Since the current debate is between Gun Control and Absolutely Nothing* to solve that problem, eventually gun control is going to win. We’ll see whether it helps or not.

* Absolutely Nothing includes transparent backpacks; blaming mental health (but doing nothing to help people with mental health problems); blaming poor nutrition but doing nothing to help people who need better nutrition; blaming videogames/movies/TV; cutting down on the number of entrances (and therefore exits) in schools; etc.

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Even the chart you provide is pretty much in line with the representation of a chart that our favourite dancing bug provided. And just shows that you not only missed the point, you are actively driving far away from it.

Take any other analysis. Go ahead. Try your best to find something that doesn’t show the USA as a major outlier in the guns to violence ratio. And then see how the Republicans and the NRA respond, if it isn’t eerily like what the cartoon shows.

It ain’t about the statistics, it’s all about the wilful denial of the obvious and the tortured excuses certain old white men will come up with.

Sheesh!

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