Saturday, December 15, 2012

A few stats on guns in the U.S.

I'll admit I'm no major fan of guns in general, and I choose not to own one. But I'd rather give you some interesting numbers on gun violence in America, and have you figure out what it means (although I may give you some tips).

First, was an article from Richard Florida, done in the wake of the Gabby Giffords shooting in January 2011. It showed which states have more gun deaths, and which have less, and what types of demographics and correlations come in through these stats. Granted, this does not take into account the GOP governors and legislatures in states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and other places that have loosened restrictions on guns in the last 2 year, but it does show where we were beforehand. Here's a neat graph from that article, with positive numbers indicating places with a higher amount of gun crime, and negative numbers showing lower.

It's not an exact correlation, but red states, poorer states, and places with looser gun restrictions tend to have more gun deaths, while blue states, places with more college graduates, and states with more gun restrictions tend to have fewer gun deaths. None of these correlations should be that surprising (we already know that red states have higher poverty and lower levels of education, for example), but it's remarkable how strong these correlations are.

I'll also forward you to a great rundown by Ezra Klein titled "Twelve facts about guns and mass shooting in the United States." Among the many amazing stats in this piece, they include:

1. The vast majority of mass killings are by weapons that were obtained legally.
2. 15 of the world's 25 largest mass shootings in the last 50 years have been in the U.S., and half of the U.S.'s 12 largest shootings have been in the last 6 years.
3. As these next 2 graphs show, the U.S. has seen a lower murder rate over the last 35 years, but it's still a whole lot higher than the rest of the civilized, OECD world, and the (pro-GOP and gun-allowing) South is by far the most violent part of the country over the last 10 years.

4. It also releases polling on the subject of guns, and while more people have been answering the generic question of "should gun controls be more strict, less strict, or kept as they are," with "keep the same or loosen" (by 54-44 in 2010), when the question is broken down to specific issues, wanting more restrictions on guns and the people who own them becomes a clear majority. In fact, the NRA position is the majority one only when it comes to limiting the amount of guns an individual can own.

It reminds me of the Obamacare debate, where people claimed they "disapproved" of Obamacare, but backed much of the provisions that were in Obamacare. And it explains why the NRA types are going out of their way to not bring up the question of "Should certain people not have handguns?" or have people ask "Should Glocks and .223 rifles be legal for anyone to buy (as was the case in Connecticut)?", because that's a losing argument for them.

So watch as the NRA and spineless politicians will try to turn this issue into a straw man of "well they just want to ban guns" (if they bring it up at all). That tatic is GARBAGE. Most people like me don't want to ban handguns or keep people from having them in their homes if they're law-abiding citizens that show they can handle the responsibility. But stats and polls clearly show that we live in a violent country that has seen a recent increase of people deciding to use guns to take out large amounts of others on their way off this earth.

The bottom line is that mass shootings are now at a point that they are no longer random, isolated incidents, but becoming a more regular pattern, much like with climate change and extreme weather events over the last decade. And these outcomes lead to SERIOUS PROBLEMS THAT MUST BE DEALT WITH, even if the answers make a few people uncomfortable and a few businesses lose a bit of money along the way. It is also true that certain demographics and places being more susceptible to violence than others, so maybe we should look to what policies work and what don't.

But the one thing we cannot do any longer is ignore these stats, and ignore the conclusions that can be drawn from them.

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