Between several articles and videos about firearms posted here (mostly coincidental), I entered a debate of sorts on LinkedIn about repealing the 2nd Amendment. This article is not about that. I’ve heard enough about the question of constitutional relevance and bleeding-heart cries against violence without actually addressing the issue beyond a “guns bad” approach.
My beef is that there seems to be a dearth of measurable data about the actual impact of gun ownership on society. This is the basis for most people’s arguments, and when I went to double-check what seemed like vague, unqualified numbers, I found very little to support either side, only rhetoric without scrutinized scientific methodology. The anti-gun crowd shouts big, scary numbers without context, and the pro-gun crowd touts lower crime rates in gun-toting towns, but also no citations.
I’m not saying the data isn’t out there. There’s lots of it. I just can’t find any that’s usable. The little that was gleanable during my cursory research used disparate statistical methodologies. And even the CDC website doesn’t have data after 2007. Really? Really. And don’t get me started on international comparisons, which due to differences in culture and warfare are no more relevant than comparing mammal nutrition and health based on what a feral mouse eats versus an elephant’s diet in a zoo.
To have a more informed opinion, there must be some baseline of what it would be reasonable to know, and I hereby suggest it be comprised of three basic measurements, for use by comparison across states and years:
(a) LEGAL Gun ownership
(b) Violent Crime Rate
(c) Number of deaths caused by firearms related to crime
(d) Number of firearm deaths in other circumstances (accidental, etc.)
Per capita would be the standard (as it is rightfully so with crime stats by default) for the obvious reasons of disparate raw population numbers. And where stats are given as raw numbers, this figure would need be calculated.
At this point we should note that “gun laws” are the issue by which these statistics are most likely to be used and would be an expected part of the equation. However, it’s hard to objectively quantify what is “stricter” when comparing very different sets of laws, classes of firearms, etc.. That is why gun ownership itself would be a logical starting point, so long as we’re consistent with comparing owner numbers and/or gun numbers per capita, the former I suggest being more relevant for our purposes.
Like the international comparison relevancy issue, states have varying population density, which has a definitive correlation to crime rates. This must be considered in any final evaluation, but should not demerit the overall whole.
Perhaps more important to consider is an unavoidable gap in the data: It is reasonable to assume gun deaths are influenced by access to unregistered (unlawful) weapons, and therefore, by it’s nature is an unknown variable. However, an important statistic we might want to add to the above list is what percentage of crimes where guns were used were they illegal versus registered and/or legal.
Conclusion and Throw-down
There is so much questionable inference as it is — something not unique to this topic I might add — but at least we can TRY to move it’s basis from personal belief or overheard numbers to verifiable statistics. And that alone could potentially remove many bad arguments from both sides to deal what really is.
If anyone can make reference to documented statistics, it would be appreciated. If not, well then maybe it’s time considerReconsider had it’s own think tank research team.