Monday, February 18, 2013

Do Gun Laws Lower Violent Crime?

Gun Regulations are big news right now. Of course, no one wants a repeat of Newtown. Bust, as always when it comes to guns, passions reign. The NRA shouts“Guns make you safer. Because the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” And the Left shouts back, “We need more gun regulations. That's the only way to keep our streets safe.”

Being a skeptic by nature,  I wanted to find some data to analyze. I wanted the data to be relatively clean, coming from a reliable, unbiased source.  Finding violent crime data was easy. The US Census Bureau provided some very clean data on violent crime rates by state.

I was a bit more pressed when it came to data on Gun regulations. The only place I could find online that provided a clean, easy-to-use “gun law scorecard” was the Brady Campaign. But Brady tends to be advocates for gun control. And, thus, potentially unreliable. But they did seem to do a decent job of quantifying the laws that a state had on the books. So, instead of raw scores here, I took a state’s rank in the gun violence score card.

The completed data table is posted at the bottom of this page.

The results?

  • There appears to be no correlation between gun regulations and overall violent crime rates.
  • A state’s Brady Gun Law rank accounted for less than 1% of the observed variation on violent crime rates (to be exact, .0.67%).

The results throw into dispute claims by both sides in the gun regulation environment... 
  • NRA’s claim -- “Looser gun regulations decrease violent crime rates.” BUNK. If it were true, we'd see a steadier relationship, with laxer gun policies leading to lower violent crime rates.
  • The Left’s claim -- “Better gun regulations lower crime rates.” BUNK. If it were true, we'd see a stronger correlation between strong gun regulations and less violence
Therefore, my research leaves me in a quandary. Because the data support neither side ....

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Further Parsing UN Gun Murder Data

On Friday, to answer a challenge from a friend who maintained that the UK had as high or higher of a murder rate than the US, I went search for some statistics from a reliable source. And sure enough, I found some good clean data complements of the UN's office of Drugs and Violent Crime. It has some excellent data for anyone desiring to compare violent crime rates across countries.

Based on that analysis (posted here), it appears that my friend was quite wrong. The US homicide rate was over 3 times that of England's. But we were left with one final question to be answered: "Does the legal Right to Bear Arms impact the overall homicide rate?

The answer is, "It depends." The deciding factor is whether or not I include the USA. Because without the US, it turns out that there is no difference whether or not "the right to bear arms" was offered or not.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

"Graceland" Revisted

It seems odd that Paul Simon's Graceland is over 25 years old. And I remember one thing -- it sounded fresh back in the day. The African textures and cool background call and response. 

 I recently took a class at Penn through on World Music, and I had the chance to listen to listen to the album again. It still sounded good -- especially the "African" parts. But the the songs, with Simon singing, and the rhythm tracks sound, well, just "So 80's." 

Which I'm OK with. Since I, too, am "So 80's."  =)

For the curious, here is a link to the opening track on Graceland, "The Boy in the Bubble." I still think the song is great. Below it, I have attached a paper I wrote from a musical anthropologist's perspective.  

Graceland, cultural imperialism and the politics of culture.

"Those that has, gets - Especially when a rich nation trades with a developing one.”

Beethoven Seen? Watch music animated.

I stumbled upon something cool on You Tube. A very talented musician has "animated" classical music. But not with lame interpretive videos. Instead, he animates the instrumental lines.

Overall, very cool. It's like reading the music real-time. For people like me, who find ourselves counting stave lines...

If you like the attached vid, here is a link to the Music Animation Machine's YouTube profile. He covers a lot of material, mostly Bach, Mozart and Beethoven.


My novel nearly finished.

Well, a long time ago, I kidded myself that I was a writer. I had some good ideas that I had put onto paper -- well, into a PC. Back when I used floppy disks and my word processor was called WordStar.


As long ago as that was, I fished out that text about a year ago and read it. The novel called even snow melts, a sort of Shakespearean tragedy set on a Science Fiction earth colony, was pretty good. But not great. It had an awkward opening. And a lot of rookie mistakes. Likely par for the course when you begin something in your 20's, and dig it out 20 years later....

But, flawed as it was, even snow melts was, in essence, solid. Which was gratifying. After all, it takes some moxie to say, "I'm an artist." And then go about creating some art. But how many stand the test of years. especially when those years included reading Joyce and Woolf and Pynchon in addition to a huge percentage of the science fiction cannon.

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Gunfight Begins...

Well, there is little doubt that the "gun fight" has begun in earnest after Newtown. And, to be honest, it seems like a discussion worth having.  And the President even made a pitch during his State of the Union speech. Which was a bit of a shocker.

The NRA and their minions are, as expected, getting loud and "freaking out." In fact, sometimes I think that everyone on the Right has a secret desire to be Glenn Beck. A conspiracy per day. And a tragic, angry, emotional appeal for everyone. And, of course, the left has been vocal as well.

But when it comes to guns, the Right seems to rule the roost. Unlike the past, however, this time feels different. Because most Americans  -- Right, Left and Center -- want a free country. Well, excepting the whackos like Grover Norquist...

Ubik: Mind-bending classic science fiction

Well, I just finished reading Ubik by Philip K. Dick. And, as anyone with any knowledge of Dick knows, it was a trippy novel that plays with reality. And causes the reader to ask questions. "What is reality? How is it constructed? And how can I be certain that it contains beings other than myself?" 

These, of course, are not easy questions. But they are, in essence, the questions that Dick's protagonist Joe Chip, an electronics technician working for a company specializing in detecting and eliminating psychic "threats." Which includes things like spying and pre-cognition. 

Chip, along with some colleagues, all of whom have legitimate psychic powers save him, are hired to do a job on the moon. However, a terrorist detonates a bomb that kills their company's CEO. And Joe Chip, who takes over, knows who is responsible. But, before he can report this to the proper authorities, members of his team begin showing up dead. And reality seems to "devolve" back in time from Chip's present.

And even after Chip seems to have solved the mystery, we end up scratching our heads again. As another character fishes for some coins...

In Ubik , Dick has created a mystery like no other. A wonderful book that will keep you guessing. And, at the end of the book, you'll scratch your head. And smile. Clever and thought-provoking, I give Ubik the highest recommendation. Even the dated bits -- like having nearly everyone smoke even at the office -- seem to be merely quaint. Which is why Dick reigns supreme among the "classic writers of Science Fiction" in my opinion.