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...

I wanted to take a quick second, thought, to look at some data -- as is my way. Not to come down on either side, but to look at the problem rationally. to that end, I dug some crimes statistics from the UN, comparing US Homicide rates to that in other countries based on 2010 numbers. I was amazed how far above our peers -- the industrialized First World -- that we were. See the cart below, which I have sorted by the overall murder rate.

Notice that our overall homicide rate in the US is nearly twice that of our nearest neighbor, Portugal. And nearly three times that of the UK and Australia. Needless to say, we are doing something wrong. They are doing something right. [Continued below]

Firearm murders
per 100K
Overall murders
per 100K
Right to bear arms?
United States 2.97 4.55 Yes
Portugal 0.84 2.47 Yes
Finland 0.43 2.19 No
Canada 0.54 1.58 Yes
Australia 0.31 1.57 No
England & Wales 0.12 1.45 No
Spain 0.25 1.25 No
Germany 0.47 1.17 Yes
New Zealand 0.18 1.17 No
Ireland 0.32 1.1 No
Denmark 0.26 1.09 Yes
Switzerland 0.56 0.96 Yes

Homicide Rates versus Gun Homicide Rates: First World
Gun versus Total homicide Rate: First World Sample
But I asked myself, how much of that difference is attributable to guns? So I ran a quick correlation analysis in Excel. And, being a bit of a slouch, wanted to see the data. So I laid out a graph that plotted total homicide rate on one axis, and gun homicide rate on the other.

I knew there would be a correlation, but was surprised at how large it was. In the sample above, it looks like about 86% of the variation  that the sample experienced in total homicide rates was related to gun violence (According to the Pearson's R-Squared score).

I also took it a step further, and looked at all 34 countries that the UN had in its data pool. The data included First, Second and Third World countries. And I was, again, shocked to see how irrefutable the correlation between gun and overall homicide rates was.

Gun versus Total Homicide Rates: Total UN Sample
According to Pearson's R-Squared score, it looks like the variation accounts for 93% of the variation.

So, it is no shock. Guns do cause murder rates to increase, And always, when you are dealing with correlation, you cannot assume that correlation implies causation.

But guns are pretty deadly, to say the least. And this seems to be a good place to start a rational, unemotional debate on gun control.

Just don't invite the NRA... =)

Data Source:

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