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January 19, 2007


Let me see, would I rather live in New York, where 18% of the population own guns, and "only" 5.59% died of gun related incidents, or would I rather live in Wyoming, where 59.7% own guns, and a whopping 14.17% died as a result of guns? I dunno, but since Wyoming's dead actually equaled 70, versus New York's 1068, I'd stick with Wyoming.

"Rates" of death can be deceiving. While the percentage rate of deaths is higher, the actual numbers are lower. This is because, typically, the states with the higher rates of gun ownership are more sparsely populated.

"Knowing what we do about the relationship between the stock of guns in a community and the crime level, the burden moves to the community to control its stock of guns."

No, especially when the research we DO know about “does not establish a causal relationship between guns and homicide.”

Maybe there is a causal relation, but this study didn't purport to prove it. That's what's needed to justify your conclusion. Until then, I think the burden is still on anti-2d Amendment types, not legal gun owners.

I'm a fan of the blog, btw, especially the crime and brain chemistry posts. Keep up the good work!

Al and Grits, thank you both for posting. It's good to get some disagreement -- it keeps us honest here.

Grits: I understand the lack of causation. I stand by the idea that if there's no gun around, however, it will be impossible for a child to find a gun, for a physical fight to turn into a shoot out, and for that gun to be stolen and to be used on the streets. I am not asking for a revision to the bill of rights. I am asking for a discussion in communities -- for communities to make the case that a home may be safer without a gun, or at least with the gun well-locked. However, sometimes I do assert my positions too strongly, and I'll be careful to articulate my hopes more clearly in future posts. Also, thanks for the kind words -- I'll pass it along to the other bloggers at NCPC.

Al: Thank you for pointing out the distinction between the rate and the absolute number killed. That is a valuable thing to keep in mind; few people are going to feel safer in NY than in Wyoming. I tend to look at the rates as my chances of being harmed by a gun -- although fewer people may be harmed by a gun in Wyoming , if I'm there, my chances of being harmed are greater. That I do find worrisome.

It's fine to stand by "the idea that if there's no gun around, however, it will be impossible for a child to find a gun, for a physical fight to turn into a shoot out, and for that gun to be stolen and to be used on the streets."

I would simply encourage you not to portray that "idea" as an evidence-based conclusion, particularly when the study you cite says precisely that NO causal relation could be drawn from the data. What you're arguing has a certain common sense logic to it, but in public safety debates "common sense" that's not informed by data and optimal public policy often don't coincide because of the complexity of the issues and wide array of variables involved when dealing with violence, addiction, etc..

When Texas passed its concealed carry law in '95 allowing cheap licenses to let basically anybody with no felony and a positive IQ carry a handgun in public, I was one of the people crowing that it would lead to shootouts in the streets and an increase in violent deaths. I was dead wrong. The data proved it. Murders, in fact, declined, and that variable turned out to be not only not decisive but not even measurable, in the end. Most guns used in crimes are acquired on the black market, not by the folks who buy legal guns and get carry permits.

To be clear, I didn't object to your 'common sense' opinion, just pointing to a study that didn't support the case then arguing "knowing what we do ..." I think what we know on this subject actually leaves a very murky picture, and one that would benefit from a less intuitive, more evidence-based approach. Best,


You’re right — I overplayed my hand with the available data. It’s the risk of getting caught up in an issue; something makes enough “common sense” that the potential causation starts to seem real. But, you drive the point home about the need for evidence based discussion; the same “common sense” got us into the incarceration mess that Michael Connelly is always talking about. I’ll keep my eye out for follow up studies and be more conservative with my phrasing on issues where I get fired up. Thanks again for commenting; I appreciate that people care enough to keep me intellectually honest.

No need to be more conservative on your phrasing - then what would we have to comment about? Don't worry, it's just ablog! :)

And as for, "I appreciate that people care enough to keep me intellectually honest," you can take pride in the fact that it's precisely because what you're doing here is important that folks would think it's worth the time to correspond.

Keep up the good work. Texas' Lege session is going for the next four months, but once it's over I think I've got a significant series of posts brewing in me on some of these brain science/criminology questions, so as a reader let me request y'all keep 'em coming on that topic, in particular. That's really the crimefighting frontier, isn't it? best,

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