More Guns Equals More Gun Violence: A Response From David Hemenway

murder  Yesterday I wrote a column in which I argued that using the gun-ownership rate in the U.S. as the ‘driver’ for gun violence is flawed if we count all guns, rather than only counting handguns which are involved in nearly all gun violence.  The esteemed gun-violence researcher, whose book, Private Guns – Public Health, sets a standard for research in the field, sent a response and has given me permission to post it here:

Dear Mike.

    I beg to differ.  Three of the key factors which makes the US such an outlier compared to the other high income countries with regard to firearms are that (a) we have the weakest gun laws, (b) we have the most guns per capita, and (c) our guns are disproportionately handguns.  By (c) I don’t mean to imply that most of the guns in our gun stock are handguns, though the US handgun/long gun ratio has been growing.  Instead I mean that we have a far higher percentage of handguns in our gun stock compared to the other high-income countries.  For example, Canada has a sizeable number of long guns, but fairly few handguns.  So if we calculate per capita handgun ownership for developed countries, the U.S. becomes even more of an outlier.  And we know that most violent crime involves handguns rather than long guns; handguns are much more likely than long guns to be used in violent crime.  

    We could disaggregate handguns still further into those more (vs less) likely to be used in violent crime in the US, and if we did, I suspect that the US would become even more of an outlier compared to the other high income countries (in terms of the number of the “type of handguns likely to be used in violent crime” divided by the country’s population) –but I don’t have data on how many of the type of “handguns likely to be used in violent crime” are in the gun stocks of the other high-income countries, so I can’t prove my suspicion.    

     Cheers,

         David

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Want To Reduce Gun Violence? Go After The Guns Which Cause The Violence.

If there is one argument that has found its way into every, single comment ever made by every, single gun-control organization, it’s the idea that the U.S. suffers from an extraordinary high level of gun violence because Americans own so many guns. The basis for this argument is research published by our good friend David Hemenway, who explains the fact that the U.S. homicide rate is 7 times higher than other advanced countries, driven by a gun-homicide that is 25 times higher, thanks to all those guns we have floating around.

chicago cops             Since we don’t require universal or even partial gun registration (no mater what Gun-nut Nation says) we actually have no idea how many guns are in private hands. The estimates go from a low of 270 million to a high of nearly 400 million, so let’s say that the real number is somewhere in between. Nevertheless, whether we take the high or the low estimate, we are still the only country whose per-capita gun ownership number approaches or exceeds one, even if the percentage of Americans who actually have a gun in their residence is somewhere between 30 and 40 percent.

The only problem is that while it appears to be an obvious argument bottom line that our fatal violence rate is a function of the existence of all those guns, the argument happens to be wrong. Why? Because most of the guns sitting around in basements, garages or even in living rooms or bedrooms happen to be guns that are just lying around.  And if a particular type or model of gun doesn’t play any role in the events which we refer to as ‘gun violence,’ then why should the existence of this type of gun be counted as having anything to do with gun violence at all?  It shouldn’t, but it is.

The more guns = more gun violence argument is undercut by some data published by our friends at The Trace, who analyzed the types of guns recovered by the Chicago cops in 2014. Of the total 4,505 guns picked up by the cops that year, nearly 40% (1,757 guns) appear to be the most popular handgun models, and while less than 4% of the confiscated weapons were shotguns, the total number of assault rifles was exactly five. How many bolt-action hunting or target rifles were picked up? None.

Of the 1,757 most popular handguns confiscated by Chicago PD, most of those models, like the Smith & Wesson VE and the various Glocks, didn’t even exist prior to 1985.  And 1985 is an important year to use as a yardstick for estimating the size of the civilian gun arsenal, because that was the year, according to Gary Kleck (Point Blank, Guns and Violence in America) that the number of weapons in private hands approached or exceeded 200 million guns.

Since 1985, the gun industry has manufactured another 140 million guns, of which roughly half are shotguns and rifles, the latter including at least 10 million or so assault rifles, which are rarely picked up by the cops. What this all boils down to is that the total number of civilian-owned guns which wind up contributing to gun violence is somewhere around 70 million or less. It’s certainly not the 300 million figure that is bandied around by Gun-control Nation and their research friends in public health.

If we calculate per capita gun ownership based on the guns used in violent crimes, rather than all guns held within the civilian population, the U.S. gun-ownership number drops from being way ahead of everyone else to somewhere in the middle of the pack. Would a per-capita gun ownership number which would be a fraction of the number currently used change the degree to which gun ownership could explain our excessively high rate of fatal crime? It would.

Want to use laws to reduce gun violence?  Base the laws and regulations on a better understanding of how guns are and aren’t used in violence and crime. It’s not like the data isn’t there.

Should We Be Policing The Internet For Content About Guns?

Now that Google and Facebook are finally admitting what we always knew, namely, that they sell personal user information to any quick-buck scam artist selling on the web, just about every organization which uses those sites for communicating with their membership is jumping on the bandwagon to make sure that nothing offensive, illegal or immoral is allowed to move through the cloud.

armed citizen            The latest effort in this respect by Gun-control Nation was a decision last week by a Federal judge to suspend the go-ahead received from the State Department by Cody Wilson to upload the plans of his 3D gun (which doesn’t work, btw) and issue an injunction preventing any website from hosting the plans.

The internet has always been a sore spot for Gun-control Nation ever since Bloomberg’s gun-control group first began talking about how easy it was for criminals, nut jobs and other bad guys to buy guns over the web. The fact that the same ads for private gun transfers on the internet can be found in the classifieds of just about every weekly shopper published throughout the United States is never mentioned by Bloomberg because those weekly shopping publications don’t circulate in New York. But because of pressure by Bloomberg and others, websites like Amazon, Craigslist, eBay and other online shopping sites began to police and remove advertisements for guns.  Okay, fair enough.

The problem with going beyond gun advertisements per se and trying to eliminate gun-related content, as opposed to selling an actual gun, is that the ox could be gored both ways. Let me give you an example which I happen to know very well.

I currently sell a book on Amazon entitled The Myth of the Armed Citizen. The book discusses in detail the argument about whether guns are a risk as opposed to protecting us from violence and crime. I come down very clearly on the former; i.e., gun ownership is definitely less of a benefit and more of a risk.  How much of a risk remains to be understood, but this book in no way promotes concealed or open carry of guns. And believe me when I say that I have received God knows how many nasty emails from members of Gun-nut Nation who accuse me of actually promoting violence because I believe that people shouldn’t be able to defend themselves with guns.

Now what would happen if a whole bunch of pro-gun folks would send a message to Facebook telling them that my book promotes violence and should be removed? How would this be any different from Gun-control Nation spamming Google or Facebook and telling them that they have found various pro-gun content that should be taken down? Here’s the official statement from YouTube on what they allow and don’t allow in search terms: “we want to help you get to the information you are looking for as quickly as possible, but we also want to be careful not to show potentially upsetting content when you haven’t asked for it. For these features, we have developed policies to exclude things like porn, hate speech or violence from appearing.”

And who is to say whose definition of ‘violence’ we are going to accept? I happen to share many of the goals and objectives of Gun-control Nation and have promoted those goals and objectives in  the daily columns that I write. I also happen to be the co-founder of a national, gun buyback organization which connects buybacks to medical centers so that medical residents can get first-hand exposure to discussions with community residents about their guns. So I don’t need to justify my views about guns or gun violence to anyone at all.

Be that as it may, I’m still not persuaded that anyone should have veto power over any content that I or anyone else puts out online. I’m sorry, but I’m somewhat of an old-fashioned guy, and I want to decide for myself whether something I am reading is hurtful, or wrong, or even worse.

Can The Gun Business Recover From The Trump Slump? Elect Lizzie Warren in 2020.

On August 8, 2016, Smith & Wesson stock was selling at just under $30 bucks a share.  Yesterday, the stock closed at $9.39.  On August 8, 2016, investors paid around $13 for a share of New York Times stock.  This morning the stock opened at $23.  In the last two years, Smith & Wesson has dropped by two-thirds, the price of New York Times shares have gone up by almost 50%.

charQuestion: What accounts for such a radical difference in the performance of these two companies?

Answer: Donald Trump.

This past Saturday I walked into a nice, little gun shop in Vermont and bought 300 rounds of 22LR ammo which we use for running the gun-safety course in my shop. This wasn’t cheap stuff; this was the best 22LR ammo you can buy – CCI.  I paid 7 cents a round ($20 for a 300-round box) which is about half of what I paid for the same ammunition back when Smith & Wesson stock was selling for $30 a share.  Want to know how the gun business is doing? Just check the price of ammo.

If Hillary had done what she was supposed to do, namely, win in a landslide, I guarantee you that Smith & Wesson stock would now be selling for $50 a share and the price of New York Times stock would be somewhere around $5 or less.  Know why? Because Hillary would have gone out of her way in her inauguration speech to make a big deal out of gun control, if only because Gun-control Nation was one of the groups which went all out to try and get her moved back into the White House.

Would there have been a national walk-out after Parkland if Hillary’s campaign staff hadn’t run the worst and most inept Presidential campaign of all time? And anyone who doubts what I just said, btw, should ask themselves how she could have lost Michigan – Michigan! – by less than 11,000 votes. Would Lockton have stopped selling liability insurance to the boys in Fairfax if they hadn’t responded to mass shootings by trying to become the leading voice of the alt-right?

The problem facing Gun-nut Nation isn’t the existence of Trump in the Oval Office per se, it’s the fact that Trump has chosen again and again to communicate to his so-called ‘base’ in violent and incredibly stupid ways.  Remember what he said about Charlottesville, that there was ‘violence’ on both sides? There was only one little problem – the counter-protestors who showed up and marched against the Nazis and the Klan weren’t carrying AR-15s. And the fact that Trump didn’t understand how the ‘average’ American would react to seeing a gun-toting jerk with an assault rifle slung over his back shows how little understanding he really has about all those ‘average’ Americans whose interests he claims to represent.

For that matter, the NRA leadership appears not to have understood this as well. Over the last two years, they have produced some of the dumbest video messaging of all time, in particular the rants of Dana Loesch, who has tried to convince her audience that it’s the leftist elite which is responsible for violence against Trump, not the other way around. By the way, monthly visits to the NRA website since February, 2018 have dropped from 3.2 million to 860,000. So much for how Gun-nut Nation does such an effective social media job, right?

In July, 2016 the FBI conducted 1,143,824 background checks on gun transfers. Last month the same number was 739,968.  That’s not a drop in month-to-month sales, it’s a collapse. Frankly, I’m surprised that a share of Smith & Wesson stock is still worth $9 bucks. On the other hand, if the Congress turns blue in November, and Trump announces he’s out in 2020, and Lizzy Warren’s campaign starts to take on some steam, maybe buying some Smith & Wesson shares (NASDAQ: AOBC) isn’t such a bad idea….

 

 

What The 2nd Amendment Means And Doesn’t Mean.

Yesterday this website carried an op-ed by one of our Contributing Editors, Greg Gibson, whose son was murdered on the campus of the college he was attending, a terrible story that became a book written by Gibson, Gone Boy, which has become something of a small classic in the literature about violence caused by guns. Greg has gone on to do some important gun-advocacy work, he also has a rather unique perspective on the issues of gun violence and gun control, and his comments about the 2nd Amendment created quite a storm on several Facebook pages where I posted what he wrote.

2A              Basically, Greg was defending the 2nd Amendment based on the assumption that the Framers didn’t intend to give gun rights to the kind of people who shouldn’t have guns:  criminals, nut-cases, or what Gibson refers to as “teenagers with still-developing brains.” Most of the comments about his piece came from activists who, for various reasons, don’t believe that gun owners should get any kind of Constitutional protection at all. Here was a typical comment that I received: “militia means a standing army not right wing nut jobs carrying assault rifles and terrorizing communities.”

The 2008 Heller decision, which said that Americans could keep a handgun in their home for self-defense, was decided by looking at the historic and legal precedents of two words: ‘keep’ and ‘bear,’ as in ‘to keep and bear arms.’ And even though many of the examples advanced on both sides of the SCOTUS debate were only marginally connected to the 2nd Amendment. Scalia was able to cobble together enough instances of early statutes and events to make his case.

What is most interesting about the Heller decision, however, is not what the majority and minority opinions say about the historical and legal meaning of the relevant text, but what isn’t said. And what isn’t said is any discussion about the word ‘arms,’ because Scalia dispensed of this issue in less than 100 words out of his 20,000-word opinion, by noting that Constitutional protection of private gun ownership only covers weapons that are commonly found in the home, and not “unusual” weapons like the kinds of weapons designed for use in war.

There’s only one little problem with Scalia’s formulation however, an argument that was unstintingly accepted by the minority opinions as well. The reason we suffer 125,000 gun injuries each year is because we give ourselves free access to these self-same weapons of war. Americans aren’t killed or wounded in large numbers by the millions of shotguns lying around in basements here and there. The 12 people killed in Chicago last weekend didn’t die because the shooters used several of the millions of hunting rifles manufactured by Remington, Winchester, Ruger or Savage Arms.

We suffer gun violence because legally or illegally, lots of our fellow citizens are walking around with handguns made by Glock, Smith & Wesson, Sig, Ruger, Colt, etc., all of which were designed and used as weapons of war. Gaston Glock designed his pistol for the Austrian army; his gun is now carried by armed forces worldwide, including the armed forces of the United States. Sig just landed the contract to supply their pistol to the U.S. Army, and celebrated this financial whirlwind by releasing 50,000 of the guns for civilian sale.

We are the only Western country which has decided that handguns, which are designed for only one purpose (to kill human beings) should be allowed to be purchased and owned with no greater degree of regulation than what we impose on someone who wants to buy and take a  shotgun into the woods.

The issue isn’t whether or not we should keep the 2nd Amendment. The real issue is whether the 2nd Amendment should protect the ownership of guns whose design and lethality has nothing to do with anything other than committing an act of violence in the extreme. You can be an Originalist all you want, but the Framers couldn’t have meant to enshrine murder as a Constitutional ‘right.’

 

Greg Gibson: Taking Back The 2nd Amendment.

The Second Amendment is truly remarkable. We alone among nations have, not only the unfettered right to keep and bear arms, but an access to guns that is unequaled by any other stable society in the world. This constitutional right bespeaks a deep faith in the civility, wisdom, and maturity of all Americans – a fundamental trust in the average citizen that is unparalleled anywhere else in the world.

2nd amendmentPeople talk about American exceptionalism, and we ARE exceptional as a nation, in part because of our right to keep and bear arms, and the ways in which this right has become a part of our heritage. It is more than a privilege, more than an custom. It is a unique and glorious right.

And look what we’ve done with it. Just open the paper, turn on the TV, take out your phone.

Guns falling into the hands of madmen, domestic abusers, and teenagers with still-developing brains. Guns to keep people safe from people with guns. Guns on night stands. Guns in pockets and purses. Guns in shopping malls, on college campuses. 300 million guns.

35,000 gun deaths a year. 125,000 injured. Hundreds of thousands suffering the grief, trauma, and displacement that trail in the wake of gun violence. Whole communities turned into vengeful, dysfunctional battlegrounds.

We should be ashamed of ourselves.

We’ve defiled this right. Through our own inaction and inattention we’ve let custody of the Second Amendment slide into the hands of ideologues, profiteers, and fear-mongerers, overseen by a cowardly Congress unable to act on the will of the people.

Don’t you think it’s time we reclaimed our Second Amendment?

Sensible people like you and me. Gun owners and non-gun owners. Red people. Blue people. Plain, unassuming, reasonable men and women, standing millions strong, facing down fanatics of every stripe.

We’re here for our Second Amendment, guys. We want our amendment back… NOW!

 

Do Comprehensive Background Checks Reduce Gun Violence? Not So Far.

Last week I posted a detailed paper on the Social Science Research Network in which I examined the arguments made by public health researchers and gun-control advocacy groups about the relationship between gun laws and gun violence; i.e., the stronger and more comprehensive the gun-control laws, the more gun violence goes down.

Figure 2              You can download and read the paper here, but I can save you some time by summarizing what I said. In brief, the point I made about the more gun laws = less gun violence is that the causal relationship between these two factors is vague, at best, and the way in which Brady and Giffords go about defining and judging the efficacy of different laws leaves some pretty big gaps.

The problem with trying to figure out whether any particular law will have any particular effect is that the only way to come up with a reasonably-accurate analysis is to compare the relevant behavior both before and after the law is passed.  But even studies which compare before-and-after behavior on what would appear to be a simple issue like speed limits and accident rates, often cannot take into account all the myriad social factors which affect a certain type of behavior beyond the existence or non-existence of a certain law. And if we know one thing about the behavior which produces gun violence, or any kind of violence for that matter, the origins, incidence and reasons for this behavior are terribly complicated and not given to any kind of simple or single cause.

On the other hand, for the first time we finally can look at the effects of a major change in gun laws, not just in terms of whether the new law made any real difference in gun violence rates, but whether the legal change met the expectations and claims of the advocate community which pushed for the change. I am referring to requiring FBI-NICS background checks for all gun transfers, which is probably Gun-control Nation’s single, most cherished goal, particularly because it happens to be the gun law where even gun owners appear to be falling into line; a recent public health survey found that more than 80% of both gun owners and non-gun owners agreed that comprehensive FBI-NICS checks were a good thing.

According to Brady, only 7 states currently impose comprehensive background checks on all gun sales. But four of these states – Colorado, Delaware, New York, Washington – passed their laws after the unspeakable tragedy at Newtown-Sandy Hook. As of 2014, all four states required that any change in the ownership of any kind of gun had to be validated by the intervention of a gun dealer who would initiate a background check. None of these states had a comprehensive background check law prior to 2014.

And here are the results by state, gun-violence rate and two years prior and two years after passage of a comprehensive background check law:

State 2012 2013 2015 2016
CO 2.22 2.01 2.51 2.91
DE 5.02 4.11 5.61 4.62
NY 2.22 1.93 2.07 1.98
WA 1.84 1.66 2.26 2.00

 

Note that New York was the only state which showed a decline in gun violence after a comprehensive law was passed, but this anomaly is probably explained by the aggressive, anti-gun program of the New York City cops. In Erie County, which includes Buffalo, the 2013 gun-violence rate was 4.1, it then dipped in 2015 to 3.88, but in 2016 went back to 4.1.

In a recent study that attempted to differentiate the impact of comprehensive background checks (CBC), as opposed to CBC which also required specific licensing for each gun sale (permit to purchase or PTP), researchers found “no benefit of a CBC system without a PTP law.”  But what if comprehensive background checks, rather than yielding no result, actually coincide with a significant increase in gun-violence rates? Oops! That’s not what gun-control laws are supposed to do. Not at all.

NRA In Trouble? Don’t Bet On It.

It’s hard to remember but less than two years ago the boys in Fairfax were sitting on top of the world, enjoying not just the election of the first President who they endorsed before he was even the Party’s candidate, but also experiencing a level of access that was the envy of every other lobbying group in and around Washington, D.C.

NRA buildingThen in quick order we had Vegas, then Parkland, then Santa Fe, then Maria Butina, then 3-D guns, and ‘America’s oldest civil rights organization’ finds itself in a dizzying free-fall which may be dragging the NRA down to a level of public criticism and condemnation which it has never experienced before.

Earlier this week our friends at the Center for American Progress released an internet survey showing that a majority (54%) of the 1,000 sampled voters held an ‘unfavorable’ view of the NRA, with 57% saying that corporations should not provide benefits to NRA members. To be fair, the polling company, GBA Associates, works for Democratic candidates, and the respondents’ political leanings were more blue than red, which certainly skews the results somewhat. On the other hand, if this survey is at all representative of the current national mood about guns, the NRA has some catch-up work to do, because even Republican-leaning voters are expressing unease about the current stance and direction of the gun-rights organization.

The real issue, of course, is whether the NRA is feeling this discontent here it counts most – in the bottom line.  In 2016, the organization’s total revenue was $366,889,703, of which $181,265,880 came from membership dues and event revenues and $124,433,466 represented contributions (along with some $28M in advertising fees, etc.) For 2015, total revenue was $336 million, derived from $180M in dues and revenues and $95M from contributions.

Unfortunately, as impressive as these numbers appear, digging a bit below the surface shows that the emperor may be starting to lose some of his clothes. Revenue from dues are flat, which means that membership isn’t increasing. And while contributions increased substantially from year to year, other revenue vehicles, such as their vaunted Carry Guard insurance program, isn’t ringing bells at all. In fact, what has really created a storm cloud on the group’s financial horizon is their inability to put together a liability insurance package covering training and media communications, both of which could cause significant financial problems in the years ahead.

Don’t get me wrong.  The NRA happens to be without doubt the best membership organization of all time when it comes to the care and feeding of its members. I also belong to the Audubon Society, the Wilderness Society and the National Parks Foundation. Know how often I hear from those groups?  Once or twice a year. How often do I hear from Wayne-o or Chris Cox?  Multiple times every day. Anyone who wants to believe that the NRA is teetering around on its last legs is somewhere in the middle of a dream sequence that has no reality behind it at all.

Even if it turns out that the House goes from red to blue because a strong gun-control message works in swing districts here and there, this doesn’t mean that a new, gun-control alignment will suddenly appear on Capitol Hill.  Right now, the Blue Dog Coalition, a Congressional group which calls themselves ‘conservative Democrats,’ has 18 members, of whom several, in particular Mike Thompson from California, have been fighting the good fight for gun reforms over the last several years. But to win back the House, this group would find themselves augmented by additional members coming from districts where gun control will never be the order of the day.

Like it or not, a majority of Americans believe that a gun represents a good thing to have around the house. This trend didn’t reverse when Democrats last controlled the Hill, and I wouldn’t be quite so quick to consign our Fairfax friends to the ash-heap of history – there are still lots of Americans around who love their guns.

Here We Go Again: More ‘Fake News’ From Gun-control Nation.

I really hate to use the phrase ‘fake news,’ but the recent attempts by Gun-control Nation to rev up the noise level, first Butina, then plastic guns, seems to me increasingly to embrace a narrative which is simply not true. First, we had a big ta-ra-rum about the alleged backdoor funneling of Russian money to the Trump campaign via the NRA; now we have the bigger ta-ra-rum about how plastic guns are a national security threat.

butinaToday we’re back to Butina again in the form of a Buzzfeed story making its rounds through Gun-control Nation, a story which alleges that Butina and her boyfriend, a sleazy so-called political consultant named Paul Erickson, were laundering all kinds of dough as part of a “Russian campaign to influence American politics.”  Federal investigators have now leaked the fact that they are looking at the transfer of more than $100,000 from Butina’s Russian bank account to American accounts, much of the money then pulled out from ATM’s and spent God knows where or how.

What does all of this have to do with Russia and the NRA?  Practically speaking, next to nothing. First of all, the amount of money handled by Butina, no matter where it went, is chump change to the point that if the Russians thought they would get an inside edge with Trump by using the NRA as a cash conduit to his campaign, they never bothered to ask themselves how much political campaigns actually cost.

And by the way, the $30 million which the boys in Fairfax gave Trump may have represented about 9% of all the money he raised but taking that much dough out of the NRA piggy bank didn’t even dent the balance sheet of America’s first civil-rights organization at all. Know how much money the NRA was sitting on at the end of 2016?  Try over $200 million bucks, and that was after giving The Donald his $30 million rake-off, okay?

In other words, the NRA needs to fool around with illegal Russian money like it needs a hole in its head. And despite what Mother Jones thinks, the fact that Butina helped pay for a bunch of NRA supporters and stooges to go to a fashion show in Moscow, from the point of ‘influencing’ the election, doesn’t count for zip. The NRA goes out of its way to encourage foreign gun owners and foreign gun makers to get involved with the domestic firearms market. After all, the NRA’s job is to build support for private gun ownership, remember?

The most interesting aspect of the latest Butina noise from Gun-control Nation is that, if anything, the Buzzfeed story contradicts the idea of Butina and Erickson acting as conduits for Russian influence over the election because almost all of the suspicious cash transfers being tracked by investigators took place after November 2016. Here’s a Buzzfeed quote: “In summer 2017, the two made about $93,000 in wires, checks, transfers, and cash transactions that were deemed suspicious, including more deposits to Butina’s Russian account.” What do these transfers have to do with the election? Not one thing, as in nothing.

The story goes on to say that Butina’s handling of cash, including paying a D.C. limo service, is not only being examined by banking investigators, but is also being look at by ‘counterintelligence officials’ who want to figure out how the funds were used. This little twit, Maria Butina, is the subject of a counterintelligence operation? If that’s really true, then I have to agree with Trump when he said that the intelligence agencies’ claim about Russian interference were running the flag up the wrong pole.

I’m not saying that the Russians didn’t try to tilt the election towards Trump – the evidence is overwhelming that something was going on. But if Gun-control Nation wants to really do something constructive about gun violence, get real and start talking about something which matters and stop spending time on Maria Butina and plastic guns.

Want To End Gun Violence? Switch To Knives And Clubs.

Every once in a while, I find myself unable to understand why some of my friends in the public health research community keep doing the same gun research over and over again. The latest example comes from two very distinguished researchers, Anthony Braga and Philip Cook, who spent a good part of last year analyzing gun injuries in Boston which the cops believed were all associated with crimes. After examining all the police reports, as well as coroner reports (for the injuries which turned out to be fatal) covering 592 shootings between 2010 and 2014, the researchers reached an astonishing conclusion: the more powerful the caliber involved in the attack, the better chance that the victim would wind up dead.

small guns             To their credit, Braga and Cook at least admit that they aren’t exactly tilling new ground. The notes cite a number of other studies which say the same thing, beginning with Zimring’s classic study published in 1972. So how is it that 45 years later, Braga and Cook come up with the same results that Zimring previously published, but nevertheless, feel the necessity to say the same thing again? Because over the years since Zimring’s work first appeared, public health gun research is increasingly designed to substantiate the development and/or implementation of more gun regulations, which means that most public health gun studies end up suggesting, supporting or endorsing various gun-control laws.

The reason we suffer from an inordinate amount of gun violence, is because our regulatory system is set up to focus primarily on the behavior of people who own and use guns, rather than on the design and lethality of guns themselves. And what has happened in the nearly 50 years since Zimring first published his seminal article, is that the gun industry has introduced technologies which allow them to manufacture and sell highly-concealable guns which also happen to be extremely lethal because the alloys and polymers now used to make guns can withstand much higher pressures from much more powerful shells.

Guns like the Glock Model 43 or the Sig Model 938 didn’t exist when Zimring did his research.  These guns fire a standard, military round – 9mm – but are no bigger and weigh little more than a droid. The whole point of the gun industry is to make consumers feel that carrying a tiny, but extremely lethal gun will not only protect them from all sorts of bad things, but can be stuck into their pocket and carried around like any other consumer item – no fuss, no mess, no bother at all.

When Zimring conducted his 1972 study, most of the attacks involved .22-caliber guns, with some .32 and .38 calibers, but nowhere did he find many crime guns chambered for 9mm, 40 S&W (which wasn’t even invented in 1972) or 45acp. These are now standard street calibers, and the only reason that .22LR ammunition sells as much as it does is because: a) it’s cheap, and, b) it’s also used in rifles for target shooting and sport.

What conclusion did Braga and Cook come up with once they learned that highly-lethal handgun calibers are now ‘standard issue’ in the street? According to them, their research “suggests that effective regulation of firearms could reduce the homicide rate.”  And what kind of regulation are they talking about? Regulating what kind of guns can be made and sold, because “simply replacing larger-caliber guns with small caliber guns with no change in location or number of wounds would have reduced the gun homicide rate by 39.5%.” To which Braga and Cook add one more remarkable line: “It is plausible that larger reductions would be associated with replacing all types of guns with knives or clubs.”

With all due respect to my friends Braga and Cook, I get the distinct impression that this entire article was written tongue in cheek. I mean, are we reduced to talking about effective gun regulations based on requiring the substitution of knives and clubs? Maybe so.