A Different Look At America’s ‘Exceptional’ Gun Violence.

If there is one truism about gun violence which is subscribed to by everyone who is active in the gun violence prevention (GVP) movement, it’s the idea that the United States has a higher rate of fatal violence than any other advanced country because we have so many guns. The studies which confirm this notion first began to appear in the 1970’s, reappearing with regularity every few years. In addition to finding a link between fatal gun violence and the size of the civilian arsenal, a more recent study suggests the same link also exists between mass shootings and the number of guns in civilian hands, although the author of this study has made no attempt to give us even the slightest hint about the data he used to develop this idea.

gun violence everytown             If the defining characteristics of intentional gun injuries was similar to what we find in other injuries from commonly-owned consumer products (ex., automobiles, bikes) I would have no issue with this approach to understanding injuries caused by guns. But it’s not. Gun injuries are unique among all product injuries tracked by the CDC because in every other category, the person who commits the injurious behavior and the person who gets injured are one and the same. As for gun violence, and violent behavior in general, other than suicide, the injured party and the party who commits the injury are two different people, so we need to understand the behavior of both.

Additionally, gun violence is skewed in terms of where it happens and who is involved.  Of the 3,100 counties in the United States, more than half are not the locations for any gun homicides at all. And less than 2% of all U.S. counties are the locations for more than half of all fatal gun injuries each year.  Furthermore, within these high-risk counties, most of the perpetrators and victims of intentional gun violence are men between the ages of 16 and 34, a majority of whom happen to be from non-white racial groups.

Now let me make one thing very clear.  I am not trying in any way, shape or form to assign certain behavioral characteristics to any particular racial or ethnic group. Nor do I ever make judgements about the relative cultural values of one population group versus another. My approach to understanding gun violence is very simple, namely, the data either explains something or it does not. And the strategies that we adopt for reducing gun violence can either be justified by a rigorous analysis of the data or they can’t. In that regard, I am afraid that the way we analyze data on fatal gun violence, particularly when we use the data for cross-national comparisons, simply doesn’t work.

I have just posted a very detailed paper examining how we define and use data for cross-national comparisons about fatal gun violence that raises substantive questions about whether the accepted narrative about the exceptional rate of American gun violence leads us towards more effective GVP strategies or not.  The paper is available on the Social Science Research Network (SSRN) and can be downloaded here.  You can also send me comments about the paper to which I will quickly respond.  This is the second paper I have posted and I am pleased to join more than 370,000 scholars worldwide who use SSRN to share research with other scholars in their field. Without such intellectual cross-fertilization, our body of knowledge would expand at a much slower pace.

Regardless of how we feel about guns, everyone has a vested interest in feeling secure and safe. And it doesn’t matter whether risks to our safety are felt more in one area or among one population group as opposed to another, either we share a commitment to the commonweal or we don’t. My only hope is that part of this commitment will rest on validated data culled from serious research.

 

 

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Does Public Health Research Explain Gun Violence?

Now that the gun-grabbing, liberal elite has decided that the way to reduce gun violence is through a ‘public health’ approach, I thought I would summarize what we know:

  • 74% of all victims of intentional fatal gun injuries committed by one person against another are men and women ages 14 – 30, of whom 40% are African-Americans who account for less than 15% of all Americans within that age group.

public healthThat is what public health research can definitively tell us about gun violence.  The research does state many other things, such as the link between gun laws and gun violence rates; such as the connection between lack of safe gun storage and gun injuries; such as gun homicides increasing when permit-to-purchase procedures are replaced by instant background checks. None of those findings, however, are definitive, and when public health scholars refer to gun violence as embracing an epidemiological approach to the problem, they are surrounding their research with an aura of scientific nomenclature which it doesn’t yet deserve.

Not to worry, I’m not turning into a pro-gun curmudgeon who all of a sudden believes that gun violence prevention (GVP) goals and objectives need to be thrown aside.  To the contrary, thanks to the Parkland kids and the overwhelming revulsion of D.D.D. Trump, his pimp attorney Cohen and the rest of the merry band, there may actually be a chance for some effective and much-needed gun-control strategies to become law of the land. All the more reason why we need to scrutinize what we know and still need to know about gun violence with a fine-tooth comb.

And here is where taking a ‘public health approach’ to gun violence can make things fuzzy rather than clear. The first time an illness appears, it may be due to nothing other than some spontaneous, physiological event. But the moment it appears in more than one person, we need to figure out how it got from Victim A to Victim B – the transmission mechanism – which often requires us to figure out the identity of the carrier, even if that individual never exhibits the symptoms of the germ himself.  It didn’t take long to figure out that AIDS was found overwhelmingly in the gay community and amongst individuals who were addicted to injected drugs. But what was the exact manner in which it spread?

We face exactly the same problem with understanding gun violence because, as opposed to most injuries (cars, falls, etc.) in the case of guns it takes two to tango; the injured party and the person whose behavior resulted in the injury aren’t one and the same. So, while public health research tells us an awful lot about the victim of this medical event, we know next to nothing about why someone else transmits this medical condition by shooting off a gun.

Our friends at the UC-Davis Violence Prevention Research Program have put up a very comprehensive resource to can be used by health-care providers who want to identify gun risk amongst their patients and counsel about same. The website contains a basic checklist of symptoms which indicate risk (violent behavior, abusive parents, substance abuse, et. al.,) behavior which has been validated by endless public health research over the past 25 years.

There’s only one little problem – these symptoms are exhibited by people who commit violence whether or not they use a gun. And less than 5% of the individuals who try to physically injure someone else each year use a gun. How come the other 95% don’t? With 300 million guns floating around, it can’t be because there’s any great difficulty getting their hands on a gun.

Until and unless we focus on the shooters and not just on the victims, I am afraid that the ‘public health approach’ to gun violence will not necessarily provide the answers we seek. And if we don’t fully understand how and why people use guns in inappropriate or illegal ways, how do we craft effective public policies to make those behaviors change?

How Does U.S. Gun Violence Compare To Other Nation-States?

If there is one argument about gun violence which has taken on a life of its own within the gun violence prevention (GVP) movement, it’s the idea that the U.S. has a much higher level of lethal violence because we have so many more guns. The most recent research in this respect was published several years ago by two eminent GVP scholars who compared the rate of intentional mortality injuries in the U.S. to the same injury category in 23 other ‘wealthy’ nations and found the U.S. rate to be much higher than anywhere else.

gun violence everytown             Here is their basic finding: “U.S. homicide rates were 7 times higher than in other high-income countries, driven by a gun homicide rate that was 25.2 times higher.” Wow.

It’s always tricky to make cross-national comparisons when it comes to gun violence because often the data required to develop and study a problem just isn’t there. Or if it is there, sometimes the researcher won’t let anyone have access to the information, so it’s as if the numbers don’t exist even if they do.  A case in point is a celebrated article by Adam Lankford, who claims to have done a cross-national comparison of 171 countries and determined that the U.S. rate of mass gun violence is much higher than anywhere else because Americans own so many guns.  But nowhere in his paper or downloadable from the journal in which it appeared can we even view the figures which he allegedly used.

The good news about the study which compared mortality in the U.S. to other high-income countries, however, is that all the data either accompanies the article itself or is referenced to other published works (Small Arms Survey, World Bank, et. al.) Which brings me to a much more concerning problem with this research, namely, the decision to base murder rates on overall population totals, which could distort the whole issue of violence caused by guns.

In fact, there are two issues which need to be addressed if we are going to make a valid comparison between the United States versus everywhere else. First, the fact that a country’s civilian population owns a lot of guns doesn’t really explain any causal connection to gun violence unless we know what kinds of guns are actually owned. Of the 24 ‘wealthy’ countries whose violence rates were compared, the United States is the only country that grants its residents more or less free access to handguns, which happen to account for at least 80% or more of all intentional gun deaths. In terms of understanding relative gun risk, counting Grandpa’s rusted old shotgun sitting in the basement doesn’t explain anything at all.

The more important issue, however, is whether we should be comparing gun-violence rates from an epidemiological perspective (i.e., creating an injury rate on overall population, the way we create a rate to understand the risk of an infectious disease.)  By using overall population counts to compute gun violence rates, we are assuming that a gun injury is just like any medical event which causes an injury, but it’s not. Intentional gun injuries can only occur if someone makes a series of conscious, calculated decisions to get their hands on a gun, load a gun, carry a gun, and use the gun in an improper or illegal way.  There is no other medical event of any kind, even other intentional, physical injuries, that require so much forethought and work.

Know what happens when we compare gun violence rates between wealthy countries using the number of civilian-owned guns found in each nation-state? The U.S. rate is no longer 7.5 times higher than any other country; in fact it is right smack in the middle of the average rate for all 24 ‘wealthy’ states.

It would be folly to argue that we don’t have a serious and protracted problem with gun violence. Of course, we do. But when we compare gun violence on the basis of ownership rates, we discover that the U.S. may not be such a violent place.

 

No Matter Where It Happens, Gun Violence Is Still Gun Violence.

Like it or not, much of the discussion about gun violence flows over to the issue of race, or more specifically, how racial minorities are disproportionately the victims of violence caused by guns. According to our friends at the Violence Policy Center (VPC), black Americans “are only 13% of the U.S. population, yet represent 50% of homicide victims,” of whom 83% were killed with guns.

town              Things don’t get any better when we break the numbers down by racial and age groups. In 2016, the leading cause of African-American mortality for men and women ages 15-24 and 25 -34 was homicide, accounting for 42% of all deaths for the 15-24 group, and ‘only’ 26% for the age group 25 to 34.  For whites in those some age groups, homicides ranked 7% and 5% respectively for all deaths.

These are terrible numbers, for the most part reflecting the degree to which African-American communities continue to experience the socio-economic manifestations of poverty which divide such populations from everyone else. I recall the shock and dismay when Michael Harrington ‘discovered’ this seemingly-intractable indigence in his classic The Other America, published in 1962. In the more than half century since that time have things really changed?

I think it’s a major step forward when a Parkland kid like David Hogg, who refers to himself as ‘white and privileged’ makes it clear that he wants to speak not just for his classmates but for “all of the people that have died as a result of gun violence and haven’t been covered the same can now be heard.” As terrifying as mass shootings are, let’s not forget that such events add a tiny fraction to the overall gun violence body count, and most of that count are bodies which are young and black.

The purpose of this column, however, is not to advocate for more attention paid to inner-city gun violence, but rather to discuss another aspect of the gun violence issue which is too-often ignored.  Because if we are going to concentrate our concerns on what gun violence does to the quality of life and the length of lives in our inner cities, we skip over what gun violence does in communities not of color, but communities where only folks in the majority race tend to live.

Ever been to Wirt County in West Virginia?  It covers some 250 square miles of rolling hills and small farms some 40 miles north of Charleston, in 2016 four out of five voters marked their ballots for D.D.D. Trump. The county is home to some 5,800 people, median family income is around $36,000 (the U.S. median is now just under $60,000) and the racial diversity is zero; i.e., it’s all white.  In 2014, there were 9 murders in Wirt County, which doesn’t sound like a heckuva lot except on a per-100,000 basis, which is how we figure crime rates, it works out to 155.  The last time I checked, the murder rate in gun-happy Philadelphia was 16.

Look at the murders in Wirt County from another point of view.  The population density in New York City is 66,000 per square mile, which means that in Manhattan, the average city block is home to roughly 3,300 folks.  Put two city blocks together and you have about the same number of people that live in Wirt County.  How would you feel if 9 people were murdered in one year on the block where you lived?

In 2016, more than 8,600 white men and women were murdered, three-quarters with guns. But we don’t hear about these killings because they take place in small, dispersed, isolated places like Wirt County, and believe me, there are plenty of Wirt Counties all over the national map.

I’m really hopeful that the Parkland kids will create more pressure on the media to talk not just about the spectacular, rampage shootings, but as well spend more time reporting about the humdrum, one-on-one shootings which happen every day. But let’s just remember to include all the victims of gun violence in those reports.

 

What The Assault Weapons Ban Needs And Doesn’t Need.

Let’s say that Congress actually passes this assault weapons ban (AWB) and El Schmuck-o signs it into law.  And let’s say that a year after the bill becomes law the cops come into my house and find my Colt H-Bar, which I am allowed to have around because I owned it before the law was passed.  And let’s say I don’t have any paperwork to show when I bought it (which I don’t.)  How do I prove that I’m not breaking the assault weapons ban?  I can’t.

awb            Here’s Problem Number Two. Let’s say that after the law is passed I want to sell my H-Bar to someone else, which I can do because I legally own the gun and therefore can transfer it to anyone else who can legally own the gun. But the proposed AWB law as it now stands requires that all transfers of grandfathered assault guns be done in a dealer’s shop. Which means that, for all intents and purposes, a ‘universal’ background check system has just begun to creep in through the back door.

I’m not listing these problems because I personally care whether Americans can own these particular kinds of guns or for that matter whether they can own any guns at all. My task, as I see it, is not to advocate but to inform and the chips will fall where they may. Obviously, Gun-nut Nation will oppose any kind of bill which regulates anything having to do with guns. But the two issues I have just raised might also create serious opposition to this bill even among people who might otherwise be in favor of regulating assault-type guns.

One thing I wish the supporters of an AWB would eliminate from this bill and from their brains is all the nonsense about banning a gun because it has features like a pistol grip, a barrel shroud, a grenade or rocket launcher, or a folding stock. What makes an AR more lethal than other kinds of rifle designs is the bottom-loading, detachable magazine, which by taping two mags together gives the gun a capacity of 60 rounds or more.  As far as threaded barrels are concerned, if the harebrained scheme by harebrained Donald Trump, Jr., to pull silencers off the NFA list is dumped in the trash can where it belongs, owning a gun with a threaded barrel won’t create any real safety risk at all.

Some of the guns that are banned, such as the Hi-Point carbine, load ammunition through a magazine in the grip rather than underneath the frame. Guns like this simply aren’t assault rifles the way the term is defined in this bill, and if the bill begins to gather some traction, I hope the list of both banned and approved guns will be reviewed by someone other than a well-meaning ‘expert’ from the ATF.  In case you don’t remember, the ATF is the bunch whose mistaken belief that David Koresh and his Waco followers were building full-automatic weapons ultimately led to 75 deaths.  I don’t notice that Waco is ever mentioned in discussions or studies about mass shootings, by the way.

The United States is the only advanced country which regulates gun ownership not by how a gun is designed, but whether the gun’s owner can be trusted to use the weapon in a proper way. And despite Gun-nut Nation’s self-serving attempt to push some cock and bull about how any rifle that shoots in semi-auto mode is a ‘sporting’ weapon, the truth is that a rifle which allows the shooter to touch off 60 rounds in less than a minute is a lot of fun to shoot, which I guess meets the definition of a ‘sporting’ gun.

What’s wrong with going to a video arcade and popping off a hundred rounds in 10 seconds, complete with great graphics and realistic sounds? Oh, I forgot. Not only can you do the same thing with a real AR-15, but the gun will also protect you from ISIS or maybe even an invasion from Mars.

No Matter Why You Use A Gun, It’s Still Gun Violence.

skidspring

Yesterday I wrote a column pointing out that for the very first time in my lifetime (and I was born in 1944,) the gun-control movement finds itself on a level playing field with the other side. If anything, the field may even be tilted a bit in the favor of gun control.  Why do I say that? Because it’s pretty hard to convince the mainstream that these high school kids from Parkland are just a bunch of dupes being fed this lie and that lie by the Bloomberg-Soros cabal.

Just about everyone who is a parent knows the one thing you can’t tell a teenager is to follow the advice of his or her elders unless it’s advice they really want to hear. And let’s remember one other thing about these Parkland kids – they are veterans of a rampage assault, it really happened to them. And for all her blather and nonsense about how she’s always armed to protect herself and her loved ones from any kind of a threat, Dana Loesch has never, never found herself in a real-life situation where she actually used that gun.

We are now at the point when the gun-control community needs to come up with an argument that will convince mainstream Americans that the ‘good gal with a gun’ narrative isn’t a legitimate response to armed threats.  And with all due respect to my public health researcher friends, most people really don’t make up their minds because of evidence-based research.  As Daniel Kahneman has explained it, decisions about what to do both for the important and the unimportant things in life flow as much or more from emotions as from facts.

The scenes pictured above are where gun killings have occurred. The picture on the left is Skidmore, MO, in front of the saloon where the town bully, Ken McElroy, was shot down by several gun-wielding local residents while the rest of the townsfolk stood and watched. The picture on the right is Union Street in Springfield, MA, where someone is gunned down at least once a month.

Law enforcement spent six years trying to get someone in Skidmore to identify the killers of Ken McElroy, but nobody ever did. The cops in Springfield will tell you that what happens on Union Street is just a gang killing, and when they walk around looking for witnesses, nobody saw nuttin’, even when the shooting takes place at mid-day.

The murder of Ken McElroy is something we call ‘virtuous violence;’ i.e., using violence for positive ends.  After all, McElroy got what was coming to him, and what better way to even the score than to use a gun? On the other hand, the gang member who shot another gang member on Union Street is also committing an act of virtuous violence – the guy he shot may have welched on a drug deal, or may have tried to shake down a friend, or break into a neighbor’s house.

Murder is overwhelmingly an event that occurs between individuals who have some degree of connection to each other before the killing occurs.  Whether the connection is between people who live in the same small town or who hang out on the same corner makes no difference at all. To quote the brilliant Lester Adelson: “With its peculiar lethality, a gun converts a spat into a slaying and a quarrel into a killing.”

When the NRA talks about how ‘good guys with guns’ will protect us from ‘bad guys with guns,’ what the boys from Fairfax are really saying is that violence is the most effective way to respond to violence, and nothing could be further from the truth. If the gun-control movement wants to convince mainstream America that gun violence should not be an everyday affair, they need to address the issue of virtuous violence and argue that violence in any form, used for redressing any real or imagined threat, is a type of behavior which does not work.

The Washington Post Uses Science To Explain Violence Caused By Guns.

The good news is that many people, perhaps millions of people who otherwise never think about gun violence will be thinking about gun violence today. And for all the talk about this gun-control law and that gun-control law, gun violence will end when our culture stops accepting the idea that the best way to deal with violence is to use violence; i.e., the violence caused by guns.

march24             The bad news about today is that every liberal (i.e., gun-control) media outlet will feel it necessary to have some staff writer put out a nice, feel-good story about guns, by which I mean saying something either stupid or obvious about gun violence because if The New York Times says something, The Washington Post better say something too.

In that regard today’s WaPo has an op-ed by a kid named Robert Gebelhoff, who as far as I can tell, has never previously published anything about guns. And not only doesn’t he know anything about guns, but if you take the trouble to read the actual content of his piece entitled, “Opponents of gun control say nothing can be done. Science says they’re wrong,” you’ll discover he doesn’t know anything about science either, or at least he certainly doesn’t know what the word ‘science’ actually means.

I may be a little old-fashioned, or maybe just old, but to me the word ‘science’ means or at least implies that we base what we know on facts. Not just one or two facts scattered here or there, but on facts which come out of evidence-based research, not just out of hot air. And sadly, as I read through Gebelhoff’s piece, I can’t seem to find where the facts  begin and the hot air actually ends.

According to Gebelhoff, the first thing we need to do is “Ban weapons of war.” And his science behind this statement? “Based on the evidence we have, banning these weapons probably won’t do too much to curb overall gun deaths.” Some science.

The next thing we need to do is: “Keep guns away from kids.” And the way we do this is to make sure the guns are always locked up, because according to another bit of science quoted by Gebelhoff, “68 percent of school shootings are perpetrated by shooters who obtain a gun from their homes or the homes of relatives.” Except the study he quotes says absolutely nothing about whether the guns used by those school shooters were locked up or not.

Next? “Stop the flow of guns.” And the ‘science’ behind this idea comes from the ‘gun buyback’ in Australia, according to Gebelhoff, except that what happened in Australia wasn’t a buyback at all. It was a decision by the government to prohibit the ownership of certain types of legally-owned guns, which meant that owners of these products had to be compensated at fair-market value when they surrendered their no-longer-legal product; in other words, it wasn’t a buyback, it was a confiscation, that’s all.

Of course, when Hillary talked about Australia during the 2016 campaign, her so-called experts told her she would be accused of supporting a plan that would undercut the sanctified 2nd Amendment, so what happened in Australia was turned into a ‘buyback,’ as if she knew what she was talking about either way.  I’d like to thank Rob Gebelhoff for turning Hillary’s fiction into fact, of course using science to pave the way.

My concern about giving totally uninformed contributors like Gebelhoff space in the gun-control debate is that what they say will end up not just influencing the content of the debate, but will be used by the ‘other side’ to prove once again that people honestly concerned about gun violence are wolves in sheep’s clothing who just can’t wait to take all the guns away. And when a media venue as influential as The Washington Post allows someone as ignorant as Rob Gebelhoff to use terms like ‘science’ to shape the ideas of uninformed but otherwise-honest readers, the alt-right isn’t wrong when it refers to such shabby journalism as ‘fake news.’

 

 

Rohan Krishnan – A Violent Connection: Mass Shootings and Domestic Violence

 

Mass shootings are increasingly becoming a fact of life in the United States. According to the FBI, a mass shooting is defined as a shooting where at least four people are killed, not including the perpetrator. America has significantly more mass shootings than any other comparable Western nation.

LV2The goal of my project was to explore if a causal relationship exists between mass shootings and domestic violence. Mass shooting data from multiple sources such as the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports, Congressional Research Reports, Everytown and Mother Jones reports etc. for the past 20 years (1998-2017) was extensively analyzed in this project. Each instance of mass shooting was validated through 10-12 supplementary articles in the media which provided additional information such as location, criminal and mental history, motive, relationship to victims etc. A custom Google Map was created to capture all the 74 mass shootings in a visual fashion. Each shooting was categorized into the following buckets: domestic violence, workplace violence, mental illness, vengeance, terrorism, race-related and gang-related violence. Detailed information such as the identity of the shooter, number of casualties, firearms used in the shooting and whether the guns were obtained legally or not is indicated on the map. The analysis leads to the conclusion that roughly 36% of these mass shootings had a strong correlation to domestic violence meaning that the shooting itself was either a case of domestic violence or the shooter had previously been reported for domestic violence against a spouse or a family member. The frequency of domestic violence related mass shootings has increased over this 20-year period, especially the last few years, which has witnessed a dramatic spike in shootings and casualties. The surprising observation is that the majority of the shooters in domestic violence related cases obtained their firearms legally. This demonstrates that the systems in place was not able to prevent these horrible abusers from obtaining deadly firearms legally.

In order to address this serious issue, a package of three legislative proposals, already implemented successfully in several states, is proposed as part of this research. These include the following:

  • ERPO (Extreme Risk Protective Order), a bill that essentially allows family members to notify police if a gun owner exhibits aggressive or dangerous behavior that may put themselves or others at risk and thereby allows law enforcement to confiscate their guns for a temporary period of time. Given that mass shooters and domestic violence abusers often exhibit signs of aggressive and dangerous behavior before the actual act of shooting, allowing family members to report such behavior to authorities can potentially prevent such familicides. ERPO has already been enacted in California, Oregon, Washington, Indiana and Connecticut. States where ERPO has been enacted witnessed one suicide averted for every 10 guns seized. Currently, ERPO bills are being considered in 19 states and Washington DC.
  • Secondly, the boyfriend loophole that originated in the Lautenberg Amendment allows those with a domestic violence restraining order against a partner with non-marital status or stalker to continue to buy or possess firearms. This loophole has not been closed in 29 states allowing dangerous abusers to keep their firearms. According to the Bureau of Justice, 48.6% of domestic violence victims are in dating relationships, which indicates that prohibiting these violent abusers from possessing firearms is imperative.
  • Although the Lautenberg Amendment prevented domestic violence offenders from obtaining guns, it did not give authority to the government to remove firearms already in their possession from these offenders. According to a Johns Hopkins University study, neither law enforcement nor the courts have been granted the authority to confiscate firearms from domestic violence offenders in as many as 23 states.

I firmly believe that these common sense legislative approaches which enjoy bi-partisan support can significantly reduce mass shootings related to domestic violence. None of these proposals call for a broad-based ban of firearms which allows law-abiding citizens to possess firearms while keeping them out of the hands of dangerous abusers. As a result, these pieces of legislation can be realistically passed in the near future with the potential to significantly reduce gun violence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s More To March 24th Than Just A March.

Now that March 24th is dawning and people from all over the country will be coming to DC to let themselves be seen and heard about the need to reduce gun violence, I thought it would be interesting to see what plans are afoot to for Gun-nut Nation to get out their message to the other side. What got my attention was a snarky comment yesterday from the mouth of fat-head Rush Limbaugh who tried to diminish the impact of the march by claiming that one of the Parkland activists, David Hogg, was behaving just like every other ‘mainstream’ media flack by blaming what happened at Douglas High School on the NRA.

march24            If the best that Gun-nut Nation can come up with is a 30-second blab between advertisements for food supplements and generic Viagra pills by Rushbo, they aren’t going to make much of a dent in the public debate on March 24th. And I also suspect that many of the self-appointed Trump noisemakers will also duck for cover, if only because nothing that Trump says about guns or anything else is necessarily valid before his next fusillade of tweets.

The NRA is talking about conducting some kind of event in DC on March 24th, but so far the only actually planning I have seen is a place on the NRA website where you can reserve a bus seat to go to Trenton, the capital of New Jersey, for a 2nd Amendment rally on Monday, March 26th.  Meanwhile, here it is March 20th and the rally organizers haven’t posted any information about where folks can actually get on a bus that is going to Trenton, and the website warns that trips may be cancelled and “seating cannot be guaranteed.”

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ledger, the event on March 24th is actually shaping up to be an international event, with rallies and demos planned in most major American cities as well as at sites in at least 25 foreign countries, including China, Viet Nam and the Philippines. Can you imagine a gun-control demonstration in Manilla or Hong Kong? What is the world coming to? I’ll tell you what it’s coming to; it’s coming to a bunch of scrappy teen-agers who decided they would show everyone else how to use social media to plan and carry out an international event.  Right now the media is droning on and about how Trump or Hillary or Obama used social media to run their political campaigns. Which gives all those intrepid news-gatherers an opportunity to ignore the main event.

I’m not surprised at the degree to which the March 24th worldwide demonstrations have garnered so little coverage from the mainstream media, in particular the alleged, liberal media which always presents itself as being anti-gun.  Remember Occupy Wall Street? And by the way, Fox News and those other alt-right messaging services reacted to the Occupy movement in 2011 exactly the same way they are reacting to March for our Lives on March 24th: a bunch of stupid, misled kids who have nothing better to do.

Yesterday I received a 25-page research paper, complete with graphs, maps, notes and bibliography written by a high school sophomore and submitted to a local science fair.  The title of the paper: “A Violent Connection: Mass Shootings and Domestic Abuse.” I’m going to post this remarkable piece shortly, but in the meantime trust me when I say that this essay represents a significant piece of research and thought. Would this young man have done this work without what happened at Stoneman Douglas High? I don’t know. But what I do know is that high school students throughout the United States and all over the globe are right now talking about gun violence in a way they never talked before.

Don’t let anyone kid you – the marches, protests and events on March 24th are the real deal, and if the young man who wrote the paper on mass shootings is now thinking about something he previously didn’t think or care about, he’s surely not the only one.

 

Do Guns Make It Easier Or Harder To Commit Crimes? Donohue Versus Lott.

In the wake of a massive, unprecedented social media campaign by a bunch of high school kids, all of a sudden the gun industry finds itself facing a storm of protests over whether or not its products should be made or sold. Well, maybe not all of its products, but certainly the products whose use continues to produce enough multiple killings and injuries to ignite a debate about whether such guns should be around at all.

lott2Behind the argument about owning high-capacity, semi-automatic weapons is another debate which has been going on for nearly 20 years about what I call the social utility of guns, namely, do guns make us more or less safe, or to put it another way, do guns protect us from crime or increase crime?

This debate got started in 1998 with the publication of John Lott’s book, More Guns Less Crime, the title of which says what the book is all about. One of the early reviews of this book was by an academic, John Donohue, who also collaborated with Steven Levitt on a controversial study linking legal abortions to the post-1990’s decline in crime.

Over the years, Lott’s book has become something of a Holy Grail to the gun-rights movement, Donohue’s multliple critiques of this book serving in the same fashion for the gun violence prevention crowd, a.k.a, the GVP.

What I have always found interesting in this debate is the degree to which the criticisms of both Lott and Donohue flow directly from where the critics stand on the issue of guns. I have yet to read a single critique of Lott’s book by anyone who considers themselves to be a proponent of guns. Ditto, I have never found a single critique of Donohue’s work emanating from anyone who supports more controls over guns.  In other words, what we have here is an academic argument in which neither side can find a single, critical word to utter about the work with whose conclusions they agree.

This isn’t an academic debate. Frankly, it’s  nothing more than the same, old, tired and hackneyed argument about guns that has been going on for more than twenty years. It’s not driven by evidence-based work, it’s driven by emotions and advocacy that both sides always make.

What you can download here is a detailed paper I have posted on SSRN.  It is not an attempt to prove that Lott is correct and Donohue isn’t, nor the other way around. It is also not an attempt to come up with yet another statistical model which can be used to provide yet another regression analysis linking crime rates to guns.

Frankly, I have absolutely no interest in proving either Donohue or Lott to be correct. My interest is simply to take this long-standing, academic argument and look at it from the only perspective that really counts, and that perspective happens to be what I know about guns.  Which is something that neither Donohue nor Lott know very much at all.