Recently a friend, himself a very serious gun advocate, posted, the following picture to his Facebook status update. (Click it to bigger it)
He must have found it compelling. I certainly did not. What follows is my response to the argument advanced by this info-graphic Facebook meme. Feel free to pick either apart, and add your own commentary below.
This is easily the most
misleading info-graphic I have seen in a long time, and very revealing of one
of the deep problems of letting advocates, with no grasp of statistics, and
little regard for fair analysis loose in Photoshop.
Lets begin with top half of
the info-graphic: Guns per 100 people.
This tells us precisely
nothing about how these guns are distributed across a country. For all we know all those US guns could be held
by 10 guys in Jacksonville Florida. The
schematic assumes that gun ownership is more or less even across country. This is a serious problem for any future
analysis. It also makes a nonsense out of the conclusion that the author
intends the reader to walk away with.
In the US we know, for
instance, that gun ownership is not evenly distributed across the country, that
it is patchy with regard to density. The first half of this info-graphic is a
coarse grain analysis at the very best. We would want to know this information
for any later comparison of gun ownership to crime stats. Without this we don’t have much to go on.
Another reason why this
average number of guns per one hundred people is a useless metric, is because
it leaves out the crucial detail, that is to say the laws that govern the sale,
and regulation of firearms. Without that what can we really say? [EDIT: For instance what good is it to tell us the number of firearms in, say, the Scandinavian countries, with out telling us how those guns are regulated.)
Also, there is a
suspicious problem of intervals. The
first interval is 0-10, whereas the remaining are all in larger intervals
(10-30, 30-50, 50-75, 75+) There may be sound reasons for this. But as this is
clearly advocacy research, based here in the US, I am deeply suspicious that
the intervals were chosen to make some rhetorical point that cast the US in a
more favorable light (this will come up again in the second half of this
ridiculous graphic, and precisely to mislead).
Looking at the second
half (murders per 100,000) we have, again and more dishonestly, a problem with
the intervals. Setting the lowest intervals at 0-5 murders per 100,000 persons
artificially allows the US to look as if it is as safe as Western European
nations (who have some of the strictest gun laws) with regard to homicide rates. In any event the intervals invite a host of
strange conclusions, and clearly tell us, despite what the designer of this
info graphic would have us believe, that guns ownership is not the best
predictor of homicide rates.
Consider: The average murder
rate in the US is something like 5 per 100,000 (4.8 according to UNODC),
whereas the murder rate for the United Kingdom is a whooping 1.2, our northern
neighbor Canada has a murder rate of 1.6, Sweden, 1, Norway, .6, Switzerland .7
Japan .4. That is just small sampling of the murder rates from other
industrialized nations. The situation is
the same everywhere you look among developed nations. The US ranks pretty poorly by comparison when
looking at homicide rates. But just looking at the US as a whole is also
misleading, because the US is not uniform as any average might suggest. New England’s murder rate is much more like that of Western European industrialized nations. If you look at violent crime generally, it is
much greater in the Southern US than it is in the Northern US. It would be interesting to see a map of gun
ownership by concentration placed over a map of violent crime in the US. Given
the tendency of honor culture that permeates the South (where most of the
violent crime lives) I would be surprised if the gun ownership was equal
between northern and southern US regions. Having artificially large intervals
allows the US to seem like a reasonable country with respect to murder rates,
instead of being an outlier among developed nations. And an outlier it really
The author, or perhaps
authors, of this atrocious info-graphic want us to draw the conclusion that
more guns means greater safety from murder. This is such an ill-conceived
hypothesis as to not even be wrong. Even a cursory examination of this
info-graphic should reveal this.
More than gun ownership,
this info-graphic tells the tale of dependable governments, stability and the
opposite, instability as the best predictors of homicide rates, not how gun
ownership leads to lower homicide. Note
that large swaths of the 0-10 interval of gun ownership are also possessed of
low homicide rates (fine grain analysis-which we have sampled- demonstrates
much lower rates of homicide than the gun loving US for these 0-10 countries).
Why should this be the case? We know
that almost all the developed nations have a considerably lower murder rates,
lower rates of violent crime than the US, and they possess fewer guns.
The countries with the
highest murder rates, are also the countries that are the least stable and
dependable, shall we say least healthy, by
every metric. This conclusion must not be a welcome one for most people who
fancy themselves second amendment defenders and think guns are the game
changers. But the implication is clear,
its stronger governments, better social services and safety nets, the
perception of sound state, and local government that are the best predictors of
murder rates. That is what seems to be the key difference between states with
high murder rates and those with out, not gun ownership.
Look at the most
murderous lands and the feature that most characterizes these lands is deep
instability, corruption, and crappy organs of state. China, India, South Korea, Southeast Asia
generally, Japan, UK, Ireland, Spain and Portugal, Germany, even Italy all have
low murder rates, low rates of gun ownership.
The US has high rates of gun ownership among industrialized nations, and
has the highest murder rate among developed nations.
Labels: gun control, Politics