Friday, February 11, 2011

guns kill people

Another one for the duh files.

I live in NRA country now and the lunch conversation turned to gun rights. Somebody suggested that guns don't kill people and claimed that murder rates are similar around the world. The data suggest the opposite.

Murder Rates:
US: 5 per 100,000 people
Australia: 1.2, but this number excludes attempted murders
UK: 1.28, but this number excludes attempted murders
New Zealand’s number includes attempted murders, so should be more comparable to US. It is 1.3
Canada: 1.81, includes attempted murders

Total crime rates:
US: 80 per 1,000 population
Australia: not listed
UK: 85.5
NZ: 105.9
Canada: 75

Guns per 100 residents:
US: 88.8
Australia: 15
UK: not listed
NZ: 22.6
Canada: 30.8

The US has a lower crime rate but higher murder rate compared to similar countries. Criminals and crime everywhere, but crime rates aren’t correlated with murder rates. Guns make it easier to kill people. We have more guns, so we kill more people.

If you list these countries according to gun ownership rate, the list is in the exact same order as if you list them according to their murder rate. And the proportional rates are also similar. The US has 2.88 as many guns per capita and 2.76 times as many murders per capita compared to Canada. Given very similar cultures, economics, languages, etc, the data suggests that if you double the number of guns in a country, you also double the number of murders. In English speaking countries, roughly one gun in 18,000 will be used to kill someone each year, independent of which country that gun is located in.

Keeping everything else constant, you'll eliminate one murder per year for each 18,000 guns that you randomly remove from a population. It stands to reason that if you selectively remove guns from a population (i.e. from people with criminal histories or from poor or young or people with less education), you should be able to get better results from your efforts. But that is a different discussion.

The ludicrously obvious point is: guns kill people. If you have murderous intent but only a knife at hand, you will probably hurt someone but you are far less likely to kill them.