Gun Control – Answering The Issues Raised

I would like to thank @simonr916 for raising some interesting challenges to my previous post on gun control.

To address the points raised:

“My main contention with your blog is your argument that there is no correlation between gun ownership and homicide rates. You take your analysis here from another blogger who gets their data from a range of sources including Wikipedia pages of disputed accuracy and pro-gun websites.”

If the data is wrong, then point out where it is wrong. It is not wrong simply because it appears in Wikipedia!

There are two sets of data presented in the blog:

International Data

In this case the data appearing in Wikepedia comes from very respected sources:

The primary sources for the Data On Intentional Homicide Rates By Country are the United Nations Global Study on Homicide and Homicide Statistics 2012.

The primary source for the Wikepedia data on Number of Guns per Capita is the Geneva Graduate Institute of International Studies“Small Arms Survey 2007″ and  Small Arms Survey 2007 Part 2

Neither of these sources are “of disputed accuracy”, nor are they “pro-gun websites”

USA State By State Data

The data on homicides and populations by state are sourced from the FBI Crime in the United States 2011

The data on gun ownership by state are sourced from About.com, the primary source is the 2001 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS). The numbers as reported in the Washington Post can be seen here.

Neither of these sources are of disputed accuracy, nor are they “pro-gun websites”, although the pro-gun website USCarry.com did have the temerity to quote the report!

On this point, you are simply wrong, the data is from reputable sources.

“This analysis makes no attempt to adjust for socio-economic
factors such as population density, poverty and inequality, levels of
corruption within government and law enforcement etc.”

 Unless you have meaningful data any attempt to control for other variables is simply adding unproven assumptions and error under the guise of increasing accuracy. In relation to the factors you quote:

Population density – This is not uniform over a state or a country. One state could have x,000 people per square mile packed into three large cities, another state could have the same density but spread across many rural communities. A state wide population density is meaningless.

Poverty and inequality are also not uniform over a state or a country. Absolute poverty? Poverty relative to the median in the state? The median in the country?, the mean? Inequality, the same questions, compared to the state, the country, the ethnic group?

Corruption. Measured in what units and with what degree of accuracy.

Yes of course homicides are caused by a multitude of factors, but without at least some correlation between the two variables you are interested in there is nothing to investigate!

“This article from the peer-reviewed American Journal of Public Health (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pm… looked at gun ownership and homicide rates and homicide across the US, made adjustments for socio-economic factors, and concludes that there is a correlation between gun ownership and homicide.”

The article includes no source data that can be examined, no regression equations and no indication of what or how other variables were corrected for. It does not use state level gun ownership data, but a metric it calls FS/S based on the ratio of suicides using guns to total suicides. Its comparison of arbitrary subsets of top and bottom data is not a valid statistical technique.

It is always possible to torture data into telling you whatever you want to hear by the use of undefined control variables, invalid assumptions and cherry picking elements of the data set.

As can be seen at the end of the paper, this research was funded by the anti-gun Joyce Foundation the anti-gun Robert Woods Johnson Foundation and George Soros’ anti-gun Open Society Institute, so your appeal to authority is even further undermined.

Your faith in peer review is touching but misplaced, as this shows.

“Summaries of other, scholarly articles with similar findings can be found here:

http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/1…
http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/hi…

I will not go through every paper, but I will point out that most of the articles on the second link are by the same researcher who carried out the anti-gun lobby funded research in the first article you quoted. By way of balance, I will also point out some alternative scholarly articles that support the analysis in my original blog post.

Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy
Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 

It is clear that torturing the data can make it confess to whatever the relevant paymaster, special interest group wants. Most researchers in the field have a view that they are trying to support. So it is very difficult to know who you can trust.

However, a little lateral thinking will enable us to get to the truth:

If Gun Ownership were a significant factor in homicide rates then scholars investigating the relationship of homicide to other things, such as poverty, would need to control for it in their research. These scholars probably have no political interest in the gun control debate and will only control for variables that have a real influence.

This paper from the British Journal of Criminology reviews 47 cross national studies of the relationship between poverty and homicides. Conveniently for our purposes it also lists the variables that the researchers controlled for in each study.

Not one of them controlled for gun ownership!

If scholars without a vested interest don’t regard gun ownership as a variable worth controlling for in their own field of research, I think it is safe to assume it is not important.

 

“This article shows that gun controls introduced in Australia in 1996 were followed by
accelerated declines in firearm deaths:

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pm…

Yet, this paper concludes the opposite, that it had no impact:

http://www.ssaa.org.au/capital-news/2008/2008-09-04_melbourne-uni-paper-Aust-gun-buyback.pdf

“You also make the argument that gun control will not prevent criminals from obtaining guns, and you draw a comparison with illegal drugs. However illegal guns are, almost without exception, legal guns that have become illegal either by being stolen from their lawful owner, by being transported across a border, or by a decommissioned weapon – sold as a replica – being re-commissioned.

As such, reducing the availability of legal weapons would have the result of decreasing the availability of illegal weapons. This reduced supply will not eradicate
availability altogether but would keep guns out of the hands of many criminals,
and would increase the cost to others.”

All drugs are illegal and still there is ample supply. I see no reason why making guns illegal would work any better than making drugs illegal. Certainly the existing supply of legal guns that suddenly become illegal would not disappear from existence and unless every country in the world made guns illegal there would be plenty of legal guns and replicas that could be imported.

“You argue availability of guns in the UK based upon a single newspaper article quoting ananonymous source ‘close to the trade in illegal weapons’. The reliability of this as evidence to support your case is highly debateable”

There is no register of illegal gun purchases and no hard data that I could find. However, the single newspaper article is certainly not alone in reaching that conclusion:

http://www.channel4.com/programmes/dispatches/articles/guns-in-britain

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/6180559.stm

http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/347592/The-guns-and-grenades-of-gangland-Britain

“but, in any case, it is unquestionably more difficult to obtain an illegal weapon in the UK than it is to walk into Wal-Mart and buy one in the US. Whilst it is likely that hardened criminals with the right connections will always be able to access weapons, controls limit their availability and ensure that, by doing so, they face the risk of prosecution and imprisonment even if they do not use the weapon.”

That is certainly true, but it ignores the defensive value of legal gun ownership. The criminals may be slightly hindered in their ability to acquire guns, but the law abiding victims would be totally prevented from doing so.

“In the case of school shootings, where the killer is usually an isolated and troubled
teenager, such controls are likely to put guns completely beyond their reach.”

For the tiny minority of cases where a law abiding citizen with no criminal connections decides to commit mass murder then it would certainly make it more difficult to use a gun. However, There is a global phenomena of mass murder using motor vehicles as the weapon these would still be available to the school killer intent on mass murder.

“Your argument that school killers’ motive is murder/suicide and so they may choose to use a bomb instead, makes an assumption as to the killers’ motives without evidence. Other possible motives may be the feelings of power and control they expect to
experience, seeing others in fear, the glamourisation of gun use and so on.”

Many motives are possible, they will probably be different in each case. However the actions usually involve the mass killing of school pupils followed by the death of the perpetrator. Such actions can also be (and have been) carried out via  homemade explosives or using a motor vehicle,  and it is pure speculation that only the use of guns would satisfy the motivations.

“Following the Dunblane massacre in 1996, gun laws in the UK were tightened. There have been no mass school shootings in the UK since, and – notably – no school bombings either.”

That is a very weak argument, Dunblane is the only mass school shooting I can find in the UK. In the many decades from the invention of the first fire-arm up to to the ban in 1996 there was 1 incident. In the 16 years since there have been none. There were tens of 16 year periods without incident before the ban. If would require hundreds, possibly thousands more years without incident, before any valid conclusion could be drawn.

“You go on to argue that gun ownership provides protection against violence. This ignores statistical evidence that guns kept in homes are more likely to be involved in accidental or criminal shootings than self defence – and more likely still to be used in
the suicide of the gun owner or another family member (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pu….”

The paper deals only with guns that were fired. It says that for each time a gun was fired in self defence there were four unintentional shootings and seven criminal assaults or homicides.

What it fails to include are all the times a burgler, mugger or would be rapist was scared off by a victim showing a gun that didn’t need to be fired. Only in the, presumably quite rare, event of the assailant continuing their attack once the gun was produced would the gun need to be fired.

For some papers that look at the whole picture and conclude that significant self defence usage and value is provided, refer to:

Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology, vol. 86, issue 1, 1995.

St. Louis University Public Law Review

And yes, some criminals may be discouraged from some crimes if they believe the intended victim may be armed. It seems likely that they will simply move onto another target instead.”

In a society with a culture of gun ownership, who do they move on to? Each potential target could be armed and capable of defending themselves.

“Equally, it may be that fear of an armed victim may encourage a
criminal to carry a gun or use a greater level of violence than would otherwise
be the case.”

Not every burglar, mugger or rapist is happy with moving up to the status of murderer. Just as likely they would decide that the payoffs from a life of crime had changed and perhaps some other form of occupation would become more attractive.

Some interesting challenges from @simonr916 but nothing that causes me to change my position

More issues raised and answered

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  • BlackhamVillage

    In the end this comes down to the will of the people expressed through the ballot box. The majority exercise control over a minority where they don’t like what that minority does.  I personally do not want to live in a society where virtually anyone can possess highly lethal weapons. I would like to think, for example that my teenage son could go out and do something silly or slightly illegal (as they do) without being shot to death by an irate householder or motorist, when a punch in the nose might be the appropriate response. I would also rather not live in a society where people have the liberty to drive through my country village at 60mph…but that is another story. So I am fairly happy with the position in the UK where gun ownership is limited to rural people for sporting purposes and a few criminals who tend in the main to shoot each other anyway.

    Government should moderate the will of the people and provide sometimes a lead as with homosexual and capital punishment reform. I don’t think it should legislate to protect people from themselves (seat belt law etc) but it should legislate to prevent (as far as is possible) mad or bad or sometimes just incompetent citizens killing others.

  • @simonr916

    I will consider your answers and respond as soon as time allows.

    Contrary to at least one of your tweets about this post, I am not ‘the gun lobby’. I’d like to point out that nether am I a sociologist, criminologist or statistician. I read your original post and responded in a number of postings on twitter to point out that you had cherry picked weak evidence, given weight to superficial arguments and presented a series of unsupported suppositions.

    My ‘research’ in preparing my response relied upon using Google on my iPhone pn the bus to

    You insisted that I should comment on your blog before you’d reply, so I transferred my tweets across, expanded upon them a little, and posted.

    In short, I just want to be clear that you have answered some criticisms of your original blog, not answered the full and detailed criticisms of ‘the gun lobby’.

    • http://twitter.com/LibertarianView Murray Rothbard

      It was not my intention to portray you as the anti gun lobby. However, many of the arguments you put forward are used by the anti-gun lobby so the responses are of wider interest.

  • @simonr916

    Thank you for your thoughtful response to my
    criticisms of your original post.

    I made my criticisms because your original post took
    the position that any reasonable and logical consideration of the gun issue
    could only come to the conclusion that guns should not be controlled. Anyone
    considering the evidence and coming to an alternative view must have been
    swayed by emotion, sentiment or other prejudice.

    My personal opinion is that the issue is more nuanced
    and complex than that, and that two sides shouting abuse at each other are
    unlikely to come to a rational and useful conclusion. Overall, my view is that
    guns should be controlled, and I believe that this is the position best
    supported by the evidence.

    But we’re arguing your position here – that gun
    control is self-evidently wrong, and that anyone who supports it is ignorant or
    irrational. Please keep that in mind.

    Sociology and criminology are two established areas of
    academic study, and statistical analysis is a discipline requiring some skill
    and training. Part of any analysis in these areas should involve consideration
    not just of whether the data in question is accurate but also asking the
    question ‘is this the most relevant, appropriate and accurate source of data
    available?’

    My main criticism of your use of the analysis from
    another blogger was not that the data was inaccurate – although we will go on
    to see that establishing gun-prevalence is particularly difficult – but that
    the analysis is of little use as it makes no attempt to control for the range
    of other variables that are likely to impact upon homicide rates. The blogger
    himself argues that his analysis cannot be used to support either the pro or
    anti gun argument for this very reason.

    Firstly though, you claim that I am completely wrong
    on the question of the reliability of the data sources that he used.

    As you rightly state, the data on numbers of guns per
    capita is taken from the Wikipedia page providing figures from the 2007 small
    arms survey. This page states that the data is, in most cases, ‘an
    estimation based on dividing the total amount of civilian owned guns in a
    country by the total population of that country. As some people may possess
    multiple weapons while others possess none, this number is not a representation
    of the percentage of people who possess guns in each country’. The page also
    states that, for some countries, the ‘margin of error is considerable’.

    Looking at the source data, Switzerland, for example, is estimated to have between
    30.9 and 60.5 guns per 100 people, Russia between 4.5 and 13.3.  

    Yet the blog you link to presents analysis of ‘gun
    ownership’ by country (suggesting the percentage of people who own guns), and
    your own blog refers to the data as an analysis of ‘higher availability of
    guns’. Neither of these are the same thing as a crude calculation based upon
    the estimated number of guns divided by the number of people. 

    So whilst the data may be from reputable sources, it is
    clear that it is not as reliable as you may hope and nor does it necessarily
    say what you claimed that it said.

    Returning to my main point, it is clear that any
    meaningful analysis of correlation between gun prevalence and homicide should
    adjust for other, known variables.

    The classic example is Switzerland. This is a relatively
    small, very prosperous country with a high quality of life. All fit, male
    members of the population are required to undertake a prolonged period of
    military service (a ‘well-regulated militia’ perhaps) and, as part of that
    service, to keep a weapon at home (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Switzerland)

    Compare this to Russia, where there is a low
    per-capita GDP, recent political and social upheaval – including a huge
    ‘capital flight’ where state assets were transferred at significantly below
    market rate to a small number of individuals – collapsing social services, high
    levels of corruption in government and law enforcement, a flourishing ‘mafia’
    and so on. Russia
    has gun control laws, but it is unclear how effectively they are policed.

    Any study of these two countries that only looks at
    homicide rate and gun prevalence (especially if that prevalence is based upon a
    flawed and inaccurate measure) is unlikely to provide any meaningful data. You
    are right to say that correcting for these variables is very difficult, but
    that is not to say that it should not be done. 

    The article that I provided from the American Journal
    of Public Health attempts to provide this type of control, and the methodology
    employed has successfully passed peer review for publication in an influential
    journal (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_journal_of_public_health#Impact)

    You state that my ‘faith in peer review is touching
    but misplaced’ and provide a link to support that assertion. This link does not
    lead to any criticism of peer review, rather it leads to a page which discusses
    a range of issues which can undermine and bias research studies.

    Peer review is a process by which research results are
    scrutinized by independent and qualified experts in order to establish the
    quality of that work. These experts can assess whether the research methods
    used have resulted on undue bias, whether appropriate data sources have been
    chosen and whether valid statistical techniques have been applied.

    By no means is peer review flawless, and it is not an absolute guarantor of quality, but it is the gold standard for publication in academic
    journals. It is a system designed to minimize the very causes of research bias
    discussed on the web page that you link to.

    You provide 2 scholarly articles to counter my
    arguments and support your original analysis.

    The Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy article
    that you link to is the very one that I provided in my own previous comment and
    (briefly) criticized in that comment.

    It makes no effort to control for the other variables
    that will have an affect of levels of homicide.

    It takes its ‘rate of gun ownership’ from the 2003
    small arms survey which – as I have already argued – does not provide an
    accurate representation of gun ownership and has a large margin of error.

    It makes some highly dubious arguments, such as
    attempting to demonstrate that gun control has led to higher gun crime in Britain by
    relying on a comparison between 1920 and 1970.

    It also concedes that many of the
    countries covered by the study have introduced relatively recent gun laws in
    response to pre-existing high crime rates. i.e. Any correlation between gun
    control and homicide shown within the study may have a causal effect in exactly
    the opposite direction to your own argument.

    I could go on…

    Looking at the article you link to from the Journal of
    Research in Crime and Deliquency; it criticizes previous research and states
    that the best measure of household gun prevalence for cross-sectional research
    is the percentage of suicides committed with guns. This is precisely the
    measure that you criticize the American Journal of Public Health article for
    using.

    This article concludes that a number of factors make it
    very difficult to measure the correlation between gun ownership and homicide
    given the data sets available at the time. This is not the same as saying that
    there is no correlation.

    I don’t see that either of these articles adds any
    significant support to your original blog. I am still satisfied that my
    evidence, so far, is stronger than yours.

    I accept your arguments that the American Journal of
    Public Health article is not perfect, in that it does not include the raw data
    or adequate details of control variables used, but I maintain that it is better
    evidence than the articles that you have provided. 

    We could carry on ad-nauseam, cherry-picking competing
    studies to throw at each other but it is unlikely that we will ever fully agree
    that any of those studies provide compelling and completely unbiased evidence
    either way. However, I hope that we can agree that it is a hotly disputed area
    of study.

    Your argument in your original post was that ‘there is
    no statistically significant correlation’ and ‘For the non statisticians, this
    means that there is absolutely no relationship between the two.’

    My point holds that this is an assertion that you are
    making based upon your own interpretation the evidence. In reaching this
    interpretation, you have chosen to accept the analysis which supports your own
    position and to disregard the evidence which contradicts it.

    You
    provide an interesting article from the British Journal of Criminology. This
    article examines the consensus reached in previous studies that inequality is
    the main correlating factor with homicide, and suggests that this correlation
    may not be as well established as previously believed. It suggests that poverty
    is a better indicator.

    If gun ownership or gun control is a factor in
    homicide, you ask, why did none of the studies in this review control for it?
    My answer to this is that I don’t know and it would be difficult to reach any
    meaningful conclusion without looking back at each of those reviews. Frankly, I don’t have the time or the inclination.

    It may be that some or all of these reviews looked at
    a range of countries within a geographical area which happened to have similar
    gun laws, therefore rendering this issue pointless as a control. It may be that
    the bulk of these studies, which are from decades ago, pre-dated many of the
    gun laws and restrictions which have since been put in place. Given that the
    conclusion of the article is that nearly all of the studies failed to control
    for one of the most important factors – poverty – it may be that they also
    missed another important one.

    In any case, it seems dangerous to place too much
    weight upon surmising the views and beliefs of a range of previous researchers
    from a second-hand summary of their work, and by second guessing their opinions
    based upon what they didn’t do.

    And so we come onto our debate upon the likely results
    of implementing gun control in a society such as the US,
    or in relaxing gun control in a country such as the UK.

    Your
    position is that gun controls should be abandoned altogether, my view is that
    gun controls should be tightened (including in the UK, by banning ‘replica’ guns which
    have the potential to be re-commissioned).

    You argue that determined killers, denied guns, will
    find alternative methods of mass murder, and you suggest some ways in which
    this could be achieved.

    Your evidence of a ‘global phenomena’ of mass murder
    using motor vehicles as the weapon links to a list of 34 events, world-wide,
    from the last 50 years. One of these relates to a 90 year old man (George
    Weller) found guilty of vehicular manslaughter relating to an accident. 7 on
    the list resulted in no fatalities and another 7 resulted in a single fatality.
    This leaves thin evidence of a ‘global phenomena’ of ‘mass murders ‘by these
    means, especially when compared to this list which includes 130 school
    shootings in the USA
    alone during the same period http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_school_shootings_in_the_United_States

    Your evidence of mass killings carried out via
    ‘homemade explosives’ links to a list of 28 attacks, worldwide, from the last
    50 years, where ‘hand grenades or comparable explosive devices, like pipe-bombs
    or dynamite sticks were used’ – not quite the same thing. 5 of these attacks resulted
    in no fatalities. 8 were perpetrated by ‘unknown soldier’ or ‘unknown police
    officer’ – presumably attackers who had access to fire-arms. Again, this is
    thin evidence to support your argument.

    In any case, it is not my contention that mass
    killings would never be carried out using other means. The deadliest school
    killing in US history was the ‘Bath School Disaster’ in 1927, which was a
    bombing. Presumably the killer in that case would have had no problem with
    obtaining a gun if they had so chosen.

    My contention is that it is wrong to make the
    assumption that many or all school shooters would still carry out their killings by other
    means if denied access to a gun. To reach that conclusion, we must assume that
    the only motives of the killer are to kill as many people as possible, when I
    have argued that a range of other motives may apply. You only have to turn on a
    news broadcast or open a paper around the time of a mass shooting to find ample
    debate and discussion around the killer’s motives and psychology.  

    Your argument also pre-supposes that these isolated
    and disaffected youths (as they usually are) will have the resources, opportunity
    and ability to employ other means to equal effect. Whilst it may be relatively
    easy to research how to make a bomb, collect the necessary materials, build the
    bomb, sneak it onto school premises and set it off, it is clearly not as easy
    as taking your mother’s assault rifle from her wardrobe.

    Moving on from school shooters to other types of
    criminals.

    I had previously made an argument that criminals may
    be encouraged by a prevalence of armed citizens to either carry a gun
    themselves, or use a greater level of violence than would otherwise be the
    case, In this, I was making an un-evidenced supposition to counter your own
    un-evidenced supposition. You have countered this with a further un-evidenced
    supposition – that it is just as likely that ‘they would decide that the
    payoffs from a life of crime had changed and perhaps some other form of
    occupation would become more attractive.’

    In your original post, you drew data to demonstrate
    this deterrent effect from a ‘survey of male felons in 11 state prisons’. We
    can, at the very least, conclude that the members of this particular sample had
    not been dissuaded from a life of crime and encouraged into some other form of
    occupation. 

    Given that the US has the highest prison population
    per capita in the world (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prison_populations_by_country)
    it seems that many others are not dissuaded from a life of crime either.

    This 1993 study by Kleck and Patterson (https://www.ncjrs.gov/App/publications/Abstract.aspx?id=145285
    – sorry that I can only access the abstract) 
    addressed a range of major categories of intentional violence and crime
    (homicide, suicide, fatal gun accidents, robbery, and aggravated assaults, as
    well as rape). Their findings indicate that gun prevalence levels generally
    have no net effect on violence rates.

    Kleck’s work has generally been used to support the
    pro-gun argument – and his analysis and conclusions have been criticised by the
    ‘anti-gun lobby’ and other researchers (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gary_Kleck).
    So we see that the same analysis which has been used to argue that gun
    prevalence does not have a positive effect on homicide rates is also showing
    that gun prevalence does not have a negative effect on robbery, aggravated
    assault or rape. I confess that without being able to read the full paper, I
    can’t say to what extent it supports this argument but it is certainly an
    interesting point to note.

    Crime rates in the US
    are significantly higher than in the UK. Overall, they have been falling
    over the last 200 years with a spike in the 1980’s and 1990’s. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_the_United_States
    This Wikipedia page suggests some of the possible explanations for this peak
    and the subsequent decline. Gun ownership is not suggested as a possible
    explanation, but I’ll not read too much into that as I know that it is an
    argument that has been made by pro-gun groups. Suffice to say that the question
    of whether increased gun ownership is having a positive or negative effect on
    overall crime rates in the US takes us back into the realm of competing studies
    and alternative analysis of the data that we’ve already discussed.

    You’ve provided a couple of journal articles on
    defensive gun use. Others are available – from Kleck, most prominently for the
    pro-gun lobby – showing a range of various figures.

    So far as I can tell, all of the studies to
    establish figures for defensive gun use (which include use by police officers) rely
    upon self-reporting via surveys.

    Most of those arguing the anti-gun position give
    weight to the National Crime Victimisation Survey (NCVS). Those arguing the
    pro-gun position argue that the NCVS is a federal government research project
    with methodology that results in under-reporting of defensive gun use.

    Those arguing the anti-gun position argue that
    research which produces significantly higher prevalence of defensive gun use
    than the NCVS have  flawed methodologies which result in significant over-reporting of
    defensive gun use.

    Analysis of the NCVS data produces estimates of
    defensive gun use of around 100,000 to 300,000 times per year in the USA. Kleck and
    others have used their own surveys to produce estimates of well over 2 million
    defensive gun uses per year.

    I am willing to accept that guns are used in self
    defence, and the defence of others, many tens of thousands (and maybe hundreds
    of thousands) of times a year across the US.

    Again, I strongly suspect that you and I are
    unlikely to settle upon a single study which we agree presents an accurate and
    unbiased assessment of the actual figure.

    Needless to say that the pro-gun argument rests
    upon the assertion that a very significant number of these defensive gun uses
    would be replaced by successful and serious crimes if robust gun controls were
    in place and that these defensive gun
    uses when balanced against gun crime, accidents and suicides result in a net
    positive for society. i.e. that guns prevent more harm than they cause overall.

    On the first of these questions, whilst respondents
    report that they have used a gun to prevent or stop a crime, we have no way of
    knowing (so far as I can see) how many of those crimes would have been prevented
    or stopped even if the respondent had not had a gun (and especially if neither
    the respondent nor the criminal had a gun). Nor is there any way of knowing
    whether the criminal simply moved on and found an easier victim – therefore displacing
    the crime, but not ‘preventing’ it in terms of overall crime statistics.

    On the second point, the very high level of
    homicide and other violent crime in the US at least suggest that the prevalence
    of guns has an effect of aggravating the level of violence.

    Clearly, implementing gun control in the US would
    be a long and difficult path.
    Gun culture and gun control in the US are far
    more entrenched than was the case in Australia. Never the less, I provided a
    summary paper which suggested that introducing gun controls in Australia had
    reduced homicide, you countered with a paper as evidence that it had no
    demonstrable affect upon homicide. Neither suggest that the process resulted in
    a blood bath as armed criminals preyed upon defenceless citizens.

    In the short term, criminalising the ownership of
    firearms may increase the levels of illegal guns – because otherwise law
    abiding owners refuse to hand them over, or decide to sell them on into the
    black market.

    In the longer term, reduction in legal guns will
    reduce the number of guns available. Most importantly, the vast pool of guns
    available to be stolen from their lawful owners will be greatly diminished.
    Unlike drugs, it is unlikely that covert gun factories will spring up across
    South America to feed insatiable demand. Manufacturing a working and reliable
    fire-arm, particularly an assault rifle type weapon, is a more technically
    challenging process than manufacturing cocaine, heroin or chrystal meth.

    Finally, I would again remind you that you have
    posted a blog stating that any logical consideration of the evidence can only
    lead to the conclusion that gun control is harmful and dangerous.

    You suggested that an alternative view-point can
    only be reached by ‘being swept along by a natural, emotional response to the
    most recent tragedy’.
    If you wish to maintain that position, you’ve set
    yourself a very high bar.

    I have no political, commercial or ideological
    interest in defending gun control. If you can provide compelling evidence that
    the free availability of firearms would provide an overall benefit to society,
    then I will happily join you in calling for it.

  • wakeuptheworld

    The greatest crime that has ever been committed is to let a politician put doown roots.  You need to change them as often as possible, best of all – everytime you change the oil in your car.  They are very good at avoiding any resposibility and very hard to prosicute. So the best policy is to take them young, take their best efforts then retire them before they do any harm.

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