Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Today's gun registry roundup.

More fun from the media today.

CTV:  Feds will deregister long guns, shotguns
Blob and Snail:  Long gun registry to be axed
Blob and Snail again: Federal gun registry is working, police say
Toronto (Red) Star: Showdown looming over gun registry
Communists Broadcasting in Canada (CBC): Tories anticipating auditor's report on gun registry
National Poost:  Fraser set to retake spotlight with politically damaging report
Toronto Sun:  Axe falls on gun registry

Noooo, we're all gonna DIEEEEEE!  Don't take away our registry!!!


The Phantom


Dr. Dawg said...

From SDA

These two reports were done with essentially the same criteria and methods, and they clearly show that while selected violent crime rates rose 100% in the UK, they fell 65 % in the U.S. During this time, Britain outlawed private ownership of firearms, while over 70 million additional civilian firearms were sold in the U.S. (4) At the very least, a reasonable person is forced to conclude that availability of firearms to the general public is not a contributing factor to any increase in crime.

These trends are confirmed by Britain’s own Home Office. (5) In the period of 1997 through 2001, homicide rose 19% in the UK while it fell 12% in the USA. (6) Violent crime incidents rose 26% in the UK while falling 12% in the USA. (7) Robbery rates rose 92% in the UK and fell 15% in the USA. (8)

I read Kate's source for this. There is a lot of inference here that the stats alone do not support. There is no notion of confounding variables in this too-easy comparison. In fact, there’s a fallacy that underlies the whole argument, which I believe is called the fallacy of questionable cause. In this case, the cause of falling crime rates in the US is attributed to widespread gun possession; the reverse, in the UK, is attributed to lack of gun possession.

First, a general point about such comparisons. In Detroit, the homicide rate in 2004 was 384 deaths. In Canada, there were 622 homicides in that year. In other words, in one American city, there were more than half as many homicides as in the whole of Canada. Guns are freely available in Detroit. Their possession is restricted in Canada. What conclusion should we draw from this?

The notion of “selected crime rates” is an interesting one, to be sure. That category includes child abuse. Is this perpetrated at gunpoint? If not, what does the availability of guns have to do with it? Is there a suggestion here that children should carry handguns?

It is annoying that the period for which stats are provided begins in 1995, whereas handguns were banned only in 1997. Sloppy.

As for the effectiveness of gun bans, we might find some common ground here. The commentator, however, conflates two things: 1) the effectiveness of a ban, and 2) the effectiveness of widespread gun possession. This is seriously illogical. I could agree with (1), but the fact is that violent crime in Britain is attributed in part to the increasing availability of illegal handguns. If widespread possession of firearms is linked to falling crime rates, in the simple manner that some commentators maintain is the case, then it shouldn’t matter what the provenance of the firearms is.

It is also news to me that guns are more freely available in the US than they were ten years ago. The reason I make this point is that widespread firearm possession is being linked to a falling violent crime rate in the US. How can this be? The availability of firearms in the US has always been relatively unfettered. We should be looking to other causes of the falling crime rate in that country if firearms possession is relatively constant. Various social programs? Redefinition of what constitutes a crime? Better lawyers (because acquittals get dropped from the stats)? A change in reporting rates, for whatever reason? A lot more research is needed.

As for the UK, a harsher social climate might well be a cause of higher violent crime rates. The rates were rising, in fact, before handguns were outlawed. Britain, at least until recently, was never much of a gun culture anyway—even the police went about unarmed. So the putative availability of handguns prior to 1997 did not translate into widespread possession by the populace.

Back to my Detroit example, above: let’s get a grip. In the UK, crimes of violence in which guns were used rose from 2,648 in 1997/98 to 3,685 in 1999/2000. That’s all firearm-related incidents. The number of homicides in 1999/2000 was under 800, from all causes, in a country of more than 60 million. The number of homicides in the US for 2002 was 16,765, of which 10,801 were by gunfire. The population of the USA is almost 296 million. You do the math: in the country where guns are freely available, the homicide rate by guns alone is about 2.5 times higher than for all homicides in the UK.

My argument, then, is this: 1) banning guns doesn’t seem to stem violent gun-related crime, which is a good reason to oppose the Canadian firearms registry; but, 2) widespread gun possession, in itself, cannot be logically linked to crime deterrence. I would suggest that, in fact, the opposite is true.

Over to you.

The Phantom said...

A well reasoned argument sir.

The problem is that crime rates in the USA are what I would call geographically discontinuous. Detroit is like that. You drive five miles out of downtown, the crime rate drops by half. Another five miles, another half.

So national statistics are not meaningful, because they don't reflect the reality: points of strife in a sea of calm. Turns out if you exclude the big cities, USA crime rates are the same as Canada. There's a good paper on this subject, I'll see if I can find it over the next couple of days.

But if you go to the state level, as in say Florida, you can use the statistics because pretty much all the crime is taking place in "hot zone" urban areas, therefore any reduction is also taking place in those hot zones. Introducing "shall issue" permits in Florida reduced the crime rate by 15% the first year. Meaning the high crime areas of Miami had a monster reduction.

BUT, does this mean gun posession increased in Miami? NO! We don't know what happened just from the stats. All we know is that 100,000 permits were issued and the crime rate dropped 15%, but the criminals didn't get shot by permit holders.

From gun sales numbers we know a shitload of guns were sold in Florida to coincide with the cime reduction, but correlation does not prove causation. Therefore all we can really say is that crime dropped while gun sales increased.

Conversly in Canada we know the gun registry coincides with a -large- increase in gun crime in our large cities, but out in the sticks its pretty much business as usual. Same thing in Oz. Britain seems to be having a much more general crime wave, affecting even "rural" areas and smaller towns.

From the above I conclude something complicated is happening, which to date no studies have really uncovered. Mostly because 99% of the studies have been bullshit produced for anti-gun propaganda value only.

At any rate, for the USA increased gun ownership and shall issue carry permits are correlated with decreased crime rates. In Canada, Oz and England the reverse is true.