Do Guns Cause Violence?

Maybe? Again, a departure from my usual economics. A point of contention in the gun control debate is whether guns (or access to them) cause violence or, at least, increase the risk of such, or if guns prevent violence.  I decided to explore these claims. I used the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report to obtain violence crime rates (per 100,000 population).  Violent crime was chosen because these crimes include robbery, homicide, rape, aggravated assault and other crimes likely to involve a firearm, either in committing the crime or in preventing it. To determine the laxity of a state’s gun control legislation, I used the Brady Campaign for Prevention of Gun Violence’s state score card. So, what was the conclusion?  Inconclusive.  Take a look at this chart: Untitled This is a scatter plot of gun control rankings (the higher the number, the more strict the legislation) and the violent crime rate.  If you are of the pro-gun control crowd, you’d expect an inverse correlation.  If you’re of the pro-gun crowd, you’d expect a positive correlation.  As you can see in the chart, there is neither.  The actual correlation is 0.05; essentially random. Further analysis supports this: Untitled2 The above chart is the average and median violent crime rates, this time broken down by the Brady Campaign’s grading system.  The top 2 grades (A and B) are very similar.  We see some decline in C and D, before jumping back up in F rank. It certainly appears that, to the extent firearms are used in crimes, there are far greater factors determining the crime rate than access to firearms. There is still much research to go into this topic.  I can only hope my humble contribution leads to more fruitful work by scholars in the future.

8 thoughts on “Do Guns Cause Violence?

  1. Hi Jon

    I’m not surprised that your limited study isn’t conclusive. Neither of the metrics you used are good enough to reach a meaningful conclusion.without much more information.

    A few points

    – The FBI report includes only crimes that involve law enforcement, and those cases that involve defensive use of a firearm most often involve the perpetrator being shot by the victim. Crimes prevented by the mere possession of a firearm by the victim are not necessarily reported, and don’t make it into the FBI report. For instance a homeowner showing the business end of his Glock 40 to a would be burglar who immediately flees, may not be reported for any number of reasons.

    – Restrictive gun control laws inordinately affect law abiding citizens and not criminals. I know that’s trite, but it’s also absolutely true. In addition, like any other restriction on scarce goods and services, a black market develops for both criminals and otherwise law abiding folks, who, unknown to law enforcement, own guns in order to defend themselves. Those restrictions that include high fees, of course, hurt those who are poor more than those who are not – the very people who might most benefit from some means of self defense..

    – Background checks? Out of some 11 million background checks, cases were brought against 40 people. apparently that great crime fighting tool has essentially no effect at all. Anyone who knows they can’t pass a background check simply won’t buy a gun from a licensed dealer.

    – The Brady Campaign grades states based on the number and intent of gun control legislation, assuming that legislation reduces the number of guns in the hands of criminals without any evidence that it does so.

    — Sandy Hook? That atrocity was committed in a *gun free zone*, a school where no one is legally armed. The shooter *disregarded* that unenforceable rule, as anyone wishing to do harm might, and brought a completely legal firearm owned by his mother with him.

    (unless you believe as some do, that the whole episode was a government conspiracy to further limit gun ownership)

    Remember that when seconds count, the police are only minutes away.

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    • You mean that someone intending to use a gun for violence will not abide by gun control laws? A person with intent to commit violence with a gun or use of the gun to assert his/her authority will see a sign indicating it is a “gun free zone” and he/she will not say “awwww, shucks!” And turn around?

      I’m glad you mentioned how statistics are kept. Stats are a misleading piece of information. Statistics are, as Mark a Twain stated, “lies, damn lies, and then there are statistics”. When keeping stats on officers and the danger of their job, the statistic often presented is in deaths. But, where are the stats on officers not killed in the line of duty, but having survived being shot, or had gunfire directed at him/her?

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      • Dan

        … will see a sign indicating it is a “gun free zone” and he/she will not say “awwww, shucks!” And turn around?

        Well, I suspect most people intent on gun violence will honor a ‘gun free zone’, but that one person in ten who ignores it can be a real problem. 🙂

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    • Hi Ron,

      As per usual, you make many good points. I do want to address just one of your points, namely this:

      “– The Brady Campaign grades states based on the number and intent of gun control legislation, assuming that legislation reduces the number of guns in the hands of criminals without any evidence that it does so.”

      That is one of the things I am exploring here. In theory, if the legislation worked, you’d see an inverse correlation in my chart. You do not, so we can state that, by my limited analysis, this argument doesn’t hold.

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