William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Adjusted Mass Public Shootings per Decade Uncorrelated With Gun Ownership

Here are the Mass Public Shootings per Decade from the 1900s through 2012, adjusted for population. The rate is mass-shootings per million per decade, using the average population of the decade (or for the last data point, the average of the last three years 2010-2012).

mass.shootings

The data are from Grant Duwe, director of research and evaluation at the Minnesota Department of Corrections, from his book Mass Murder in the United States: A History, reported by the Washington Post.

The paper presented the data in tabular form unadjusted for population. It looks better presented as a picture and accounting for the rise in census. The USA went from about 76 million in 1900 to around 315 million in 2012, so if the number of mass shootings remained “constant” we’d expect on average about about 4 times as many incidents this decade as there were in the 1900s just because of the increase in population.

According to the Post:

Duwe defines a mass public shooting as an incident in which four or more victims are killed publicly with guns within 24 hours — in the workplace, schools, restaurants and other public places — excluding shootings in connection with crimes such as robbery, drugs or gangs. (Note that this would exclude a number of “mass murders” that sometimes get lumped into the data, such as the Beltway sniper who killed 10 people over a three-week period in 2002.)

Note that these aren’t the number of murdered, but the number of separate incidents.

The Post took an interest in these data after Bill Clinton, perhaps missing the spotlight, on 9 January said, “Half of all mass killings in the United States have occurred since the assault weapons ban expired in 2005, half of all of them in the history of the country.”

Glenn Kessler who penned the article said, “the available data show that Clinton was way off base in his assertion, making an exaggerated claim — which his office would not even defend.” Kessler awarded “Three Pinocchios” for Clinton’s mendacity, and would have gone for the full four except for the “fuzziness of the data and questions about definitions”.

There is uncertainty. Why the bump in the 1930s and 1940s? It’s easy to explain by reference to that first great progressive experiment in Utopia, Prohibition, but Duwe excludes crimes due to “robbery, drugs or gangs”. Still, there may have been some spillover (of blood) from that first wave of what we can call, in honor of Hizzoner, Bloombergism and that era’s banning of booze.

There was also the Depression. The theory small paychecks are associated with mass shootings is bolstered by the increase in the 1970s and 80s, but the theory is then fractured because the number of incidents are now (apparently) falling, even though we are in one of the worst economic climates since the 1930s.

On the other hand, we only have three years of observation for this decade, so the uncertainty in what the remaining seven will bring is still high. On the last hand, the Depression was far worse than the recession and oil crises of the 70s and 80s, and the 1990s weren’t that bad at all, a time when the number of incidents peaked.

There were no violent video games in the Depression, but there was radio, replete with lurid programs, mostly about gang crime. The shows were thought to be a pernicious influence. Plenty of appalling, sick, twisted games now, however, but in the presence of dropping rates.

Thomas Sowell reminds:

When it comes to the rate of gun ownership, that is higher in rural areas than in urban areas, but the murder rate is higher in urban areas. The rate of gun ownership is higher among whites than among blacks, but the murder rate is higher among blacks. For the country as a whole, handgun ownership doubled in the late 20th century, while the murder rate went down.

Gun ownership was also dropping through the 70s, 80s, and 90s, even though the mass-shooting rate increased.

In reality, like all complex social phenomena, the causes of these mass shootings are many, of unequal force, and changeable. Trying to pin the blame on any one culprit is a task best left to the dedicated.

61 Comments

  1. While I agree that you cannot pin the blame on any single factor, it remains true that this data has been manipulated to make the guns involved seem less relevant. How? By focusing on the number of incidents rather than on the number of dead, it makes assault weapons seem like far less of a problem than they really are. The entire reason that people want assault weapons to be re-banned is the number of causalties in a single incident, which in recent years has become catastrophically high. The idea is to keep the most dangerous weapons out of reach of people who will misuse them, so that you can minimize the damage when an attack occurs. To see the logic, replace “assault weapons” with “nuclear bombs” and “citizens” with “nations”. You don’t want nuclear bombs in the hands of every nation, because then, if and when one goes rogue, they’ll be using something far more destructive than they normally would be.

    Also, the Prohibition was a Protestant idea that developed for quite a long time before being passed into law. It was called “Progressive” at the time, sure; but insinuating that it was just an earlier version of modern liberalism is a bit disingenuous.

  2. Excuse me: “the number of casualties“.

  3. It is NOT true that reducing the number of rounds in a clip will reduce the number of casualties. Guns don’t stop working when the magazine is empty. It takes under 5 seconds to drop a clip and slam in other. Then you have more shots. The reason bad guys use high capacity magazines is it easy. Take the high-capacity magazines away and the bad guy uses low-capacity magazines. Take the guns away altogether, he comes up with an IED. Check out how many people die when you drive a truck with diesel fuel and fertilizer into a building and detonate it. The reason many people are killed is because the bad guy intended it to happen and would have used any method he could to achieve that end.
    Equating nuclear weapons with assault weapons is nasty and shows a complete lack of concern for the truth in this discussion. It’s like equating Liberals to Nazis. It’s an emotional appeal to try and make people feel bad. It also makes the speaker look very foolish when making such an outrageous comparison. (In using nuclear bomb, you add in casualties and additional fear from radiation, etc, not at all relevant–guns and bullets don’t leave radioactive materials behind, but I suppose when trying to exaggerate a claim, truth is irrelevant.)
    There are many complex reasons for why people commit mass killings, not the least of which can simply be there is evil in the world. Trying to take the weapons away still leaves the evil (or anger or mental illness) and does nothing to make the world safer. It just results in different methods used to kill.

  4. It is NOT true that reducing the number of rounds in a clip will reduce the number of casualties. Guns don’t stop working when the magazine is empty. It takes under 5 seconds to drop a clip and slam in other. Then you have more shots. The reason bad guys use high capacity magazines is it easy.

    First, there is no such thing as a “bad guy”. This is a mythical being who inhabits the imaginary world that NRA spokespeople are so fond of talking about. Second, if high-capacity clips are no more efficient for killing than low-capacity clips, then why are they used by the military? Third, since when was an assault weapon defined by its clip capacity? It is defined primarily by its semi-automatic firing capability and detachable magazine.

    Equating nuclear weapons with assault weapons is nasty and shows a complete lack of concern for the truth in this discussion. It’s like equating Liberals to Nazis. It’s an emotional appeal to try and make people feel bad.

    No, it really isn’t; and you did not make any argument to establish that it is. My point had to do with the logic of proliferation. The more highly dangerous killing tools there are, the more they will be abused. The NRA is basically arguing for deterrence through proliferation–but all one has to do is use the nuclear weapons example as a reductio ad absurdum of this position. The only thing deterrence through proliferation achieves is a bigger death toll when someone (inevitably) decides that they want to kill a lot of people.

    Trying to take the weapons away still leaves the evil (or anger or mental illness) and does nothing to make the world safer. It just results in different methods used to kill.

    No one denied that. Sticks and rocks have been used to kill people since the beginning of time. But some methods of killing are more efficient than others. Who would you rather meet in an alley: a lone nutcase with a knife, or a lone nutcase with teargas grenades, body armor and assault weapons? Likewise, would you prefer that North Korea had standard bombs or nuclear ones? It’s a matter of simple mathematics.

    And before you accuse me of heading down a slippery slope of prevented freedoms, ask yourself this: is there another purpose for sticks and rocks (or even hunting rifles) than killing humans? Then ask yourself: is there another purpose for assault weapons than killing humans?

  5. IMHO Mass shootings are just the ‘canary in the coal mine’ of the ‘disenfranchised’. Gun violence in Urban areas is higher because it’s harder to be ‘seen’. Even someone who chooses to live like a hermit in a rural area will be known to everyone in town. Urban area’s are filled with invisible people. They ride the buses and subways and no one even knows their name until they kill someone.

  6. @rank sophist:
    “First, there is no such thing as a “bad guy”

    Someone who wants to take away my freedoms, my property, my life when I have done no wrong is a “bad guy” – a guy doing a bad thing… just as a guy doing engineering is an engineer. This is a standard English idiom. One shudders to think what the world would look like should you be king.

    “Then ask yourself: is there another purpose for assault weapons than killing humans?”

    Yes – defending ones self and family. Please tell me what higher purpose there is than that? Or are you a pantywaist who refuses to defend himself and his family?

    “The only thing deterrence through proliferation achieves is a bigger death toll when someone (inevitably) decides that they want to kill a lot of people.”

    Yet the data shows that overall deaths by gun have been decreasing with the increase in gun ownership. Also, please tell me how many nuclear bombs have been used since they have “proliferated”? If one is a scientist, approaching things rationally, one must look at what actually happens rather than what might happen in the absolute worst case.

    Again if one is a scientist, the data needs to assessed in light of the demographic issues in the US, blacks and hispanics, largely urban, account for the lion’s share of gun violence and if one considered only caucasian committed crime, the numbers would be quite in line with other western countries.

    Finally, the vast majority of gun violence is committed with handguns. If you were really concerned about decreasing gun deaths, you would be advocating first for a handgun ban or a complete ban – if you were logically consistent. The fact that you aren’t would seem to indicate you have other goals than merely reducing the chance of deaths.

  7. First, violent intent is a precursor to violent actions. Banning legal ownership of guns has nothing to do with reducing occurrences of violent intent in the minds of people.

    Second, the probability of the worst outcome (victim is dead) seems clearly dependent on the relative magnitudes of the offensive and defensive forces at play in each particular violent interaction. The gun is called the “great equalizer”. Crippling guns that can be used in self-defense by making them harder to use seems silly.

    Third, it is not up to the government to decide which guns may be used in self-defense. The govt has a monopoly on committing violence legally against citizens, and they hence have a conflict of interest in prescribing which guns are best for purposes of protecting citizens from government-sanctioned killers.

  8. No bad guy? So a person who kills 20 innocent school children is just what? Having a bad day? No one hugged him enough? What are terrorists–people with poor parenting?

    The military uses high-capacity magazines because THEY ARE BEING SHOT AT. It’s that self-preservation thing.

    If we are going for killing power, again, a truck with diesel and fertilizer detonated after crashing into a building is way up there. I am amazed how many people watch the news night after night on soldiers injured by IED and don’t know what those are.

    As for your question on the knife versus body armor, tear gas and assault weapon, that would depend on if and what I armed with. If I am not armed, my chances are bad any way you look at it. If the guy with the knife is under 21 feet from me, again, no difference. If I am armed, no real difference there either. I either react fast enough to take out the “guy with the weapons who I apparently perceive as a threat but not a bad guy” the outcome is the same. Everything depends on who is closest and reacts the fastest (Action beats reaction every time.). As an aside, if I were carrying my 50 caliber revolver, the body armor and assault weapon are useless to the person if I fire first.

    Definition of an assault weapon–the best “definition” I have heard is: It was used in a movie. In reality, your question on assault weapons use is quite telling. You have no idea what one is, only that they “look” mean. Truth: You can remove the plastic stock (pistol grip if it has one), the plastic foregrip, replace them with a thumbhole or standard rifle stock and foregrip out of wood, and you have a hunting rifle. So the answer to your question about what other use do they have besides killing people? They are HUNTING rifles that have been used for years and years.

  9. Wow. I’m only going to give one last round of responses–the libertarians (and paranoiacs) have shown up.

    Yes – defending ones self and family. Please tell me what higher purpose there is than that? Or are you a pantywaist who refuses to defend himself and his family?

    I’m impressed by how quick you are to go for the insult. In other news, you appear to have been blinded by your own euphemism. Are you aware of what “defending oneself and family” means in this context? I means exactly what I said before: killing another human. That’s the entire purpose of assault weapons. What you’re proposing, then, is not merely proliferation but escalation. That’s the only reason that you would suggest an assault weapon for this purpose rather than, for example, a hunting rifle or simple handgun.

    Yet the data shows that overall deaths by gun have been decreasing with the increase in gun ownership.

    Actually, it shows a massive increase in mass shootings up until the late ’80s, followed by a steady decline. It should be mentioned that assault weapons were banned in 1994, during this decline. However, all of this is irrelevant, as I said, because the data has been manipulated to make assault weapons seem irrelevant in its context. The concern about assault weapons was never due to the number of mass shootings, but rather to the number of deaths in each shooting. That’s why assault weapons are being blamed.

    Also, please tell me how many nuclear bombs have been used since they have “proliferated”? If one is a scientist, approaching things rationally, one must look at what actually happens rather than what might happen in the absolute worst case.

    Let’s give Iran, North Korea and a few other unstable countries nukes, then, and test your theory. If we’re lucky, maybe it’ll only be another Cold War.

    Again if one is a scientist, the data needs to assessed in light of the demographic issues in the US, blacks and hispanics, largely urban, account for the lion’s share of gun violence and if one considered only caucasian committed crime, the numbers would be quite in line with other western countries.

    I wish conservatism was not synonymous with “white supremacy”. And you wonder why the party is dying.

    Finally, the vast majority of gun violence is committed with handguns. If you were really concerned about decreasing gun deaths, you would be advocating first for a handgun ban or a complete ban – if you were logically consistent. The fact that you aren’t would seem to indicate you have other goals than merely reducing the chance of deaths.

    If you’d actually read my posts, you would have seen that the point was to limit access to the deadliest weapons. There seems to be no downside to this solution, because these guns are used solely for the purpose of killing others (in large numbers, at that). Better that no civilian gets to use them than that they’re open to access by the disturbed or otherwise depraved.

    Sheri,

    As for your question on the knife versus body armor, tear gas and assault weapon, that would depend on if and what I armed with.

    Any way you slice it, you’ve got a better chance of survival against the guy with the knife. You can try to twist it around to sound like it supports your position, but it just doesn’t.

    Definition of an assault weapon–the best “definition” I have heard is: It was used in a movie. In reality, your question on assault weapons use is quite telling. You have no idea what one is, only that they “look” mean. Truth: You can remove the plastic stock (pistol grip if it has one), the plastic foregrip, replace them with a thumbhole or standard rifle stock and foregrip out of wood, and you have a hunting rifle. So the answer to your question about what other use do they have besides killing people? They are HUNTING rifles that have been used for years and years.

    I was going on the legal definition of “assault weapon”, which is freely available in the Wikipedia article on the subject. Further, an assault weapon is not a hunting rifle: it is an assault weapon. Hunting rifles are not semi-automatic weapons with detachable magazines and the other typical assault weapon features (listed in that article). They are not designed for assaults: prolonged encounters, most likely with multiple targets. That’s why they’re used by the police force and military.

  10. Pardon: “That’s why assault weapons are used by the police force and military.”

  11. Do we have any idea what the gun ownership is per capita? i.e. how many are armed vs how many are unarmed? Is there a correlation between rising numbers of people who have weapons and rising incidence of mass killings? The two spikes in the 30s – 40s and 70s – 90s are curious.

  12. I would definitely listen to Wikipedia and not people who actually have physical, real-life experience with weapons. I note that Wikipedia does report the NRA says these differences are cosmetic.

    Also, please use more terms like “paranoiacs”–it really adds to the value of what you say. As for political affiliation, that has nothing to do with the truth of weaponry, only with making laws that are based on facts or not.

    I am correct on the knife thing–there are studies that prove it (check Dennis Tueller on your favorite website, Wikipedia).

    Again, the legal definition of assault weapons includes guns used for hunting. I KNOW they are because people whom I hunt with have used them. This is not based on internet searches or news reports. I hunt, I own guns and I do understand how this works. There were some military guns that are listed by name on the now defunct Federal Ban. States have various rules. The reason people use these guns hunting often is because they were in the military and are familiar with the guns. When people are hunting, you really want them to be familiar with the gun, don’t you?

    Again, these guns are used by the military and police BECAUSE THEY ARE BEING SHOT AT. Why is that so hard to understand? If you are being shot at, you want as much ammo as possible available. Also, the military uses automatic weapons for which a standard, low-capacity magazine would be useless. The military also uses batteries, night vision scopes, MRE–should we ban all these because the military uses them and created night vision scopes and MRE for the military?

    I realize that to some people there is an almost hysterical need to believe that assault weapons are evil and need to be banned. The rational or correctness of the believe is irrelevant. That does not change the facts that these weapons are used for hunting, they are used for target practice and a high-capacity magazine is not required to increase casualty counts.

  13. rank sophist throws away any credibility when he says (among other things), ‘I wish conservatism was not synonymous with “white supremacy”. And you wonder why the party is dying.’

    Sam Harris wrote an interesting post about gun control, including the following:

    Like most gun owners, I understand the ethical importance of guns and cannot honestly wish for a world without them. I suspect that sentiment will shock many readers. Wouldn’t any decent person wish for a world without guns? In my view, only someone who doesn’t understand violence could wish for such a world. A world without guns is one in which the most aggressive men can do more or less anything they want. It is a world in which a man with a knife can rape and murder a woman in the presence of a dozen witnesses, and none will find the courage to intervene. There have been cases of prison guards (who generally do not carry guns) helplessly standing by as one of their own was stabbed to death by a lone prisoner armed with an improvised blade. The hesitation of bystanders in these situations makes perfect sense—and “diffusion of responsibility” has little to do with it. The fantasies of many martial artists aside, to go unarmed against a person with a knife is to put oneself in very real peril, regardless of one’s training. The same can be said of attacks involving multiple assailants. A world without guns is a world in which no man, not even a member of Seal Team Six, can reasonably expect to prevail over more than one determined attacker at a time. A world without guns, therefore, is one in which the advantages of youth, size, strength, aggression, and sheer numbers are almost always decisive. Who could be nostalgic for such a world?

  14. Gun control doesn’t mean no guns.

  15. Person of Choler

    13 January 2013 at 11:29 pm

    MattL’s post reminded me of this: “God created men; Sam Colt made them equal.”

  16. Sheri,

    You say it takes 5sec. to change magazine. Five seconds was all what people needed to stop the guy in the Tuscon shooting, which killed a 9 years old girl.

    Are you saying that if magazines where limited to 5 bullets that guy would have cause as mch damage.

    In Aurora, 39 shots were recorded in the few seconds that lasted a 911 call. Would that guy had been able to kill or injure 80 peoples if the magazine were limited to 5-10 bullets.

    It is said that if there where no firearm people would kill with hammer or knives! Why then people are choosing guns?

    That I know of, no one has suggested eliminating all guns (which would be impossible to do), or suggest that banning assault weapons would prevent a mass-shooting, but it would make it harder to carry on.

    Why are assault weapons used in mass-shooting? Because this is what they are built for, and nothing else.

  17. Sylvain Allard,

    Aside from the issue of high capacity magazines (Size is relevant here), the definition of assault weapon in the 1994 law was entirely based on cosmetic features and the banned weapons were otherwise functionally identical to common hunting rifles.

    Magazines for true military assault weapons (capable of firing either semi or full auto) start at 30 rounds and go up from there.

    Please note that under US law (dating to the early 1980s) true assault weapons (capable of firing either semi or full auto) like strictly full auto guns require a class 3 federal firearms license to own. This is the same license required to be a gun dealer. These licenses are not easy to get.

    Limits on high capacity magazines in civilian weapons might be ok if the size limit was based on anything remotely rational, but they generally aren’t.

  18. Sylvain Allard,

    “In Aurora, 39 shots were recorded in the few seconds that lasted a 911 call. Would that guy had been able to kill or injure 80 peoples if the magazine were limited to 5-10 bullets.”

    Yes, because he had multiple guns. 10 round magazine vs 30, take 3 guns instead of 1. Five rounds? Take six. When one gun is empty toss it and pull the next one (This can be faster than reloading).

    There is no law that can be passed that will stop someone who is intent on mass murder and willing to die to achieve it. Ban guns and they will switch to IEDs which are far more effective at killing many people in a short amount of time than even a heavy machine gun.

  19. Matts,

    IEDS requires extensive knowledge of explosive which luckily most people don’t have, but sadly some have like Tim McVeigh showed. Try to buy a large amount of fertilizer and see how long it will take before the police rings at your door.

    Guns aren’t that complicated to use, yet you can buy 1000 rounds of amo without anyone asking any question.

    In Aurora, the shooter had a drum with 100 rounds capacity at 10 rounds per clips it would have taken 10 guns. An A-15 cost about $1000 and is somewhat heavy, let alone 10.

    Smaller magazine doesn’t infringed on the right of someone of owning a gun. An assault weapon ban doesn’t prevent someone of owning a gun that he will be able to use to hunt.

    Background checks won’t prevent law abiding and sane people from having gun.

    The time to change magazine or gun is time that people can use to try and hide when a lunatic goes somewhere.

  20. Sander van der Wal

    14 January 2013 at 5:04 am

    The argument for weapons in the hands of the American Citizen is to prevent the American Government from taking away the freedoms of the American Citizen.

    Now, this freedoms comes with a price, American Citizens killing each other.

    The question is then, how many killings of other American Citizens are you willing to tolerate to protect your own freedom? You are obviously not tolerating your own killing at all circumstances.

  21. F***ed country.

  22. Of course, lack of easy access to more than 5 or 6 bullets can be a problem in self defense, too. Fortunately, the woman in the linked article only had one person invading her home, but even 5 bullets wasn’t enough to kill the person.

    “When seconds count, the police are only minutes away.”

  23. Sylvain Allard,

    IEDs don’t require as much knowledge as you think. There were IEDs involved in the Columbine mass shooting incident. They had detonators rigged to 20lb propane tanks. Fortunately the detonators failed or the death toll would have been much higher.

    The explosive used in the bombing of the Oklahoma city Federal courthouse has only two components, both of which are easily obtained and would be impossible for the government to restrict access to. Those components are ammonium nitrate fertilizer and diesel fuel.

  24. From your analysis, I can see a policy solution like the one imposed by Wyatt Earp when he was Sheriff of Dodge City. Guns are allowed in the countryside, but in settled areas, guns should be illegal except in the hands of law enforcement.

  25. Oh, and I forgot. In the movies, at least, armed people were disarmed at the city limits.

  26. Sylvain: As noted, IED’s are not that hard to create. Anyone with a degree in chemistry can build one. The internet has all kinds of suggestions.
    I don’t have to buy a large quantity of fertilizer in one place or one town. I can pay cash. If I have a farm, no even asks.
    You fool yourself if you think not having guns will stop mass killings.

    As for stopping the killer while he’s reloading, people on two airplanes did not stop persons with box cutters. How likely is it anyone is going to rush a killer reloading?
    As for people being able to hide during that time, do you know how long it takes for the human brain to process what the eye is seeing, translate it to “I can run and hide now” and then push the muscles into reacting? Let’s hope it’s less time than a reload.

    It seems that once people determine assault weapons are only meant to kill people, they care nothing about truth. I have stated I know people who hunt with them, yet you continue to insist “assault weapons are only to kill people”. So either you refuse to believe the truth or you are saying I am lying here, even though you have no evidence to that effect. (For the third time, these weapons are used in SOME mass killings because killers are basically lazy people. They want to kill, not excel at weaponry. Whatever is easiest for them to obtain gets used. If there is no “assault weapon” then the killer finds something else. The two school attacks where I live were with explosives, a cross-bow, and a pickup driven into a playground. No guns.)

  27. I can do math–the last sentence should say “three” school attacks.

  28. People seem to ignore the fact more than 50% of gun deaths is caused by suicide.

    …so if the number of mass shootings remained “constant” we’d expect on average about about 4 times as many incidents this decade as there were in the 1900s just because of the increase in population.
    Ah, a frequentist statement made by a Bayesian winger!

  29. Bad html code.

    People seem to ignore the fact more than 50% of gun deaths is caused by suicide.

    …so if the number of mass shootings remained “constant” we’d expect on average about about 4 times as many incidents this decade as there were in the 1900s just because of the increase in population.

    Ah, a frequentist statement made by a Bayesian winger!

  30. Adjusted Mass Public Shootings per Decade Uncorrelated With Gun Ownership

    This statement really has not been verified in this post; see David Eyles’s comment.

    Since all gun deaths are horrible and unnecessary, imo, rate of deaths is inappropriate and misleading for analysis… as if more deaths are acceptable if we have a larger population. I would use the absolute number of gun deaths, which has been increasing in recent years.

  31. JH,

    It’s foolish to use absolute numbers when analysing ANY cause of death issue.

    As population rises the absolute number of deaths from all causes is guaranteed to increase.

  32. MattS,
    A counter example for you: deaths due to AIDS.

  33. JH,

    What makes you think that that is a counter example?

    If nothing else changes, an increase in population would lead to an increase in AIDS deaths.

    With more people in general, there will be more people engaging in activities that lead to exposure to AIDS and thus more AIDS patients. AIDS being an inveriably terminal disease there would be more deaths as a consequence.

  34. AIDS deaths per year have been continually declining! We are not talking about cumulative number of deaths!

    Also, that more people owing guns doesn’t imply we should expect more gun deaths per year.

  35. JH,

    “AIDS deaths per year have been continually declining! We are not talking about cumulative number of deaths!”

    Other things besides the population have changed. Vast resources (in absolute terms vastly out of proportion to the absolute number of deaths vs other issues not as well funded) have been spent to: prevent the spread of AIDS, improve survival times for AIDS patients, and in a seemingly futile search for a cure.

    “Also, that more people owing guns doesn’t imply we should expect more gun deaths per year.”

    The argument isn’t specifically about the number of people who own guns.

    If all else reamains constant in any society with an increasing population over time you get more of EVERYTHING in absolute numbers. More of the good things and more of the bad things. More crime, more violence, more death (from all causes). Again, assuming nothing else changes you get more people doing the things that lead to these things.

  36. MattS,

    If IEDs are not that hard to make then why did it fail at Columbine?

    The purchase of fertilizers are declared to the government. Of course, someone could always purchase small quantity over long period of time to be able to make an explosive strong enough.

    Mass-shooting in Canada are very rare even though that we have more gun on average than in the USA, but AR-15 and large magazine are not legal in Canada. You have to go through an extensive background check to have the right to carry a conciled handgun, or buy it illegally which is hard and expensive.

    No one believe that you can illiminate all mass-shooting but you can make it harder on people to do it.

  37. Sylvain Allard,

    “If IEDs are not that hard to make then why did it fail at Columbine?”

    Because it was done by two highschool kids who didn’t take the time to experiment and make sure that their detonators were reliable first.

    Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols managed it in Oklahoma City an neither of them had any prior explosives qualifications.

    What they had was a large property that they could use to experiment without the neighbors calling the cops.

    “Mass-shooting in Canada are very rare even though that we have more gun on average than in the USA, but AR-15 and large magazine are not legal in Canada.”

    With the exception of a 30 round detachable magazine the AR-15 is functionally identical to a semiautomatic .30-06 hunting rifle with wood stock. In fact the .30-06 is arguably more leathal on a one shot basis.

    The way “assault weapon” got defined in the 1994 US law passed in the wake of the Columbine shooting, with the exclusion of high capacity removable magazines, it’s all about cosmetics that look intimidating but don’t affect the performance of the weapon in any substatial respect.

  38. Sylvain Allard,

    I can see arguments for limiting high capacity magazines. However, please be aware that the Aurora shooter used at least 3 weapons. The first was a 12 guage tactical shotgun. The AR15 style rifle with the hundred round drum magazine jambed after just 30 rounds after which he resorted to a Glock 22 pistol.

    The articles I have read don’t state whether the shotgun was loaded with shot or slugs. The shotgun he used has an integrated tube magazine which tops out at 8 rounds. If he was using shot, the shotgun alone could acount for the majority of the injuries even though it had the smallest magazine. The Glock 22 has a 15 round magazine. He would have only needed two more of the Glocks to make up for not having the AR-15.

  39. It’s also ironic that true modern military assault rifles have desirable design characteristics with respect to wounding a target instead of killing him. The wounded or dead is out of combat either way, but the wounded soldier consumes resources to care for that the dead soldier does not.

    It’s always amusing to see gun grabbers bring nukes into the discussion, since the reason that most of them were made was to prevent any of them from being used. In this sense, too, a rifle (or other firearm) can be a deterrent.

    It should be obvious that gun ownership isn’t the most important element of violent crime (otherwise, explain Montana). But it is an interesting litmus test, I think, as to whether you believe in top down solutions or not.

  40. Sylvain Allard,

    Here is another argument which demonstrates the utter and complete fail that high capacity magazines bans are in terms of stopping mass shootings like aurora.

    According to the wiki article on the Aurora shooting which I will accept because the information I am pulling from it is non-controversial.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2012_Aurora_shooting

    The casualty count is 12 dead and 58 injuries for a total of 70 casualties

    He used three weapons. A 12 gauge shotgun, an AR-15 and a Glock 22.

    He only got off 30 rounds with the AR despite having a 100 round magazine and the Glock comes with a 15 round magazine. None of the articles I have read including the wiki article have accounts of him reloading the Glock, so that is 45 rounds between the AR and the Glock handgun.

    Assuming for the sake of argument that he managed an average of 1 casualty per round with the AR and Glock (In my opinion 1 casualty per two rounds or less would be more realistic but that would only make my argument stronger) that leaves the shotgun with only 8 rounds being responsible for 25 casualties.

    That’s 1 casualty per round for the AR and Glock and slightly better than 3 casualties per round for the shotgun. The shotgun has an integral tube magazine that has to be loaded one round at a time, so if he had time to reload it then there is no possible advantage to a high cap magazine in that situation.

    That makes an objective list of the guns he used in order of most effective to least effective look like this:

    Shotgun
    Glock
    AR-15 (on the bottom because it malfunctioned)

    Let’s put the 1994 US Federal assault weapon ban back in place. That takes the AR out of the picture, he takes two shotguns and the Glock. He still racks up 65 casualties.

    Let’s add a ban on high capacity magazines that covers handguns as well as rifles. He goes in with three of the shotguns and gets 75 casualties for just 24 rounds.

    A shotgun will always be the most effective option for causing mass casualties in a confined space. But lets ban the gun that looks scary but malfunctioned and ended up being the least effective weapon used in the Aurora theater shooting.

  41. MattS,

    If all else reamains constant in any society with an increasing population over time you get more of EVERYTHING in absolute numbers…

    All else remains constant in any society! Is such premise possible in real life? EVERYTHING? No counter example to the above statement from me since all else can’t be held constant. Things do change. Still, the number of AIDS deaths per year is a counter example to your original statement that “…all causes…”

    Perhaps, we can change some things to reduce the number of gun deaths.

  42. JH,

    “Perhaps, we can change some things to reduce the number of gun deaths.”

    Yes, there probably are. However, the US constitution limits the options somewhat and the Democrats have no interest in doing anything that will have any real impact and still be constitutional. Absolutely nothing you hear from the current US administration will be genuinely effective.

    Anything proposed based on and pushed using the emotional impact of mass shootings like Aurora and Columbine is more likely than not to actually make things worse.

  43. JH-If you want to apply the same “fix” to gun deaths as was applied to AIDS deaths, you’re going to need better medicine. Better surgeons to fix gun wound damage, better outcomes for head injuries, etc. AIDS still kills–it just takes 24 years now instead of 10. If we can do a better job of repairing gun shot damage, then we could reduce deaths the same way we did with AIDS.

    There was an earlier posting on this blog concerning what a study to curb gun violence would need to look at. It can’t be done overnight and it cannot be done simply.

  44. Sheri,

    It can’t be done at all by people using knee-jerk emotional responses and fear mongering. But that is all you will get by way of argument from the gun control supporters.

  45. Sheri,

    It’s simply a counter example to MattS’s statement. I grew up in a socialist no-gun country. Without considering any other factors, I would prefer living in a no-gun country with a single-payer health system.

    I love to hear arguments from both sides though.

  46. I agree, MattS, with you completely. I have little hope of a “real” resolution to any of this. I’m just saying that IF we wanted to actually solve the problem, real research would need to be done.

  47. MattS,

    You realize how lucky it was that the clip jammed.

    The count of injury per round is very simplistic since one round of AR 15 can go through multiple people before ending its course.

    The biggest problem I find is the size of the magazine. I’m also not a big fan of handguns.

    Most weapon are made for hunting animals. Assault weapon like the M16, AR15, etc, are made to hunt human. This why those gun are chosen by mass-murderer.

    12 gauges weapon cause a lot of damage at short distance but are rarely used in mass-shooting. Their first utility is for hunting.

    Limiting magazine sizes and background check don’t infringed on people rights to own a gun and can prevent some event, and or make it harder.

  48. Briggs

    15 January 2013 at 8:39 pm

    All,

    See tomorrow’s post, where many of the questions about firearms and homicides will be answered. Short answer to our elected: Don’t just do something, stand there!

  49. Sylvain Allard,

    “You realize how lucky it was that the clip jammed.”

    Not as lucky as you think. The type of magazine used is specifically designed for full auto M16s. From what I have read, they are prone to jamming when used with an AR-15.

    “The count of injury per round is very simplistic since one round of AR 15 can go through multiple people before ending its course.”

    Yes it is balistically possible for an AR 15 round to go through multiple people However, under conditions in the Aurora theater the probability of one round hitting multiple people would have been very low.

    As I said, the conditions in the theater would have actually favored fewer than 1 casualty per every 2 rounds for the AR.

    “12 gauges weapon cause a lot of damage at short distance but are rarely used in mass-shooting. Their first utility is for hunting.”

    The specific shotgun used was a tactical model that is designed specifically for military/law enforcement use, so this point of yours fails.

    “Limiting magazine sizes and background check don’t infringed on people rights to own a gun and can prevent some event, and or make it harder.”

    There is zero empirical evidence that this statement is true, and good logical reasons to believe that it will make zero difference in terms of mass public shootings.

    This link has a breakdown of weapons used in mass shootings in the US.
    http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2012/07/mass-shootings-map

    While the majority are handguns and the second place is “assault weapons”, both shotguns and revolvers make significant showings.

    It is simply irrational to believe that by banning assault weapons, high capacity magazines and even hand guns that even one person inclined towards committing such an act would be discourage or even significantly hampered. They will simply switch towards shotguns which could still easily and legally obtained.

    In a confined crowded space a shotgun can do as much damage just as quickly as any “assault weapon”. Given a spatially confined target rich environment, I would even be willing to bet on a shotgun vs a full auto sub machine gun or M16 for casualties per unit time.

  50. MattS,

    The theatre was filled with people in a cramped place. I think it would be likely that the first bullets have it multiple people. Before they had time to duck for cover or scatter.

    Mass-shooting are much more frequent in the USA than in any other developed countries.

    In Canada, Australia, shotgun are common and other hunting gun are common, yet mass-shooting are rare and the number of victims are much lower (1 or 2 were above 10).

    If the gun is easily acquired or available it becomes easier to form the plan and action.

    Mass-shooting are not as planned as some people might think. They require a very specific mindset. This mindset is temporary, but if you have the gun available the person can act before she can reason herself. It is like any other fantaisies, like suicide, if the person as enough time to go through the mindset it can prevent the suicide. It is very rare that a person will act on the first occasion that the idea will occur to them because they don’t have the tool available to carry it out.

  51. 12 gauges weapon cause a lot of damage at short distance but are rarely used in mass-shooting. Their first utility is for hunting.

    Makes you wonder why the term “sawed-off shotgun” came into existence.

    That short distance is around 50 yards. Ask duck and geese about the damage at that distance. Most mass shootings have been at closer range.

    For damage from a firearm it’s got to be at the top of the list. Oddly, the guns that do the most bodily damage are those with little penetrating power — the bullet just bounces around inside the body.

    Sylvain,

    Matt is right. The weapons banned were the scary looking ones — not the effective ones. There was a political need to appear to be doing something while not really doing anything at all. The NRA is fighting an uphill battle against political expediency which it likely will not win.

    Only an idiot would think a ban on sloppy guns like the AK47 and its cousins could stop mass killings. A weapon of choice around here is a truck driven through the wall of a bar. How’s that for terrorism?

    Should we now ban trucks? Seems 9 out of 10 socialists would say yes.

  52. Sylvain Allard,

    “The theatre was filled with people in a cramped place. I think it would be likely that the first bullets have it multiple people. Before they had time to duck for cover or scatter.”

    True, but he emptied the shotgun first at the back rows where the shot would have the most spread. By the time he fired the first round from the AR-15 the duck for cover / scatter was already well in progress.

    Simply put, you have the timeline/conditions backwards.

    “Mass-shooting are not as planned as some people might think. They require a very specific mindset.”

    Which only bolster’s my argument that banning high cap magazines / assault weapons will have no impact. They will simply switch to other weapons that are more readily available.

  53. Sylvain Allard,

    One last comment. I have personal experience with the shooting sports and while I have never personally owned an M16 or AR15 style rifle I have training in the use of an M16.

    I would not call my self an expert, but from my personal experience and given the descriptions I have seen of how the shooting took place and the conditions in the theater it is my opinion that it is more likely than not that half or more of the rounds fired from the AR15 hit nothing except the theater itself.

  54. Dav,

    Maybe it’s just me, but it always seems like the people who think they can design gun control policies that are effective without interfering with the rights of law abiding gun owners know exactly squat about guns.

  55. Matt,

    It’s likely because, to some people, guns are just plain scary. Those with the least knowledge are obviously the most easy to scare. The assault weapons really scare those who get their only information from movies and television because it’s always the bad guys carrying them.

    What most people don’t consider is that what’s on the news is there because it’s unusual. If it were an everyday occurrence it would only be mentioned on slow days.

    For example, take the SARS scare a while back. How many people actually died from it worldwide? IIRC, it was less than 1000. What most don’t realize is about 20x that many die in the US alone every year from the common cold. Yet the media reaction to SARS was pure hysteria.

    Then there are always those who don’t mind controls which don’t actually affect themselves. Their advocacy is often a form of social preening.

  56. Pretty sure that Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot were “bad guys”. Just to name a few. Also anyone who wants to enter my home and do harm to me or my family is a “bad guy”. Easy to understand if you aren’t trying to create a PC based reality.

  57. DAV

    No one think that gun control will eliminate all event, but they bound to make them less likely and with less victims.

    Here are the stats in Canada before and after the gun control law:

    http://www.statcan.gc.ca/ads-annonces/82-003-x/pdf/4194126-eng.pdf

    See the first chart:

    Before the first gun control laws gun death was wery slowly declining (about 0.5 from 79 to 91). After,the enactment of safe gun storage and owners screening law the decline is much sharper (about 1.5 in 4 years).

    After the compulsory registration the decline continued but didn’t accelerate. This means that background check works, but owner’s registration doesn’t.

    People in Canada are still able to buy an AR-15 but it requires a PAL license which is harder to obtain and then ask for the authorisation to buy the weapon. You also have to acquire an authorazation to transport and when you transport it, it has to be in a lock case, and the trigger also need to be locked.

    Stored at home the firearm need to be locked in a case or a safe and the trigger locked also, and the bullet stored seperately.

    We have a few gun at home an old winchester, a 30-30, and some others. I did learn how to fire a gun and I have gone to the gun range on occasion.

    The question about trucks:

    The first purpose of a trucks is for work. The first purpose of an AR-15 is to kill people. This is a huge difference. Even the military keep their weapon at the armory while on military base. Except on depolyement, soldier never carry there weapon at all time.

  58. Sylvain,

    I’m guessing you didn’t read the post Jan 16 post. There is no correlation between the number of killings and the use of “assault” weapons. My point about the trucks is that banning “assault” (whatever that means) weapons is just forcing substitution of weapons and will not change the overall rate of killing. The problem is the killing and not the weapon used.

    Except on depolyement, soldier never carry there weapon at all time.

    Neither do people who own them. What’s your point?

  59. DAV,

    What makes an assault weapon an assault weapon is the number of bullet in can carry. An AR-15 whit a 5 to 10 rounds magazine would not be as efficient, and leaves people time to act.

    From wiki as long as it can be accurate, you see what really happens with firearm death:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_firearm-related_death_rate

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Number_of_guns_per_capita_by_country

    When you look at the data the first 3 developed countries with the higher number of gun have the highest gun related death, by more than one per 100,000 person.

    Amazingly, in Canada, even more in rural areas, people are not affraid that someone will come into there home. Home invasion are extremely rare events here. No one feel the need to protect themselves from an implausible treats.

    To use your truck analogy. Your family is more at risk to be hurt in a car accident than in an home invasion, yet I bet you still have a car or a truck.

  60. Also, for your claims that people will use other means to kill.

    http://www.statcan.gc.ca/pub/85-002-x/2008002/article/10518-eng.htm

    Chart 4 shows that non firearm homicide in the USA is very close to other developped nations. But firearm is only prevalent in the USA.

  61. AR-15 whit a 5 to 10 rounds magazine would not be as efficient,

    Efficient? You really don’t know anything about firearms do you?

    Why is it you focus on a particular method for killing anyway? Guns aren’t the only way. In fact, they are one of the more expensive ways. You really want people bent on killing to find even cheaper ways? The problem is the killing and not the method.

    But firearm is only prevalent in the USA.

    So? Again, why are you so focused on a particular method? The number of murders is uncorrelated to gun ownership. Removing them will not solve the real problem which is the murder rate. It would be nothing more than a meaningless gesture.

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