William M. Briggs

Statistician to the Stars!

Firearm Homicides Dropping: All The Latest Stats

I rarely ask this, but please link, forward, email, and favorite this post as widely as possible. See below for copying permission. A version of this post originally ran 16 January 2013 with data through 2010, but I’ve updated it with the FBI’s latest figures through 2014. I hope these charts will not cause any tears.

Murder in the United States1 is illegal, and has been for over two hundred years. Strong penalties, up to and including the penalty of death, are incurred by those who commit this heinous crime.

Yet, strangely, despite murder’s high illegality, there were in 2014 about 12,000 of them committed! The largest number of murders (since data was tracked) were in 1991, with nearly 25,000 of these frowned-upon unlawful incidents.

It is difficult to imagine a penalty more severe than death, so it remains a curiosity that so many murderers are found when such strong laws are in place. Perhaps this scourge can be eliminated by even tougher laws?, say death by torture? Or maybe by creating Executive Orders bypassing the hindrance of Congress and Constitutional safeguards? We must protect the children!

But never mind. Let’s instead look at the number of murders and what devices were used in their commission.

This (Fig. 1), according to the FBI2 and the United States Census, is the per-capita murder and non-negligent manslaughter (hereafter, in a slight abuse of notation, just called “homicide”) percentage from 1960 to 2014 (data for 2015 were not yet available). Overlaid are the same percentages for just those bodies accumulated from deaths by any type of firearm.

Figure 1: Overall Homicide  and Firearm Homicides Per Year (Percent population)

Figure 1: Overall Homicide and Firearm Homicides Per Year (Percent population)

The first notable is that the two rates track closely, so that whatever is driving changes in the one is likely (but not certainly) driving changes in the other. The second remarkable feature is the abrupt increase in the turbulent 1960s, and the subsequent decline as the people responsible for these cultural excesses began to enter tenure their 50s and 60s, and even to die off in the 2000s and 2010s. The percent in 2014 was the lowest on record.

I want to repeat that: The homicide rate in 2014 was the lowest on record since 1960.

And that’s true for all homicides committed with firearms of any type; that is, the lowest number of homicides by firearm was in 2014—although I only could find data from 1975-2014.

Let’s repeat that, too: the lowest number of homicides by firearm was in 2014.

Is your first reaction panic? Deep concern? Do you feel in your gut the need to do something? Then I suggest switching to a decaffeinated brand.

Now let’s look at the shaded region on the plot, which is the time the Orwellian-named “Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act”, i.e. “‘Assault’3 Weapons Ban”, was in force, from 13 September 1994 until the same date in 2004. There does not appear to be much correlation between this ban and the homicide rate: homicides both decrease and increase during the time which it was in force.

If you think there might be a correlation, then look at this plot (Fig. 2), which is the homicide rate for handguns, separated from other firearms4, knifes, blunt objects, and other instruments, which is a catchall including poisonings, strangulations, drownings, and similar forms of mayhem.

Figure 2: Homicide percent by method.

Figure 2: Homicide percent by method.

Each of these series exhibit the same pattern as the overall homicide rate. You may say the “assault” weapons ban lowered the rate of homicides committed with firearms, but then you have to explain why poisonings, strangulations and the like similarly decreased. It is of course possible that would-be murderers, feeling deprived of their loss of frightening-looking “assault” weapons were so forlorn that they lost the heart to add cyanide in their enemies’ tea, but it’s more likely that whatever was responsible for the general decrease in bloodlust caused both the decrease in firearm and non-firearm homicides.

Another possibility is that the number of shootings and other forms of violence remained constant, or even increased in recent years, but that people once wounded, because of improvements in medical science, are not dying at higher rates. This necessarily would decrease the homicide rate for the simple reason that if a person survives a shooting, he cannot be considered murdered. But this explanation is not plausible given that violent crimes (which includes attempted murder) are also on the wane, as shown here (Fig. 3).

Figure 3: Overall violent crime per capita.

Figure 3: Overall violent crime per capita.

There is some evidence that medical science might be the cause of some of the decreased homicide rate from this next plot (Fig. 4), which shows the percentage of homicides of all violent crimes: from a high of 3% to now around 1%. But since violent crimes as a whole are dropping, it is even more plausible that people are just becoming less bloody minded; i.e., less in the need of government control and regulation.

Figure 4: Percent homicides all violent crimes.

Figure 4: Percent homicides all violent crimes.

What should be particularly clear from the Figure 2 are two things: (1) homicides by any type are decreasing, and (2) handguns, and not “assault” rifles or indeed any other type of firearm, are always the most-used weapon. This plot (Fig. 5) emphasizes the significant role of handguns

Figure 5: Relative percent homicides by handguns and other firearms

Figure 5: Relative percent homicides by handguns and other firearms.

This is a conditional plot, showing the percent handguns and other firearms are used in homicides. Notice that the percent of homicides committed with non-handguns actually increased during the life of the “assault” weapons ban. Handguns hover around 45%-50%, a little more than 3 times as prevalent as non-handguns.

Now let’s look at the same plot again (Fig. 6), this time including all types of killing methods:

Figure 6: Relative Percent Homicides by Method.

Figure 6: Relative Percent Homicides by Method.

Until recently, the two rivals, equaling or exceeding in lethal importance to “assault” weapons (and other non-handguns), are knives and other types of weapons, such as poisons, strangulations, and fire. Yet we never hear even rumors of politicians wishing to ban fire. Though we do hear, all too often, of impaired officials banning children for pointing their fingers.

Summary: to use a phrase coined by Father Z, the “biological solution” appears to be lowering homicide rates quite well, with no government intervention required (or desired).

Now for the punchline. None of the statistics presented here are new or unknown. They are available to every politician, and indeed every lawmaker with the word “ban” on his lips knows them well (otherwise they are incompetent). Each of these people, like you now, knows that limiting firearms will do little to change the homicide rate. Yet still they want to ban. Why?

Could it be—this is reasonable to ask—that they have a different agenda in mind? Did we not hear many elected officials (from both major parties) tell us that guns are “only for hunting”, and did not some call for the confiscation of all guns? I suspect that this is the sole reason for the current flurry, the drive to “never let a crisis go to waste”: to strip citizens of their guns. Not all at once, for that would lead to rebellion, but slowly, incrementally, a death through many small paper(work)cuts.

Addendum The number of mass public shooting incidents per decade have also been decreasing and are uncorrelated with gun ownership. Full details about Fig. 7 are here.

Figure 7: Mass shootings by decade.

Figure 7: Mass shootings by decade.

Comparisons of the enormous, socially and racially heterogeneous United States with small, relatively more homogeneous European countries are not persuasive. “Denmark has lower gun violence!” somebody will proudly say, forgetting that Denmark on crowded day has only three-fourths the population of New York City.

Notes

1Murder has not always been illegal everywhere. For example, citizens who were deemed “counter-revolutionary” or “anti-government” were routinely slaughtered, quite legally, in countries with international and national socialist governments. These countries, perhaps entirely coincidentally, banned their citizens from owning most or all firearms. I define murder as unlawful under the law given to us by a Higher Authority.

2Here is the data, which was compiled from several government sources, such as here, here, here, here, here, and here. Multiply Population in data file by 1000. The data is not 100% certain. I found, on the FBI’s own site, different numbers for homicides for the same years. The discrepancies were never more than a couple of hundred coffins, but this still indicates imperfection. And that means we should lessen the certainty we have in any conclusions we draw from this data.5 If anybody out there can find mistakes or additions to this spreadsheet, please do so by amending it and emailing it back to me at matt@wmbriggs.com.

The FBI says murder and non-negligent manslaughter are:

the willful (nonnegligent) killing of one human being by another. Deaths caused by negligence, attempts to kill, assaults to kill, suicides, and accidental deaths are excluded. The program classifies justifiable homicides separately…Deaths of persons due to their own negligence, accidental deaths not resulting from gross negligence, and traffic fatalities are not included…

The murders on “September 11th” are not included in these charts, but the Oklahoma City bombings are.

3It has been said that an “assault” weapon is that which looks frightening to a lawmaker. Given the increase in non-manly politicians—by which I mean folks unable to appreciate a John Wayne movie—more and more weapons will be so categorized.

4A 2009 Attorney General report from California showed that fully automatic weapons, like “machine” guns, are used in 1% of crimes in that state. How could this be? Aren’t these guns illegal everywhere? If it’s one thing you can count on, it’s that a criminal has no respect for the law.

5Footnote to the footnote! Firearm laws vary across state and, within states, across time and across regions. The federal government, jealous of the power of the states, enacts its own laws, which also change through time and by region. The laws everywhere vary in strength, too. Further, citizens move from one state to another, or they move within a state to areas which have different laws. The compositions of the folks living in these great United States has also changed radically since 1960. Therefore, any statistical analysis—usually some high falutin regression model—which purports to have figured out the true influence of firearms regulations will be full of—what our esteemed Veep Joe “The Groper” Biden called—malarkey.

One thing we can say with certainty: threats to increase restrictions on firearms increase the sales of firearms: here’s one example of many.

William M. Briggs, the “Statistician to the Stars!” is, and has been for many years, a proud NRA member. He received no consideration of any kind from anybody for this post.

Permission is granted to copy and reprint this post, under the proviso that my name and a link to my site accompanies it.

61 Comments

  1. Nice; footnote 4 is not entirely correct. It is possible to legally own and use a machine gun.

    What’s missing is a plot of handguns. The claim is that rising numbers of guns (particularly handguns) results in more gun deaths. Would be nice to show that is not true since the number of guns is increasing. According to ABC there were 3,314,594 gun background checks in December 2015 and 23.1 million for the year. That’s an increase of at least 23.1 million guns last year alone. Only one background check is needed for multiple purchase — at least on the same day.

    http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/gun-background-checks-hit-record-33-million-december/story?id=36105791

  2. Matt,

    This is a great discussion, but I had a bit of trouble with what seems like loose terminology with numbers/rate/percent. It seems unclear what the initial charts, and many of the following, are representing:

    You said:
    “Let’s instead look at the number of murders and what devices were used in their commission.

    This (Fig. 1), according to the FBI2 and the United States Census, is the per-capita murder and non-negligent manslaughter (hereafter, in a slight abuse of notation, just called “homicide”) percentage from 1960 to 2014 (data for 2015 were not yet available). Overlaid are the same percentages for just those bodies accumulated from deaths by any type of firearm.”

    So, with an invitation to look at the number (meaningless for comparisons across time, without reference to respective population numbers) of murders, you then present a chart with “percent” marked as the Y axis.

    Now I see the “per capita” in the text, but on first quick read, and careful examination of the charts, it was not obvious what the “percentages” on the chart were.

    And throughout the article, it seems that number, rate, and percent are used almost interchangeable.

    Maybe labeling “per-capita” on each chart?

    Thanks.

  3. I was about to ask the same thing DAV implies. What’s the relationship to the number of guns per person? And for that matter, the demographics of those committing the murders? Both have changed over time.

  4. How about creating a new statistic, to demonstrate the infinitesimal risk associated with guns?

    Something like: Homicides per gun

    This may be difficult to measure, since not all guns are registered.

    But there must be a way to come up with a good estimate of functioning guns in the USA, using background checks, sales figures, historical data etc.

    With such a number, you’d have a comparison to, for example–cars. How many deaths occur per functional car?

  5. You have to normalize to the violence prone age group, say the twenties. This may be why your graph looks like this, suitably shifted in time.

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baby_boomers#/media/File%3AUS_Birth_Rates.svg

  6. Footnote 4: That means 99% were not committed with machine guns. Virtually all of these were illegally owned. Even the far left Daily Kos admits there have been only 2 deaths from legally owned machine guns since the ban.

    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2012/12/17/1171047/-There-are-240-000-fully-automatic-guns-in-the-US-and-only-2-deaths-in-80-years

    One thing that is rarely mentioned in all this statistical analysis the number of guns per gun owner in the US. I find the number of guns per capita, but gun owners often have more than one gun—many more. I think that might have to do with crime not going up as more guns are sold. It’s not that there are more armed individuals, but rather more guns per armed individuals.

  7. I have spent a lifetime struggling to understand graphics that use color to present data. Am unfortunately one of those people (almost always men) who see no color.

    If the text is reflective of the data, then I agree…I think.

  8. An Engineer:
    Graphs by order of lines at “1980”:
    Figure 1 Overall, top
    Handguns, middle
    Other firearms, bottom

    Figure 2 Handguns, top
    Knives, second
    Other firearms, third
    Other weapons, fourth
    Blunt objects, bottom

    Figure 5 Handguns, top
    Other firearms, bottom

    Figure 6 same as 2, Knives start a bit before the other firearms line, which meanders above and below the other lines

  9. One reason some legislators focus on gun control to address crime that included guns is that this is intuitively easy — gun crime/gun.

    Another reason is that humans are “hard-wired” to emotionally attribute undue significance to dramatic events — for example, a plane crash killing hundreds vs. driving/riding a car even though auto travel remains significantly more hazardous by comparison.

    Firearm-related violence is similarly dramatic and emotional reasoning similarly leads to disproportionately undue significance being placed on the firearm…instead of the many factors that lead particular sub-groups to engage in an ongoing basis gun-related crime (e.g. delinquents that join gangs & engage in gang activity that routinely couples both guns & illicit drugs).

    What’s needed is a good analysis & comparison like the auto/aircraft-related fatalities (which everyone understands) for firearm/???? fatalities. And/or, a gun-related comparison that includes a significant “co-morbid” factor such as drug trafficking — to illustrate that if the other activity were better addressed the gun component would diminish dramatically.

    Once upon a time, long long ago I’d seen such an analysis comparing gun deaths by very young [too-immature to know better] kids that got their hands on a family firearm & who accidentally killed themselves or a sibling/playmate vs butane lighters — where the lighters were clearly more dangerous in terms of deaths.

    That kind of comparison doesn’t help as a counterpoint to mass-shootings, though there’s been some cults that have engaged in mass poisonings of others (e.g. en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1984_Rajneeshee_bioterror_attack ) not to mention mass suicides (e.g. Heaven’s Gate) & forced mass suicides (e.g. Jonestown, Guyana).

    One might also consider corrupt pharmaceutical manufacturers and/or poor testing prior to approval for public use that resulted in dire consequences (e.g. birth defects, etc.) as a counter-point comparison.

    There’s a lot of deadly, and highly disruptive arenas worthy of legislator attention, that they are not attending to, that dwarf the trouble associated with guns & their emphasis on gun control measures — that, at their essence, reflect a thinly veiled conflict with a Constitutionally protected individual right.

    One problem in the gun control vs not-control debate, and resulting policy & legislative responses, is the dismal use of factual data….

  10. In a different editorial on The Stream I saw this: “The deadliest shootings often occur, not coincidentally, in “gun-free” zones.”

    The author doesn’t back that up with a reference. Did you find anything that would substantiate this statement in your research? Would make for an interesting follow-up article if true.

  11. Paul W: That’s difficult to answer. Statistics seem to indicate many shootings do take place in schools, theaters and other gun-free zones. There were some armed personnel at military bases, but most persons were not armed. Liberals will argue that no one specifically targeted a gun-free zone, but rather that they had a personal connection to the business or school. This does seem to be the case. However, I could not find any research, nor do I know how one would conduct it, that can show how many times people did not use a gun because they feared being killed. It is also important to note that often mass shootings are murder/suicide. The gunman knows he will die. He might gravitate to a gun-free zone to take out more people before he is killed. He might not. It seems it’s more of an intuitive thing without a lot of study to back it up. As in most stats, you can find examples on both sides.
    I did find it argued that armed citizens may shoot the wrong person because they are not trained (some are), but lately the “well-trained” police seem guilty of doing this on a very regular basis, so that argument would need more research also.

  12. Homicides are most commonly committed by people known to the victim, spouses being suspect number one and so on outward of the victim. Hand guns are the obvious weapon of choice and for obvious reasons which are too obvious for clever people.

    Murders have reduced because critical care and emergency medicine itself, it’s tactics and overall strategy has been improved. Just as death by house fire has reduced because of fire prevention. Humans are making old bones only, ironically, to fall victim to “end of life plan”.

    Detective J. kenda succeeded in putting a young thug away for a sentence that would have been only given for murder because had it not been for the miracle of the patients and the medical staff, the two innocents would have died. There are more and more cases of premeditated crimes or casual, callus discharge of a firearm that just happen to end well for the victim. The same is true of the coldest murder by poisoning which I note is most often the weapon of choice for women. Life changing injury, never gets into the stats and elderly “palliative” care never makes it into poisoning stats. either.

    Looking at the phase with the assault weapon ban and given my own opinion about improved healthcare I would say that tho stats are consistent with
    both banning and not banning assault weapons being indicated.

    Since there’s a live experiment then more machine guns and more time is necessary to sort this out. To me it’s obvious folly to allow members of the public such weapons. You don’t get to pick and choose assault weapon owners precisely because of thieves and the more owners, the more access. That’s the problem. The “All guns” or “no guns” are both idealistic positions. If that’s all it is then lets say it like that. Let’s not give crass reasons for owning weapons of war or give naive ones for banning them altogether.

  13. Ah, let’s praise Obama for all the declines shown in the graphs here in recent years!
    Now…”Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act”, i.e. “‘Assault Weapons Ban” (AWB), was in force, from 13 September 1994…
    AWB might have explained the dramatic (relatively) drop in homicide percent from 1994 to 1995; and the decline continued for several years and then tapered off. Kinda like a “new-broom-sweeps-clean” effect, but not exactly.

    So, any possible explanation for the decline starting from 2006 to 2007? Was there any gun law enacted in 2005 or 2006?

    One thing we can say with certainty: threats to increase restrictions on firearms increase the sales of firearms: here’s one example of many.
    Is this good or bad? Gun shows!

    A proud NRA member!
    How to become a NRA member? I am proud to be a member of my brother King’s nerf gun club. (Nerf guns are legal back home.) Minimum qualifications include participation of at least one nerf gun game annually. I have never been invited to join his Mahjong club due to skill issue, of which I am not proud.

  14. Ah, let’s praise Obama for all the declines shown in the graphs here in recent years!

    Now…”Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act”, i.e. “‘Assault Weapons Ban” (AWB), was in force, from 13 September 1994…

    AWB might have explained the dramatic (relatively) drop in homicide percent from 1994 to 1995; and the decline continued for several years and then tapered off. Kinda like a “new-broom-sweeps-clean” effect, but not exactly.

    So, any possible explanation for the decline starting from 2006 to 2007? Was there any gun law enacted in 2005 or 2006?

    One thing we can say with certainty: threats to increase restrictions on firearms increase the sales of firearms: here’s one example of many.

    Is this good or bad? Gun shows!

    A proud NRA member!
    How to become a NRA member? I am proud to be a member of my brother King’s nerf gun club. (Nerf guns are legal back home.) Minimum qualifications include participation of at least one nerf gun game annually. I have never been invited to join his Mahjong club due to skill issue, of which I am not proud.

  15. Mr. Briggs, if possible, would you please delete my first submission above. Bad blockqute tag.

  16. WWJD… needless to say, no genuine Christian would ever join the NRA.

  17. When is a person not allowed to defend himself because of his or her faith?

  18. A couple others have already pointed out the error in your note 4 regarding fully-automatic rifles. Let me fill in a little more detail. The National Firearms Act of 1934 (thanks, Al Capone) made it illegal to buy/own/possess fully-automatic weapons, as well as silencers and short-barrelled rifles and shotguns (<15” for rifles, < 18” for shotguns, IIRC), without going through a thorough background check with your local police chief or sheriff and paying a $200 “transfer tax” for each NFA-regulated weapon/silencer. That law still exists. The $200 transfer tax gets you a stamp with a registration number that is associated with a single weapon or silencer, hence it is commonly referred to as a $200 tax stamp. IIRC, the law regarding fully-automatic weapons was further “strengthened” — I think as part of the 1994 AWB, but someone can correct me if I’m wrong — by prohibiting the manufacture of new automatic weapons after that time. As such, the price tag for a fully-automatic weapon is out of reach of most people. In the past week I saw an ad for a fully-automatic M-16-style rifle at a price around $20,000. By comparison, semi-automatic AR-15-style rifles can be purchased for as low as $500-600-ish.

    Something else that I recently became aware of is that it is totally legal to make your own AR-15-style lower receiver from scratch, starting from a block of raw aluminum (it is only the lower receiver of an AR-15-style rifle that is regulated and has a serial number; all the other parts required to make a fully-functioning AR-15-style rifle can be legally bought and sold, because without a lower receiver, they are just bits and pieces of machined/cast metal or plastic). Obviously, making a lower receiver from scratch requires skill in machining, so doing this is beyond the capability of most of us. However, the advent of 3D printers has made it possible for anyone to make an AR-15-style lower receiver out of whatever kind of plastic the printer uses. Whether such receivers would survive the first few shots is an open question in my mind.

  19. Dang, I proofread my comment above several times, and one important error still survived. The minimum legal length for a rifle barrel is 16”, so my comment above should have read, ‘<16” for rifles’, not ‘<15” for rifles’. I always have trouble hitting the “6” key on my keyboard.

  20. Joy: The public does NOT own large numbers of machine guns. For the hundredth time, they are rare and expensive. There is no such thing as “weapons of war” outside of automatic weapons. You really don’t care about the truth, do you? I give up. You really are living in a fantasy that suits your purpose and have no intention of leaving it. This is pointless.

    JH: Nice try. Also, the “assault weapon ban” is purely cosmetic. You can buy the same weapon that doesn’t look “scary” and “mean” and “military”. It’s the exact same gun but it looks more like a hunting rifle.

    Shecky R: By your definition of Christian, probably so. Fortunately, God does not share your opinion.

    Lynn Clark: The statistic is based on illegal machine guns and is true across the US (some sources say <1%, but all are close to that number). These machine guns are stolen or brought into the country illegally.

    Here’s a write-up on obtaining automatic weapons:
    http://www.thefirearmblog.com/blog/2014/05/21/machine-guns-legal-practical-guide-full-auto/

    3D printers will probably need to be addressed if the technology improves. Currently, I don’t know of any that will print a gun that survives more than a shot or two. Of course, all such printing is probably illegal.

  21. Sheri,
    Hold fire with the personal attacks.
    The public are either allowed to own machine guns or they are not.
    I think we’ve established quite a while back that they are. I don’t need to hear any more qualifiers.

    Reality: Paris November 13th 2015. 130 dead after a night out at a concert in a nation where the ownership of machine guns is prohibited. The public, medics, police and brave souls were from left and right.

    I don’t agree that Machine guns should be allowed to give a few Bruce Willis wannabe’s a smile. How ever much it costs. Have I made myself quite clear?

  22. Joy: Yes, you have been quite clear that you care nothing about reality.

  23. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that exactly one generation removed from RvW, crime and a host of other social ills declined precipitously. As for guns, Americans love rights but hate responsibilities. So, we have legally irresponsible gun ownership in America. Someday we’ll grow up, I’m sure.

    JMJ

  24. JMJ: And one day we’ll have grown-up liberals. Nah, never happen. Just little bleating lambs. Again, no evidence, just insults. Bleating lambs, standing in the fence corner, freezing to death in a blizzard because no one told them to move.

    No mention of illegal guns, just blame owners. So I am left to conclude that JMJ does not distinguish legal from illegal. Nuf said.

    JMJ could avoid being insulted if he actually did present evidence and an argument, but since he does not, it seems evident he wants name calling and insults. If one day he becomes interested in actual discussion…….

  25. To me it’s obvious folly to allow members of the public such weapons [machine guns].

    Because only the guys with armbands and jackboots badges and uniforms should have such weapons?

  26. So, we have legally irresponsible gun ownership in America.

    What is “legally irresponsible gun ownership”? What distinguishes it from legally responsible gun ownership?

  27. Honestly, as an European I get puzzled by the intensity by which many in the US defend their “Anyone must be able to possess a firearm”. I mean, all that happens here is that those who wish to get a gun, or bring it with themselves, have to obtain a licence, that is undergo a minimal evaluation of his criminal behaviour and recognized mental illness. Bringing a gun without it by itself means committing a felony, but there’s no shortage of people, mostly those working in “at risk” jobs like jewellers, who lawfully decide to possess guns. We also happen to have a much smaller homicide rate than the US.
    I don’t know a single person who says “Gosh dang heck, how better would it be if just anyone could buy a gun?”

  28. There is no such thing as “weapons of war” outside of automatic weapons.

    What about grenades, artillery, rocket launchers, tanks, torpedoes … ? Most scholars agree that the “arms” referred to in the Second Amendment are “weapons of war.” The Militia (armed citizenry), to be effective, must be just as well armed as a Standing Army (government employees). See Joseph Story.

  29. Honestly, as an European I get puzzled by the intensity by which many in the US defend their “Anyone must be able to possess a firearm”.

    Perhaps it is because, so far, we Americans have managed to avoid the totalitarian dictatorships you Europeans seem to experience frequently. See Federalist No. 46.

  30. L: Years ago, I worked with a guy from England. He was very bright and perceptive. He noted that gun restrictions work in England because that is all England has known. They would not work in the USA because they go against what Americans stand for, freedom from government rule. There is a reason the colonists rebelled. America does not want to be England.
    Without paying any attention to anything but gun crimes, your argument sounds reasonable. Add in culture, history, etc and it becomes completely invalid. America is not England, and isn’t by choice. (As Geezer notes)

    Geezer: Yep, I knew someone would throw in other military weapons, in spite of this discussion being about guns. I didn’t include all the other weapons precisely because someone would assert citizens should get tanks, grenades (by the way, citizens do have those along with the launchers), etc. The Second Amendment does not say “weapons equal to the government” and many confrontations are won by the ones with fewer “weapons of war:. Note the effectiveness of IED’s in Iraq and Afghanistan. It could indeed be argued that US citizens could learn to make IEDs and give up their guns, but IED’s seem to be much nastier.

  31. What is the effect of the diminution in the number of households with guns.

    This report shows a decrease in household without gun(s) by 14% from 51.4 in 1973 to 65.7.

    http://www.norc.org/PDFs/GSS%20Reports/GSS_Trends%20in%20Gun%20Ownership_US_1972-2014.pdf

  32. Geezer,

    Maybe you should read things that are more up to dates. From reading this blog I came to realize that the US citizen benefit of far fewer liberties than Canadian or west-European do.

    The US have more people in prison than Chinese do, or even North Korea.
    Just look at the show “Making a murderer” on Netflix to see how local government (county) can oppress the right way f one citizen with dubious legal search and juror intimidation. At least, 143 people were proved innocent after being condemned to the death penalty. Unarmed people are killed by police at an alarming rate for anyone outside the US.

    The only freedom that some US citizen have that we don’t, is the freedom to oppress others. Oppression comes from money an/or brute force. There are no reason one should have more liberties because he has more money, or the power to intimidate other into submission. This is what happens in totalitarian states like Saudi Arabia, Russia, and Iran.

    Conservative complain that Obama is a dictator who only play golf (he played a lot less than the previous president) and wear mom jeans. Yet they admire Putin(who is really a dictator) for taking swift decision without any regard for the Russian constitution.

  33. Sylvain,

    As someone commented in a previous thread, you seem to have a penchant for non sequiturs. Nothing you mention in your comment is even remotely related to my right to keep and bear arms or my exercise of that right.

    You seem content to tug your forelock and behave as an obedient Subject of a government that acts as your master. I prefer to behave as a Citizen who demands that my government act as my servant.

  34. Geezer, your name, not mine.
    I give you opinion and reason and you give me Hitler.
    You do the right no justice and have gone a long way to helping your “dreaded left”.
    In England we call that shooting yourself in the foot.

  35. I give you opinion and reason and you give me Hitler.

    All I did was ask a question. Your answer?

    In England we call that shooting yourself in the foot.

    In England, you are Subjects of a monarch. In America, we Citizens are the sovereign.

  36. Sheri: Thanks for taking the time to read my comments and comment on them. It would have been even nicer if you had also taken the time to read the writings I cited.

    Yep, I knew someone would throw in other military weapons, in spite of this discussion being about guns.

    Remember, you are the one who injected the phrase “weapons of war” into the discussion. I simply disputed your claim that there is no such thing as “weapons of war” outside of automatic weapons. Besides, cannons are guns, are they not?

    The Second Amendment does not say “weapons equal to the government”

    That is correct. The Second Amendment also does not refer to the right of the people to keep and bear Guns. It refers to the right of the people to keep and bear Arms. It also mentions the Militia. My citations to Joseph Story and James Madison were intended to show what the men who wrote and ratified the Second Amendment meant by that term. Pace John Paul Stevens, The People do not serve in the Militia; The People are the Militia.

  37. Geezer,
    Answer? You tell me what the answer is and I’ll answer.

    Of course we have the greatest nation in the world here in England. I would expect you to say the same of your own or I would find you either lacking or un unfortunate to find yourself in the wrong country.

  38. You tell me what the answer is and I’ll answer.

    Did you mean “You tell me what the question is and I’ll answer”?

    I could be mistaken, but I think more people move from the UK to the US than the other way around.

  39. You are mistaken on both points.
    The first was a joke given your crass Hitler reference.
    The second:
    “Britain turns away more immigrants from the US than from any other nation.’
    That was from a customs and excise man of many years experience. Now does that say something bad about the US? No, if you knew who was turned away rather than what was on their passport it would be clear why this figure is higher than other nations.
    Geezer it’s not what’s on your passport it’s what’s written on your heart.

  40. Sheri:
    It’s not just England, pretty much every first world nation on the globe has restrictions on guns, except for the US, despite huge cultural differences. What really puzzles me about the often spoken “freedom from government rule” is that by all practical means your government rules a lot more on the usage of cars than on guns.

    So, I still fail to see what peculiarities in the USA’s history, culture and such require that any crook with a certified recent past of violent crime should be free to have guns anyway. It’s just that.

    Australia too had a culture of free gun possession, but it’s end didn’t bring any dramatic change in its society’s vision.

  41. your crass Hitler reference

    I didn’t use that word; you did. Besides, “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

    Britain turns away more immigrants from the US than from any other nation.

    Do you have a citation for that quotation? I couldn’t find it with Google.

    Geezer it’s not what’s on your passport it’s what’s written on your heart.

    Shouldn’t there be an emoji that goes with that? You claim to live in England, but I suspect you really live in Ponyland™.

  42. Geezer: I apparently missed one of the two links you had I did read Joseph Story but missed “The Federalist”. Apologies. It was not intentional.

    I will add length and boredom to my comments from here on out by putting in every disclaimer I can come up with so as not to be guilty of inexactness.
    In reality, people can possess most weapons of war except nuclear bombs and the like (so far as I know. Regular bombs may be included, aircraft that delivers bombs, though older ones are used in fighting fires, but they may have been modified, and land mines are probably illegal—If I missed any, I’m sure you’ll quickly notify me of my error). “Class III includes, but is not limited to: machine guns, silencers, destructive devices, all other weapons (AOW: cane guns, pen guns, etc.), short-barreled rifles (SBR), short-barrel shotguns (SBS). 1
    (http://targetworld.net/Steps%20for%20buying%20NFA%20(Class%20III%20Weaponry)%2011-3-07.pdf)

    Cannons are legal if black powder. There may be exceptions. Every year there is a cannon shoot in the town where I live.

    I generally don’t throw in grenades, etc, because that often precipitates a fight over “NOBODY should ever own such a thing” and the discussion goes down the drain. However, in deference to you, I will henceforth allow the discussion to derail and be made longer by adding all possible exceptions I know of and a note that I may have missed something, since leaving out the information had the same effect.

  43. Sheri: Thanks again for replying to my comment. At this point, I think we are talking at cross purposes. You are talking about what US statutory law allows. I’m talking about what my God-given rights include. I respect your opinions and agree with you more often than not.

  44. Geezer,
    More obfuscation again defending your first remark. Geezer if you had any honour you would say you are sorry.
    The customs man was someone I happened to know personally through another connection.
    Learn to recognise your enemy I don’t think you do.

  45. Geezer if you had any honour you would say you are sorry.

    Poor dear. Can I offer you a tissue?

  46. L: A crook with a certified past of violent crime is NOT allowed to a gun now. It’s illegal. In every state of the union. It’s called “felon in possession of a firearm.” They can be sent back to jail. The problem is, they may not be due to deal making, crowded jails, a really clever lawyer, being a “refugee”, etc.

    Australia never had a constitutional right to weapons. Taking away the weapons, therefore, was not also throwing out part of their constitution, and in the case of the USA, it’s trying to throw out an amendment without going through the repeal process required. All the guns were apparently not confiscated, only certain ones. Lastly, you cannot compare a small, fairly homogenous population (24,019,500) with a huge, very non-homogenous population (322,606,000) and come up with any valid cause and effect statistics. They are two very different countries in size, governments, etc.

    Geezer: People routinely repeat the past even when they know history. It’s what they do.

    Yes, you are right I am referring to US law. I thought that was what we were discussing. As for God given rights, everyone has a right to self-defense. No argument there. The eternal conflict is over God-given versus Government given.

  47. 1. If murder rates are falling it is ironic that people are going out and buying more guns under the misconception that there is more danger because they’re clearly not all taking up shooting as a sport.

    2 Ken elucidated those who think like me. (A UKIP supporter not left wing.)
    “The fundamental issue with gun control measures (usually coming from the political Left) is that no matter how well-intended, they invariably endeavor to achieve an end by undermining a fundamental, enumerated, individual Constitutional Right.
    For the sake of argument, even presuming that desired end is “good” and socially beneficial & so forth, allowing the end to be achieved by means that undermines [or worse] a basic Constitutional Right means that no fundamental individual right is safe from corruption or worse.”

    My eye is on the wisdom of these two positions.
    I did not reframe the argument to any extreme. The public are allowed machine guns. It’s only right that people don’t reframe arguments to sign a false extreme. I still trust that there are wise people on the right that hold a different opinion from mine and that they might be correct.

  48. Joy: Some people may be buying guns because they feel unsafe, such as the rape victim who asked Obama about his gun control measures limiting her a method of self-defense. Many people buy them because they have the Constitutional right to do so and whenever that is threatened, they buy more guns. Yes, there is fear of more violence, what with the “black lives matter” rioters, the Syrian invasion in Germany resulting in more rapes (pretty much everywhere the Syrians are allowed in this problem exists), millions of illegal aliens streaming across the border from the south and committing crimes, etc.) However, an equal or larger number buy the guns because it’s their right to own them. Americans are funny about wanting to retain the rights their forefathers died defending. Not to mention that all gun control tactics try to circumvent the one legitimate way to remove guns, by repealing the Second Amendment. This is because the politicians know this cannot be done, at least not yet, so they try to violate the amendment instead and see how far they can get that way.

  49. Americans are funny about wanting to retain the rights their forefathers died defending.

    A couple of years ago when Maryland decided to make it harder to let handguns abound in the public by requiring a permit to get one. The reaction was an increase by nearly a million in the number of guns sold before the restrictions went into place. Seems many had been thinking about getting one but put it off until it became clear they might no longer be able to get one. In the final months before the restrictions deadline there were lines at the gun store.

    If murder rates are falling it is ironic that people are going out and buying more guns under the misconception that there is more danger

    Murder isn’t the only danger but even that doesn’t stop with gun control. Here’s a recent example found just two days ago in of all places Gun Control Paradise: http://www.foxnews.com/entertainment/2016/01/08/bodies-found-confirmed-to-be-eastenders-actress-and-her-kids/?intcmp=ob_article_sidebar_video&intcmp=obnetwork . The murders weren’t by gunshot. I guess dying from induced head and neck injuries is a whole lot better than getting shot.

    The alcohol prohibition got started some 100 years ago under the same reasoning behind gun control, namely, to stop crime. Besides, no one needs alcohol. Remove alcohol and people will stop being criminals. The effect was a disaster. It’s one of the unintended side effects of addressing symptoms instead of the actual problem. We need to stop flailing about and focus.

  50. Sheri,

    How does Obama’s executive order prevent this woman of acquiring a gun unless she’s a criminal or insane. It might delay for a few days but the executive order does not prevent people of acquiring fire arms.

    Maybe you prefer that ISIS followers be able to by guns as they want while being on the no fly list.

  51. Matt – As an Italian living in the US since 2003 I do believe that the US gun law has contributed to the avoidance of any dictatorship or even oligarchy present in almost all the EU nations (not just Hitler; think of Mussolini, Franco, all the Russian Dear Fathers but also the existence of still 12 EU monarchies and many politicians that have been “influencing” their nations for several decades).

    Additionally, the sacred respect for the Constitution and Bill of Rights that Americans have, ensures that little passive acceptance is granted to US government when trying to step into citizen’s personal rights. This is very different than EU where many supra-national and never-elected governments impose more and more rules and restrictions (although highly dependent on the nation).

    Finally, as Sheri says, the US are not Europe and it is naive to assume that with the same European gun laws the US would be the same as the rest of “civilized” nations.

    With all the above however, I still have not found a convincing as in “data based” argument against not banning all firearms, other than saying that it cannot be done since it would violate the Bill of Rights.

    The argument of the Banners is: “A) UK/Canada/Germany/France/Italy/… have homicide rate around 0.3 per 100K while the US is around 3.5 per 100K. B) UK/Canada/Germany/France/Italy/… have almost a total ban on guns while the US allows guns. Therefore make the US like UK/Canada/Germany/France/Italy/… on guns and you have no more problems”.

    How true/false is the above?

  52. Dav,

    As my link above shows. Households withou a gun have risen by 14% since the 1980s. Meaning that less people have more guns

  53. LOL Australian population fairly homogenous? A fair chunk of our population was born overseas:

    http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/allprimarymainfeatures/66CDB63F615CF0A2CA257C4400190026?opendocument

    Of those born in Australia, many are second or third generation immigrant stock and trace heritage to a variety of countries (mostly European, but more recently Asia as well).

    Like many other nations, we are bemused at all the fuss over gun ownership in the USA. It’s simply not that big a deal here. We had a particularly horrific mass killing (Port Arthur) some years ago, and that prompted the then conservative government (ironically called the Liberal Party*) to launch a weapons buy-back scheme.

    Out of curiousity, how much influence does the current citizen armament affect day-to-day policy and law-making decisions in the USA. Yeah, thought so… that argument is about as useful as referring to The US Constitutional rights and amendments forged in a very different time in an entirely different environment. Why do people think some laws shouldn’t be updated to reflect the radically different world we currently live in?

    JMJ, I am surprised you didn’t get reprisals for the RvW reference (Levitt etc). I am aware there were criticisms and subsequent revisions of the original work.

    * I would argue that Liberal is probably a reasonable descriptor when comparing US and Aus politics, as we are a tad left-shifted compared to you in the northern hemisphere. Not as far left as Europe, not by a long stretch, but we certainly have nothing like the GOP down here, let alone the Tea Party mob.

  54. Dav,

    Following your reasoning you should ban law against theft and murder for the reason that they don’t prevent all murder or theft.

  55. DAV: Agreed on all points.

    mxc132: The argument you asked about—it is true IF guns are the ONLY factor in gun crimes, ie, remove the guns and magically the murders will cease. However, it is false IF there are factors other than the presence of guns in the homicides. It is also possibly false if the presence of guns in homes discourages break-ins and other crimes. We know for certain that the statement is not true. Guns are not the only factor. (The logical form of the argument is true, but there are suppositions in the premises that are not stated in the argument which affect the truth value of the argument. The first supposition is “guns are the only cause of current homicide rate” and that is obviously false.)

    Wyoming, according to Wiki, has the highest percentage of gun ownership, but one of the lowest homicide rates with a gun. My husband and I noted watching the news that alcohol and drugs play a huge part in gun deaths. People get drunk and then stupid and then end up dead or in jail. Remove the alcohol and drugs and the crime rate plummets even further.

    Bulldust: I stated that the problem with gun control in the USA is the lawmakers will not use the one method to change the Constitution, which is repealing the amendment, to outlaw gun ownership because they know they can’t make that work. Americans will not vote to get rid of guns. I could why Australians care in the least about US laws and whether or not we have guns? We wonder why Australians handed theirs over so easily and are so happy being ruled like sheep. Honestly, I don’t care at all what you do in your country. Yet every time the gun control comes up in the USA, those without guns jump right in to say “You people should get rid of your guns”. Really? Reminds me of people who couldn’t stand their kids and recommend everyone have three or four so everyone can be as miserable as they were.

    I would also note that the radically different world we live in would call for more guns, not less. Australia won’t let in millions of Syrian and South American refugees. They turn back boats. The idiots in the USA and Europe let them in so they rape and grope women in public (in Germany) and take over public housing (in Germany) and commit all types of violent crime. There is no assimilation. They are not immigrants. They are invaders. Australia does not seem to be lapping up millions of Syrian invaders ever though they have plenty of space for them. I wonder why?

    (I am fascinated by idiots that call the Tea Party a “mob”. You just regurgitate whatever you hear on the MSM and have no clue what a “mob” is. Your definition has to be “a group of individuals exercising their political freedoms in a responsible way causing no violence and leaving behind a cleaner area than when they came” versus the “proper” politics of the Left in the US which leaves mounds of garbage behind after protests, say they want to kill Tea Party members, use profanity and threats, burn down businesses, etc. That’s an interesting definition of not being a mob.)

  56. Sheri,
    Yes, It is hardly a mystery but irony that people are buying guns when the numbers of deaths from guns is “shown to be going down.” There is some justified anxiety there is also hysteria. Who knows who’s reaction is misplaced.

    There’s one sure way to make the public angry and panic and that’s be seen to do nothing, do nothing, or deny the problem. Obama’s been doing this more than any leader. When he made that speech about no imminent threat I just knew the true depths of his foolishness although he’s always made me cringe.

    About rape victims, the best they can do is none of Obamas business. The German women? We knew they were coming to do this. I’m assuming you never saw the videos from a while back. They are alarming.

    Incidentally they’re not Syrians. They’re from all over Africa and Middle East. It has always been an invasion.
    It was obvious when they first started disrupting the ports at Calais and breaking into the channel tunnel. No refugee crosses multiple safe borders to reach safety. These are say 90 percent fit, riotous fighting age, non females not refugees.

  57. Sheri – perhaps less lashing out and a little more decorum would win more arguments. I lived in the US for a few years and my wife is from NY. She is equally bemused by the firearms carry on. ‘Mob’* is used in Australia to indicate a group of people without any perjorative vibe, unlike your apparent perception of the word.

    IMO in Australia we have a lot more influence over our politicians than the USA. They still get kicked out of office for relatively minor transgressions, unlike the US where milking the power of the position is assumed/expected. We had a State Premier (political party head in our biggest state parliament) step down over not reporting a gift of a bottle of wine worth $5,000 IIRC. One wonders what else might have gone on, but could you imagine the same in the US?

    It is up to each country to chose their politicians and laws, so I am not lecturing the USA unlike your implications about Australians being sheep. Nothing could be further from the truth. Perhaps if you read what I said instead of imagining things you think I implied, there would be less confusion.

    As for the boat refugee issue – here are a couple of things to mull over. We take in a fair share of refugees, but we also like control over our sovereign borders. It is easier to enforce as an island (albeit sparsely populated – for good reason… the middle ain’t particularly hospitable). The conservative government here had a policy of not accepting refugees arriving informally (i.e. not through UNHCR etc). So they turned away boats. The Labor (centre-left) government reversed that policy with disastrous results. The boats ramped up and over a thousand people died at sea as far as we know… possibly many more. So when the conservatives (Liberal Party) got back in they set about stopping the boats again, with success. None of the above affected Australia’s refugee intake. The informals under Labor essentially queue jumped the formal refugees.

    Also, there is no point letting in “millions of refugees” when our population is less than 25 million. The country couldn’t handle it effectively. Makes more sense to do these things in a measured way, no?

    * Aussie defn: A group of people who not necessarily troublesome. Also, it’s a family or herd of kangaroos.

  58. Bulldust: I found that decorum is actually useless in many of the discussions in politics. Politicians who advocate for this behaviour are well on their way out in America, where people have grown tired of being told to “be nice” while the liberals and progressives steamroller over everyone. Liberals and progressives are not nice—as I previously noted, they are for killing climate deniers, rioting and looting, etc. Hard to have decorum when you’re dealing with people whose idea of decorum is everyone nodding in agreement with them.

    Noted on the term “mob”. I appreciate your pointing that out.

    No, I can’t imagine anything similar to your State Premier stepping down here in the US. I think that may have ended right after Nixon.

    “we are bemused at all the fuss over gun ownership in the USA. It’s simply not that big a deal here.” sounds like “Americans are foolish to worry about gun issues”. Not any different than my reference to sheep and Australia, which you interpret as insulting, I call it descriptive. (Nor any different than your note about a “family or herd of kangaroos” either.)

    I agree that there’s no reason for Australia to take in refugees/invaders. There’s no reason for the US to do so either. We just have to get politicians elected that understand that.

  59. Whenever I wonder about the meaning of a word, my first resort is to a dictionary. Here’s what the folks at Merriam-Webster have to say about mob:

    1 : a large or disorderly crowd; especially : one bent on riotous or destructive action

    2 : the lower classes of a community : masses, rabble

    3 chiefly Australian : a flock, drove, or herd of animals

    4 : a criminal set : gang; especially often capitalized : mafia 1

    5 chiefly British : a group of people : crowd

  60. One thing I noticed about these graphs in Fig 7 between 1920 and 1940 was they correlated well with the Imposition of the Prohibition of alcohol when there was a lot of violence between the mobs selling illegal booze. Note that murders dramatically dropped after 1933 when prohibition was repealed. Again, note the graphs between 1965 and the present. Starting around 1965 the Vietnam war heated up. Then there was the “Free Love” revolution where the use of drugs really took off with the flower child generation. Today we have an epidemic in drug use and drug dealers fighting turf wars. Much of the murders are taking place in the big inner cities, like Detroit, NYC, New Orleans, LA to name a couple. If you could remove about a dozen large cities from the equation, it would dramatically reduce the murder rate in America. Better yet, legalize drugs and tax it. Alcohol was something that had a huge market. So does drugs. It’s not going to go away. We’re just filling up the jails with the low level users. As far as machine guns, anyone who can qualify for a Federal Firearms permit can own just about any firearm they can obtain. For those interested, google the “Hiram Maxim society” . They are a group of people who all own all types of automatic weapons up to, and I know of one person, who owns a fully operational WW 2 Sherman TANK!! Hauls it around on a WW 2 flat bed trailer truck to various reenactments of WW 2 .

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