Guns and Gun Violence: Just the Facts, Part Two.

This is the second part of a two-part post concerning guns and gun violence here in the United States. In the first part I compared gun violence in the US to that in nineteen other nations starting with a comparison of gun ownership to the rate of gun violence.

I also considered the question of whether simply removing guns would only result in murders being committed by other means. In other words, ‘guns aren’t the problem, people are the problem’. Finally I looked at how gun suicide is actually a much greater problem than gun homicide.

In today’s post I intent to continue to look at the issue of gun violence from state to state within the US. As in the first part I will try to only present the facts and allow you to make up your own mind. Consider the evidence below and hopefully we can find some solutions to this horrific problem.

One thing I discovered in researching data for this post is that very often it is impossible to find the exact same type of data for different countries or different areas within a country. For example in my last post I described the number of guns in a country as the number of guns owned per person, which was the statistic I used.

However for different states within the United States that statistic is not available. What statistical measure is available is the percentage of households in each state with a gun, which is the statistic I will employ today. The fact that different governments and agencies within governments often keep different statistical measurements is one of the reasons why making sense of issues like gun violence is so very difficult.

In the table below I list twenty states and the percentage of households in those states that possess guns. The states were chosen at random except I intentionally included my home state of Pennsylvania.

Table 1

Column 1 of the table gives the percent of households with guns while column 2 gives the number of gun related deaths per 300,000 people in those states. The relationship between those statistics can be seen more clearly when they are plotted together as in Figure 1.

Figure 1

The figure makes clear the dependence of gun violence on gun availability. I’ll bet you didn’t know that Arkansas was so much more dangerous a place that New York or New Jersey. Those states with stricter controls on guns simply have less gun violence, that is just a fact.

However, as in my last post we must consider the argument that if people can’t get guns they will still commit murders with other weapons. To analyze that argument I will plot the total number of homicides in each state (in table 1 the far column on the right) versus the number of homicides committed by guns (third column from the left) in Figure 2.

Figure 2

This figure shows clearly that the total number of homicides in a state tracks pretty well with the number of gun homicides. The percentage of total to gun homicides (shown in the second column from the right) varies between about 75% and 55%, except for Hawaii which has hardly any gun homicides.

So for the argument that if people can’t get guns they’ll still commit violence with other weapons consider this. Arkansas has almost no gun restrictions and people there choose a gun to commit murder 71% of the time. Meanwhile New Jersey has some of the most restrictive gun laws in the US and there people use a gun to commit murder 71% of the time. The people in New Jersey are not using other weapons to kill each other they are actually killing each other less often!

In my last post I also discovered that a greater availability of guns in a country greatly increased the number of gun related suicides in that country. I will now show that this is also true for the states within the US. Figure 3 shows a breakdown of the total number of gun deaths into homicides and suicides along with accidental gun deaths.

Again it can be seen that the number of gun suicides is higher than gun homicides in all but two out of twenty states. In fact, what is going on in Montana which has relatively few gun homicides but by far the greatest number of gun suicides! The Suicide rate there is more than ten times the homicide rate!

I don’t know about you but I think I learned quite a bit in researching the statistical evidence for these last two posts. I particular I admit I was shocked by the amount of gun related suicides.

However all of the evidence I’ve shown here only confirmed something I had already known before I started. More Guns Just Means More Violence! This is true whether you are considering gun violence across different nations (as in Figures 1 and 2 in my last post) or across different states (as in Figure 1 of this post).

Also, while it is true that people will commit violence even without guns the reason we so often choose guns to commit our violence is because they make it so easy to commit violence. Guns make us more efficient killers and therefore just increase the bloodshed.

It’s just a fact that the countries with fewer guns, Denmark, England or Japan for example, have less violence, not just less gun violence. The same is true of states; Hawaii and Massachusetts are just safer places to live because they have fewer guns!

I’ll end my analysis here. The evidence speaks for itself.