the ineffectiveness of “assault weapon bans”, part 2

This time, I will go ahead and be forthright about the two firearms I want you to consider.

This is a Springfield Armory M1A SOCOM II that I purchased a number of years ago.  You will have to forgive the lacking quality of the photo – it turns out I sold it before I took any good pictures of it.

DSCF3248

And this is an AR-15 that I half-built, half-bought.  Again, you will have to forgive the truly derp-tastic stock that is on it presently – it did not last long, and it has a much better stock presently, I am just bad about taking pictures apparently.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Now here is the important part:

Both firearms are semi-automatic, magazine-fed rifles; i.e. both will shoot as fast as you can pull the trigger, and both can accept magazines up to 100 rounds (though I cannot imagine carrying the M1A at that point).  However, the M1A shoots a larger, heavier bullet that has, on average, double the muzzle energy of the bullet shot by the AR-15 and somewhere around double the maximum range.

So here is this post’s test: one of these firearms is currently banned by the California Assault Weapon Control Act, and one of them is not.  Which is banned?

If you answered “the more powerful rifle”, you would be wrong.

That M1A was, ironically, purchased in California – I even still have a picture of the receipt –  after I discovered that coming by AR-15s there would be… challenging.  At that point, I figured I might as well go with the more-powerful, more-capable rifle, simply to drive home the point that the state’s “assault weapon ban” was precisely useless.

As the previous post indicated, the entire notion of “assault weapon bans” is flawed to begin with since it literally prohibits one configuration of a rifle, but allows another configuration of the exact same rifle.  Once you realize that those bans allow firearms that work in almost the same way* but are significantly more powerful than their banned brethren?

Well, then it becomes painfully apparent that the purpose of the bans is not “safety”.

(* – Both firearms are gas-operated; the AR-15 uses direct impingement while the M1A uses a short-stroke piston system.  Both are still semi-automatic, but the two operating systems are just different ways of employing the gasses from the discharging round to cycle the actions.)

the ineffectiveness of “assault weapon bans”, part 1

Do you what the difference is between this rifle:

RugerMini14

… and this rifle:

RugerMini14Tac

I will give you a few hints to make it easier:

Both are made by Sturm, Ruger & Co., Inc.

Both will happily shoot either .223 Remington or 5.56x45mm NATO.

Both are semi-automatic and gas-operated with locking breech bolts and a self-cleaning gas cylinder.

Both will shoot as fast as you can pull the trigger, one round at a time.

Both accept removable magazines ranging from five rounds to 100 rounds.

Both have cold hammer-forged barrels for increased accuracy and longevity.

Both are configured to accept magnifying optics and have ghost-ring sights if you choose to stick with iron sights.

Both are set up to accept slings.

In other words, I have a confession to make:  there is no functional difference between the two rifles.  

Yes, one is configured to be more ergonomic for the end user, what with the adjustable butt stock and the flash hider to mitigate the flash of the round being fired beneath the sights/optic.  However, the top rifle can almost entirely be transformed into the bottom rifle so long as you have a small screwdriver and the “tactical” stock (even the flash hider can be added without having to thread the barrel).

That is all you need.

But the top rifle would have been legal under the failed Federal Assault Weapon Ban, and under the current California Assault Weapons Control Act, while the bottom rifle was not and is not.

Even better?  The top rifle’s barrel is about two inches longer, giving it about 50-100 feet-per-second more velocity at the muzzle.  So, arguably, it is the more-powerful of the two rifle… but it is the AWB-approved one.

When the features that were banned under the “Assault Weapon Ban” have no actual impact on the operation of the firearm, and when that ban can be circumvented by a single screwdriver, just what was its point?

Assault Weapon

(For reference, the top rifle is a Ruger Mini-14 Ranch Rifle, and the bottom is a Ruger Mini-14 Tactical Rifle.  Both images were borrowed from Ruger.)

what is “high-powered”?

what is “high-powered”?

One of the favorite tactics of “gun control” organizations when demonizing AR-15s, AK-47-pattern rifles, and other “assault weapons”* is to decry them as being “high-powered” rifles unsuitable for civilian use.

As with so many things those organizations proclaim, that is simply not true.

The following graphic was built with numbers provided by the respective calibers’ Wikipedia pages, with the exception of 12 gauge, where the numbers came from Winchester Ammunition‘s line of 1 ounce slugs.  These numbers should be considered approximate averages, given the differences generated by barrel lengths, powder loading, bullet weight, and so forth, but the data will be sufficient for the point I am making.

MuzzleEnergyByCaliber

It is worth noting that the .223 / 5.56 were developed in 1963, the 7.62×39 in 1944, the .30-06 in 1906, the 7mm Remington Magnum in 1962, and the .300 Winchester Magnum in 1963.  It is difficult to truly date the 12 gauge caliber, but the concept of a shotgun has been around since at least 1728.

It is also worth noting that the AR-15, by dint of its modular nature, can support a wide variety of other calibers; however, even the most energetic (.50 Beowulf, I believe) still falls a few hundred foot-pounds short of the venerable .30-06.  Additionally, it is the niche product of a niche market; in other words, you are unlikely to see one, ever.

So, no, neither AR-15s nor AK-pattern rifles nor pretty much any other form of “assault weapons” could be considered “high-powered” rifles when compared against the rifles that millions of American hunters take into the forests every year, many of which are chambered in calibers developed decades before the AR/AK’s.

As usual, if the “gun control” organizations did not lie, they would have nothing to say.

(* – The arbitrary, capricious, and ultimately meaningless definition of “assault weapon” will be addressed in a later post.)

graphics matter, international edition

graphics matter, international edition

Now that we have shown that the hypothesis “more guns = more ‘gun deaths'” cannot be true in America, what about on an international scale?

Well, this is where things get really complicated.

Not all countries keep good records of their respective murders, much less their respective firearm ownership, so we are going to have to do a massive amount of estimating.

For the number of firearms in civilian ownership, we will refer to the 2007 Small Arms Survey, Chapter 2, Annexe 3 (*.pdf warning) and their documentation of 178 different countries.  We will consider the numbers from every possible country in North, South, and Central America; North, South, Eastern, and Western Europe; Oceania; and a few other odds and ends to round out the data set to a good sample body of 100.  I used the average of the “Low Total from Outside Sources” and “High Total from Outside Sources” where available, and “Registered” if not, to generate the ownership numbers for the individual countries.  It is worth noting that some useful countries – like Denmark, India, and Luxembourg – are omitted from the survey, or the only numbers available are “Total from Regional Correlation”; i.e. they were making a guess based on the guesses they made around that country.

Likewise, the population numbers for the countries considered came from the same Small Arms Survey.

I hate to admit this, simply because I hate using Wikipedia as a primary source for anything, but the numbers of murders per country, from which I calculated their murder rates, is from the List of countries by intentional homicide rates.  As always, these numbers are subject to the inherent flaws in various countries’ recording methods, as well as the flaws intrinsic to Wikipedia itself.

It is worth noting that we are considering total murders this time around, rather than simply “gun deaths”.  If you think recording methods are inconsistent among various nations, just imagine how messy trying to track means of death would be.

Here is the end result:

GunsAndMurdersInternationally

You almost certainly will want to click on it to make it larger.

The line slanting down from left to right is the trendline of the datapoints; basically it shows that the correlation between firearm ownership rates and murder rates in the 100 countries sampled is negative, at a coefficient of -0.1832.  Note that this is a weak correlation, and thus cannot be considered binding.

In other words, as with the trend here in America, the hypothesis that “more guns = more deaths” cannot be true on an international scale.  I am not a betting man, but I am starting to see a trend here…

If you want to see what the other 100 countries were, since a goodly number are stacked on top of each other, the source data is available for your consideration.

graphics matter, part two

graphics matter, part two

Now that we have dispensed with the myth that “more guns = more gun deaths”, what about the second-most-favorite talking point of the “gun control” movement: “more guns = more ‘gun violence’“?

Well, the first problem is what, exactly, is “gun violence”?  For simplicity’s sake, and for the sake of actually finding relevant data, I am going to define “gun violence” as “any crime committed with the assistance of a firearm”, or “CCwF” for short.  Specifically, after consulting the Federal Bureau of Investigation‘s Uniform Crime Reports for 2013, we are going to consider murders, robberies, and assaults where the perpetrators employed a firearm.

As with the previous post, the Centers for Disease Control will be providing the population of the United States (though we will not be using WISQARS, since we are not interested exclusively in fatalities or injuries), the Small Arms Survey of 2003 will provide the starting point of our firearm count estimation, with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives and Shooting Industry News providing the production numbers, and Radical Gun Nuttery did the counting for the number of “shall-issue” / “Constitutional carry” states out there.

So, given all of those wonderful numbers, do more guns really mean more “gun violence”?

PopulationFirearmsCrimes

Nope.

For the numerically inclined, the rate of firearm ownership correlates with the rate of crimes committed with firearms with a coefficient of -0.58535, indicating a negative correlation between the two data sets.

Even when we consider raw numbers, the number of firearms in America versus the number of crimes committed with firearms correlates with a coefficient of -046199, still indicating a negative correlation.

In other words, the hypothesis of “more guns = more ‘gun violence'” cannot be true.

Again, feel free to check my work (*.xlsx file); folks have pointed out mistakes I have made in the past, and I am always seeking greater accuracy.

Also, it is worth noting that somewhere in the 2012 to 2013 range, assuming the Small Arms Survey of 2003 is even close to accurate, America reached parity between its population and the number of firearms in its borders; there are enough firearms for every single American to own one.  I dare say our Founding Fathers would approve.

graphics matter

graphics matter

One of the favorite myths of “gun control” advocates is that as the number of firearms in Americans’ hands increases, so too does the number of firearm-related deaths increase.  Superficially, this seems to make sense, and thus it is an appealing fiction to buy into.

Fortunately, the actual data proves the hypothesis to be false.

To begin with, I should clarify that we will be considering the rates of firearm ownership and rates of firearm-related fatalities, since raw numbers are affected by population growth or decline.  Thankfully, the United States population is fairly well documented, and we will be using the Centers for Disease Control‘s information.

Additionally, causes of death are also well documented, also by the CDC.  Their WISQARS Fatal Injury Reports are updated on a yearly basis, and their data set spans from 1981 to 2012, so that will be our consideration window.

Unfortunately (from the analytical standpoint), the first part of the equation – the number of firearms in private Americans’ hands – is nowhere near as accurately recorded.  Obviously I am quite sanguine with the federal government having no idea who owns what firearms or in what numbers, but it does make statistical examinations a little more challenging.  However, the Small Arms Survey of 2003 is perhaps an authoritative estimate on private ownership of arms in various nations, and they calculate the lower bound of US firearm numbers in 2003 as approximately 238,000,000.  The Small Arms Survey organization is decidedly against the “proliferation of small arms”, by their own words, so we have every reason to believe they inflate their numbers for greater impact, but we can accept that as a starting point.

From that starting point, we will add, or subtract, the firearm production figures provided by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and ExplosivesFirearms Commerce in the United States document, at least as far back as 1986 (the earliest publication of that document).  Before then, we will rely on the Shooting Industry News.

Finally, while it does not factor into the “does ‘more firearms’ mean ‘more firearm-related deaths?” question, the number of “shall-issue” and “Constitutional carry” states is also included in the data, with the tallying done by Radical Gun Nuttery (their *.gif documenting the march of our rights across the nation is quite handy).

So, with all this data at our fingertips, does “more firearms = more firearm-related deaths” hold true?

PopulationFirearmsDeaths

In short, no.

For those who want more than pretty pictures, when one considers the rates – i.e. the number of firearms or firearm-related fatalities per 10,000 people – the rate of firearm ownership correlates to the rate of firearm-related fatalities with a coefficient of -0.80155, indicating a strong, negative correlation between the two data sets.

Even when you look at the raw numbers, the number of firearms in America correlated to the number of firearm-related fatalities – i.e. “gun deaths” – with a coefficient of –0.36471, which still indicates a negative correlation between those two data sets.

At this point, it is important to clarify that correlation does not indicate, nor prove, causality… but I am not attempting to prove causality here.  However, by stating that “more guns causes more ‘gun deaths'”, the anti-rights community is attempting to claim causality, and one that would outright require positive correlation.

No such positive correlation exists.

As such, the hypothesis of “more guns = more ‘gun deaths'” cannot be true.

Feel free to spread this information as far as you like, and if you are so inclined, I welcome people checking my work (*.xlsx file).  Unlike anti-firearms organizations, I make no attempt at hiding my raw data, or the ways it was crunched.

(As a further aside, it would not matter if the hypothesis could be true – the overwhelming majority of firearm-owning Americans have broken no laws nor harmed anyone, and, as such, no one has any standing to unjustly deprive them of property or rights.)