graphics matter, demographics edition

By and large, I am generally disinclined to believe Pew’s / Gallup’s / [insert polling agency here]’s reporting of firearm ownership rates in America.  First and foremost, there are some pretty significant flaws in modern polling methods.  Second and perhaps more importantly, based on my entirely-anecdotal-but-decades-long experience with the firearm-owning public, the probability of an average firearm owner answering truthfully when a random stranger calls them on the phone or knocks on their door asking if they own firearm is… vanishingly small.

However, exclusively for the sake of discussion, I am willing to accept a small part of this 2017 Pew Research Center report on the demographics of firearm ownership.  If you read through it, you will see that people who live in rural areas are approximately 2.4x more likely to own a firearm than people who live in urban areas (46% of rural residents reported owning a firearm, versus 19% of urban residents).

Given that we are talking about rates, Pew has already normalized for the substantial population differences between the two areas, so if the “gun control” extremists’ hypothesis of “more guns = more ‘gun deaths'” were true (we already know it is not, but bear with me here), one would expect rural areas to have a strictly higher rate of firearm-related fatalities, and probably close to 2.4x higher, right?

Unsurprisingly, that hypothesis continues to fail:

 

UrbanRuralGunDeaths
Please note that that the firearm ownership rate is per 100 people, while the “gun death” rate is per 1,000,000 individuals.  This is necessary to have both numbers significantly visible on the chart.  

 

Naturally, the firearm-related fatality rates come from the CDC’s WISQARS system, by way of their new “Metro / Non-Metro Indicator”.

Naturally, there will be some differences as to how WISQARS counts “urban” incidents as compared to Pew’s methods, but even accounting for those slight variations… well, the chart speaks for itself, as I always endeavor to accomplish.

You know, if they were not so busy trying to paint hundreds of millions of peaceful Americans as children-hating mass-murderers who deserve to have their Constitutionally-protected rights unjustly stripped from them, I would almost feel bad for the “gun control” extremists.  They just cannot seem to catch a break when it comes to the facts of the debate.

 

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graphics matter, part two, 2018 edition

The first version of this post (on this site, at least) provides the full explanation of how and why this series exists, but the same two disclaimers from the first part of this year’s edition apply to this one as well:  “more guns = more ‘gun violence'” is not my hypothesis, and I am not setting out to prove causation.

As with last year’s update, I am using the usual sources:  the FBI’s Uniform Crime Report for 2015, the Centers for Disease Control, the Small Arms Survey of 2003, the BATFE’s Firearms Commerce in the United States, and Radical Gun Nuttery.

So, have the “gun control” extremists’ pipe dream of “more guns = more ‘gun violence'” finally come true?

PopulationFirearmsCrimes2018

You probably already know the answer.

The rate of average firearm ownership in America and the rate of crimes committed with firearms correlates with a coefficient of -0.734, indicating a strong, negative correlation between the two.

The raw number of firearms in America and the raw number of crimes committed with firearms correlates with a coefficient of -0.40019, indicating a negative correlation between the two.

In other words, the hypothesis of “more guns = more ‘gun violence’ remains false.  Still.

(Feel free to check my work (*.xlsx file).)

(Important note:  It has come to my attention that comparing, for example, this year’s correlation numbers to last year’s correlation numbers will be inherently flawed, on account of both the FBI and the CDC going back and updating/correcting/etc. information up to five years in the past.  The most-recent “graphics matter” post will have the most-recent information from both sources, but the previous years’ information from last year’s posts may have been updated/changed.  I do not know how, for example, the CDC managed to misrecord the US population from four years ago, but it is a little annoying.)

graphics matter, 2018 edition

Before I provide you this year’s update on the data, it has come to my attention that I need to clarify a few things.

  1. The hypothesis of “more guns = more deaths” is not my hypothesis, claim, or allegation.  In point of fact, it is the underlying, foundational argument of every “gun control” organization in the country, and I am simply accepting it, at face value, for the sake of examining it.
  2. I am not setting out to prove any causation.  In other words, I am emphatically not making the counter-argument that “more guns = fewer deaths”.  Such a claim would require a lot more work and study than I am willing to put into these posts, unlike those aforementioned “gun control” organizations, who are more than willing to perpetuate easily-believable falsehoods in order to line their pockets and unjustly limit your rights.

With those caveats made as explicit as I can, it’s time to give y’all the update to last year’s post.  So, with another year’s data under our belt, is the hypothesis of “more guns = more deaths” accurate?

… not so much.

PopulationFirearmsDeaths2018

There was a surprising uptick in firearm-related fatalities in 2015, but over the course of the 34 years tracked, the trend remains mostly the same.

The number of firearms per capita and the number of firearm-related fatalities per capita correlate with a coefficient of -0.74808 – indicating a very strong, but negative, correlation between the two data sets.

The number of total firearms and the number of total firearm-related fatalities correlate with a coefficient of -0.17420 – indicating a significantly weaker, but still negative, correlation.

As students of statistics remember, correlation does not prove, or even indicate, causation, but correlation is a requirement for causation.  In other words, given that neither the rates nor the raw numbers are positively correlated, then the increase in firearms in the country over time cannot be causing an associated increase in firearm-related deaths.

In simpler terms, the hypothesis of “more guns = more deaths” remains false.

(The first post in this series, wherein I spell out the above caveats differently, but I thought fairly clearly, is available here.  The source Excel spreadsheet from which I generated the above graphic and numbers is available here, should anyone care to check my work.  As always, my sources are the CDC’s WISQARS Fatal Injury Reports (for firearm-related deaths and the US population), the Small Arms Survey of 2003 (for a starting point from which to calculate the number of firearms in circulation), the BATFE’s Firearms Commerce in the United States (this time the 2017 edition, and for the number of firearms produced/imported), the Shooting Industry News (for firearm production numbers before 1986), and Radical Gun Nuttery (for the number of shall-issue/Constitutional Carry states in the Union).

graphics matter, part two, 2017 edition

Last year’s edition of this post adequately explained the methods and reasons behind this post, so feel free to skim it if you need a refresher.  The sources remain the same:

So, with another year of data under our belt, does my answer to the hypothesis of “more guns = more ‘gun violence’” change?

PopulationFirearmsCrime2017

Nope.

The short answer is that the rate of firearm ownership correlates with the rate of crimes committed with a firearm with a coefficient of -0.57582, showing a negative correlation between the two.

Likewise, the raw number of firearms in private hands correlates to the raw number of crimes committed with a firearm with a coefficient of -0.44568, also indicating a negative correlation between these two data sets.

In a shock to no one, the hypothesis of “more guns = more ‘gun violence'” still cannot be true.

As always, please feel free to check my work (*.xlsx file).

 

graphics matter, 2017 edition

“More data more better” is pretty much the rule when it comes to statistics, so I try to update the “graphics matter” series every year or so as my various sources update their data sets.  I missed a year somewhere in there, but I am happy to bring you the new, improved, examination of whether or not the hypothesis of “more guns = more ‘gun deaths'” holds true.

The results… will not surprise regular readers.

AmericanPopulationFirearmsDeaths2017

That is the chart, but what about the actual numbers?

The two pertinent rates – the number of firearms per capita versus the number of firearm-related fatalities per capita – correlate with a coefficient of -0.79744, indicating a strong, negative correlation between the two sets of data.

If you look at the raw numbers – the number of firearms, period, versus the number of firearm-related fatalities, or “gun deaths” – they correlate with a coefficient of -0.27315, which remains a negative correlation.

As always, correlation does not necessarily indicate, or even come close to proving, causality; but I am also not trying to prove causality.  However, the notion of “more guns = more ‘gun deaths'” does try to claim causality, when there is absolutely no positive correlation to support such a causal link.

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

(The previous version of this, along with a great deal more explanation, is available here.  The Excel spreadsheet from which I built the above graphic is available here.  My sources are the CDC’s WISQARS Fatal Injury Reports, the Small Arms Survey of 2003, the BATFE’s Firearms Commerce in the United States, the Shooting Industry News, and Radical Gun Nuttery.)

is “gun control” a “health issue”?

A very few folks have been making a lot of noise recently about how “gun control” – and specifically firearm-related deaths – is a “health issue”.

Unfortunately, the analogy falls flat on its face straight out of the gate simply because we only have some, if any, control over the current leading causes of death in America, while firearms are completely under human control.  Firearms are not a genetic marker that indicates your brain is going to start destroying itself as you get older – they only fire when a human makes them.  Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of diseases/ailments.

But if we were to ignore the lacking logical basis for such an argument, do the numbers even come close to supporting it?

Predictably, not so much.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 2,626,418 people died in 2014.  The ten leading causes for those deaths were:

  • Heart disease: 614,348
  • Cancer: 591,699
  • Chronic lower respiratory diseases: 147,101
  • Accidents (unintentional injuries): 136,053
  • Stroke (cerebrovascular diseases): 133,103
  • Alzheimer’s disease: 93,541
  • Diabetes: 76,488
  • Influenza and Pneumonia: 55,227
  • Nephritis, nephrotic syndrome and nephrosis: 48,146
  • Intentional self-harm (suicide): 42,773

A keen-eyed observer will note that “firearms” occurred nowhere on that list.  However, an argument could be made that “accidents” and “suicides” both include some firearm-related deaths, so let us take a page from our own playbook – the square root of 2,262,418 is approximately 1621, and that is the x and y dimension of the following graphic at full size (click to enlarge):

AmericanDeaths

Firearm-related accidents – perhaps the most accurate analog to diseases – are represented by the smallest greenish square inside the slightly larger one, and only account for 586 of the total deaths according to the CDC’s WISQARS system.  Even if one were to focus exclusively on firearm-related suicides – since “suicide” as a whole does make the top 10 – those are only 21,334 out of the total 42,773 deaths in that category; almost exactly half.  Suicide is most certainly a mental health issue, but even if you were to wave a magic wand and disappear all firearms, countries that have already gone down that path show us that suicides will still find a way.  Perhaps, in those cases, time should be better spent determining why people suicide, rather than abridging millions of Americans’ rights in a vain attempt to control how people end their lives?

Regardless, as we already know, firearm-related fatality rates are already dropping across the board, including accidents, without doctors’ unnecessary involvement in the politics of the situation.  I would suggest that their time is better spent focusing on the other diseases and afflictions in which they are subject matter experts, rather than sticking their noses into topics they know very little about, especially since some of those diseases individually account for an order of magnitude more deaths than people misusing firearms.

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 -0.46199, 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.