putting firearm owners in perspective

According to the United States Census Bureau’s Population Clock, there were 317,474,097 people in America at the end of 2013.

Based on polls conducted by CBS News, the General Social Survey, Gallup, ABC News, The Washington Post, and CNN, it seems safe to conclude that at least a third of all Americans own a firearm, or live with someone who does.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reports for 2013, there were 273,044 total violent crimes committed with firearms (8454 murders, 122,266 assaults, and 142,324 robberies).

At full size (click to enlarge), the following graphic is 1029 pixels by 1029 pixels, and thus each pixel on it represents 100 firearm-owning Americans.  The small, red square in the lower-right corner of the graphic is 52 pixels by 52 pixels, and thus each pixel on it represents 100 violent crimes committed with firearms.

gunownerperspective

Even if you assume that every single violent crime committed with a firearm is committed by a separate firearm-owning American*, we are talking less than 0.26% of the total firearm-owning population of the country.  Yet “gun control” supporters are sanguine with limiting, abrogating, or outright denying rights to the entire blue area, all in the blind, baseless hope that their policies might reduce the size of the red square.

Of course, as we already know, that red square is shrinking all on its own despite – or, perhaps, because of – the increased number of firearms in citizens’ hands, the increased number of concealed carry permits, the fact that every state in the union now has some form of carry permit system, the increased prevalence of Constitutional Carry, and all of the other countless ways pro-rights activists have been preserving and protecting Americans’ rights.

(* – This is, of course, a horrible assumption to make, given America’s high recidivism rate.)

the ineffectiveness of “assault weapon bans”, part 5

One final nail in the coffin of “assault weapon” bans is that there is no single, universal definition of “assault weapons”, so what is it, exactly, that statists want to prohibit?

Wait, no actual definition of “assault weapon”?  What do you mean?

The Federal ban of 1994 did set something of a foundation for all of the future, state bans, but even those deviated enough from the template as to have almost no consistent classification.  Consider the below table for a comparison of all the various laws’ restrictions and regulations:

assaultweaponbancomparison

“Y” of course indicates that the law at the top of the column has a restriction on the feature to the left in the row, and “N” means there is no such restriction in that law.

“I” indicates that multiple laws have similar restrictions, but they are inconsistent on the details.  For example. the California “assault weapon” ban prohibits semi-automatic firearms with fixed magazines and capacities greater than 10 rounds, while New Jersey sets that bar at 15.  Likewise, the lists of specific makes/models are so wildly different – and frequently target firearms no longer even produced – that it would take a whole separate table to adequately compare them.

Finally, Hawaii can be largely disregarded for anything except pistols – their laws are largely silent on rifles and shotguns.

So let us look at rifles.  All relevant states seem to agree that semiautomatic rifles with detachable magazines as well as folding or telescoping stocks, flash suppressors, and grenade launchers are evil, though they cannot agree on whether only one of those final three items is enough for the whole rifle to be evil, or if two are required.

If you examine the table, you will see that there are another nine features for rifles that may or may not be evil, but the states simply cannot seem to agree on the finer points.

Even more amusingly, grenade launchers are already heavily regulated by the National Firearms Act, and both they and their ammunition are impressively difficult and painfully expensive to procure.  Additionally, Connecticut goes to the point of classifying rifles capable of “fully-automatic” or “burst” fire as “assault weapons”, despite those already being massively regulated and functionally banned by the combination of the National Firearms Act and the Hughes Amendment to the Firearm Owners Protection Act.

“Double Secret Probation” was supposed to be a joke, not reality.

Moving on to pistols, Maryland is largely silent on them, aside from providing a list of makes/models that constitute “assault pistols” and then only permitting firearms on the “handgun roster” to be sold in the state, so we will disregard them for this section.  The remainder of the states seem to agree that semiautomatic pistols with detachable magazines as well as a magazine that inserts into the firearm somewhere other than the pistol grip, threaded barrels, and barrel shrouds are all evil, but, again, the “one feature” / “two feature” tests are inconsistent among the laws.

Seven other features are mentioned by various laws, including some positively bone-headed ones like pistols with folding or telescoping stocks, or pistols with thumbhole stocks.  I hate to break it to the fine legislators of the great state of New York, but there is no such thing as a “pistol” with a folding or telescoping stock – federally, a firearm with a pistol-length barrel and a shoulderable stock is a short-barreled rifle, and, again, is subject to the National Firearms Act.

It’s always comforting when legislators have no idea what they’re regulating.

Finally, when it comes to shotguns, the only thing the relevant laws can agree is evil is a semi-automatic shotgun with a folding or telescoping stock, or any shotgun with a revolving cylinder.

The laws cannot seem to agree on any of the other four possible restrictions, including detachable magazines, oddly enough; those are a consistent point of contention for rifles and pistols, but apparently are less of a problem for shotguns.  Of course, handguns with revolving cylinders are perfectly acceptable in any of the jurisdictions that are or were limited by “assault weapon” bans, but revolving cylinders are apparently evil for shotguns.

Consistency has never been a strong point for “gun control” legislation, or supporters.

So what do “gun control” supporters mean when they say they want to ban “assault weapons”?  No one knows, not even them.  But that’s why the concept is so powerful – it can be redefined and re-engineered to demonize any firearm that the very few funders of the “gun control” movement care to target.  One wonders if those being blindly lead around by those few 1%ers realize how little they, or their supported politicians, know about the very things they are trying to restrict.

Original Excel File

References:  

Public Law 103-322 Title XI Subtitle A Section 110102 Subsection (b), also known as the Public Safety and Recreational Firearms Use Protection Act

California Penal Code 30510-30515

Connecticut General Statute Title 53 Section 202a

Hawaii Code Division 1 Title 10 Section 134-1

Maryland Code Title 4 Subtitle 3 Section 4-301

Massachusetts General Law Part I Title XX Chapter 140 Section 121

New Jersey State Code Title 14 Chapter 54 Subchapter 1

New York Penal Law Part 3 Title P Article 265 Section 00 Subsection (22)

Disclaimer:

I am not a lawyer, I did not play one on television, and I did not stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night.  It is entirely possible that I misread the miles of legalese I just waded through over the past few days, and either missed a pertinent detail, or misread one.  If you find or notice any errors in the above table and associated post, please feel free to let me know, and I’ll update it accordingly.

graphics matter, part three

As previously demonstrated, the hypothesis of “more guns = more deaths” not only is not true, but cannot be true historically in the United States.  Despite that simple fact, “gun control” supporters still bitterly cling to the irrational notion that firearms are naught but the tools of murder and mayhem.

So let us humor them for a second.  We know that the number of firearms in circulation in America has been steadily increasing for as long as the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives has been tracking the relevant numbers.  Likewise, the raw murder count in the States has dropped to numbers unseen since the 1960s.

However, what about the percentage of those murders committed with the assistance of a firearm?  After all, if firearms’ only purpose is to murder other people, one would think that, even if the overall murder rate is going down, the percentage of murders that involved a firearm would be going up given the increased number of firearms in the country.

Right?

Well, as with many of the things “gun control” advocates purport to be “common sense”, the reality is a little more complicated:

firearmsandmurders

The grey bars track the percentage of murders that were committed with the assistance of a firearm, and, as you can see, those bars do not come anywhere close to echoing the consistent climb of the number of firearms in the United States.

In fact, the trend line for the percentages is functionally level, with a slope of 0.0006, compared to the slope of 669.64 for the number of firearms in America.  Oh, and yes, that does mean that, averaged over the past 20 years, at least 6,696,400 firearms have been produced in or imported into the United States every year.

Despite the nearly level trend line of the percentages, there does exist a correlation of 0.14784 between the number of firearms in the United States and the percentage of murders committed with the assistance of firearms.  This is, however, a tremendously weak correlation, and given the very narrow range of percentages – a maximum of 64% and a minimum of 55% – it is certainly not enough to draw any kind of causal relationship.

So, could the increased number of firearms in public circulation lead to a higher percentage of murders involving those firearms?  Based on the available data, yes, it is possible… but it has not been happening consistently yet.

Source *.xls file.

Other Sources:

Small Arms Survey of 2003

Shooting Industry News

the ineffectiveness of “assault weapon bans”, part 3

Once again, I will have some pictures for you to consider, but first a little backstory.

One of the favorite arguments of those who support “assault weapon bans” is that a purpose/goal of the prohibitions is to keep “military” or “military-style” firearms out of the hands of private citizens.

Ignore, for a moment, that at the time of the Second Amendment’s ratification, every long arm, short arm, or other firearm-like device was both “military” and in the hands of private citizens.  Likewise, ignore that the Second Amendment was written to preserve exactly that kind of arrangement.

And, finally, ignore the entire concept of “military-style” – after all, how does the physical appearance of a device affect its actual performance?  After all, this looks a lot like this, but I guarantee you they are radically different (the first is an airsoft device, to begin with).

So, the remaining question is “Do ‘assault weapon bans’ actually keep military hardware out of the hands of American citizens?”

Well, here are your three firearms for consideration:

A:  

1891

B:

1926

C:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

And your first question: which of these are “military firearms”?

If you answered anything but “B”, I hate to break it to you, but you are wrong.

A is not legally considered a firearm, considering that it is a first-generation Mosin-Nagant Model 1891, and was thus produced before 1899.  Even if the firearm-looking device is an exact duplicate of a firearm still currently being made and using still-available ammunition, if that specific firearm-looking device left an assembly line before 1899, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms considers it to be an “antique”.

Granted, Mosins are not still being produced, but the Model 1891 featured above does chamber still-commercially-produced 7.62x54r ammunition.  However, thanks to its “antique” designation, it can be mail-ordered without involving a Federal Firearm Licensee – after all, it is not a firearm.

Firearm or not, it is almost a guarantee that the entirety of the first generation of Mosins saw service in the Soviet Union at some point, simply because between 1891 and now that country has been involved in almost non-stop conflicts, both external and internal.

B is a Finnish M91 produced between 1926 and 1927, and it almost unquestionably was a military firearm, courtesy of that country’s incessant border disputes with Russia, and that whole unpleasantness in the 1940s.

C is an AR-15 I purchased a few years back as a bare receiver and built up, and has never seen a day of military service in its short life.  Further, the AR-15 platform is used by basically no military, simply because those militaries can and do avail themselves of the significantly more capable M-16 and M4 platforms.

Now, the fun question: which of those firearms is subject to “assault weapon bans”?

If you have read the first two posts of this series, you probably already know the answer; the only firearm above subject to “assault weapon bans” is C.

The other two are actual military weapons that very likely were used by military personnel to kill other human beings, but it is the firearm that was never used by a military, from a model of firearm that was basically never used by the military, that people are so very concerned with.  If one wants to get truly specific, the combination of the National Firearms Act and the Hughes Amendment to the Firearm Owners Protection Act already make it functionally impossible for American citizens to procure most of even the types of firearms being used by militaries today, much less the actual, specific hardware.  But old military hardware?  90% of it, or more, is available for the purchasing, and some of it does not even require background checks, per the BATFE themselves.

So, no, “assault weapon bans” have absolutely nothing to do with the military heritage – or lack thereof, in almost all cases – of the firearms being banned.  Unfortunately, like so many of these talking points, that particular one is not likely to be dissuaded by facts.

(Mosin-Nagant images borrowed from 7.62x54r.net’s outstanding Mosin Identification page.)

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.)

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

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; for these countries, 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

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.

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.)