Demand mediocre gun laws

Since the Newtown shootings I’ve been hearing a great deal, understandably, about murder and violent crime statistics. Richard compared UK and US homicide statistics and Michael looked at the media angle. It’s time to look at the two together.

You may remember that a variety of celebrities took to TV to demand that the people of the US demand a plan from their politicians to, well, demand criminals to kindly not commit the crime of murder again, please. A lot has been said already about how asking criminals to obey a law that takes guns away from them is unlikely to be ineffective, but lets not dwell on that. Let’s take at the laws the celebrities were, in effect, endorsing.

It turns out that the people behind the “Demand a Plan” video called the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (owners of have a plan of their own to sell. In fact they’ve been cataloguing and grading the gun laws of every US state (excluding, for some reason, the District) with a score from A- to F. They did not award any A or E grades. It’s their goal, as you may not be surprised, to reduce gun violence in a “smart” way using laws as a tool. Obviously, at least to you and me, the choice of murder weapon is of little consequence when you’re dead so I had a look at total homicides (inevitably combining non-negligent manslaughter) from the FBI crime statistics.

I wanted to know whether the states they graded highly had better overall homicide rates. The results are interesting:

Homicides by Law Quality

Law’s graded by Crime stats by FBI.

The graph shows the mean rate per 100,000 people as calculated by the FBI, then averaged across states. The X axis is the grade assigned by gun-control advocates, listed alphabetically. The Y axis reflects the combined performance of all laws in the same grade-band in all the states awarded that grade by the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. As you can see, C grade laws tend to produce fewer homicides regardless of the perpetrator’s choice of weapon. Bizarrely, A-, B-, D, D- and F grade laws all produce more homicides.

What about other forms of violence. Frankly, I have no idea if it’s better to survive a gun shot wound or a beating with fists, I’d like to avoid both. So I wondered how does the “quality” of gun law impact overall violent crime? Most gun-ownership advocates would say that more guns means less violence, since guns are a force-leveller. Most gun-control advocates, I have noticed, don’t seem to care much if I get beaten with an iron rod for want of a firearm.

Violent Crime By Gun Law Quality

Law’s graded by Crime stats by FBI.

A second time, it seems as though mediocre C and D grade laws produce better outcomes in terms of the amount of reported violent crime. Even A- states reported nearly 383 crimes compared to just over 362 in F grade states. Nearly 21 extra violent crimes, per 100,000, were caused by “better” gun laws. Wowser!

So what do I think is going on? Well, seriously, I don’t know. The case for gun-control is done no favours by the fact that A-, B-, C and D- states are all more violent that F graded ones, but the averages actually look random. I am not a US citizen and I don’t know enough about each state’s circumstances to speculate at why. The raw stats are there for others to work with and if you want my tabulated spreadsheet and pivot tables, write in, I’m happy to save you a couple of hours of making annoying formulas that I already made. Most likely there are a lot of better mathematicians too, for example, I would like to control for population density and poverty rates but I don’t have a grasp of the required mathematics.

My feeling about it is that actually gun laws are making no difference whatsoever. States have the problems they do for all manner of reasons, I am sure, and I am sure I don’t know how to untangle it. The eagle eyed among you will also notice that C, C- and C+ are not in grade order. I’m sure that were they in order the result would point even more clearly in favour of laws meaning nothing and saving no-one. A little factoid to call out is that D- states experienced 178 more violent crimes per 100,000 people than F graded states. If you were in an F graded state, would you really want your gun laws to score a D- instead? I mean, would you vote for it?

Instead, I look at things in a different way. If I have a right to be alive, and to be happy, then why is it right to limit my use of self-defence? I am responsible for my existence, I would not want to burden others with a duty to act as a white-knight; but if I did I would want them to be armed too so that they can do so safely. Frankly, even if my use of armed self-defence meant that there were more mishaps, then I am sure I would still possess the right to try and defend myself; if not the inclination.

And as for the 2nd amendment, I’m not sure it really does say that I get to use a gun to protect me from my Government, but just look at Syria.


  1. “I am not sure that the Second Amendment really does say that I get to use a gun to protect me from my government” – well the people involved in writing and ratifying were sure, but if you do not like intent (too Scots or Roman law) how about the preamble to the substantive clause – I hate preambles (they tend to distract attention from the substantive clause), but in this case the stuff about the security of a free (not any old state) state should explain it.

    Of course even if the Second Amendment did not exist – the right (the right to use armed force against a government that seeks to loot the population) would still be upheld by the Ninth Amendment (as all the Founders knew, the right to keep and bear arms is the bedrock, the very definition, of free people under Natural Law) and the Federal government would be forbidden to act against it by the Tenth Amendment.

    Hopefully you are not going to be “unsure” about the Ninth and Tenth Amendments as well as the Second Amendment.

    As for States – the 14th Amendment (an Amendment actually beloved by the left – till such things as this are pointed out to them – the KKK after the Civil War hated the fact that the 14th Amendment protected the right of black people to be armed, in order to protect themselves against State governments – governments dominated by people in sympathy with the principles of the KKK) makes it quite clear that the Bill of Rights applies to them also. So no State or local gun ban stuff is legitimate.

    The power to tax is the power to destroy (Chief Justice Marshall) – meaning that taxation could be used as a weapon. So can rules and red tape (as Chief Justice Marshall knew well) – for example Mexico has “regulated” (in 18th century English “regulate” meant “make regular” i.e. make free and normal – in modern English it means just about the opposite) the 1917 Constitutional right to use arms to defend one’s home (and so on) to death.

    In Mexico there is one legal gun shop open to ordinary members of the public – in a military base in the Mexico City (just go in – under the eyes of armed soldiers who will arrest you for nothing, if they feel like it – then fill in all these forms and….) this is a textbook example of how to undermine a Constitutional right by “regulation” (in the modern sense of the word). and it is exactly what free people should fight to the death rather than accept (and I am not using a figure of speech).

    In towns that cross the border of Mexico and Texas (often just about as hispanic on both sides of the border) the murder rate is some TEN TIMES higher on the Gun Control Mexican side than it is on the evil Texas right to keep and bear arms side.

    “What about Britain”.

    In 1911 New York City (as part of the Progressive cult) enacted Gun Control – London did not.

    There were millions of people with firearms in Britain before the First World War – the police were unarmed but the people were not (think about that). The police even called upon the assistance of armed ordinary people when confronted by armed robbers.

    Which do you think had a the higher murder rate after 1911?

    Armed London or Gun Control New York?

    Also what is Gun Control capital USA.

    Chicago Illinois.

    Chicago has had strict Gun Control since the mid 1980s (Mayor Jane B.) and Illinois has lots of regs (modern sense) of its own.

    There were 506 murders in Chicago last year – the vast majority of them by firearms.

    Clue – someone who wants to murder someone, does not care about “gun control” regulations.

    And the same people who sell illegal drugs in the United States would be only too happy to sell illegal firearms (or make them).

    Just about the only people who would obey Federal gun control regulations – would be those ultra law abiding people in New England (New Hampshire, Vermont and so on) places where almost everyone is and – and murder rates are lower than (old) England.

    Gun control would leave such people helpless victims – like people in Mexico or Chicago.



  2. Good post, and interesting comment from Paul Marks. The NYC 1911 legislation he refers to is (IIRC) the Sullivan Act, a key provision of which made it more difficult in some ways to own a handgun legally in NYC than it ever became in UK, right up to our 1997 Firearms Act…
    It is spot on to highlight things like this: the history of our firearms legislation is crucial to an appreciation of how gun laws interact with gun ownership and gun crime. In sum, since our own first Firearms Act in 1920, legally owned firearms have gone way down in number – while in parallel and on the whole gun crime has soared to levels far higher (proportionately, not just in number) than in the days when Britons could buy practically any gun (and as many) they wanted…
    Re the USA I find a valuable commentator is Dan Greenfield’s Sultan Knish blog – see especially an enlightening, powerful post, not just about gun crime….



  3. Actually a metric we haven’t looked at and would be very informative about people’s views is, who is most likely to be a victim of gun crime based on age, income, gender, etc…



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