More Gun Control, No Less Crime

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A few months ago, the CDC issued an under-reported study finding no evidence that gun control laws reduce violence. A new study by the Fraser Institute on firearms laws in Australia, Canada, and Great Britain reaches a similar conclusion. (link via InstaPundit.com)

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  1. There is an article in the Washington Post today about another kid who was killed by “gun violence”. Like the gun pointed itself at him and pulled its on trigger (with all due respect to the loss of a human life).

    The fascists push their fucking drug war, which provides an environment for poor kids to earn large amount of money quickly. Unfortunately, guns are involved in this pursuit, which gives the liberals ammo (sorry) in their objective to disarm the nation.

    Both sides are working against us here. I don’t see how we can win.

  2. It’s not surprising that gun control laws in the US are found to have insignificant effects. Those laws that are able to run the gauntlet of the gun lobby’s opposition all the way to enactment tend to be laws that have, at best, a minimal effect on total firearm ownership–take, for instance, the almost meaningless “assault weapons” ban. Therefore, any effects that these laws have is likely too small to be detected with traditional methods of statistical analysis.

    The conclusion reached by the CDC review, which looks only at existing laws in the US, does not imply that laws that succeeded in significantly reducing firearms ownership.

    As for the Fraser Institute “study,” I salute Tim for being willing to dive into the swill. At times I still take a look at the output of right-wing think tanks (Fraser/Heritage/AEI, etc.), but I find myself increasingly unwilling to do so. The ratio, within their publications, of agenda-driven junk to actually valuable research, is so high that it simply isn’t worth expeding my valuable time on it.

    If Gary Mauser, or any others of his ilk (Robert Rector/Ronald Bailey/Steven Moore, etc.) want people like me to pay attention to their work, here’s my advice, as a social scientist: 1) Guys, learn how it’s done–go back to school and get an advanced degree in the social sciences, so that you know how to do valid research. 2) When you do research, submit it for publication in peer-reviewed journals and present it at conferences of your peers. 3) Realize that doing #’s 1 and 2 won’t mean your work is automatically accepted by all–it just means it’s on the table for discussion and consideration (this is the point that Lott seems not to get).

  3. Oops–paragraph #2 in my previous post should read:

    The conclusion reached by the CDC review, which looks only at existing laws in the US, does not imply that laws that succeeded in significantly reducing firearms ownership would have no impact either.

  4. So what is your argument then…that violent crime is going down overall in the UK because of severe gun control, right? Then are you admitting that gun crime is going up in the UK which now has severe gun control?

    We do have a higher gun crime and crime rate than the UK, by about a factor of 7.3…including population adjustments. However, the report is about gun crime (specifically homicide), and it is disngenuous to argue violent crime rates when it is the purpose and goal of gun control to reduce gun crime.

    Your spin this issue is ‘how does it fit in the scheme of overall violent crime?’ And that is not apples and apples.

    This is the same appalling logic that gun control supporters use when they spin Texas’ and other concealed-carry states’ decline in crime to more prison time, more prisons, and tougher sentances (http://www.ncpa.org/pi/crime/pd112800a.html) while ignoring the effect on GUN crime of concealed carry and other gun ownership liberalization laws.

    On the flip, I find it disengenuous that advocates for liberalizing gun ownership (and I am one of them…gun owner) rely solely on the Texas empirical example to prove their point when increasing prison sentances and prison space has as strong a place in decreasing crime outside of prisons.

    You are right about the UK having a lower reported crime rate than the US. Having lived there working with several ex-Met (London Metropolitan police) officers, I feel confident in saying that many more crimes in the UK go unreported than in the US.

    http://www.cronaca.com/archives/000492.html

    And 17m is 17 million out of 60m or 60 million people…or 28% while the US’s estimated crime rate is about 8%…or 22m out of 290m…according to the FBI

    http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius_02/html/web/offreported/offreported.html

  5. “It’s not surprising that gun control laws in the US are found to have insignificant effects. Those laws that are able to run the gauntlet of the gun lobby’s opposition all the way to enactment tend to be laws that have, at best, a minimal effect on total firearm ownership–take, for instance, the almost meaningless “assault weapons” ban. Therefore, any effects that these laws have is likely too small to be detected with traditional methods of statistical analysis.”

    Laws directed at ownership are, thankfully from my perspective, very difficult to sell. The most outlandish of all gun conrol advocates in the US only whisper about bans on ownership. In some ways, I wish they would go ahead and try. Call a spade a spade, and all that. More people disposed toward gun control should make the case that if you want lower crime, you need to confiscate lawfully purchased firearms.

    Alas, we get calls for “reasonable gun control” that disguise their authors’ intents.

    “If Gary Mauser, or any others of his ilk (Robert Rector/Ronald Bailey/Steven Moore, etc.) want people like me to pay attention to their work, here’s my advice, as a social scientist:…”

    Mark, I have to ask, what about Kellerman? Why did such an idiotically conducted study about guns in the home get so much friggin traction? Whatever Lott’s failings, his work is a model of completeness by comparison.

  6. Mark…I never knew there was such a think as a “social” scientist…give and prove one hypothesis from social science and I will bend down and kiss your ass and everyone else who believes that “social” science.

    For a libertarian-based webzine comment section, it looks like there are an awful lot of social democrats who take the time to view and discuss issues while pretending??? to be libertarian…or there are an awful lot of so-called libertarians who haven’t yet discovered that they are the among anointed social democrats.

  7. Gee, Richard, I must have missed the “this comments section is for libertarians only” sign.

  8. I never meant that. I am amazed at how many social democrats read and respond.

  9. Hey Mark, let Richard have his say – if he’s not careful he might learn something.

    But, yeah “Social Science” is not science, and if you want real science you get a real scientist or a real engineer.

    I think all of these studies notwithstanding (even if more gun ownership was known by everybody to result in more crime) there is no getting around the US Constitution without an amendment or seccession. So, what’s your problem, again Richard?

  10. I have no problem…I’m all for liberalizing gun ownership…i just have my concerns about the comparisons being made here.

  11. it is the purpose and goal of gun control to reduce gun crime.

    That’s a stretch.

    With gun control laws the best you can expect is that people who owned the guns legally and then surrendered them won’t use them in a crime. You think the LA Crips read the assault weapon ban and said, “aw shit, time to turn in the Uzis”?

    there is no getting around the US Constitution without an amendment or seccession.

    Subjectively summed and differentiated case law decides constitutionality. And gun control is debated under the premise that there is no need for a militia, because we have a military. Not that it was ever the point; the amendment exists so that we can shoot back at our own. That wrinkled old artifact has little to do with gun control anymore.

  12. RST, not disagreeing with you, but what do you suppose gun control is supposed to do? I believe it does nothing but increase criminals’ ability to increase their effectiveness in crime. so, in the alternative, proponents of gun control suggest it decreases crime…am I wrong about their view of gun control’s effect?

  13. joe:

    Just as I thought …

  14. True, social science is less precise than natural science–nothing I said implies otherwise. Few if any conclusions in the social sciences can be stated with the confidence that we have in well-established conclusions in the natural sciences.

    But, at the same time, there are wide differences in quality of research within the social sciences. The normal procedures followed by academic researchers–presenting work in academic conferences and seminars, publishing in peer-reviewed journals–accomplish two things. First, they weed out the pure junk. Second, they provide a process by which, over time, the soundest research is accepted, while less sound conclusions, whether reached by Lott or Bellesiles, are rejected.

  15. “More people disposed toward gun control should make the case that if you want lower crime, you need to confiscate lawfully purchased firearms.”

    I’d suggest to you that the reason they don’t do this is not, as you suggest, that they are “disguising their intent,” but that they are focusing on measures that they believe are politically feasible at this time, given the power of the gun lobby.

  16. Tim Lambert: “Richard, your link is reporting an increase in gun crimes (to levels much much less than in the US), which is not the same as violent crime.”

    Of course, we are talking about changes here, England started with a lower crime rate way back when neither country had meaningful gun control. So your statement: to levels much much less than in the US) is meaningless.

    It is funny how gun banners like Tim don’t mind the fact that gun control doesn’t reduce gun crime–even in a gun banner’s wet dream like England. And, how would gun control reduce “all crime” while failing to reduce gun crime?

  17. Aw, Joe, why’d you have to go spill the beans? The deal was that we left-leaning libertarians would help the Democrats achieve absolute power and then we’d get the homes of the rural people put in government camps. But with the truth out in the open our plan will never work.

    And we would have gotten away with it if it weren’t for those darn kids!!! Now we’ll have to do our plan B: Make an amusement park seem haunted so it goes out of business, then we buy the land dirt cheap, build an office park, and make money on the deal.

    (Scooby Doo reference, for the culturally impaired.)

  18. what do you suppose gun control is supposed to do?

    It’s supposed to enforce a particular mindset, that the people need the government to protect them from themselves, but that no protection is needed from the government itself. Run the numbers: statistically speaking, which is a bigger threat to your freedom, happiness, and property…al Qaeda or the U.S. Gov’t? The potential for harm is greater with the former, but it is our own government that does more actual harm to our lives.

  19. “give and prove one hypothesis from social science and I will bend down and kiss your ass and everyone else who believes that “social” science.”

    How about, as price goes up, consumption goes down?

    Hey, what’s this, name and email address required all of a sudden??? You fascists you!!!!

  20. How about, as price goes up, consumption goes down?

    **coughluxurygoodscough***

  21. I don’t have anything to add, but I want to see if my e-mail address is in fact required.

  22. Richard, I am not arguing that the 1997 ban caused violent crime in England do decline. I don’t think that the ban was a good idea and I don’t see how it could have a much of an effect on violent crime. What I am pointing out is that Mauser and Malcolm are using police-reported crime stats to argue that violent crime went up because of the ban, but the more accurate BCS figures show that it went down. To be consistent they should argue that the ban caused violent crine to decrease, but of course they don’t.

    Unfortunately, pro-gun folks seem to be treating Mauser’s and the CDC report alike because they both come to conclusions that they like. What they are missing is that the CDC report is intellectually serious while Mauser’s is not.

  23. Ahem. An “advanced degree” in “social sciences” is obtainable only by those among us who are already extremely liberal. The drivel in my anthropology class is enough to make a sentient being choke. I can’t imagine voluntarily subjecting myself to more of this self-righteous AmericaBAD shit for another two years.

    “Social science” is an oxymoronic method of saying “liberal bullshit”.

    Steve

  24. Phil,

    Oh, jeez, well y’know, anything can happen in any specific instance. But then, even natural sciences are based on probability. Only in the natural sciences, the probabilities are much more extreme than in the social sciences. But I bet that over the long haul, most luxury items do decrease in consumption as prices go up. Cough cough cough.

  25. As long as the police and the General Accounting Office are in the statistics biz, “independent” studies can’t be trusted.
    It’s similar to gummint being in the education biz… as long as it is, we’ll never know how good edumakashun could be.

    Is anyone here ready to get to the bottom line of whether gun control laws have an effect on gun violence or not?

  26. Fyodor-

    Here’s my understanding of luxury goods as my econ profs explained it (I was an econ major in college):

    Demand decreases when price increases if all other factors are held constant. Small price changes produce predictable changes in demand because they don’t substantially change consumer perception. However, in some instances a large price change inadvertently introduces a new variable: image. If an item goes from $5 to $6 the demand will drop. But an increase from $5 to $20, especially if coupled with a new ad campaign targeted to wealthier consumers, or coupled with moving the good from KMart to Neiman-Marcus (for example), will change consumer perception. If the good is perceived as a luxury good then demand can increase. However, a price increase from $20 to $22 won’t change perceptions, but will decrease demand.

    Why wouldn’t the $20 to $22 move increase demand if the $5 to $20 move did? If people decide to buy a luxury good, they’ll reject anything that you don’t perceive as a luxury good, but when comparing two similar luxury goods they’ll still favor the less expensive one (if other qualities are identical or nearly identical).

    In other words, huge price changes can (in some instances) move a product into a different playing field, but within a given playing field the lower price confers an advantage.

    Sophistry? Maybe. A lesson in how difficult it is to disentangle variables in the social science? Definitely.

    And remember that the luxury good phenomenon is hard to achieve. You can’t just double the price of a car and expect people to buy more. But if you move that car to the same section of the lot or display room as the other pricey cars, maybe the new company will make it look desirable (“Wow, this car is in the same class as a Mercedes!”). It’s all about marketing, which is its own variable in addition to price.

  27. Richard-

    As a physicist with a minor in econ I share your skepticism of the other social sciences. But I probably have more respect for them than some people here. There’s a common theme on this forum when studies come out with a conclusion that liberals (in the leftist sense, not the classical liberal sense) might like:

    Somebody says “But if they just account for this one variable I’m sure it will turn out that their conclusion is false.” Somebody else says it’s a biased piece of junk. Somebody else says “You can get a correlation out of anything.”

    The general gist of the comments is that everybody think the authors took two numbers and ran to publish. e.g. “20% of all people who did X had problem Y, while only 10% of people who didn’t do X had problem Y” or whatever. Certainly sounds pretty sloppy.

    But when I’ve gone and looked at the studies I’ve often been impressed by the number of explanations that they considered and ultimately rejected after a careful statistical test. And I’m often impressed by how many caveats they put forth. Not always, but often.

    (DISCLAIMER: None of this applies to the study that started this thread, because I haven’t read it. I’m just replying to the general discussion of social sciences.)

    So I will end up posting a whole bunch of times “Ah, but they specifically chose this data set because the composition was representative of the general population as established by such-and-such figures. It wasn’t chosen to justify a bias.” Or “Ah, but they did consider that variable, and it turned out to be irrelevant, even when various other factors were accounted for.” And still a whole bunch of people refuse to believe it. It seems to be similar to something I lamented in another thread: When a study finds that a certain problem is real, if it’s a problem that leftists are upset over then the people here will deny that the problem even exists. They won’t suggest a non-coercive market remedy, they’ll just deny the existence of a problem.

    Anyway, I realize that not all social science studies are as rigorous as the ones I’ve looked at and admired on this blog. But many high-profile studies often seem to be decent.

    Here’s my own theory based on anecdotal evidence: I’ve noticed that when advocacy groups put forth studies without peer review there are often problems. And newspaper reporters are fond of saying “X was twice as likely to happen when factor Y was present” without considering other variables, statistical significance, the quality of their sample, etc.

    But when the high-profile study has been peer-reviewed it often (but most certainly not always) seems to be of better quality. And libertarians shouldn’t be surprised: Subjecting an idea to scrutiny by competitors encourages higher-quality results in many (but most certainly not all) cases. Even if all of the academics are leftists with no ethics and lots of bias, they are also competitors, and if they can prove that a competitor’s work is junk then they’ll benefit. Competition in a marketplace of ideas enhances quality and yields overall benefits to the community, even though the individuals in that marketplace of ideas are all full of biases and whatnot.

    So, in conclusion: I have some respect for social science studies subject to peer review, but little respect for advocacy groups and reporters who put forth results without peer review.

  28. Richard, I’ve got siginificant undergrad economics experience — enough for a minor with my BA — so I don’t need a lecture from you. It isn’t a hard science like “physics, chemistry, engineering, astronomy, [and] medicine” for reasons which should be painfully obvious.

    (And “medicine” isn’t a science, anyway. It’s a collection of disciplines — biology, kinesiology, pharmacology, anesthesiology, etc. — which are themselves sciences. Most of them. Do you really think of your GP as a scientist?)

    (Neither is engineering, come to think of it. Engineering is applied science.)

  29. This is the case that Lott and company should have been making, rather than the stronger one with less supporting data.

    Any casual reader of most gun control laws in the US could tell you that they aren’t designed to alter crime rates, but to make people comfortable with the idea that guns can be taken away and restricted for arbitrary reasons.

    We always have to hear about the gun free utopia of the EU, so this kind of study is very helpful.

  30. The CDC study should be taken seriously, but this new study by Gary Mauser should be taken with a boulder of salt. A quick look through it shows that he seems to be cherry-picking his statistics — for example, he ignores the BCS numbers that show that violent crime in England has been decreasing. And he cites John Lott as having shown that concealed carry decreases violent crime with citing any of the criticism of Lott. Mauser is well aware of the criticism since he subscribes to firearmsregprof where the survey and Ayres and Donohue’s results were discussed at length back in 2002.

  31. Tim, you are wrong about the UK

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/gun/Story/0,2763,1056412,00.html

    2002 saw an increase of 35% over 2001…

    However, these studies are indicative of the how regulations decrease freedom and increase unwanted results while making the populace seem more secure in the ever expanding police state mentality of social democracy.

  32. Richard, your link is reporting an increase in gun crimes (to levels much much less than in the US), which is not the same as violent crime.

  33. Mark-

    I agree with what you said about conservatives and libertarians doing well in the economics profession. One of the reasons (although most certainly not the only one) that I started voting libertarian was that I minored in econ in college. I encountered students with fairly conservative views, and I can think of only one class, intro to macroeconomics, where the professor exuded a left-wing bias. Otherwise they seemed either apolitical or libertarian. Even my professor for environmental economics was a big fan of market solutions to environmental problems, and rather skeptical of regulation.

    I like to say that if you study enough microeconomics you’ll inevitably develop libertarian sympathies. On the other hand, if you study enough macroeconomics (a subject that I never liked) your head will become so full of fog that you’ll develop liberal sympathies. And to become a Republican you should join a frat at Yale and slide through with straight C’s 😉

  34. Phil,

    First, I was an econ major too. Second, I didn’t bother to follow your logic cause the fact that you’re employing logic only proves my original point, that social science research does indeed prove hypotheses. I was being partly toungue-in-cheek since the fellow who said otherwise probably forgot that economics was a social science. But only partly tongue-in-cheek cause while econ is a little more concrete than the likes of pschology and sociology (actually probably a little less concrete than the biological side of psychology), it’s all a spectrum anyway, and so I don’t doubt that even the softest of the sciences have their provable hypotheses. It’s just that the softer the science, the more variability there is in the laws it describes.

  35. “What I am pointing out is that Mauser and Malcolm are using police-reported crime stats to argue that violent crime went up because of the ban, but the more accurate BCS figures show that it went down. To be consistent they should argue that the ban caused violent crine to decrease, but of course they don’t.”

    But if gun related crime went up after the ban, how could the ban have been responsible for the overall reduction in violent crime? The only way gun bans can reduce any crime is by reducing access to guns, and consequently reducing gun crime. Gun bans cannot reduce non-gun violent crime, although they may make non-gun crime increase by 1) disarming victims and 2) removing guns from the hands of criminals who will go on to commit violent crimes without using guns.

  36. It is amazing how liberal minds that can espouse freedom from government control of so much, can also push for control of a weapon that is for self-defense. I mean self-defense from the ones who want control of the free persons body, mind and material goods. Wish they would use their minds logically and correctly as the founders of this country did. This is part of what those minds thought up:

    We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,–That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

    Now then, if all I have are words and feelings, do you really think I am going to be listened to when I complain??? If you think so, I have a bridge I will sell you.

  37. “Social science” is an oxymoronic method of saying “liberal bullshit”.

    It’s liberal bullshit designed to make stupid people feel good about themselves.

    Off topic, why would reason of all places require an email address with our post? Why would it be required when all one must do is put nonsense with an @ symbol therein?

  38. “Ahem. An “advanced degree” in “social sciences” is obtainable only by those among us who are already extremely liberal. ”

    Steve, this is simply not true. I knew plenty of conservative/libertarian grad students when I was getting my Ph.D. several years ago at UCLA. I know for a fact that some of them have gone on to hold tenured faculty positions at good colleges and universities like Amherst and UC-Santa Barbara.

    Ahem yourself.

  39. “economics is pretty much a “hard” science with time tested principles.”

    As an ecnoomist with a Ph.D. myself, I would never categorize economics as a “hard” science. There are no models in economics that could be considered counterparts to something like Einstein
    ‘s theory of general relativity–i.e., highly detailed, rigorous and accurate descriptions of real word phenomena. Economic models, even the highly mathematical ones, make numerous assumptions that limit their relevance and usefulness. Keynes was right to say that economics is more art than science.

  40. “So, in conclusion: I have some respect for social science studies subject to peer review, but little respect for advocacy groups and reporters who put forth results without peer review.”

    I agree with your conclusion, and with your comments on how the peer-review process acts as a check on any ideological bias in research.

    Another point that occurs to me, which also pertains to the social science vs. natural science question, is that many social scientists seem unwilling, or unable, to acknowledge that there are questions that the standard statistical techniques we use are not able to answer.

    I recall a case I encountered in graduate school. Back in the 1970’s, Martin Feldstein did a paper in which he concluded that one effect of the Social Security program was to reduce private savings. It was eventually shown that Feldstein’s result was do to a data error (Feldstein tried to blame his graduate student assistant), but before the matter was put to rest, Feldstein’s paper generated several additional papers on the issue. One of them, which I read in grad school, was very illuminating–the authors demonstrated that time-series regression analysis was inherently unable to resolve the question Feldstein was addressing.

    Unfortunately, many social scientists are far less cautious than they should be in reaching and proclaiming conclusions.

  41. thoreau – seems like it’d be awfully tough to get your material peer reviewed if your peers dismiss your theory and research out of hand. How likely do you suppose it is that Social Science Today Magazine (ok, I made that up) is going to support an article that advocates gun ownership as a means of public safety? I don’t know, but I’d wager that you might see it as a parody or not at all. Isn’t that one of the problems with a H&R post a couple weeks ago in which some biological theorists decided that they were going to ignore all research and studies done by a particular sect of their kin on the basis that the working assumption that creationists have nothing to offer anyways. Question everything, right?

  42. “How likely do you suppose it is that Social Science Today Magazine (ok, I made that up) is going to support an article that advocates gun ownership as a means of public safety?”

    The answer to this is that John Lott has, of course, published some of his research in peer-reviewed journals. Many other conservative scholars also publish peer-reviewed articles–not just in economics either.

    “Isn’t that one of the problems with a H&R post a couple weeks ago in which some biological theorists decided that they were going to ignore all research and studies done by a particular sect of their kin on the basis that the working assumption that creationists have nothing to offer anyways.”

    Which post is this referring to–I don’t recall it. Can someone post a link? Without specifics I can’t evaluate how relevant the point is to the present discussion.

  43. “It is amazing how liberal minds that can espouse freedom from government control of so much, . . .”

    ?????

    Modern “liberals” are not classical liberals, you know. They don’t really espouse freedom from government control. Rather, they espouse government control, and sometimes they CALL it “freedom”.

  44. I think guns are impotatnt for defense

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