NYT Science Reporter Sees Armed Guards in Violent Countries, Concludes More Guns = More Killing


In a "news analysis" headlined "More Guns = More Killing," New York Times science reporter Elisabeth Rosenthal says the National Rifle Association clearly is wrong when it argues that more guns in the hands of "good guys" would help reduce the number of people killed by "bad guys." How does Rosenthal know? She has seen it with her own eyes:

I recently visited some Latin American countries that mesh with the N.R.A.'s vision of the promised land, where guards with guns grace every office lobby, storefront, A.T.M., restaurant and gas station. It has not made those countries safer or saner.

Despite the ubiquitous presence of "good guys" with guns, countries like Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia and Venezuela have some of the highest homicide rates in the world.

Although a science reporter for a leading newspaper really should understand the difference between correlation and causation, it apparently never occurred to Rosenthal that ubiquitous armed guards might be a response to high homicide rates rather than a cause of them (as the headline suggests). And despite her assertion that the use of armed guards "has not made those countries safer or saner," she never presents any evidence to that effect.

Rosenthal is right that the countries she mentions have very high homicide rates—far higher than the homicide rate in the United States, which has gun control laws that Rosenthal no doubt considers absurdly lax. Here are the homicide rates per 100,000 people, based on the most recent data available from the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime:

Honduras: 91.6

El Salvador: 69.2

Venezuela: 45.1

Guatemala: 38.5

Colombia: 31.4

United States: 4.8  

Rosenthal mentions that "many of these [Latin American] countries have restrictions on gun ownership," although she adds that "enforcement is lax." How does she know that enforcement is lax? Because "illegal guns far outnumber legal weapons in Central America." Yet that situation, far from indicating loose gun controls, is precisely what you tend to see in countries with relatively strict rules.

In fact, all of these countries have more legal restrictions on guns than the U.S. does, including national licensing of owners, a central registry of firearms, and bans on certain types of weapons. In Venezuela, where Rosenthal says the homicide rate "is expected to be close to to 80 this year," civilians are not allowed to possess pistols, revolvers, or carbines; they are limited to .22-caliber rifles and shotguns. Rosenthal also mentions Jamaica, where the homicide rate in 2011 was 40.9 per 100,000, more than eight times the U.S. rate. In Jamaica, according to, "the right to private gun ownership is not guaranteed by law," "the private sale and transfer of firearms is prohibited," and licensed gun owners may purchase no more than 50 rounds of ammunition a year.

Using Rosenthal's logic, one might easily conclude based on this sample of countries that More Gun Control = More Killing. Then again, it is possible that legal restrictions on guns, like armed guards, are a response to high levels of violence rather than a cause of them. Because they do not control for all the relevant variables, simple comparisons like these cannot tell us much, except that in some places strict gun laws and armed guards coexist with extraordinarily high homicide rates.

There are always counterexamples, however. Israel, for instance, has ubiquitous armed guards and a low homicide rate (2.1 per 100,000, less than half the U.S. rate). Its gun laws are in some ways stricter than ours (e.g., owners must be licensed) and in other ways looser (e.g., no permit is necessary to carry guns in public, whether openly or concealed, which is generally not the case in the U.S.).

Rosenthal alludes to the difficulty of drawing cause-and-effect conclusions in a cautionary paragraph that fatally wounds her thesis:

Distinctive factors contribute to the high rates of violent crime in Latin America. Many countries in the region had recent civil wars, resulting in a large number of weapons in circulation. Drug- and gang-related violence is widespread. "It's dangerous to make too tight a link between the availability of weapons and homicide rates," said Jeremy McDermott, a co-director of InSight Crime who is based in Medellín, Colombia. "There are lots of other variables."

This crucial caveat does not stop Rosenthal from concluding that guns in the hands of law-abiding people are a problem rather than a solution. If she is right that armed guards are a bad idea, either because they are ineffective or because they actually increase the number of innocent people killed (as she suggests), does that mean we should take guns away from the people who guard banks and government buildings? What about police officers? If guns are indeed sometimes useful for self-defense and defense of others, who should decide when they are allowed and on what grounds?

People who view the private possession of firearms as inherently suspect have been known to change ther minds when their own safety is at stake. Today the front page of the Times features a story about the hostile response to the decision by The Journal News, a newspaper based in White Plains, New York, to publish the names and addresses of handgun permit holders in Westchester and Rockland counties following the December 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, under the headline "The Gun Owner Next Door: What You Don't Know About the Weapons in Your Neighborhood." The Times reports that the December 24 article and an accompanying interactive map on The News Journal's website prompted a torrent of angry correspondence, including some threats of violence; "two packages containing [harmless] white powder…sent to the newsroom and a third to a reporter's home"; and the online publication of "personal information about editors and writers at the paper…including their home addresses and information about where their children attended school." Among the precautions taken by The Journal News in response to these scary developments: It hired armed guards.

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  1. Oh, the poor gun grabbers. They saw a bunch of dead children, sprung a ban-boner over it because they thought they could stand on top of those children’s bodies and get what they wanted, and…it fizzled out. Now they’re still grasping at it, but it’s slipping out of their grasp. Feel sad for them, as their boner shrivels and they never get off.

    1. hang fire.

      1. Too bad it wasn’t a squib load.

        Some idiot at the range I belong to blew up his revolver with six straight squib loads.

        “Daggummit, that’n done not hit the paper e’er! Lemme try agin’!”

        1. Jeez, what did he do, pan for rounds in the Monongahela?

          1. I have an old (40s or 50s) book on shooting that advises you should dispose of unwanted rounds by dumping them in the nearest lake or river.

          2. I actually don’t know if they were all squib loads or just the first. However it happened, he had five bullets stuck in the barrel when he fired the last round.

            1. It was an IQ test…each round that failed to exit the muzzle saw his score drop another 10 points.

  2. Shorter Elisabeth Rosenthal:

    I absolutely believe that, despite countless historical examples to the contrary, our government would never abuse an unarmed citizenry because ours is not like the others.

    1. Yep. It just blows my mind that people can believe that shit in the wake of the NDAA, FISA, kill lists, and the revelation that the government can read your e-mail without a warrant.

      But I’m giving the average Murican too much credit. They probably haven’t heard of any of that. And the average progressive dipshit gets off on that shit.

      1. But didn’t you know? That stuff all stopped when Bush was no longer President.

    2. Despite the fact that in living memory our government locked thousands of citizens up in camps because they looked funny, she still believes this?

      Teh stoopid, it burns.

      1. Top Men said that was okay.

    3. We finally have the Right People in charge. Dear Leader would never harm his children.

      1. I wonder how many liberals talk among themselves of how wonderful it would be to put all those stupid rethuglicans and conservatards in concentration camps, except that so many of them own guns. Gotta disarm them under some guise so the real party can begin.

        1. You know, I used to dismiss this as wild-eyed, tinfoil-hat stuff, but having been in a number of Yahoo gun story comment threads lately, I’m not so sure you’re not closer to the truth than not.

  3. The article claims her writing to be “analysis”. I’m pretty sure that word has nothing to do with what she writes.

    1. Well, I am confident that the first four letters allude to the source quite well.

      1. She should actually stick to using only four letters in her articles since apparently her IQ drops further with each letter she types.

  4. This is what I would like to see out of reason more often: good, solid fiskings of dipshits in the media. Filet them mercilessly.

    1. Agreed – a target rich environment if there ever was one.

  5. a science reporter for a leading newspaper really should understand the difference between correlation and causation

    You’re confusing science reporters with scientists. No offense to Ron Bailey, though he rubs me the wrong way too.

    1. I expect sports reporters to understand the sports they are reporting on. Although, that doesnt always happen either.

      1. See: ESPN’s fellating of USC.

        1. See: ESPN’s fellating of USC Tim Tebow.

          Fixed that for you.

          Of course, it’s not just the sports reporters. Tony Dungy thought it was actually an advantage for the Vikings to be starting Webb.

          1. What planet to you live on? ESPN hates Tebow. I really think Merell Hodge is going to have some kind of break down raving about how much he hates Tebow. There isn’t a single ESPN personality that doesn’t have an absolute open dislike for Tebow.

            1. Bayless likes Tebow.

          2. I thought Webb looked pretty good out of the gate…but the Packers definitely figured him out in a hurry.

  6. Although a science reporter for a leading newspaper really should understand the difference between correlation and causation…


    1. To be fair, they ARE *really* small.

  7. How can Venezuela have such a high homicide rate? I could have sworn Hugo kicked out the American imperialist corporations, gave everyone free health care, and ushered in a glorious new age of socialism in Latin America.

    1. Is that evil fat fuck dead yet?

      1. I’m keeping a Chavez death watch on the PM links where I link the latest news about our favorite left-wing tyrant.

      2. We can only hope he lingers for months as his health slowly deteriorates, forcing Cuba to spend more and more resources proving that some animals are more equal than others.

        1. Oh c’mon. Michael Moore’s documentary taught me that Cuba is a medical paradise where everyone is given such wonderful treatment! He wouldn’t have lied to me, would he?

      3. Nah. He’s doing his best Franco impression.

        1. James Franco is in a coma?

          1. Shit. Milk 2 won’t be the same without him.

          2. Ever since Freaks and Geeks got canceled.

  8. OT: Interesting fact about the American Tax Payer Relief Act of 2012 – it nearly doubles mass transit benefits for federal employees!

    1. As a taxpayer, I feel the relief already.

  9. Despite the ubiquitous presence of “good guys” with guns, countries like Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia and Venezuela have some of the highest homicide rates in the world.

    And that is what passes for “science” in the NYT.

    Remember that whenever you read another scary headline about climate change and fraking.

    1. Ah, yes, the insidious practice of Fraking, where characters from old shows are split into two.

      1. You mean “Frakesing”, where TNG tried to split Kirk’s character into Picard and Riker, and then realized that it didn’t work, so they had Riker grow a beard and play the trombone?

        1. That’s the British term. In the U.S. and Mexico, it’s usually shortened to Fraking. I don’t know why.

          1. Kirk’s first officer NEVER tells him to stay on the bridge.

            1. I can’t even imagine that. I mean literally, I can’t envision Spock doing such a thing.

              1. Picard had the same dynamic as Kirk. Kirk had Spock to be the voice of reason and logic while McCoy was the more emotional one that was always concerned with his well-being. Picard had Data to fill the Spock role and Riker to fill the McCoy role.

                1. That’s what they eventually ended up with, but right at first, they basically did an “Enemy Within” and Picard was supposed to be Kirk’s rational, commanding side and Riker was supposed to be his womanizing, irresponsible, risk-taking side. However, they must not have watched “The Enemy Within”, because as we all know Kirk needed both those sides to function. And so did Picard and Riker. So yeah, they ended up basically morphing into a weak-ass copy of the Kirk-Spock-McCoy dynamic. Such original writers they were.

                  1. Also, how does someone can promoted directly from helmsman to chief engineer?

                    1. Were there any promotions on TOS? Not counting the movies. I can’t think of one offhand. Maybe Sulu?

                    2. In the first few episodes of TOS Sulu was the Enterprise’s physicist, but then he was promoted to helmsman, perhaps because of what happened to Gary Mitchell.

                    3. So, on the old Enterprise, promotions only came when people were killed after becoming gods. Pretty high standards, there.

                    4. Jeebus, I am glad the US Army didn’t have such a policy – I never would have made it above PFC.

                    5. We’re not advanced enough yet to require godlike-death attrition.

                  2. Riker was lame. They kept talking him up as this amazing captain-in-waiting, but he was shown to be a hothead and a bad decision maker, except for the occasional contrived episode to build him up.

                    I like TNG okay, but it wasn’t particularly good about establishing characters. TOS did it right out of the gate.

                    1. They kept talking him up as this amazing captain-in-waiting, but he was shown to be a hothead and a bad decision maker

                      Which is why the Jellico bit was so awesome. I could never figure out which way the writers meant for that to come across. Were they happy everyone agreed with Jellico?

                    2. I still hold that Jellico is the best Naval Ship Captain ever portrayed in the Star Trek Universe.

                      Piccard was of course a wonderful diplomat and would have been a passable captain on a civilian exploration vessel, pretty much every other captain shown would have been casheered out of Star Fleet before ever making the rank of Commander.

                    3. Riker is lame by virtue of the fact that he could have had any command he wanted but refused to step out of Picard’s shadow for like 15 years, so even he knew he only looked good because Picard elevated him.

                    4. DS9 was way better with character development.

                    5. Shut up, Hugh.

                    6. You just can’t handle the fact that DS9 was the high-water mark for the Star Trek franchise can you?

                      You talk a good game about TNG, but we all know that Chakotay is #1 in your heart.

                    7. You know what VOY really needed? A love triangle between Chakotay, The Doctor, and Neelix. That would have made that show really pop.

                    8. What a bad show that was. Heck, even Enterprise was better, because it was decent the last season (except for the awful finale).

              2. No, he invited him to his wedding and then fought him to the death.

                1. That’s because Spock was fucking awesome. Riker wouldn’t do anything cool like that.

                  1. Kirk rarely asks for suggestions. And if he does, he asks Spock only.

                    1. I like how he asks McCoy for emotional advice when one-on-one, then shits all over him on the bridge. Then apologizes, then does it all over again.

                    2. “?After Nomad explodes, William Shatner quickly raises his hand to the camera as the scene fades away. An outtake of this scene is incorporated into the blooper reel of the show’s second season: At one point, Shatner turns to the camera and declares, “Listen, about that bacon?no, really!” and then appears to swallow something. His comment follows an earlier outtake that shows him sitting in the captain’s chair on the bridge and confiding, “No, listen, that bacon is really bad . . . it just stays with you all day.”

                    3. You don’t get a link cause SPAMFILTER that’s why.

            2. Yeah but the Enterprise had more armed guards than a Guatemalan bank.

    2. Well who should I believe: an Old Mexican (if that is your real age group and nationality) or MATT DAMON?

      1. Even daring to ask that question is intrinsically paternalistic.

        And racist.

      2. Re: A Serious Man,

        Well who should I believe: an Old Mexican (if that is your real age group and nationality)

        Age is only in the mind…

  10. The gun grabbers are getting increasingly unhinged and desperate. Good thing they don’t have guns, I guess.

    1. I admit my sadistic tendencies lead me to peruse the comments section on Slate articles about gun control.

      It’s pretty hilarious to see them go apeshit on gun rights advocates who are often just trolling them. They’re so impotent its pathetic.

    2. These guys are in it for the long haul. Yes, the latest shooting has exhausted its capacity to move the public with scenes of little coffins.

      But there will be more shootings. And each time, they will become more shrill. 1% here, 1% there. Eventually they will have the majority they need.

    3. The government has plenty of guns.

  11. Where is David Frum to reengineer society to save this stupid ho from herself?

    1. So many stupid hos, so little time, nicole.

      Which was my motto until I got married, incidentally.

    2. (perks up)

      What’s this about stupid hos?

      1. Go back to sleep.

        1. But now I’m excited!

  12. Megalulz. Occupy the NRA

    Occupy the NRA
    A young activist outside of the Stamford, CT gun show on Saturday. She has attended numerous Occupy protests at OWS and across the Northeast with her father.
    SHARE if you admire her courage!


    1. The comments on that photo…argh. I hate you, Warty!

      Sorry, I really am sick and cranky. And that’s right down the street from my fam.

      1. Don’t worry, nicole, we all hate him.

        1. What I hate most is her sign says “our kids” and she’s like, six. What the fuck team are you talking about, you tiny idiot?

          1. But nicole, what about her bravery??? How can you not be moved by her bravery???

            1. Or her piercings?

          2. Oh, leave the kid alone. She’s six or whatever. It’s her asshole parents who are using their kid for political grandstanding that deserve scorn.

            1. Oh, I know. Apparently her dad takes her all over doing this. Like Mozart, only retarded.

          3. And we should treat her political opinions like the rest of the dumb things that six year olds say, right along with asking for ponies and the like.

        1. Way to piss in the pool, HM.

    2. Bullshit. I have been informed over and over again by sockpuppets that OWS is a libertarian movement.

  13. So can I use her argument to eliminate the DEA, BATF, TSA and other goon squads in the U.S.? We would all be safer without them but not for the reason she thinks.

    1. THIS.

      Because all the people carrying guns she is talking about are government thugs.

      Sure, lets go for a gun free America, IF we can start with the governments’ guns.

      1. But, but, but government men are the only people who can be trusted with guns. They’ve like had training and stuff, you know?

      2. Yes. Whenever one of my lefty friends or family members starts spouting off about gun control, I tell them that I’ll back it on the condition that the police go first. “But look!”, I tell them, “in you’re favorite country the UK the police are unarmed! I think you told me that once as an example of how unsophisticated we are here in America!”.

    2. Even the government isn’t dumb enough to trust the TSA folks with guns.

  14. I recently visited some Latin American countries that mesh with the N.R.A.’s vision of the promised land

    Really? Very few restrictions on private gun ownership?

    The United States is the N.R.A.’s vision of the promised land, you idiot.

    1. She interprets “guns in the hands of good guns” as “guns in the hands of government men”.

      The idea that armed common folk could be “good guys” simply does not compute.

      After all, if you asked her I’m sure she’d say the Second Amendment, with the word “militia” in it, protects the right of the National Guard to have guns.

      1. Of course it doesn’t compute. The left went to war with private citizens decades ago.

  15. “Amid this inferno Nicaragua, the poorest country in mainland Latin America, is remarkably safe. Whereas Honduras’s murder rate in 2010 was 82 per 100,000 people, the world’s highest in over a decade, Nicaragua’s was just 13, unchanged in five years. That means it is now less violent than booming Panama, and may soon be safer than Costa Rica, a tourist haven. What explains the relative peace?”

    1. “A cloud hangs over the police’s leadership. Ms Granera is justly popular. But like many officials in Daniel Ortega’s government, she has ignored the limit on her five-year term. That deadline passed in September, only for Mr Ortega?who himself began an unconstitutional third term this month?to reappoint her. The opposition complains that the police do little to stop the periodic rampages of mobs loyal to Mr Ortega: in 2010 a Holiday Inn was attacked with makeshift mortars while the opposition held a meeting there. Mr Ortega has already hollowed out most Nicaraguan institutions. It would be a crime if the country’s police suffer the same fate.”

      1. It always surprises me that anyone takes statistics about oppressive countries seriously. Even when gathered by outsiders, it’s not like accurate information is readily available.

        Not to mention stories that laud tyrannical regimes for low crime rates in general. While I think those are often outright lies (see above), to the extent such stats are true, it’s simply a matter of replacing random criminals with criminalized (and far more powerful and dangerous) government.

        1. Reporters always seem to, especially if it confirms their own biases. Not long ago the media was sucking Assad dick with puff pieces on what a wise leader he was.

        2. You underestimate the importance of on time trains.

        3. To be fair, a dead body is not just a statistic.

          1. No, but they have unidentified mass graves for those statistics.

    2. Wait, are you telling me the War on Drugs has something to do with gun violence? Get your wingnut talking points the fuck out of here.

    3. Nicaragua also has many armed guards at banks, ATMs, etc.

  16. A science reporter! ROTFLMAO!! Must have been a legacy hire…

  17. Speaking of giant idiots who don’t know what they’re talking about, is joe dead, or what?

    1. Does anyone care?

    2. Chavez is in a vegetative state… Coincidence?

      1. Must be a RED vegetable.

        1. Eat the rainbow, man.

  18. As an epidemiologist, Dr. Rosenthal obviously has the skill and expertise to analyze a country’s domestic policy on its citizen’s right to bear arms within its unique social, political, and historical context.

    Medical doctors! Is there nothing they can’t do? (Except, operate in a free-market, that is.)

    1. epidemiologist


      1. Well, yeah. Gun violence is contagious. Like influenza. And legislation is the only vaccine.

  19. Fucking cause and effect- how does it work?

  20. I wonder if she was escorted on her trip. After all she came back alive and on schedule. The article makes no mention of it but I should think that it’s policy at the NYT to never mention guns in a positive way.

  21. Sometimes dude you jsut gotta roll with it man!

  22. “Despite the ubiquitous presence of “good guys” with guns, countries like Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Colombia and Venezuela have some of the highest homicide rates in the world.”

    Likewise, Rosenthal has noticed that hospitals patients are unusually ill and have a high incidence of premature death despite the ubiquitous presence of doctors and nurses. And her analysis has led to the inevitable conclusion that doctors cause bad health and early death.

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