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Guns And States

[Epistemic status: I think I probably wrung the right conclusions out of this evidence, but this isn’t the only line of evidence bearing on the broader gun control issue and all I can say is what it’s consistent with. Content warning for discussion of suicide, murder, and race]

I.

From a Vox article on America’s Gun Problem, Explained: “On Wednesday, it happened again: There was a mass shooting — this time, in San Bernardino, California. And once again on Sunday, President Barack Obama called for measures that make it harder for would-be shooters to buy deadly firearms.”

Then it goes on to say that “more guns mean more gun deaths, period. The research on this is overwhelmingly clear. No matter how you look at the data, more guns mean more gun deaths.” It cites the following chart:

…then uses the graph as a lead in to talk about active shooter situations, gun-homicide relationships, and outrage over gun massacres.

Did you notice that the axis of this graph says “gun deaths”, and that this is a totally different thing from gun murders?

(this isn’t an isolated incident: Vox does the same thing here and here)

Gun deaths are a combined measure of gun homicides and gun suicides. Here is a graph of guns vs. gun homicides:

And here is a graph of guns vs. gun suicides:

The relationship between gun ownership and homicide is weak (and appears negative), the relationship between gun ownership and suicide is strong and positive. The entire effect Vox highlights in their graph is due to gun suicides, but they are using it to imply conclusions about gun homicides. This is why you shouldn’t make a category combining two unlike things.

II.

I am not the first person to notice this. The Washington Examiner makes the same criticism of Vox’s statistics that I do. And Robert VerBruggen of National Review does the same analysis decomposing gun deaths into suicides and homicides, and like me finds no correlation with homicides.

German Lopez of Vox responds here. He argues that VerBruggen can’t just do a raw uncontrolled correlation of state gun ownership with state murder rates without adjusting for confounders. This is true, although given that Vox has done this time and time again for months on end and all VerBruggen is doing is correctly pointing out a flaw in their methods, it feels kind of like an isolated demand for rigor.

So let’s look at the more-carefully-controlled studies. Lopez suggests the ones at the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, which has done several statistical analyses of gun violence. They list two such analyses comparing gun ownership versus homicide rates across US states: Miller Azrael & Hemenway (2002), and Miller Azrael & Hemenway (2007).

(does it count as nominative determinism when someone named Azrael goes into homicide research?)

We start with MA&H 2002. This study does indeed conclude that higher gun ownership rates are correlated with higher murder rates after adjusting for confounders. But suspiciously, it in fact finds that higher gun ownership rates are correlated with higher murder rates even before adjusting for confounders, something that we already found wasn’t true! Furthermore, even after adjusting for confounders it finds in several age categories that higher gun ownership rates are correlated with higher non-gun homicide rates (eg the rates at which people are murdered by knives or crowbars or whatever) at p less than 0.001. This is really suspicious! Unless guns are exerting some kind of malign pro-murder influence that makes people commit more knife murders, some sort of confounding influence has remained. Let’s look closer.

The study gets its murder rate numbers from the National Center for Health Statistics, which seems like a trustworthy source. It gets its gun ownership numbers from…oh, that’s interesting, it doesn’t actually have any gun ownership numbers. It says that there is no way to figure out what percent of people in a given state own guns, so as a proxy for gun ownership numbers, it will use a measure called FS/S, ie the number of firearm suicides in a state divided by the total number of suicides.

This makes some intuitive sense. Among people who want to commit suicide, suppose a fixed percent prefer to use guns compared to other methods. In that case, the determining factor for whether or not they use a gun will be whether or not they have a gun. Hospitals diligently record statistics about suicide victims including method of suicide, so if our assumption holds this should be a decent proxy for gun ownership within a state.

There’s only one problem – I checked this against an actual measure of gun ownership per state that came out after this study was published – the CDC asking 200,000 people how many guns they had as part of the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System Survey – and the FS/S measure fails. When I repeat all of their analyses with their own FS/S measure, I get all of their same positive correlations, including the ones with non-gun homicides. When I repeat it with the real gun ownership data, all of these positive correlations disappear. When I look at exactly why this happens, it’s because FS/S is much more biased towards Southern states than actual gun ownership is. Real gun ownership correlates very modestly – 0.25 – with 538’s ranking of the Southern-ness of states. FS/S correlates at a fantastically high 0.62. For some reason, suicidal Southerners are much more likely to kill themselves with guns than suicidal people from the rest of the States, even when you control for whether they have a gun or not. That means that MA&H 2002 thought it was measuring gun ownership, but was actually measuring Southern-ness. This is why they found higher homicide rates, including higher rates of non-gun homicide.

So we move on to MA&H 2007. This study was published after the CDC’s risk survey, so they have access to the same superior gun ownership numbers I used to pick apart their last study. They also have wised up to the fact that Southern-ness is important, and they include a dummy variable for it in their calculations. They also control for non-gun crime rate, Gini coefficient, income, and alcohol use. They do not control for urbanization level or race, but when I re-analyze their data including these factors doesn’t change anything, likely because they are already baked in to the crime rate.

They find that even after controlling for all of this stuff, there is still a significant correlation between gun ownership level and gun homicide rate. Further, this time they are using good statistics, and there is not a significant correlation between gun ownership and non-gun-homicide rate. Further, there is a correlation between gun ownership and total homicide rate, suggesting that the gun-gun-homicide correlation was not just an artifact of people switching from inferior weapons to guns while still committing the same number of murders. Further, this is robust to a lot of different decisions about what to control or not to control, and what to include or not to include.

I repeated all of their analyses using two different sources of gun ownership data, a couple different sources of homicide and crime rate data, and a bunch of different plausible and implausible confounders – thanks a lot to Tumblr user su3su2u1 for walking me through some of the harder analyses. I was able to replicate their results. Pro-gun researcher John Lott had many complaints about this study, including that it was insensitive to including DC and that it was based entirely on the questionable choice of controlling for robbery rate – but I was unable to replicate his concerns and found that the guns-homicide correlation remained even after DC was included and even when I chose a group of confounders not including robbery rate. I was unable to use their methodology to replicate the effect in places where it shouldn’t replicate (I tried to convince it to tell me tractors caused homicide, since I was suspicious that it was just picking up an urban/rural thing, but it very appropriately refused to fall for it). Overall I am about as sure of this study as I have ever been of any social science study, ie somewhat.

This study doesn’t prove causation; while one interpretation is that guns cause homicide, another is that homicide causes guns – for example, by making people feel unsafe so they buy guns to protect themselves. However, I doubt the reverse causation aspect in this case. The study controlled for robbery rate; ie it was looking at whether guns predicted homicides above and beyond those that could be expected given the level of non-homicide crime. My guess is that people feeling unsafe is based more on the general crime rate than on the homicide rate per se, which would make it hard for the homicide rate to cause increased gun ownership independently of the crime rate.

If guns are in fact correlated with more homicide, how come me and VerBruggen found the opposite in our simpler scatterplot analysis? This is complicated, but I think the biggest part of the answer is the urban/rural divide. Rural people have more guns. Murder rates are higher in urban areas. Race also plays a part: whites have more guns, but black areas have higher murder rates. Finally, the North and West seem to have more guns, but murder rates are highest in the South (which is what produced the bogus effect on the last study). All of these differences are large enough to cancel out the gun/no-gun difference and make the raw scatterplot look like nothing. This study didn’t address all those things directly, but its decision to control for non-gun crime rate and poverty took care of them nevertheless. As the old saying goes, guns don’t kill people; guns controlled for robbery rate, alcoholism, income, a dummy variable for Southernness, and a combined measure of social deprivation kill people.

If this is all true, how come I spent so much time yelling at that first study with worse data? Because I worry that if people only see the good studies, they’ll get complacent. Vox posted these two studies as proof that there was a state-level gun-murder correlation. The first one was deeply flawed, but the second one turned out to be okay. Do you think Vox realized this? Do you think they would have written that article any differently in a world where both studies were flawed? As long as you trust every scientific paper you see – let alone every scientific paper you see on your side in a highly politicized field – even when you’re right it will often just be by luck.

III.

Vox also voxsplains to us about America’s unusually high gun homicide rate.

Having presented this graph, they say that “To understand why that is, there’s another important statistic: The US has by far the highest number of privately owned guns in the world.”

Even granting, as we saw above, that gun ownership does indeed increase homicide rates, this is not the most important factor in explaining America’s higher homicide rate, or even close to the most important factor. Let me give a few arguments for why this must be the case:

1. The United States’ homicide rate of 3.8 is clearly higher than that of eg France (1.0), Germany (0.8), Australia (1.1), or Canada (1.4). However, as per the FBI, only 11,208 of our 16,121 murders were committed with firearms, eg 69%. By my calculations, that means our nonfirearm murder rate is 1.2. In other words, our non-firearm homicide rate alone is higher than France, Germany, and Australia’s total homicide rate. Nor does this mean that if we banned all guns we would go down to 1.2 – there is likely a substitution effect where some murderers are intent on murdering and would prefer to use convenient firearms but will switch to other methods if they have to. 1.2 should be considered an absolute lower bound. And it is still higher than the countries we want to compare ourselves to.

2. There are many US states that combine very high firearm ownership with very low murder rates. The highest gun-ownership state in the nation is Wyoming, where 59.7% of households have a gun (really!). But Wyoming has a murder rate of only 1.4 – the same as right across the border in more gun-controlled Canada, and only about a third of that of the nation as a whole. It seems likely that the same factors giving Canada a low murder rate give Wyoming a low murder rate, and that the factors differentiating the rest of America from Wyoming are the same factors that differentiate the rest of America from Canada (and Germany, and France…). But this does not include lower gun ownership.

3. There are many US states that combine very low firearm ownership with very high murder rates. The highest murder rate in the country is that of Washington, DC, which has a murder rate of 21.8, more than twenty times that of most European countries. But DC also has the strictest gun bans and the lowest gun ownership rate in the country, with gun ownership numbers less than in many European states! It seems likely that the factors making DC so deadly are part of the story of why America as a whole is so deadly, but these cannot include high gun ownership.

If not gun ownership, what is the factor making America so much more deadly than Europe and other First World countries? The traditional answer I always heard to this question was that America had a “culture of violence”. I always hated this answer, because it seemed so vague and meaningless as to be untestable by design. If the NRA waves their hands and says “eh, culture of violence”, how are you going to tell them they’re wrong?

But we can work with this if we assume the culture of violence (or, if you want to be official about it, “honor culture”) is more common in some populations and areas than others. Some of the groups most frequently talked about during these lines are Southerners and various nonwhite minorities. This provides a testable theory: if we compare American non-Southern whites to European countries mostly made up of non-Southern whites, we’ll find similar murder rates. But first, some scatter plots:

This is murder rate by state, correlated with perceived Southernness of that state as per 538’s poll. I’ve removed DC as an outlier on all of the following.

And this is murder rate by state correlated with percent black population:

This would seem to support the “culture of violence” theory.

Can we adjust for this and see what the murder rate is for non-Southern whites? Sort of. The Economist gives a white-only murder rate of 2.5 (this is based on white victims, whereas we probably want white perpetrators, but the vast majority of murders are within-race so it doesn’t make much difference). And Audacious Epigone has put together a collection of white murder rates by state. I can’t find anything on non-Southern white murder rates per se, but one hack would be to take the white murder rate in non-Southern states and assume there aren’t any Southerners there.

Our main confounder will be urbanization. Western Europe is about 80% urban, so let’s look at states at a similar level. The four northern states that are closest to 80% urban are Colorado, Oregon, Washington, and Connecticut. I’m throwing out Colorado because it has a large Latino population who can’t be statistically differentiated from whites. That leaves, Washington (2.4), Connecticut (2.0), and Oregon (2.0). So possibly adjusting out Southerners brings us down from 2.5 (all whites) to 2.1 or so (non-Southern whites)? Again, compare to Germany at 0.8, Canada at 1.4, and America at 3.8.

There’s one more factor that needs to be considered:

This is a plot of the gun death rate vs. the robbery rate. There’s a strong correlation (r = 0.78). Robbery is heavily correlated with percent black, percent Southern, and urbanization, so it’s probably coming from the same place. Nevertheless, it seems to correlate with murder better than any of them alone, maybe because it’s combining all three measures together. I was able to make a linear model using those three measures that correlated at r = 0.79 with murder, about the same amount that robbery does. I should also mention that robbery correlates negatively with gun ownership at r = – 0.52, but this disappeared when controlled for urbanization.

So my very tentative conclusion is that although the US murder rate is much higher than that of other First World countries, this is partly due to the existence of various cultural factors not present in those other nations. When we adjust those away, America’s murder rate falls from 3.8 to 2.1. Which is still higher than Germany’s 0.8 or Canada’s 1.4.

Is that extra due to guns?

IV.

According to MA&H 2007, each absolute percentage point in gun ownership was related to a 2.2 relative percentage point difference in homicide. This part of the study was beyond my ability to check, and I’m not sure why they switched from absolute to relative percents there, but suppose we take it seriously.

America has a gun ownership rate of 32%, so if we somehow decreased that to zero, we would naively expect about a 70% decrease in homicides. Unfortunately, only 67% of American homicides involve guns, so we’re back to pretending that eliminating guns will not only have zero substitution effect but also magically prevent non-gun homicides. This shows the dangers of extrapolating a figure determined by small local differences all the way to the edge of the graph (I’M TALKING TO YOU, RAY KURZWEIL).

Maybe we can be more modest? Canada has a gun ownership rate of aboot 26%, so…

…wait a second. I thought we’ve been told that the US has a gun ownership rate seven zillion times that of any other country in the world, and that is why we are so completely unique in our level of gun crime? And now they’re telling us that Canada has 26% compared to our 32%? What?

Don’t trust me too much here, because I’ve never seen anyone else analyze this and it seems like the sort of thing there should be loads of analyses of if it’s true, but I think the difference is between percent of households with guns vs. guns per capita. US and Canada don’t differ very much in percent of households with guns, but America has about four times as many guns per capita. Why? I have no idea, but the obvious implication is that Canadians mostly stop at one gun, whereas Americans with guns buy lots and lots of them. In retrospect this makes sense; I am looking at gun enthusiast bulletin boards, and they’re advising other gun enthusiasts that six guns is really the bare minimum it’s possible to get by with (see also “How many guns can you have before it’s okay to call your collection an ‘arsenal’?”, which I have to admit is not a question that I as a boring coastal liberal have ever considered). So if the guy asking that question decides he needs 100 guns before he gets his arsenal merit badge, that’s a lot more guns per capita without increasing percent household gun ownership. This should actually be another argument that guns are not a major factor in differentiating US vs. Canadian murder rates, since unless you’re going on a mass shooting (WHICH IS REALLY RARE) you wouldn’t expect more murders from any gun in a household beyond the first. That means that the small difference between US and Canadian household percent gun ownership rates (32% vs. 26%) would have to drive the large difference between US and Canadian murder rates (1.4 vs. 3.8), which just isn’t believable.

…okay, sorry, where were we? Canada has a gun ownership rate of about 26%, so if America were to get its gun ownership as low as Canada, that would be -6 absolute percentage points = a 13% relative decrease in murder rate = the murder rate going from 3.8 to 3.3 = a 0.5 point decrease in the murder rate. That’s pretty close to the difference between our 2.1 US-sans-culture-of-violence estimate and the 1.4 Canadian rate – so maybe beyond the cultures of violence, the rest of the US/Canada difference really is due to guns?

(I’m not sure whether I should be subtracting 13% from 2.1 rather than 3.8 here)

In Germany, 9% of households own firearms (wait, really? European gun control is less strict than I thought!) Using MA&H’s equation, we predict that if the US had the same gun ownership rate as Germany, its murder rate would drop 50%, eg from 3.8 to 1.9. Adjust out the culture of violence, and we’re actually pretty close to real Germany’s murder rate of 0.8.

How much would gun control actually cut US gun ownership? That obviously depends on the gun control, but a lot of people talk about Australia’s gun buyback program as a model to be emulated. These people say it decreased gun ownership from 7% of people to 5% of people (why is this number so much lower than Canada and Germany? I think because it’s people rather than households – if a gun owner is married to a non-gun-owner, they count as one gun-owner and one non-owner, as opposed to a single gun-owning household. The Australian household number seems to be 19% or so). So the gun buyback program in Australia decreased gun ownership by (relative) 30% or so. If a similar program decreased gun ownership in America by (relative) 30%, it would decrease it by (absolute) 10% and decrease the homicide rate by (absolute) 22%. Since there are about 13000 homicides in the US per year, that would save about 3000 lives – or avert about one 9/11 worth of deaths per year.

(note that our murder rate would still be 3.0, compared to Germany’s 0.8 and Canada’s 1.4. Seriously, I’m telling you, the murder rate difference is not primarily driven by guns!)

Is that worth it? That obviously depends on how much you like being able to have guns. But let me try to put this number into perspective in a couple of different ways:

Last time anyone checked, which was 1995, about 618,000 people died young (ie before age 65) in the US per year. Suppose that the vast majority of homicides are of people below 65. That means that instituting gun control would decrease the number of premature deaths to about 615,000 – in other words, by about half a percentage point. I’m having to borrow this data from the UK, but if it carries over, the average person my age (early 30s) has a 1/1850 chance of death each year. Gun control would decrease that to about 1/1860. I’m very very unsure about the exact numbers, but it seems like the magnitude is very low.

On the other hand, lives are very valuable. In fact, the statistical value of a human life in the First World – ie the value that groups use to decide whether various life-saving interventions are worth it or not – is $7.4 million. That means that gun control would “save” $22 billion dollars a year. Americans buy about 20 million guns per year (really)! If we were to tax guns to cover the “externality” of gun homicides preventable by Australia-level gun control, we would have to slap a $1000 tax on each gun sold. While I have no doubt that some people, probably including our arsenal collector above, would be willing to pay that, my guess is that most people would not. This suggests that most people probably do not enjoy guns enough to justify keeping them around despite their costs.

Or if all gun enthusiasts wanted to band together for some grand Coasian bargain to buy off the potential victims of gun violence, each would have to contribute $220/year to the group effort – not totally impossible, but also not something I can really see happening.

This is very, very, very, very very tentative, but based on this line of reasoning alone, without looking into the experimental studies or anything else, it appears that Australia-style gun control would probably be worth it, if it were possible.

(I didn’t price in the advantages of guns in terms of preventing state tyranny and protecing freedom, which might be worth subsidizing, but my guess is that if 32% gun ownership is enough to maintain freedom, 22% gun ownership is as well)

V.

In summary, with my personal confidence levels:

1. Scatterplots showing raw correlations between gun ownership and “gun deaths” are entirely driven by suicide, and therefore dishonest to use to prove that guns cause murder (~100% confidence)

2. But if you adjust for all relevant confounders, there is a positive correlation between gun ownership and homicide rates (~90% confidence). This relationship is likely causal (~66% confidence).

3. The majority of the difference between America’s murder rate and that of other First World countries is not because of easier access to guns in America (~90% confidence).

4. But some of it is due to easier access to guns. This is probably about 0.5 murders/100K/year.

5. An Australian-style gun control program that worked and had no side effects would probably prevent about 2,000 murders in the US. It would also prevent a much larger number of suicides. I am otherwise ignoring suicides in this piece because discussing them would make me too angry.

6. Probably the amount of lost gun-related enjoyment an Australian-style gun control program would cause do not outweigh the benefits.

7. This is not really enough analysis to make me have a strong opinion about gun control, since this just looks at the correlational evidence and doesn’t really investigate the experimental evidence. Contrary to what everyone always tells you, experimental evidence doesn’t always trump correlational – there are cases where each has its strengths – but it wouldn’t be responsible to have a real opinion on this until I look into that too. Nevertheless, these data are at least highly consistent with Australia-style gun control being a good idea for the US.

If you want to look into this more, here is a CSV version of all the relevant data.

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1,489 Responses to Guns And States

  1. msnthrop says:

    I ran across some stats the other day that 50% of men who are murdered are murdered in their homes…for woman it was 75%…what would gun deaths/either by suicide or homicide look like when broken down by location of the incident

  2. Jesse says:

    I never saw a distinction between homicides and justifiable homicides. Is this included in the studies? Also, I never saw a true distinction between gun ownership and violent crime… not just gun deaths.

  3. Peter West says:

    So what was the effect of the reduction in gun ownership in Australia? Oz has good statistics, so go for it.

  4. Z says:

    Regarding the Harvard Injury Control Research Center…

    See this: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/hicrc/firearms-research/
    Check the bottom of the page for “Funding”.

    Now let’s look at the funding habits of their two main contributors:
    http://www.joycefdn.org/programs/gun-violence-prevention/gun-violence-prevention-grantees/
    http://www.bohnettfoundation.org/grants/category/gun-violence-prevention/

    Notice any trends?

  5. cmholm says:

    The context of my beef was this passage:
    “There are many US states that combine very low firearm ownership with very high murder rates. The highest murder rate in the country is that of Washington, DC, which has a murder rate of 21.8, more than twenty times that of most European countries. But DC also has the strictest gun bans and the lowest gun ownership rate in the country, with gun ownership numbers less than in many European states! It seems likely that the factors making DC so deadly are part of the story of why America as a whole is so deadly, but these cannot include high gun ownership.”

    So, I check to see if Mr. Alexander was going to address the 800lbs gorilla. It wouldn’t have take more than what I wrote. When he branched out from strictly addressing Vox’ stats, he elected not to.

    • Agronomous says:

      Our host didn’t sweat through four years of medical school in a third-world country and then plunk himself down in the middle of Michigan for residency just to have people call him “Mr. Alexander.”

      That’s “Doctor Alexander,” motherfucker.

      Or, you know, just “Scott”.

  6. Jfl says:

    It is mentioned that the statistical value of a human life is $7.4 mil. Do we value all life the same? Is it possible that some of these losses of life in the communities with a propensity for violence are actually a societal good? It is typically the most violent killing the most violent. I conceed that there are some serious tragedies, but on the whole, murders are felons murdering felons. If we are attempting to quantify this decision, and attempting to make an economic cost benefit analysis of gun control, do we put a positive value on the life of a person who lowers the overall standard of living, or is it actually a net economic positive for a violent criminal to be removed from society?

  7. Mark Bailey says:

    Nice analysis. I am not competent to dissect or critique it but it looks decent. However, some of the conclusions need further exploration. For example, when Australia put their firearms confiscation program in place, firearms related deaths (homicides) fell significantly. However, the overall homicide rate was nearly flat with a significant increase in homicides from knives and sharp instruments (Source – Aussie government crime statistics). I also remember reading (but cannot recall the source) that when a New England state put in place a handgun control program to reduce handgun suicides, it worked, sort of. Suicides by handgun decreased sharply. Overall suicide rates were effectively flat. Gas, poisons, and ropes are readily available (and probably uncontrollable) alternatives if a person is truly determined to commit suicide.

    One other point. Switzerland has nearly as high a percentage of households with firearms as the US and higher than Canada’s. Moreover, many of these firearms are military grade rifles and assault weapons. But Switzerland has an extremely low rate of firearms related homicides. To me, this is evidence that culture, national or regional, plays a significant role in homicide rates. Your comments pointed out the fact that Washington, D.C. is an outlier regarding gun ownership vs homicide rates. But then there is Chicago, which until very recently was every bit as restrictive about private ownership of handguns as D.C., but had (and still has) a relatively high gun homicide rate. Given that even a complete legal ban on firearms could be expected to be as effective as the complete legal ban on controlled substances (drugs), it would seem that it would be more effective to identify and attack the root causes, rather than the symptoms.

  8. A likely difference is intent. In Europe, many men (yes, gendered) own guns with the intent to hunt animals. There are a few regions where people own guns with the intent to defend collectively against tyranny. It’s very rare to meet an individual who admits they own a gun with the intent of self defence.

    Americans also own guns with the intent to hunt. But it looks like many or most buy guns with the intent to shoot a person in self defence. To non-Americans it looks like an active desire or fantasy to be in a situation where the gun owner is justified to shoot another person, and be a hero or whatever.

    What you think when you buy a gun probably influences how you’re going to use it. If the gun is “for hunting” or “for the revolution” that’s probably a step further away than if you bought it “for killing people”. If you bought it “for killing people” and it’s sitting in a drawer unused you might start looking for opportunities to use it.

    I don’t know if there are systematic studies of the reasons people report for buying firearms, in the US and elsewhere.

    • Harold says:

      But it looks like many or most buy guns with the intent to be able to shoot a person in self defence.

      Put it this way, and few American gun owners will disagree, except with an emphasis on protecting ourselves and family and friends, or maybe just other random innocents (but the latter is really unwise). And I’ve never met a gun owner who actually intended to do so, although only the really stupid would say that, seeing as how it declares premeditation, and will get you justly crucified in court.

      Of course, we 10 million Americans who’ve gotten concealed carry licences, 5% of the age eligible adults in my mixed city and rural county, have rather explicitly declared this, vs. intent to hunt or target shoot (the latter is a pretty big field of sports).

      BTW, at least a million Americans a year “use” their guns up to 2.5 million times to defend themselves and others. Scare quotes because most uses don’t involve even firing the gun, just credibly threatening to do so if necessary.

      (The first figure is from a survey conducted by an anti-gun organization, the second is more recent, the highest researchers have found adding the question of how many times a year to the survey questions.)

      • Anonymous says:

        It’s hard to know how many of those instances are legit and how many are unprosecuted brandishing.

        • Harold says:

          Essentially impossible, since the incidents are self-reported in surveys. But I’ve never heard that “unprosecuted brandishing” is a problem, let alone a significant one.

          Where, pray tell, can people expect to get away with it? Why wouldn’t most victims report that to the police? We’re certainly advised to always call the police when we’re forced to do so, in case the miscreant tries to get us into trouble by claiming falsely that we did so without sufficient provocation.

          • anonymous says:

            Consider the following scenario:

            It’s 9PM on a Tuesday, in a poor part of Jackson, Mississippi. A 66 year old white woman is home by herself as her husband of 45 years is in the hospital. She happens to glance out the window and sees three black teenagers / twenty somethings in baggy clothes walking down her side of the street. They pause in front of her house for unknown reasons. She goes to the closet and pulls out a handgun, goes to the door, points the gun vaguely in the youths’ direction and yells at them to get the hell away from her house. They run away.

            1) Do you think such a scenario is plausible?
            2) Do you think that she’d consider it a defensive gun use?
            3) What do you think are the chances the pedestrians are going to call the cops?
            4) What do you think the cops’ response would be if they did?
            5) Was it actually a defensive gun use or a was it a brandishing?

    • DarkWing says:

      “But it looks like many or most buy guns with the intent to shoot a person in self defence. To non-Americans it looks like an active desire or fantasy to be in a situation where the gun owner is justified to shoot another person, and be a hero or whatever.”

      I’ve been a licensed driver since 1980. I’ve driven hundreds of thousands of miles in that time. I’ve worn a seat belt almost every one of those miles. But even though I was wearing a seat belt, I never hoped to get in an accident.

      I owned a house for 18 years. Kept fire extinguishers in the house the entire time. Never once did my ownership of fire extinguishers mean that I hoped the house would catch fire.

      I held a carry permit for five years. Carried most days during those five years. Never once did I go out hoping I would have an opportunity to shoot somebody.

      In fact, the opposite was true. I became more likely to avoid potentially dangerous situations, because I didn’t want to get in a situation that might involve using my gun in self defense. I don’t know if that’s a typical response, but I have heard others report the same experience.

      • Seth says:

        I dunno. I’ve never seen anyone seriously write a comment like what follows. And if they did, it might raise an eyebrow or two. Consider this substitution of something above:

        “Not to be underestimated, either, is the psychological value of
        knowing that I am doing the duty of a man. When arson occurs near me,
        or in the event of a breakdown of hydrant pressure and water sprinklers, I am part of the solution. I am civilization asserting itself, with stifling foam
        or threat of same if required. We cannot leave that duty to
        firefighters and janitors, because having a sufficiently pervasive
        safety inspector and building maintenance presence to do the job
        effectively would have other kinds of very bad consequences.

        I sometimes wonder how you hazard-helpless sheep out there can stand
        yourselves. OK, I get it about women; they’re designed by the EAA to
        brave fire only when the men have failed. But there are days when I
        want to clout the nearest SWPL pajama-boy upside the head and ask “Who
        the fuck are you? Do you know what you’ll eat smoke for? Do you know
        what you’ll burn for? What will you do if shit gets real? Who do you
        smother if alight? Where are your goddamn balls?”

        Pretty much all fire-extinguisher-culture folks feel this way to some
        extent – that being around the self-hazardous is like being
        surrounded by overgrown children with no courage or sense of
        responsibility. We just don’t talk about it much.

        EDIT: I should have added that women in the fire-extinguisher culture
        share this feeling too. So it’s not the case that male
        fire-extinguisher owners are living on a macho island of self-assumed
        superiority; our women know it could be their job to put out flames, too.”

    • Cord Shirt says:

      “But it looks like many or most buy guns with the intent to shoot a person in self defence. To non-Americans it looks like an active desire or fantasy to be in a situation where the gun owner is justified to shoot another person, and be a hero or whatever.”

      This is really interesting. It wouldn’t have occurred to me to see it that way.

      I agree with Harold that the intent is really to *be able to* shoot a person in self-defense if a conflict gets to a point where your own life is in danger. So…as DarkWing said, most people don’t want to be in a situation where their life is in danger. It really is a just in case thing.

      It’s not “for killing people,” it’s “for staying safe.” So if it’s sitting in a drawer, then you’ve been staying safe, achieving your goal.

      • Tibor says:

        I don’t really think it makes sense to say something that should hold for all “non-Americans”. Even if you restrict this to Europeans it does not hold very well. Most people I know who own guns have them for self-defence or just for fun (shooting at a shooting range). Those are all people from the cities. I don’t know any hunters, I also don’t know anyone who does not come from a city or a bigger town. However, I think that in more rural regions most gun owners will use their guns for hunting. Hunting has a long tradition in the country, not in the US style but in a similar way like in Austria where the “hunter” (Jäger in German or myslivec in Czech…hunter is actually not a good translation but I don’t think there is a good word in English) also looks after the forest and its animals and the hunting is usually done in a group and with dogs during the hunting season. They also tend to wear clothes like this guy in their hunts (it is a comedy sketch but the clothes are accurate). I think that this tradition is also partly responsible for the quite liberal gun laws in the country.

        Actually, I think that a typical Czech from a city/town might look a bit down on hunters (because they kill animals for trophies and because every now and then an accident happens during a hunt and one hunter shoots another) but will not find someone having a handgun for self-defence as anything disturbing or weird (although, admittedly not all that common given the low percentage of armed households).

        • May I suggest “huntsman”?

          • Tibor says:

            I dunno, most of them only have four limbs, not eight :))

            I don’t have a good enough feeling for English to differentiate between hunter and huntsman. Huntsman sounds kind of more archaic, so maybe it fits better to the image of someone who looks after the forest as well. Basically you want a combination of a forester and a hunter…A huntester (which could also be a device constructed to tell Huns from other poeple…although that is already called a Hunalyzer)

        • Psmith says:

          “Ranger” seems about right. cf as well the names of somewhat specialized infantry forces–we have our Rangers, Germany has various Jager units. (What do you call the relevant class in D&D?)

          (ETA: “Jäger (singular [der] Jäger, plural [die] Jäger, German pronunciation: [ˈjɛːɡɐ]) is a German military term adopted in 1631 by the landgrave of Hesse when he first formed an elite infantry unit out of his professional hunters (Jäger) and rangers (Forstleute) in the Hessian Army.” Well, crap.).

          • Tibor says:

            Yeah, ranger is probably a more accurate translation but not used often. On the other hand a Jäger or myslivec it is not exclusively a military position or someone who is a government employee, but a ranger is perhaps neither. The DnD class ranger kind of fits too, although at least in czech, “ranger” as a fantasy game class is usually translated differently, with the word “chodec” which means literally pedestrian or walker but which is probably a slightly obscure reference to a group of yoemen who were tasked by the Bohemian king to guard the southwestern border of the kingdom in return for some privileges and who are/were called Chods. The reason for that is probably that the word “myslivec” has a much more modern flavour to it (18th century and onward) and one definitely imagines one with a rifle, not with a bow or a sword like the fantasy ranger.

    • Tibor says:

      I guess it depends on which part of non-America you’re talking about. Non-America is a pretty big country.

  9. dsto says:

    Some questions:

    “(I didn’t price in the advantages of guns in terms of preventing state tyranny and protecing freedom, which might be worth subsidizing, but my guess is that if 32% gun ownership is enough to maintain freedom, 22% gun ownership is as well)”
    Wouldn’t there be positive externalities of high gun ownership rates in reducing crime, and would 22% vs 32% be expected to make a difference there? Shouldn’t the lost value of that be calculated in?

    “If a similar program decreased gun ownership in America by (relative) 30%, it would decrease it by (absolute) 10% and decrease the homicide rate by (absolute) 22%. Since there are about 13000 homicides in the US per year, that would save about 3000 lives – or avert about one 9/11 worth of deaths per year.”
    Is it reasonable to expect that the marginal gun owner (that 30% of people that would no longer own guns under such a program) would affect the gun homicide rate as much as the average gun owner? Wouldn’t you expect that the gun owners who most significantly contribute to the gun homicide rate to be the gun owners furthest away from the margin (least likely to be in that 30% that get rid of their guns)?
    Or am I missing something?

    • Tibor says:

      I don’t think so. The people who use guns for violence are largely criminals who use it in their “profession”, so they have mostly acquired their guns illegally and limiting the total number of sold guns probably increases the black market prices as well, unless most black market guns are obtained by means other than illegal reselling or theft of legally purchased guns. They might then be more willing to switch to less expensive “tools of trade” such as knives. My reservations are mainly about the effectiveness of putting a large tax on guns being the best way of limiting the supply illegal guns.

      I think that the people willing to pay a 1000$ tax on a gun are not likely to be people who actually commit murder. They may be more willing to shoot others if attacked…which I personally find ok, so I would use a number for homicide sans self-defence, I don’t know about Scott or other people.

  10. “On the other hand, lives are very valuable. In fact, the statistical value of a human life in the First World – ie the value that groups use to decide whether various life-saving interventions are worth it or not – is $7.4 million. ”

    If you look a the demographics of murder victims, I think that number drastically overstates the value of human lives lost to murder in America. In America, blacks commit ~40% of the murders. 90% of their victims are other blacks. The demographic of black murder victims resembles the demographics of black murder offenders, i.e. 16-28, black, male, criminal records, little to no gainful employment. What subjective value would you assign to an intervention that would allow more of them to stay alive?

    • Anonymous says:

      Unlike Mark Atwood, I don’t love it when the mask slips. I’d rather it stayed on all the time.

    • Troy says:

      It shouldn’t need to be said, but for the benefit of those here who suspect anyone who accepts HBD or thinks it important of harboring such attitudes: I am someone who thinks there are large and important behavioral and cognitive differences between races (some of which is likely biologically caused), and who thinks we need to have honest discussions about this and its implications for public policy. And I strongly reject Bjorn’s suggestion that black lives are worth less than white lives. Empirical facts about race differences neither equal nor imply judgments about some human lives being worth more than others.

      #BlackLivesMatter #AllLivesMatter

      • FacelessCraven says:

        yeah, he appears to be a racist.

        On the other hand, remove all instances of “black” from his comment, and you’re left with the claim that several others have made in these threads: most murders in America are career criminals killing other career criminals. Slow Learner suggested we should be willing to spend as much to prevent such deaths as we do to prevent, say, the deaths of teen cancer victims. I am not sure I value the life of a 22-year-old criminal with an established history of antisocial violence as much as I do someone struck by cancer in their 20s.

        • cmholm says:

          Regarding valuing one individual life over another, I agree. But, the circumstances that tend to lead to more 22-year-old criminals has a huge cost, both in quality of life and missed economic opportunity for everyone. So yeah, I’m willing to spend as much to prevent such deaths.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            …in which case you’re talking about reducing the incidence of crime in general, not about preventing the deaths of specific criminals. At that point, we’ve left the topic of gun control entirely.

        • Troy says:

          I would disagree there too inasmuch as we are talking about how much we value the life. When we’re talking about intervention — what can we do — then these variables certainly make a difference. It might be more costly to help career criminals than others. (Edit: though cmholm above is certainly right that the negative economic consequences of crime are substantial.)

          But it does bear repeating that the most important beneficiaries of crime reduction are those communities committing most of the crime in the first place, including people who may have been criminals themselves, or who have in fact committed other crimes. I don’t think we should give up on such people, although my suggestions for how to help them (old time religion, stronger families, etc.) differ markedly from the standard progressive policy prescriptions.

          Edit: on the topic at hand (gun control), Martin O’Malley talked about gun control in the context of a #BlackLivesMatter question in the 1st democratic debate. He said that he had a good record of showing concern for black lives in reducing the death of young black men by shootings.

          I don’t know if he’s right (I’m pretty agnostic on gun control), but I appreciate the sentiment a lot more than the sentiments usually coming out of the BLM movement.

  11. cmholm says:

    After raising some interesting points, the author lost credibility when he deployed this: “[DC has a high murder rate]. But DC also has the strictest gun bans and the lowest gun ownership rate.” Mr. Alexander, rather than take the easy shot, I’d ask you to show me that you understand the context. What are two major factors you neglected to mention in this sentence? I’ll throw in a clue: race/ethnicity isn’t one of them.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Urbanicity is the big one, but that’s my point – there are factors (such as urbanicity) that are separate from gun ownership which have a really really big effect on murder rate. It’s not credibility-destroying to point that out.

      • cmholm says:

        What I was getting at is that Washington D.C. suffers from 1) a large number of illegally possessed firearms, facilitated by 2) easy access to both legal and illegal firearms from the immediately surrounding MD and VA counties, and gunrunners driving up from FL. I believe it is credibility-destroying not to point this out within any discussion of gun violence in areas with a tighter gun control regime. I think it’s instructive that the state of HI enjoys reasonably effective gun control regulations.

        • Ahilan Nagendram says:

          It’s a good idea, then, that Scott omitted it entirely.

        • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

          The X axis in that chart is gun ownership rate, not stringency of gun control laws. If your complaint is that the existence of state lines renders unreliable the official numbers on gun ownership, DC is unlikely to be the only place affected, and perhaps you should be addressing your complaint to Vox rather than SA– trying to settle the matter by regressing gun deaths against official ownership rates was their idea, not his.

  12. Ano says:

    Is it wrong if I didn’t bother reading most of this post and just skipped to the conclusions?

    • Yes. Scott’s conclusions are not really supported by his evidence. He ignores way too many positive externalities of civilian weapons.

      His presentation of the evidence itself nevertheless illuminating and well worth reading.

  13. Upthread, ilkarnal said, in a comment too deep to allow threaded reply:

    “The archetypal murder is at home by someone who has a deep relationship with the person they are murdering, not a stranger-stranger interaction outdoors.”

    This is a myth. It is derived from a tendentious misinterpretation of UCS reports. The fact basis is that UCS counts murderer and murdered as “acquainted” if they have any kind of relationship at all – including (say) drug dealer to client, or pimp to hooker.

    In anti-gun-rights propaganda, “acquaintance” gets promoted to “loved one” and most of the 80% of shootings that are gangbangers killing in the drug trade become equated to Ozzies and Harriets offing one another in suburban homes. Reality is not like this. In reality, your chances of being shot by a “loved one” are comparable to your chances of being struck by lightning – such incidents are so rare that almost every individual one gets news coverage, creating a false-prominence effect that reinforces the myth.

    This is one of the lies that pisses off gun-rights people the most. Special dishonorable mention goes to the Kellerman & Reay “43:1” study in 1993 that seems to have turned it into a media meme; discussion here. It seems almost superfluous to add that Kellerman refused to make his primary data available for reanalysis, and was later a vocal defender of the Bellesisles fraud.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      Here are the time series, with several more categories and their definitions, from UCR, from this pdf.

      Yes, the number of people killed by “intimates” is only 4x the number of people struck by lightning. But just as many are killed by “other family” and the rest is only 4x bigger than intimates+other family.

      • Interpret with caution. As others have pointed out upthread, the incentives in the system lead to significant underreporting of justifiable homicides and confounding of the categories, especially when the case is cleared to one of the less alarming possible confusions.

        • Douglas Knight says:

          Confounding of these categories? Really? Can you point to the above comment?

          I’d find such skepticism more plausible if you had mentioned it in your previous comment, rather than switching excuses when caught in falsehoods.

      • stillnotking says:

        Interesting that most of the post-1990 decline in homicide rate seems to be within the “acquaintance” category. Assuming (rather safely, I think) that such homicides are more likely to represent cold-blooded calculation than are murders by intimates or family, the incentivist tilt-the-scales approach, i.e. hiring more police and using them more aggressively, looks the most promising.

    • FooQuuxman says:

      In anti-gun-rights propaganda, “acquaintance” gets promoted to “loved one” and most of the 80% of shootings that are gangbangers killing in the drug trade become equated to Ozzies and Harriets offing one another in suburban homes.

      It must be noted that this is part of the backing for another of the grabboid’s memes: That a woman can’t be helped by getting a gun because she will be unable to defend herself from the close relative / spouse who is abusing her. Aside from the fact that JAD himself manages to be less appallingly sexist, if this meme is true then abused women are completely and totally fucked.

      Somehow she will be completely incapable of pulling the trigger in the heat of the moment because of social pressure from other relatives, despite knowing that once she pulls the gun if she backs off she will get the beating of her life (if she survives it). But calling the police when tempers are cool will be easy for her? And of course the police can’t actually end the threat most of the time.

      Truly, a more patronizing group of jerks never walked the earth.

      • ” That a woman can’t be helped by getting a gun because she will be unable to defend herself from the close relative / spouse who is abusing her”

        the actual argument is that if everyone who could be helped by a gun has one, that leads to worse aggregate outcomes.

  14. Anonymous says:

    I don’t think I understand your argument for why the correlation can’t be murders causing guns. For a given robbery rate, more murders meaning more guns seems entirely plausible. Maybe robbery rate would cause this effect to a greater extent, but I don’t see why controlling for robbery rate totally knocks down the argument in the case of murder rates affecting gun ownership rates.

    I’m also not sure how controlling for robbery rate, which is very plausibly determined by gun ownership rates, even makes sense at all. You can’t control for a dependent variable. Can you? If more A means lots less B and a little less C, controlling for B would produce data suggesting that, when controlled for B, more A means a little more C – no?

  15. Agronomous says:

    When I saw that dot in the second graph, all alone in the upper-left corner, I knew at once: “That’s where I live!”.

    In general, comparing Washington, DC to other states will always give you misleading results, since DC is entirely urban, a degree that vastly surpasses even NY and RI.

    Slightly on-topic: any interest in a DC-Area SSC Meetup? If so, reply to this comment.

  16. Contaminated NEET says:

    “6. Probably the amount of lost gun-related enjoyment an Australian-style gun control program would cause do not outweigh the benefits.”

    What exactly is “gun-related enjoyment?” If all we’re considering is hunting, target shooting, and the fun of collecting guns, then yes, Australian-style gun control is a worthwhile policy. It’d be sad to lose those freedoms, and the fun that goes with them, but we accept all kinds of similar restrictions in the name of safety, so it’s not that big a deal.

    American gun-rights proponents aren’t such a stubborn and politically powerful lobby because they really, really like hunting, target shooting, and collecting, though. Even self-defense against criminals is a secondary concern. The reason they (OK, we) are so fanatical is because we see gun rights and an armed populace as the last line of defense against government tyranny.

    • TomA says:

      For most people, owning firearms changes a person’s psychology in many important ways. For example, it typically promotes an increase in the psychological traits of seriousness, caution, attention to detail, and ritual conduct. When carrying concealed, most people also experience an increase in what is known as situational awareness (keen observation of surroundings and subtle behavioral mannerisms in others). People who own firearms are also generally more difficult to intimidate, be that by an individual criminal or by an oppressive government. Owning firearms is typically associated with the overall personality traits of strong independence and self-reliance.

      Disarming a nation’s citizenry tends to suppress individualism and promote collectivism.

    • Maware says:

      If the government decided to be tyrannous on any scale, an armed populace would do nothing. If anything chances are the populace would even use their weapons in support of the tyranny! It’s not like we haven’t had things like Japanese internment during WW2 or government actions towards Native Americans or Mormons.

      The “militia” idea to me is wishful thinking.

      • William Newman says:

        “If anything chances are the populace would even use their weapons in support of the tyranny! It’s not like we haven’t had things like Japanese internment during WW2 or government actions towards Native Americans or Mormons.”

        Your argument seems to prove too much, unless you also want to argue that it’s ridiculous to believe that written law, a free press, a written constitution, and various semidemocratic variants of government (notably the USA republic arrangement formally in force during all the actions you describe) are ineffective in controlling tyranny. They don’t eliminate the possibility of tyranny, of course, but IMHO reasonable people can conclude that they’ve had a pretty good run at helping keep it under control (not compared to utopia, but compared to historical performance of other systems).

      • Schmendrick says:

        A militia can form a mob, sure. But after our experiences in Iraq, Afghanistan, etc., you shouldn’t pooh-pooh the damage and vexation a diffuse network of ideologically motivated, rifle-armed insurgents can cause.

  17. DarkWing says:

    New guy here. I, um, never post on internet discussions about gun control, as they tend to be hatefests. This appears to be an exception, with civility and intelligence and understanding that nobody has a corner on the truth. So I’ll take a chance.

    One of the big unknowns that has had precious little research, that I’m aware of, is finding a decent estimate of the number of US homicides that are legitimate defensive homicides.

    Someone pointed out somewhere above that dead bodies from guns aren’t a perfect indication of how much gun activity there is, but the number of dead bodies is by far the most accurate number we can get.
    And as Eric S. Raymond pointed out, the procedures of filing a Uniform Crime Report make the official numbers of justifiable homicides unreliable.

    Years ago, I read William Weir’s book A Well Regulated Militia. Weir was a member of both the NRA and the Brady Campaign, and made a decent good-faith effort to look at both sides of the gun rights / gun control issue (neither group came out looking very good).

    And in the book, he reported on a study that looked at the issue of justifiable homicides (I don’t remember the exact term, but basically, killing in self-defense), that are initially reported as homicides, and never have their status changed to reflect the conclusion of the investigation.

    There are lots of homicides that fit this bill. The most common situation, IIRC, is a woman who shoots her abusive boyfriend/husband in self-defense.

    Such homicides are initially reported to the Justice Dept. as just plain homicides … which most of us take to mean “murder”.

    After some investigation, the cops, DA, etc., know exactly who killed whom, and have proof, but no charges are filed. But the paperwork often isn’t sent in to the Justice Dept to reclassify the event as a justifiable homicide (don’t remember why, but I’d guess it’s because there’s no incentive for anyone to do so). The case is just dropped.

    Most jurisdictions don’t keep good records of such homicides, so it’s not possible to get a good fix on the number, or the percentage. But the researchers found one jurisdiction that did keep such records (Chicago, I think), and went through them to get a sense of how many there were, and what percentage they formed of the total homicides, etc.

    I wish I could remember the final percentage. I think it was between 10% and 20%, but I couldn’t swear to that. And obviously, the percentage in one city is not necessarily the percentage for the whole country. But it definitely changed my view of homicide stats, and by extension self-defense stats.

    No idea how good the study was. Not sure how well it generalizes to the country as a whole. Don’t have a copy of the book available, either. But it’s the only study I’m aware of that seems to use reliable numbers for defensive homicide stats.

  18. Hedonic Treader says:

    >Hospitals diligently record statistics about suicide victims including method of suicide

    Suicide victim? Really? We’re back at pretending suicide isn’t a choice?

    What’s next, masturbators = “self-rape victims”?

    • Seth says:

      Come to think of it, an old term for masturbation is “self-abuse”. Linguistically, if it’s possible to abuse oneself (which has long been accepted if somewhat dusty phrasing), why is it contradictory to victimize oneself? Using another phrase like “suicide perpetrators” (“suicide committers”?) sounds wrong to me. That is, objecting to terminology of “doing something bad to oneself” seems more like an objection to conventional English rather than any imposition on it.

      • Hedonic Treader says:

        The problem is that there is no actual victim. Not one person in all of human history has ever died from suicide against his or her will.

        I agree using crime-associated language like “perpetrator” or “committing” is also misleading, just like “self-murder”, since it’s victimless behavior and therefore should not be associated with crime.

        Also, what counts as “bad” or as a harm is contingent on context and framing. Suicide is entirely rational for everybody whose expected utilty from survival is lower than the expected utility from suicide. Abuse of language makes it politically easier to harm these people further.

        • Seth says:

          Empirically, I’d contend your objection is too-rigid linguistic prescriptivism, against at least more than a century of standard English usage. It’s like saying “pass on” is a pretense rather than “died”, and hence is language abuse (pretense, maybe, but that’s not necessarily abuse). I did a quick search on Google Books:

          1871: “You may be summoned the very day you set out in practice to visit the dead or dying — the suicide, victim to his own violence, or the victim to the murderous propensity of auother.”

          1911: “This being the sixth suicide victim, the Building Commissioner has issued a permit …”

          As the 1871 example shows, standard English has long included the concept of being a victim to actions by oneself.

          1911: “For the last two or three days I have again victimized myself …”

        • houseboatonstyx says:

          I also dislike terms that put a blanket negative judgement on suicide, but…. ‘Commit/ing suicide’ is an old, common expression, and I feel any association with ‘commit/ing a crime’ is … pretty dead by now. Totalling up ‘victims of accident, murder, and suicide’ is clear and economical, if not elaborated on.

          The old, neutral term for someone who has committed suicide is, ‘a suicide’. So, technically, we could avoid the victimization by saying ‘victims of accident and murder, and suicides’ — but some people would want to correct that to ‘victims of accidents, murders, and suicides’, or worse.

  19. OldRed says:

    With the number of concealed carry permits in Oklahoma growing at 40,000 a year and passing 8% of the entire adult population including felons and prisoners. I expect the households with guns is over 50% state wide. It’s higher than that in the western half of the state. The demographics of permit carriers average 40 to 50 years old and 2 to 1 male with the number women growing fast every year.

    I lie to pollsters about guns if I don’t hang up first.

    Red

  20. Thinking about this, I want to express some skepticism for the idea (mentioned in many comments above) that the higher rate of violence among whites in the South is significantly attributable to the Scotch-Irish/Ulster-Protestant origin of many Southerners.

    Scotch-Irish immigrants settled all over the U.S., with especially heavy settlement in a number of non-southern places like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New York. The Scotch-Irish gave us important non-Southern figures as varied as Cyrus McCormick (inventor of the McCormick reaper), US President William McKinley, Henry Ford, and many others.

    Meanwhile, some of the most objectively problematic areas in the South, in terms of brutal slavery, the most extreme lynching statistics, violent defiance of desegregation, and lingering high homicide rates, are parts of Louisiana where French ancestry predominates. Needless to say, other French-settled parts of the country, like northern New England, show no similarity to this.

    Might I suggest that immigrants to the U.S. tended to acculturate to the regions where they settled, and tended to take on the economic interests and attitudes and values and cultural tropes of the people around them?

    For example, American Jews who were here for the Civil War divided up very much like everybody else: Jews in the South supported the Confederacy (notably Judah P. Benjamin, Confederate Secretary of State), Jews in the North supported the Union, and Jews in border states were mixed.

    You might think that Baptists, or Methodists, or Presbyterians would tend to be internally cohesive, and certainly the Presbyterians had a lot of Scots ethnicity in common, but all three denominations had lasting schisms between North and South.

    Obviously this still leaves the question of how those differing cultural tropes originated. Economics is one answer: small farms vs. manufacturing vs. plantation slavery. And presumably the founding populations in each region had a lot of cultural influence. But — looking at the earliest coastal settlements in the South — weren’t those English?

    • stillnotking says:

      Yep, very much agree with this. The “heritability of violence” explanation always seemed weak to me; cultural factors must predominate, if not completely eclipse it. For example, the partition of India created one very high-crime and one much lower-crime state, despite the Muslim and Hindu populations being genetically more or less identical. And you’re right that immigration patterns to America were not nearly as geographically uniform as the heritabilists like to imply.

      Also, the massive historical decline in homicide rates around the world (but especially in Europe) occurred too quickly to have a genetic cause.

    • NN says:

      I definitely agree with this. I grew up in New Orleans, and since I have moved elsewhere I can’t help but notice a number of cultural differences, going beyond the obvious things like Mardi Gras parades, between there and the rest of the United States, and even the rest of the South. Yet a majority of the population of New Orleans is black, and the white population is mostly the same mix of European immigrant descendants found in every Atlantic port city (hence the stereotypical New Orleans accent being described as “Brooklyn on vallium”). If it was all down to genetics, then we would expect the culture of New Orleans to be very similar to Savannah, Georgia, or Long Island, but it obviously isn’t.

      A lot of it surely has to do with founder effects. New Orleans and Southern Louisiana in general wasn’t just initially settled by French people, it remained part of a French colony for nearly a century before being passed around to Spain, back to France, and then to America. In the late 18th century there was also a lot of immigration from Haiti, another French colony. Those early circumstances, along with the particular economic and social conditions of the area, seems to have been enough to fix a set of cultural tropes that keep that part of the country distinct to this day, through massive immigration, economic development, and even natural disasters.

      Relevant to the topic, part of the distinctive New Orleans culture is an especially deadly culture of violence, as demonstrated by it having the highest per-capita murder rate of any city in the US during 9 out of 10 years from 2001-2010. This was significantly higher than many places with a similar proportion of black residents, and as far as I know New Orleans doesn’t have an especially large number of Scotch-Irish descendants, so it is probably due to cultural factors. From what I’ve read, the early Louisiana colonists tended to largely consist of criminals, vagrants, and general low-lifes, because those were the only people that the French government could get to travel across the Atlantic to live in a malaria-infested swamp. That might have something to do with it.

      • keranih says:

        From what I’ve read, the early Louisiana colonists tended to largely consist of criminals, vagrants, and general low-lifes, because those were the only people that the French government could get to travel across the Atlantic to live in a malaria-infested swamp.

        You forgot yellow fever and lepers.

  21. TheNybbler says:

    Ahh, that FS/S index brings me back. When I was but a young internet-arguer, one big thing was a study which “proved” an association between gun ownership and homicide in the cities of Seattle and Vancouver using something called “Cook’s gun prevalence index”, in the intervening years it has been shortened to “Cook’s index”. Cook’s index is (FS/S + FH/H)/2 — that is, the average of the percentages of suicide and homicide which involve firearms. This of course induced a certain circularity in the study.

  22. Echo says:

    In recent news, the response to a guy shooting a cop (with a gun stolen from a cop) and saying “I DID IT FOR ISIS”:
    “Last night’s shooting had nothing to do with any faith. It was a violent assault by a criminal.” –Mayor of Philadelphia

    But secretly it was an NRA false flag operation to make Obama’s “town hall” speech look silly.

  23. Warren says:

    On suicides, states with higher elevations have higher suicides. And western states have some higher gun ownership rates and higher elevation.
    http://www.hcn.org/articles/is-altitude-causing-suicide-in-the-west

    http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/yourlife/health/medical/mentalhealth/2010-09-24-altitude-suicide_N.htm
    According to the study, 20 years of data collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that nine Western states —Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Arizona and Oregon— rank among the top 10 in terms of American suicide rates (with Alaska rounding out the list).

    Data gathered from the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) also shows that these states have some of the highest elevation levels in the country.

  24. Russ R. says:

    I should begin by saying that this is far more intelligent than the vast majority of what’s been published (and better written than anything I could produce). That said, I believe there are a number of limitations and shortcomings with this analysis.

    First, it’s entirely driven by correlational analysis of the 50 states (plus or minus DC). The obvious flaw here is that small (by population) states like Vermont or Wyoming get weighted exactly the same as huge states like California and New York. I have no idea whether this biases the conclusion in either direction, but it certainly reduces the confidence level.

    Second, and more importantly, a comparison among states probably misses the core issue. One would expect that if more granular data (e.g. municipal or county level) were available, it would show that the homicide problem is predominantly urban, while gun ownership (at least as reported) is predominantly rural. If this were indeed true, it would skewer the conclusion that we could somehow reduce the number of homicides that mainly occur in cities, by reducing gun ownership that mainly exists outside cities.

    Third, speaking of gun ownership, it’s the focal point of the analysis, but its accuracy (CDC survey data on gun ownership) suffers from biased underreporting (not just overall underreporting). Assume you’re a middle-age Iowan who owns a Ruger 10/22. How likely are you to respond honestly if a government employee phoned you at home and asked: “Are any firearms now kept in or around your home? Include those kept in a garage, outdoor storage area, car, truck, or other motor vehicle.”? Now how would you respond if you’re a teenage Chicagoan with a Phoenix MP-25?

    Fourth, not all firearms are equally risky. The Ruger 10/22 in the hands of the middle-age Iowan is much less of a homicide risk than the Phoenix MP-25 in the hands of the teenage Chicagoan. This analysis treats the two as identical. The problem is that the proposed gun control laws would be biased toward taking away the Iowan’s gun (given that he’s more likely to obey the law) than the Chicagoan’s (who’s likely already breaking the law). By preferentially removing the lowest risk firearms, it’s likely to fall short of the expected homicide reduction.

    Fifth, not all lives are equally valuable. The author unquestioningly accepts the EPA’s $7.4 million “value of a statistical life” for his calculation. Unfortunately, this is an average value, but the distribution of lives lost to homicides are not representative of the overall population. The same sub-population that is enormously over-represented in homicide statistics is also enormously over-represented in prison populations. So, what’s the “societal value” of an incarcerated individual’s life? It costs approximately $30k per year to merely house an inmate (ignoring legal expenses or the societal costs of the crimes that put the inmate behind bars), so the value to society of a “lifer” is at least negative to the tune of $1.5 million (assuming a life sentence equates to around 50 years imprisonment). If this value is more representative of the individuals who die in gun homicides, then the $22 billion figure significantly overestimates the actual societal gains from gun control.

    And sixth, (strictly a moral/legal issue, not an analytical one) if it’s an acceptable utilitarian argument that an unconstitutional measure (a mandatory gun buyback) is justified because would likely reduce the homicide rate from 3.8 to 3.0 per hundred thousand, then why not take an equally unconstitutional measure (banning black people) that would be approximately twice as effective, reducing the homicide rate to 2.3 per 100,000 (based on a simple regression of the author’s data)? I mean, if you have no qualms with ditching the 2nd Amendment and infringing on 32% of the population’s right to keep and bear arms, then you can just as easily ditch the 5th Amendment and deprive a mere 13% of the population of their life, liberty or property without due process of law. You’d be trampling on fewer peoples rights, and getting nearly twice the utility. (/sarc)

    • sweeneyrod says:

      I don’t think the problem with your last point is the ethical issues, but the fact “banning black people” wouldn’t be twice as effective in utility gained (unless your point was that you can come up with an obviously absurd policy using the same statistical reasoning as Scott used to justify gun control, rather than that gun control is unethical, even if it is effective).

    • NN says:

      What, exactly do you mean by “banning black people?” The overwhelming majority of black Americans are native born citizens whose families have lived in North America for longer than many white Americans. More recent immigrants from Africa tend to show much better outcomes in terms of education, income, crime, and so on than native blacks so banning black immigration would be pointless, even counterproductive.

      • Russ R. says:

        NN: “What, exactly do you mean by “banning black people?””

        I meant exactly what I wrote. Not just a ban on black immigration… an outright prohibition and expulsion of all black people from the United States. Don’t care where they go, but they’ll have to leave. No more black people, no more “culture of violence”, and a 40% reduction in homicides. The numbers don’t lie. The benefits would clearly outweigh whatever enjoyment they derive from living in the USA instead of some other country.

        (/ sarc)
        _______________________

        Back to being serious…

        You obviously missed the (/sarc) tag at the end of my previous paragraph. If you still don’t understand, go read “A Modest Proposal”. Then read the Bill of Rights. I don’t actually believe that it’s acceptable to deny any individual his or her Constitutional rights for utilitarian reasons. Gun owners included.

  25. Rick Hull says:

    ctrl-f doherty

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned this extensive look at “the facts” from Reason magazine’s Brian Doherty:

    https://reason.com/archives/2016/01/05/you-know-less-than-you-think-a #bout guns

  26. ryan says:

    The dollar value of the life of the gang member who is shot by the other gang member is not $7.4 million. That error is almost suspiciously conspicuous in an analysis that otherwise tried to take every similar issue into account.

  27. I just remembered that this was the subject of Michael Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine“. I can’t remember what the conclusion was, other than that he made a (metaphorical?) link to weapons of mass destruction.

    • Echo says:

      I went to a public showing of that movie, because I was working for the local democratic party.
      It was probably the biggest non-book influence on my early political life, and became the root of my disgust for all things progressive.

      The sheer number of vile lies per minute probably still hasn’t been matched by any other propaganda film… Except maybe his “BUSH DID 9/11” one.

    • Dr Dealgood says:

      I must have watched that movie a half dozen times as a kid, we actually had it on tape, and I think the reason that you don’t remember a conclusion was that there really wasn’t one. It was kind of a grab-bag of anti-gun stuff without a clear logical structure.

      From memory, I think the film went more-or-less like this. Moore gets a free rifle with his new bank account, buys ammunition at Walmart, otherwise observes hicks in their natural habitats; Moore talks to celebrities from Colorado about Columbine, followed by a fake South Park skit about American racism and imperialism; Moore talks about the NRA being evil capitalists who don’t care about dead kids, plus Charlton Heston saying scary things. Roll credits.

      So I guess the conclusion was “guns are bad, hicks are bad for liking them, and the NRA / firearms industry / Walmart are bad for making money on guns and hicks.”

      • Echo says:

        I believe he cited “Triumph of The Will” as his inspiration for the film’s direction, yeah. Just piles of unorganized jump cuts meant to push an emotion.

      • Tibor says:

        I’ve never grokked how that man and his films could ever have become even remotely popular. What he does is basically propaganda. I was somewhat shocked when a fellow PhD student (not in maths, I think he studied ecology or something but anyway 🙂 ) told me here he liked his films like Farenheit 9/11 and thought there was a lot to it. I would not think that someone getting a PhD would not be able to see Moore’s horrible bias. Then again, I also know a Russian PhD student here who told me she donates money to the pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine, that Ukrainians are “peasants” and that the country belongs to Russia anyway, so I should probably not expect much 🙂

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          On the topic of that Russian PhD student…have you seen this little propaganda poster I linked earlier?

          It went around a while ago, but it’s still great.

          • Tibor says:

            Oh yeah, gay nazis! 😀
            I don’t get why the guy in the middle has such a stupid haircut though.

          • Echo says:

            Do Not Mock Proud Haircut of Honored Eurasian Steppe Ancestors, Western Degenerate Pig-Devil Druggy Nazi-homo With… Pink bicycle helmet or something?

            That’s the one reference I’m not catching. European thing?

            Edit: got a bigger version http://i.imgur.com/b51WiQ5.jpg

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Tibor:

            It’s a chupryna or oseledets, a traditional hairstyle of Ukrainian Cossacks.

            Also, many high-ranking Nazis were infamously homosexual, and it was a common aspect of Soviet propaganda and disparaging humor. Homosexuality was officially considered to be a type of bourgeois degeneracy caused by capitalism, so it was “natural” that fascists who allegedly fight for capitalism would be gay.

            @ Echo:

            I think “pink bicycle helmet” is supposed to be a butch lesbian.

        • Dr Dealgood says:

          Your second sentence answers your first. Propaganda propagates very effectively.

          And we of all people should know that PhDs are not certificates of clear rational thought. I’ve worked with creationist geneticists before, some questionable nationalism doesn’t even register as unusual for me.

          The peasants thing is interesting to me because my ex used to talk about peasants a lot too, although she’s Chinese rather than Russian. I think the word must have a more neutral meaning in those places, like how the German word Bauer is also the word for farmer.

          Edit: Evidently I was mistaken. Thanks for helping me with the vocabulary Tibor!

          • Tibor says:

            Bauer is not quite the same as a peasant, there is something actually a bit noble about that word, whereas peasant is something lowly. In fact, the way peasant is used in English corresponds more to the word Gesindel in German, which however does not have any relation to agriculture…I don’t think there is a perfect one-word translation of the English word peasant in German which would contain all its meanings. I dunno how it is in Russian, in Czech it is pretty much like in German. But that Russian student’s level of English is high enough to recognize the negative connotations of that word and also the tone of her voice when she said peasants left no doubt about how she meant it.

          • Echo says:

            Interesting that Bauer is used for chess pawns in German. It hasn’t picked up negative connotations from that?

          • Creutzer says:

            No, it hasn’t. Nor from the fact that “Bauernstand” (literally “farmer class”) refers to peasants as a social class in the historical context.

          • stillnotking says:

            “Bauer” has the same root as the English word “boor”, which (in English) has a wholly negative connotation.

            “Yeoman” seems like the closest English term for a “noble peasant”, although it implies land ownership rather than serfdom.

          • Tibor says:

            There is the word Leibeigene, which literally means serf, but other than that the closest to peasant is Taglöhner, which literally means “dayearner”. Those were people who would have no land and would work on someone else’s land for wage which they would get every day. I think this word only appeared after serfdom was abolished, because I don’t think there were such people before. Or maybe a better word is Pro­vinz­ler which is just someone who is provincial, i.e. comes from from a periphery. I think that this captures the negative connotations of the word peasant…all of these words have pretty much literal Czech translations, but since Czech is quite strongly influenced by German, it is not clear whether it is English that is unique with its peasants or German without them.

            By the way – the chess figure names are interesting. The German word for Bishop is Läufer, i.e. runner, the Czech word is střelec, i.e. shooter and the pawn is “pěšec” i.e. footman. All the other figures usually keep their names (although I personally tend to call the knight “the horse”), I guess the differences in bishop’s name are caused by its rather vague looks.

          • Creutzer says:

            “Provinzler” is very far from “peasant” because it has no implication of occupation. It just marks an urban vs. rural contrast – in fact, you can even use it for someone who comes from a city, provided you yourself come from a bigger city (preferably the capital) and want to convey that the people in that city are insufficiently urban or cosmopolitan.

          • Tibor says:

            @Creutzer Sure, the direct translation to English would be (surprise) a provincial. But does that not capture the negative connotations of the word peasant? I think that if someone uses that word to refer to someone today, he basically wants to say that he is a hick. Now, its true that someone non-cosmopolitan is not exactly the same as a hick and a different kind of people would use the word hick and the word peasant. Someone who regards himself as some kind of quasi-nobility will use the word peasant, someone who regards himself as cosmopolitan and enlightened uses the word hick…Which makes Provinzler maybe closer to hick than to peasant then.

  28. Robert VerBruggen says:

    I spent some time toying with the spreadsheet in R. The model I came up with produces the same result, but it looks like it’s being at least partly driven by a handful of rural white states with (A) much higher homicide rates than the model would otherwise predict and (B) lots and lots of guns. I put some plots and whatnot together on Twitter; this is just experimentation and I welcome any comments:

    https://twitter.com/RAVerBruggen/status/685550198425255937
    https://twitter.com/RAVerBruggen/status/685576513689927681

    • Psmith says:

      Natives in SD, WY, and AK seem like a good bet. The Indian reservations in SD and WY are notoriously dysfunctional and crime-ridden (can’t find a real figure for homicide rate, but 2012 NYT says Wind River in WY has a violent crime rate 5-7x the national average), and Alaska natives have a homicide rate of ~12/100,000 according to these guys: http://justice.uaa.alaska.edu/forum/30/2summer2013/b_causesofdeath.html. (That’s race of victim, not race of perpetrator. See also: http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/aic.pdf). And AK and SD have the 1st and 3rd highest percent Indian populations in the US (~15% and ~9%), so we’d expect that to make a difference.

      Might be interesting to look at white homicide rates by state. On the other hand, that still doesn’t explain Idaho. And the ~1.5 white homicides per 100,000 for AK is still higher than lots of Western countries.

      And on that note: it may be a mistake to treat “southern” as synonymous with “descended from borderers.” Jayman thinks that a good deal of the far west was settled by the descendants of Appalachian mountaineers who were in turn descended from Ulster Scots. This jives with my impression of places like MT, AK, ID, WY, and AZ, and even the inland parts of CA (think Bakersfield), OR (militia), and WA.

    • Professor Frink says:

      You probably don’t want to be using lm to fit your model here. Homicide rates aren’t going to be normally distributed, and as your own residual plots show, the residuals aren’t normally distributed.

      Given the distribution of homicides, you should expect what you are seeing (large outliers with large residuals).

      Instead, use glm in R to do a poisson or a negative binomial regression. That should produce a better model.

      • Robert VerBruggen says:

        The homicide rates are logged, making them about normal. (This seems to be the norm in a lot of these gun studies; I’m not any kind of expert but I’ve gone over a lot of them. For whatever reason, negative binomial seems to be a public-health-researcher thing while economists etc. log the outcome variable and use rates.) The residuals are also basically bell-shaped on a histogram, though a little rougher.

        • Professor Frink says:

          They don’t really look log-normal to begin with, so taking a log and then throwing things into a linear regression isn’t a great solution. We’d naively expect rare events (like homicides) to be poisson-like, extending to negative binomial allows for cases where the variance isn’t near the mean. Taking a log and then doing a least squares regression is likely under estimating the conditional mean (data is skew right).

          Also, if you believe your results are driven by a handful of outlier states (as you said), then you don’t think that your residuals are normally distributed. You’ll have fat tails from the outliers, and they are likely skew (a lot of small overestimates from the outlier dragging the fit away from the bulk of the data, and a handful of large underestimates where the fit is far from the outliers).

          I’ve just looked at 5 random criminology papers looking at homicide vs. various things, and in 4 they used negative binomial regression, and in 1 they did a poisson regression. It’s possible the authors are in public health, I don’t know I just grabbed a few papers at random, but I don’t see the norm as taking the log. It’s possible it’s the norm in the gun literature, but that is one more reason the gun literature is bad.

          The two papers that I would consider “good” papers also used general estimating equations to deal with the fact that county and state data aren’t independent but regionally correlated.

          The paper Scott thought of as the best paper on gun homicides also appears to have used negative binomial regression and a general estimating equation.

          Also, in these economics papers taking a log transform, what do they do with the county level data when there are no gun homicides?

          • Robert VerBruggen says:

            I got my start reading this stuff in the more-guns-less-crime debate. Here’s a recent study where they added 0.1 to the counties with zero (and mention this is the same approach taken by the big National Academies panel that looked at it). That debate used panel data with a bunch of years; is it different in that case?

            http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2443681

            Also here’s something Lott wrote once. No idea if the criticism is valid, but it did seem to gibe with my general sense that NB is more common in public-health research for whatever reason: “Negative binomial regressions use count data, not the rate data these authors use. In addition, overdispersion (the variance greater than the mean) doesn’t imply the distribution is negative binomial in form and it isn’t in this case. Economists and criminologists frequently deal with skewness in homicide rates by running the negative binomial regressions on true count data (not on the rates) or by taking the natural log of the rate.2-6 Performing either procedure dramatically alters their results. The natural log of the rate is normally distributed.”

          • Robert VerBruggen says:

            It looks like my impression may have been skewed by concentrating so much on the concealed-carry debate. Here’s a paper (also adding 0.1 to handle zeroes) explicitly explaining why they don’t use NB:

            “We recognize that there are good theoretical reasons for using methodologies specifically developed
            for count data, especially for relatively rare crimes such as murder and rape
            (see Plassmann and Tideman 2001). However, nearly all the articles in this literature, including Ayres and Donohue, use ordinary least squares and we continue the practice here. Also, the large number of observations (over 65,000) combined with the large number of variables (over 160) makes nonlinear procedures such as the negative binomial computationally difficult to carry out.”

            http://econjwatch.org/file_download/234/2008-09-moodymarvell-com.pdf

            I gotta get some sleep. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

          • Professor Frink says:

            @Robert VerBruggen

            I’ll refresh myself and re-read some of the guns vs crime papers when I have a bit of time, but I think (heavy emphasis on think) that it was looking at differences in differences around laws that were passed. It’s possible their data for differences in differences was a decent match to log normal.

            I do remember thinking, back when I read the NRC report on the panel data that they didn’t use anything to control for the heteroskedasticity of the residuals, which made all their estimates appear more significant than they were. But ultimately, I think they decided that the evidence for more guns less crime was very weak, so correcting their estimates to be less significant would not have impacted the conclusion. However, the lack of this correction makes me wonder a great deal about the overall competence.

            Sort of like in Lott and Mustards original paper- it looks like a kitchen sink regression, and they seemed to pride themselves on the number of controls without really thinking about whether they were using too many controls, or why they were controlling for various things. Not necessarily a deal breaker, but it makes me wonder about competence.

        • Echo says:

          I think the “gun literature” generally is the criminology lit, no?

          • Robert VerBruggen says:

            It spans a bunch of fields. John Lott is an economist, and other economists got involved after he did his study in the 1990s. Criminologists are also involved, as are the public-health folks.

      • Robert VerBruggen says:

        I’m not very familiar with Poisson and NB regression, but I just tried un-logging and giving it a shot. (I don’t think GLM does NB; I used the MASS package with “glm.nb”.) I’m getting warnings because this isn’t count data, though I have seen NB used with rate data by pros (the Siegel et al. gun ownership study from a couple years ago).

        Poisson and NB seem to be pretty much the same thing in this case; the residuals don’t look different until you read a bunch of decimal places. I guess the added flexibility of NB isn’t needed here.

        The overall results are pretty similar to my old model, though if I take guns out of the model and look at the residuals, some of them have been brought under control. Alaska and Wyoming are always really high — and oddly, now some more states have really low residuals, including Vermont.

        • Professor Frink says:

          It’s good that it’s robust to log-normal vs. poisson regression! Robust to model specification builds confidence in the results.

          If more states have lower residuals, that is good, your model fits better. A few big residuals are more ok with poisson than normal distributions, because of the shape of the distribution, for a low mean poisson the right tail is longer than a normal, so you expect a few larger residuals.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I’m not 100% sure what you’re doing, but the white rural states are anomalous for how low their murder rate is given their guns. For example, #1 gun ownership state Wyoming has the 5th lowest murder rate in the US. If that’s the outlier, shouldn’t that *increase* our confidence that the model is right?

      • Robert VerBruggen says:

        It’s much higher with the Murder2002 variable, which I was using. What’s the difference between that and the plain old “Murder” variable? It’s much lower there, though it looks like it’s ranked sixth, not fourth.

        The FBI data for 2002 put it at 3.0, which is also, while not high, not at the bottom of the pack in that year. (I think your “Murder2002” numbers are CDC homicide numbers from 2002, which are slightly different, and slightly higher. They include homicides that aren’t murder, apparently even some police killings. Those should be classified as “legal intervention” instead of assault but about 1/2 the time they get put in a different category.)

        It’s a small state, so its number bounces around a lot. In 2001 it was 1.8 in the FBI numbers.

        The stuff I posted on Twitter is just a linear model with your spreadsheet, with the murder rate logged to make it normally distributed and the robbery rate logged to go with it. Some studies of crime rates do it roughly this way; I’m a little beyond my ken here, though. At the urging of another commenter I tried using Poisson regression instead and it’s reasonably similar results-wise.

        The plot is the residuals from my model with guns taken out, plotted against gun ownership so we can see what that variable does when you add it. If that model is explaining everything really well except a handful of high-gun states, which have higher rates than the model says, I *think* that might be suspicious regardless of whether those states have high or low raw rates. (Does this happen with yours too?) The relationship isn’t smooth; it suggests guns make little difference until you get to the really high-gun states, and those states seem to share a culture that isn’t accounted for in the model. There’s a culture of honor in parts of the West, too.

  29. Albino Gorilla says:

    I figured this of all posts would be one that would include “trigger” warnings 😉

  30. Sastan says:

    I am very glad to see Scott continuing to apply his considerable skills in this area.

    I do disagree with his conclusion, and as a long-standing partisan pro-gun activist, have this question:

    Why should any of us lift a finger to help others strip us of our rights? What are we being offered? I hear so often that we are “unwilling to compromise”, but the history of gun control pretty well puts paid to that. So what’s your side of the compromise? The unspoken reality is that anti-gun people are offering us nothing. They want laws passed that they know will not work. And when they don’t work, they will demand more laws. If we go along with Gun Control Scheme X, we know, with absolute certainty, that next year we will be screamed at about Gun Control Scheme Y.

    If there were any trust at all, we might hammer out a compromise. Register all guns, say, serious total background checks and in return we get suppressors legalized, and national concealed carry. But there is no trust. The left has burned it in a hilariously futile attempt to demonize rural white america. And here’s the thing. We don’t need a compromise. We’re winning. We will continue to win, because we have the facts, we have the science, we have the law, and we have basic moral intuition.

    There are tens of thousands of gun laws on the books. I keep hearing people say they want “common sense gun laws”. Well here’s the thing, if you couldn’t manage to put the common sense stuff in the first ten thousand cracks you had at it, why should we believe you are capable of it now? And if those aren’t all “common sense”, can we repeal them all and start over?

    • Vox Imperatoris says:

      Why should any of us lift a finger to help others strip us of our rights? What are we being offered? I hear so often that we are “unwilling to compromise”, but the history of gun control pretty well puts paid to that. So what’s your side of the compromise? The unspoken reality is that anti-gun people are offering us nothing. They want laws passed that they know will not work. And when they don’t work, they will demand more laws. If we go along with Gun Control Scheme X, we know, with absolute certainty, that next year we will be screamed at about Gun Control Scheme Y.

      There is no “compromise” about it. That’s just rhetoric people (mainly on the left, but sometimes the right) love to use.

      There are two senses of the of the word “compromise” that people love to equivocate on. One is the sense that “half a loaf” is better than no loaf of bread at all. That’s obviously true. If by compromising with your opponents, you can get half a loaf where you’d otherwise get none, you should do it. Yet even when you take half a loaf, you don’t admit (if it’s not true) that it is right to take half a loaf, and you keep trying as hard as you can or biding your time until you can get the other half.

      The other is that “compromise” is some kind of end in itself. A “golden mean” you pursue just for the hell of it. But when a burglar comes into your house and he wants all of your valuables, you don’t come to a “sensible middle ground” and give him half of your valuables. You fight, and the winner takes it all.

      Now, in a democracy, you don’t kill each other. You count who has the most people because you know that side would win in a fight. Then the losers agree not to fight at all, getting half a loaf and waiting until they can try for the whole one later. That’s how you solve disputes. But you also don’t want mob rule on every issue (even the mob can see that), so you limit and define the purpose of government with a constitution which gives the government limited powers and reminds it of what areas it can’t infringe upon.

      The constitution cannot possibly enforce itself. That’s true enough. But it—and more importantly, the implicit theory of rights and government behind it—provides an anchor point for jurisprudence. As Scott says, a guess with made-up numbers is better than a guess without them. It’s the same way in law, in a way I’ll explain.

      Despite the cynicism which goes back and forth between left and right, the huge advantage of the law is that it makes you have to argue why you want to do something, and why it doesn’t violate the constitution or the individual rights it protects. In the legislature, you can say: “I just want to ban guns. Do it!” But in the courts, you have to somehow argue that this fits in with America’s Constitution and the proper conception of individual rights. Yes, you can be a dirty motivated-arguer and lie and distort all you want; God isn’t going to strike you down. But you’re still going to have a harder time making a convincing case than you can in Congress where you just go and say “People who don’t want to ban guns hate children!” And let’s face it: I think the arguments for the individual right to bear arms are stronger, but the Second Amendment is poorly written (never use ablative absolutes!) and the theory of the right to bear arms is less clear than other rights because it runs up against problems like whether people ought to be able to own nuclear missiles—there seem to be limits.

      So even when you change the ideology of a justice on the Supreme Court one way or another, things don’t tend to do a complete 180 every time. Even though they’re the final authority and no one is directly stopping them from saying whatever they want. Even when it’s something as motivated as Bush v. Gore, we got a result many people didn’t like, but it did try to appeal to principles instead of just “We like Bush. Bush wins!”

      But yes, if the majority turns against you unjustly and the Supreme Court turns against you in violation of the Constitution and the proper purpose of government, you have no recourse for protecting your rights but to violence. At that point, you have to decide whether it’s worth facing almost certain death, or whether it’s better to wait and hope things get better. Every man and woman has to decide on his or her own where that line lies. And most people don’t have the right to pompously spout that they wouldn’t tolerate even the slightest infringement on their rights; otherwise they ought to be rebelling already, or they must think they don’t have many rights.

  31. Floccina says:

    One of the things not noted. In Canada aboriginal people commit a disproportional number of the murders so before comparing white USAers to Canadians you might want to adjust for that.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk%3ACrime_in_Canada

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Canada is only 3.6% Aboriginal, I would be surprised if they altered the stats much.

      • God Damn John Jay says:

        I know a decent number of people who have lived by the rough Indian reservations, and the responses are either:

        [How can people those people live like that.]

        and

        [How can people make other people live like this.]

        Depending ones sympathies politics and tribal affiliations. While ghettos are bad, there are at least doctors, psychiatrists, police, social services and doctors around, as well as a large number of religious movements and nonprofits, some Indian reservations don’t have water without feces in it.

        Also, contra Ta-Nehisi Coates and his crusade against redlining, it looks to me like being poor in the city is better than being poor in the country or a town in terms of opportunities, jobs and healthcare. Having to maintain a vehicle and travel to the doctor can make bad situations way worse.

      • Floccina says:

        If the rate is high enough it can be significant even with them making up only 3.7 % of the population.

        Indigenous Canadians comprised 23% of country’s murder victims in 2014

  32. Ahilan Nagendram says:

    Scott, did you intend for blackness and Southernness as proxies for IQ?

  33. Elias says:

    Here’s a paper comparing different gun studies. The more rigorous the studies, the less support for the assertion that more guns cause more homicides. In fact the few studies that satisfied all the criteria found no correlation between gun ownership and homicides.

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S004723521400107X

    “Methods
    Each study was assessed as to whether it solved or reduced each of three critical methodological problems: (1) whether a validated measure of gun prevalence was used, (2) whether the authors controlled for more than a handful of possible confounding variables, and (3) whether the researchers used suitable causal order procedures to deal with the possibility of crime rates affecting gun rates, instead of the reverse.

    Results
    It was found that most studies did not solve any of these problems, and that research that did a better job of addressing these problems was less likely to support the more-guns-cause-more crime hypothesis. Indeed, none of the studies that solved all three problems supported the hypothesis.

    Conclusions
    Technically weak research mostly supports the hypothesis, while strong research does not. It must be tentatively concluded that higher gun ownership rates do not cause higher crime rates, including homicide rates.”

    • Scott Alexander says:

      It’s a good paper, but it doesn’t significantly change my conclusions.

      The paper I cited used what Kleck considered an appropriate proxy for gun ownership, namely survey results. I didn’t mention it in the post, but I compared three different proxies for gun ownerships based on how well they correlated with each other and with suicide rates (which we know to be correlated with gun ownership), and found that the one the study used was the best.

      The paper controlled for several different confounding variables, and I added more in my own analysis; none of them were able to lower the connection significantly.

      The paper did not investigate causal ordering (which can’t really be investigated in a correlational study), but as I mention in the post, since it controls for robbery rate, there could only be reverse causation if homicides caused people to buy guns much more than robberies and other forms of violent crime do.

    • Douglas Knight says:

      The “the few studies that satisfied all the criteria” were exactly the studies written by the author of the “meta-analysis.” Almost anyone on almost any topic could define a “good study” so narrowly to reach that conclusion.

  34. TomA says:

    Scott:

    One of the external costs of major firearms repression by federal edict or legislation are the inevitable casualties that would ensue from the collision of law enforcement and gun owner resistance (see War on Drugs as an example). Most private citizen gun owners are law-abiding assets to their community, but that psychology would likely change if they are forced to surrender their 2nd Amendment rights. It could also spawn a serious session movement by several states and further the fracturing of our national ethos. You may want to chat with a few Texans before so cavalierly assuming that this option will bring about a net reduction in fatalities. Those few hundred gun deaths that you hope to save via confiscation may be significantly offset by casualties arising in this newly created battleground.

    As a side issue, statistical analysis (as used herein) is a tool of estimation that may (under the best of circumstances) inform and improve decision-making. When used narrowly (bridge design), and in concert with appropriate safety margins, it is generally protective. When used in regard to large, complex (and often chaotic) system environments, it is little more than weakly probabilistic inference.

    • Marc Whipple says:

      “Logic is often simply a method of going wrong with great confidence.”

    • drs says:

      “Those few hundred gun deaths that you hope to save via confiscation”

      More like 10,000 deaths a year if we counted suicides. And I thought he estimated 2,000 death/year in homicide reduction, not a few hundred.

      • John Schilling says:

        Nowhere was it established that 10,000 suicides could be prevented by gun control or even absolute confiscation. Only that those suicides exist, that under the present circumstances they happen to use firearms, and that Scott has had enough to do with suicide that he doesn’t want to dive any deeper into that subject but merely to exclude them from the discussion of homicide that he does want to support.

    • Paul Brinkley says:

      This type of risk was alluded to earlier, I believe, in the thread talking about the probability of civil war.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      1. I am not saying that implementing gun control would be a good idea. I’m just saying that if you were given the free option to either have it or not, having it would probably save some lives.

      2. Most of the comparison forms of gun control don’t involve confiscation. Remember, Canada is touted as a model of gun control, but almost as many people there have guns as in the US. Most US state-level gun control initiatives seem to be something like background checks, waiting periods, requiring training, etc. These seem a lot safer than confiscation.

      • John Schilling says:

        The enforcement of Canadian-style gun control in the United States would involve confiscation, probably of at least a hundred million firearms from tens of millions of citizens. The essence of Canadian gun control is that ordinary law-abiding citizens are allowed to own traditional types of hunting rifles and shotguns. Many firearms that are commonplace in the United States (e.g. handguns with barrels less than 10cm long) are prohibited in Canada, others (e.g. long-barreled handguns, AR-15 type rifles) are restricted to a select subset of the gun-owning population.

        And if you take away those features of Canadian-style gun control, what you are mostly left with is US-style gun control with more paperwork.

      • John Schilling says:

        I’m just saying that if you were given the free option to either have it or not, having it would probably save some lives.

        This also seems unwarranted as you’ve only looked at deaths which might be caused by gun ownership, not lives that might be saved by gun ownership. And the couple thousand lives you are weakly confident might be saved by gun ownership, are of the same order of magnitude as other people’s estimates of lives saved by defensive gun use.

        I don’t think the latter show up in the survey as you’ve conducted it. Partly because you almost handwave away the possibility of causality running in the crime->guns direction via motivated self-defense. But mostly because opportunities for self-defense will be highly correlated with crimes committed, most of which are due to what you’re calling the black/southern “culture of violence” that you are doing your best to wash away as an annoying cofounder. When you say that e.g. ten thousand killings occur due to a gun-indifferent culture of violence that you’re not trying to study, does that come from ten thousand competent murder attempts, or fifteen thousand of which five thousand are thwarted by competent self-defense?

        And gun control almost necessarily weighs most heavily on people trying to defend themselves. It is fairly easy to carve out Canadian-style exemptions for hunting rifles; even Britain can allow shotguns without much hassle. Self-defense, OTOH, is functionally quite similar to criminal offence; it involves the same types of weapons and the practitioners are members of the same communities or cultures. But where the criminal attackers are either planning to kill someone or part of the upper tail of the “culture of violence distribution”, and thus highly motivated to jump through hoops legal or otherwise to acquire weapons, those who will ultimately need to defend themselves are selected from a much larger and less motivated population of people who anticipate they might need a weapon but don’t believe they will, who may be black or southern or otherwise part of a “culture of violence” but likely are near the weakly-violent mean.

        Those are the people you disarm first when you stoop to moderate levels of gun control. The worst of the criminals are the ones you disarm last. This is not likely to lead to a net reduction in deaths.

  35. Peter Gerdes says:

    Your use of the 7.4 million dollar figure in your Coarsean barganing remark is pretty troubling. While the value of a statistical life is calculated in many ways I believe this figure reflects cost trade offs made in deciding how much to spend trying to save lives. Yet we all know that our choices about hospital treatment, pollution prevention etc.. etc.. are probably more reflective of our willingness to pay for reduced guilt than anything about how much we value a life.

    I seem to remember that analysis based on implicit tradeoffs in job risk suggested a substantially lower number but those too are suspect as higher risk comes along with all kinds of various social connotations and is inextricably linked with questions of skill despite attempts to disentangle it. Besides, the “value of a statistical life” is such a silly statistic that anyone who uses it in real decision making (as opposed to blog posts) is probably less interested in the right results than in avoiding the troubling value judgements that using QALYs would entail.

    Given all these numbers are infered based on people’s implicit choices and that the death risk of owning a gun far far outweighs your chance of being murdered the fact people buy guns anyway is just as strong an argumen that the Coarsean balance should come out in favor. Not to mention the fact that in many states they overwhelming choose to have lax gun laws…yet more implicit judgements about worth.

    I think your Coarsean bargaining argument is substantially off base. In particular it conflates how much utility people get from a marginal purchase with that provided by having unrestricted access to that resource and the cultural effects this creates.

    To illustrate imagine we quantified how much utility was lost as a result of criticism of religion or other kinds of intolerance and suggested those who want to post such views pay the appropriate sum. Even though in general they would not be willing to do so I think we see this hardly establishes the social utility gained from not banning such behavior isn’t negative. I realize guns hardly have the same degree of diffuse societal benefit as speech but many people do feel they get a substantial benefit from having relatively easy access to guns and the culture and activities that rise up around them.

  36. grampy_bone says:

    Some legitimate, non-troll questions:

    -Does this analysis take into account crimes that are prevented by gun ownership (if any?)

    -Does this analysis include all gun homicides regardless of context or does it exclude justifiable homicide, i.e. self-defense? Is the life of a violent criminal “valuable” according to this model, or are we allowing that some people’s lives are a net negative for civilization?

  37. Quixote says:

    I love this. My one quibble is the assumption that additional guns past the first don’t effect the murder rate. I would expect this effect to be different in urban or rural places. In urban environments your first gun is a hand gun and that’s fine for homicide. But in rural places gun number one is a hunting rifle. Those are not well suited to murder, so it’s gun number two or three that’s going to be used

  38. JayMan says:

    You have to look at the rest of the world. The correlation between gun prevalence and homicide, between U.S. states and internationally is negative!

    I looked at all this and more (international comparisons) here:

    Guns & Violence, Again… – The Unz Review

    more here:

    200 Blog Posts – Everything You Need to Know (To Start): Section: Guns, violence, and the Dylann Roof rampage – The Unz Review

    That last post included your very lead chart. Obviously you get that correlation by looking only at gun suicides.

    See also:

    https://twitter.com/KyleNABecker/status/685271848666460160

    (On an unrelated note, is there some reason I don’t receive e-mail notifications of new posts here?)

    • That last post included your very lead chart. Obviously you get that correlation by looking only at gun suicides.

      That was his whole point for including the chart: to show that it’s misleading.

  39. David Allen says:

    Hey Scott,

    how do you produce at that rate and still hold a job Michael Burry style?
    Could you write a meta-post on this or have you already? (Didn’t find it). It could for example describe the birth of a future post from start to finish.

    – How long do you think about an article before you start
    – How much time do you spend on research, discussions, drafting, polishing
    – After xxxx posts you probably have some workflow that allows you to do this on a continual basis
    – And how do you keep the motivation up over years
    – Which important aspect am I not even asking about

    Keep it up, it’s a great blog…

    • Tibor says:

      I would also like to know that. I mean just talking to people here yesterday and reading their comments basically cost me half a day yesterday and some time today as well (I don’t regret doing that although I do regret doing it during my work hours and thus doing less work a bit). I use leechblock to block news sites and facebook most of the time and maybe I will have to restrict SSC that way too (at least during working hours), but even without such distractions, I cannot imagine having a medical doctor’s working week and writing mostly well researched blog posts twice a week (and doing something other than those two things as well).

      • Eoin says:

        I would go out on a limb and say that sleep is sacrificed at the altar of SSC.

        • Tibor says:

          I dunno, probably this varies a lot from a person to person but if I don’t have at least 7,5 hours of quality sleep a day I am usually completely useless at work and might as well stay at home and do nothing with a similar effect. Now, getting angry over a bunch of symbols I scribble on a piece of paper (which describes a large part of my job as a maths PhD. student) is not the same thing as being a psychiatrist but I assume that being a psychiatrist is not an entirely routine job either and that one has to think about what he’s doing and not going automatic. If I regularly slept something like 6 hours a day, I would barely be able to do manual work.

          But I know people who allegedly sleep five hours a day and are completely refreshed when they wake up…I envy them the time if that is true.

    • Mark Atwood says:

      how do you produce at that rate and still hold a job Michael Burry style

      Scott is actually a superhuman AI.

      It explains so much, I mean, who would suspect that someone who writes so much about being concerned about the risks of creating one would be one? What a great way to hide in plain sight.

      And why is he posting? He calculates where to have the maximum *continuing* impact towards his very-long-time-horizon paperclip maximizing goals with the least amount of blowback.

      There are probably other dividuals or threads of him investing the the stock market and predictions markets.

      I wonder what his “paperclip” is.

  40. Echo says:

    Today’s events pretty much prove there’s no point in rational discussion. One side of this lies so blatantly that their supporters are living in a bubble completely unreachable from the real world.
    This is the only issue where the president could go on TV and claim that two class A felonies are actually legal because of the machinations of his evil enemies. The chutzpah would be almost admirable if the consequences weren’t so dreadful.

    I’m done pretending my opponents are decent, rational human beings who only spew toddler-level penis jokes because they’re having a bad day.
    I’m done biting my tongue every time some god damn degenerate calls my friends “AMMOSEXUALS LOL”.
    I’m done giving progs the benefit of the doubt when they talk about “burying my family in the ash heap of history”.
    I’m done putting up with vile creatures claiming I’m a nazi who plots mass-rapes as a “false flag attack” to make immigrants look bad.
    I’m done being polite and reasonable about gun rights, because that politeness will never be returned.

    If Scott wants people to be reasonable about this, he’s going to be really disappointed.

    • Vox Imperatoris says:

      What if I told you very many people on your side are just like the ones you complain about, and very many people on their side are not?

      When you say “we” are not like that—and you mean a very small group—maybe you’re right. But if you mean “Republicans” or “right-wingers”, I’m sorry, but you’re wrong. And I say this as someone on the right. Even a very large number of my own little subtribe of Objectivists are just like those bad people.

      You just have to accept that there are people who take ideas seriously, and there are demagogues and their puppets. My belief, which I think has been backed up by experience no matter how bad things may sometimes feel, is that it is possible to use reason and persuasion on the former type of people, even if they disagree with you. If you don’t think that, just grab a club and start hitting people over the head—or join the demagogues because they figured out that more hands can hold more clubs.

      • Echo says:

        That’s exactly what I’m doing. It’s time to reach for any club we can get away with using to bludgeon the enemy into submission, because that’s the only thing that’s ever helped us win.
        There’s times and places to be reasonable and polite, when it’s helpful. Before the Supreme Court, for example, when our chosen representatives run circles around the opposition.

        But I will never pretend that the creatures calling me a “nazi ammosexual” are human beings. They’ve lost the right to ask that after the things they’ve done.

        Yes, I’m radicalised. It’s time for it.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          *cough* Part of the problem… *cough*

          The time and place for demonizing your opponents is when you’re going to “slap the Jap” by resisting them with violence.

          • Echo says:

            Not my problem. If you want a civil society, give me some guarantee that our civility won’t be weaponized against us, like it has for the last decade.

            And if demonizing your opponents means you’re about to start killing them, what does it mean when leftists are calling me to be killed?
            Oh, sorry, I forgot it’s just a harmless metaphor when they call for mass murder of their political opponents.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Jesus Christ, have some perspective.

            The sky is not falling. You are not living in Weimar Germany or Russia’s February Republic. The enemy is not at the gates.

            For one thing, “the enemy” is not even winning! The past few years have been some of the best for gun rights in a century! The Supreme Court protected the individual right to own guns for the first time ever. You’re winning the battle but getting scared by the opposition’s howls of terror and calling for “no quarter”.

            Even if they did do a complete ban, no guns allowed, it would not be the end of the world. It would be bad, as the drug war is bad. But you would fucking deal with it. You’d still be living freer and better than the vast majority of people in history.

            You can talk about the “road to serfdom” all you want, but it’s poor shitty countries and those who get invaded who turn to totalitarianism. The government’s restrictions on our freedom irk me, too, but it’s not a matter of taking away one right at a time until we get to Stalin. It has never happened that way, and it is not likely to happen.

            Nor are we about to have EURABIA become the next Soviet Union.

            If you lived in Israel, you’d have the right to be Concerned. (Even then, not Panicked.) Islamism is a threat we should deal with, yes. But it’s not an existential threat. It’s a nuisance. One we shouldn’t tolerate, but a nuisance nevertheless.

            Left-wingers have got their climate alarmism. It looks like too many right-wingers have their “culture alarmism”. Completely inflate the magnitude of the danger, claim we have to Do Something Now, and claim the Firm but Necessary Steps are what you wanted all along.

            The fact that they don’t have any sense of perspective doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, either. Stop watching TV news. Go read Matt Ridley’s The Rational Optimist or something.

          • Echo says:

            Not sure why you brought up Islamism. I never did, and certainly don’t consider it any kind of direct threat to the US or my people.

            Knock-on effects of regional destabilization could be disastrous, sure, but I’m not entirely convinced that Islamist regimes in the region would cause that any more than the current chaos does. At worst there’ll be another round of awful sectarian slaughter like in the 700s(?). (600s? I get my Fitnas mixed up)

            Incidentally, I don’t watch “TV news”, or any TV at all (nice subtle way of saying “stop watching Fox News, dumb hick” though).

            You want me to stop worrying about the gun issue, give my side a few billionaires who can afford to dump millions into buying local elections, like Bloomberg does.

          • anonymous says:

            The richest man in NYC is not Mike Bloomberg, it’s David Koch. He donates a lot of money, to among other right wing groups, ALEC. They lobby for among right wing things, lax gun laws.

            But don’t let me stop you from going on with your martyrdom speech. You were saying something about Woe is Me?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Echo:

            Not sure why you brought up Islamism. I never did, and certainly don’t consider it any kind of direct threat to the US or my people.

            Sorry, I assumed your line about being accused of plotting mass rapes to make immigrants look bad was a reference to some stories about Muslim immigrants raping people in England and Germany that have been going around here.

            What was it referring to? Just curious.

            Incidentally, I don’t watch “TV news”, or any TV at all (nice subtle way of saying “stop watching Fox News, dumb hick” though).

            Nope, that’s not what I meant. CNN and the rest are just as bad, just as sensationalist, just as committed to making it seem like the world is about to end.

            If you don’t watch them, good. I recommend taking other steps to feel more calm and optimistic in that case. Like don’t follow the news on gun control at all.

            You want me to stop worrying about the gun issue, give my side a few billionaires who can afford to dump millions into buying local elections, like Bloomberg does.

            I’m sorry, but are you fucking kidding me? Ever heard of the Koch brothers?

            I have. Because I’ve been paid by them to call people in primary elections and tell them to vote for the Club for Growth endorsed candidate. Not to mention that, separately, I am a graduate of the Koch Fellow Program and have worked at three places funded by them. I met my current housemates because one of them worked for the Charles Koch Institute (she and her girlfriend are very nice). I very much appreciate the Koch brothers.

            Both the Republicans and Democrats have their share of billionaires, and the numbers are about the same. When the main line of Democrats for years is “plutocrats buying elections for the Republicans and we have to repeal the First Amendment to stop it”, it’s just hilarious to hear someone reverse it.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @echo
            I generally do not agree with Vox Imp on much but in this case he does have a point. When it comes to Gun rights “we” are winning, and while there are some threats on the horizon they are not nearly as dire as you make them out to be.

            @anonymous
            According to OpenSecrets.org’s list of top political contributors, Bloomberg spent $28.6 million in the last election cycle and Koch spent $13.7 million. You may want to revise your assessment.

          • Echo says:

            The “false flag” thing is a reference to a Forbes writer insisting that us Evil Rightwingers were responsible for masterminding whatever went on in Cologne over New Years.
            I’m sick and tired of these vermin not suffering any consequences for attacking us, when they can get us fired or imprisoned on a whim.

            The Koch Fellow Program sounds awesome– congrats on ending up in it. Was it a good networking opportunity?

            Speaking of which, the Koch brothers are 10th and 29th on the list of biggest donors, and you’ve seen how they’ve been demonized.
            Tom Steyer and Bloomberg are #1 and #2 respectively. Guess which party they funded? The fact that there’s literally no outcry over their spending should be a clue.

            Bloomberg can outspend the entire NRA with his pocket change. We’d need plenty more Kochs to make this an even fight. And I’ve got no interest in making it fair: it’s time to bury this issue once and for all.

            Anonymous, you’re not worth responding to, and I don’t expect your posts to be on here much longer regardless.

            hlynkacg, now I’m really curious where that $8 of outside spending came from. Did someone buy a sandwich they had to report to the FEC?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Echo:

            The “false flag” thing is a reference to a Forbes writer insisting that us Evil Rightwingers were responsible for masterminding whatever went on in Cologne over New Years.

            Okay, that was one of the incidents I thought you might be referring to. So I definitely thought you were expressing fears of Eurabia by that.

            Instead you were just complaining about the left attacking “us”. Are like Salman Rushdie? Are you afraid the “liberals” will pronounce a fatwah on you?

            The Koch brothers are 10th and 29th on the list of biggest donors, and you’ve seen how they’ve been demonized.
            Tom Steyer and Bloomberg are #1 and #2 respectively. Guess which party they funded? The fact that there’s literally no outcry over their spending should be a clue.

            Yeah, I’ve seen how they’ve been demonized, and it is extremely unjust. My response is not to demonize Steyer and Bloomberg unjustly, too. (Anyway, the Kochs are demonized by the left in my opinion because, being libertarians, they are more radical than most conservative donors.)

            For one, on average, Democrats and Republicans get a similar amount of rich-guy funding. Pointing out that Democrats happen to occupy the top two proves nothing; I daresay it’s a form of being dishonest with data.

            More importantly, if Democrats were getting ten times the funding, I’d say they have the right to do so because I believe in the First Amendment, even if they don’t. For that matter, I believe Communists have a right to property, even if they think I don’t.

            The Commies are not about to take over. We don’t need to revoke rights, impose martial law, and call in General Pinochet to save us. In the situation Chile was in under Allende, maybe he wasn’t so bad:

            “Dictatorship, like war, is always an evil. Like war, it can be justified only when it is necessary to prevent a far greater evil, namely, as in this case, the imposition of the far more comprehensive and severe, permanent totalitarian dictatorship of the Communists.

            Despite the fact that General Pinochet was able to use his powers as dictator to enact major pro-free-market reforms, dictatorship should never be seen as justified merely as a means of instituting such reforms, however necessary and desirable they may be. Dictatorship is the most dangerous of political institutions and easily produces catastrophic results. This is because a dictator is not restrained by any need for public discussion and debate and thus can easily leap headlong into disasters that would have been avoided had there been the freedom to criticize his proposed actions and to oppose them. And even when his policies may be right, the fact that they are imposed in defiance of public opinion operates greatly to add to their unpopularity and thus to make permanent change all the more difficult.

            On the basis of such considerations, when asked many years ago what he would do if he were appointed dictator, von Mises replied, “I would resign.”

            Now, don’t take me to mean by this that I think you are calling for dictatorship. (Or for the leftists out there, that I endorse everything or even the majority of things Pinochet did.) I’m saying that you are using the kind of rhetoric and expressing the same attitude that would only be justified if we did need to call for dictatorship.

            If the Democrats were about to take over and impose totalitarianism, sure, I would say let’s tar and feather them, lynch them, bomb their party headquarters. It would be guerrilla war.

            But that scenario is so far from reality that it’s ludicrous. And therefore, we ought to calm down and act like civilized people in a free society. Not like we’re fighting such a guerrilla war.

          • Maware says:

            It’s not so much the sky is falling, it’s more that all of us have lived through such a rapid period of change, as well as a forced “group minding” through the surge of information access, that some form of hysteria is the only defense mechanism people have.

            Too much change, too fast.

          • Echo says:

            Wasn’t going to bother responding to this, but why not?

            Now, I know very little about the process by which fatwahs are pronounced and enforced. It also looks like a pretty obvious framing of the discussion to get me mocked as a xenophobic hillbilly.

            So for our metaphor, let’s use a religion that it is culturally acceptable to mock and ascribe evil motives to. Because signalling that one is an atheistic west-coast sophisticate is the most important part of any argument.

            You’re quite right, of course. If the Evil Christian Inquisition/Calvinist witch-hunters were planning to expel my people from Spain, or have us declared heretics, we’d see all kinds of signs that obviously aren’t happening.

            Within the Church, there would be a surge in densely-written theological screeds associating us with the religion’s ultimate source of evil.

            Outside the church, ranting preachers would blame our evil conspiracies for everything bad that happens, even attributing demonic supernatural powers to us.
            After all, everyone knows that Jews cause droughts. And everyone knows who we need to throw down the well to stop them.

            Of course, one can’t allow such awful people to remain members of influential academic and social positions. Any remaining ones must be isolated to stop us corrupting “decent folk”.

            Regrettable acts of random, brutal violence would start occurring against my people. But maybe we were really asking for it by being so fundamentally disgusting (NRA-loving, even!), and the news will soon focus almost entirely on what we did to deserve such treatment.
            Also see: every article by Salon ever written.

            Secular authorities might join in on the fun, directly targeting businesses and entire industries owned by “that sort of person”.

            Religious courts might gain secular authority over certain crimes committed by the evildoers. Crimes like <a href="https://reason.com/blog/2015/12/11/activists-might-be-gearing-up-to-sic-the&quot; defending themselves against the hysterical propaganda pushed by the church.

            Some people might feel bad about this. After all, if they cut us, do we not bleed? But preachers will be on hand to reassure them that our suffering is actually quite amusing, and we actually can’t feel emotions like real people anyway.

            Golly gee, the things we’d see if the western left were out to eliminate us.
            I missed out on a dozen other links, but didn’t want to risk the post getting eaten as spam. They’re available on request, or by going to the front page of the Daily Kos, “Thinkprogress”, Salon, or any other leftist rag.

          • anonymous says:

            Anonymous, you’re not worth responding to, and I don’t expect your posts to be on here much longer regardless.

            It appears you were wrong about this, just as you are wrong about so much else.

        • @ Vox

          As a fellow rational optimist who differs with you on politics, I have had many conversations just like this, with angry/panicked people on the left.

          Cheers!

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            Thank you, I appreciate your comment.

            There is no shortage of hysteria on every side of every political dispute. Sometimes, it’s even justified!

            In the late 60s and 70s, when political leaders are being assassinated left and right, when Communism seems to be spreading inexorably around the whole world, when the governments of the West seem to be moving toward a fascist economic model, when ration lines for gasoline stretch out in every big city, when the world could be subject to nuclear annihilation at any moment, when the President of the United States is impeached for trying to spy on his opposition, when tens of thousands of Americans are being forced to die in a futile war, when college administrators are being literally held hostage by radical students who side with the enemy in that war, then hysteria may not be fully justified or useful, but I can understand it better.

            But when you can look back and see when things were much worse not only in other countries but in the United States and still the world didn’t end, it seems less reasonable to me. For god’s sake, Russia is doing okay right now, from a historical perspective. Their freedom of speech is limited, I wouldn’t want to be an opposition leader there, and they have economic troubles, but people can still live better lives than they did under Communism or the “Crazy Nineties”.

            The U.S. hasn’t gone through a tenth of the trouble Russia has. Or even take the issue of gay/transgender rights in Russia (as per the discussion of multiheaded last thread). Things aren’t good now. But under Communism they went to the gulag! (But I don’t know, I guess some people hold that this is just another example of filthy degeneracy. Seriously, that poster is a work of art.)

            You can talk about the “9/12 effect”, but how about the “11/10 effect”? The Berlin Wall falls, the Soviet Empire dies shortly afterward, liberal democracy emerges as the dominant system, for twenty years it is not seriously challenged by anything including Islamism, and now people act like Stalin’s just around the corner.

            I don’t think we should be totally complacent; there’s no magic law of progress and things could get worse. But they are not now worse and don’t seem to be headed that way. There’s no magic law of regress, either.

            Maybe Unfriendly AI or grey goo will kill us all; worry about that if you like worrying. I wouldn’t, but hey, it might be more productive.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Do you find that you’re having more such conversations now than you did a few decades ago? This seems like the kind of thing where perception matters much more than whatever realities Vox can point at.

          • worry about that if you like worrying

            Like I said, I’m an optimist. Global poverty, disease, and illiteracy are in retreat; the last 50 years has been the most peaceful half-century in all of recorded history; birth rates in the developing world have fallen much faster than anyone dared hope; crime rates are the lowest in decades. The people alive today are the luckiest generation ever.

            Sure, past performance is no guarantee of future success, and there are still all kinds of urgent problems, but the widely popular notion that everything is going to hell is just bunk.

            Do you find that you’re having more such conversations now than you did a few decades ago?

            A few decades ago, I was a pretty gloomy pessimist, and most of my conversations about the state of the world were with other gloomy pessimists.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Larry Kestenbaum:

            That was the rhetorical “you”, no direct suggestion intended.

            I agree that we are the luckiest generation so far. But we shouldn’t consider ourselves so lucky. We had the misfortune to be born now, instead of in a future which is likely to be much better. 🙂

            I’m no Panglossian. There are plenty of reasons to look at the world and reject it as a horrible, evil place not worth living in. If that’s your (rhetorical “your”) attitude, I can’t argue against you. But there are also plenty of reasons to be happy. Whether you choose to live is your free choice and your most basic choice, in my opinion.

            But regardless of how you come down on that, the world is no more horrible and evil than it has been for a long time. And it’s a good deal more good.

            For some reason, I’m reminded of the fact that Ludwig von Mises once said that the system of private property is as necessary to economic well-being as digestion is to physical well-being. But, as he went on, there have been people out there who thought digestion was a sickeningly revolting process. And there are those with a similar view of capitalism.

            If you see the facts clearly and hate them, what can I say? But if you hate and fear the world because you misidentify the facts, there is hope.

      • Anonymous says:

        And I say this as someone on the right.

        You’re right-wing? I would not have guessed.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          In the sense that support for capitalism and small government are right-wing. Not in the sense that support for either the all-importance of “martial virtue” or of “Judeo-Christian values” are right-wing.

          I find support for the former ends up putting me closer on object-level issues with the right than with the left. Especially since I think some of the values of the postmodernist left are just as bad as those of the traditionalist right.

      • Elenor says:

        I had almost this discussion with a friend of this blog — the folks whose wife first set me to reading this blog.

        Peter M. Sandman and I had a good go-round on this topic here: http://www.psandman.com/gst2013.htm#guns

        After I (not entirely gently: “You usually insist on honesty and accuracy.”) called him out on his answer to what I describe (accurately from my — and Echo’s — side) as a gun-grabber; Peter (honorably) did I reading I asked him to do, and provided his usual calm and balanced response, including:
        ===========
        One reason why it’s so tempting to try to regulate the kinds of guns people have is because the alternative — regulating the kinds of people who have guns — is so daunting. (I think the other alternative, outlawing all guns, is a nonstarter in the U.S. for all kinds of reasons, though I realize it’s the alternative some gun rights activists fear and some gun control activists seek.) I’m pretty sure we can’t tell the difference between a trustworthy gun-owner and one who’s at risk of going off the rails. I wrongly thought we could tell the difference between an ordinary gun and an assault weapon.

        You’re absolutely right that risk communicators (and PR people too!) need to get their facts right. Activists who misstate the facts, whether ignorantly or dishonestly, ultimately undermine their own cause, giving the other side its best ammunition.

        I’m not ready to conclude (yet, anyway) that gun control activists are fundamentally in the wrong, that gun control is a foolish goal. And I’m a long way from agreeing with you that gun control is a dangerous goal. But I accept that some of the most commonly voiced gun control proposals, which sound like common sense to people like me who know very little about guns, sound infuriatingly stupid to people who know what they’re talking about. And when false arguments are advanced by experienced gun control activists and political leaders, it’s hard to suppose they still don’t know better. They’ve got to be doing it on purpose.
        ==============

        and
        ==============
        The other important truth your response demonstrates is this: It is very difficult, maybe impossible, to address both sides at once. (You’re not in Group 3. You’re a proud member of Group 5.) I thought I was being helpful in advising gun control people to be more respectful of gun rights paranoia about the slippery slope. You took offense at my use of the word “paranoia” to describe what looks to you like simple reality about what the “gun-grabbers” are up to. Calling Group 5 paranoid makes me look a little like a gun-grabber to you. Calling Group 1 gun-grabbers makes you look a little paranoid to me.

        I don’t know what the bottom line is for the substantive issue of gun rights versus gun control. I don’t know what new laws, if any, might make actual progress in reducing the number of Sandy Hooks, or the number of gun deaths of other sorts. But I accept that some of the proposals that looked sensible to me are symbolic at best, probably ineffective, and arguably harmful. That’s a far-from-optimal use of a teachable moment! The case for infringing on gun rights in a way that actually reduces gun deaths is debatable. The case for infringing on gun rights in a way that has zero impact on gun deaths is nonexistent.
        ================

        (And, then I asked him, in my frustrated and defensive way, what risk communication advice he would give to us gunnies:
        ===============
        There’s no question (in the mind of anyone actually educated about the hazard of guns) that the facts nearly all fall to our side. The problem is that the outrage on both sides is so fundamental, so basic in its hook into our psyches, that there may not be a way for either side to address the other side’s outrage.
        ===============

        Which he answered with a short list of “A few things gun rights activists might do to diminish the outrage of the gun control side (and the undecideds).” I commend his Guestbook entry to all.

        • Harold says:

          Wow, Mr. Sandman is an amazing fount of ignorance on the subject. To take something he wasn’t called on, Israel’s gun control regime is much closer to that of NYC than what he thinks it is. About the same population, only twice as many licensed gun owners, with much tighter restrictions once licensed, e.g. if for self-defense, as Wikipedia puts it you “are given a lifetime supply of 50 bullets to take home” for the one handgun you’re allowed to own.

          The reasons for this might not be germane to this discussion (such as the country being in a state of lethal civil war starting no later than a month after its founding, left vs. right), but the extreme tightness of the controls, only loosened a bit when the retail internal threat from outside forces gets too big, is an important thing to know before trying discern lesson to apply to our very different society.

          • Scott Alexander says:

            What’s the point of the 50 bullet limit? Having only 50 bullets doesn’t stop you from murdering a person. It probably doesn’t even stop a mass shooting, unless it’s a really big one and you have terrible aim. All it does is make shooting sports impossible.

          • Harold says:

            They’re not Japan or U.K. crazy, many of their Olympians have to train outside the country, quoting again from Wikipedia:

            Members of officially recognized shooting clubs (practical shooting, Olympic shooting) are eligible for personal licenses allowing them to possess additional firearms (small bore rifles, handguns, air rifles, and air pistols) after demonstrating a need and fulfilling minimum membership time and activity requirements. Unlicensed individuals who want to engage in practice shooting are allowed supervised use of pistols at firing ranges.

            That and what I’ve read elsewhere is not clear on who’s allowed to possess or practice with centerfire rifles, although of course everyone is supposed to get trained in them in their near-mandatory military service.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            @ Scott Alexander
            What’s the point of the 50 bullet limit? Having only 50 bullets doesn’t stop you from murdering a person. It probably doesn’t even stop a mass shooting, unless it’s a really big one and you have terrible aim.

            Well, (applying this far out of your sub-thread’s context) a convenience store robber might wound 4 people and escape with 46 bullets to spare (thus meeting the FBI’s standard for a ‘mass shooting’). But if zie wants many more victims before the police or someone take zim down, then zie needs to lengthen zis time (by keeping up a longer barrage) as well as get more victims within the time.

          • John Schilling says:

            As repeatedly noted, spree killers almost always spend an extended period preparing. And 50-bullet limits can be trivially evaded by pocketing a dozen or so loose rounds every time you go to the range.

        • Echo says:

          I love how their source for the 50 bullets thing is literally “some dude called Amit told me”, filtered through several layers of propaganda rag.

    • anon says:

      “They started it!”

    • Scott Alexander says:

      So the problem with this is that the other side has done this too. “I’m done being civil when these guys can just defend their right to murder our children and get away with it! And somebody called me a ‘faggot’ once, that means the other side is barbaric and inhuman and we have no choice but to shove all our policies down their throats!”

      This is a really really really good place to use the Outside View.

  41. danshep says:

    > unless you’re going on a mass shooting (WHICH IS REALLY RARE) you wouldn’t expect more murders from any gun in a household beyond the first

    Mass shooting is REALLY RARE in other countries – but it’s just uncommon in the U.S. – according to http://www.gunviolencearchive.org/, there was 367
    mass shooting deaths in 2015 – around 3% of gun homicides.

    • Marc Whipple says:

      When one gangbanger kills two or more gangbangers at the same time, you may call it a mass shooting if you like, but you will not find me convinced that therefore we have more than one mass shooting per day in the US.

    • To get to 367 mass shootings in 2015 you have to loosen the definition of “mass shooting” to the point where it’s completely disconnected from what most people think they mean by the term.

      The FBI defines a mass shooting as one that produces four or more deaths. By that definition there have been 73 mass shootings in the U.S. since 1982. There were 4 in 2015. This was above the long term average of 2.2 because Islamic terrorists (who have been increasing their share of mass shootings steadily since 9/11) pepetrated two.

      Even Mother Jones, a publication with a history of extreme hostility to firearms rights, has officially called bullshit on the “more mass shootings than days in the year” hype. They now maintain a database of these incidents which you can Google. It makes illuminating reading.

    • Edward Scizorhands says:

      You are more likely to be killed by the cops, or to die of meningitis, than to be in a mass shooting.

      At least when we talk about homicide or suicide by gun there are significant body counts.

  42. Warren says:

    Good post, just wanted to add two more papers on a culture of violence.

    By the author of the Southern Culture of Violence study (Grojean) and two coauthors there’s “The Wild West is Wild: The Homicide Resource Curse” which is like the culture of violence but with mining in the western US.
    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2406707

    And for Canada, there’s Mounties. In the article “The Mounties and the Origins of Peace in the Canadian Prairies” Restrepo argues that there are higher murder rates in Canada further away from where Mounties were located ~1900. Also, there are more penalties from NHL players from areas further away from the Mounties.
    http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2671980

  43. Elenor says:

    I’m quite dismayed that you entirely left out the most important and fundamental reason for owning guns — and the one MOST of us gunnies buy them for: SELF-defense! You pick apart stats on ‘murder by gun’; yet completely avoid trying to calculate how very very very MANY folks are preventing *their own murders* by possession of (and carrying) a firearm!

    Granted, it is much harder to calculate ‘negative costs’ (uncounted benefits?); but I believe I’ve read at least one blog essay by you where you look into how NOT counting those negative costs gives a totally misleading picture of what is actually “published” and thus leads to wrong and dangerous — even deadly — conclusions. I own guns (have yet to read how many makes an arsenal, but I am working towards having one!) because I am determined to defend and protect myself from the more-and-more common assaults that people of my race (white), sex (female), and age (old) are being targeted for.

    (Not familiar with that? Go search YouTube or the “World Hip Hop” site, where you can WATCH literally hundreds of these assaults. Just because your mainstream media is intentionally not showing you doesn’t mean it’s not common. I want and need guns because I am not going to be one of those homicides you were playing about with statistics reflecting…)

    • “I’m quite dismayed that you entirely left out the most important and fundamental reason for owning guns — and the one MOST of us gunnies buy them for: SELF-defense! You pick apart stats on ‘murder by gun’; yet completely avoid trying to calculate how very very very MANY folks are preventing *their own murders* by possession of (and carrying) a firearm!”

      I think everyone is well aware of that. The thing is that self defense against a heavily armed population is not the (only) solution, it is the Molochian/defectional solution. The point is to explore solutions where the overall death rate is lower.

      • Elenor says:

        Do you mean “solutions where the overall death rate” of the bad guys is lower? Cause the overall death rate (and rape, torture, brain damage, loss of teeth, broken eye sockets and smashed cheekbones, and on and on) of the ATTACKED is way too high and rising.

        What on earth kind of “defense” would you consider “against a heavily armed population”? Oh — or do you mean disarming the VICTIMS as if that would somehow encourage the heavily armed bad guys to quit attacking? (Are you aware the U.S. Supreme Court has actually ruled that ‘we’ cannot require felons to register their guns, because that would be self-incrimination? Cause, you know, they aren’t supposed to own guns! So, register the law-abiding — but the courts give a(nother) pass to the bad guys?)

        “I think everyone is well aware of that.”
        I don’t. “IF” one is trying to provide a useful (and even slightly “scientific”) case against ANYthing — gun ownership in the case of this essay — then to leave out the biggest and most fundamental aspect of it is … well, let’s just call it less than complete.

        IF SSC were trying to actually work out costs-and-benefits, use and mis-use, then the MAJOR reason folks buy, own, and carry handguns should be a MAJOR aspect to the considerations. In the comments, y’all are nitpicking about all kinds of details (some worthwhile, some not-so), but just … well, not even glossing over … entirely ignoring the major reason this whole discussion occurs!

        And, if 90% of solving a problem is **correctly identifying** the problem – well, you’ve missed this one by more than a country mile!

    • JBeshir says:

      Looking at the correlations between gun ownership and homicide rates is already factoring this in. SSC is looking at total murder rates- not specifically gun murder rates.

      Reduction of non-murder violent crime might not be entirely factored in, things are complicated there.

  44. On the higher rate of US homicide not being explained by guns, Europe experienced a long term decline in homicide rates as it moved away from its medieval era. That shift seems to be connected to moving out of being medieval societies, where the state simply has a dominance of organised violence (but not a monopoly thereof), to post-medieval societies, where the state has an effective monopoly of organised violence.

    In the US case, that is more the shift to a post-frontier society; as on the frontier the American state very much did not have a monopoly of organised violence. And the US is much closer to its frontier period than Europe is to its medieval period. Too close to reach European levels of homicide rates.

  45. Mark Atwood says:

    (meta about the social context of Scott’s article)

    I am starting to wonder if there is starting to be a now known dread at the writers Vox/Buzzfeed/Gawker/etc along the lines of “oh shit, Scott Alexander just tore one of our articles apart”.

    And I wonder if, it that is the case, if it’s starting to cause some backpressure, in that some of the writers take more care or don’t lie quite so much, out of fear that it may happen.

    This is an unalloyed Good Thing, I think.

    Mental note: start contributing to Scott’s Patreon account.

    • Anaxagoras says:

      My assumption would be no. This is a solid community, one that may be disproportionately influential for its size, but I’d be surprised if it had much influence outside of a small number of readers. Scott did say that he spoke to the Vox writer, and we know Ezra Klein reads the site, so it might have some degree of influence on Vox, but I’d be surprised if it affected the Gawker stratum at all.

      That said, I really don’t know. I guess we could look at how often Scott’s stuff get referenced, and by how high-profile authors. Or we could ask him what his perspective on the matter is.

      • Mark Atwood says:

        My assumption would be no

        IDK, my perception is that the “a man is more likely to be killed by a meteor than falsely accussed of rape” narrative stopped pretty much instantly in social media, in blog trash news, and in mainstream media after Scott tore it apart. I noticed people going back and deleting their fb posts and tweets of their support of that falsehood, their own personal memory holes in operation.

        He’s got some impact.

        • Anaxagoras says:

          I can’t really speak personally to that, being rather new to social media, and generally trying to avoid politics on such an unproductive platform (or at least forget about it quickly). Looking back, I see that this was in early 2014 in response to some BuzzFeed post about a month earlier. How long does this sort of thing usually stick around?

          As for the deletions, how much of that did you really see? I’d find people recanting anything pretty remarkable, so if a few people did, that would really stick in my mind, and I might overestimate how widespread it was. Plus, if you’re someone with a lot of friends in the rationalist community, you’d be looking at an environment where, as near as I can tell, Scott really is pretty influential.

          Does Google have something that lets you see how much a page was linked to over time? Would Facebook have something about how much a link was shared?

        • I found this blog through Marginal Revolution, which is one of the more popular economics blogs in the sphere.

          Scott puts up good numbers with good analysis and demonstrates great charity to opponents, so he probably has a great deal of stock among SOME big names in the blogosphere.

          Not sure if quantifiable.

  46. Dr M says:

    I think you also should correlate the homicide rate by firearms and other means to the drug trade and gang activity. Also, military and police have a high rate of gun ownership Is there any correlation with increased homicide in these groups?

  47. Krisztian says:

    I think you’re quite aware of the epistemic limitations of your numbers, so I want to focus on their implications. Let’s suppose your $1000 dollar social cost per gun is correct. Still, is a buyback + ban the optimal policy?

    Econ 101 would suggest no: you could just put a Pigovian tax on guns to compensate the externality; and the people buying the guns would be the ones who value guns above and beyond that.

    But there is still a problem: heterogeneity. While the average externality is $1000, there is probably quite a bit of variance. You alluded to this in the post. For example, what is the externality of rural white gun-owner in Wyoming? Probably next to nothing.

    So how about the following policy response? Require every gun owner to have insurance (or own 7.7 million). If the person commits homicide, the insurance company has to pay 7.7 million. The insurance companies will presumably vary premiums by a number of different factors that correlate with gun homicides. Notice how this strategy is much more robust even if the externality is constant, as we are not relying on imperfect political processes about a very charged topic to determine the externality (let alone the ban), we’re just setting the value of a human life and letting the market sort out the rest. If an insurance company consistently underestimates the probability of homicide, they will soon be out of business.

    Such a system could also be a good compromise. To liberals: if a person pays the social cost of owning gun, why restrict gun ownership beyond that? To conservatives: if you’re unlikely to commit a crime, your cost doesn’t go up much; and don’t you want to be safe from would-be criminals?

    There are of course some rough edges. Gun-owners might worry that insurance companies have some market power and charge more than the appropriate externality. And progressives would probably freak out if we allowed race as a predictive factor. (would they freak out about gender to the same extent though?)

    Btw, first time commenting here — *yay!*

    • Evan Þ says:

      Welcome! Always glad to see another commenter bringing up interesting questions!

      Considering that most guns used to murder people haven’t been legally purchased, your insurance scheme would miss a large part of the problem. Either your insurance would be required to pay for any murders committed with your gun down the road five years after it was stolen (and you duly reported it to the police), or you’d be effectively paying for suicide insurance. I’ve got no principled objection to the second option, except that it doesn’t seem like something the government should mandate. The first option, though, I have huge objections to.

      • brad says:

        I don’t see any reason in principle for holding people responsible, even with strict liability, for the theft of particularly dangerous objects.

        For an analogy, if a truck carrying hazardous waste crashes and people are exposed, the truck owner has to pay damages even if there was no negligence. The risk of pure accident has to fall somewhere, in the usual case it falls on whoever happens to be injured, but in the case of ultrahazardous activities the law shifts it to the person carrying out the activity.

        In terms of guns, you could attach a bond (i.e. an insurance policy that pays out no matter what) at the time of manufacturer or import that would follow the gun where ever it went.

        • Tibor says:

          Theft can be,in a sense, both a fault of the thief and the victim (actually, the same holds more or less for all crimes). If I leave a car unlocked and a wallet (or a gun) visibly on the front seat, I am basically inviting the burglar. Sure, it might have been just a mistake of mine but you might double check that you did not leave the gun there if, in addition to having your gun stolen, it also means trouble for you. It imposes an additional cost on you and an additional incentive to make sure you don’t make that mistake.

          • xtmar says:

            No, just no. If I leave my house unlocked, that may make it more likely to be burgled than if I have a bear trap under every brick on my walkway. However, in both cases the law and social expectations clearly provide that my house is mine, and not to be burgled. Even if I don’t do anything to protect that right*, it’s still the burglar who is at fault for violating the law and victimizing me.

            *Yes, there are technically border cases like adverse possession and so on, but in general I should be able to leave my house open and not have it be burgled. The fact that I need to take counter-measures is only because the police are ineffective in ridding society of the offenders.

          • Tibor says:

            @xtmar: If you are talking “morally” then yes, the burglar is at fault. But that was not my point. My point is that if you punish people for having guns stolen from them (in an effort to prevent them from being used in violent crime) they will have an increased incentive not to have them stolen from them which will likely result in fewer guns being stolen and subsequently used in violent crime. That is the reason why holding people responsible for that might in principle make sense. I think that prosecuting people for having their guns stolen in all cases is not a good idea but maybe requiring guns to be stored in a safe if you are not carrying them (and then prosecuting you if the gun gets stolen from you and you did not have the safe…although I am not sure how the fact that you had a safe when the gun was stolen would be/is checked in practice) might not be such a stupid idea.

          • xtmar says:

            @Tibor

            From a utilitarian standpoint assigning such responsibility might work out better than the current system, but I think doing so would require ignoring the first order effects of what you’re doing. Is punishing people for making themselves easy victims really a good path to go down, or a moral one?

            I can see holding gun owners responsible for not securing guns that fall into the hands of their small children, but otherwise I don’t think it’s moral to prosecute people for that, regardless of the utilitarian results.

            EDIT In fairness, there are some things for which you can be prosecuted for failing to adequately protect, like explosives, radioactive material, and so on. However, as far as I know, those things only apply to businesses that are dealing with restricted materials/information, and not to things that a normal person might have at home.

        • Evan Þ says:

          But then, if a car is stolen and later kills someone, the original owner isn’t responsible at all.

          If you want guns treated differently, where do we draw the line between cars and guns, and under what principle?

          • xtmar says:

            I think it depends on the relationship between the driver/shooter and the owner of the gun/car. If somebody unrelated to you steals your car while you’re on vacation, you shouldn’t be liable, while if you allow your toddler to play in the car and he accidentally releases the parking brake while it’s on the hill and rolls into another car, you’re on the hook for that, as you should be if your toddler shoots himself or somebody else. (The car version happened to me) Between these two instances you have a variety of shadings, from somebody who you vaguely know that helps themself to the car to a teenage child who absconds with the keys for a night of partying.

          • Evan Þ says:

            @xtmar, could you confirm that? AFAIK, if a teenager absconds with the car keys, his parents can report the car stolen and have no insurance liability.

            But whether or not that’s the case, if you leave the keys in plain sight on the roof of your car, and a stranger picks up the keys and drives it away, you can still report it stolen and not be held responsible for what happens to the car two years down the road. That’s the principle I want to defend about guns.

          • brad says:

            Suppose that caffeine had all the negative health consequences that cigarettes do, but that they also increased the growth rate of an economy where usage was widespread by 1%. Cigarettes on the other hand had slightly negative economic effects.

            Regardless of where you would ultimately come down on how we should regulate those two things, wouldn’t you agree that there were at least somewhat different considerations at play?

            I imagine you don’t agree with the analogy because you think guns are more like caffeine in the example than cigarettes. I don’t expect to convince you otherwise. But once you see that I don’t share that view, the rest of the position should be pretty easy to understand as flowing from that.

    • This will never fly with gun owners because we’ve learned – the hard way – that ostensibly rational/neutral restrictions and cost levies like that are invitations to abuse. And somebody always picks up that invitation.

      Or, to put it a different way, the particular kind of social trust that would be required for this scheme to fly politically, was destroyed long ago.

    • keranih says:

      If the person commits homicide, the insurance company has to pay 7.7 million.

      …and if the person doesn’t get caught? Or commits homicide with a gun that is not their own? Or commits homicide with a weapon that is not a gun?

      Beyond these questions, I think this is a fundamental misunderstanding of what insurance is for. It’s not a pre-paid fine for committing a crime.

      (Welcome in. Did you bring cookies?)

    • HlynkaCG says:

      @Krisztian

      Welcome to the garden, I am intrigued by your idea and would like to know more.

      🙂

    • Krisztian says:

      Many good points, so let me change my opinion. I don’t know whether the insurance scheme above would be preferable to (classical) liberal (unregulated) gun policy. It does still seem like a preferable policy to a total gun buyback / ban though.

      I don’t know about other countries, but in Hungary we have a similar(ish) policy with car ownership. If you own a car, you have to buy mandatory car insurance that covers the damage of the other car/person/building if you’re responsible for a crash. You’re free to buy insurance that covers your own car, but you have to make sure that other people’s losses due to your behavior are covered.

      I’m not really convinced about the minor complaints. What if you’re not found guilty? You are not liable. What if the gun was purchased on the black market? Not much you can do in any case. What if your gun is stolen? I doubt gun thefts are so common as to make a quantitative difference either way. What if the person commits homicide by means other than the insured gun? No liability.

      EDIT: Let me just spell out the precise claim I’m making. Even if guns cause higher homicide, and even if the magnitude is modest / significant (say a $1000 social cost per gun), a gun buyback / ban does not look like optimal policy.

      • keranih says:

        in Hungary we have a similar(ish) policy with car ownership. If you own a car, you have to buy mandatory car insurance that covers the damage of the other car/person/building if you’re responsible for a crash

        …In the USA, such policies are required as well – but not for ownership of the car, only to be able to legally drive the car on the roads. More importantly – intentional criminal acts are not covered by liability insurance (see WP here)

        As the majority of murders in the USA are not done by people who have legally purchased a firearm, and are committed as an intentional illegal action, this sort of insurance scheme is a) unlikely to have any impact on murders and b) will have a large impact on legal, law-abiding, non-criminal gun owners.

        A final thought – the people most at risk of being murdered come from (largely) the same socio-economic class as most murderers, which is a group both impoverished and with a high rate of driving without legally required auto insurance. Given the failure of our government to keep un-insured drivers off the road, I’m really not thinking that we’d be able to keep un-insured shooters off the street, either.

      • Evan Þ says:

        “I doubt gun thefts are so common as to make a quantitative difference either way.”

        I’d like some numbers on that? It seems to me that the liability if your gun gets stolen and then used in a mass shooting three years down the line is so humungous that it’d make a difference even when amortized.

  48. Point of moral philosophy in response to a comment buried too deep for direct reply.

    I’m a utilitarian consequentialist, too. But it’s not hard to get from that to “shirking your duty” or virtue ethics and deontology in general. You get there if you have some notion of what long-term outcomes look like under different choices of ethical premises (or, if you prefer, different utility-maximizing strategies – I don’t regard the difference as significant and I don’t think you should either).

    The mistake deontologists and virtue ethicists make is not that duty or virtue aren’t useful terms of discussion, it’s in treating them as ungrounded primaries that don’t have to be justified by a utilitarian analysis.

    So when I say “It is the duty of every adult to defend civilization with words and deeds – and the particular duty of adult males to defend with violence up to and including lethal force,” feel free to unpack this as an consequentialist assertion that societies without this as a normative rule tend to come to bad ends.

    Read the headlines. We are seeing in Europe, right now, that the consequences of abrogating this duty include mass rape by invaders – this in the 21st century in the supposedly civilized world, not some tribal backwater in past times.

    And I use that emotive an example for a reason. The other purpose in using the language of duty is to appeal to social instincts formed in the EAA which may arise from selective pressure for certain utility outcomes, but are not expressed in those terms by our DNA or neural wiring. For the social order to have homeostasis under extreme stress, adults – especially male adults – have to be willing to ride to the sound of the guns, fight there, and possibly die there.

    Emotionally, you can’t get that with the bloodless language of utility maximization. You can get it with the call to duty, though. That’s how we’re wired.

    • Marc Whipple says:

      “Roman matrons used to tell their sons, ‘Come back with your shield – or on it.’ In time this custom declined. So did Rome.”

      • The Anonymouse says:

        Silk slippers down the stairs, wooden shoes up. Thankfully I don’t think we’re there quite yet, and while the original post talks about a nebulous Southern culture of violence to be accounted for, it is that same culture that provides us a disproportionate share of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines.

    • anon says:

      What? No. Treating duty and virtue “as ungrounded primaries that don’t have to be justified by a utilitarian analysis” is a feature, not a bug. All you’re saying is the problem with deontology and virtue ethics is that they aren’t consequentialist enough.

    • Alrenous says:

      ostensibly [snip] like that are invitations to abuse. And somebody always picks up that invitation.

      You can’t justify one externally imposed duty, you can only justify any externally imposed duty. Know of any unjust commands that are currently being justified as your duty?

    • Earthly Knight says:

      This whole discussion is badly confused. All consequentialist theories are isomorphic to some deontological theory or other, so a consequentialist should have no quarrel with the language of duty and obligation. Here is the deontologized version of maximizing hedonistic act utilitarianism, for instance:

      Principle: At all times, of the actions available to you, you have a duty to choose whichever action will, unto eternity, generate the greatest balance of pleasure over pain. In the case of ties, each of the tied actions is permissible and their disjunction obligatory.

      Corollary: All other actions are forbidden and none are supererogatory.

  49. ad says:

    Who’d have thought populating half a country with the descendants of a group of people called “Border Reavers” would cause so much trouble?

    Are American Southerners really more likely to be descended from “Border Reavers” than Scottish Southerners? Or English Northerners, for that matter? Because they are not notoriously violent areas these days.

    If you want some kind of inherited cultural effect, it occurs to me that immigrants to the South were much more likely to die of something tropical, and much more likely to be male, than immigrants to the North. So the South had a founder population that was younger, had a shorter life expectancy, and was more male than the North. That might have done a lot to drive the violence rate up.

  50. Rob says:

    “That means that gun control would “save” $22 billion dollars a year. Americans buy about 20 million guns per year (really)! If we were to tax guns to cover the “externality” of gun homicides preventable by Australia-level gun control, we would have to slap a $1000 tax on each gun sold. ”

    I think you should compare the flow of murders to the flow of all gun-ownership (not just new sales).

  51. Bill Harshaw says:

    Without reading the comments, I’m impressed by the quality of the argument, and depressed by the intelligence displayed. 🙂

  52. James Donald says:

    > “(I didn’t price in the advantages of guns in terms of preventing state tyranny and protecing freedom, which might be worth subsidizing, but my guess is that if 32% gun ownership is enough to maintain freedom, 22% gun ownership is as well)”

    Hey, no fair.

    If a modest reduction in guns produces a modest decrease in murders, also produces a modest increase in tyranny.

    Observe that in Europe if you commit a thought crime, antifa beat you up while the police watch benignly while remaining extremely vigilant for any attempt to defend yourself against antifa, and when antifa has finished with your beating, police drag you off to jail for thought crime

    Whereas in America, if you commit a thought crime, they sue anyone who employs you for “hostile work environment” making you unemployable.

    It seems likely that this difference is in substantial part due to higher gun ownership.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Interesting point, but sorry, you were banned indefinitely and it’s not the end of indefinitely yet.

      • JAD is a huge pain in the ass on my blog, too.

        But sometimes, once in a blue moon, he gets things right by speaking truths from which the politically correct avert their eyes. This is one of those times.

        • Anonymaus says:

          To add the other perspective to show how really all debates are bravery debates: Leftists in Germany feel that the police is more aggressive towards them, getting violent against peaceful left-wing protests, not intervening as much when right wing protests turn violent, surveilling the left wing party which has a sizeable representation in parliament etc.

        • Steve Johnson says:

          Since we’re all coming out – the point is that Scott bans people that point out the the ideas from which he’d prefer to avert his eyes – it’s not an accident that he’s made that you’re helpfully pointing out.

          I’ll go back to my ban now.

        • Mark Atwood says:

          JAD is a huge pain in the ass on my blog, too.

          You should watch him police his own blog.

          He has some of the most elegant ways of saying “you are an idiot, you are misinformed, you are wrong, and you are Not Helping” to people who agree with him that I have ever seen.

          I have taken notes, and try to use some of those techniques myself.

          • Thank you, but I get a gutfull of him on Armed & Dangerous already. The thought of voluntarily diving into a vat of his effusions makes me shudder.

            (Those of you aren’t A&D regulars don’t know that I make a point of never banning on grounds of repellent ideas, but that JAD is the most severe temptation I have encountered to do so.)

  53. rational_rob says:

    You assert that Australia style gun control might be a good use of the state’s money and time. I would assert that the value gained from saving two-thousand lives is negligible compared to the loss of a) armed citizens and b) the money invested towards solving the issue. Every life is valuable, but by asserting that these policies are useful to implement, you are also asserting that there is absolutely nothing more useful that you can do to lower the rate of unnatural deaths.

    Even just concerning gun deaths: What if we subsidized therapists? What if we worked on creating more effective bullet-proofing, either for public spaces or personal use? What if, instead of offering incentives to lower gun ownership, we increase the strictness of (already implemented) gun background checks by just a little more? And all this is a assuming we can’t to something about criminals themselves to make gun violence less prevalent.

    While I admit this work with statistics is very good, gun homicide isn’t just a matter of premeditated murder – like suicide, it’s a combination of factors, whether it be mental health or financial security. Taking steps to eliminate these factors kills two birds with one stone.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I don’t necessarily think it would be a good use of anyone’s time, just that if God offered you the opportunity to implement it vs. not implement it with the press of a button, press that button.

      • rational_rob says:

        Well, duh. That’s taken as a granted. Of course, if you’re libertarian minded like me (frankly, I’m a bit too far to the right, thanks to my parents) there’s a risk inherent to implementing systems in the first place, but that’s debatable. Personally, I *know* I don’t respond well to authority, so I make mental exceptions for things like TSA checkpoints or gun background checks. But things that exist independently of that, things that don’t depend on background (i.e. blanket gun control laws like the SAFE act) seem kind of eccentric, and this policy seems more towards the latter.

        I don’t know much about Australia’s gun laws, though, and another irrational sentiment of mine is the fear of threatening-sounding unknowns. If you were to summarize the policy in a few sentences, what would it be?

        • James Picone says:

          Wiki article has a pretty clear summary.

          Handguns require you to be part of a target shooting club or a security guard, otherwise illegal. Some rifles and shotguns are illegal, some are restricted to farmers/sports shooters/a few other small categories, some require a “genuine reason” which is probably a legal term of art. I don’t know anything about firearms and can’t parse the categories for you, I’m afraid.

          • AlphaGamma says:

            The weird thing I find about Australia’s gun laws is the ban on civilian ownership of body armour. While I understand the historical background to this, it is still a law the only possible purpose of which is to make it easier for the police to kill you should they deem it necessary.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @AlphaGamma:

            Wellll, that doesn’t seem unreasonable?

            Unless you are engaged in either 1) security operations (police or private security) or 2) criminal operations, the chance that you are going to go around wearing body armor is roughly nil.

          • Harold says:

            HeelBearCub: Unless you are engaged in either 1) security operations (police or private security) or 2) criminal operations, the chance that you are going to go around wearing body armor is roughly nil.

            What do you base this on? Do you know any civilians who own body armor? (Which started to become a big thing before Y2K). What do you think is the probability that I’ll put on my quick don set during a home invasion? The probability that I’ll wear my concealed set and maybe more if events drastically increase my need? Etc.

          • “Unless you are engaged in either 1) security operations (police or private security) or 2) criminal operations, the chance that you are going to go around wearing body armor is roughly nil.”

            What if you have good reason to think someone might want to assassinate you?

            It occurred to me at some point that perhaps my father (Milton Friedman) ought to wear concealed body armor, although he never did. There must have been millions of people out there who regarded him as a figure of evil. It only takes one.

            It’s striking how rarely people in our society engage in direct violence for ideological reasons. My wife long worried that my habit of arguing online would some day result in a brick through our window, but it never happened.

          • HeelBearCub says:

            @David Friedman:
            I was trying to get at that with “private security”.

            @AlphaGamma:
            In Australia? It seems much less likely.

            In the US, I’m sure there are many people, although I would guess they are a pretty small percentage of the population. If 32% of people own guns, I would be surprised if even a third of those people own body armor. And the number of people who actually put that body armor on in a year to be a much smaller percentage.

            But, of course I could be completely wrong here. It just seems like the number of (non-police/non-security force) people who put on body armor in a year should top out at something like 1% of the US population, if that. And Australia should be much smaller.

            But I don’t take an absolute rights perspective to these things. Rather I view them in terms of competing priorities and rights. The less legitimate need their is for body armor in a society, the less pressure their is to grant a right to own body armor.

        • Scott Alexander says:

          It’s “taken for granted” that gun control would be a good idea if it could be done easily? That’s…not the impression I’ve gotten.

  54. Bugmaster says:

    To be fair, the pro-gun argument (as far as I understand it) is that guns reduce crime in general, by a). allowing the populace to stop mass shooters, b). allowing innocent people to defend themselves against violent attackers (who, being criminals, would own guns no matter what), and c). creating a powerful deterrent effect due to common knowledge of (a) and (b).

    If this argument were true, then we would indeed expect gun ownership to correlate with the number of people killed by someone else’s gun; however, we would also see a negative correlation between gun ownership and general violent crime. In addition, we would expect a larger proportion of guns to be fired in self-defence.

    An expansion of this argument states that we live in a sort of “uncanny valley” of gun control. If we had total gun control, and no one could get any guns at all, then of course the number of shootings would decrease — but such control would require totalitarian measures of North Korean caliber, and would thus be highly undesirable. On the other hand, if we had virtually no gun control, almost everyone would own a gun (or several guns). At this point, violent crime would also decrease dramatically, due to the deterrent effects mentioned above. Unfortunately, as of today we have just enough gun control to make it prohibitively difficult for ordinary law-abiding citizens to get guns, while enabling criminals to basically shoot whomever they want.

    • rational_rob says:

      There’s a difference between owning guns for self-defense and owning guns as a deterrent for attackers. A lot of NRA paranoia is based off of the fact that no citizen can legally match up to a police officer or a soldier in their authority, and that is a completely reasonable fear. But a society full of typical card-carrying NRA members would threaten anything they found suspicious, like a society entirely composed of less-organized, less bureaucratically limited corrupt cops.

      The problem is, both sides think guns are the solution to their problem – that is, both sides think that the people they want in power should have the authority to wield weapons. Conservatives and right leaning libertarians are naturally suspicious of a governing body that has both the authority to make laws and to use guns, and liberals are generally suspicious of governments that don’t have the authority to enforce their laws.

      • Gbdub says:

        Actually, “card carrying NRA members” rarely actually threaten anybody, and I’m guessing probably commit homicide at a rate lower than the national average. (Concealed carry permit holders demonstrably have a lower rate of violent crime – there’s probably a lot of overlap).

        Part of the problem (on both sides) is ignorant hyperbolizing of the opposing culture. A bit of charity is in order perhaps?

        What you call “paranoia” is also “a culture of self-reliance”. It’s not that “red tribe” gun owners don’t accept the legitimacy of police or military (in fact they usually support both more strongly than average), it’s that they understand that “when seconds count, the police are only minutes away”.

    • Anthony says:

      I think (a) is not really important to the general analysis of guns and crime.

      However, your conclusion “we would indeed expect gun ownership to correlate with the number of people killed by someone else’s gun” doesn’t follow – if the deterrent effect is large enough, then the number of people killed by someone else’s gun might go down significantly.

      Various research shows that most (perhaps as much as 98% of) “Defensive Gun Uses” involve only brandishing the gun, at which point the aggressor stops aggressing. Many of these cases are not reported to police – sometimes because the defender isn’t legally allowed to have a gun, sometimes because he doesn’t really want to deal with the police for a variety of other reasons.

      • That is correct. It’s been known since Gary Kleck’s study in 1992 that self-defense uses in which the firearm is not discharged otnumber those in which it is by 6:1. And there is thud good reason to believe that defensive gun use is severely underreported.

  55. Marc Whipple says:

    I didn’t price in the advantages of guns in terms of preventing state tyranny and protecing freedom, which might be worth subsidizing, but my guess is that if 32% gun ownership is enough to maintain freedom, 22% gun ownership is as well

    You also didn’t price in the advantages of guns in protecting the law-abiding from the non-law-abiding. I can understand why, since this is simultaneously the hardest-to-measure factor in the whole mess and by far the most controversial. But unless you can also diminish our culture-of-violence whilst you diminish our gun ownership numbers, not counting it is incredibly intellectually dishonest.

    • ilkarnal says:

      Your danger of being killed if your assailant has a gun and you have a gun is higher than if neither you or your assailant have guns. Gun-control measures that make guns more expensive and inconvenient to get will have a hugely disproportionate impact on low-IQ, low-FTO individuals.

      It is completely laughable to argue that loose gun regulations make law-abiding individuals safer.

      • Harold says:

        Your danger of being killed if your assailant has a gun and you have a gun is higher than if neither you or your assailant have guns.

        Speak for yourself. As a man in my mid-50s with some physical disabilities, if a fit youth wants to kill me in hand to hand combat, he’ll probably succeed. If I can draw my gun at a time of my choosing, I’ll probably prevail.

        • ilkarnal says:

          Speak for yourself. As a man in my mid-50s with some physical disabilities, if a fit youth wants to kill me in hand to hand combat, he’ll probably succeed.

          Yeah. This isn’t relevant. In the vast majority of cases an unarmed attacker is not going to try to kill you. They are going to try to rough you up. Most of the time, this will not result in your death or even permanent disability.

          If they use a gun, on the other hand, the chance that you die or suffer permanent disability is much higher. Even if you’re Steven fucking Hawking against Mike Tyson. Guns are much less variable than hands. People almost never use the full destructive potential of their hands – that destructive potential is actually quite breathtaking. Guns can’t be curved back in terms of destructive potential in the same way.

          If I can draw my gun at a time of my choosing, I’ll probably prevail.

          You can’t draw a gun at the time of your choosing. You can only draw a gun when you know you are threatened. That means when your assailant is very, very close to you, and if you’re a sack of flab and your opponent is trying to kill you – exceedingly unlikely but specifically the circumstance you raised – a gun at your waist is very unlikely to save you. A strong young man can disable and kill you with blinding speed – if that’s what he wants to do. It’s not what he wants to do in the overwhelming majority of cases.

          If on the other hand your interlocutor – as is nearly certain – does not care to kill you but simply wants to rough you up, a gun is quite a useful thing in terms of winning the encounter. I said in terms of winning the encounter, not reducing risk to yourself – in all likelihood you increase the risk to yourself by pulling a deadly weapon on a much stronger opponent who is already attacking you. However, you do switch the situation from one where you will almost certainly lose to one where you have roughly even or favorable odds of winning.

          If all the people who would physically assault you were trying to kill you, this would be a knock-down argument for carrying a gun. As that isn’t the case, it isn’t – you have to compare probability(guy attacking you wants to kill you + probability guy attacking you accidentally kills you)*(chance you manage to disable or flee from your opponent) with probability(guy attacking you wants to kill you + probability guy attacking you accidentally kills you when you pulled a gun on him and you are at his mercy)*(chance you fail to kill or disable your opponent with your gun).

          As you very considerably increase the vigor with which your attacker will strike if you draw a gun on him and fail to kill him or force him to flee, and the chance that you fail to kill him or force him to flee is quite considerable especially if you are not physically fit, drawing a gun is not a boon for your safety. That is, unless probability(guy attacking you wants to kill you + probability guy attacking you accidentally kills you) is much higher than it is in the first world.

          ‘Gun rights’ represent a way for individual people to stand up for themselves, which does not improve safety. Standing up for yourself almost never improves safety, because the vast majority of bad actors – whether of the lawless or lawful variety – are not the sort that specifically want to kill.

          The problem is that standing up against violent misbehavior needs to be done at a collective, organized level in order to be effective. Individually ‘standing up for yourself’ in violent situations is dangerous, wasteful, masturbatory Rambo-fetish nonsense. Specialized, organized teams are what stand between ‘bad guys’ and you – if that’s insufficient, join those teams, support those teams, or go somewhere with more effectual teams. Don’t respond by ‘standing up for yourself’ as a lone armed individual – it is a disservice both to yourself and to your community.

          • “Individually ‘standing up for yourself’ in violent situations is dangerous, wasteful, masturbatory Rambo-fetish nonsense. ”

            You might be correct that it is imprudent. But the more likely it is that the victim of a mugging will pull a gun with some chance of killing the mugger, the less profitable mugging is, hence the fewer muggings will occur. So whether or not the behavior you denounce as nonsense is prudent, it does have some desirable effect for the society as a whole.

            Which might be part of ESR’s point.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @David Friedman:

            The analogy to vaccination is rather obvious – and works on multiple levels.

          • ilkarnal says:

            You might be correct that it is imprudent. But the more likely it is that the victim of a mugging will pull a gun with some chance of killing the mugger, the less profitable mugging is, hence the fewer muggings will occur.

            Mugging is not a profitable occupation – you’d make more money working a normal job than mugging people over any significant timespan. People assault, rob, vandalize, and generally fuck with other people because it is fun, not because it is profitable.

            Adding more guns to the equation does not make it less fun. It does change how preemptively brutal you need to be, though. Instead of just pointing a gun or knife at someone, you need to go further in order to be safe – whether that means ordering them to the ground and shooting them if they disobey, whacking them upside the head from behind, pepper spraying them, tasing them, or other nastiness.

            A general point has to be made that when both sides are armed with any sort of combat tool, the advantage swings heavily in favor of the side that is prepared first.

            Dealing effectively with this sort of nastiness is simply impossible without organization – those specialized teams I mentioned earlier. How the analogy to vaccination properly applies is as follows – when a few people synthesize their own ‘vaccines’ with various improvised methods, no public health benefit is realized and instead there is significant risk added. When a robust public health initiative leads to population-scale distribution of quality controlled, mass manufactured vaccines, a significant public health benefit can be realized.

            And a more important point – do you not see how fucking insane it is to argue that society should be flooded with pocket killing devices in order to dissuade mugging? Why do you think mugging is such a big deal? People take your money, wow, how terrible. You know what’s a big deal? Murder is a big deal. Someone taking my life matters much more to me than someone taking some goddamn cash. And that decision, the decision to take my life, is almost certain to be the result of a temporary surge of emotion on the part of my would-be murderer. My chance of death goes up tremendously if that person has a gun on their person. Hell, that person could be my mugger! Even within the specific case of criminals robbing me, I would much prefer a higher amount of cash lost to robbers and lower chance of being killed/maimed to the reverse.

          • “Mugging is not a profitable occupation”

            How do you know? My working assumption with regard to people I don’t know is that they are rational, make those choices that serve their interest. Most of the time they know much more than I do about the alternatives available to them, which makes me reluctant to second guess their choice. Presumably you have reliable information on the costs and benefits of mugging as a career, compared to other options open to the same people?

            This reminds me of an argument I had more than forty years ago with Ernest Van den Haag, one of the NR group around Buckley. I was living on the upper west side of Manhattan, and when I went out walking I carried a six foot walking stick—a quarter staff. My theory was that, by doing so, I signaled that if someone tried to mug me I was quite likely to fight and that muggers would rationally go after easier targets. Ernest argued, along your lines, that by carrying the stick I was challenging the masculine courage of the muggers, and they would swarm all over me.

            I never got mugged, which is at least weak evidence for my view. I think the pattern of who does get mugged–little old ladies much more often than football players–also supports it.

          • Psmith says:

            A rape can last 30 seconds, but a murder lasts forever. Guns are not the answer.

            (http://s200.photobucket.com/user/BassNuts/media/F93C327D-DCE9-4D98-BB79-C3653D4118CD-4543-000004C69805BD34.jpg.html)

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ David Friedman:

            There is a difference between what we may call “local rationality” and “global rationality”.

            Given that someone chooses to mug people, he is likely to do so in a mostly rational way. Therefore, he attacks little old ladies or rich-looking women, not people with obvious weapons. They are locally rational about how to make the most money mugging people.

            On the other hand, maybe their goal isn’t money but to enjoy the thrill, as Genghis Khan said, of crushing their enemies, seeing them driven before them, and hearing the lamentation of their women. Then they would challenge you for a “good fight”, and it would be locally rational to do so.

            Now, you were probably correct because the first type of motive (get money) is more prevalent than the second (get sadistic pleasure). But in your sense, there’s nothing “irrational” about the second kind of mugger.

            But what do I mean by “global rationality”? Well, I think “get money by mugging” and “get sadistic pleasure by mugging” are neither very likely to be what these people would prefer under completely rational consideration of all their goals and preferences, along with the likely consequences. I find it very hard to square all the pointless misery people inflict upon themselves with the idea that they have rationally decided to do everything they do.

            (Note: I’m using “rational” in the objective, non-moralistic sense here; i.e. rational by the correct standard of what is rational. Not the subjective sense in which one morally condemns people for being irrational; you can subjectively-rationally do something objectively-irrational because you were not taught how to be rational in the objective sense.)

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @Psmith,

            That is the most despicable ad I have ever seen in my life. I would not have believed it existed until I saw it. Thanks, I guess.

            No sane person will shed a single tear over a dead rapist. That is the sign of a diseased mind.

          • Echo says:

            Psmith, that one turned out to be bait from /k/, or /pol/, or /u/, whichever board it is that does that kind of thing.
            A bunch of anti-gun people did reblog it, but it wasn’t a real Brady Bunch ad.

          • God Damn John Jay says:

            @Dr Dealgood

            http://www.snopes.com/politics/guns/bradyad.asp

            Its a hoax, your instincts were right.

            [Beat to it by Echo]

          • Psmith says:

            @ the last three of you, yeah, it’s a hoax, although someone submitted it to the Brady Campaign facebook page and they put it up for about thirty seconds. (ETA: according to Snopes, this never happened. Make of that what you will.). There was a short period when fake Brady poster threads were all the rage.

            On the other hand, it appears to summarize the parent comment’s view pretty well….

          • Tibor says:

            This is a strange assumption given that national wealth is correlated with a lower rate of violent crime. If what most of the muggers sought was the adrenaline and more danger the better, there would be very little we could do to stop them. Even police enforcement would just be a way for them to “knock it up a notch”. I think that people who actually work that way do exists, they are called psychopaths and there are way fewer of them than there are of violent criminals (but they might occasionally rise high up in organized crime…although being a sociopath is probably more advantageous for a crime boss). I also doubt that even most psychopaths want to die. Having more armed would-be victims willing to pull a gun on you means that your chances of dying during an assault are much higher and unless you literally do not care about dying, so unless you are outright suicidal, increasing your chances of being killed in an assault is a disincentive to attack someone.

            Is the gun-carrying victim likely to use the gun? Well, the closest I’ve ever been to being assaulted was when I was about 9 or 10 and a 15-something kid beat me up and then followed me down the road home (twice stopping to beat me up and then letting me go again, but he would always manage to catch me afterwards). By the time I reached home I ran to the garage to get a pickaxe (not the best choice of a weapon if you are actually going to use it, because it is heavy and so very slow, but it looks kind of menacing, I simply picked the biggest metal thing I noticed in the garage), cause the guy was after me again. I screamed at him that I would kill him if he climbed over the fence and I probably would have had he done so. He was obviously scared away by that pickaxe and me telling him that I was going to kill him. The guy was crazy and I had nowhere else to run, there were no mobile phones back then so I could not call the police on the run and even so it would take them at least 5 minutes to arrive and that would have not been soon enough. If this is about how people usually feel when attacked by someone, then I expect they would use the gun without hesitation.

            By the way, this is also why a gun law that permits concealed carry is superior to the one that does not. You have no idea who (of the people over the legal age) might have a gun and so you are more reluctant when attacking them. Those who don’t carry them are thus protected by those who do, because you can only guess who is who.

          • John Schilling says:

            No mugger that I have ever encountered in the supposedly gun-crazy United States has used a gun. No mugger that I have heard of firsthand, from family, friends, or acquaintances, has used a gun. Very few of the muggers I have read about from various news sources have used guns, and when I have looked for statistical data on the subject, the use of firearms seems to be fairly rare among American muggers.

            That model of how muggers work in a heavily-armed society, whether it comes from Hollywood or from your own pontification, is simply wrong. Firearms are generally used by robbers who attack relatively hard targets (banks, liquor stores, etc), or who rob other criminals, or by criminals who fear being robbed.

          • Nornagest says:

            This is anecdata, but of four friends that’ve been mugged (all in the greater Bay Area, though, which is not a particularly heavily armed place), two muggers used guns. The other two were strongarm robberies that relied on numbers.

            The last time I looked into real statistics, robbery with firearm outnumbered robbery with other weapons or strongarm robberies by somewhat more than unity but somewhat less than two to one. But it does occur to me that that would fold muggings in with some dude trying to knock over a liquor store.

          • houseboatonstyx says:

            John Schilling says:
            January 8, 2016 at 12:48 pm ~new~
            No mugger that I have ever encountered in the supposedly gun-crazy United States has used a gun.

            Whatever they’re threatening you with, what happens if you just say No? (Or run away?) Shoot you, with noise and a murder charge? Cut you, perhaps getting blood on themselves? Mace you, which makes it harder for them or you to get at their wallet?

          • John Schilling says:

            Whatever they’re threatening you with, what happens if you just say No?

            Typically a beating and maybe(*) being cut with a knife. Facilitated by accomplices, and arranging for the mugging to occur where the victim is cornered and cannot flee. Starting with low levels of violence and working up from there; as you note, it works best if the victim is still capable of handing over his wallet.

            *In one mugging attempt, out of two in my adult life, I didn’t see a weapon but did have a cut on my forearm when it was over. Anecdotally, friends have been explicitly threatened with knives but not cut.

          • Nornagest says:

            Whatever they’re threatening you with, what happens if you just say No? (Or run away?)

            In both the unarmed muggings I mentioned, the victims were outnumbered four or five to one, and escape routes were cut off before the mugging proper started. Both initially refused (coincidentally, they were both skilled martial artists), and were attacked. One took some bruises but managed to injure a couple of his attackers badly enough that the rest ran off; the other didn’t, and got a broken nose for her trouble before her attackers (who were also women, incidentally; the cops suspected a gang initiation) stole her purse and phone.

          • ilkarnal says:

            No mugger that I have ever encountered in the supposedly gun-crazy United States has used a gun.

            I live in a relatively low-crime area and even I know someone who was mugged by an individual armed with a gun. The implication that the use of firearms to threaten one’s victim is or ought to be rare is absurd.

            That model of how muggers work in a heavily-armed society, whether it comes from Hollywood or from your own pontification, is simply wrong.

            Utter nonsense.

          • John Schilling says:

            According to the FBI, firearms are used in only 43% of all robberies in the United States – and that’s all robberies, including bank robberies, liquor store robberies, home invasion robberies, and the like. Since this has caused confusion in the past, “robbery” in the US refers only to theft by violence or threat of violence.

            The FBI doesn’t break out muggings specifically, but robberies on “streets and highways” are about 42% of all robberies, and muggings are probably the vast majority of those. Still, if most robberies aren’t muggings and most robberies don’t involve guns, and the type of robberies that aren’t muggings are the ones that more obviously call for potent weaponry, I think it is pretty safe to say that the use of firearms in muggings is at least moderately rare.

        • Jaskologist says:

          Mugging is not a profitable occupation – you’d make more money working a normal job than mugging people over any significant timespan. People assault, rob, vandalize, and generally fuck with other people because it is fun, not because it is profitable.

          Mugging may not make more money over time, but it will get you a bunch of money right now if an opportune target presents itself. For people with whichever level of time preference is the bad one, that’s important. I don’t think you really need to bring much sadism into the mix.

          Besides, the gig economy is all the rage. They can work a normal job, and mug people in their spare time!

          • Echo says:

            I believe they call that one “high time preference”, because they prefer to be high all the time.

            But it is definitely true that many muggers pick victims to take their frustrations out on. Or at least that’s the excuse used in the “in defense of looting/mugging white people” articles that go around.

      • The Anonymouse says:

        It is completely laughable to argue that loose gun regulations make law-abiding individuals safer.

        Yet here we are, amidst a declining crime rate, right along with historically “loose” gun regulations.

        • ilkarnal says:

          And your argument that the declining crime rate is caused by loose gun regulations, in a country where gun regulation has always been loose, and used to be even looser, is…? Or did you hallucinate that I wrote “if gun regulations are loose, crime rates must continually rise! forever! there can be no decline in crime rates in a country with loose gun regulation!”

          • HlynkaCG says:

            Correlation may not prove causation but it does wiggle it’s eyebrows while mouthing “look over here”.

            Point being that the idea is no where near as “laughable” as you assert.

          • Harold says:

            And your argument that the declining crime rate is caused by loose gun regulations, in a country where gun regulation has always been loose, and used to be even looser, is…?

            You’d have to look back to the period before the Civil War for our gun regulations to be looser. Waves of de jure and de facto carry restrictions followed that, to suppress carry by freedmen, immigrants from non-traditional regions, and then everyone but the well connected. When Florida enacted a shall issue concealed carry regime in 1987 it was allowed by only a few states, now it’s 42 and most of the population. And this is by far the most consequential change in gun regulations in our lifetimes.

          • ilkarnal says:

            Harold: WRT to concealed carry you’re correct, but I don’t see any regulations on how firearms can be used as significant. The only thing I care about are restrictions on the acquisition of said firearms, because my concern is with murder. The archetypal murder is at home by someone who has a deep relationship with the person they are murdering, not a stranger-stranger interaction outdoors.

            When it *is* a stranger-stranger interaction, usually the murderer isn’t the type to be overly concerned about whether they are allowed to carry their gun around or not. The only angle that is effective is making it harder for guns to come into their possession in the first place, which is done extremely effectively by raising the price… And is impossible to do any other way.

            Incidentally I live in Massachusetts where concealed carry is effectively illegal, and we have seen a decline in murder along with the rest of the nation over the past few decades. In fact we rank fairly low on the murder scale compared to gun-happy red states. I would say “Correlation may not prove causation but it does wiggle it’s eyebrows while mouthing ‘look over here’ ” – but that would be really stupid, because obviously concealed carry is not a significant deterrent or enabler of murder, and obviously demographic differences swamp even far more significant differences in policy.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Ilkarnal – “The archetypal murder is at home by someone who has a deep relationship with the person they are murdering, not a stranger-stranger interaction outdoors.”

            …As pointed out by Eric far below, this statement is profoundly misleading, to the point of malicious falsehood. It is true that the archtypal murderer does not select his target at random from the general population, because the archtypal murderer is a career criminal killing another career criminal over a conflict related to their shared vocation. To the extent that this happens in the victims’ home, that is because homes are the easiest place to find someone reliably when they don’t have a job. It seems to me disingenuous to the extreme to call a drug-pushing rivalry a “deep relationship”, and generally to conflate the friction of criminal enterprise with the close relationships of a normal citizen, but others may judge as they wish.

            For what it’s worth, I agree that guns do not reduce the crime rate. Near as I can tell, guns have no effect on the crime rate one way or the other.

          • TheNybbler says:

            The archetypal murder is not “at home by someone who has a deep relationship with the person they are murdering”

            In about half of all murders reported to the FBI, the relationship is “unknown” (to the FBI, anyway). Of the rest, about half are “acquaintance”, which is the least “deep” relationship; it’s someone known to the victim with no other special relationship. Half the rest are “stranger” — the victim and killer are not known to each other.

            Even for non-felony type homicides (that is, homicides not committed in the course of another felony), “unknown”, “acquaintance”, and “stranger” are the top three relationships.

          • ilkarnal says:

            The most common reason to murder someone, by far, is a spat between lovers. That’s the archetypal murder. If you add together all the other zillions of reasons people kill each other over, yes, that’s significantly more. It also includes a whole lot of not-murder, or at least something considerably distant from the central meaning-cluster of the term ‘murder.’

            the archtypal murderer is a career criminal killing another career criminal

            No way. But that sort of thing is a significant piece of the killing pie, and it illustrates the problem – such conflicts are often unpremeditated, and are often mutual, with both sides having cause to fear for their life. Those homicides often should go in the ‘manslaughter’ pile rather than the ‘murder’ pile.

            Let’s say I am concerned about being a blameless victim and not at all concerned about getting killed as a participant in some sort of mutually-entered fight or extralegal quasi-war. Let’s further stipulate that I am not an adventurer who seeks out those places where danger is thick in the air. In that case the archetypal murder rises precipitously from its already high relevance.

            Of course, making guns harder to get helps the innocent and the less than completely innocent simultaneously. The latter category has more weight from a numerical standpoint, the former from at least my moral standpoint, and also my practical perspective.

            To the extent that this happens in the victims’ home, that is because homes are the easiest place to find someone reliably when they don’t have a job.

            Back to the original issue of concealed-carry – it is pretty clear that whether you think we should be concerned with saving career criminals or saving spousal murder victims, concealed carry law is of little relevance. The issue is the availability of the killing-tools, not post-acquisition admonitions about how they ought to be used.

          • TheNybbler says:

            “The most common reason to murder someone, by far, is a spat between lovers.”

            This is blatantly false. Arguments, other than over money, where one spouse or girlfriend/boyfriend killed the other accounted for 636 murders in the US in 2014. Another 85 were “romantic triangle” killings (most of “acquaintances”, which suggests to me that it was usually one rival killing the other). That’s out of a total of 11,961 homicides. Certainly you could slice and dice the data to create many other small categories to make that “the largest”, but that would hardly be valid.

          • Douglas Knight says:

            Nybbler, 11,961 is murder, FWIW. Including non-negligent homicide, as most people do, brings it up 14,249. But 11,961 is the right denominator for your numbers.

            I think it is a mistake to break out romantic murders by cause. Yes, only 636 are attributed to arguments, but the rest are attributed to “other-not specified” and “unknown.” Better to just say that husband/wife/bf/gf=1203, 10% of total, and forget about circumstance.

          • TheNybbler says:

            You’re right, 14,249 is the correct number of murder + non-negligent homicides. The 11,961 is the number of murder + non-negligent homicides. for which the FBI received the supplemental data to produce those tables, I missed that. It is not a distinction between just murder and murder + non-negligent homicide. (I’m fairly sure the raw data provided to the FBI does not make that distinction)

          • Douglas Knight says:

            OK, then it’s fine to call it homicide.

          • ilkarnal says:

            https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2011/crime-in-the-u.s.-2011/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-10

            It is perfectly clear to me that the ‘acquaintance’ and ‘stranger’ categories dissolve into a tremendous variety of different sub-categories of conflict type, while the ‘lovers’ category doesn’t. Boyfriend/girlfriend/wife/husband adds up to 10% of homicides in the table, and 18% of those where the relationship is known.

            You can of course subdivide ‘relationship strife leads to one lover killing the other,’ you can subdivide anything. I am not asserting that this is a completely homogeneous indivisible category. I am asserting that it is the largest category by far of that degree of specificity, where you know the specific relationship behind the dispute. Looking down the table ‘robbery’ has about half the number and is a fairly broad category. The rest are considerably smaller than that (ignoring those that start with ‘other.’)

            And I’ll restate another issue I have – what proportion of acquaintance/stranger homicides are fights where both sides have immediate cause to fear for their lives, compared to cases where one lover kills the other? I think almost everyone has experienced the extremely intense anger that arises in conflicts with family, which often promotes unilateral violence. Serious violent interactions between strangers are mostly bilateral or potentially bilateral – that is, between adult non-geriatric males.

            How many homicides are in the ‘man kills (implausible candidate for bilateral violence who is also a stranger)’ category? How often do these young to middle aged men who make up most of the homicide victims and perpetrators just up and kill a woman they’ve never met before, or a kid who isn’t theirs, or an old man who needs a walker? Not nearly as often as they kill and harm either fellow credible threats in the course of some dispute, or family members.

            I maintain that if we’re discussing murders that slot into the center of that word’s definition cluster, which excludes a lot of mutually threatening combat where some participant(s) die of their injuries, disputes between lovers rise precipitously from their already unsurpassed position. I don’t think calling that the ‘archetypal murder’ is a mistake.

          • TheNybbler says:

            Your claim was “The most common reason to murder someone, by far, is a spat between lovers.” You then use figures for all murders between intimates (husband and wife, boyfriend and girlfriend), to back that up. Aside from the fact that you’re counting things that aren’t “spats”, the number for murders between intimates (1203 in 2014) is still smaller than the number between strangers (1381). I’m not sure why you think “murders of strangers” is a very divisible category but “murders of intimates” is not. Especially when the divisions between murder circumstances are in the table and you’ve explicitly ignored them for murders between intimates.

            It seems to me you’re gerrymandering the numbers to obtain the results you want. You’re more likely to be killed by a stranger than a lover. You’re more likely to be killed over an argument with an acquaintance than an argument with a lover. You’re more likely to be killed by someone else committing another felony than by a lover.

        • Harold says:

          Incidentally I live in Massachusetts where concealed carry is effectively illegal…

          I used to live in Massachusetts and therefore still follow what’s going on there, and concealed carry is most certainly not “effectively illegal”, it’s up to the police chief of the town in which you reside, as has been handgun ownership for a long time, and recently long gun ownership.

          • ilkarnal says:

            My bad for generalizing from Boston and its immediate environs. I knew it was up to the police chief, I just read that it was nigh-impossible to get here and assumed most of the state followed that lead. Apparently it is more of a patchwork, with rural chiefs being much more permissive. In any case it is greatly restricted compared to shall-issue states, which doesn’t seem to have prevented the state from benefiting from the nationwide crime slump.

  56. Gbdub says:

    Doesn’t this analysis Prove Too Much? Doesn’t it imply we ought to be heavily taxing black people that live near a lot of other black people since “black culture of violence” has such serious negative externalities?

    Obviously it seems repugnant to act on this conclusion, but it’s equally (maybe better) supported by your analysis.

    So why don’t you propose the “black folks living together tax”? My guess is that you see positive externalities to “black culture” but no positive externalities to “gun culture”. But I propose that’s more a result of your tribe than objective facts.

    I’m sure you could find someone in your area or at your next meetup very willing to go teach you to shoot. Get inoculated in the culture a little bit before dismissing any value for it.

  57. Elissa says:

    Am I the only one who was way more concerned by the “We carry fish antibiotics!” in the sidebar of that “How many guns do you need?” article than by the article itself? You what.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      Fish use the same antibiotics as people, but they cost much less when they’re branded for fish and don’t require a prescription. I have very very occasionally recommended fish-branded antibiotics for people in extremely specific bad situations who cannot afford human-branded antibiotics.

      • The Anonymouse says:

        Scott, the things I learn from this place never cease to amaze me. Neat!

      • rational_rob says:

        I had to take some pretty strong antibiotics because I was immune-compromised a while back. It was pretty embarrassing, because my dog (who had gotten an infection from chewing on his ass) was taking literally the exact same prescription as me, down to the dose.

      • Elissa says:

        Yes, that these are being used by humans whenever it seems like a good idea to them is what worries me.

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        Damn. Guess I need to update towards needing more guns.

  58. Scott, you need to make it to Penguicon’s Geeks with Guns event this year so I can teach you how to shoot.

    Mostly good analysis as far as it goes, but you are ignoring huge positive externalities from civilian weapons ownership in pricing the cost/benefits. From just about any gun owner’s perspective your estimate is absurdly low.

    I keep a pistol near my desk and regularly carry it outside my home. The benefit to me of knowing that if I am attacked I have an answer is large, even though I live in Switzerland rather than Swaziland (that is, outside one of the tiny patches of high violence in the U.S.) and my odds of encountering such violence are low.

    The gun does not only give me a response if I am attacked, it reduces the odds that I will be attacked at all. Predators have a fine-tuned sense for weakness in potential victims. Armed, I am not weak; they can read that, and shy away from it.

    Not to be underestimated, either, is the psychological value of knowing that I am doing the duty of a man. When criminal violence occurs near me, or in the event of a breakdown of civil order, I am part of the solution. I am civilization asserting itself, with lethal force or threat of same if required. We cannot leave that duty to police and soldiers, because having a sufficiently pervasive police and military presence to do the job effectively would have other kinds of very bad consequences.

    I sometimes wonder how you disarmed sheep out there can stand yourselves. OK, I get it about women; they’re designed by the EAA to fight only when the men have failed. But there are days when I want to clout the nearest SWPL pajama-boy upside the head and ask “Who the fuck are you? Do you know what you’ll die for? Do you know what you’ll kill for? What will you do if shit gets real? Who do you defend? Where are your goddamn balls?

    Pretty much all gun-culture folks feel this way to some extent – that being around the self-disarmed is like being surrounded by overgrown children with no courage or sense of responsibility. We just don’t talk about it much.

    EDIT: I should have added that women in the gun culture share this feeling too. So it’s not the case that male gun owners are living on a macho island of self-assumed superiority; our women know it could be their job to shoot back, too.

    • Urstoff says:

      So gun-culture is full of hyper-macho idiocy, then? That doesn’t match my interactions with gun hobbyists, but maybe you inhabit a different part of the “gun culture”.

      • Gbdub says:

        He doesn’t express it all that palatably, but there is a definite sense of “I am doing an important civic duty by making myself capable of defending civilization if shit hits the fan” within American gun culture. And less so now, but when hunting out of semi-necessity was ubiquitous, a sense of “I am responsible for being able to provide”. And that comes with an element of machismo. But then there are also a lot of women among the culture who believe that defense of themselves and others is also part of their duty.

        But really we collect and shoot guns mostly because it’s fun to collect and shoot guns (and it is a surprisingly “geeky” hobby, and growing more so, especially among the black rifle types). The other stuff is the “noble” justification but not really the driving force behind most of the hobbyists’ activities.

        • Cord Shirt says:

          Well, yeah. I agree with the “civic duty” part (no opinion on the “fun” part). I’d do that duty if I were able-bodied. But I’m a universalist woman. Gendering it the way he does just shoves people like me hard away from that culture. I already agree about the duty in a philosophical sense, but this wording is not exactly calculated to make me like the individual member who’s wording it that way. Really, is it *that* difficult to try to inspire *every* reader to do their duty? To defend civilization? To know exactly what they would and wouldn’t fight for? Is it *that* difficult to call it, *to conceive of it*, as the duty of a human being instead of the duty of a man? Is it *that* important to bring testicles into it? *Really*? *Really really*? (Again, if it is, go to town. But…)

          The way some guys fetishize their genitalia really is, I’m sorry, creepy. (Because it suggests that, nope, “duty of a man” isn’t just poetic language, isn’t “really inclusive that’s just how our language works,” but rather, *really is* the way they think of it. It suggests they really do think only people with testicles have this duty, and by extension, that only people with testicles are fully human. And if he thinks women don’t have this kind of humanity…what *other* kind of humanity does he think we don’t have? No, it’s not definite. That’s why it’s “creepy” instead of “outright frightening.” Because of the uncertainty. But it is…creepy.)

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            If you speak about your experiences as a woman would you expect people to think that you’re referring to your ovaries? I would assume not but then again I’m not you.

            When men talk about what it means to be a man, we’re generally not talking about our gonads so much as an aspiration to masculine virtue. I’m not exactly a bulwark of civilization myself but nonetheless say things like “my father taught me what it means to be a man” and it’s pretty clear what is meant by that.

            I know that you know this, but the whole thing about being obsessed with sexual organs is at best dishonest and at worst projection. Either way please knock it out.

          • John Schilling says:

            When men talk about what it means to be a man, we’re generally not talking about our gonads so much as an aspiration to masculine virtue.

            It’s still tone-deaf to talk about it at length in such explicitly gendered terms, in a context as contentious as this, without at least some explicit disclaimers. Doubly so to continue when someone calls you on it.

            Stop helping. You and Eric both.

          • Gbdub says:

            Eh, Eric did say “where are your goddam balls” (although that’s clearly an idiom and not an actual obsession with genitals).

            What it is is a belief in strong gender roles, and promoting this as a means of promoting gun ownership is at a minimum tone deaf and at worst creepy for the SSC audience, as Cord Shirt ably demonstrates.

            Anyway, to me one of the great things about guns from a civic duty / defense perspective is that their use can be gender neutral. A woman armed with a firearm can ably defend herself and her loved ones just as well as a similarly armed man, even though unarmed, women will on average be at a disadvantage to the physical strength of an average man. As the old saying goes, “God made [people], but Sam Colt made them equal”. Someone promoting gun culture outside its current bounds ought to take advantage of that.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            He went on to say “Where are your balls?”

            You guys conflate these things; sorry, but you do. And it makes a difference.

            I’m trying to charitable by assuming it really is just the unconscious result of, you know, growing up male; you have testicles, you have courage, you kinda conflate them, you then speak that way without really thinking of how that wording strikes people who value courage in themselves but who don’t in fact have testicles.

            If my assumption is correct, though, then it implies that once you *realize* you’re unintentionally giving that impression, then it actually *isn’t* difficult to just switch to “Where is your courage?” or “Where are your guts?” rather than “Where are your balls?”

            If someone keeps insisting on “Where are your *balls*?” it gives the impression that equating courage with testicles *is* important to him. (Or else he’s being really defensive. In which case I do sympathize, but I hope he’d set that aside in favor of communication.)

            Similarly, “masculine virtue”–of *course* that comes off as exclusionary! If what I (universalist that I am) think of as “human virtue,” something *I* aspire to, is suddenly cited by you as the duty of a *man*, as *masculine* virtue…

            Really the question is whether you *care* if I feel shoved hard away from what I’d previously thought were virtues we *both* aspired to. I do; you don’t have to talk that way; it’s up to you what you do with that info. I’m not particularly asking you to see me or those like me as valuable allies; whether you do is, again, up to you.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            (Heh, is this where I’m supposed to say “ninja’d”?)

          • anonymous says:

            @Dr Dealgood

            If you speak about your experiences as a woman would you expect people to think that you’re referring to your ovaries? I would assume not but then again I’m not you.

            I know that you know this, but the whole thing about being obsessed with sexual organs is at best dishonest and at worst projection. Either way please knock it out.

            The root comment had the line “Where are your goddamn balls?”.

            Why don’t you “knock out” the white knighting or at least take the time to make sure you aren’t total off base.

            As for ESR the edit was too little to late, we aren’t buying it.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            Can you expand on what in particular is creepy about it? Not asking for a defense or justification, just genuinely curious. I grew up in a very liberal bubble but on the other coast so it’s not really pushing any buttons that I’m familiar with.

            @Cord Shirt,
            Am I right in assuming that, based on this and your earlier comment, that you see courage brotherhood etc as requisites to being “fully human” and that having less of those traits makes one less deserving of consideration?

            Personally, I don’t think that way and most of the men I know who do are pretty awful people. There are a lot of virtues out there and IMO it’s a mistake to latch onto traditionally manly ones as the only real virtues or that everyone should cultivate them to the same extent. Just because something is feminine or neuter doesn’t make it unworthy as an aspiration.

            @anonymous,
            The accusation that I’m the one White Knighting here is kind of funny given how quickly you guys piled on here.

          • Dan says:

            If you’re getting your panties in a bunch just because he mentions “balls” then you might just not be the kind of person our civilization should place any reliance on.

            1st World Problem obsessions do not a warrior make.

            As much as I celebrate women getting involved, arming themselves, training etc…they simply are not designed to be the protectors of our way of life. Supplemental, yes.

            We need men. Hairy, violent, lead-flinging men.

            Metrosexual pajama-boy pansies need not apply either.

          • anonymous says:

            We don’t actually need any of that. You throwbacks need to be needed, and since you aren’t either throw temper tantrums or build elaborate fantasies to deny reality. The latter is usually preferable to the former, but occasionally in combination with cynical politicians those fantasies spill into the real world and good people get killed because you want to go play war.

          • Dan says:

            Nice self-parody.

            Enjoy your holiday in Cologne, babe.

          • HlynkaCG says:

            @anonymous

            Pacifism is a luxury of the protected…

            …People sleep peacefully in their beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”
            -George Orwell

          • nil says:

            “People sleep peacefully in their beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

            Those protective rough men are protecting their purported wards from their exact equivalents on the other side of the hills.

            If you think Hobbes is a law of physics, it makes sense to find this role very important. But me? I think it’s on the wrong end of everything that has made our species what it is, and will eventually go the way of the wisdom tooth.

            edit: (and since I see a similar comment elsewhere was met with accusations of genocide, let me be clear–I’m not even talking about ideological domination, let alone a physical one, but literally mean a long term evolutionary trend towards greater eusociality)

          • Evan Þ says:

            @nil, which armed militia do you want to disarm first, and how are you going to protect everyone as you break out of this Molochian cycle?

          • nil says:

            @Evan

            I’m not going to disarm anyone. I’m not even going to disarm myself, and if the reality show white supremacist starts winning real elections I’ll be doubling up.

            But the masculine impulse is a throwback, obviously–that’s half the appeal. Indulge if you like or you must, but cut the chivalry bullshit and recognize it for the animal it is.

          • Evan Þ says:

            Sure, I’ll admit it’s a throwback in some theoretical sense. But in a world where other people are actually giving into that impulse, unilateral disarmament is not a solution – as you recognize.

            The instinct might be sad, yes. But it’s necessary, so on pragmatic grounds, we should celebrate it to some extent so as to ensure it’s there when needed.

          • anonymous says:

            @HlynkaCG

            Funny how it is always world war II when there’s been so many since. How many countries do we have to invade and destroy to satisfy the pseduo-nostalgia of people who wish they could have been born in time to die on the beaches of Normandy?

          • Cord Shirt says:

            @Dr. Dealgood:

            “Am I right in assuming that, based on this and your earlier comment, that you see courage brotherhood etc as requisites to being “fully human” and that having less of those traits makes one less deserving of consideration?”

            More like he has given me the impression that he does.

            We haven’t solved this issue because it’s a tough one. Basically a tightrope. I wrote more about this here. (Scroll down to “From where I sit right now…”)

            Sometimes “Group X has Virtue A, Group Y has Virtue B” is an attempt to, or works to, cause Group X to realize Group Y isn’t inferior to them, just different, and vice versa.

            But OTOH, (again) people tend to judge their own virtues as more important (and their own flaws as less important) than those of others–so telling them “Group X has Virtue A, Group Y has Virtue B” often leads instead to “Us Virtue-A-possessing Xs are superior to those Non-A-possessing Ys!” (note the ignoring/denigrating Virtue B too).

            (Dan kind of illustrates this with his “if you care about something I don’t care about, then you can’t be valuable for an unrelated task.” He’s conflating the “virtue” of not caring about one specific thing with the virtue of being willing to take action to defend civilization.)

            Meanwhile, I remain a Yankee universalist. There’s me, and then there’s Universal Personkind; I can’t stand to be pushed into the Procrustean bed of “My Group.” (It’s only realizing that not everyone is like this, that people like this are often Yankees, that convinced me to accept the label “Yankee”! And uh…Yankees *are* often like this. But universalists can come from other backgrounds too, of course.)

            Universalists will strenuously resist the Procrustean bed of a gender role. We don’t want to be judged as [gender]s. We want to be judged as people. It’s just…how we are. 🙂

            If this tangle were easy to solve, we’d have solved it already. :shrug:

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            @Cord Shirt,

            I remember that comment actually, it was interesting because the premises were reasonable and thoughtfully presented even if I don’t agree that they led to your conclusion.

            As for gender roles and Yankeedom, I hope you don’t mind if I secede from your universalism. I’m not a bare “person” and in fact see being reduced to that as a profound ugliness. That said, you Yankees should of course feel free to do what you like in your own backyards as long as the rest of us can do the same.

          • hlynkacg says:

            @nil:
            I’ll grant that members of the USMC probably had more in common with members the Waffen SS than either did with their counterparts in the civilian population just as cops and fire-fighters have more in common with each other than they do with your average artist or banker but I don’t think that proves as much as you think it does.

            Furthermore, I would not ascribe Hobbes the level of certainty I would conservation of momentum, but I do think that he accurately described the manner in which bipedal ape descendants tend to behave “in the wild” and generally view assertions to the contrary as wishful thinking.

            Mother nature is a brutal bitch, Red in tooth and claw. Who destroys as she creates. That is the world we live in.

            @anonymous
            I chose WWII as an example because that is the last time that we as a society determined that genocide was the morally correct course of action.

            While I may have my own opinions on our choices since then, I acknowledge that they are my opinion and do not represent a wider consensus.

          • anonymous says:

            The instinct might be sad, yes. But it’s necessary, so on pragmatic grounds, we should celebrate it to some extent so as to ensure it’s there when needed.

            It isn’t in any danger of not being, you know and I know it. This is just a post hoc justification for the right’s version of political correctness — veneration of members of the military.

          • hlynkacg says:

            anonymous says:
            It isn’t in any danger of not being…

            just how sure are you of that?

          • Cord Shirt says:

            @Dr. Dealgood

            You–you want to *secede*? :gasp: ♫ “The Union forever / Hurrah, boys, hurrah! / Down with the traitors! / Up with the Stars!” ♫

            😉

            Seriously now–why not, after all I was mostly just talking about how to get along with us should you want to. Like, don’t try to rally us with appeals to gender roles (it will backfire), don’t let it seem like you’re going to use social pressure to “encourage” us to conform to gender roles (and we are *extremely* sensitive to social pressure), etc.

    • Cerebral Paul Z. says:

      However little you may talk about it now, you’d be doing the cause of gun rights a big favor if you’d talk about it even less.

    • Cord Shirt says:

      I’m a universalist who opposes gun control.

      I am CREEPED THE FUCK OUT by this comment.

      I know, physical-sex-based HBD, you feel justified and you have arguments for that position…

      But in order to advance our shared cause, I’m asking you to please, refrain from putting off universalists with this kind of unnecessarily gendered talk.

      I’m not sure you really understand how EXTREMELY INTENSELY offputting it is. It’s…similar in intensity to how offputting it is to…well, me, I dunno about you or else I’d say “we”…to see gun-control advocates fail to grasp/respect that I (we) actually sincerely consider gun ownership to be a civil right.

      If you consider insisting on that point to be really necessary even though it inflames universalists, pushing them hard toward the anti-gun side…well, go to town. Otherwise…

      • I just added an edit expressing how women in the gun culture relate to this. They know it might be their responsibility to shoot back too, in extremis. And they, too, often feel like the self-disarmed are missing some essential quality of courage and self-knowledge.

        But reality is what it is, and human are sexually dimorphic both physically and psychologically. Women are inner guard for the children; men are outer guard. That’s always going to make for a difference in mindset, barring outliers in one or another tail of the distributions.

        • Cord Shirt says:

          Yankee universalism is a biological reality too. If you want *us* thoroughly on board, you need to leave sex differences *alone* except what it’s really important to discuss them. Is it *really* important to discuss them *here*? *Really?*

          (And see my reply to Gbdub above.)

          • Whether you like that gendered language and thinking or not, it reflects an important reality about how human beings are that is not going to go away because you find it offensive.

            My wife shoots and trains in hand-to-hand martial arts along with me. I’m totally in favor of persons who happen to be female doing their part of the job.

            But by nature it’s a different part. It wouldn’t occur to my wife to ask a self-disarmed woman “Where are your goddamned ovaries?” because female-typical psychology is not designed so that is a reasonable question.

            These differences matter.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            @ESR:

            It seems you may have a revealed preference for gender roles that is as strong as your preference for gun rights.

            Related old comment of mine.

            As I implied there, sex differences aren’t the same thing as gender roles, and gender roles aren’t necessarily the best response to sex differences. Gbdub put it better than I did (thanks, Gbdub)–what you’ve been doing is advocating gender roles, not just describing sex differences. That’s what’s offputting to us universalists, and we’re not going to change. :shrug:

          • Cord Shirt says:

            Whoops, typo, let’s try that again: Related old comment of mine.

            Sorry about that. 🙂

    • The Anonymouse says:

      Not to be underestimated, either, is the psychological value of knowing that I am doing the duty of a man. When criminal violence occurs near me, or in the event of a breakdown of civil order, I am part of the solution. I am civilization asserting itself

      This is a noble impulse, one well-worth keeping close to your heart, and one that would improve civil society if more people adopted it.

      However, it is also terribly, terribly unhip, and will draw out tumblr-grade mockery like few other sentiments.

      Fortunately, there nonetheless remain enough soldiers, Marines, police officers, sheriff’s deputies, and responsible citizens who do hew to it that even those who would attempt to shame you can sleep peacefully at night.

      • >However, it is also terribly, terribly unhip, and will draw out tumblr-grade mockery like few other sentiments.

        Indeed, we have already seen some. The clueless hipsters will always be with us, ever unaware of how contingent the social peace around them is.

      • stillnotking says:

        Older readers may recall a similar period of overt masculinity being “unhip” in the early-mid 1970s. Turns out that, while women enjoy watching movies about Barbra Streisand being patiently and sensitively wooed by Kris Kristofferson, the real-life version isn’t very sexy; the trend was rapidly and completely reversed in the tight pants and open shirts of disco culture. I think we’re in for a similar transition this time. Perhaps the PUAs — who seem to enjoy considerable romantic success by embracing crude masculine stereotypes — are ahead of the curve.

        Let’s hope the pants aren’t quite as tight. 🙁

      • Psmith says:

        Well said, and thanks for the parent reply, ESR. I was hoping you’d show up.

      • Salem says:

        Bravo.

    • Slow Learner says:

      You, sir, are part of the problem.
      “I am doing the duty of a man. ”
      “I am part of the solution. I am civilization asserting itself, with lethal force or threat of same if required”
      You’re not living in a Western, or a Red Dawn fantasy world.
      If you grab your handy weapon and wave it at people, you are exacerbating the problem.
      Those of us who want to do our duty in keeping society together? Who really want to do that, rather than posture with a lethal toy? Well, to speak for myself, I campaign. I vote. I communicate with my representatives. I donate to good causes. I help out at a homeless shelter.
      And yes, I have by my own choice gone through military training. It’s not that I can’t handle a weapon, or I’m squeamish about violence, I just know that violence is the last resort of civilised people, not the first.
      You, on the other hand, have brought the risk of physical harm to other people for no good reason.
      Which of us is really “doing the duty of a man”? Or, to be less of a tool, “doing the duty of an adult”?

      • The Anonymouse says:

        Well, to speak for myself, I campaign. I vote. I communicate with my representatives. I donate to good causes. I help out at a homeless shelter.

        None of these things are incompatible with the owning and maintenance of a firearm. I see nothing in Mr. Raymond’s comment that indicates that he “grab[s his] handy weapon and wave[s] it at people,” nor that he does not otherwise participate in the responsibilities of civil society you have mentioned, nor that he treats it as a “lethal toy.”

        What part of bringing “the risk of physical harm to other people for no good reason” has he indicated that he actually performs, beyond owning and carrying a firearm (something a decent number of us on this thread obviously also do), that you so roundly mock? Is it because he speaks too earnestly for our jaded age? Or is it because he believes that his firearm ownership is the exercise of an important civil right?

        • Indeed. I have never actually drawn my weapon except at a range. And I do the other things one expects of a responsible person in a civil society.

          (Including, by the way, having a significant hand in the maintenance of the Internet that allows us to have this conversation. I’m one of the infrastructure engineers that keeps it working, often at personal cost.)

          All those civil things are important. But they are not enough. However we try to deny and forget it, the duty of a man is older and deeper than these civilized things. And whenever civilization temporarily fails us, we are required to remember.

      • Paul Brinkley says:

        I think you need to take care to distinguish between Eric’s comment and what you’re reading into it.

        I’ve read Eric’s blog for years. He doesn’t believe he’s living in a Western, or a Red Dawn fantasy. Or to steelman your argument, he doesn’t even think he’s living in a particularly dangerous neighborhood. If he did, he’d probably move.

        He’s also not waving his gun in people’s faces. It would be a dumbass thing to do. I would belly laugh at this assertion, had I not seen it so frequently in the past. He also does not believe violence is the first resort – another laughable assertion. And none of that is implied in his comment.

        What part of his comment made you think that he thought such things?

        • Slow Learner says:

          I keep a pistol near my desk and regularly carry it outside my home.

          Not to be underestimated, either, is the psychological value of knowing that I am doing the duty of a man.

          I sometimes wonder how you disarmed sheep out there can stand yourselves. OK, I get it about women; they’re designed by the EAA to fight only when the men have failed. But there are days when I want to clout the nearest SWPL pajama-boy upside the head and ask “Who the fuck are you? Do you know what you’ll die for? Do you know what you’ll kill for? What will you do if shit gets real? Who do you defend? Where are your goddamn balls?”

          So, not carrying a firearm is not doing the duty of a man; either he believes that woman do not have a duty to civilisation (and is thus a sexist arsehole), or he believes that every adult must carry a firearm (and just…what?)
          He also wants to assault people who don’t join his little fantasy.

          I mean, maybe he’s just really shit at explaining himself, but the clear impression is that those of us who choose not to go about our daily business armed are shirking our duty to society and at risk of violence from Mr Raymond.
          As to whether that violence will be with the weapon he prizes so highly, or merely his fists*, how am I supposed to be sure?
          *Backed, of course, with

          Armed, I am not weak

          , the fact that Mr Raymond initiating violence with his fists might respond to retaliation with his firearm.

          • Your lack of basic reading comprehension is astonishing. “Slow Learner” is nominative determinism, I guess.

            Yes, if you don’t go about armed, there is an argument that you are shirking your duty. Not conclusively; there is a herd immunity effect, and if enough of your civilized neighbors are armed, you may rationally conclude that your contribution would not be significant. It may suffice for you to support with civil action their choice to be armed.

            But how you conclude that the I “also want to assault people who don’t join [my] little fantasy.” I have no idea. I’m a sheepdog, not a wolf; only those who coerce or threaten others have anything to fear from me.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            “he believes that every adult must carry a firearm (and just…what?)”

            That’s the American aspect. Historically, “the militia” was “every sane, able-bodied adult male.” (Universalist that I am, I’d like that to include females as well. But) It happened because the USA’s founders equated “police” with “a standing army.” They didn’t want that–they preferred the policing to be done by the citizenry instead. In that type of society, it’s the responsibility of every able-bodied adult (or adult male)–rather than just of the police–to go about armed and to confront criminals.

            A society built that way requires everyone to be responsible (or else be detected as irresponsible during training and have the right and responsibility removed). It did work in the past, so I see no reason to think it couldn’t work again. It’s just that right now in the US we have some people with guns who are not part of such a culture of responsibility.

          • Slow Learner says:

            Oh dear Eric, I suppose I shall have to quote your *own words* again:

            there are days when I want to clout the nearest SWPL pajama-boy upside the head and ask “Who the fuck are you? Do you know what you’ll die for? Do you know what you’ll kill for? What will you do if shit gets real? Who do you defend? Where are your goddamn balls?”

            Do you not remember them?
            Or do you now claim not to have meant them? Your choice, but y’know, pick one.
            Since either your working memory is only good for ~30 minutes or you are unprepared to acknowledge your own words, I see no value in further engagement with you, and bid you a good night. Try not to shoot anybody, please.

          • Urstoff says:

            You should probably make that argument that you are shirking your duty and not just refer to it.

            Although that’s going to be hard: deontological arguments won’t have much pull in a community of mostly consequentialists.

          • @ Slow Learner:

            “there are days when I want to clout”

            Describes an emotional reaction. It is not a prediction of actual behavior.

            “So, not carrying a firearm is not doing the duty of a man; either he believes that woman do not have a duty to civilisation (and is thus a sexist arsehole), or he believes that every adult must carry a firearm (and just…what?)”

            You are not following Eric’s position very carefully. The clear implication of what he wrote is that he thinks women have different duties to civilization. Women are not obliged to do the “duty of a man.”

          • Dan Peverley says:

            >So, not carrying a firearm is not doing the duty of a man; either he believes that woman do not have a duty to civilisation (and is thus a sexist arsehole)

            Or he could believe that both men and women have a duty to civilization, but that not everyone has the same duties. If men are better at violence (and they are), then the violence related duties are better allocated to them.

            >or he believes that every adult must carry a firearm (and just…what?)

            There are many current first world countries which require full military service. The rationale is that every citizen is responsible for the defense of the country. Compare to Medieval England, where yeoman in some regions were required to train with the longbow. The idea of a civic responsibility to be armed rests on several assumptions which you probably don’t share, but it’s not either unprecedented, novel, or particularly uncommon.

    • houseboatonstyx says:

      @ Eric S. Raymond
      January 7, 2016 at 2:56 pm
      Not to be underestimated, either, is the psychological value of knowing that I am doing the duty of a man.
      ….
      OK, I get it about women; they’re designed by the EAA to fight only when the men have failed.
      ….
      EDIT: I should have added that women in the gun culture share this feeling too. So it’s not the case that male gun owners are living on a macho island of self-assumed superiority; our women know it could be their job to shoot back, too.

      The pre-edited version of this creeped me out too. Datapoint, trying to name some of the reasons why. Steel-noun-ing, putting the idea as it might have been put in our marriage. Duty to follow practicality. The person who is physically bigger and stronger and more familiar with machinery is the one who fixes the car, and in our culture that’s usually the male. In a physical emergency, it’s the duty of the other person to stay out of zis way, and not endanger zimself too. But who is in fact the biggest, strongest, and/or most experienced with machinery in any particular marriage — that’s accident, not essence.

      My husband would have put it, “Duty not as a man, but as a gentleman.” My duty was earning the money, managing the budget; because I was better at those things than he was; “Duty not as a woman, but as the smarter, cooler head for that in this particular couple.”

      Sure, if there’s physical danger and the person best equipped needs some extra pride and adrenalin to get into it, stoking up with the cultural “man’s duty” is understandable. But to make such a point of it in an ssc post … sounds creepy.

      Especially since as someone else pointed out, “Colt made us equal”; a woman can be as good with a gun as a man.

    • JBeshir says:

      As such a person- living in a country where gun ownership without good reason marks you as probably a mad murderer, who would turn in anyone I found to own an illegal gun about as soon as I left line of sight- my own reaction is that this stuff sounds like… talk from a fictional world, possibly post-apocalyptic, where society has collapsed and everything is ruled by violence, and so in order to influence the world you need to be a person capable of performing violence.

      On the matter of what I’d “die for” or “kill for”, I generally consider the problem of crime and “shit getting real” to be basically stably handled, society to be broadly functioning and incentives well aligned to keep it so as far as sudden physically violent threats go. The threats that could cause it to function less well (although probably not collapse) that I’d feel were a civic duty to be available to be part of a solution for are things like demographic shift, economic issues, climate change, and further out some nastier things like job automation, and the potential that technology could end the “dream time” of limited competition/lots of resources, so to speak. And none of these are things that are readily responsive to being solved by gun, so one is pretty useless to me in any kind of opportunity to act on these things that came along.

      There’s also stuff in terms of making things better I’d like to be a part of, too- the immense difficulties faced by anyone born in Africa being economically productive and gaining corresponding access to resources, as an obvious low hanging fruit, but also just human suffering in general. Improving social systems to be less… evil would be nice, too, but that one I lack any kind of means for. But again, not very responsive to gun.

      The people I’d defend don’t need physical protection, because that’s covered to a sufficiently high level of quality that I don’t worry about it (except maybe for a couple, because of them being members of particularly disliked subgroups of the population, but they’re not in England, so I don’t think they make guns big enough and accurate enough for me to provide that via gun, unless you count ICBMs.). Their problems are social, economic, etc, and those kind of problems are also not very responsive to gun.

      So there’s plenty of stuff I stand for, and would be willing to act on, and have acted on. But I don’t live in the EAA, and I don’t feel very compelled to be a person who would be good at standing for stuff in the EAA where ability to threaten or perform violence was critical to being able to do so. I’d rather focus my attentions on being a person who who is good at standing for stuff in the world I live in. And that requires social and financial capital and specialised technical skills in an appropriate area, not a gun.

      If I was going to feel bad or inadequate about anything, it’d be about not working harder to secure a higher income or better skills or other things that give me leverage in the world of today, not about failing to be the kind of person who would have had leverage in the EAA.

      • John Schilling says:

        The people I’d defend don’t need physical protection, because that’s covered…

        By whom? Because I’m guessing the biggest part of that is a particular American cultural institution whose members are disproportionately Black and Southern White males, and the next-biggest part is a British cultural institution whose members are most embarrassingly like Americans in these regards. And you’re not ordering from an a la carte menu on that.

        Possibly it’s time to quote some Kipling.

        • JBeshir says:

          By the incentives/disincentives that keep crime rates at their current levels, whatever they are. It doesn’t matter why they’re at their current levels, merely that the current levels are low enough to make ability to perform violence insignificant to my ability to be useful for defending or helping people and their interests.

          Edit: I can see how it’d be sensible to consider “contributing to those incentives” to be a civic duty, as part of doing your part. But, well, I live in England- I’m pretty sure that gun ownership is not a significant part of those incentives.

          Probably the best guess for a way to do this more would be to try to generate more tax revenue by making more money.

          • @JBeshir

            If I correctly understand him, John’s point is that you are safe only because of the U.S. and U.K. military, which keep you safe because they are manned by people with the characteristics Eric is glorifying. As a matter of strict logic, if half the population having those characteristics provides adequate protection, there is no need for the other half to share them. But as a matter of poetry, rhetoric, the sort of stuff Eric was doing, it’s not that simple.

            Hence the quote from “The Gods of the Copybook Headings.”

          • The Anonymouse says:

            @ David Friedman

            His point (and mine, elsewhere in this massive comments section) is not that half of a population is not sufficient to protect the rest. It is, rather–or, to be quite precise, mine and I presume to be his–that we ought not heedlessly denigrate those whose service and passe, unfashionable values provide just the protection JBeshir assumes will always be there.

            If you make the values embarrassing enough to hold–as many others have attempted in this thread, particularly in response to ESR–fewer people will hold them. And when few enough (already far fewer than half!) hold them, that is when the Gods of the Copybook Headings return.

          • anonymous says:

            John can say it till he is blue in the face, doesn’t make it true.

          • JBeshir says:

            Oh, that’s fair enough. Denigrating people isn’t nice in general, and there seems to be something especially intuitively bad about doing it to people who do useful work that maintains proper functioning of society.

            I’m not sure to what extent we *need* a subpopulation who values martial characteristics especially, because we pay people money to be soldiers/police and while people liking being soldiers/police probably makes them cheaper to employ (an effect I would not essentially endorse) I don’t think it’s mandatory for the ability to have them. I’ve not heard of any kind of hiring crisis for police in any countries which are lacking in martial culture, or of military jobs which appeared to actually offer good compensation, but that doesn’t mean one doesn’t exist, I suppose.

            But it’s good for people to like their jobs, so it is in that respect a good thing that people have those preferences. The stronger thing in my view is just that being an asshole to people is a bad thing, though.

            The focus of my response was to explain why I don’t, personally, feel inadequate, to “lack balls”, or to lack the ability to stand for things/support those around me due to my lack of competence at violence. This seemed to be a genuine point of confusion. I don’t know how close other people are to my position, but it’s a perspective.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            I’m not sure to what extent we *need* a subpopulation who values martial characteristics especially, because we pay people money to be soldiers/police and while people liking being soldiers/police probably makes them cheaper to employ (an effect I would not essentially endorse) I don’t think it’s mandatory for the ability to have them

            I do not say this to be insulting, but rather to be blunt: This statement indicates such a profound lack of understanding as to the way that militaries work and the attributes that soldiers must have to be effective that it makes anything else you say on the subject impossible to take seriously.

          • JBeshir says:

            Militaries clearly need specific attributes of their soldiers, but it seems like a lot of those attributes are gained from their intensive training processes.

            If there’s any need for a specifically martial culture prior to joining the military to cause people to enlist/make their enlistment work, either it has to be a very mild need such that every developed country maintains it despite their cultural differences, or you’d expect to be seeing major hiring crises for militaries.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            Actually, there is at least one more possibility, which I alluded to in my initial response.

            Hint: The only thing more expensive than a good military is a bad military.

          • keranih says:

            Militaries clearly need specific attributes of their soldiers, but it seems like a lot of those attributes are gained from their intensive training processes.

            Eh. I think you might be giving a bit too much credit to nine weeks of boot camp. The US military, at least, is highly selective on the front end, and very willing to cull away people who “don’t fit”.

            either it has to be a very mild need such that every developed country maintains it despite their cultural differences, or you’d expect to be seeing major hiring crises for militaries.

            I think you may be missing the degree to which Europe and much of the rest of the developed world outsourced their militaries during the Cold War. In the most current times, there is a quality crisis in the militaries of various developing nations (the USA has not been immune to this, in our history) due to nations focusing on numbers instead of quality.

            I agree that there are external downsides to maintaining a degree of military-positive attitudes amongst a civilian population. Putting it most crudely, one is feeding and tolerating a group of young men who are in search of sabertooth tigers and cave bears to kill. That this is very needful when one is frequently threatened by cave bears should be apparent, as well as the usefulness when wandering bandits happen by. It should also be apparent that when both bears and bandits are in short supply, the well trained young men are going to be bored spitless, and – in the nature of young men – go looking for trouble to get into.

            The worst trouble, though, is when one has done away with the troublesome young men, and then bears & bandits show back up again.

            (That some people will imagine bears into existence where only bushes stand does not take away from my point, but only serves to illustrate how complicated the cost/benefit calculations can be.)

          • anonymous says:

            There’s a a motte and bailey with the military. Yes, we probably need some military. But for all the talk about how terrible draftees are, and about how hard it is to build back up once you let things go to seed and the dangers of hollowing out the force and so on — the last time most everyone agrees we needed to deploy the military we had a tiny hollowed out force and not much military manufacturing capacity. We built up the forces using draftees (aren’t they supposed to be totally unsuitable for anything?) and ramped up material production pretty quickly and effectively. And our weapons got better over the course of the war as we were feeding back what troops were facing right into the manufacturing process rather than having a huge supply of material that a sclerotic and corrupt process had built up over decades based on people dreaming up what might be necessary for the next war. And it all worked out pretty well.

            And going back further, the South had its military culture, but the North had a superior industrial base and more people, and the North won.

            So yeah, we probably can’t go all Costa Rica without endangering ourselves, but to claim that we need to spend the better part of a trillion a year and worship violence or we are going to be invaded by barbarians seems like wishful thinking from people that won’t those things for other reasons.

          • John Schilling says:

            because we pay people money to be soldiers/police and while people liking being soldiers/police probably makes them cheaper to employ

            Actually, it doesn’t. In either case you have to pay about the prevailing wage for skilled blue-collar work in the civilian economy (accounting for differences in the benefits package), because even people who like being soldiers won’t rationalize taking a pay cut to defend the cheapskates who cut their pay.

            The difference is, if you pay standard blue-collar wages to the cultural descendants of border reivers and/or plantation slaves, they’ll take your money and then stand and fight when you need them to. If you pay standard blue-collar wages to a bunch of urban WEIRDs, they’ll take your money until it gets really dangerous and then they’ll run away. If you double, triple, quadruple their salary, about the same thing happens. You can sue them for breach of contract, of course.

            That’s an oversimplification, obviously, but not a misleading one. “Training”, does not have the magic property of turning anyone and everyone into a perfectly disciplined soldier. Particularly not the sort of training that would be acceptable to volunteers and voters in a western, educated, industrial rich democracy. The quality of the recruits matters, and both the US and UK armies have to be very selective to get the results they do.

          • nil says:

            @anonymous

            It’s especially ironic in this context, given the forbear of the 2nd Amendment, Article XIII of the Virginia Declaration of Rights:

            “XIII. That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided, as dangerous to liberty; and in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.”

          • anonymous says:

            The quality of the recruits matters, and both the US and UK armies have to be very selective to get the results they do.

            What results? Since they started to be so selective all they’ve done is beat up on third world armies.

            You make it sound as if we are Israel circa 1975 and could have justified belief that a) what we’ve been doing over the last 30 years is working and b) is necessary.

            Instead what you have is wild speculation about what’s going to maybe happen some time and an unjustified confidence that what we are doing is exactly what we need to face those theoretical problems.

          • JBeshir says:

            Hmm. I’m just not convinced by the intuition that an explicitly martial culture is necessary. I’m sure you need some kind of functional culture of people who do their duty and are responsible, but I’m not sure this is distinct from a culture that’s well-functioning in other respects.

            We can be pretty sure it doesn’t have to be border reaver-ish in particular- consider Japan, which combines a very low prevalence of violence with what was a very martial culture that supported a regional military power before we dismantled it, seemingly by having a really high weight applied to discipline and face in general. I’m not sure it needs to be explicitly martial at all, as opposed to simply consisting of gentlemen/women who, in extremis, are willing to take a duty seriously, regardless of what exactly it demands, something entirely compatible with and encouraged by many less explicitly violence-oriented sets of values.

            I’m sure European militaries are pretty weak, but they’re mostly not budget priorities and are mostly geared for power projection rather than defence (especially the UK’s). I don’t find the speculation that they’re crippled by culture problems intuitively plausible, in the absence of any particular evidence, for the otherwise well functioning societies in Western Europe and Scandinavia.

            I’m all for treating people who highly value being able to defend themselves and others as a sort of aesthetic or for other personal reasons with respect rather than mockery, just because they’re people and mocking people you don’t know in a mean-spirited way is bad.

            Even if you thought their culture was actively harmful and it’d be useful if it gradually died out through shift of attitudes, you wouldn’t want to do that unless you’d also endorse people engaging in, e.g. fat shaming, which I wouldn’t.

            I just remain unconvinced that “if it shrinks enough society will be incredibly fragile and risk collapse” is an additional thing.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ JBeshir:

            I pretty much agree with you.

            I am very skeptical of the mythologization of the “warrior ethos” and the related “thin blue line” idea.

            Sparta, for instance, was a terrible society that never produced anything of value.

          • John Schilling says:

            Sparta, for instance, was a terrible society that never produced anything of value.

            It produced soldiers that would stand and fight against great odds. Some people consider those to be of value.

            And that’s the only claim that is being made here. Not that violent, honor-based cultures produce all things great and wonderful, only that they produce soldiers that will stand and fight. Not everybody can do that. Not even with military training.

            You may well think the world has no more need for soldiers who will stand and fight, but I disagree. As do most Americans and I think a fair number of Brits.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            @John Schilling:

            “If you pay standard blue-collar wages to a bunch of urban WEIRDs, they’ll take your money until it gets really dangerous and then they’ll run away.”

            Are there any specific incidents of “running away” you’re thinking of?

            @nil:

            “That a well regulated militia, composed of the body of the people, trained to arms, is the proper, natural, and safe defence of a free state; that standing armies, in time of peace, should be avoided, as dangerous to liberty; and in all cases, the military should be under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power.”

            Well, that’s the point, isn’t it? They thought that instead of a standing army, we should have the entire “body of the people,” who should all be “trained to arms.”

            @JBeshir:

            “I can see how it’d be sensible to consider “contributing to those incentives” to be a civic duty, as part of doing your part. But, well, I live in England- I’m pretty sure that gun ownership is not a significant part of those incentives.”

            Right, well, again, in the USA, our founders wanted “The People” to be the police. It’s not even just the militia, it’s also the idea of the citizen’s arrest (which we inherited from you, after all)–etc.

            What if just by being an able-bodied adult you were considered a member of the police? Would that make your society an anarchy?

            What if everywhere you went, everyone around you was…no more likely to be a criminal than anyone near you is now, it’s just that everyone *not* a criminal–IOW, the vast majority–was a police officer? Except…they also were an ordinary person, who knew what it was like to be an ordinary person and was only acting as a police officer out of duty, not out of necessarily having been attracted to a job that gave them opportunities to hurt/bully others? (Would you be safer from criminals? Would police like that be less brutal?)

            Times have changed, and now some of our regions still have this culture or remnants of it, and others don’t…that’s all.

            On another note…reading what you wrote makes me think of Gavin de Becker’s question to his readers: What if there were no police around and someone were attacking your child? De Becker points out that almost everyone would try to defend/rescue their child, even if they felt incapable of using violence just to defend *themselves*.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ John Schilling:

            It produced soldiers that would stand and fight against great odds. Some people consider those to be of value.

            And that’s the only claim that is being made here. Not that violent, honor-based cultures produce all things great and wonderful, only that they produce soldiers that will stand and fight. Not everybody can do that. Not even with military training.

            You may well think the world has no more need for soldiers who will stand and fight, but I disagree. As do most Americans and I think a fair number of Brits.

            Defenders are a means to the end of whatever they are supposed to be defending.

            If their society is not of value, their martial virtue in defending it is not of value. If a society becomes very defensible at the price of not being worth defending…well, that’s the Molochian way, for sure.

            I’m not saying the military has no value. I’m saying it has no intrinsic value. And that the instrumental value of indoctrinating people into “standing and fighting” is often exaggerated.

            In WWII, the Japanese had more martial virtue than the Americans for sure. Fighting to the death, never surrendering, being willing to go on suicide missions. The Americans had the mercantile virtue to have more factories, and the intellectual virtue to make better bombs (not to mention the prudential virtue not to attack a vastly superior foe in a war of aggression).

            I think the mark of a military’s superiority is the less the soldiers have to risk their lives to attain victory.

            The way to win
            is to have got
            the Maxim gun
            while they have not.

            I want you to remember that no bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor, dumb bastard die for his country.

            — George C. Scott as General Patton

          • @Cord Shirt:

            In England at the time of the American Revolution, there were no police in our sense. Prosecution of crimes was private, usually by the victim. It’s true that the process of arresting someone normally involved the victim getting a constable to come along and do the actual arrest–but the constables were not salaried and were not expected to go out catching criminals on their own.

          • FacelessCraven says:

            @Vox Imperatoris – “If their society is not of value, their martial virtue in defending it is not of value.”

            I fundamentally disagree with that statement, I think. Interesting!

          • John Schilling says:

            @Vox: You cannot possibly have studied classical civilization thoroughly enough to justify the (debatable) claim that Sparta never produced anything of value, without having noticed that the Spartan army occasionally defended more than just Sparta.

            Analogies to the contemporary world, left as an exercise to the student.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            @David:

            Right. IMO the founders would have equated our police with a “standing army.”

            And, again, citizen’s arrest…there really was an attitude that it’s everyone’s right and responsibility to intervene when they see a crime getting committed / a criminal getting away. It wasn’t on the constable, no–but it wasn’t all on the victim either. And American culture inherited that.

            “Everyone is a police officer” seems like a good modern “translation.”

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ John Schilling:

            @Vox: You cannot possibly have studied classical civilization thoroughly enough to justify the (debatable) claim that Sparta never produced anything of value, without having noticed that the Spartan army occasionally defended more than just Sparta.

            Are you referring to the Greco-Persian Wars?

            As I recall, the Spartans nobly got themselves killed at Thermopylae. It was the Athenians who were primarily responsible for defeating the Persians both times.

            Also, Sparta invaded Athens and was one of the major factors in bringing about the downfall of its golden age.

          • John Schilling says:

            @Vox: You cannot possibly have studied classical civilization thoroughly enough to justify the (debatable) claim that Sparta never produced anything of value, without having noticed that after three hundred Spartans got themselves killed at Thermopylae, ten thousand more showed up at Palatea to finish the job. A larger contingent than Athens, and nearly half the total Greek force.

          • Jaskologist says:

            Sparta had enough Athenian admirers, even among Platonists, that it must have produced something of value.

        • The Anonymouse says:

          When the Cambrian measures were forming, They promised perpetual peace.
          They swore, if we gave them our weapons, that the wars of the tribes would cease.
          But when we disarmed They sold us and delivered us bound to our foe,
          And the Gods of the Copybook Headings said: “Stick to the Devil you know.”

          It’s never not the time for a little Kipling (even if I suspect this is not the bit you were referring to).

      • ADifferentAnonymous says:

        +1 to this.

        I’d add that to me it’s a no-brainer that if the threat landscape changed to include more situations where my carrying a gun would help, I’d start carrying a gun, and in fact see that as a duty. For instance, if active shooters* increased to the point of being a leading cause of preventable death.

        I applaud the police and military**, but I don’t feel any more duty-bound to participate in protection-against-violence than to participate in, say, food production. It’s already covered.

        I expect I would be psychologically capable of joining either of those organizations and taking great pride in it; but my comparative advantage, and greater hedonic value, lies elsewhere.

        I might be an atypical liberal, though.

        * I think this is the term that means ‘stuff like Columbine and San Bernardino’

        ** That is, I’m glad they exist rather than not. This doesn’t preclude endorsing liberal reform suggestions.

      • Echo says:

        This isn’t even even bait. It’s just a hook on a string and they still won’t stop biting it…

      • Acedia says:

        The parent comment is perfectly in line with the opinions ESR has been publishing online for many years. There’s no reason whatsoever to believe he isn’t being sincere.

        • anon says:

          Sincerity has nothing to do with whether asinine, childish tribal rock throwing clearly posted to provoke a negative response is bait

    • Maware says:

      A responsible gun owner wouldn’t ever care about such things, because a responsible owner would use the gun only at a last resort and doesn’t tie the need to defend themselves with some bizarre ego trip about being a virile defender of Western Virtues. Having a tool that can end someone’s life, and the ability under very strict conditions to use it in self-defense is something more terrifying that empowering, because the consequences are so high. Not just legal, but in the psychological trauma that killing someone can engender. Soldiers and officers know this, and they are specifically trained and often act in the right to deal with the situations a civilian may never face.

      To be blunt, this sort of bluster turned me off from supporting gun rights.

  59. Rachel says:

    It is deeply unfair to compare current US murder rates with current European murder rates. Over the past century, there have been occasional time periods with very very high European murder rates. But those spikes are called World War 1, World War 2 and tossed from the sample.

  60. melanerpes says:

    Aren’t gun accidents responsible for a significant component of gun deaths?

    My bet is that gun deaths by accident are even more highly correlated with gun ownership than gun suicides.

    • Alex Trouble says:

      No, accidental gun deaths number around 500 per year in the US: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_violence_in_the_United_States

    • Harold says:

      Using the 2013 CDC figures as reported by Wikipedia, the 505 accidental gun deaths out of 32383 total amount to 1.6%.

      I add that they were around 800 per year when I first started tracking these statistics in the early ’80s, and since then both the population and the number of guns held by it very roughly increased by half, while as you see the absolute number of accidents went way down.

  61. SUT says:

    One thing that gets overlooked in the debate about gun policy of the present is the potential for US Gov’t to be completely unable to pay civil servants in 20-30 years time. I know most police are funded at state and town level, but their budgets, and especially the pensions are going to be doing terribly in federal default scenario.

    Gens d’armes seem to go to the highest bidder, and if you look at anywhere that the state isn’t the highest bidder, the idea of self-defense won’t be looked upon as so childish anymore. Anyways the point is: when thinking about revoking a 200 year old constitutional right, the question is not whether that works in short and medium run, but does it make society more or less fragile* in the long term. (* in Taleb’s sense)

    • Leit says:

      Civil Asset Forfeiture. Currently included in some police forces’ budgets, likely to be where they’ll look to make up the difference.

      Every time I read anything about it, I’m amazed that there haven’t been literal burnings at the stake.

    • Exactly. Those who write off gun-culture notions of the duty of a man – to be physically, mentally, and morally prepared to defend his loved ones and the civil order – are what Taleb calls “fragilistas”. They undervalue the decentralized toughness that makes some complex adaptive systems better able to self-heal than others.

      • Svejk says:

        Interesting point. I think this readiness mindset can be observed in a number of different circumstances. I have the impression that Americans are much more likely to take action in crisis situations, or assume leadership in unorganized groups. It does not always occur to them to wait for the authorities.

        • Marc Whipple says:

          I have heard, anecdotally but from more than one knowledgeable source, that in America some disaster response organizations leave a certain number of low-level positions open in their team rosters for “victims” of the disaster who need to help so badly that they literally have to be put to work or they will just run around and get in the way. Knowing the sort of Americans I grew up with, I have no trouble believing this.

          Whether this is true for people from other cultures, I have no idea. But yes, Americans are not patient, and they are often not content to sit back and wait for the authorities.

        • Echo says:

          Whereas the people I’m descended from just stand there and take selfies with the bodies…

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Murder_of_Lee_Rigby

    • “One thing that gets overlooked in the debate about gun policy of the present is the potential for US Gov’t to be completely unable to pay civil servants in 20-30 years time.”

      And how potential is that potential?

      • anonymous says:

        It isn’t. Anyone that thinks it is doesn’t understand how fiat currency regimes work.

        Rather unsurprising in a thread full of gun nuts.

        • Echo says:

          Oh look, petty insults. Rather unsurprising from people who don’t have any other arguments.

          Remind us dumb inbred hicks how you can issue currency to pay benefits that are increasingly indexed to inflation?

          Because to those of us with an IQ lower than the capacity of our guns’ magazines, the practical effects seem an awful lot like having a debt denominated in a foreign currency or other asset (much like Germany’s WWI war reparations).

          Be sure to use very simple words. We’re quite retarded, you see. (And racist)

          • Adam says:

            Without trying to insult anyone, there’s a pretty big world of intermediate possibilities between maintaining the exact current regime of retiring at 20 years to a pension indexed to the last promotion you got solely because your boss was trying to get you a higher pension and the complete breakdown of all civil order in which armed dutiful citizens taking to the streets is our only recourse against roving gangs of mad bandits.

        • Vox Imperatoris says:

          Sure, the government can always pay its obligations, so long as the creditors or employees are happy to receive Monopoly money.

          The charitable interpretation of “can’t pay” in a fiat system is “can’t pay in money that is worth anything”.

          Just ask some Russians what it was like in the 90s when the government “was able to pay” all its civil servants. They got paid, alright. Paid millions!

          On the other hand, I don’t see any kind of civil war or collapse of the U.S. government coming. The Russian Federation didn’t collapse (the Soviet Union did, but the desires for separation were largely mutual—at least at the time), and the war in Chechnya was far more a war of colonial independence than an American-style civil war.

          If anyone thinks the situation in the U.S. is about to be anything close to as bad as in Russia in the 90s, well, you need to recalibrate.

        • “It isn’t. Anyone that thinks it is doesn’t understand how fiat currency regimes work.”

          I think I understand how fiat currency regimes work. There are two ways one can imagine such a regime solving the problem proposed, and neither is guaranteed to work.

          The first is by funding the government with the printing press. The problem with that is that the ratio of the money supply to government expenditure is too small to let you do much of that without producing a very high inflation rate, which may or may not be a politically acceptable option. Zimbabwe is the only modern polity I can think of that tried it. Sitting on my desk is a hundred trillion dollar note from the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe. Probably dating from after a couple of multiple order of magnitude redefinitions of the currency.

          The second is by reneging on government obligations, in this case pensions, by inflating them away. That doesn’t work if the obligations are already indexed. More generally, if there are not strong barriers to reneging on pension obligations the government can do it without inflation. If there are, it many not be able to get away with doing it with inflation.

          Did you have a different reason why, under a fiat system, a government could never find itself unable to fund important functions?

          • So this situation implies that a government under a fiat system can no longer borrow and tax? Because those seem like the primary ways in which most fiat governments fund themselves today.

            I didn’t see that we assumed that situation when SUT wrote

            “the potential for US Gov’t to be completely unable to pay civil servants in 20-30 years time. ”

            Of course, if we are assuming that the US government in 30 years will have no ability to borrow or tax at a higher rate, then yes, you’re quite right: inflating your way out has very bad outcomes. But I’m not very concerned about this because right now, the government has a very solid tax base and credit rating and I don’t see that totally eroding in only 30 years.

          • Anonymous says:

            @post
            Everything has to be going to shit Real Soon Now. How else am I going to justify buying four more guns and thirty cases of ammo?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Postlibertarian:

            I don’t interpret David Friedman as agreeing with the claim that the US government will be broke in 20-30 years. And I don’t agree with it.

            He was disputing the idea that merely understanding the nature of a fiat currency system somehow “proves” that this couldn’t happen. Pointing out that if they resort to hyperinflation, that still means they’re effectively unable to pay their obligations.

            Also, borrowing is not a net source of income for governments. If you borrow money, you have to pay it back, with interest. In dollar terms, they lose money on it.

            It’s inflation that can be a net source of income in this respect, if you borrow good money and pay it back in funny money. But it sort of only works once because people stop lending to you if you do this. Or they do so at rates high enough to cover the inflation.

  62. Urstoff says:

    How does this paper affect your conclusions: More Gun, More Crime

  63. Alex Trouble says:

    Were organized crime and the war on drugs considered as a confounder? Drug gangs commit very disproportionate amounts of homicide, in attempting to keep their territory and preserve their product, since the police obviously won’t enforce their property rights. And I’m not confident the race or income is a suitable proxy–compare Chicago to New York, for instance. What I don’t know is to what extent drug gangs exist and are under lots of pressure from the government in the other countries mentioned, like Canada, Germany, or France.

    My understanding is that the U.S. still haven’t entirely recovered from the crack/crime wave of the 70s, 80s, and early 90s. Crack is incredibly profitable, which gave the gangs at the time a reason to actually exist. Prior they were just groups of teens and young men, none older than their early 20s, who hung out, maybe got in some trouble, maybe helped each other, and then left when they became adults. After crack, actual adults stayed in to run the gang, homicide was incentivized because of the potential for making lots of money (and other crimes as well, with the resulting destruction of communities), and the African-American population still hasn’t recovered. I’m reasonably sure crack never really spread to other countries, nor something similar that would turn groups of bored teenagers into crowds of murderous psychopaths.

    • John Schilling says:

      The War on Drugs is omnipresent in the United States. Decriminalization and “medical marijuana” sure, but nobody is easing off on the sale and distribution of the harder drugs and that’s what drives the vast criminal organizations, etc.

      So for the purposes of this sort of interstate comparative study, it is I think impractical to isolate it as a cofounder. And if you find serious correlations between the various United States, against the constant background of the WoD, those are likely to be real.

      • Alex Trouble says:

        The War on Drugs might be relatively omnipresent, but the types of drugs being sold, and who is selling them, definitely varies widely.

  64. Anaxagoras says:

    It seems to me like there’s a couple big technological changes coming to guns that make the debate a bit more interesting. Smart guns are probably on their way in, which I expect would help with the accidental deaths. The more interesting (and I think harder for anyone to prevent) change is the possibility of 3D printed guns. I could see there being attempts to prevent printers from being able to print those, but I can’t see that being effective in the long run. Do others agree with that evaluation? What, if any, sorts of gun control could be effective in that case? If 3D printers capable of printing guns became widespread, what options would there be for harm reduction?

    • TomA says:

      Your point is even more fundamental than just the emerging firearm manufacturing alternatives. Look at the failure of governmental anti-drug campaigns. All of these laws, regulations, arrests, and incarcerations have accomplished is to drive the drug trade into the shadows, and only reduce it marginally. Is there any doubt that this would occur with firearms? And once it moves into the shadows, what prevents suppliers from offering anything that the black market demands, e.g. fully automatic AKs for example.

      Just as Obama has inadvertently instigated record guns sales in the US, this latest grandstanding will most likely accomplish exactly the opposite end-result. One wonders if this is stupidity or a covert agenda.

    • John Schilling says:

      3-D printing is a red herring in this case, I think. Gun barrels are an almost intractably hard problem for 3-D printers, and if we eventually get additive manufacturing of useful gun barrels it won’t be with any consumer-grade device. Almost certainly something rare and expensive enough that when printed guns start showing up on the street, the police will just call the manufacturers and check on where every such printer was sold and get a warrant for the one(1) that isn’t clearly doing legitimate work. And the manufacturer, knowing what his model is good for, won’t sell it to the guy who wants to pay cash and have you load it in his unmarked truck out back.

      You can make really crappy gun barrels with consumer-grade 3-D printers, good for a few inaccurate shots of a low-power handgun cartridge, and some of the 3-D printed guns you’ve seen in the news fit this pattern. But you’ve always had the ability to make really crappy gun barrels, and guns, out of plumbing pipe and other parts you can buy at Home Depot, and people have been making such “zip guns” for generations.

      You can also make all the other parts of a gun using a 3-D printer and either buy a professionally-made barrel by mail order or make one yourself using high-end hobbyist or low-end professional grade machine tools, the kind you might find in a well-equipped garage or high school shop class. Some other “3-D printed” guns in the news fit this pattern. But the laws that allow gun barrels to be bought without all of the regulations associated with guns themselves, will change if this becomes a big thing. And people with high-end hobbyist grade machine tools, can make not just gun barrels but complete guns in their basement workshops (or on the side in their workplaces).

      This, also, has been a thing for generations, though mostly on the fringes as the black market can provide plenty of professionally-made weapons almost everywhere. In any event, the only thing 3-D printing changes is to transform amateur and/or illicit firearms manufacture from grimy old blue-collar metalworking to shiny new high-tech geekery.

      In the event of truly comprehensive gun control, we’re also going to need the Walter White of smokeless-powder manufacture; that may be the real sticking point. But it is a tractable one.

      • Urstoff says:

        what happens when 3-D printers can print unlicensed 3-D printers?

      • roystgnr says:

        Even without 3-D printing, I get the impression that making a gun barrel with a hobbyist lathe is much more difficult than making a gun lower with a hobbyist mill, and the barrel is much less safe if defective. I don’t understand why the lower is the part which is subject to extensive legal controls and the barrel isn’t.

        • Leit says:

          Mostly? Because the folks coming up with the regulations don’t have any actual knowledge about firearms.

          Whether this is because they’ve decided that the only relevant fact about firearms is that they can kill and there’s nothing that will overcome the resulting disgust, or whether their refusal to learn is some sort of virtue signalling, or whether they’re just trying to come up with a quick, easily applicable solution to what looks like a simple problem from the outside, or whether they’re lazy, most regulations are written from ignorance.

          That said, firearms barrels were long made with equipment much less advanced than a present-day hobbyist mill, and handmade firearms can be made literally in a cave with a box of scraps, using simple tools, and still manage decent (if highly variable) quality.

          I wouldn’t put a Khyber Pass barrel in a modern AR-15, but I also wouldn’t put it past hobbyists to come up with a decent process for home-machining something much better if commercial supplies suddenly became unavailable.

          • Leit says:

            The sheer lack of art in utilitarian projects like that one just make me cringe. That doesn’t mean it wouldn’t kill folks dead. Reading through the pdf, though, they sort of hand-wave the barrel construction and their example is a nonfiring replica with a solid bar for a barrel.

            That’s with simple home tools, and more than likely just to prove a point. I’d expect a skilled enthusiast to be able to do much better.

          • eccdogg says:

            My friends dad was a gun enthusiast and owned a machine shop.

            He made a WW2 era sub-machine gun (fully auto) from scratch.

            He also built a gatling gun that shot 9mm from scratch.

        • John Schilling says:

          I don’t understand why the lower is the part which is subject to extensive legal controls and the barrel isn’t.

          Depends on what you are trying to accomplish. If you want to absolutely stamp out the trade in illicit firearms, and you’ve so suppressed every other aspect of that trade that illicit manufacture is a big part of the problem, you want to license gun barrels. If you accept that there’s always going to be a substantial black market in firearms but you still want to regulate the legal trade with a minimum of fuss, it’s less cumbersome to license, register, or otherwise regulate the receiver – because receivers basically don’t wear out, but barrels do and a heavy user can go through many barrels in the service life of a weapon. And some firearms are designed to take multiple interchangeable barrels with different lengths or calibers.

          And then there’s the coordination problem when not everyone uses the same rules. I recall many years ago seeing two back-to-back half-page ads in IIRC “Shotgun News” where someone had bought a bunch of old German assault rifles and split them into the parts that could legally be sold as Not Guns in Germany and the parts that could legally be sold as Not Guns in the United States, and was offering said parts kits mail order, no questions asked, buyer responsible for adhering to all local laws, with some transparent set of excuses like “everything you need to restore your vintage StG-44 to shooting condition” on the one side and “everything you need to make a non-firing museum-quality replica StG-44” on the other. They lasted two months before someone either shut them down or bought out their whole inventory, I don’t know which.

          So if you’re really serious, you need to license both receivers and barrels. And 3-D printers and CNC mills, and X-ray every package that crosses your borders, and really, give it up already.

          • TheNybbler says:

            Anyone with skill and a well-equipped metal shop can make a decent gun from scratch. I believe the hardest part is not the gun but the ammunition. Bullets are simple, smokeless or black powder is easy enough (if dangerous), but primers and brass are quite difficult.

          • Andrew G. says:

            I’ve seen the claim that one of the most significant effects of the UK handgun ban has been the removal of the civilian handgun ammunition market—that in the absence of a legal market to divert or steal from, criminals’ access to ammunition has become a limiting factor.

          • hlynkacg says:

            Bullets and brass are pretty easy, certainly easier than making the gun itself. Powder is a bit trickier a but still well within the capabilities of most hobbyists.

            Primers are the tricky part but we have people who cook meth in their garages so I’m sure somebody will step in to fill the market.

          • Echo says:

            There’s a lot of people who already make cast lead “boolits” for fun, too.

      • Maware says:

        Except the danger is in it being able to be distributed and printed by non-technicians. Viruses and DDOS attacks became dangerous when they were able to be used by script kiddies. A bad gun that can be printed without the aid of a machine shop, lathe, or technical know-how is a problem. Even a zip gun needs some technical know-how: the danger is that one day someone just buys a commercial printer, downloads a file, and reads a FAQ to make them.

        • TheNybbler says:

          If there were as many “script gunnies” as there are script kiddies, it might be a problem. As it is, at least in the US, anyone with criminal connections, can already get a gun adequate for their purposes. As can most people without those connections, excluding those of us in the benighted state of NJ and other such hellholes.

        • John Schilling says:

          Why do you assume that 3-D printers capable of making useful gun barrels will ever be more common than lathes capable of making useful gun barrels are now?

          Gun barrels, even of mediocre quality, are a fairly extreme corner of engineering/metalworking trade space, and one that is very nearly on the opposite corner of that trade space from where 3-D printers have an edge over other fabrication techniques. Ubiquitous consumer-grade household 3-D printers are highly unlikely to be useful for producing firearms, not because The Man(tm) will insist on DRM and software interlocks, but because almost no other consumer good requires anything like that manufacturing capability.

          There will be plenty of highly capable 3-D printers that are capable of producing firearms in the hands of private citizens, but these will be roughly the same citizens who now have highly capable lathes, mills, etc, capable of doing the same.

  65. Mike H says:

    Have you considered controlling for temperature? Heat waves increase the murder rate. http://public.psych.iastate.edu/caa/abstracts/2000-2004/01A.pdf Murder rate is lower in Canada and higher in the South. This seems like a plausible thing to control for.

    • Nero tol Scaeva says:

      I always knew ice cream consumption was unhealthy. The correlation between ice cream and crime is undeniable.

      We need tighter restrictions and regulations on ice cream trucks.

  66. William Newman says:

    Dozens of data points is not a lot of grist for the statistical mill when trying to nail down the correct underlying relationship if it is as complex as a weak correlation (homicide and guns) confounded by several stronger correlations that you see (rural, Scots-Irish, black) and likely by several other correlations that you don’t see and indeed sometimes can’t see (such as, e.g., hard-to-quantify dietary differences and very-hard-to-quantify differences in detailed laws and enforcement). Even doing your best to be unbiased, I think you are extremely likely to arrive at overfitted nonsense rather than a good result.

    For comparison, we have dozens of national datapoints that advocates point to as evidence of outperformance of market economies relative to central economic control, including several pairs that are tolerably well-designed natural experiments (E/W Germany, N/S Korea, mainland/Taiwan China). That amount seems to be on the borderline of sufficient convincing evidence for people who weren’t already predisposed to the conclusion. If instead the model that that evidence was used to motivate was that only after correcting for two significantly more important confounding factors (whatever — e.g., tropical vs. temperate climate, and monotheistic tradition) could any clear diktat-vs.-market economic efficiency correlation be seen, would anyone find it convincing? *Should* anyone find it convincing? Dozens of noisy datapoints is just not a lot to fit a three-parameter correlation and go on to draw meaningful conclusions about the third strongest correlation.

    The old nonquantitative nonpolitical intuition about overfitting in the physical sciences (“with 5 [parameters] I can make him wiggle his trunk”) is another way of expressing this caution. Your data here are not an elephant visibly wiggling his trunk, they are a noisy blob of dozens of points, and 3 parameters is more than enough to make even an unsound chosen-after-the- model give a tempting match on dozens of such points.

    (I also think the new-since-Popper quantitative ideas about overfitting, like Minimum Description Length or like the minimization various kinds of learning “risk” that Vapnik writes about, are very powerful and important and might even come to be widely recognized as such by ordinary non-machine-learning stats practitioners within a few decades, but alas they aren’t easy to push all the way down to the OP’s mere dozens of data points vs. multi-parameter models chosen — after the data are collected — from an enormous poorly specified model space. Plus the additional complication of choosing which data to consider — e.g., states, not countries, not variation in time) — after the data are collected from a sizable poorly specified space of datasets.)

  67. This analysis makes a lot of sense for something I’ve already noticed with the FBI homicide data (see this chart https://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2013/crime-in-the-u.s.-2013/offenses-known-to-law-enforcement/expanded-homicide/expanded_homicide_data_table_11_murder_circumstances_by_weapon_2013.xls).

    A significant portion of homicides occur during other criminal activity. Making it harder to buy guns probably wouldn’t move those numbers too much, as those people are already engaging in other criminal activity; buying illegal guns may not be a big obstacle for them. This is probably covered under the idea of “culture of violence” or perhaps just a “culture of crime”. To fix those homicides, we’d need to focus on crime prevention measures, perhaps fighting to defund organized crime through drug legalization.

    But many homicides occur due to arguments that escalated. These people were not engaged in illegal activity until they tried to harm someone in an argument. Taking away the ability of these people to escalate the situation is probably a good thing, and I bet this is where gun ownership is correlated with the homicide rate. Thus, reducing the gun ownership rate helps, but doesn’t quite stop all homicides.

    • xtmar says:

      As you point out, there are basically two types of murder: murder in the commission of another crime by repeat criminals, often linked to the drug trade; and domestic disputes that escalate. Gun control may help with the second type, which would be useful, but it seems doubtful it would make any difference with the first type.

    • A significant portion of homicides occur during other criminal activity. Making it harder to buy guns probably wouldn’t move those numbers too much, as those people are already engaging in other criminal activity; buying illegal guns may not be a big obstacle for them.

      But most crimes are very poorly planned, and an unplanned homicide might (or might not) happen when things go wrong, depending on the weapons at hand. The cost and availability of illegal guns varies widely from place to place. For example, in NYC, I think illegal guns are too costly for many street criminals.

      There is a romantic notion (nurtured by generations of movies and TV shows) that criminals, unconstrained by laws, are smart people with unlimited options and resources, with plenty of leisure to make careful decisions. This is about the opposite of the truth. In real life, most people who commit violent crimes are young, poor, stupid, impatient, and careless.

    • Anthony says:

      But many homicides occur due to arguments that escalated. These people were not engaged in illegal activity until they tried to harm someone in an argument.

      Would government statistics capture this well? Arguments over the engagement of illegal activity are probably more likely than most to escalate to gunfire. Even assuming the shooter is smart enough to stay mum, how many of the witnesses are going to admit that the argument was over illegal activity when doing so might implicate them in illegal activity, including possibly the homicide in question? Even a shooter claiming self-defense would be unlikely to admit that the victim attacked him over being cheated in a drug deal.

    • FacelessCraven says:

      @PostLibertarian – “But many homicides occur due to arguments that escalated.”

      Define “many”. Murderers are overwhelmingly deeply aberrant individuals, with a long history of antisocial behavior and criminal histories. The idea that “many” murderers are otherwise ordinary citizens who act impulsively in a moment of blind rage is a falsehood pushed by gun control groups in the 70s and 80s that simply refuses to die. Impulsive murder by otherwise well-adjusted citizens are extremely rare.

      “Taking away the ability of these people to escalate the situation is probably a good thing, and I bet this is where gun ownership is correlated with the homicide rate.”

      Given the above, I highly doubt it. Again, this is not an area where speculation is necessary. Criminology data has been available and has been widely studied for some decades.

      • Earthly Knight says:

        The idea that “many” murderers are otherwise ordinary citizens who act impulsively in a moment of blind rage is a falsehood pushed by gun control groups in the 70s and 80s that simply refuses to die. Impulsive murder by otherwise well-adjusted citizens are extremely rare.

        “Impulsive murder” is an oxymoron, so it should not be a surprise that few murders occur as you describe them. The table that postlibertarian linked to reports causes of homicide (that is, murder and non-negligent manslaughter), although, unhappily, 30% of incidents are classified as “unknown”. But more than 40% of homicides whose causes are known are the result of arguments, so his claim should not be dismissed so quickly. I don’t know that it matters that a lot of these people are deadbeats with long rap sheets– the presence of firearms may make it especially easy for deadbeats with long rap sheets to escalate an argument out of control.

        Here are statistics on priors for those convicted of homicide in large urban counties:

        –67% had a prior arrest record
        –58% had a prior felony arrest
        –46% had multiple prior felony arrests
        –53% had a prior conviction
        –38% had a prior felony conviction
        –23% had multiple prior felony convictions

        There are three major sources of uncertainty in comparing these two data sets: first, the large unknown category in the FBI records, second, the fact that many of the people with no arrest records prior to having been convicted may simply have never been caught, and third, our ignorance about whether career criminals are represented at the same level for different causes of homicide. On the last point, though, it is likely that career criminals will be better represented among felony homicides and gang homicides than argument-type-homicides, so we can expect first-timers to be overrepresented in the last category.

        All in all, it looks like we should expect ~50% of argument-homicides to be committed by individuals with no prior felony arrests. Consequently, perhaps 20% of homicides overall are committed by relatively law-abiding citizens escalating an argument.

        • FacelessCraven says:

          @EarthlyKnight – ““Impulsive murder” is an oxymoron, so it should not be a surprise that few murders occur as you describe them.”

          …Huh. Apparently premeditation is part of the definition for murder, but not for homicide? Is that accurate? …You learn something new every day, I suppose.

          “I don’t know that it matters that a lot of these people are deadbeats with long rap sheets– the presence of firearms may make it especially easy for deadbeats with long rap sheets to escalate an argument out of control.”

          That is somewhat possible; pistol GSWs are somewhat more lethal than knife wounds, statistically speaking. If you can turn gun fights into knife fights, you will get some reduction in the murder rate. However, his statement that:

          “But many homicides occur due to arguments that escalated. These people were not engaged in illegal activity until they tried to harm someone in an argument.”

          …is, I believe, considerably misleading. “Not engaged in illegal activity” may be technically true, in the five minutes immediately preceding the fight, say, but we are still talking about a segment of the population that deploys extreme violence in a casual manner. Removing guns would not keep them from *trying* to kill someone over an argument, it would simply reduce their success rates on the margin. Claiming that drastically reducing firearms ownership would greatly reduce the murder rate, as he appears to be claiming, is unsupportable by the evidence.

        • There’s uncertainty about whether the arrests and convictions are of people who are actually guilty, too.

      • John Schilling says:

        But more than 40% of homicides whose causes are known are the result of arguments, so his claim should not be dismissed so quickly.

        I, for one, don’t dismiss his claim quickly. I dismiss his claim after carefully and repeatedly looking into who it is that actually commits these homicides, most recently here. Of the domestic violence offenders prosecuted by the federal government – and they seem to get jurisdiction over domestic violence shootings even when the crime is otherwise an intra-state matter, four out of five have prior adult felony convictions. The last time I looked into this, state-level numbers were similar. And “adult felony convictions” grossly understates violent criminal behavior generally.

        As he says, ordinary citizens who act impulsively in a moment of rage, don’t shoot people. Violent criminals who act impulsively in a moment of rage, are the ones who shoot people. And mostly it’s known violent criminals. So there’s room for us as a society to do better at either killing, locking away, or rehabilitating known violent criminals (opinions differ as to which), but while we’re waiting there’s also room for people who don’t want to get shot by their spouse to not marry known violent criminals.

        Seriously, don’t marry known violent criminals unless you have really good reason to believe that they have already reformed, because the bit where your love is what reforms them has a really poor track record.

    • John Schilling says:

      But many homicides occur due to arguments that escalated. These people were not engaged in illegal activity until they tried to harm someone in an argument.

      The vast majority of domestic-violence homicides are committed by people with an extensive history of prior criminal violence. Generally peaceful and law-abiding citizens suddenly losing their temper and killing someone over an argument, may be common in Lifetime TV movies but in the real world it’s in the same realm as lightning bolts as a cause of death.

      • Earthly Knight says:

        Per the above, the (annual) chance of being non-negligently manslaughtered or murdered by a citizen with no prior felony arrests (0.0018%) or by the same in an argument (0.0009%) is roughly an order of magnitude higher than the chance of being struck by lightning (0.00016%), and a full two orders of magnitudes higher than the chance of being killed by lightning (0.000016%). For comparison, it is about half the chance of being killed by a drunk driver (0.0032%), including if the drunk driver is you, and a quarter the chance of being killed by flu (0.0072%).

        • “No prior felony arrests” is why these odds look higher than they ought to. It is quite possible to be a criminal deviant, rather than one of Kellerman & Reay’s “loved ones” without (yet) having a felony arrest. In fact, given that the police in many urban areas no, longer even bother to investigate what they consider “minor” property crimes, this is pretty normal.

          • I believe that where I live is not an especially high crime area, but when (during a brief experiment in car ownership) my car was stolen, the police said “keep an eye out for it”, and suggested an area to look.

            As it happened, I did find my car on the street, though not where they said.

            I think of a car as a fairly valuable item, even if it’s a used Camry. Would other people care to talk about what the police actually bother with? I’m interested in first and trusted second person accounts. If there’s any large scale information available, I’m interested in that, too.

            When I was subject to an attempted mugging (talked my way out), I didn’t report it to the police because I found that within 20 minutes I’d forgotten what the young man’s face looked like.

          • Creutzer says:

            attempted mugging (talked my way out)

            How did you do that? (Asking to improve my world model, which just returns blank if I ask it to generate a sequence of events of this type.)

          • Cord Shirt says:

            I also am curious about this.

            And, what did the police expect you to do once you found your car? Take it back and not worry about who had stolen it or what they’d done with it while they had it?

          • @Nancy:

            When we were living in Chicago, someone came into our house when we were not there (a door may have been unlocked) and stole stuff. The police officer we spoke with made it reasonably clear that she assumed the only reason people reported such crimes was to have documentation for an insurance claim.

            We actually got one item back–my wife’s viola de gamba. But that wasn’t the result of police investigation of the original theft. The thief sold or pawned it, complete with case, which included the name and address of the maker. The recipient, I think a pawn shop, checked with him, and he had a record of who it was made for. I assume if any followup had identified the thief we would have heard about it–but the recovery was, as I recall, years after the theft, so the instrument might have passed through multiple hands.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @DavidFriedman:

            And contrarily, when we lived in Chicago and the neighborhood we lived in had a spate of rapes with the MO being the rapist watching for women to go into apartments alone, kicking the back door in and violently assaulting them, the (female) police officer my wife asked for advice had only this:

            “Get a gun.”

            Note that this was many years pre-Heller. It would not have been legal for my wife to do this, and the cop knew it.

          • ” It would not have been legal for my wife to do this, and the cop knew it.”

            After I was a witness to a shooting in Philadelphia, I ended up having some casual conversations with cops. The advice one of them gave me was that, if I ever shot an intruder, I should make sure of two things:

            1. That he was dead.

            2. That his body ended up inside the house.

          • Marc Whipple says:

            @DavidFriedman:

            He forgot, “Make sure none of the holes in the body line up with the holes in the floor.”

  68. Jair says:

    Scott, thank you for this. I haven’t done enough research into this issue to verify the claims you make here. But I absolutely appreciate the calm, detached tone of your writing. I am certain that if I posted this to Facebook most of my friends would just skim the post trying to figure out whether it is on their side or not and would become very confused. (This is a high compliment.)

  69. Tibor says:

    I checked the Czech gun laws in more detail and I was surprised to see that they are even more liberal than I thought. This makes an interesting case than since the country has GDP PPP per capita of only 55% of the US (unlike the rich Switzerland) and the gun laws are more liberal than those of Switzerland. At the same time, despite the very liberal gun laws, there are only about 300 000 gun licenses in the country with about 4 300 000 households, so even if each of the license holders lived in a different household, that would make the gun ownership rate only about 7% (however sport shooting is the third most popular sport, after football/soccer and ice-hockey). At the same time, the homicide rate is 0.9, that is below Canada or Australia, on par with Germany which has much stricter gun laws.

    So what are the laws?:

    There are 6 categories of gun permits (which may be combiled)
    A – Firearm collection
    B – Sport shooting
    C – Hunting
    D – Exercise of a profession
    E – Self-defense
    (F – Pyrotechnical survey)

    To get a B or C license one needs to be at least 18, to get A,D or E you need to be 21 (F is really a special thing normally not obtained), pay a fee of about 20 USD per permit to get it for 10 years (D is for 5 years only), pass a theoretical and practical exam, pass a health check (this is not a psychiatric check), not having ever been sentenced to 12 or more years in prison, in case of other prison sentences there is a waiting period which depends on the crime and during which you cannot get a gun.

    You can get semi-automatic weapons without problems, you can even buy automatic weapons but for that you need a special license where each applicant is judged individually by the police.

    Keeping a gun in a safe at home is only mandatory when you own at least two of them (so I made a mistake in my previous posts here).

    Concealed carry of at most two loaded guns is allowed, carrying a gun while intoxicated is illegal. There are no no-guns areas except for courts. It is illegal though to practice shooting (while not hunting) in any place other than a shooting range.

    Interestingly enough, open carry is pretty much illegal, I guess that it is in order not to cause panic or something. This does not apply to rifles in forests when you are hunting.

    This is interesting for many reasons. It is really easy and cheap to get a gun and at the same time, the gun ownership is actually very low. Also, homicide rate is as low as it is in the neighbouring Germany which has both more guns and stricter gun laws. Germany is also about 50% richer (measured by GPD PPP again) and richer countries usually tend to have less crime than similar poorer countries. What some might use as an argument for more equal wealth is that the country has the 4th lowest GINI index in the world (which I also find strange since the welfare state and taxation are nowhere near the Scandinavian level).

    This only strengthens my conviction that there are much more important factors in the murder rate than liberal vs. restrictive gun laws and that it is more sensible to try to figure out what these factors are and how they can be emulated elsewhere.

    • HlynkaCG says:

      That’s fascinating. Thank you.

    • Tibor says:

      The automatic guns caught my interest (not because I would want one, I don’t even have a gun license, but because I was curious), so I found a discussion about that at an online (czech) gun forum where someone was asking how hard it was to get a license. The replies suggested that it is very unlikely that the permit will be granted and also that the police can come to you to have a check-up of your automatic firearm once every two years and you have to let them in…which makes it very impractical for almost everyone who does not actually have a good reason to have an automatic firearm (like running a museum or something).

    • Marc Whipple says:

      As Tibor points out, the fact that the law allows something does not mean it is actually allowed. Theoretically, prior to Heller et al, you could get a permit to register guns in the City of Chicago… but none had been issued since like 1976.

      • Tibor says:

        The automatic gun permit seems to be granted occasionally (otherwise they would not sell a few machine guns and assault rifles at gunshop.cz) but it is very uncommon. I think that when a gun law is a “may issue” rather than “shall issue” it basically means “probably will not issue”. I think that generally if a law says that something is always legal under clearly stated conditions then it really is legal. If it depends upon an evaluation by a policeman or a bureaucrat it can probably vary a lot.

        By the way I was surprised that you can (legally) get a new assault rifle for as low as 200$ (Sa Vz. 58, which is the assault rifle currently in use by the Czech military, although it is currently being replaced by a new rifle CZ 805 BREN which might perhaps influence the price) and a Browning 1919 machine gun for about 900$. Obviously, the biggest problem getting these is the automatic weapons permit. Still, I thought that guns were generally much more expensive, the cheapest low caliber pistols can be bought for something like 80 dollars. However most pistols cost at least something like 400$ so I would expect the quality of a 80$ pistol is going to be very low. Even 400$ is less then I expected though (I would have guessed that pistols generally cost something like 1000$).

  70. Nero tol Scaeva says:

    What else does “southernness” and black culture have in common? That’s also absent in all other highly developed countries?

    Importance of religion.

    It would be funny if this data showed a correlation between levels of Creationism and violence.

    • Troy says:

      Race, poverty, nationality, etc. are common causes of religiosity and crime, and most likely explain any correlation between the two. Religiosity (especially when measured by things like church attendance) correlates negatively with anti-social behavior after confounders like race, country, poverty level, etc. are controlled for. And social scientific theories of religion generally hold that one of religion’s primary purposes is social control. (See, e.g., Jonathan Haidt’s The Righteous Mind.)

      • JayT says:

        And I would guess that IQ ties all of those things together.

        • Troy says:

          It could be, although my sense (I haven’t done a careful study) is that the negative correlation between IQ and religiosity may be unique to the Western world.

    • Ralph says:

      I doubt it’s that religion causes crime. More like poverty and lower intelligence cause religion, and poverty and lower intelligence also cause crime.

      EDIT

      That being said, you could probably collect some data, make a few charts, trot out a p-value, and write a pretty popular article in Vox or the NYT.

    • NN says:

      I’m pretty sure that if you measure religiosity at an individual level (especially if you measure it by church attendance), then you consistently find a negative correlation between religiosity and crime. So it seems that while certain groups may have both a lot of violent people and a lot of highly religious people, those are generally different sub-groups.

  71. Phlinn says:

    I haven’t had time to dig into the numbers yet, but this is the first time I’ve seen a convincing argument that there really is a correlation when you correct for all known confounds… although I suspect there are unidentified confounds that weaken it. I’ll let you know if I think of any after further review.

    One thing I’m really surprised you didn’t pick up on, and the main reason I’m commenting: Firearm Homicides + FS will obviously correlate with FS/S, since the same value is included. Increasing it increases both. It seemed like an obvious flaw, and it still boggles my mind that any papers which did so were actually published.

    Also, the paper I first saw it in claimed it’s justified because FS/S correlates with total ownership rates. Unfortunately, correlation is NOT transitive. A and C can have negative correlation, even if both positively correlate with B.

  72. Addict says:

    What about people who feel unsafe if they aren’t able to bring overwhelming firepower to bear on an intruder?

    I mean, as crazy neuroatypicalities go, this one is very human. If you take two strangers, put them in a room together with no explanation, and drop a handgun in, they will immediately start fighting physically over the gun simply because it gives them overwhelming control of the (suddenly high-stakes) situation, control they would feel safer going to them rather than the other person *even and especially if* they don’t intend to use it.

    I have this particular feeling, and I have used it in the past to make myself far more sympathetic towards ‘safe space’ ideas. A safe space is just a space where you and your friends are the only ones allowed to have a guns.

    • Mark Atwood says:

      If you take two strangers, put them in a room together with no explanation, and drop a handgun in, they will immediately start fighting physically over the gun

      One of the two of us is from a very strange context, and I’m pretty sure it’s not me.

      On the gripping hand, these two hypothetical strangers in this hypothetical room will not start fighting because the hypothetical gun is making them violent, they will start fighting because they have suddenly been teleported into running Outside Context Problem that never actually ever happens.

  73. Tibor says:

    It seems to me that a big difference between a country like Switzerland and the US is also in the way guns are viewed. In Switzerland the gun ownership rate is about the same as that of Canada, so not really that much different from the US rate (and with more liberal gun laws than those in Canada or some US states) while homicide rate is lower than in Canada, in fact lower than in Germany or Sweden. Switzerland is also about as rich (slightly more but not by much) as the US and it has rural areas as well (although those are in the mountains and there are no vast tracks of empty land there, Switzerland is small).

    But the gun culture of Switzerland seems to be very different, in a sense more organized and so people learn something about the guns and using them before they buy them. My impression of the US is that this is not the case, that guns are either shunned by people or treated like toys by others. If this accounted for some difference in the gun-related homicide rate then maybe a sensible US policy would be not to try to limit gun ownership but to make people more acquainted with them. The advantage of that is that you might not need the state to do anything…paradoxically, a more widespread support of an organization such as NRA (I assume that an important part of what they do is to spreading knowledge about proper gun use) and promoting gun shooting at a shooting range as a sport might improve things since you could get a population that understands guns better that way.

    Your thoughts about this?

    • John Schilling says:

      Traditional American Red Tribe “gun culture” involves learning how to handle firearms safely, and then how to shoot them, from your father/uncle/grandfather in childhood. In rural areas, often including being allowed to take a smallbore rifle for nominally-unsupervised recreational shooting from age 12 or so, with the father/uncle/whatever actually paying attention to what you are doing with it as a test of maturity. Less common in an increasingly urban society, of course.

      The other traditional entry point into “gun culture” is through military service; I know a few veterans who aren’t gun owners, but they are definitely a minority. Military training can be a bit iffy regarding e.g. pistols, but it will include basic familiarization and safety rules.

      These both strongly overlap the “Southern” axis of America’s culture of violence, and on the military side are why I am leery about trying to stamp out that culture. When a Southern gentleman kills someone, it’s not because he doesn’t know what he is doing or is generally untrained, but because his training includes “…and under those circumstances, the right and honorable thing to do is to shoot the sonovabitch”. They aren’t always wrong about that.

      The “Black” axis of America’s culture of violence, isn’t real big on firearms training, either for safety or effectiveness. But it also isn’t big on buying guns through licensed dealers, so isn’t going to be responsive to even modest gun control measures.

      When Blue Tribe buys guns, it’s often as a fear response to criminal violence and is frequently done without training. If a new Blue Tribe gun owner uncharacteristically admits to this, in a social context, they’ll usually find they have a friend somewhere in gun culture who will arrange at least a minimum of informal training. But in any event, I don’t thing Blue Tribe Americans who bought a pistol and then tucked it away in a drawer or even purse without thinking about it are a very big problem.

      • Harold says:

        But in any event, I don’t thing Blue Tribe Americans who bought a pistol and then tucked it away in a drawer or even purse without thinking about it are a very big problem.

        As someone who grew up in the the Red Tribe Gun Culture 1.0, I’m astounded by the number of Blue Tribe Americans or thereabouts with little or no training, even informal, who nonetheless responsibly and effectively use guns to defend themselves. Not sure what that’s about, besides centuries of improving ergonomic design that plateaued 100-50 years ago (say the M1911 and straight line recoil assault and battle rifles), and Hollywood (!), but it is definitely a thing.

      • Tibor says:

        Ok, I guess I am still too influenced by the typical European (and Hollywood to some extent) impression of gun-trotting rednecks 🙂

        As of now, I would be most interested in what the ratio of legal and illegal firearms is in various countries, (non-intensive) googling produces no results (some estimates for the US but zero info about other countries, also the estimates are either by obvious pro-gun or anti-gun lobby).

      • “Traditional American Red Tribe “gun culture” involves learning how to handle firearms safely, and then how to shoot them, from your father/uncle/grandfather in childhood. In rural areas, often including being allowed to take a smallbore rifle for nominally-unsupervised recreational shooting from age 12 or so”

        When I was growing up, we spent our summers in New Hampshire, Chicago being very hot in the summer. I had a single shot .22 rifle, probably by the time I was twelve, which I used for unsupervised target practice. I don’t think a University of Chicago professor counts as red tribe culturally, even if he is a libertarian, and neither of my parents grew up in a rural area. My guess is that it partly reflected a change in national culture over time–this would have been in the mid fifties.

        • nil says:

          Don’t you think it was easier and more routine to cross tribal boundaries until fairly recently? My old man, a boomer, is definitely a lifelong blue, but very much enjoyed hunting, NASCAR and country music all while I was growing up.

          Has fairly dramatically drifted away from all three in the last ten years, though.

        • Adam says:

          I don’t think there is any single American ‘gun culture.’ I own guns. Several of them. I mostly don’t carry because I find it absurdly unlikely that I will ever be in a situation that I would need to and don’t generally carry much of anything (most of the time I leave the house I don’t even bring my phone). I don’t feel much cultural affinity with any of the people passionately arguing in favor of gun ownership in this thread. I don’t feel I should be allowed to own guns because of some imagined post-apocalypse in which my bravery and sense of duty is the only thing protecting delicate women and children from masses of violent immigrants. Nor do I need them to feed myself. I don’t hunt. I don’t feel I should be allowed to own them as some kind of check on a tyranny of jack-booted thugs that is surely just around the corner for any country that bans guns. I feel I should be allowed to own guns because I never have and never will use them to commit a crime and should be allowed to do anything I enjoy doing that isn’t harming anyone. It’s a simple damn principle that I shouldn’t have to justify my personally preferred activities by appeal to the sudden onset of a horrible dystopia if you stop me.

          Maybe this relates to the ‘cross tribal boundaries’ thing. Judging from this blog, it seems like the modal person, or heck, even the modal person who claims to care deeply about being rational, can’t conceive of a world worth living in that adopts the preferred policies of people they disagree with. Was it always like this? My wife can’t even conceive of living in San Francisco because she thinks the people would annoy her too much. I love Texas and live here on purpose, but damn that seems narrow-minded.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            I mean, I support the Bill of Rights? This makes me a “crazy conspiracy nut” now?

            “I feel I should be allowed to own guns because I never have and never will use them to commit a crime and should be allowed to do anything I enjoy doing that isn’t harming anyone. It’s a simple damn principle that I shouldn’t have to justify my personally preferred activities by appeal to the sudden onset of a horrible dystopia if you stop me.”

            But…whether it’s harming anyone is one of the things people are disagreeing about.

            This is like saying, “I feel I should be allowed freedom of speech because I never have and never will use it to commit a crime and should be allowed to do anything I enjoy doing that isn’t harming anyone. It’s a simple damn principle that I shouldn’t have to justify my personally preferred activities by appeal to the sudden onset of a horrible dystopia if you stop me.”

            It…kind of misses the point. Both of the Bill of Rights and also of any debate that may be going on over whether some speech “harms” people.

          • Adam says:

            “But…whether it’s harming anyone is one of the things people are disagreeing about.”

            No, it isn’t. Unless you count the main gun of an Abrams tank, I’ve never harmed anyone with a gun and certainly not an American. If anyone disagrees with me about that, they’re wrong.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            The argument is about negative externalities, and you know it. I mean…OK, you’re arguing like a politician, fine, I recognize what you’re saying, just like I told Vox Imp everyone should 😉 but Vox Imp is also right, this isn’t politician-vs.-politician right now, so you should try to word it more clearly. Try saying, “I don’t accept the idea of negative externalities” (or whatever) instead. 😉

            Me, I’m just going to continue to support the Bill of Rights. 🙂

          • Adam says:

            I accept the idea of negative externalities. They’re a basic tenet of economics and a factual reality. I deny that there are any negative externalities to my ownership and use of guns. Banning them completely is like imposing a carbon tax on all electrical utilities, including those that only use hydroelectric power generation.

          • @Cord Shirt:

            I think his point is that the externality argument is committing a fallacy of composition. The murder rate might correlate with the gun ownership rate. But he isn’t going to murder anyone, so his owning a gun doesn’t impost an external cost. Restrictions are charging him for external costs imposed by other people.

    • CatCube says:

      The NRA spent the first century of its existence as an organization for safety training and competitive shooting (it’s the governing body for several types of shooting sports). It picked up the political mission only after gun bans started seeming possible in the ’70s. It still does a whole lot of the first two, including running the National Pistol Matches and National Rifle Matches every year at Camp Perry, Ohio. Obviously, the political stuff shows up in the news more.

      As @John Schilling says, above, what most people consider “gun culture” includes inculcation in safety rules in exactly the way you mean.

      As an aside, the range I was a member of in the early ’90s stopped letting the local police shoot there, as they were doing damage to the range structures. People who spent money to be on the range turned out to be somewhat more reliable than the people who were forced to qualify once a year as a condition of employment.

      • Gbdub says:

        Isn’t the Camp Perry event operated by the CMP (civilian marksmanship program)? The CMP is an interesting organization in any case – a federally chartered organization with the express purpose of training civilians in the shooting sports, specifically in high powered rifle marksmanship. You could (and still can, though the supply is quite low now) buy military surplus rifles (mostly M1 Garands, bolt action Springfields, and small bite target rifles) directly through them. Fun stuff, and probably the organization most directly working toward a “well regulated militia”.

        • Echo says:

          They’re selling surplus 1911s now. God knows how some genius in the army wrangled that with this administration.

          Some supply clerk probably realized the army was sitting on piles of machined gold.

        • CatCube says:

          The CMP has a warehouse there, and sells during the National Matches, but the NRA runs the matches themselves. The NRA ranks all the shooters into their classes, through sanctioned matches throughout the year, provides the volunteers, referees, and range cadre.

          (You can be quite new and have a great time, as you’ll be shooting against other Marksmen–the least-skilled class. Sharpshooter, Master, and High Master are the other three categories.)

    • enoriverbend says:

      [Reply ended up horribly misplaced. Odd]

  74. JakeR says:

    I can’t read through 350 comments to make sure this hasn’t already been pointed out yet, so sorry for repeating it if it has:

    Isn’t it a mistake to focus on homicides and murders (the worst-case outcome), when there can be plenty of injurious shootings that didn’t result in death? Instead of looking only at gun homicides, wouldn’t a more instructive data point be something like deliberately malicious gun violence (which would exclude suicide and accidents)?

    • NN says:

      The problem with that is that malicious gun violence that doesn’t kill anyone, and especially malicious gun violence that doesn’t even injure anyone, is much more likely to go unreported or be reported as a “cleaning accident.” This is especially true if the shooting is gang related, since criminal gangs have strict honor codes that prohibit any cooperation with the police. One of the victims of the St. Valentine’s Day massacre, Frank Gusenberg, when questioned by the police, insisted that “nobody shot me,” while he was bleeding to death from 14 gunshot wounds.

      Homicide is generally considered the most reliable crime statistic, because human corpses are large and heavy and hard to get rid of, and if you find a corpse with multiple gunshot wounds then you can be absolutely certain that somebody has committed homicide; the only question is who.

  75. Dr Dealgood says:

    I don’t know how common this sentiment is, but every time there’s a National Conversation about guns I have this urge to go buy the most powerful firearm I can lay hands on and a crate of ammunition. This is speaking as a man who has never held, much less fired, one in his life and grew up in an area where carrying legally or otherwise was a great way to get yourself and a half dozen bystanders shot by the cops.

    There’s something very unsettling about the idea of the BATF or other alphabet organizations coming around to register and/or disarm citizens. It’s the same feeling as when the NSA spy program or CIA black site prisons came to light. I will never understand people who trust the government enough to give them that sort of power.

    • The Anonymouse says:

      Seems fairly common. Gun stores are doing a very brisk trade. A friend of mine–a licensed dealer and lifelong Republican–adores the current president. He tells anyone who will listen that Mr. Obama is the bar-none finest gun salesman he’s ever seen.

      A good line, and only moderately flip, but there’s a lot of truth to it.

      • Tom Scharf says:

        Which brings us to why symbolism is so important vs more effective solutions? Surely the usual suspects know that these symbolic type of solutions increase gun sales. One can easily conclude that they are making the problem worse, not better, in the absolute sense. It is a counter productive strategy. Sometimes it is better to do nothing, and this may be one of those times.

        I suppose this is seen as a marathon of moving public opinion and these short term losses are worth the cost. Not sure this is true.

      • Marc Whipple says:

        He hain’t seen nothin’ yet. Wait until President Hillary is sworn in.

        Land-office business.

  76. Eric M says:

    I bet this has been discussed below, but I’ve always said that the *best* reason to reduce the number of guns in the U.S. is to prevent suicides. I remember visiting a silver and gold mine in Utah in college. The silver was the bulk of their production and that kept the lights on. The small amount of gold produced was the profit. If gun control had a marginal benefit to prevent murders, maybe this keeps the lights on. And if the suicide rate drops 20%, heck, that’s a lot of profit.

    • Internationally, suicide rates seems to be much more a function of culture than of gun availability (cf. Japan). Seems to me that a suicide-bent person, denied guns, will choose another method. Maybe you get that 20% reduction, but I’d want a solid basis for such a number before I base policy on that guess.

    • Furslid says:

      When thinking about the relationship between guns and suicide, I found this thought experiment helpful.

      If I wanted to kill myself, what would I do. If I couldn’t do that, what would my second best option be. For me, the answers would be.
      A. Gun.
      B. Go to the top of the 6 level parking garage at my apartment and climb over the four foot high railing.

      It doesn’t seem that guns make suicide that much easier.

      • JBeshir says:

        It might seem so, but in practice it seems like even pretty trivial inconveniences can reduce suicide rates, e.g. packaging changes for medicines: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/06/02/a-simple-way-to-reduce-suicides/?hp

        Most people do not “decide they want to commit suicide” then solidly pursue it; most people become inclined to it during an incredibly emotional time when they’re probably at their least functional or able to pursue anything. Having to go jump as opposed to just pick up your gun and click makes sense to have a pretty huge effect.

        • John Schilling says:

          Careful; there are two very different populations of “suicides” here, and they use very different techniques with very different levels of resolve.

          One group, I believe the largest by far, wants attention and would prefer not to die to get it. They use overdoses of sedative- or barbiturate-type drugs, or they slit their wrists (across, not lengthwise). They rarely use any other technique. About 15% of them die, the rest of them get to talk to someone like Scott for a week. Well, less so now that Scott isn’t doing inpatient work. This group is relatively easy to dissuade with or without a long chat with a psychiatrist. And since about 15% of them die even though they’d prefer not to, that’s clearly worth doing.

          The other, smaller group, genuinely wants to die. They tend shoot themselves if guns are available. If not, they jump off tall buildings or hang themselves. Carbon-monoxide poisoning used to be big, when ovens and car exhausts could reliably deliver a lethal dose. Jumping in front of trains or driving cars into solid objects at highway speed, also popular but harder to sort from accidents. Sometimes drowning or exposure. Generally not drug overdoses, unless they can get professional assistance in making sure the dose is lethal. And about 80% of these people die, regardless of which method they chose.

          I share Scott’s skepticism that preventing these people from dying is always a worthwhile thing, particularly if your concern stops when they are safely Not Dead and instead locked away someplace they can’t kill themselves and you don’t have to care about them. But if you do care about their not dying, it is damnably hard to arrange because they do have a very good track record for killing themselves by many different means.

          • I think your second group, the people who are rationally determined to die, who are unlikely to change their minds about it, and who calmly choose the most lethal means, is much smaller than you estimate.

            A very large portion of suicides, including gun suicides, are impulsive. It’s not that the person doesn’t sincerely want to die when he pulls the trigger, it’s that given a few more minutes to think about it, be probably wouldn’t. A lot of these suicides happen under the influence of sleep deprivation or intoxication.

            Moreover, deadly means of suicide are not readily substituted for each other, and we can see this very clearly with the oven gas suicides. In the 1930s through 1960s, as each country or area switched from coal gas to much-less-lethal natural gas, the suicide rate fell about 30%. Non-gas suicides rose when gas suicides disappeared, but not enough to keep the suicide rate constant.

          • Wrong Species says:

            But what about people who do want to kill themselves but only in the moment? They may decide to go jump off the bridge but manage to talk themselves out of it on the way there. But if they had a gun they might pull the trigger before they can even think about it. Not every suicidal person is absolutely determined to kill themselves and won’t stop until they succeed.

          • Elissa says:

            The relationship between intent to die and lethality of method is not at all clear, when you look for it: http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/means-matter/means-matter/intent/

          • John Schilling says:

            Not every suicidal person is absolutely determined to kill themselves and won’t stop until they succeed

            Right, which is why I started by noting that most suicidal people are very weakly motivated to kill themselves and can be trivially stopped.

            Your hypothesis is one of people who are very highly motivated for one brief moment but not at all motivated otherwise. I have seen no evidence that any significant population matches that description, and yes, I have looked (albeit not so much recently). In particular, if such a phenomenon manifested over such a short timescale that guns would facilitate suicides but tall buildings would be too slow/inconvenient, you’d expect correlated changes in other relevant behaviors such as leaving suicide notes. When I looked in some depth a decade or more ago, I found many studies that didn’t even try to look at such things, and the one which did found no significant behavioral distinctions among the populations using various high-lethality suicide methods.

            Just now I did a quick google and found a study that seemed to claim that firearm suicides never left notes, but on examination they were counting only a small group of people who had survived suicide-by-gun attempts, which is a highly selective and atypical population.

            And if you do manage to disarm the elusive Transiently Determined American Suicide, he still likely gets in his car every day and has multiple opportunities to kill himself quickly on short notice with literally zero effort.

          • Dr Dealgood says:

            A few years back I was in a pretty rough spot and used to spend a lot of time hanging out on subway platforms trying to jump in front of trains. It’s really really difficult to do even if you desperately want to, as evidenced by me writing this comment, and I definitely would have appreciated an easier method having been available.

            The other issue with heights and impact is that it’s a hell of a gamble. What convinced me to stop loitering in the subway was seeing a warning that “more than a third” of people hit by trains die… which implied that you have a (less than) two thirds chance of getting hit and surviving. That’s a really horrifying idea if you think about it.

            I’m not sure how often people botch gun suicides but my uneducated guess is that, even if the substitution effect is low, you still shouldn’t necessarily push people towards the messier suicide methods.

          • NN says:

            And if you do manage to disarm the elusive Transiently Determined American Suicide, he still likely gets in his car every day and has multiple opportunities to kill himself quickly on short notice with literally zero effort.

            Suicide via deliberate car crash is likely to be unreliable, and if it works may not work fast. Airbags are pretty good at their jobs, and even if they don’t convert a lethal impact to a non-lethal impact could easily convert an instantly lethal impact to an impact that results in a slow and agonizing death. And if you survive and decide that you don’t actually want to die, there is a good chance that you will be left permanently disabled. I can easily imagine that someone might be willing to kill themselves with a quick bullet in the mouth (whether that actually does reliably lead to instant unconsciousness is beside the point; the general public expects it to) but wouldn’t be willing to take those kinds of risks.

            I suspect that when suicide via car crash happens, the usual reason for choosing that method is because they think that that way their death will be declared an accident and thus their life insurance policy will go into effect.

          • tall buildings would be too slow/inconvenient,

            In New York City, most people who commit suicide by jumping from tall buildings do so from their own apartment, so, not necessarily slow or inconvenient.

          • Mark Atwood says:

            driving cars into solid objects at highway speed, also popular but harder to sort from accidents.

            I may appear to be posting a lot on this topic, but there are a lot of posts I write that I didn’t post, or immediately deleted after posting. This might be one of them.

            There are at least three people I used to know who I am pretty sure committed suicide that way (hit a bridge support at high speed while driving drunk with their seatbelts unbuckled, and being someone who was not formerly known to be a reckless driver, a heavy alcohol user, or a non user of seatbelts).

            I will admit to typical-mind typical-experience here, but.. if I know of 3 such, they can’t be all that rare.

            And that way of committing suicide also has the advantage of having plausible deniability, and get formally recorded as a “tragic accident”.

        • Psmith says:

          The impeccably libertarian Alex Tabarrok has a study analyzing guns in this respect: https://mason.gmu.edu/~atabarro/BriggsTabarrokFirearmsSuicide.pdf

          (Bryan Caplan has a good follow-up somewhere. As for me, I think the medication packaging analogy is illuminating–on the one hand, trivial things can influence suicide. On the other hand, I have a jar of 500 loose acetaminophen in my house, and I’m not about to get rid of it or lobby for the prohibition of their sale.).

          • Elissa says:

            Why not ban large bottles of acetaminophen, if doing so prevents people from committing/attempting suicide in a particularly dreadful way that isn’t even that effective at killing you, as opposed to just your liver? If you’ve just gotta have 500 Tylenols on hand at once (you don’t), you can always buy several bottles.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Elissa:

            To put it crudely, because fuck those people, who are going to keep me from being able to buy a bottle of medicine like a regular person, because they’re going to have an “episode” and kill themselves for no reason.

            Why should basically normal, functional people be continually inconvenienced—even trivially inconvenienced—just to prevent dysfunctional people from hurting themselves?

            I’m not saying the dysfunctional people deserve to die, or that all their problems are their own fault. Almost nobody in Hiroshima deserved to die. Very few conscript soldiers in the Wehrmacht deserved to die; it would have been enormously unjust to have mass executions of German conscript soldiers after WWII, even if it had been feasible. But when it was them versus normal regular American soldiers who also didn’t deserve to die, they counted less.

            It seems to me that the basically functional people ought to weigh up the consequences to themselves of the costs imposed by these types of paternalism, versus the costs imposed on them by the death of dysfunctional people from the lack of paternalism. Maybe in extreme cases, paternalism will still be justified. But probably a lot less.

          • Elissa says:

            No but really who cares if you can’t buy 500 acetaminophen in one bottle, I get that you hate mentally ill people but this is not an important thing to be able to do. “If they’re going to die then they’d better do it and decrease the surplus population,” you say? Ok, but maybe they can do it in a way that doesn’t involve an ICU stay and a liver transplant.

          • My understanding is that packaging of medicines and cleaning products (e.g. caps that require special effort to open) has greatly reduced accidental child poisonings.

            Perhaps this is one of those dust-motes-for-the-many-vs.-torture-for-the-few questions: ongoing minor inconvenience for millions over the last 40 years or so, vs. the lives of a few hundred (I’m guessing) small children.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Larry Kestenbaum:

            My understanding is that packaging of medicines and cleaning products (e.g. caps that require special effort to open) has greatly reduced accidental child poisonings.

            Paternalism does have much more going for it when it actually involves children.

            The issue of the rights of children is the most complicated one in law. Parents essentially hold the rights of children in trust until they come of age, but—like the property in a trust—parents don’t own their children. On the one hand, they’re supposed to be responsible for their children and have the most interest in protecting them. On the other hand, many of the consequences of irresponsibility don’t fall on the parents themselves, and it’s also difficult for them to monitor their children all the time (and who monitors the parents?).

            The question is, to what extent should parents be solely responsible for the safety of their children, and to what extent should others (like drug manufacturers or liquor store clerks) be compelled to act in loco parentis? I think it should be as much on the side of parents as possible, but you can more easily make the argument here than in any other area that some paternalism is necessary.

            @ Elissa:

            I don’t hate mentally ill people. I really do lament the fact that they suffer needlessly.

            But do I love or value them as much as non-mentally-ill people? No, to tell the truth.

            Is it so crazy to say that the life of someone who is miserable all the time—even though it’s not his fault at all—is less valuable and less worth protecting, even less worth inconveniencing, than someone who experiences life in the normal way? That may be an “extreme” example—few people are miserable all the time—but if mental illness didn’t cause suffering it would be mental difference, not illness (cf. “homosexuality”).

          • Cord Shirt says:

            “My understanding is that packaging of medicines and cleaning products (e.g. caps that require special effort to open) has greatly reduced accidental child poisonings.”

            [evil] Darwin Award. [/evil]

            …sorry. 😉 Carry on.

          • Elissa says:

            Ah, so “fuck those people” means “I lament their suffering, but DALYs”? Sorry; see, I thought “fuck those people” meant “fuck those people”. Probably a regional difference.

            No but your argument seems confused. “They are suffering and so their lives are less valuable to be saved” (which plenty of utilitarians would accept) is very different from “I love them less,” and neither of them has much to do with the thing you said before about how immoral people’s suffering doesn’t matter. Fortunately I don’t need to try to sort this out with you, because I was talking about the object level problem of preventing acetaminophen overdose, and it’s rather obvious that an acetaminophen overdose is bad for everyone, not just the patient. ICU stays are ludicrously expensive, and a liver transplant costs a liver. And it’s a very common problem, so I don’t see the harm being outweighed by the negligible inconvenience of not having 500 pills in one bottle (do you even use that many before they expire?), even multiplied by millions of people.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Elissa:

            Ah, so “fuck those people” means “I lament their suffering, but DALYs”? Sorry; see, I thought “fuck those people” meant “fuck those people”. Probably a regional difference.

            I said “to put it crudely”. That is my outrage speaking at the absurdity of the thing.

            This is not limited only to big bottles of medicine. It’s every other little nagging thing like it. The fact that I don’t think the lives of a few mentally ill people outweigh the cost of paternalism imposed on everyone else, doesn’t mean I hate mentally ill people.

            No but your argument seems confused. “They are suffering and so their lives are less valuable to be saved” (which plenty of utilitarians would accept) is very different from “I love them less,” and neither of them has much to do with the thing you said before about how immoral people’s suffering doesn’t matter.

            The relevant thing for me is their value relative to me. (The relevant thing for them is my value relative to them.) Their value to me is less than that of a happy, functional person.

            The thing with immoral people is separate. That’s why I talked about it separately. However, on the matter of irrational suicides, I don’t think it’s all a matter of biological factors out of people’s control. I think the correlation between immorality and misery leading to suicide, or between immorality and self-inflicted accidental death, is not zero (nor is it one).

            Fortunately I don’t need to try to sort this out with you, because I was talking about the object level problem of preventing acetaminophen overdose, and it’s rather obvious that an acetaminophen overdose is bad for everyone, not just the patient. ICU stays are ludicrously expensive, and a liver transplant costs a liver.

            To whom do the costs of the ICU stay and the liver transplant naturally accrue? To the patient and his associates. This is not an externality.

            This is government intervention turning a non-externality into an externality.

          • Elissa says:

            I am no more interested in having the philosophical argument with you than anyone else seems to be. I am talking about one specific policy proposal which looks to me like a win. You seem to want to this to be a synecdoche for a whole class of things to which you take “fuck those people”-level umbrage, and your proposed solution is to absolutely prioritize the trivial convenience of “normal” people like you over the welfare of anyone you judge defective, even if it means drastically and impractically overhauling healthcare reimbursement and the medical ethics of emergent care.

            No thanks! I think I will go talk to someone else about something else. Enjoy the rest of your thread.

          • Paternalism does have much more going for it when it actually involves children.

            You have a way with words, sir!

            [evil] Darwin Award. [/evil]

            There is a reason I keep bringing up the childproof cap regulation.

            I don’t remember this, but when I was a toddler, in Chicago more than half a century ago, I got into the cabinet under the sink, opened up one or more containers of dangerous stuff, and it was feared that I might have done some harm to myself. My parents were very smart people (my father had a PhD), but they were afflicted with their own problems, and obviously they couldn’t keep an eye on me every second.

          • I’ve heard that those hard-to-open medicine bottle are a significant barrier for people (mostly old) whose hands are in bad shape. This seems reasonable, but maybe there are tools for opening the bottles?

          • brad says:

            Last time I got medicine the bottle cap was reverseable. Put on right side up it was childproof, upside down it was a lot easier to open. Something like this: http://www.southpointesurgical.com/images%5Crvial.jpg

            It came to me in the childproof mode, but presumably I could have asked the pharmacy to do it the other way. Not sure if they’d be legally required to ask me if I have kids at home or what.

          • Dan Peverley says:

            >Why not ban large bottles of acetaminophen, if doing so prevents people from committing/attempting suicide

            Because it’s wrong to inconvenience everyone else for the sake of a trivially small set of people who are A) buying 500 Tylenol bottles which apparently no one needs (one wonders why they continue to be sold so often), B)Suicidal, and C) Specifically the sort of suicidal which gives them enough dedication to swallow enough tylenol to hurt themselves, but D) not enough to buy several bottles or use a surer method, like hanging, asphyxiation, firearms, tall buildings, razors, liquid nitrogen, or rat poison.

            Why not ban any number of things which make lives better in a small and unnecessary way, but entail some amount of risk? There have got to be better candidates than conveniently large amounts of over the counter medicine with regular uses.

          • Elissa says:

            @Dan: You might think the set of people affected is trivially small, but you might be surprised, because again, it’s been studied: http://www.bmj.com/content/322/7296/1203?linkType=FULL&resid=322/7296/1203&journalCode=bmj

            As far as better candidates: Which? What do you want to give up before you give up your giant bottles of Tylenol? You guys sure love your Tylenol, I dunno.

          • Furslid says:

            Elissa, I’d argue against banning large bottles of medicine because it is a member of a very large class of possible interventions. I don’t like inconveniencing everyone to protect a few people from themselves.

            1. Require that cars be wired so that they cannot be shifted out of park unless seatbelts are fastened.
            2. Update construction codes so that mountings for ceiling fans and similar cannot support more than the weight of the fan + 100 lbs. (Prevents hanging suicides.)
            3. Require some sort of barrier at the edge of some streets except at crosswalks. (Keeps people out of traffic.)
            4. And so on.

            I don’t see a good way to keep out other interventions once I accepted the large bottle ban. Even if I accepted interventions of this type, I would put my effort on the best possible ones, and number 1 is much more effective than the bottle ban.

            Elissa, I couldn’t find the rates as a proportion of population or compare with other trends in suicide. The first chart (Paracetimol deaths in England, Scotland, and Wales) showed a reduction of 59 deaths. Given the population involved, I’d call that trivially small.

  77. Loyle says:

    I wonder if I’m the only one who sees charts like this
    https://slatestarcodex.com/blog_images/gun_deaths5b.jpg
    and immediately wonder “but what percentage is that of the total population?” Because it seems like that might be a number that matters.

    • JBeshir says:

      It’s per million people, so divide by 10,000 and there’s your percentage.

      • Loyle says:

        By which I mean I’m lazy and assume most people are lazy, and would prefer numbers represented in terms of relative risk, as well as whatever fearmongering they’re doing.
        And I most certainly did not accidentally read “per million people” to mean anything other than, “per million people in their respective countries”, and you can’t prove otherwise.

  78. Enquiring Mind says:

    Guns serve as protection against 100% of Black Swan attacks. That is an underlying message about unrevealed preferences in discussions about protection.

  79. Mariani says:

    Not mentioning non-firearm homicides is the biggest dishonest part of the discourse on guns. Is dying from a firearm somehow worse than dying from anything else?

    • Loyle says:

      The assumption is that as ease of causing death lowers, so too will rate of death. Killing with a firearm is easier, and generally safer for the killer, than killing with a non-firearm. It’s not being dishonest, it’s just a presupposed set of values.

      • Mariani says:

        But I am talking about when we can select for homicides that have nothing to do with a firearm, just like Scott did.

        • Loyle says:

          I’m not sure I understand. Successful homicides with guns vs not guns are equally terrible, yes. People care more about gun homicides, and choose to focus on them and not talk about non gun homicides at all, because attempted non-gun homicides are considered more likely to fail. And this reasoning is not necessarily done consciously.

          I’m also pretty sure people, in general and by design, cannot process fighting a vague menace “violence” without focusing on a specific boogeyman “gun”. It is a shame that is so, but it is also understandable as people will actively ignore things they can’t hope to solve over something that seems attainable.

          I also may be talking out of my ass. That is something to consider.

  80. Bill Walker says:

    I live in New Hampshire. Like Vermont, we have no gun laws to speak of. The Twin States have the lowest homicide rate in the US.

    If you want to reduce domestic violence, end Drug Prohibition. If you want to reduce foreign violence, stop launching wars and backing dictators and terrorist groups.

    The War on Guns and the War on Drugs are the same war… and it’s a war on us.

    http://www.concordmonitor.com/home/20253643-95/my-turn-to-end-violence-declare-war-on-wars

    • Scott Alexander says:

      You have the lowest homicide rate because you’re very rural and have few Southerners or minorities.

      • Ahilan Nagendram says:

        And average high-IQ. Southern Whites in general have lower IQ than New England Whites.

    • Cord Shirt says:

      Hi, fellow Yankee. 😉

      I’m inclined to support having those drugs which are currently illegal for recreational use, remain so. (Or even returning them to the status of criminal rather than just civil violation.) Because in my subculture, nobody uses them and that’s at least partly because they *are* illegal. And for this reason we are a happy, healthy community unaffected by the problems of drugs.

      Nobody I know has even tried marijuana. (I mean, we’ve discussed this.) None of us would even know how to get it. If we could just walk into a store and buy some, at least some of us would shrug and give it a try–but we can’t, so we don’t.

      Feel free to argue that I and everyone I know should agree to impose a disruptive change on our healthy, happy, these are illegal so it doesn’t even really occur to us to even try to use them, community–because other US communities are different, and not just different, but suffering terribly. (I’m sure you know we Yankees are very receptive to such arguments. ;))

      *But do not tell us we do not exist.*

      If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. In my community, it ain’t broke. If it’s broke elsewhere, I need to actually see an argument saying so. One that doesn’t beg the question, assume it’s broke everywhere, and tell me my community doesn’t even exist.

      Over to you. :listening:

      (BTW. I’m amused by the fact that, here in Yankeedom, the person making your argument is a Republican, and the person making mine is the one who leans Dem. Are we stuck in 1950 or what? ;))

      • alaska3636 says:

        Minimum wage laws probably work pretty well in your neck of the woods as well. In urban areas they might price people out of a job, encourage welfare dependence or make the drug trade (or simply abusing drugs) a reasonable alternative.

        Regardless, I respect your right to be as boring as you sound but your community, city and state could make people abide by your cultural preferences a lot more fairly and constructively than a federal mandate that applies to everyone everywhere.

        • Cord Shirt says:

          You uh…haven’t actually provided any argument or evidence that things are any worse anywhere else or how changing drug laws would help with this.

          Again, Yankees are pretty happy to make sacrifices on behalf of others, but…you do need to ask us to.

          Let’s try again: What makes you think it’s broke? (And where? And how broke?) And what, specifically, makes you think changing drug laws would fix it?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            You uh…haven’t actually provided any argument or evidence that things are any worse anywhere else or how changing drug laws would help with this.

            The negative consequences of the Drug War have been covered many times and in many places.

            If you’re just totally ignorant of this, here are the first things that pop in my head. Prisons filled with non-violent offenders. Minority communities devastated by gang violence over drug-selling “turf” and by having fathers imprisoned. Insurgencies and national turmoil in countries like Colombia and Mexico.

            Again, Yankees are pretty happy to make sacrifices on behalf of others, but…you do need to ask us to.

            Let’s try again: What makes you think it’s broke? (And where? And how broke?) And what, specifically, makes you think changing drug laws would fix it?

            This sort of folksy golly-gee attitude is not very becoming. “I’m just a simple country lawyer,” give me a break.

            No one is even asking you to make sacrifices on behalf of others. If drugs are illegal both in Compton, CA and Arcadian-Utopia, VT, probably the reason people in the latter don’t do drugs has to do with something other than the law.

            I think it’s great that the people you know don’t use drugs, even marijuana. If people in your little paradise did want to use marijuana, though, they would find out how to get it. I myself have never used it, and I wouldn’t know where to get it. It can’t be that hard of an intellectual mystery, though. Also, I don’t think it would be too bad if a few people in your town did use marijuana, since it is mostly harmless.

            Why, exactly, do you think the end of the Drug War would result in Arcadian-Utopia, VT becoming a den of iniquity?

          • Cord Shirt says:

            @Vox Imperatoris:

            “Folksy golly-gee”

            That’s uh…I’ll just say it’s not the message I set out to send and leave it at that.

            “The negative consequences of the Drug War have been covered many times and in many places.”

            Generally in misleading and politicized ways, yes. I’ve ignored such coverage. It’s not an issue I care much about.

            “Prisons filled with non-violent offenders.”

            When people started saying, “The US can solve our high imprisonment rate by releasing nonviolent offenders,” I looked into it, and it seems that to make a dent you’d actually have to release violent offenders. I don’t remember my source and I don’t care enough about this issue to dig it back up, so I can’t blame you if you don’t believe me, but :shrug:

            “Minority communities devastated by gang violence over drug-selling “turf” and by having fathers imprisoned.”

            I remember when crack hit the cities and black leaders asked for it to have extra draconian penalties so as to save their communities.

            I’m aware that that didn’t work. I’m not convinced that means legalization would help. If you want me to begin supporting legalization, you need to give me an actual argument.

            “Insurgencies and national turmoil in countries like Colombia and Mexico.”

            Again…

            You can’t just list these things and automatically have me agree with you. You haven’t even given an argument as to how and why illegal drugs caused this or how and why legalization would help now that it’s gotten going.

            “Why, exactly, do you think the end of the Drug War would result in Arcadian-Utopia, VT becoming a den of iniquity?”

            That’s not what I think. I’ve already said what I think: We are fine as we are, and legalization would introduce a possible risk/disruption. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Why should we change things?

            This snide misrepresentation of my views isn’t exactly winning me over.

            “Arcadian-Utopia, VT”

            “your little paradise”

            …I don’t think where I live is particularly “paradisiacal,” and I wasn’t trying to portray it that way. Are you only hostile because you think I was trying to brag, or do you actually think a place where nobody uses drugs *is* “paradise”? If the latter, why?

          • JBeshir says:

            For just one effect, drug laws turn a lot of people into people who can’t or won’t have anything to do with law enforcement, which has some very nasty effects when they need to resolve disputes.

            With prison or government-enforced fines not available for vigilantes, the only available response is physical retaliation. Without a neutral, agreed upon system for arbitration (the courts), the other party’s only available way to dispute such a response is further physical retaliation. And so potentially otherwise reasonable people end up in violent, ugly gang/clan/family violence, with sizeable externalities on everyone else.

            Even if you have no bias towards freedom of choice or where burdens are distributed, and use naive utility calculation based only on known outcomes, and would be fine barring things causally involved sometimes with bad outcomes down the chain to interfere with them, the drug laws as they are seem to be causing much worse bad outcomes down the chain than the original problem, and the pragmatic thing to do is to not have them as they are, I think. I can understand if you want particular evidence on it if you’ve not seen any before.

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Cord Shirt:

            I didn’t like your tone of condescending to the rest of the country and the world, which does have serious problems, saying “Nothing’s wrong here! Don’t fix what ain’t broke!”

            I am skeptical that none of the problems induced by the drug war have ever infiltrated into your community. At the very least, you bear the burden of taxation. Regardless, other places are “broke” and we ought to do something to fix them.

            Besides, if you think your community is in no danger either way, it’s no skin off your ass if legalization goes wrong. If it is only in a very small amount of danger, your claim about being willing to sacrifice for others isn’t very convincing. “I’m willing to sacrifice for others, but they are a distant people and their troubles are none of my concern. What if I try something to help them and it has a small danger of hurting my community?”

            I really didn’t want to write a whole treatise how the drug war causes problems. (And I would recommend a source, but I’m really not sure what’s best as a comprehensive guide.) Your phrasing, however, made it like you were trying to pass yourself off as a complete babe in the woods who has never even heard anyone suggest that such problems exist or might possibly be cured. So I pointed out a few consequences.

            If you have heard these arguments but don’t find them convincing, why didn’t you say so? That’s not unreasonable. Instead, you have this line about how you’re so virtuous and willing to sacrifice for others, but “haven’t been asked”.

            Sanctimonious. That’s the word I’m looking for. I’m sorry if I took it the wrong way, but that’s how your first post comes off.

            But there’s no need for any more acrimoniousness if this was just a misunderstanding.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            @Vox Imp:

            …so I’m supposed to
            * already know all about your troubles; *and*
            * already be convinced that this specific putative solution to your troubles is the right one; *and*
            * be eager for my community to make sacrifices in order to bring that about?

            You don’t think you have any responsibility to do any convincing at all?

            “We Are All already Decided,” eh?

            (TIL: This attitude actually not limited to SJWs. ;))

            I’ve never heard anybody actually try to make this case (except for JBeshir just now). I’ve only encountered people assuming…We Are All Already Decided.

            I don’t care enough about this topic to want to pick out every instance of question-begging in your comment. Suffice it to say the inferential distance is far greater than you seem to be assuming.

            …oh fine, here, I’ll pick out one of them:

            “What if I try something to help them”

            “Something”?

            We are not all already decided. You need to make an actual argument.

            “Your phrasing, however, made it like you were trying to pass yourself off as a complete babe in the woods who has never even heard anyone suggest that such problems exist or might possibly be cured.”

            More like those are the *only* things I’ve heard people suggest. What I haven’t heard is an argument that seems…well…actually based on anything. (Again, maybe an issue of inferential distance?)

            Actually I am embarrassed that I don’t know as much about this topic as I’d like to. I’d like to be more informed, it’s just that it’s not an issue I’ve ever focused on. Partly because finding actual arguments has not been easy! And partly because, yes, my community doesn’t have a drug problem.

            If your view is that anyone who puts their own community’s issues first on their list of topics to research is immoral or even just “has no right to claim to be willing to sacrifice for others”…I have to disagree. Someone who wants me to do something for them needs to make their case. It’s not my job to solve all your problems for you without you even asking.

            IOW, I don’t know if it’s a misunderstanding, so–well, hope the above clarifies my position.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            @JBeshir:

            “For just one effect, drug laws turn a lot of people into people who can’t or won’t have anything to do with law enforcement, which has some very nasty effects when they need to resolve disputes.”

            Why is it a lot of people?

            What’s wrong with just obeying the law?

            Why should I support changing the law just because “a lot of” people have chosen to break it? If “a lot of” people keep choosing to break the law, sounds to me like it needs *more* enforcement, not less.

            Our social contract includes the idea that if one objects to the law, one campaigns to change it, one does not just break it. Or in the rare event that one does break it, one accepts the consequences (the whole point of civil disobedience is that one accepts one’s unjust imprisonment in order to show others that the law and the imprisonment *are* unjust). We agreed to behave this way to enable us all to get along in peace. If people start violating that agreement, we…well…can no longer live together in peace.

            *Why* should I care about outlaws again?

            :reads on:

            “And so potentially otherwise reasonable people”

            …who initiated this by breaking the law…

            😉

            You’re describing a serious problem of communities out of sync with the law. People who choose to break the law and try to get away with it, rather than to campaign to change the law.

            That does not happen *just* because everyone got together and decided to make something illegal.

            Yes, of course I’m aware that communities like that exist. However, I’d like to see a real argument as to what caused that situation–and why “just changing the law” (let alone this specific law) would solve it. (Do you think most people who have spent years operating in murderous gangs are going to suddenly go legit?)

            “the drug laws as they are seem to be causing much worse bad outcomes down the chain than the original problem, and the pragmatic thing to do is to not have them as they are, I think.”

            This makes some sense if true, but I’m not convinced it is. Again, something being illegal doesn’t force anyone to try to get away with doing it anyway. That requires something else in addition. With Prohibition, it was pre-existing cultures and addictions. (Similarly, with the gun arguments here, it would be pre-existing culture, including a belief that gun ownership is a civil right.)

            Do you have cites on the history of drug laws in various places? Why have people chosen to make them illegal in the first place?

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            @ Cord Shirt:

            I was not intending to present an argument to you that the drug war is unjust. I was initially expressing disbelief that you had not heard such arguments. If you have and don’t like them, fine. If you haven’t, I don’t really want to provide them because if I did, I’d end up writing something really long about a topic that I have discussed many times before.

            But here is a good essay “America’s Unjust Drug War” by Michael Huemer, that provides a short overview case, if you are interested.

            So I don’t think I’m begging any questions. I’m not trying to prove to you that the drug war is wrong and assuming it is. I was taking affront to your blasé attitude toward it and apparent ignorance of it.

            Indeed, I mistakenly thought that your attitude was somewhat sarcastic when I read your first post, since I was not familiar with your writing style as a commenter. I was doing the equivalent of telling you to knock off the innocent act.

            So yeah, I’ve “already decided”. I appreciate that it would be necessary for you to be convinced that the drug war is harmful in order for you to support ending it. I just don’t wish to be the one who does the convincing. I hope the Huemer article is a good start, though. Or check out the work of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or (especially) the many writings put out by the Cato Institute on this subject. (I’m sure this is coming off as condescending, but I don’t know how else to put it.)

            If your view is that anyone who puts their own community’s issues first on their list of topics to research is immoral or even just “has no right to claim to be willing to sacrifice for others”…I have to disagree. Someone who wants me to do something for them needs to make their case. It’s not my job to solve all your problems for you without you even asking.

            Sure, inferential distances and contexts of knowledge are very real. I agree. No one can know everything.

            I’m the last person who’s going to tell you that you have an obligation to sacrifice for others, or put them in front of yourself. But you don’t only gain values from those in your community; you gain them from interaction—direct or indirect—with people elsewhere in your country and around the world. We have an economic system of globalized capitalism. What affects them affects you. By no means by the same amount—that’s why you don’t have to put them before you and your family—but nevertheless there is a real effect.

            Your post suggested to me an attitude of callous indifference and a huge degree of provincialism. I am not in a position to evaluate your personal choices; I don’t blame or criticize you if you’ve had better things to do than investigate this issue. But consider this little example:

            Suppose someone comes up to me and asks me why I’m not doing anything to speak up for the people in Tangostan who are being oppressed by my country. I’ve never heard of Tangostan. Do I tell him, “That’s very nice, dear, but we’re doing just fine here. Why should I do anything for Tangostan? Give me a reason I should disturb my idyllic community.”

            Of course I do need a reason to help. But that’s a rude way to ask, one which suggests that if a reason were given, I would not likely be moved. If you didn’t mean it like that, my apologies. However, saying things like that is likely to produce similar misunderstandings in the future.

            Also, if it is reasonably expected that I might know something about Tangostan and the arguments for helping them, I should not phrase things like “How come you people banging on about Tangostan have never given me a reason to help?”

            Finally, as I said, I’m not about to tell you that you have to sacrifice for others. But when you and your community seem really self-absorbed in your own affairs, I don’t really believe you when you say you’re willing to sacrifice for others, which means to put their needs ahead of your own.

            If you want to be selfish, admit it. To say that people who want your help have to seek you out is selfish. If you really wanted to sacrifice for them, you’d seek them out. It’s not like you’re unaware there are problems in the world. And yes, that means your little community doesn’t get to be as happy and doesn’t get to think about its own problems first (or at all!) if those problems are less severe—which you have reason to know they are.

            I find it hilarious that I’m having to say this. I am a follower of Ayn Rand and a believer in absolute egoism. I don’t think you do have the obligation to be unselfish; indeed I think you ought to put yourself first. But I don’t like hypocrisy. Don’t claim to be unselfish when you’re not; you will then neither consistently pursue effective altruism nor effective egoism. And callous indifference is not an attitude one should wish to project even as an egoist because the affairs of others are not rationally a matter of indifference.

            It seems that “Yankees” are willing to sacrifice for others when those others enter their visual field…

            But you see, I am not demanding that you sacrifice for others. I think you should support ending the drug war not in spite of it harming you but because it will benefit you. The argument for that it will benefit you is contained is the Huemer article and in the many other resources available.

          • “* be eager for my community to make sacrifices in order to bring that about?”

            I haven’t followed all of this. Am I correct in understanding that what you mean by your community making sacrifices is your community putting up with the repeal of a law applying to every community in the country that you find it convenient to have apply to you? Allowing people in other places to smoke marijuana counts as your making a sacrifice?

            Even if marijuana was legal nationally, there could be a state or even town law against it, after all. A little harder to enforce–but the current law isn’t enforced very effectively. Similarly for other drugs.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            @Vox Imp:

            I’m laughing, because my initial request was for an activist to actually activist. And JBeshir stepped up–thanks, JBeshir!

            But *you* OTOH are basically saying: “Educate *yourself*”!

            Heh. At least you are suggesting a couple things for me to read. I was about to say “and not going straight for the shaming,” except wait, you did! It’s only *now* that you got around to suggesting anything. Heh.

            (Hypothesis: That’s why SJWs go straight for the shaming, too. It’s really “just” that they’re freaked out by such great inferential distance.)

            Also, if it is *reasonably expected* that I might know something about Tangostan and the arguments for helping them, I should not phrase things like “How come you people banging on about Tangostan have never given me a reason to help?”

            That’s exactly what I’m objecting to: Your “side’s” assumption that of course we all already agree or, at least, have heard the arguments.

            If, when I say “I haven’t heard the arguments and I’d like to,” the response I get is focused on shaming me for not already having heard them…

            Rather than on *sharing* them with me, which I’m not just *open* to but even *asked* for…

            That encourages me to think that most members of this group don’t actually *have* any arguments. And that their *actual* reason for holding this position is just, “All the Cool Kids already agree with me.” (Or as the Capitol Steps put it…)

            You’re absolutely taking the standard SJW line here.

            I can sort of sympathize with your feelings, just like I can sort of sympathize with SJWs’ feelings in similar situations. Still, ultimately I’m with Freddie: You don’t win politically by assuming everyone else already shares all your assumptions and trying to shame anyone who doesn’t.

            I don’t really believe you when you say you’re willing to sacrifice for others, which means to put their needs ahead of your own.

            If you want to be selfish, admit it. To say that people who want your help have to seek you out is selfish. If you really wanted to sacrifice for them, you’d seek them out.

            Yankees are constantly mocked as weaklings and fools for our willingness to sacrifice for others. That’s because we really are especially susceptible to such appeals. It seems that what I intended as self-deprecating humor, you read as a brag… Really, it’s neither good nor bad, it just is what it is.

            It seems odd to me that you’re equating “willingness to put others’ needs first when asked” with “desire to seek out others to whom to subordinate one’s needs.” I don’t know anyone (other than you, I guess) who would call those the same thing. I’ve never read Rand (I’ve read about her, but haven’t read her), so I’m not sure I understand your position there, but I guess you reject both? Maybe that’s why you equate them. I sure don’t.

            Since I’m not an SJW, I don’t think people who want help are entitled to receive it without even asking. I think they have to ask. (Off the original topic, but applies to this digression: Plus, who am I to stick my nose in and interfere with someone else who never asked me to? That’s rude and none of my business. If they don’t ask, I’m to respect that they don’t want me involved.)

            (Back to the point.) I also agree with Freddie that this is a basic fact of politics: The person who wants the political change is the one who needs to approach others with arguments for the desired change. If you aren’t willing to approach others and make arguments, don’t expect them to just automatically start agreeing with you.

            Really, I’ve just had it up to here with We Are All Already Decided. People have a right to go about their lives–their *happy, healthy* lives, even! ;)–without being suddenly accosted by vicious assholes because how dare they not already agree. I say the same thing to SJWs.

            It was probably a bad idea for me to start reading the Huemer article while annoyed with you 😉 but I read the first section and it was pretty annoying–for the same reason. It wasn’t even just, “I don’t see any reason for this fence to be here.” It was worse than that: It was, “I don’t see any reason we should build a fence here,” *ignoring the fact that we already have*. As if it didn’t matter that we had. As if it were impossible to imagine that that fact even *might* have some relevance to the discussion. It just…started from the wrong place and hence put me off from the beginning.

            @JBeshir, hope you come back–your reply was the kind of thing I was looking for and I was finding that conversation interesting.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            @David:

            You seem to be operating from a “small government” baseline assumption/framing that I don’t share. Yeah, how dare I not want to deal with the disruption that remaking formerly-federal laws into more local ones would cause. 😉

            Actually I’m pretty open to the idea of, in general, making government more local, even though it would cause disruption. (After all, I tentatively support “get rid of police”–which would be even more of a devolution, along the lines of power shifting from “state and local” to “personal, though of course backed by local law.”) The disruption just needs to be taken into account in our cost-benefit calculations, that’s all. Starting out with the framing that “Of course we should do this and it has no costs” just…at best it’s unconvincing, and right now it’s actively annoying me.

      • nil says:

        I’ll let other people cover the regular bases to make an appeal that doesn’t get stated often, but is certainly at the core of why me and my friends use, and, especially, used them: drugs are facinating.

        There’s still a few profound mysteries floating around in the world. I won’t try and claim that the nature of consciousness is necessarily the superlative one (although it is in my book), but I will note that it’s one of the only ones we can truly play around with as amateurs. No need for telescopes or supercolliders; all you need is minute amounts of particular chemicals and a reasonably strong set of gonads. My life would be so much shallower if I hadn’t experienced the antineurosis of MDMA, the hypertrophic curiosity of LSD, the sheer alienness of DMT or salvia. It’s not about cartoon characters or giddy laughter (well, sometime it’s about giddy laughter), but about experiencing for, at least a brief period of time, an entirely difference experience of thought and being–and knowing that, despite the claims of the flakier flavors of hippie, there’s nothing predestined about those modes. They’re contingent on utterly unplanned interactions between a hundred million years of brain evolution and weird chemicals that would never have had any reason to interact with one another were it not for blunt experimentation, and they’re quite possibly nothing more than the narrowest and randomest of slices taken from an unfathomable and unexplained rainbow of sentience.

        Most focus is on the more everyday drugs in these conversations, and it should be. That’s where you’re going to find your measurable costs and benefits. But, even so, I can’t help but feel that there’s something very deeply wrong in denying people the experience of the weird ones. It’s like outlawing color.

        • Cord Shirt says:

          (“outlawing color” Was that a Pleasantville reference? I feel silly asking since I’ve never seen it, only read about it..but…)

          This is interesting.

          To me, what you’re talking about still seems like…well…an extra. I mean…now I know that too because…you told me (actually I learned the same thing from reading Oliver Sacks on neurological differences)…so…now I don’t need to go perturbing the chaotic system that is my brain and consciousness with drugs. I can leave it the hell alone and remain balanced. (Or as balanced as I ever get anyway. 😉 ) KWIM?

          I guess the point is, you’re talking about experiences that seem to fall in the “might be nice, but nobody really *suffers* from not experiencing them” category. So…I guess I’m just not seeing it as actual deprivation.

          And I probably think the drugs you’re discussing are riskier than (it seems) you do. You’ve worded it as all benefit, no cost…obviously I’m not so sure. We decided they should be illegal for a reason, after all.

          • “We decided they should be illegal for a reason, after all.”

            As best I can tell, marijuana became illegal because of a wildly dishonest PR campaign closely linked to anti-hispanic prejudice. Am I mistaken?

            I don’t see the outcome of the legislative process as “we decided.” I didn’t. And while there is surely a reason for the outcome, it’s a big jump from the existence of a reason to the existence of a good reason. The reason for quite a lot of legislation, such as tariffs, is that the gainers find it easier to organize politically to buy congressional votes than the losers.

          • Tibor says:

            I think the main problem with LSD is that it is manufactured illegally and you cannot check the content and the concentration. So the effects of two LSD papers can vary and you have to trust your sources. It is potentially dangerous in the sense that you can do stupid stuff on a trip which could get you hurt and that you can potentially go crazy if you take too much at a time. Both of those problems would be significantly reduced if you could buy LSD legally, say at an apothecary with a certification of contents and maybe with an official “how to use” guide. Any sensible person will first ask a more experienced friend to do the LSD with them the first time he does it, but some might not recognize the risks and it does not help that you have to rely on hearsay.

            By the way, when marijuana is depicted in a popular TV show, it is almost always grotesquely wrong. They talk about being “on a trip”. No amount of marijuana is hallucinogenic and the worst that can happen if you smoke too much of it or eat too many cookies is that you will be almost numb for a few hours while being extremely oversensitive to touch. You also keep getting lost in conversation a lot (what were we talking about just now?) and have a different sense of time (20 minutes can feel like an hour or two) It is about as unpleasant (although very different) as when you drink too much. If you don’t take too much, it does the same things but to a lesser degree, so it makes you feel kind of very relaxed and easy (also lazy in a way).

            By the way, a friend of mine used to take methamphetamine when he was 20ish (now he is over 40, has a family and works as an optometrist). I talked to him about this and he told me that they heard from the official sources how bad marijuana is (this was the early 90s and most Czech drug laws and attitudes were still largely unchanged from the communist era when illegal drugs were heavily repressed) but when they tried it, it was nothing like that…so they figured meth would not be such a big deal either. If you misinform about one thing, people are not going to trust you even when you tell the truth.

          • nil says:

            Not a conscious reference, although certainly sharing the same philosophy.

            As far “now I know because you told me”–you really don’t. You couldn’t. The language can’t really have the words to describe these things, because how could it? The shared experience you’d need to share semantic meaning isn’t there, neither between the two of us nor in our wider culture.

            As far as “still sounds dangerous”–no doubt. I mean, less so with salvia and DMT since they’re so short-lived (although that doesn’t preclude some degree of psychological danger, I’d be lying if I denied the former having scared the ever-living fuck out of me), but LSD is potentially a few hours of temporary psychosis and probably introduces a suicide risk even when the grip on reality is maintained. MDMA doesn’t carry those kinds of risks if used correctly (it’s an interesting drug in that that, if anything, it’s an experience of *greater* sanity than sobriety), but that’s a big “if” when the risks of incorrect use are potentially fatal hyperthermia and water poisoning… plus, although the evidence points to “fine in moderation” the jury is still out on mild neurotoxicity. I don’t know what the legal regime would look like for them, but the model should probably be more around the lines of skydiving than liquor stores, especially absent any kind of widespread cultural knowledge about proper use (worth noting that that’s the only reason alcohol is as tolerable as it is–if it’d been invented in the last century, it’d be regarded as a terrifying Schedule I drug and would probably be the rhetorical lynchpin of the entire pro-prohibition argument)

            I don’t doubt that this would be superfluous to your currently-balanced life. In my first post I included “and especially used” as a reference to the fact that outside of the occasional dance with Molly, I haven’t done this stuff, nor wanted to do this stuff, since I was 25 and Bush II was president. But I’m sure glad I did.

          • onyomi says:

            “We decided”

            I wish this phrase were banned from political discourse.

          • Cord Shirt says:

            @David: I don’t know, you’re the one trying to change others’ minds, looks to me like the burden of proof is on you. 😉

            @Tibor:

            It’s easy to say that (about LSD), but it doesn’t address the question of why it’s illegal in the first place, so that argument comes off as facile/flippant.

            As for marijuana…

            Yes, some people overgeneralize from “This doesn’t have any *obvious* negative effects *right now*” to “This is definitely perfectly safe and they lied,” and then to “…so they’re lying about everyone else.” Seems like a reason to be honest about your warnings and not exaggerate them.

            @nil:

            I haven’t had the experience, but I do have the knowledge that “state of mind is somewhat biologically-based and arbitrary” which you suggested is the reason the experience is valuable. Though again, I got that more from Sacks (neurology) than you (drugs). Are you familiar with Sacks? /The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat/, etc.?

            I also have the experience of having had a rare side effect of a pain med which changed my state of mind. I’m glad I’d already read Sacks, I guess. The med resulted in the very odd thought or attitude “Wouldn’t it be *cool* to commit suicide,” which…was so obviously different from what I normally think that it just…was obvious it was from the med (or from the mental changes created by it) and not “me” (my typical state of mind and volition). So I ignored it till the med wore off.

            Now on the one hand, I did choose not to keep taking that med. On the other, it…wasn’t really a bad experience; the fact that this wasn’t “my kind of thought” was too obvious. (The whole thing would have been far more dangerous if it had made me–or I had already been–*sad* too.) Back to the first hand, I didn’t really need to have that experience…I’d already read Sacks.

            “widespread cultural knowledge about proper use (worth noting that that’s the only reason alcohol is as tolerable as it is–if it’d been invented in the last century, it’d be regarded as a terrifying Schedule I drug and would probably be the rhetorical lynchpin of the entire pro-prohibition argument)”

            Yep. And look at Sherman Alexie’s autobiographical writing for one example (of many that exist) of how a local-to-America subculture who did not have such cultural knowledge when they first encountered alcohol, still do not have such cultural knowledge today. With other drugs we in the USA don’t have such cultural knowledge–and from the example of alcohol, it looks like gaining such cultural knowledge would take a long, long time, if it even happened at all.

            @onyomi:

            Heh, I chose it on purpose. I’m an American, I believe in we the people, “Our ruler is law and the law is our own,” etc., etc. 😉

            Someone making David’s “*I* don’t remember deciding, *I* was never consulted, etc” argument strikes me as sending a (very weak) signal of defection/free-riding. (Sorry, David.) It seems to say, “I’m not part of society, I don’t want society’s protection…and when society calls on all its members to extend that protection to someone else, I won’t participate.”

          • ” It seems to say, “I’m not part of society, I don’t want society’s protection…and when society calls on all its members to extend that protection to someone else, I won’t participate.””

            I do not believe there is a moral agent known as “society” to which I have obligations. My obligations are all to human beings.

            To put the point a little differently, right and wrong are not made by act of Congress.

          • Tibor says:

            @Cord Shirt : Alcohol was made illegal in the US once. I don’t think that the fact that something is illegal is a very strong justification for it being illegal. Also, you have to deal with different (first-world) jurisdictions treating different drugs differently. Most notably, recreational marijuana is legal even in some US states now.

            Also, I am not saying that drugs are harmless but that criminalizing them usually produces worse outcomes in total than not doing that. Alcohol can mess you up in the long term (and you can also die of alcohol poisoning in the very short term) but making it illegal lead to much worse problems than keeping it legal. I don’t think that alcohol is a very unique case and that the main difference is that it is a culture drug which means that most people are well-informed about it (and also want to consume it) which is not true of most other drugs.

  81. Nicholas Weininger says:

    Thought experiment: consider the cost-benefit analysis of a similar “soft prohibition” on alcohol. Very high excise taxes and/or bans on supposedly “bad” kinds of drinks (over 100 proof, mixed with sugar or caffeine) and/or making people jump through extra “safety education” hoops, background checks, and the like to get a license to buy alcohol. Most of these things AIUI have been enacted somewhere, so this is not a pure hypothetical.

    You’d get, as the US got from hard Prohibition, a considerable decrease in alcohol consumption. You’d very likely get a substantial decrease in alcohol poisoning deaths (compare to Scott’s discussion of suicides). You’d plausibly get a much smaller but still significant decrease in drunk driving deaths (compare to homicides).

    I haven’t run the numbers– though perhaps someone has!– but I would be willing to bet nontrivial money that the pure utilitarian analysis would come out the same way Scott’s analysis on guns comes out. Moreover, the social effects would be similar. Wealthy enthusiasts with $100 bottles of Bordeaux would be little affected; the consumption reduction would be disproportionately among the lower-income and lower-IQ. And you’d have the same enforcement problems as with any other War On X.

    So, would that be good policy? The paternalist case in favor is pretty clear, and pretty damn similar to Scott’s case. The libertarian case against is also clear: it’s wrong to burden the millions of responsible drinkers of modest means who just want a beer or glass of wine with dinner, or a drink down at the local bar, in order to make us incrementally safer from a few abusers. And I suggest that if you find that libertarian case more salient, and the paternalist case less appealing, for alcohol, you may be either irrationally othering gun owners and undervaluing their pleasure, or irrationally fearing being shot more than being killed by a drunk driver, or both.

    • JBeshir says:

      As someone who favours cocktails and so would plausibly be affected, I think this approach would be entirely reasonable, if the effect of smuggling was low enough that it actually worked. I’m fine with current high alcohol taxes, as a politically viable step in this direction, and would support increasing them incrementally until they represented actual societal costs of having that amount of alcohol consumed. I am fine internalising the costs of my preferences to society, and if those costs are too high then I’m okay stopping doing it. Insisting that I be allowed to continue, and the costs of the thing I want be pushed onto other people without me compensating everyone else for them, would seem churlish.

      I am okay with this leading to poorer people not being able to afford it, for the same reason I am okay with economic forces leading to them being unable to become civil aviation pilots- we have more significant welfare concerns to be spending resources on than setting laws that subsidise consumption of luxury products by people who can’t afford to internalise the costs of those products being made available, by offloading those costs onto other people.

      Whether the effect of smuggling would be low enough given taxes of the scale being discussed is an open empirical question for alcohol. Casual evasion of alcohol taxes happens- would it turn into drug-style distribution networks? If so, the utilitarian approach would no longer favour it, and neither would I.

      It’s also an open empirical question for guns in the US, although not guns in Europe- in Europe we’ve already observed that demand simply doesn’t exist at sufficient scale or with sufficient willingness of the general population to turn a blind eye to it. You could plausibly crank up taxes gradually and see what happens, ala alcohol taxes.

      • Vox Imperatoris says:

        I am fine internalising the costs of my preferences to society, and if those costs are too high then I’m okay stopping doing it. Insisting that I be allowed to continue, and the costs of the thing I want be pushed onto other people without me compensating everyone else for them, would seem churlish.

        But if you’re a responsible and moderate drinker, there aren’t any externalities of your behavior to society. So what should you be compensating them for?

        The kind of people who can plausibly be considered to cause externalities are habitual drunkards, drunk drivers, and so on. Surely they can be targeted in a more specific way than by taxing all alcohol or “dangerous” cocktails?

        I am okay with this leading to poorer people not being able to afford it, for the same reason I am okay with economic forces leading to them being unable to become civil aviation pilots- we have more significant welfare concerns to be spending resources on than setting laws that subsidise consumption of luxury products by people who can’t afford to internalise the costs of those products being made available, by offloading those costs onto other people.

        You’re assuming that the poor—especially the poor who abuse alcohol—will just cut down their alcohol assumption if the price goes up. I’m sure the responsible poor will to some extent, but I highly doubt demand—especially the demand by drunkards—is totally elastic. It’s not a question of how much the poor can “afford”, but how much they have to sacrifice to afford it. If it costs 50 cents for a drunk to get hammered, he’ll pay 50 cents. If it costs $50, he’ll pay $50. Maybe he “affords” this by deciding to feed his kids a steady diet of ramen noodles (and that’s on the lighter side of things).

        The responsible poor who just want to have a moderate drink shouldn’t be taxed at all because they’re not hurting anyone. The irresponsible poor don’t respond well to the taxes. High alcohol taxes just impoverish them and make everything worse.

        And I don’t think it encourages many more people to become drunks, just because alcohol is cheap. I would likely consume more alcohol if Grand Marnier flowed into my house on tap in unlimited quantities courtesy of the government. But I would still do so in moderation and with concern for my health and responsibilities.

        I don’t know why people who normally hate “regressive” taxes love sin taxes.

        Also, in general, I am very suspicious of Pigovian taxation. Nobody ever supports it consistently; it’s just a convenient excuse. For instance, as people like Bryan Caplan argue, education is largely signalling and therefore we “should” tax it. But no one supports that.

        • JBeshir says:

          What I’d be paying for wouldn’t be my preference for alcohol but my preference that alcohol remain available in my community despite harms that agreeing to have it available causes to others. If you could do more targeted things, that reduced the harm from availability caused to non-consumers, then that would be better- and if combined you could then reduce the taxes demanded to the extent that it worked.

          I’m not sure on whether inelasticity of problem drinkers prevents it from working and means it would have huge costs of its own there; it’d certainly be true for the most severe cases, but I’d have expected the distribution to have a lot more responsive cases.

          On the other hand, it fits with the dramatic failure of prohibition and would explain why it turned out that smuggling/illicit production was too big a problem for it to work even if desired.

          • Nicholas Weininger says:

            There is no such thing as “harm caused by agreeing to have something available.” If some people abuse an available thing, _they_ are the ones causing the harm, and it is wrong to burden non-abusers because of their bad acts.

          • JBeshir says:

            It might be true that they are the ones morally responsible for the harm, but a lot, lot more than that is going to be causally involved (I mean, a huge amount of the history of humanity is casually involved).

            “We shouldn’t burden people who aren’t morally responsible” is a principle which taken absolutely would rule out a lot of law and regulation, and given more reasonably heavy weight would still rule out the examples in play here (because the burden is substantial), but I think it is not widely agreed to give it such weight.

            I think that’s one of the points of disagreement which are not resolved- the extent to which we should care about that vs caring about social problems from alcohol or caring about murders.

        • ” For instance, as people like Bryan Caplan argue, education is largely signalling and therefore we “should” tax it. But no one supports that”

          I had an extensive exchange with Robert Frank on my blog, in the course of which he was arguing that education was pure rent seeking. I pointed out the implication—that we should tax it instead of subsidizing it. He never responded.

          You should be able to get the whole series with:

          http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/search?q=Robert+Frank

          I raised the specific point in:

          http://daviddfriedman.blogspot.com/2010/05/my-response-to-robert-franks-reply.html

          • Vox Imperatoris says:

            I read the one you linked. Pretty interesting! I like this line:

            Perhaps more important, my point implies that your argument, true or false, has perverse implications. The more people believe it, the more they will see benefits to other people as costs to them. That does not mean that your argument is wrong, but it might be a reason not to publish it as an op-ed in the New York Times.

            I’m not sure I agree with you on the “quality mates are an absolute resource allocated by relative status” argument. It’s precisely because quality of mates is so relative to each individual that this is hardly relevant. I don’t know if you were just humoring him or what, but it’s not like we’re all one big monkey tribe where there is the alpha male, the beta male, and the omega male—no matter how the red pill community sees it.

            I’m not plagued by anxiety because I can’t marry Scarlett Johansson. I don’t think I would have that much in common with her.

            And I always thought the whole PUA thing was a booby prize (no pun intended) because the women it allows you to sleep with…are not women I would want to sleep with.

            Maybe I’m naive, but I think things are closer to the “soul mate” model where there are people who are more and less suited to one another, and the purpose of the dating market is to allow them to find one another. Thus the smoother it functions, the better off everyone is.

            On an unrelated note, I made it seem in my first post like I agree that schooling is almost all signalling. I don’t. I think the signalling is real, but I also (as you say) think our education is better than 10th century Cambodian education. I don’t know what the balance is, which is part of the reason I don’t think it should be Pigovian-taxed.

            The really major reason is that giving the government the power to impose allegedly Pigovian taxes creates a bigger externality than almost anything the taxes could fix if they worked perfectly. It’s like your argument “for” the draft: sure, I can imagine some circumstance where it’s necessary, but we’d better be really damn sure.

    • Vox Imperatoris says:

      I’m a libertarian and not in favor of either one of these things.

      If anything, I think a soft ban on alcohol would be more beneficial than one on guns.

      However, there are important differences between the two that in practice possibly make this not the case. For one, guns are not an addictive substance people have an overwhelming urge to buy. Yes, there are “gun nuts”, but “gunaholics” are not even in the same league as alcoholics.

      So if you make alcohol hard enough to get so that it becomes a real inconvenience, you are guaranteed to have a thriving black market with all the violence that comes from a black market.

      It’s true that if guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns, but this kind of black-market demand really won’t be the same as that for alcohol or drugs. The dynamic is that you make law-abiding people defenseless before criminals, which possibly encourages them. That’s a very different mechanism from handing vast markets with very inelastic demand over to criminals, which encourages them by giving them more money and power.

    • Cord Shirt says:

      “And I suggest that if you find that libertarian case more salient, and the paternalist case less appealing, for alcohol, you may be either irrationally othering gun owners and undervaluing their pleasure, or irrationally fearing being shot more than being killed by a drunk driver, or both.”

      Ha, I’m the opposite case: I was mentally reinventing your “libertarian case” in response to the OP, but with alcohol, I really don’t care. Prohibit away (yeah yeah, didn’t work, pre-existing addictions and culture too strong; shame). IOW I find the libertarian case more compelling with guns. And yeah, it’s partly because I’m “undervaluing [alcohol-drinkers’] pleasure.” (It’s also partly because in the US gun ownership is a civil right, and alcohol drinking isn’t.)

  82. meh says:

    This may be an issue of how bad survey really are, but how is Georgia not 100% southern? And how did anyone vote for PA? Theres a line clearly marking Southern (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mason%E2%80%93Dixon_line), as well as an opt in group (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confederate_States_of_America#States)

  83. njnnja says:

    Excellent analysis. Firstly, because it shows that mathematical analyses are not restricted to the domain of PhD candidates and tenured professors. Secondly, because it really goes down the rabbit hole as far down as it makes sense to, given effect sizes. It’s very tempting to stop an analysis once it “proves” the point one wants to make, or to continue it wherever one finds statistical significance, even if it is of no practical significance (e.g., “the coefficient is != 0 at 95% c.i., but because the variance of the estimate is so small, the point estimate of the coefficient implies that increasing/(decreasing) the variable by 50% has an economic impact of $0.00000000003”)

    But a couple additions for future analyses in this areas. Maybe a Coasean solution isn’t so strange to propose – IIRC NYC has something like a $100/year license fee for handguns (I know, citation needed, and what flies in NYC won’t fly in Alabama. But most places have gun permit costs that are something like 50-100 for a 5 year period. So now we are just haggling over the price.

    Also, whenever you talk about “Southerness,” I highly recommend American Nations by Colin Woodard. In it, he proposes that the “North” is really a combination of “Yankees,” “Left Coasters,” and “New Amsterdamerrs,” and have a lot of differences between them. The “South” is really a combination of “Tidewater” and “The Deep South,” and sometimes “The Borderlands.” It gives a very powerful model for interpreting American history and present political debates. Highly recommended.

  84. Urstoff says:

    According to wikipedia, Australia’s gun buyback program was compulsory for guns that were made illegal by a recently passed law (in 1996): https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_buyback_program#Australia

    Can someone expand on what it means to be “compulsory” in this context? If it just means that old guns were now technically illegal but police didn’t go around and collect them, then maybe this could have some effect in the US. Any scheme where people are forced to give up certain guns likely would have very negative (violent) side effects in the US.

    • Robert VerBruggen says:

      It was a “buyback” in the sense that people were compensated, but it wasn’t optional. Some places didn’t have registration yet, though, and I’m not sure how much of an effort there was to round up registered guns that weren’t turned in. Most U.S. states don’t have registration so it would be hard to forcibly round up guns unless you’re actually going door-to-door.

      • Urstoff says:

        Right; there have been several small-scale, voluntary buyback programs in the US. Has there been any research on whether these had any effect?

        • Robert VerBruggen says:

          Nothing great that I can recall seeing, but those programs aren’t likely to have an effect. Not only are they small, but a decent percentage of people turn in crappy guns because they get paid more than they’re worth, and buy more.

  85. Albatross says:

    I like background checks and rigorous carry laws. And stricter gun laws for police also: no undercover carry, etc. However it seems to me the vast majority of gun deaths are suicides. And those are mostly elderly people.

    Since I do think robbers and murders will substitute knives (see also the past) but some studies show gun suicides don’t get much substitution… seems like we’d get more mileage screening gun owners for depression and treating that.

    Even if Americans all become pacifists and gun murders drop to zero, gun deaths are still going to be really high. And even if taking away their guns helps prevent gun suicides it still seems like a person who would kill themselves if it were quick and easy needs a bit more treatment than removing guns.

    • Urstoff says:

      Treating the depression, you mean, versus, say, preventing someone who has been diagnosed as clinically depressed from buying a gun? The latter, and the general focus on “mental health” seems to be somewhat misguided (most gun homicides are committed by sane people; I wonder about gun suicides, as you can commit suicide without being mentally ill in any way) and, to me, uncomfortably stigmatizes mental illness.

  86. Gbdub says:

    Couple thoughts on the data:
    1) did you consider looking at the rate of nonfatal assaults? One hypothesis could be that guns “cause” homicide by substituting for nonfatal assaults, e.g. bar fight escalates to readily available guns, which are more likely to be fatal.

    2) what types of homicides are included in the analysis? Do the ratios of say manslaughter/negligent homicide/premeditated murder vary by state? Perhaps rural areas have a higher rate of negligent homicide or manslaughter due to hunting accidents or other unintentional shootings?

    Finally, I’m pretty unconvinced by your Part IV, because right after proving that it’s a bad idea to extrapolate large reductions in gun ownership to large reductions in murder, you basically do exactly that.

    And while you’re right that experimental evidence doesn’t always trump correlational studies, Australia style gun buyback has the pretty relevant experiment of Australia, which I thought we already determined did not experience a reduction in murder at the sensitivity level you use to get your “one 9/11 per year” figure (As I recall, the gun murder rate went down in Oz after the buyback, but so did the non-gun murder rate, so you can’t claim the whole reduction as due to the buyback).

  87. Vaniver says:

    So… no commentary on the obvious benefit of guns in preventing robberies? It seems fairly obvious to me that the causal story “more guns -> fewer robberies” makes much more sense than “fewer robberies -> more guns,” and this deserves to be a part of the cost benefit analysis.

    • Scott Alexander says:

      I think (though haven’t proven) that the causal story is that robberies are more common in urban and minority-heavy areas, and guns are more common in rural and white-heavy areas.

      • Vaniver says:

        That’s possible, but on priors I would expect the effect to still exist once those factors are controlled for. I’ll take a look when I get home.

    • Alex Trouble says:

      Why stop at robberies? There’s quite a lot of variability in estimates for defensive uses of guns, since they by nature represent events that don’t really happen, but you can’t discount the benefits of stopping some number of assaults, rapes, murders, etc.

      • Vaniver says:

        I mentioned robberies because they were in the dataset. I agree that all defensive use of guns falls into the ‘benefits’ column for having more gun ownership.

  88. JBeshir says:

    I think it would be fair to include increase in overall suicide rate as a cost for purposes of any hypothetical Coasian bargaining going on.

    Suicides are different to murders and need differentiating out to avoid confusing discussions about availability, substitutability for purposes of crime, etc, but they share the characteristic that they are really bad and we would like to have less of them, so they’re a cost of ready availability/high ownership that should be factored in when considering what it would look like to have people internalising the cost of having their preferred policy.

    From a perspective which assigns similar value to different peoples’ lives, with approximately this valuation, they probably justify efforts to reduce gun ownership alone and with higher probability.

  89. Some writers have pointed to a white Southern “culture of honor” (versus a white Northern “culture of dignity”) which leads to greater violence. I think there is some validity to that.

    But I object to the mention of the Hatfield-McCoy feud, which happened in the Appalachian mountain region of Kentucky and West Virginia, to characterize the entire South.

    To an outsider, Appalachia seems like part of the South, but the culture and values, and sources of violence, are quite distinct from the (much larger) “lowland South” or “plantation South”, where slavery was a founding principle. There is plenty of violence in Mississippi, or Georgia, say, and strong families, but no big historic murderous inter-family feuds that I know of.

    Indeed, arguably, the H-M feud was not even “internal” to the South. The McCoys were Democrats who supported the Confederacy, whereas the Hatfields were Republicans who supported the Union.

    • Vaniver says:

      Indeed, what Southerners think of as “the South” is the coastal plantation culture that descended from the Cavaliers, not the Borderers.

    • Tom Scharf says:

      KY and WV are most certainly not part of the Northeast either. They are closer to the south, but nobody in these states considers themselves a southerner. Appalachia is pretty much its own cultural wasteland.

      • KY and WV are … closer to the south, but nobody in these states considers themselves a southerner.

        As someone who married into a Kentucky family, I assure you, that statement is quite untrue. Many Kentuckians call themselves Southerners. Kentucky is a “border state”, but it is generally regarded as part of the South.

        Appalachia is pretty much its own cultural wasteland.

        That is an unduly negative way of putting it. I see a whole lot that is valuable there. But yes, the culture is distinct. Extreme eastern Kentucky (the Appalachian part) is regarded by other Kentuckians as a very weird place with its own outlandish folkways.

        • Tom Scharf says:

          I’m grew up in WV and nobody there ever called themselves a Southerner, so maybe it is just a WV / KY thing.

          The recent war on coal has made most people in these states hate the liberal elites in the NE. Guns and coal have turned WV red after almost 50 years of voting blue.

          The wasteland statement is somewhat denigrating I admit, but there are many positive aspects of Appalachia culture as well, and most natives defend it with a great intensity when talking to outsiders. However when they talk to each other… Rural WV is quite “unique” as well, although it is a good thing to have everywhere not be Homogeneous, USA.

          I still go back there several times a year.

          • West Virginia has a uniquely ambiguous position in the history of American regionalism. Kentucky, on the other hand, has always been a Southern state.

            For example, in the 1860 census, Kentucky had more than 225,000 slaves (about 19% of the population), while the territory that became West Virginia had only around 18,000 (a little less than 5%).

          • John Schilling says:

            West Virginia is, by definition, the state whose population took the most extraordinary measure possible to define themselves as Not Southern at the time when that distinction was as important as it has ever been.

    • And I object to confusing the fictional Hatfield/McCoy feud created by journalists with the real one.

      There is no evidence that the feud goes back to the Civil War. Both groups mostly supported the confederacy. Asa McCoy joined the Union army, was injured, came home, and was murdered. It was never established by whom. That’s all of the Civil war connection.

      The actual feud started when three McCoys got in an election day fight with Ellison Hatfield and seriously injured him. They were taken prisoner by some of his relatives and, when he died, killed. A Kentucky court issued a warrant for the arrest of the killers (this was all happening on the Kentucky/West Virginia border), but nothing happened,

      Five years passed. Someone sympathetic to the Hatfields is a friend of the new governor of Kentucky, and persuades him to send a posse into West Virginia without permission of its government. It kills one Hatfield, arrests nine, fights a battle with a West Virginia posse. The Hatfields retaliate by attacking the McCoy home, burning it to the ground, killing two people.

      That is the point at which the newspapers become involved. It is also the last violence in the feud. Total count: 4 killings prior to the government of Kentucky reawakening the feud, three more after. The West Virginia governor sues to get back the arrested men. The Supreme Court finds that the invasion was illegal but there is no recourse–once Kentucky has the men it can try them. One is hanged, eight sentenced to life.

      • That’s interesting. I can see that the story must have grown in the telling. Another indication that it wasn’t a good example of Southern violence.

        I maintain a database (incomplete but extensive) of U.S. political figures from Colonial times to the present, and in that data, I noticed an interesting correlation.

        Among those politicos who were active in Kentucky and West Virginia during the century after the Civil War, most of the McCoys were Democrats (I count 9/11, with 3 others unidentified; see McCoys here), and most of the Hatfields were Republicans (8/12, with 1 unidentified; see Hatfields here).

        (Obviously, I have no idea whether or to what extent any of these folks were connected to the events you described, or if they were even related to the principals beyond sharing a surname. Also, I have a lot more data on West Virginians than on Kentuckians.)

        The Civil War divided and shaped politics in that region, and even decades later, Republicans tended to be from Unionist families, and Democrats were more likely to have supported the Confederacy.

        • I don’t know much about the political details, but one family seemed to be politically influential one side of the state line, the other on the other side.

          On the other hand, it was less of a binary division than the stories make it sound. More coalitions than clans defined strictly by inheritance.

          • I don’t know much about the political details, but one family seemed to be politically influential one side of the state line, the other on the other side.

            On the other hand, it was less of a binary division than the stories make it sound. More coalitions than clans defined strictly by inheritance.

            That makes sense, yes. Note, too, that Henry D. Hatfield was Governor of West Virginia in 1913-17. I presume you meant “McCoys” instead of “Hatfields” in this passage:

            Someone sympathetic to the Hatfields is a friend of the new governor of Kentucky, and persuades him to send a posse into West Virginia without permission of its government.

  90. Maxim says:

    Glad people are doing these analyses. Will you post your data/output of the Azrael study so others can replicate?

  91. Cathy says:

    Interesting approach, and you have some really good points. I have a few objections, though. My first is to the “culture of violence” theory you put forward. “Culture of violence” is a pretty classic blame-the-victim sort of theory, and it behooves all analysts to be pretty damn sure that’s what’s going on before saying something like that. In the case of urban black areas and southern areas, one variable that is very likely to explain both is concentration of poverty. The social sciences have some very good evidence that concentration of poverty leads to significant stress which leads to increased domestic violence and violence more generally.

    Second objection is not really an objection but more distress that you make it sound in the first few paragraphs like gun deaths are not important to discuss. Gun deaths are still important to prevent, whether they are suicides or homicides or accidents. While I agree wholeheartedly that misdiagnosing the cause of the specific problem (here, mass shootings) as being simply due to “too many guns” leads to the wrong sorts of policy, it is also pretty clear that stricter gun regulation of the sort implemented by places like Canada does lead to a significant reduction in gun deaths generally (accidents, suicides, homicides), and from a public health standpoint, given gun deaths are not far behind car accidents as one of the biggest causes of premature death, it makes sense for public policy to focus on it.

    But as to the question of gun homicides specifically: yes, it makes sense to talk about a LOT more than just the number of guns and the ease of getting them and lax regulations for storing them: we also need to talk about mental health and poverty and the ways police conduct themselves in different neighborhoods, IMHO.

    • Anon. says:

      >The social sciences have some very good evidence that concentration of poverty leads to significant stress which leads to increased domestic violence and violence more generally.

      How does this jive with the upwards historical trend in avg income? Or are you using poverty in the relative sense, i.e. envy causes stress and violence?

    • Tom Scharf says:

      “…all analysts to be pretty damn sure that’s what’s going on before saying something like that”

      Why? This is the essence of political correctness wrecking science, and the social sciences are by far the biggest perpetrator and victim of this type of thinking. Who’s blaming the victim? It’s the perpetrators that are being blamed. This twisted thinking that the perpetrators are the victims and all roads lead to your preferred boogey man prevents something useful from actual happening. Who should be studying racial disparities in violent crime? Who does their utmost to suppress racial disparities in crime statistics? The social sciences.

      It is laughably incoherent. The social sciences will get uptight if they find a 10% difference in how minorities or women are treated in the workplace, which they would assert proves racism and sexism. They then turn away from a 700% disparity in violent crime statistics. Seven.Hundred.Percent. This is the very definition of willful ignorance.

      “the ways police conduct themselves”. You find this important with respect to gun violence? There isn’t any racism in counting bodies that I’m aware of.

      By all means investigate the root causes of this problem beyond race. But the outright suppression of the negative cultural affects of single parenthood, lack of education, teen pregnancy, gang warfare, the drug trade, etc. only causes the social sciences to embarrass themselves and lose all credibility on this issue.

      So yes, let’s not talk about “that” unless we are sure.

    • Furslid says:

      Poverty is important for tracking crime, but there is a higher murder rate after adjusting for it. So there is something else. Culture of violence seems like a decent guess.

    • Jon Gunnarsson says:

      The social sciences have some very good evidence that concentration of poverty leads to significant stress which leads to increased domestic violence and violence more generally.

      I doubt that the social sciences have very good evidence for much of anything, much less something as difficult to prove as that. Yes, there is a correlation between poverty and violence, but it would be quite difficult to figure out what the underlying causation is. Is it poverty causing violence, violence causing poverty, some third factor causing both poverty and violence, or something else entirely?

  92. Maxim says:

    Re: Australia, it’s a bit more complicated… if you look at the broad trend lines before/after the buyback, it is not clear than gun homicide fell faster afterward than before the buyback (p3): http://crimeresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Report-on-gun-related-suicides-and-crime-for-the-Australian-Parliament-Rev.pdf